Robert Morrison | Remnant Columnist
To one who knows nothing about Catholicism, Church history, or Pope Francis, Traditionis Custodes might seem like a sober attempt to restore order in the face of attempts by some renegades to foment divisions. In the letter accompanying the Motu Proprio, the pope tells his bishops that he has not acted rashly in enacting the new restrictions because he previously circulated a questionnaire to them regarding the implementation of Pope Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum. He speaks of his sadness in reading the responses to this questionnaire:
“The responses reveal a situation that preoccupies and saddens me, and persuades me of the need to intervene. Regrettably, the pastoral objective of my Predecessors, who had intended ‘to do everything possible to ensure that all those who truly possessed the desire for unity would find it possible to remain in this unity or to rediscover it anew,’ has often been seriously disregarded. An opportunity offered by St. John Paul II and, with even greater magnanimity, by Benedict XVI, intended to recover the unity of an ecclesial body with diverse liturgical sensibilities, was exploited to widen the gaps, reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church, block her path, and expose her to the peril of division.”
Through the questionnaire responses, the pope discerned a “situation” involving the exploitation of Pope Benedict XVI’s magnanimity to encourage disagreements that block the Church’s path. Which path is that?
This battle over the Mass and the Church’s path was already being waged over forty years ago.
Any conception of the Church’s path necessarily relates to the mission Christ entrusted to it:
“Going therefore, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Therefore, the Church’s path must involve teaching and defending the truths entrusted to it by Jesus. St. Paul clearly took this mission seriously and wrote that there would come a time when false teachers would put serious obstacles along the path:
“Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season; reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine. For there shall be a time when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables.” (2 Timothy 4:2-4)
So we must not only seek to learn and practice the Faith, but we must also constantly safeguard it. And, indeed, St. Paul tells Timothy that he has kept his Faith:
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
All good Christians seek to be able to say the same at the end of their lives. This requires us to take great care to follow “sound doctrine” and avoid those who will try to turn us away from the truth.
As it turns out, the “disagreements” Pope Francis mentions in his letter relate directly to the question of whether Pope Francis and his hierarchy are teaching sound doctrine or fables.
The relationship between the preservation of Catholic doctrine and the changes to the Mass has been clear to some people from the introduction of Pope Paul VI’s Mass, but even John Paul II initially underestimated the connection. In his biography of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais described the 1978 meeting between Archbishop Lefebvre and the newly elected pope:
“On November 18, through an initiative of Cardinal Siri, the new Pope received the Archbishop, who said he was ready ‘to accept the Council in the light of Tradition,’ an expression used by Pope John Paul himself on November 6: ‘The Council must be understood in the light of all holy Tradition and on the basis of the constant Magisterium of the hoy Church.’ The Pope said he was happy and saw the problem of celebrating the old Mass only as a disciplinary question. Then Cardinal Franjo Seper, whom the Pope had summoned, exclaimed: ‘Be careful, Holy Father, they make a banner out of this Mass!’”
Whereas the pope was inclined to permit the Tridentine Mass on the basis that it was simply a disciplinary question, Cardinal Seper warned that the SSPX’s preservation of the Tridentine Mass would be a banner that would lead others to go along with the movement to preserve all of Catholic tradition.
With Traditionis Custodes Pope Francis is seeking something more than a simple pinch of incense from the groups that already accept the legitimacy of the Novus Ordo.
Thus we can see that this battle over the Mass and the Church’s path was already being waged over forty years ago. Before looking at how the path of “tradition” and the path of “the Spirit of Vatican II” have diverged during the past four decades, we must also consider another event that holds a key to understanding this current attack.
Bishop Tissier de Mallerais related the effort of Pope Paul VI’s delegates to resolve the disagreement with Archbishop Lefebvre over the question of ordaining priests in 1976. An envoy from Rome, Fr. Edouard Dhanis, delivered a letter from Archbishop Giovanni Benelli forbidding him to conduct the ordination, adding that “if his seminarians were ‘seriously prepared for a priestly ministry in true loyalty to the conciliar Church,’ Rome would undertake to find a better solution for them.” Bishop Tissier de Mallerais described the scene:
“It was about 9 p.m. on June 27, two days before the ordinations. The Archbishop was struck by how nervous his visitor was, but even more by Archbishop Benelli’s expression ‘conciliar Church.’ Holding a missal of Paul VI, Fr. Dhanis pleaded with the Archbishop: ‘Your Grace,’ he said, ‘if today you agree to say this Mass with me, everything will be fine with Rome!’ ‘I have already said Mass,’ replied the Archbishop laconically.”
Why would saying a single Novus Ordo Mass with that priest have made everything “fine with Rome”? What would have changed about the Archbishop or his apostolate?
In his The Horn of the Unicorn, Dr. David Allen White follows his description of the same event by placing it with some of its historical counterparts:
“Just take one small bite and ‘your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil.’
Just once write a letter saying, ‘Set ye Urias in the front of the battle, where the fight is strongest,’ and Bethsbee is yours.
Just once ‘command that these stones be made bread.’
Just once fall down and adore me.
Just once celebrate the Novus Ordo Missae.”
Simply being a passenger aboard the “Spirit of Vatican II” train no longer suffices; now one must actively propel it to the destination of apostasy.
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre refused to celebrate the Novus Ordo because he refused to take any steps, regarding the liturgy or otherwise, that he knew would be a serious compromise with the Faith that he had been taught. What scared the innovators was his obstinate defense of the Faith in the face of the novelties that fundamentally differed from what the Church had always taught. He refused to offer a pinch of incense to their destructive efforts.
But of course Traditionis Custodes does not merely seek to have Catholics accept the legitimacy of the Novus Ordo. Indeed, the 2011 instruction Universae Ecclesiae already included the substance of the Traditionis Custodes requirement that bishops “determine that these groups do not deny the validity and the legitimacy of the liturgical reform, dictated by Vatican Council II and the Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs;”:
“The faithful who ask for the celebration of the forma extraordinaria must not in any way support or belong to groups which show themselves to be against the validity or legitimacy of the Holy Mass or the Sacraments celebrated in the forma ordinaria or against the Roman Pontiff as Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church.”
The SSPX commentary on this 2011 instruction on Summorum Pontificum, Is the New Mass Legit sets forth the reasons to question the legitimacy of the reforms, even if one accepts the validity of the Novus Ordo.
So, with Traditionis Custodes Pope Francis is seeking something more than a simple pinch of incense from the groups that already accept the legitimacy of the Novus Ordo. He and his collaborators want to make it more clear that the Novus Ordo is the “banner” for everything that Archbishop Lefebvre, and the saints before him, opposed. Having made this clear, he demands that we make a choice between banners. And those who follow Francis must now remove the coals from their thuribles and use them to fuel the Pope’s steam train trying to pull the Church along the path of serving the New World Order. Simply being a passenger aboard the “Spirit of Vatican II” train no longer suffices; now one must actively propel it to the destination of apostasy.
Another archbishop, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, has made it clear that he will stand with the Church against the destroyers from within.
If we wonder why Pope Francis has taken this step now, we ought consider how the diverging paths have weathered the storms since Archbishop Lefebvre’s 1978 meeting with Pope John Paul II.
By any objective measure, the Novus Ordo Path has been disastrous for Catholics. Not only have Catholics abandoned the religion entirely, but those remaining often do not actually have the Faith — they no longer believe what one must believe to be Catholic. Some devout (and long-suffering!) Catholics may remain, but they are growing increasingly rare. And almost every message from Pope Francis attempts to position the Catholic Church as the church for all men except those who believe what the Church has always taught. It will be the church of the New World Order if it continues on that path.
By any objective measure, the Tridentine Mass Path has been tremendously fruitful and blessed for Catholics. Even as society has become more hostile to religion, every reliable indicator of vitality has improved. More importantly, it seems that souls are more zealous and seeking to become saints. They are also defending the Faith just as the saints had done for two thousand years. As part of that defense, they are resisting the attempts of Pope Francis to hand the Church over to the globalists; and, crucially, they are having too much success defending the Church. They are, as Pope Francis indicates, blocking the pope’s path to destroy the Church by insisting that the only path is the one of tradition.
We have arrived at a critical moment, and “the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The Catholic bishops, priests, and laity who wish to remain faithful will have to decide which path to take, for the pope has now made it clear that there are ultimately only two as of the publication of Traditionis Custodes. As such, we owe Pope Francis our gratitude and prayers for clarifying and revealing the situation Archbishop Lefebvre saw so clearly over forty years ago. We also owe him and the Church a duty of loyalty to Truth, which requires us to dissent from every single one of his attempts to take the Church away from the path of serving God.
If we lack the courage to follow the right path, we can look to the example of the countless holy saints who took the path before us. As St. Paul indicated, the right path is seldom easy. But it is the only path we want to be on as we near the moment in which we will face Our Lord in judgment.
Archbishop Lefebvre knew this. And, Deo Gratias, he left us not only the Mass but a heroic life of fighting to keep as many Catholics as possible on the right path. As he wrote in his Open Letter to Confused Catholics, though, even if he was the only one on that path he would not have turned around:
“Besides, the Truth does not depend on numbers and numbers do not make the Truth. Even if I were alone and all my seminarians left me, even if the whole of public opinion were to abandon me, that would be a matter of indifference as far as I am concerned. I am bound to my Creed, to my catechism, to the Tradition which has sanctified the elect in heaven and I want to save my soul. We know public opinion all too well. It condemned Our Lord a few days after having acclaimed Him. It is Palm Sunday followed by Good Friday.”
Of course Archbishop Lefebvre could never have been truly alone, for he stood with the entire Church Triumphant.
Another archbishop, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, has made it clear that he will stand with the Church against the destroyers from within. As he recently wrote, “We are with Saint John and the Sorrowful Virgin at the foot of a Cross on which the new High Priests spit, against which a new Sanhedrin curses and swears.” May we always call upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Mother, to give us the strength to stand with her. Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!
“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold, nor hot. I would thou wert cold, or hot. But because thou are lukewarm, and neither cold, nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.” (Apocalypse 3:15-16)
In his Prometheus: The Religion of Man, Fr. Alvaro Calderon makes an intriguing and important observation about the Second Vatican Council and the current state of the Church:
“Modernism is nothing more than the theological justification of a liberalism that wants to remain Catholic. That is why we say that although the Second Vatican Council is the immediate cause why modernism . . . has imposed itself with irresistible force throughout the Church, the primary cause is the Christian lukewarmness that allowed liberalism to spread through the veins of the Church. Sooner or later the Council was bound to come.”
Lukewarmness assists the spread of liberalism in at least a few ways: it disposes Catholics to favor the soft living proposed by liberalism; it weakens our spiritual defenses to attacks from the Church’s enemies; and it leads to a lack, or rejection, of the graces necessary to recognize and combat error. Of course there were many pious souls prior to Vatican II, but the sickness had become so prevalent in the Mystical Body of Christ that the Council, and the resulting Spirit of Vatican II, were inevitable.
Due to Christian lukewarmness, sooner or later a pope like Pope Francis was bound to come; sooner or later, evils such as his Pachamama and his Traditionis Custodes were bound to come.
We can say the same thing about the current situation: due to Christian lukewarmness, sooner or later a pope like Pope Francis was bound to come; sooner or later, evils such as his Pachamama and his Traditionis Custodes were bound to come. And unless we overcome our lukewarmness, sooner or later something worse is bound to come.
To understand and respond to this, we must consider: the condition of “lukewarmness,” how and why our enemies promote lukewarmness, and what we must do.
The Condition of Lukewarmness. Thanks to the diligence of our enemies and the neglect of many of our shepherds, Catholics often do not have a real sense of what constitutes lukewarmness. Are we lukewarm? Perhaps we consider that although we are not yet as good as the likes of St. Edmund Campion, St. Therese, or certain pious ancestors, we are nonetheless doing quite a lot compared with so many other Catholics. We might even believe we are relatively good compared to a few recently canonized saints.
But, given the importance of the question, it is worth considering what the saints have said about lukewarmness. In a sermon from the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars, described the differences between three classes of Catholics: the good, the bad, and the lukewarm. He began by describing those who are not even worthy of being called lukewarm:
“If, my dear friends, I speak to you today of the terrible condition of a lukewarm soul, I do not mean those who never go to Confession and Communion. Such people are not lukewarm. They are cold, and their souls are lost, even if they still come to Church and perform some good works. Let us leave them to their perdition, because they wish for no better.”
Already this description might alert us to the possibility that we no longer see the spiritual life as the Church once taught: after all, those bad Catholics who are worse than lukewarm still go to Church and perform some good works. He continued with his description of bad Catholics:
“Again my dear friends, I do not classify as lukewarm those who are striving to belong to the world without ceasing to belong to God. One moment you will see them throw themselves down upon their knees before God, and the next you will see them perform the same act before the idols of the world. The poor blind man! He stretches forth one hand to the Almighty and the other to the world, calling to both for help, and promising his heart to both. He loves God — at least he would like to love Him — but at the same time he wants to please the world.”
Again, the description of the bad Catholic includes certain traits that seem almost devout today: they strive to belong to God; they are sometimes on their knees before God; and they sometimes promise their hearts to God. If only more members of Pope Francis’s hierarchy were as good as these bad Catholics!
St. John Vianney
St. John Vianney then provided the description of a lukewarm Catholic:
“He still believes all the truths which the Church believes and teaches, but his faith is so weak that his heart has no part in it at all. He does not doubt that the good Lord sees him, and that he is ever in His Holy presence. But while believing this, he does not amend, nor sin the less. He falls into sin as easily as if he did not believe in anything.”
For the Cure of Ars, believing the truths of the Faith is a minimum criterion for being lukewarm — the vast majority of today’s nominal Catholics are thus immediately disqualified from attaining this level of spirituality in their current state. The saint continued with his description of the lukewarm soul:
“A Christian who leads a lukewarm life still fulfills his duties, at least as far as appearances are concerned. He may say his prayers every morning upon his knees . . . . His Confessions and Communions may not be sacrileges, but they are Confessions and Communions without result. Instead of making him more perfect and more acceptable to God, they render him still more culpable.”
So the lukewarm soul may still say his morning prayers (on his knees no less) and make what many of us would consider “good” Confessions and Communions.
St. Alphonsus Liguori
For another aspect of lukewarmness, we can consider St. Alphonsus Liguori’s discussion of its relation to venial sin in Attaining Salvation:
“There is true and deplorable lukewarmness when the soul falls into venial sins which are quite voluntary and grieves but little for them and takes even less care to avoid them, saying that they are trifles of no consequence. What! Is it nothing to displease God?”
According to the saint, we all commit involuntary venial sins; but we become lukewarm when we regularly commit voluntary venial sins without making efforts to overcome them.
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre made the same point, as detailed in The Spiritual Life: Credidimus Caritati:
“We have to have a detestation for deliberate venial sins because in us they are already a willful stand against the law of God. Certainly, these are not yet sinful actions that cut us off from Him entirely, but when they start to be frequent, they cause us to be lukewarm. As all spiritual writers tell us, a man who is not moving forward is moving backward. . . . If there is no more striving after perfection, our soul becomes tepid. And tepidity is the great sickness of our souls.”
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre
We often see Archbishop Lefebvre primarily as a fighter for tradition, but he was also a holy man who wanted to lead souls to sanctity. He saw the fight for tradition as intertwined with the fight for souls — both required Catholics to accept God’s grace to reject error, defend truth, and grow in holiness.
How and Why Our Enemies Promote Lukewarmness. Given that lukewarmness is such a great sickness of our souls, we can understand why our enemies would seek to promote this unfortunate condition if they could. The Freemasons in particular (at least those occupying the highest levels) have dedicated themselves to undermining Catholic morality. An 1838 letter between members of the Masonic Alta Vendita illustrates a mentality that several pre-Vatican II popes condemned:
“Catholicism does not fear a very sharp sword any more than the monarchies feared it. But, these two foundations of Social Order can collapse under corruption; let us never tire to corrupt them. Tertullian was right in saying that from the blood of martyrs Christians are born; let us not make martyrs; but, let us popularize vice among the multitudes; may they breathe it through their five senses; may they drink it and be saturated. Make vicious hearts and there will be no more Catholics. It is corruption on a big scale that we have undertaken...a corruption that should one day enable us to lead the Church to its grave. Lately, I heard one of our friends laughing philosophically at our projects saying: ‘To destroy Catholicism, we should do away with women’. The idea is good in a certain way, but since we cannot get rid of women, let us corrupt them with the Church.”
It may have been easy for skeptics to scoff at the traditional Catholic insistence on the dangers of the Freemasonic agenda prior to the election of Pope Francis, but their great designs appear almost complete today.
Pope Leo XII
The popes saw the danger and, like good shepherds, warned their flocks. Pope Leo XII’s 1826 encyclical, Quo Graviora (on Secret Societies), emphasized that preserving the “Integrity of Orthodox Religion” relied upon shutting off “access to errors and vices.”
“Stationed on the prominent Watch Tower, although with inferior merits, in the disposition of Divine Mercy, in accord with the Duty of Pastoral Providence entrusted to Us We direct with a continual zeal for solicitude, (insofar as it is granted from on High) Our attention to those things through which, once the access to errors and vices has been shut off, the Integrity of Orthodox Religion may be principally preserved, and the dangers of disturbances may be driven off from the whole Catholic world in these most difficult times.”
The corruption is now so complete that we have a pope who attempts to banish everything that is not infected with error and vices.
Pope Pius IX
In his 1846 encyclical, Qui Pluribus, Blessed Pope Pius IX denounced the deceitful tactics of the Freemasons:
“They are experienced and skillful in deceit, which they use to set in motion their plans to quench peoples’ zeal for piety, justice and virtue, to corrupt morals, to cast all divine and human laws into confusion, and to weaken and even possibly overthrow the Catholic religion and civil society.”
To inflict optimal damage on the Church, the enemies must of course take on the appearance of shepherds so that they can guide the flocks. Could Pope Pius IX or even the most ambitious members of the Alta Vendita have imagined Pachamama and Traditionis Custodes? It seems unlikely, but Pope Francis is simply producing the genuine fruits of a Conciliar Church made possible through the lukewarmness of Catholics.
Pope Leo XIII
Pope Leo XIII was even more direct on this point in his 1884 encyclical, Humanum Genus:
“Since generally no one is accustomed to obey crafty and clever men so submissively as those whose soul is weakened and broken down by the domination of the passions, there have been in the sect of the Freemasons some who have plainly determined and proposed that, artfully and of set purpose, the multitude should be satiated with a boundless license of vice, as, when this had been done, it would easily come under their power and authority for any acts of daring.”
A weak spiritual life impedes our ability to gain and accept God’s graces, which in turn impedes out ability to resist the wiles of our enemies. How often do we think about this? Almost certainly, we think about it less than our crafty enemies do, regardless of whether they are Freemasons, globalists, or simply madmen.
What We Must Do. We have been intentionally deceived, and the deceivers have tried, with varying degrees of success, to corrupt us. As the popes warned, we are easily manipulated once we became lukewarm.
We have been deceived, but it feels much more like we have been poisoned. In so many ways, the Conciliar Church has tried to teach us that we are perfectly healthy so long as we avoid mortal sin. Pope Francis no longer even bothers with that, assuring everyone they are healthy as long as they do not believe what the Church has always taught and do not practice what the saints always practiced.
If we want to recover from this crisis we need to listen to the saints rather than Pope Francis. Here is St. John Vianney’s description of a “good Christian”:
“The hope of a good Christian is firm; his trust in God is unshaken. He never loses sight of the next life. The remembrance of the sufferings of Jesus Christ is ever present to his mind, is always in his heart. At times he directs his thoughts to hell, so as to picture to himself how great is the punishment for sin, and how boundless the misery of those who commit it. At times he raises his thoughts to heaven, to arouse his love of God, and that he may be sensible of the happiness of those who prefer God above all things. He represents to himself how great the reward is of those who forsake all things to do the holy will of God. Then he longs for God alone, and desires Him only. The goods of this world are as nothing to him. The pleasures of this world fill him with aversion. He does not fear death in the least, because he well knows that it will merely deliver him from the miseries of this life, and unite him with God forever.”
As the globalists transform the goods of this world into rubbish, and Pope Francis shows us the horror of sin, this path of sanctity becomes more and more appealing. It is even more so when we realize our vile enemies are doing all they can to maintain us in a state of perpetual lukewarmness.
Closer to our times, here is what Sister Lucia told Fr. Fuentes in 1957, when Catholic morality was, in important respects, far healthier than it is now:
“Father, we should not wait for an appeal to the world to come from Rome on the part of the Holy Father, to do penance. Nor should we wait for the call to penance to come from our bishops in our diocese, nor from the religious congregations. No! Our Lord has already very often used these means and the world has not paid attention. That is why now, it is necessary for each one of us to begin to reform himself spiritually. Each person must not only save his own soul but also the souls that God has placed in our path. . . . The devil does all in his power to distract us and to take away from us the love for prayer; we shall be saved together or we shall be damned together”
We need to see ourselves as part of the Mystical Body of Christ, which today faces unparalleled attacks from within the Church. Our only weapons are those provided by God’s grace, so we each have the utmost responsibility to do all we can to win and accept God’s graces for ourselves and the entire Church. We need to win as many battles as possible at this point. If we are comfortable with lukewarmness, we are allowing our enemies to poison us without even putting up a fight. Pope Francis thinks he has taken custody of Catholic Tradition — but he can only take it if we let him.
We can take heart in Blessed Pope Pius IX’s exhortation ending Qui Pluribus, for he and all the saints in heaven are on our side against the madness of Tradtionis Custodes:
“Let us together entreat God in urgent and unceasing prayers, to make up for Our weakness by an abundance of every heavenly grace, to overwhelm with His all-powerful strength those who attack us, and to increase everywhere faith, piety, devotion and peace. Then when all enemies and errors have been overcome, His holy Church may enjoy the tranquillity it so greatly desires. . . . That the Lord may more readily respond to Us, let us call as intercessor Her who is always with Him, the most holy Virgin Mary, Immaculate Mother of God. She is the most sweet mother of us all; she is our mediatrix, advocate, firmest hope, and greatest source of confidence. Furthermore, her patronage with God is strongest and most efficacious.”
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us! St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle!
“Enter ye in at the narrow gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it!” (Matthew 7:13-14)
Through this lesson and many others like it, Jesus taught His disciples and us that we must strive to do His will if we wish to save our souls. We must deny ourselves and take up the crosses that God has given us:
“Then Jesus said to His disciples: If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For he that will save his life, shall lose it; and he that shall lose his life for My sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)
In his September 1965 intervention read during the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre began his criticism of the Declaration on Religious Liberty, Dignitatis Humanae, with a brief summary of the document’s principles:
“Founded on the dignity of the human person, religious liberty demands equal rights in civil society for all forms of worship. Society must then be neutral and guarantee the protection of every religion, within the limits of public order.”
In the years following Vatican II, it became evident to a relatively small number of Catholics that the architects and implementers of the Council were attempting to destroy the Church. Even Pope Paul VI identified the destruction, though he failed to identify the real cause:
The Church finds herself in an hour of anxiety, a disturbed period of self-criticism, or what would even better be called self-demolition. It is an interior upheaval, acute and complicated, which nobody expected after the Council. It is almost as if the Church were attacking itself.
“For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?” (Mark 8:36).
Consideration of these words from Jesus should be enough to convince any rational person to do everything possible to save his or her soul. And, of course, such a rational person will want to know what is required to save one’s soul. As the Catholic Church teaches, we must die in a state of sanctifying grace to save our souls.
Dr. Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma lists several de fide truths relating to sanctifying grace, including among others: in the state of original sin man is deprived of sanctifying grace and all that this implies; sanctifying grace sanctifies the soul; sanctifying grace makes the just man a friend of God; sanctifying grace makes the just man a child of God and gives him a claim to the inheritance of Heaven; the three Divine or theological virtues of faith, hope and charity are infused with sanctifying grace; and the grace by which we are justified may be lost, and is lost by every grievous sin.
For better or worse, Pope Francis has dispensed with all subtlety and we can now clearly see the war on sanctifying grace.
We can thus see how truly vital sanctifying grace is. Yet, as the Council of Trent declared, we cannot know with the certainty of faith that we are in the state of sanctifying grace:
“For, just as no pious person should doubt the mercy of God, the merit of Christ, and the virtue and efficacy of the sacraments, so every one, when he considers himself and his own weakness and indisposition, may entertain fear and apprehension as to his own grace, since no one can know with the certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God.” (Denzinger 802)
These words should not lead us to despair, but they have led Christians in all ages to heed the words of St. Paul: “with fear and trembling work out your salvation” (Philippians 2:12).
In The Glories of Divine Grace, Fr. Matthias Scheeben provides several examples of the lengths to which saints have gone to persevere and grow in the state of sanctifying grace:
“In order to escape or lessen the danger of losing grace, they freely became their own tyrants and considered themselves fortunate to be able to buy perseverance in grace by means of the greatest suffering, mortifications and sacrifices. St. John Bonus stuck sharp splinters under his fingernails, that he might be able to overcome a difficult temptation against holy purity. The Blessed Martinian made a slow fire of brushwood and then allowed his limbs to be burnt on it, asking himself meanwhile how insignificant was this pain when compared to the eternal fire of Hell, of which he would make himself deserving by losing grace. St. Francis rolled his bare body at one time on cold snow, at another on thorns, in order to make himself strong against the dangers of the flesh.”
Not all souls are called to take such extreme measures to avoid sin, but these examples ought to remind us that we must have tremendous care for the inestimable gift of grace that Jesus won for us on the Cross.
Bishop Robert Barron appears to be leading the heretical propaganda that all souls may be saved, but Pope Francis has added to it indirectly both through his refusal to correct the bishop and his own extensive efforts to promote false ecumenism.
Gradually over the past several decades, though, the majority of nominal Catholics have seemingly lost this sense of anxious regard for the state of their souls. Although their pastors may have continued to refer to sin and grace, the changes flowing from the Spirit of Vatican II all have a subtle way of diminishing the importance of sanctifying grace. During the same period, the dangers to salvation have increased dramatically, leading many Catholics to a perpetual cycle of sin that blinds the sinner to the need for grace.
For better or worse, Pope Francis has dispensed with all subtlety and we can now clearly see the war on sanctifying grace. He has intensified some attacks and launched a few of his own devising. When we consider the following (partial) list of attacks against sanctifying grace, we can readily discern that they result not from mere happenstance but from a concerted effort:
Amoris Laetitia. With Amoris Laetitia, we had an early indication that Pope Francis would attempt to reshape the related doctrines of mortal sin and sanctifying grace:
“For an adequate understanding of the possibility and need of special discernment in certain ‘irregular’ situations, one thing must always be taken into account, lest anyone think that the demands of the Gospel are in any way being compromised. The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations. Hence it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.”
Though this was always an egregiously bad piece of guidance, one could think that he really was trying to leave the doctrines of sanctifying grace and mortal sin intact while making a strained argument that the conditions necessary for mortal sin may be absent in the case of certain “irregular situations.” In hindsight, it seems more likely that he retains the concept of mortal sin for behaviors that he dislikes personally — particularly the behaviors of conservatives and capitalists — while taking the liberty to extend God’s forgiveness to those behaviors that he accepts. Thus, we find that he has emphasized that it is a mortal sin to administer the death penalty, refuse to give vacation days to employees, neglect the elderly, and torture people (clearly, some of these are mortal sins). Meanwhile, he has excused politicians who support abortion, those who commit the manifold sexual abuses under his watch, and those (including himself) who worship false idols.
When we have good reason to suspect that many of the pope’s closest Catholic collaborators live in a state of perpetual mortal sin, we can conclude that the pope does not place much value on sanctifying grace and the glorious benefits of growing in grace.
Dare We Hope? Bishop Robert Barron appears to be leading the heretical propaganda that all souls may be saved, but Pope Francis has added to it indirectly both through his refusal to correct the bishop and his own extensive efforts to promote false ecumenism. Although it is possible for some souls to be saved in another religion (as opposed to being saved by another religion), we know that the Church has always taught that there is no salvation outside the Church. False ecumenism obviously hurts those outside the Church because it tells them there is no reason to convert. It also harms those inside the Church because it effectively denies the necessity of the Catholic sacraments and teachings in helping souls to live and die in the state of sanctifying grace.
One of the clearest indications of Pope Francis’s false ecumenism is the 2019 Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, which states its own purpose as follows:
“It is a document that invites all persons who have faith in God and faith in human fraternity to unite and work together so that it may serve as a guide for future generations to advance a culture of mutual respect in the awareness of the great divine grace that makes all human beings brothers and sisters.”
If Pope Francis appreciated the importance of sanctifying grace, he would know how hateful it is to encourage his non-Catholic “brothers and sisters” to remain in religions that cannot provide such grace. As we read in Dr. Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, “the justification of an adult is not possible without Faith. (De fide.)”
Endless Scandals. Pope Francis inherited several horrifying scandals from his “saintly” predecessors but has seemingly dedicated himself to making them worse. The sickening spectacle drives souls from the Church but also works to deaden the consciences of those who remain. When we have good reason to suspect that many of the pope’s closest Catholic collaborators live in a state of perpetual mortal sin, we can conclude that the pope does not place much value on sanctifying grace and the glorious benefits of growing in grace. Men of sin are deadened to the inspirations of the Holy Ghost, guided by passions that grow progressively worse, and generally hostile to Catholicism. Corruptio optimi pessima — the corruption of the best is the worst — and those who should be princes of the Church have become the most dedicated warriors in the fight against sanctifying grace.
Abuse of the Sacraments. Pope Francis has not had to do much to attack the Church’s sacraments themselves (owing to the destruction already accomplished by Paul VI and John Paul II) and he has even granted the priests of the Society of St. Pius X faculties to hear confessions. His efforts have instead focused on expanding the availability of the sacraments to those who are not properly disposed to receive them, while taking steps to deprive traditional Catholics of the sacraments they wish to receive worthily. The recent threats to Summorum Pontificum underscore the tendency to use sacraments not as a way to restore and increase sanctifying grace but as a reward system to incentivize Catholics to step into line with the liberal policies he promotes.
Pope Francis has placed such tremendous importance on advancing the cult of Covid that one can no longer pretend that he places much value on the Church’s timeless teaching about the salvation of souls.
Church of Covid. At a time of tremendous need for sacramental grace and the consolations that only the Faith can provide, Pope Francis and his bishops told us to stay away from the Church. Pope Francis has placed such tremendous importance on advancing the cult of Covid that one can no longer pretend that he places much value on the Church’s timeless teaching about the salvation of souls. Indeed, since the beginning of the pandemic of hysteria and fear, Pope Francis has been effectively telling his flock: “For what shall it profit a man, if he save his soul, and die of Covid?” Countless Catholics learned during the lockdowns that keeping Catholics in the state of grace is not an “essential service.”
German Schism. The impending German schism related to blessing of civil unions is a logical consequence of Amoris Laetitia. Throughout his papacy, the pope and his trusted bishops have attempted to normalize an “accompaniment” of sinners that effectively encourages Catholics to live and die in a state of mortal sin. In his 2020 Patris Corde, Pope Francis even misrepresented the life of St. Joseph to promote this mistaken belief that Catholics should “accompany” rather than “admonish” the sinner: “Joseph’s attitude encourages us to accept and welcome others as they are, without exception . . .” All of this undermines the Church’s teaching on sanctifying grace by sending the message that pertinacious adherence to sin is not nearly as bad as the Church once taught.
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Neglect. From the beginning of his papacy, Pope Francis employed the image of the world as a field hospital, with people in desperate need of emotional and material support. From a Catholic perspective, the most prevalent and grave maladies facing the world today are those of mortal sin. Imagine a doctor doing his rounds in the hospital and routinely failing to take the simple and customary steps necessary to treat the life-threatening medical problems of his patients. Such a doctor would be guilty of malpractice and subject to criminal penalties — we would think he was a monster. The pretend spiritual physicians of the Catholic field hospital are infinitely worse, for their neglect destroys souls rather than bodies. Fiendishly, these fraudulent spiritual physicians frequently infect Catholics with the liberal and modernist cancers that attack sanctifying grace and lead to spiritual death.
Cooperation with the Great Reset. It is no mere coincidence that the architects of the Great Reset have every interest in eradicating the true appreciation of sanctifying grace, which stands in the way of their hideous designs. Clearly our enemies have gone to such great lengths to wage war on sanctifying grace precisely because it is something they despise and fear more than almost anything else. The most able of men might be powerless on their own against the prince of darkness and his minions, but even the pagans and apostates feel the threat of St. Paul’s words of reliance on Christ: “I can do all things in Him who strengthened me” (Philippians 4:13). God wins in the end, and Christians strengthened with sanctifying grace will be instruments of that victory. Why is the pope fighting on the wrong side of this war?
When Pachamama is more welcome in St. Peter’s than the Tridentine Mass, and priests are more likely to care for our state of vaccination than our state of grace, we have every reason to suspect that Satan is leading many within Pope Francis’s hierarchy.
Diabolical Disorientation. From these observations one could argue that the pope merely adopts a “live and let live” policy that errs (badly) on the side of excusing sinful behavior. Unfortunately, the pope does not extend this same open-mindedness to those who adhere to what the Church has always taught (that is, Catholicism). Not only is there a profound inversion of the spiritual and material needs of man, but within the spiritual realm there is a preference for the paths leading to sin rather than those leading to sanctifying grace. When Pachamama is more welcome in St. Peter’s than the Tridentine Mass, and priests are more likely to care for our state of vaccination than our state of grace, we have every reason to suspect that Satan is leading many within Pope Francis’s hierarchy.
Obviously Pope Francis deserves considerable blame for this terrible state of affairs. Even so, it all represents the mature fruits of the Spirit of Vatican II, unleashed by the Council years before Bergoglio’s ordination to the priesthood. On some level he has been terribly misled by those who seek not only our souls but his as well. He too is the victim of the intellectual, theological and spiritual poisoning by men who had been condemned by Pope Pius X decades before his birth.
In our righteous anger we should do all we can to repel these attacks on sanctifying grace, by refuting error and promoting virtue. It seems as well that we ought to pray fervently for Pope Francis, honoring our duty as Catholics as well as the specific request of Our Lady of Fatima. If such a man could realize that he has been deceived, and then convert to Catholicism, he might be fueled with enough righteous anger to spend his remaining days doing what the popes should have been doing for the past fifty-plus years: defending the Faith against the enemies within the Church. Unless and until he converts, though, we must oppose him in the wretched war he wages against sanctifying grace. Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in proelio!
The popular astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson recently Tweeted a cartoon intending to summarize the great crisis we now face in America. In it we see four firemen in Covid-masks attempting to put out a fire. But an obese white male in an “anti-vax” t-shirt is sitting on the fire hose, arms crossed, such that only a trickle of fluid flows from the vaccine needle at the end of the hose.
One of the Vatican’s most recent grave scandals — the conference exploring the “Mind, Body & Soul” — has provided further evidence that Pope Francis and his entourage no longer feel obligated to keep up the appearances of trying to honor God or save souls. If they occasionally ramble off something that resembles Catholic thinking, they invariably follow with ideas that mock the Church’s traditional beliefs and practices. Even if everything else in the world was ideal, the current state of the Vatican hierarchy would be enough to convince us that we will soon see the wrath of God.
Those of us who actually still have the Catholic Faith know how this ends (God wins), but we understandably have some anxiety about the details that will unfold between now and that day of victory. How bad will it get? How long will we have to endure? Will we completely lose access to the sacraments? Are we in the last times?
Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium dedicated several paragraphs to the topic of the “Universal Call to Holiness in the Church,” concluding with the following:
“Therefore, all the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state. Indeed they have an obligation to so strive. Let all then have care that they guide aright their own deepest sentiments of soul. Let neither the use of the things of this world nor attachment to riches, which is against the spirit of evangelical poverty, hinder them in their quest for perfect love. Let them heed the admonition of the Apostle to those who use this world; let them not come to terms with this world; for this world, as we see it, is passing away.”
In a 1976 interview published under the title of Vatican Encounter, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre made several striking statements about the role of the Holy Ghost during Vatican II:
“I should have battled more vigorously, perhaps, for an improvement of the texts, or refused to sign them, as I subsequently did with others. In reality, I was hoping against hope that the Holy Spirit would prevent certain projects from coming to pass or that the Pope would intervene at the last moment.”
“Only God knows what really went on during Vatican II, and what were the true motivations of those who brought their weight to bear on the Council. . . . the Holy Spirit, finally, was absent from a Council the damaging effects of which are daily in evidence”
“Even before the closing of the Council, I proclaimed to all the Fathers assembled there that, according to my view, it was not the Holy Spirit who inspired the Council but possibly Satan.”
And commenting on the infamous moment when Cardinal Alfrink had Cardinal Ottaviani’s microphone cut off, sparking a “tremendous fit of laughter” as Cardinal Ottaviani continued to speak: “I was ashamed for the bishops who behaved in such a deplorable manner toward one of the best among them. Such things are like a curse . . . How could one believe in the presence of the Holy Spirit under such conditions?”
These bold statements obviously run counter to the beliefs of the vast majority of Catholics. Was the archbishop correct or incorrect? As he says, “only God knows what really happened at Vatican II,” but this question is of utmost importance. Has God left us without a way to discern?
If, and when, we have a holy father that returns to spiritual Rome, he will find that tradition has not died.
One way to evaluate this is to consider what it must mean for the Holy Ghost to have guided the Council. If that were truly the case, the following appear to logically follow:
Deceit is praiseworthy. Although Christ’s disciples are to be wise as serpents (Matthew 10:16), there is no sense in which we can condone the effort of bishops deceiving bishops to advance causes that the Church has long opposed. Yet, deceit was a defining characteristic of the work of the liberal bishops and theologians, beginning with the call of the Council to be merely “pastoral.” As Pope Paul VI said on January 12, 1966, “given the Council’s pastoral character, it avoided pronouncing, in an extraordinary manner, dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility.”
As a result, the Vatican II documents were subject to less exacting standards than would have been required for dogmatic writings. This allowed for the documents to include a hodgepodge of orthodox and heterodox propositions. Archbishop Lefebvre saw the danger and declared:
“Each Council commission should prepare two documents: one, more dogmatic, for the use of theologians, the other, pastoral, for the use of the faithful Catholics, or even non-Catholics, and even more, the unbelievers. In doing so, the dogmatic documents, worked out with so much care and useful in presenting the truth to our dear priests and especially to professors and theologians, will always remain the golden rule of faith.”
The liberals rejected Archbishop Lefebvre’s proposal on the basis that the Council was pastoral rather than dogmatic. In other words, a clear presentation of the truth would undermine their efforts.
We now know that the authors of the ambiguities knew how they would exploit the language after the Council. In his Catechism of the Crisis in the Church, Fr. Matthias Gaudron cites Karl Rahner and Herbert Vorgrimler in confirmation of this unfortunate reality:
“A certain number of important theological questions about which no agreement could be reached were left open by choosing formulations that could be interpreted differently by particular groups and theological tendencies at the Council.”
Likewise, Fr. Schillebeeckx stated, “we have used ambiguous terms during the Council and we know how we shall interpret them afterwards.”
Is this how the Holy Ghost operates?
There is a blasphemous spirit underlying the belief that one can say that the Holy Ghost has approved such a Council [Vatican II] despite the very deliberate failings of its principal architects.
Fruits are irrelevant. We have heard for decades that the fruits of Vatican II are not nearly as bad as they look because we still need to fully implement Vatican II. And yet each “further implementation” of Vatican II brings bad fruits, which prompts the Council’s advocates to implement additional changes, leading to worse fruits. As a result, one of the strangest fruits of Vatican II has been the effective prohibition on judging a tree by its fruits. Do we really believe that the Holy Ghost guided the Church in producing such bad fruits? If so, do we think the Holy Ghost simply lacked the ability or foresight to properly guide the Church?
Truth contradicts truth. It is sadly ironic to hear so many defenders of Vatican II insist that it was in perfect conformity with traditional Church teaching, while those innovators who actually contributed to the Council’s documents insist that it was a monumental departure from traditional beliefs. Fr. Yves Congar, for instance, said the following after the Council:
“The Council liquidated what I would call the ‘unconditionality’ of the system. I mean by the system the very coherent ensemble of ideas communicated by the teaching of the Roman universities, codified by Canon Law, and protected by a close, fairly effective surveillance under Pius XII.”
Several other liberal contributors to Vatican II made similar statements. Moreover, one can simply compare the propositions condemned by Pope Pius IX in Quanta Cura to the propositions asserted in Dignitatis Humanae to see that Fr. Congar was correct when he said that “the affirmation of religious liberty by Vatican II says . . . almost the opposite of propositions 16, 17, and 19” of the Syllabus.
Nonetheless, the sincere defenders of the Council — as distinct from the many wolves who know what the Council really was —refuse to concede that the Council contradicts traditional Church teaching because they have heard from “authorities” that the Council is consistent with what the Church has always taught. If the Council said essentially the same thing, but with less clarity than traditional formulations, why would the innovators insist that we use it as a new starting point (a reset) for Catholicism?
The Holy Ghost should be tempted. In addition to all of this, the cavalier approach to the Council essentially guaranteed that it could only succeed through miraculously overcoming the unholy intentions of the liberal theologians. In his One Hundred Years of Modernism, Fr. Dominic Bourmaud highlighted the inherent problem with the way in which the Council proceeded:
“What was meant by a council with no precise goal apart from ‘opening to the world’? Was it not tempting the Holy Ghost to proclaim His intervention in a meeting which had no real reason for being? Did it not amount to giving the modernists carte blanche to fill the void?”
Those who defend the Council despite the deceit, horrible fruits, and contradictions of previous Church teachings effectively declare that the Holy Ghost should indeed be tempted! Perhaps this is the way we truly find Pope Francis’s “God of surprises.”
The Holy Ghost is simply a talisman. The ultimate fallback for many defenders of Vatican II is to say, in effect, that the Council happened so it must have been guided by the Holy Ghost. Thus, even though the liberal factions within the Council specifically wanted to avoid following a process that would guarantee infallibility, we must treat it as infallible. Fr. Gaudron addresses this point in his Catechism of the Crisis in the Church:
“Vatican II, a ‘pastoral’ council, refused to invoke its authority to define anything; it did not impose religious liberty and ecumenism as truths of the faith, and that is why it escapes the extraordinary magisterium. By the same token, it also escapes the infallible ordinary magisterium, for there can be no infallibility if the bishops do not authoritatively certify that the teaching they dispense belongs to the deposit of faith (or is necessarily linked to it), and that it must be held as immutable and obligatory.”
There is a blasphemous spirit underlying the belief that one can say that the Holy Ghost has approved such a Council despite the very deliberate failings of its principal architects. It is as though they believe that whoever can commandeer a council can do with it as they please and then compel the Holy Ghost to approve it. Fittingly, such a mentality is the same that resulted in the dubious canonization of Pope Paul VI.
We know from our catechism that “the Holy Ghost will abide with the Church forever, and guide it in the way of holiness and truth.” However, it seems that we cannot defend Vatican II without blinding ourselves to the facts. In this light, it would seem that the Holy Ghost abandoned the Church during Vatican II.
And, yet, there is another conclusion we can draw. What was the broad goal of the Council? Pope John XXIII said that “the main goal of the Council is to present to the world the Church of God in its perpetual vigor of life and truth . . . .” Even though this is quite an amorphous goal, we can say that the Church could have arguably satisfied the goal if it had increased vigor (or fervor) and love for truth.
What do we see? On the part of those who accept the Council we see a general weakening of the Faith — a Church without vigor or truth. God will not be mocked and we might even sense that the Holy Ghost abandoned those who sought to transform the Church into something it can never be.
We can see that the Holy Ghost did not abandon the Church during Vatican II, but rather allowed the Council to force faithful Catholics to fight for their Faith in the face of persecution.
But what of those who, like Archbishop Lefebvre, fought against the liberal innovations in various ways? Among these we see tremendous fruits. Families have to truly work to find the Tridentine Mass, sometimes driving hours to attend in church basements, hotels, or homes. They make great financial sacrifices to finally have their own churches. The families raise their children in tradition, setting themselves apart from society by modest dress, decent entertainments, and great efforts to educate their children properly. They yearn for vocations to the priestly and religious life. Our priests show heroic virtue in bringing the sacraments and truth to those whom they wish to transform into saints. Anyone who has spent much time around traditional Catholic communities can readily add many more tremendous fruits to this list. We must also acknowledge that these fruits have been produced during a period in which the rest of the world has fallen further into sin and godlessness.
Paramount among all these fruits, traditional Catholics have a steadfast determination to hold to what the Church has always taught and practiced, even in the face of persecution from the Conciliar Catholics. This persecution is a great blessing and even a sign that they are on the right path. The Catechism of St. Pius X speaks of the persecutions that often accompany those who adhere to the truth:
Q. Can the Catholic Church be destroyed or perish? A. No; the Catholic Church may be persecuted, but she can never be destroyed or perish. She will last till the end of the world, because Jesus Christ, as He promised, will be with her till the end of time.
Q. Why is the Catholic Church so persecuted? A. The Catholic Church is so persecuted because even her Divine Founder, Jesus Christ, was thus persecuted, and because she reproves vice, combats the passions, and condemns all acts of injustice and all error.
In this light, we can see that the Holy Ghost did not abandon the Church during Vatican II, but rather allowed the Council to force faithful Catholics to fight for their Faith in the face of persecution. It seems unlikely that the Council Fathers could have realistically hoped to promote such a vigor and love for truth that animates so many within the growing traditional Catholic movement. Yes, this is precisely the type of renewal that would have marked Vatican II as a success.
Those of us who find ourselves literally or figuratively relegated to the Church basements are in good company. The letter of St. Athanasius to his flock is a glorious reminder of what the protection of the Holy Ghost looks like when Catholics are persecuted by those who claim to represent the Church:
“May God console you! ...What saddens you ...is the fact that others have occupied the churches by violence, while during this time you are on the outside. It is a fact that they have the premises─but you have the apostolic Faith. They can occupy our churches, but they are outside the true Faith. You remain outside the places of worship, but the Faith dwells within you. Let us consider: what is more important, the place or the Faith? The true Faith, obviously. Who has lost and who has won in this struggle-the one who keeps the premises or the one who keeps the Faith? Thus, the more violently they try to occupy the places of worship, the more they separate themselves from the Church. They claim that they represent the Church; but in reality, they are the ones who are expelling themselves from it and going astray. Even if Catholics faithful to Tradition are reduced to a handful, they are the ones who are the true Church of Jesus Christ.”
Alas, if, and when, we have a holy father that returns to spiritual Rome, he will find that tradition has not died. Whatever he does with Vatican II, he will do with full dependance upon, and faithfulness to, the inspirations of the Holy Ghost. In the meantime, may God grant us the grace to remain always faithful to the true Church of Jesus Christ, especially when we are persecuted by those who mistakenly believe the Holy Ghost guides their attempts to demolish the Church.
Our Lady, Mediatrix of all Graces, pray for us!