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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Pope Francis: The Great Clarifier

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Pope Francis: The Great Clarifier

You can’t play Catholic in NuChurch: So what now?

One of the things I keep saying over and over is that we are entering a period of great clarity in the Church. It is becoming impossible to continue to adhere to what I have called the “Catholic conservative compromise” – events and persons are forcing closed that comfortable conservative middle ground. (Noteworthy: this Catholic “conservative” phenomenon is mainly an American thing, born out of the political alliance between Protestants and Catholics over the life issues during the Reagan era. It is practically nonexistent in Europe where there are only two categories and not much in the way of pro-lifeism.)

We can no longer hide behind the nostrums of American Catholic conservatism that carefully ignores the contradictions in the data.

But this assessment, that it is becoming easier and easier every day to see what is really going on, seems to be one that not everyone has noticed. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people write, “This time is so confusing…” and I wonder what they can be thinking. What’s confusing?

I predict that this period in the Church will be called by historians the “great clarification.” After decades of confusion and arguments over this or that interpretation of the outcome of Vatican II, we now see unfolding before us the indisputable results of it. The Church we have now in all its institutions from top to bottom is a product of the neo-modernist incursion that, it can no longer be disputed, became the most important issue in the Church of the late 20th century onwards.

One of the main differences between a Traditionalist Catholic and a “conservative” is their chosen narrative regarding the Council. The conservative position, that I first heard articulated by Anne Roche Muggeridge in her book The Desolate City, and repeated endlessly ever since, is that there was, essentially, nothing wrong with the Council or its documents themselves.

We have all heard it until we’re ready to choke: The Council was “high jacked” by “liberals” (among whom it was widely acknowledged was the young Father Joseph Ratzinger, theological advisor to Cardinal Frings, one of the notorious Rhine group) and the subsequent “liberal” interpretation of the documents has been used to promote a progressivist agenda throughout the Church.

So difficult to read it or hear it and not keep your eyes from rolling, am I right? As neat and tidy an explanatory package as one could wish, but one that the Traditionalist has been unable to accept upon closer inspection of its interior contradictions. A bit like Darwinism that way; it would be nice to think we’d got it figured out, but it just doesn’t explain all the data.

The details of the history of the episcopal shenanigans could and have filled libraries, some portion of which I suppose we have all read. To appropriate the expression of C.S. Lewis, a young man who wishes to remain a good neo-Catholic conservative cannot be too careful of his reading.

It could be argued, however, that the culmination of five decades of neo-modernism in the institutions of the Church from top to bottom is now prancing daily before our eyes on the news, popping out of its ostentatiously “humble” little cars on international visits, expounding its bizarre, anti-rational, anti-Catholic non-sequiturs at the daily Santa Martha Mass and weekly Angelus.

I think we have come to a point that it really doesn’t matter much in practical terms what the Council said and whether it was “valid” Catholic theology or not. Academics can continue to amuse themselves by arguing in their journals; the rest of us have things to do. We have more immediate concerns.

Not to put too fine a point on it, as we move from “crisis” into full-fledged emergency, just what are we supposed to do now? How are we to live as Catholics under this pope and his neo-modernist junta? What if a son has a vocation to the priesthood? What if my daughter wants to join a religious order and devote her life to Christ? What if I am a layman who wants a deeper commitment as an oblate or member of a third order? What if I’m a teacher or school principal who wants to dedicate my professional life to Catholic education? What if I’m a university theology professor who will not teach heresy? What if I’m a seminarian who believes in Transubstantiation and that the Holy Eucharist is the “summit” of every holy thing on earth and in heaven? What if I’m a priest and my bishop has called me and said I must give Holy Communion to that couple whom I know are unlawfully cohabitating, on orders from on high? What if I’m just a weekly pewsitting parishioner who won’t sit there while the Eucharist is knowingly desecrated?

The other day, I posted this video to my blog, What’s Up With Francis-Church?, and noted that the Franciscan Sisters Immaculate appear to be under attack again (or still) from the powers in the Francis-Vatican. A friend in Rome confirms that although some of them still turn up for Mass now and then at the FSSP parish, they aren’t coming in the numbers they were when they would take up a whole section of the pews. These days it’s just two or three at most.

This time the pretext is a complaint by the Congregation for Religious over some vow that they make to emulate their founder, Fr. Manelli. Joao Braz Cardinal de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Religious, has issued a letter saying that this fourth vow is to be suppressed. “Credible evidence” had been brought forward in a complaint from one of the friars of this “…private vow (or promise) of special obedience, which is reserved to some male and female religious to the founder, which has been placed above the general vows of obedience owed to the superior. [This] has prompted this dicastery to bring this problem to the attention of the Holy Father, who has given a special mandate to deal specifically with this problem.”

“In consequence it will be necessary that in future this vow or promise in future is not practiced either in its current or any future form.”

Lest it be imagined for a moment that there is a genuine principle involved, that the Vatican is merely trying to keep extraneous and unnecessary innovations and complications out of the order, it would perhaps be well to remember that the Legionaries of Christ have or had a similar vow or promise which they have habitually extracted from their members to emulate their repulsive founder, the drug addicted, incestuous, bisexual paedophile Marcial Maciel. The fact that this organisation has recently been fully “rehabilitated,” despite former members expressing grave reservations, while the FFIs continue to suffer under the Vatican’s capricious overseers should tell us what we need to know. There is no principle involved. It’s not that it’s bad to have a special vow of obedience or a promise to emulate the founder, it’s simply that under the current regime, you can’t be that kind of Catholic.

Whether the FFIs and FSIs drop their extra vow, it seems extremely unlikely they will be offered the same warm welcome the Legionaries are enjoying. This is the same Cardinal Braz de Aviz, remember, who offered warm and apologetic hugs all ‘round to the Marxist-feminist, pagan anti-nuns of LCWR, explaining that the whole thing had been big misunderstanding (by the previous regime) and that we are all friends again.

Moreover, in the case of the FFIs, it is not enough to meekly surrender and walk away. The friars who have tried to be released from their vows to go and be ordinary diocesan priests have had their petitions refused. At a recent meeting, the Italian bishops were warned not to accept priests from the order for incardination. Attempts to leave have been responded to with suspensions and canonical repercussions. No, you won’t be allowed to just give up and walk. If you have ever wanted to express your Catholicism in the traditional way, you must be re-educated, forcibly if necessary.

The bottom line of all this is that the space in the Church once enjoyed by Traditionalists – or even those who have vaguely traditional-looking leanings – is now being closed. As is the little no-man’s land that is called “conservative” in the US. The administration in Rome are making it clear that there is only one way to be a Catholic that will be tolerated.

The Francis Vatican is certainly going out of its way to make it clear what sort of Catholic is welcome to make vows in and devote themselves to the Church. The Great Clarification continues. The weird and confusing stand-off we have had in the Church for fifty years is quickly coming to an end. Thanks be to God for Francis for making it impossible to continue to live in this confusing and contradictory, compromised state of conservative denial. You can’t play Catholic in NuChurch.

The article by Giuseppe Nardi for Katholisches goes on to give some history of the FFI and FSI, saying that it grew out of a desire after the Council by some in the Franciscan order to return to the authentic charism, which in its turn finally led to the desire to return to the traditional rites of the Church. They accepted the idea that they could play Catholic in the new thing that was being created after the Council. They played by the rules, trusting in the good intentions of the men in charge. Naturally, their efforts have been cast as a “rejection” of the Council and of “the modern,” as it was put by one of the disaffected members who had originally made a complaint to the Congregation. 

Giuseppe Nardi writes that this latest decree is a “shot across the bow” to put paid to any notion of a possibility of establishing a new order based on the original concepts of the FFI founders: “…The religious congregation remains determined to disrupt the order from recognition and to subject it to re-education. Anyway, nothing should remain of the actual charism of the order.”

“The brothers are forced by the Congregation to remain in the order, although this is no longer the same order since the provisional administration as the one which they were originally committed to.

“Should they leave the order without a dispensation, which a number have done, this puts them canonically in the wrong. Every Bishop or superior of another order, and especially the Vatican, could go against them in the field, since they are not in a canonically regular position. In short, their lives would be on end of a rope indefinitely. It’s a situation that brings brothers and sisters into a fitful moral dilemma.”

That is, religious orders are being instructed through this example that there will be no returning to pre-Vatican II Catholicism tolerated. Even the appearance of it will be cause for suspicion.

Most recently, we have had Pope Francis again tell us that there is to be no room allowed for the traditional Faith in diocesan seminaries. In a speech to clergy in charge of seminarian formation, he joked that priests and seminarians who are overtly “devout” were “scary” and “neurotic” and should see a doctor instead of being ordained.

“If you are sick, if you are neurotic, go and see a doctor, spiritual or physical,” he said, raising an appreciative chuckle from the audience. “The doctor will give you pills. But, please, don't let the faithful pay for neurotic priests.”

“When a youngster is too rigid, too fundamentalist, I don’t feel confident (about him),” the pope added, warning that seminary administrators should watch out for them.

It’s strange, isn’t it, to hear a pope who so manifestly loathes the Catholic faith, and all those who adhere to it. The actions, so devious and calculated, so much the creation of a Kafkaesque mind bent only on suppressing any possibility of a lawful return to the practice of the traditional Catholic Faith, are simply diabolical. It cannot be argued that this is anything but pure evil.

Today, on a FB group I belong to, someone asked the question out loud: “Hands up, how many of us think there’s a fair chance Francis is … shall we say… not who he’s supposed to be?” There are serious, non-crazy people who want, in a serious way, to know if… well… if he’s fulfilling some eschatological role mentioned in the latter books of the New Testament… if ya get me.

In fact, so frequent and so open has this questioning become that the subject of the discussion has mentioned it overtly, though of course only as an opening to mock and ridicule the faithful.

When my FB friend asked that question I had to have a long think about it. Finally, my only response could be that I don’t have the authority to call it. Some people whose theology degrees and knowledge I respect are convinced that there can be no doubt that he is the pope. But I can’t forget the confidential conversation I had with a venerable and respectable member of the pro-life community, a sensible fellow who is not given to wild sede outbursts. He took me aside at a conference in Rome a couple of years ago and said, “I wonder if you’ve noticed that we seem to have two popes.” I agreed that it was very easy to see things this way, and that Benedict himself had done little to assuage such thinking.

I tried to be helpful with the following: 

“The Years of Two Popes will certainly go down in Church history – if there is anyone to write it – as one of our most divisive periods. We don’t know what to make of it because, simply, it’s never happened before. When has a pope ‘retired’ and then gone on to continue living in the Vatican, continue to wear the whites, continue to be called by his pope-name and get trotted out to be huggy and kissy for the cameras with Pope II? But even if he is the real guy, I think it is extremely foolish to imagine that he's sitting there seething with rage and horror at everything that's going on and that one day he will boil over and burst forth at a press conference and denounce Jorge as an imposter. Though it might make a basis for a great Tarantinoesque alt-history film one day.”

About Francis himself: 

“He is certainly permissive on matters of faith and morals, but on matters pertaining to the governance of the Church it’s possible that we have not had such a dictatorial autocrat in love with his supreme power since the late Renaissance. As for whether he is ‘who he’s supposed to be,’ I’ll assume that you mean, ‘Is he an antipope?’ And I am going to stick with the assessment that this is a juridical decision that is well outside my competence. I can no more declare the man not to be a pope than I can to declare him solemnly canonized. 

“What is becoming clear, however, is that he is a “manifest heretic,” and possibly mentally incompetent [all those incomprehensible contradictions…] and certainly setting himself up for a full posthumous review by competent authorities in the future, should the Church survive him in a form that would make this possible. 

“Moreover his antics have now become so outrageous that it is starting to cast the ‘good’ cardinals and bishops in a bad light that they continue to smile and wave for the cameras and do little or nothing to correct or confront him publicly. I don’t know how many more deadlines can pass before I start to dismiss the entire pack of them – ‘a plague on both your houses’ – as patsies addicted to their delusions about Vatican II. Or simply flatly as cowards. 

“I keep thinking, ‘Are they waiting for him to try to declare some heresy formally? Are we waiting for the Exhortation of Desolation?’ But so many of these demarcation points have passed now unremarked that I am seriously beginning to wonder what it will take.”

What we can do about it remains to be seen. The first thing to do, of course, is to keep and pass on the true Faith. Not to compromise ourselves. Perhaps the SSPX will cave and the escape route and haven they have offered will be lost. There have been more rumours lately of another “reconciliation” offer that is “about to be signed.”

If they accept the New Religion what will happen to the millions of Catholics who have gone to them for shelter? I don’t know. Some have taken shelter under “good” bishops. Some are even allowed to form religious orders that observe the ancient rites. These pockets still exist. For how long, of course, is anyone’s guess and everyone in these situations is painfully aware of an axe over their heads.

The papacy grants absolute power, and it is currently in the hands of a mental incompetent who evidently passionately hates the Faith. No one is safe: not bishop nor abbot, and therefore no one who has sheltered under their protection. This is the reality.

While there are blessings to be had in the Great Clarification – and we have seen that more and more are accepting that they can no longer compromise – this does not make things easy. Last Sunday we heard the terrifying predictions of Our Lord about the utter desolation of the Church in the end of time. I do not say we are at that point. But His recommendation remains the only answer we have; perseverance.

Take heed that no man seduce you… For many will come in my name saying, I am Christ: and they will seduce many… Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall put you to death: and you shall be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be scandalized: and shall betray one another: and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall seduce many. And because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold. But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved.”

There really is only one thing that matters.

We are not called to adhere to institutions. We are not Catholics because we love our parish or our religious order. We are not Catholics because we love the traditional Latin Mass or Gregorian Chant. We do not adhere to the Faith because of the pope or bishops or any institutional structure. We adhere to Christ and Him crucified. We follow Him where He leads.

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Last modified on Thursday, November 26, 2015
Hilary White

Our Italy correspondent is known throughout the English-speaking world as a champion of family and cultural issues. First introduced by our allies and friends at the incomparable, Miss White lives in Norcia, Italy.