It’s understandable that we are a great deal caught up with the questions that seem to be immediately to hand: What do I do if I am a priest and I get suspended, laicised or even excommunicated for preaching the Faith against Bergoglianism or VaticanTwoism? What if the pontifical university I teach in suddenly gets “reconfigured” to conform to the New Bergoglian Paradigm by Rome? What do I do if the Traditional Mass my family goes to gets cancelled? What if my children’s school starts teaching gender or LGBT ideology? What will I do if my monastery decides to follow the Bergoglian path? Where can I move to have the traditional Mass and Faith, since I can’t afford to live in a big city and the entire country, except for a few barely-surviving pockets, is a gasping, desolate, post-apocalyptic wasteland of guitar-oriented Novusordoism? (That last one is mine.)
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It’s right and just that these immediate questions occupy us. But what of the longer term and larger issues? And why do many of us see a light at the end of this dark tunnel? Mainly because as traditionalists we know that the nature of the Church is not under the power of any man, even a pope. It is not possible for anyone to so fundamentally alter either the Church or the papacy. Reality itself is not in the hands of a pope.
The question at hand this week in Rome is, “Can a pope use the power of the papacy to destroy both his own office and the nature of the Church he governs?” And the answer, unequivocally, is “No.”
So why do they assume they will win?
The confidence of the ascendant Bergoglian faction seems to naturally suggest a question: do they even know what the Church is? How do they have this unshakable confidence that they are even capable of achieving this goal? Remember when Maradiaga and co. said Bergoglio wants to make his changes “irreversible”? We all speculated what that could mean. How could a pope have the power to force his own successor, presumably from the grave, to follow his programme? Many tyrants of history, from the Pharaohs onward, have dreamed such dark dreams of never-ending dominion, but thus far nothing greater than the ungovernability of human nature has defeated them all. Humans do not herd well.
It might be worth asking what “irreversible” actually means. What would it or could it possibly look like? Could Maradiaga – notably not the best theologically educated of the hierarchy – simply have failed to understand the nature of the papacy? Could he have forgotten or just not known that any pope has the power to nullify the decrees and acts of any of his predecessors? Can this be said of the entire faction?
Or is it that they think they can just use their tactics of bullying manipulation – the standard methodology of the South American banana republic – to get what they want? Don’t forget that the pope’s men are well-known Latin American Marxists. For them, the Church is a political body and this is how they do things in politics. Do they just intend to stack the College of Cardinals and national bishops’ conferences so high with like-minded men, and to silence all opposition, so that only their faction could ever again hold positions of authority in the Church?
It’s a curious question because the first answer would indicate what we have clearly seen since the Honduran red cardinal made this ominous remark; that these men have so fundamentally divergent an ecclesiology from the Church’s self-understanding that he might literally have not known what he was saying. Their bad theology – or non-existent theology – shows up all the time in their corrupt practices.
The second answer – that they intend to use the power inherent in the papal office to effectively nullify itself and thereby to so fundamentally change the nature of the Church as to leave it, at least in its institutional character, unrecogniseable, seems to be playing out as we watch. Catholics objecting to the Amazon Synod’s working document, that the thing they are describing is not a Catholic Church at all, does not even resemble it superficially, are met with little more than a slightly annoyed shrug: “Yeah? So, what’s your point?”
“Synodal” for thee, but not for me.
What would a “synodal” Church and episcopate look like while tethered to the kind of absolute monarchical papacy that Bergoglio embodies? And isn’t that an essentially contradictory proposal?
We are starting to get a fairly clear picture of what kind of institution they are aiming for. Socialist in politics; “ecumenical” or indifferentist and totally relativistic and subjective in theology; trans-nationalist, post-nationalist or globalist in practice. Identical, in other words, to the stated aims of the organisations with which the Bergoglians themselves most publicly identify: the UN, the Council of Europe, the EU, the World Council of Churches… the praying arm of SorosWorld. But the question of how they will accomplish so fundamental a change in the nature of the Church, and specifically the office of the papacy itself, is trickier to figure out.
The difficulty comes in when we understand that their stated goals, the horizontalist, democratic, consensus-built “synodal Church,” – the blueprints of which the German bishops are currently helpfully publishing – cannot happen with the papal office as it is understood and being used today. The two ideas – the absolutist, monarchical Bergoglian super-papacy and the “synodal,” democratic episcopate – are fundamentally at odds.
It is not only ironic, but essentially contradictory to use the absolute power of the monarchical papacy – a power Pope Francis understands better than any 20th century pope – to make that office democratic in nature. And of course, it’s not happening; no tyrant shares power. And if the intention is to maintain the papacy’s essentially autocratic nature while having the bishops move into a “synodal” democratic model, it won’t be long before their like-minded friends in sees and national conference offices learn that they have been duped and are now, more than they ever were before, little more than powerless mouthpieces and puppets of the pope.
Has the time has come for mutiny?
The blogger “Unam Sanctam”, makes a helpful comparison with our current situation and that of the late 9th and early 10th century crisis of the Cadaver Synod, reminding us that it is the nature of the papal office that a pope has the power to annul any or all of the administrative, political or disciplinary decisions of a predecessor. But at the same time, this strange and chaotic incident demonstrates about the real-life limits of even a pope’s powers.
"One frequently overlooked remedy to the current crisis is that a future pope can annul the acts of a previous pope. This has occurred on various occasions throughout Church history, but probably the most striking example of it was in the conflict between Pope Formosus and Pope Stephen VI, the popes of Cadaver Synod fame.”
The Cadaver Synod was a synod convened by Pope Stephen VI and held before the Roman clergy in January of 897. The synod published several acts, which were confirmed by the decree of Pope Stephen:
- Declared Pope Formosus had been "unworthy" of the papacy
- Declared his papal election invalid by reason of the violation of the 15th canon of the Second Council of Nicaea prohibiting the holding of multiple benefices by clergy (Pope Formosus had been elevated to the papacy while simultaneously exercising jurisdiction over the See of Porto).
- Nullified all the decrees of Pope Formosus.
- Declared the orders conferred by Pope Formosus null by virtue of the illegitimacy of his papal election.
Let’s not fool ourselves; such measures cause a great deal of trouble. Resorting to them is really the nuclear option. It’s like chemotherapy; you only do it because the only other alternative is death. We do not forget that the annulling of Formosus’ acts caused utter pandemonium; and then the correction of the Cadaver Synod did it again.
It was not long before the political wheel of fortune had turned and Pope Stephen was shortly murdered in prison. The acts of his Cadaver Synod were themselves nullified by the next two popes and synods.
“The nullification of Formosus’ orders had caused widespread chaos in the Church, as many of these clergy had already ordained others, whose own ordinations were now being called into question. The subsequent pope, Theodore II, annulled the decisions of the Cadaver Synod in 897, declaring all of Formosus' ordinations valid. Another pope, John IX, confirmed the acts of Theodore II in two future synods, one held in Rome and another at Ravenna in 898.”
And a third flip of the wheel was outright rejected. In 904, a partisan of Pope Stephen’s faction, Sergius III, was elected as pope (presumably with the same kind of political manipulations we saw in 2013). Sergius tried formally to nullify the decrees of Theodore II and John IX, and reaffirm the decrees of the Cadaver Synod.
The interesting thing is that while Sergius’ decrees were never formally repudiated, they were simply ignored to death. The chaos and destruction they would have caused the universal Church was universally rejected at ground level by bishops and all the Church’s leadership; they simply passively mutinied.
As Unam Sanctam put it, “The Church essentially acted like the decree of Sergius III never happened.” And that was the end of it.
The limits of the power of the One Ring
As we have seen for these past 78 months, the goal, the means and the method are all the same: power. Getting it; keeping it; using it. When they are told by theologians, bishops and cardinals that what they are doing is annihilating the Church, the response is always the same. And as of yesterday’s opening press conference it has been predictable: “Shut up,” they explained. The theological critiques of the Amazon Synod working document are irrelevant; it “should be ‘listened to’ and not ‘judged’,” as our friend Dianne Montagna reported.
Clearly they know fine well that the thing they are trying to make happen can’t happen without the utter annihilation of the institution they claim to be part of. That’s the goal. The two concepts are absolutely opposed, utterly contradictory. It is certainly being made clear this month, as we expected, that their intention is merely to click the papal heels together three times and wish their “new church” into being, and therefore making the old one vanish. And their actions so far have made it clear that full force of papal power will be wielded unhesitatingly to make disappear, to wish into the cornfield, anyone who objects.
But it might not be as easy as they think. As an experiment in regime-change, the Bergoglian papacy has been a smash success. Maradiaga and the gang certainly had the number of the College of Cardinals well-pegged, and in the confined and carefully controlled conditions of the Conclave, manipulated them with ease.
As Julia Meloni described it in Crisis, earlier this year:
On the eve of the 2013 conclave, Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga busily phoned cardinal voters from the Honduran embassy in Rome. He was one of the conclave’s key kingmakers—and he was vigorously promoting then-Cardinal Bergoglio for pope.
“That same day, Maradiaga attended a private meeting of Bergoglio supporters, including key revolutionaries from the St. Gallen mafia. Together, they tallied at least twenty-five votes for Bergoglio—who later opened, notably, with twenty-six. On the conclave’s second day, Maradiaga was back at work, shooting down a rival group’s lunchtime rumor that Bergoglio had only one lung. Four days later, the newly elected Pope Francis asked Maradiaga to head his powerful new Council of Cardinals.”
But fooling and manipulating a small group of out-of-touch septuagenarians – none of whom know how to Google a name – is one thing. The task of totally eradicating the last remnants of Catholicism from the shell of the worldwide Catholic institution is of an entirely different order. It isn’t going to happen quickly, even with the full power of the papacy and Roman curia behind them.
As we have seen in the last few years, the highly organised, top-down ecclesiastical structure has created a convenient power bottle-neck, a handy place to install a valve and filter. But such a plan would require the systematic removal of anyone who might oppose them, meaning, anyone who retains the Catholic Faith, – every cardinal, every curial official, every bishop, every abbot, every university or seminary rector and professor, every religious superior, every parish priest, every seminarian – a purge on a scale that might have made even Stalin hesitate.
All the formal participants at all levels of the institution can be controlled from relatively few and small offices in Rome. But the sheer volume of the task means it won’t happen in a few years. There are 5,493 Catholic bishops living today. Every one of them is endowed by God with the power to make priests. There are 1.28 billion people on earth who at least nominally belong to the Catholic Church. All of this presents a rather larger and more complex problem for would-be revolutionaries bent on Sauron-like total dominion.
Then there’s us, the laity – all of whom have internet connections. Right now I’m writing this while sitting in a meeting, a “round table,” attended by about 100 of the most well-connected lay Catholics able to be here in Rome. We are live-streaming this event to, I’m told, about 5000 people. The discussion will be broadcast by a dozen international Catholic media agencies in four languages. The only priests present are a few clergy involved in various ways in media.
In other words, this is the laity shouting down the Vatican and demanding that they remain faithful to Christ, and reject the New Paradigm. We are the laymen opposing the most powerful men in the Church. And we can’t be stopped. No one here can be placed under any canonical sanctions. We can’t be sacked; we can’t be laicised; we can’t be threatened, bullied or intimidated.
What it means is that the Bergoglians’ task is never going to be completed. They know, as we do, that the matter will not be settled in their favour until every single person remaining in the Church is with them. The question asked by Christ, “When the Son of Man returns will He find faith on earth?” for their purpose to be accomplished, must be an unequivocal, “No.” If a single person, retains the ancient Faith of Christ, their task is not finished.
And there are always going to be renegades, Old Narnians who will camp out in the hills, preserving the Old Faith and waiting for the Telmarine tyrants to get lazy or careless. Or just to die off. Given the median age at conferences of their like-minded priests and laity, they haven’t got all the time they need.