If Francis and Cardinal Kasper have taught us anything over the past few years, it’s that without resurrecting that final “checkmate,” which popes from the beginning used to protect the Faith from grave errors and outright heresies (I’m referring to the Anathema), our problems will only repeat themselves, over and again.
Even the “Vatican Enforcer” Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger / Benedict XVI, who I believe was, in his own way, trying to dig our way out of trouble, never showed any indication that he disagreed with John XXIII who, in introducing the Second Vatican Council, said that in the past (like St. Paul, Gal 1:7-9) the Church condemned errors
“with the greatest severity. Nowadays, however, the spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than of severity. She considers that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations.”
Benedict was conservative. But he handled doctrinal errors mostly as academic problems that could be resolved through the dialectical give-and-take of academic discussion, and an occasional magisterial document—but without teeth.
To Benedict’s credit he made room for the criticisms of more traditional Catholics (some of which criticism he shared). And he even infuriated Progressives by making room in the Church again for the traditional Tridentine Latin Mass of the Saints and expressing disdain for so much that passed for liturgy today. He even deplored the widespread wrecking of altars and the often bizarre new Church architecture which spread across the world after Vatican II.
He was a quiet, conservative, intellectual man with classical tastes. But he was manacled by an unwillingness to break with pope John’s “medicine of mercy” approach. To do so would have made him seem like a repudiator of the “pastoral” Council itself.
And those Progressives who opposed his Conservative preferences took complete advantage of that failure.
And so today we have lived to see chaos and incoherence ensue as the moral and dogmatic bedrocks of the Catholic Church have been made to tremble beneath our feet.
In the final analysis one might say that whatever their own personal preferences, many (hardly all) Conservatives today are, like Progressives, subjectivists, pluralistic theologically. And so many of them are part of the problem. Many Progressives, strange to say, are conservative in taste. Not all are wild or morally corrupt. Progressives too have their flanks and Parties. Benedict XVI was Conservative in some ways and yet Progressive in other ways.
Subjectivists (and all strident Progressives are enthusiastic subjectivists) tolerate even truth, as long as error is also allowed its room to breathe. This is the error of Enlightenment liberalism with its worship of liberty. It is relativistic, dialectical and pluralistic.
The only thing anathema to such subjectivists is the Church’s traditional Anathema. Because that would rule them and their Enlightenment errors out quick, if the Church’s Sacred Tradition and dogmatic patrimony is revived as the standard. Conservatives should openly deplore this fact more than they do.
Progressivism, subscribing to the Enlightenment historical-critical method (so-called, though hardly objective) teaches that dogmas naturally “evolve,” a notion that was condemned over and over by pre-conciliar Popes because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever” (Heb. 13:7). To implicitly suggest, as many modernists have done, that the Church got Our Lord wrong (and to imagine new Christs in new theologies) is simple unbelief and tacit neo-Arianism, a characteristic of modern Progressivism. Some go so far as to suggest
with their Liberal Protestant counterparts, that St. Paul was the first to misunderstand who Jesus is, another condemned notion.
I’ve always accepted Vatican II as a legal Council protected by the Holy Spirit against *formal heresy*. Michael Davies taught the same. But was it always wise in its human formulations? Clearly not. And Davies showed why. It is a dilution, born of a pernicious strategy that sought to reconcile opposites under a mischievous concept labeled “pastoral”.
On his deathbed it is reported that John XXIII said: “It is not that the gospel has changed; it is that we have begun to understand it better.”
Well, I suppose he thought so. But that this thought was preemptively condemned by Vatican I (one) does not seem to have occurred to him:
“…that meaning of the sacred dogmas is perpetually to be retained which our Holy Mother the Church has once declared. Nor is that meaning ever to be departed from, under the pretense or pretext of a deeper comprehension of them.”
“Let then the intelligence, science, and wisdom of each and all, of individuals and of the whole Church, in all ages and at all times, increase and flourish in abundance and vigor; but simply in its own proper kind, that is to say, in one and the same doctrine, one and the same sense, one and the same judgment (Vincent of Lerins, Common. n, 28). ”
And 50 years later? The story is so well known it almost bores me to sketch what so many have known for so long:
Religious Orders have been decimated, the liturgy seems to have banished that sense of the Holy, the very Sacred, which was always a main draw for Catholics and for very many outside the Church. Homilies today are all too often anemic (at best). Mass attendance has consequently declined in massive numbers, to the point where in the West churches close everywhere and once vibrant parishes are forced to merge every day. And this is to say nothing of morally corrupted clergy and Religious so shameful to the Name of Christ.
Theology today at the seminary, college and university levels ranges from the relatively orthodox to the incoherent trendy, to the outright heretical. And of course this means bishops and priests inevitably reflect that confusion in the pulpits and so laypersons hardly know what to think.
It was (until the 1960’s) always understood that dogmatic truth, derived from the Apostles and Sacred Scripture must at all costs be protected as *the* most sacred trust. It was called The Deposit of Faith.
St. Paul warned against tampering with it or watering it down in any way.
Gal 1:8 “If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed (anathema).”
There was never, ever, any perceived opposition between the Deposit of Faith and Charity. Which is why pope John’s new prescription of mercy, cited above and echoed today by the openly “Progressive” Francis, was at first so puzzling after 20 centuries, and today we can see so mistaken or mischievous, a pastoral strategy. I suspect the Conservatives who followed were simply bewildered and / or mistaken while the Progressives were knowingly mischievous.
Reform or a Restorer Pope
Catholics need to restore dogmatic Truth and traditional moral truths based on Revelation to its preeminent, indispensable honor and cease bizarrely opposing charity to it. And this necessarily will involve declaring many dubious or heretical opinions in theology as incompatible with the Catholic Tradition.
Not to do this would be to guarantee only more decline and more infiltrations and to raise more suspicions with respect to the quality of our shepherds and their commitment to the Gospel of salvation. Without the Anathema Benedict must yield to Francis. This is our crisis. Like political Parties, Vatican II “liberty,” if it goes unchecked, will only guarantee a bizarre succession of Liberals and Conservatives —even to emerge from Papal conclaves.
It’s time to end the naive, myopic “pastoral” experiments. The wolves are devouring the flock.
Our Post-Conciliar Time
By and large the Traditionalist manifesto or hermeneutic has almost always involved the insistence that,
“We resist only the dangerous formulations of the Conciliar popes, but obey them when they faithfully transmit sacred tradition”.
It’s a reasonable approach to the crises of our time wherein ambiguous formulations have too often led to outright collapse in liturgy and traditional piety.
In my opinion, it is going too far to summarily dismiss Vatican II as outright heresy from first to last, a plot pure and simple, rather than (as I see it) an ill-advised (even if good intentioned) Council that was naive, compromised, and thus not strong and careful enough—despite all official clarifications— to keep out the wolves. The presence of “Progressive” / Modernist forces, we see now, doomed Vatican II from the start because it sought an impossible truce with the Progressivist principles which Popes had previously and decisively condemned as contrary to Catholic Faith.
Therefore it makes sense, especially after the spectacle of Francis, for Catholics to see ourselves in a post-conciliar time, a time of waiting, waiting for the official “reconnecting” more explicitly to our traditional Deposit of Faith, liturgically, theologically, and spiritually. Even if, as Benedict predicted, we must become a much smaller witness in the public squares of this world.
It is a simple fact that all Catholics who reject pernicious Progressivism in favor of Tradition are Traditional Catholics (whether certain traditionalist cliques like to think so or not). And Progressivism must be condemned. Officially. Again.
The best Traditional leaders and authors, including Romano Amerio, Klaus Gamber and Michael Davies aimed essentially in this direction. And it is, especially after Francis, up to us to complete it, and, most importantly, to live it. —-Updated Dec. 2016