Sunday, August 29, 2021

A Good Man and His Limitations

Paul VI was Pope when I was born.  I vaguely remember images of him lying in state after his death in 1978.  Then Pope John Paul I was elected.  I remember watching the white smoke come out of the chimney on the news.  After only a month on the throne of Peter, we were all surprised to find ourselves already awaiting the outcome of the next conclave.  That conclave brought us John Paul II, the first man to break the Italian lock on the papacy  in four and a half centuries.  For some reason, I could never bring myself to become a fan of JPII, whom the rest of the world looked upon as a rock star.  His visit to my town when I was in high school left me cold (as, frankly, did the Catholic faith itself at that time).  He deserved credit for helping to bring down the Iron Curtain, and for laying down the law on the impossibility of women's ordination; but he also tried to tinker with the Rosary; he pushed the revolutionary agenda of Vatican II; his Theology of the Body is all but impenetrable; he failed to carry out the collegial consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart; and, above all, he created a lot of really terrible bishops.  His hasty canonization is a classic example of why we were much wiser, in former times, to let enough time pass for emotions and partisan feeling to die down before opening a cause for sainthood on anyone.  Still, John Paul II was the Vicar of Christ on earth, beyond whose reign many adults were too young to remember; and when he was in the final stages of his terminal struggle, I too felt the desolation that seemed to lie over the whole Church, and indeed the whole world, as they awaited the inevitable news of impending fatherlessness.

Then came Benedict XVI, the first Pope to be elected during my adulthood.  I remember wanting to park in front of the TV during the conclave and watch for the white smoke and see the announcement of the new Pope, but my court schedule would not allow it. As I meditated later upon the above image of him showing himself to the crowds for the first time as Pope, I found myself being filled with a personal affection for the man that I never felt for his two predecessors under whom I had lived.  I actually hung this picture up in my house.  As an added bonus, all the right people were wailing and gnashing their teeth over the election of Ratzinger.  He on his part asked us to pray that he would not flee for fear of the wolves.  When he abdicated less than eight years later, my first thought was: I didn't pray for him enough.  Then we got...what we got.

I have never lost my personal affection for Benedict XVI.  He is a scholar and a gentleman, a father of such tenderness as his wayward children did not come close to deserving.  The Church and indeed the world owes him a great debt for having opened the road home for Anglicans by creating the Ordinariates, and especially for having brought back the Mass of Tradition and many of the things that go along with tradition.  But, as Pope, he should have been able to entirely correct the course of the Church and turn her off the path of self-destruction she has been on for at least a century, and certainly since Vatican II.  As we find ourselves almost entirely leaderless while the world launches a frontal assault on the Church and on her members in particular, it cannot be denied that he failed to do this.

Was this because of the wolves that Benedict saw around him everywhere he turned?  Partly.  But now, in the light of the post-conciliar hierarchy's massive and blatant failures over the last year and a half,  something seems clear to me that I never more than half-realized before now: how handicapped Benedict XVI was as Pope by the fact that to some extent, he still bought into the wolves' ideology.  Josef Ratzinger was a child during the Nazi era and the Second World War, during which life was held cheap, and then grew up under the harsh American occupation of his country, during which the immortal souls of his people were held cheap.  He spent his formative years and his young adulthood marinating in trauma and modernism.  Trauma has the power to make us doubt settled principles, seeing that they have appeared to fail us in our particular case.  As for modernism, it has been in the air we breathe, and the water we drink, for decades.  Without a special grace from God, it's impossible not to be touched by it.  Modernism trains us to set aside our common sense, doubt known realities, and hold entirely contradictory ideas simultaneously.

I can only speak to my own perceptions and conclusions on this.  Why didn't I see before now how greatly influenced Pope Benedict was by the poison in the Church's bloodstream?  Partly because I have not entirely escaped it, either.  Partly because, though I knew the young Fr. Ratzinger was a peritus at the Council, and that he had some rather eccentric ideas in his youth, I believed he had outgrown them.  He was, after all, orders of magnitude more orthodox and traditional than anybody else in the Church I had to deal with on the ground, in my own diocese.  The liberals thought so too, and so did not trouble to disguise their hatred and contempt of him.  But while Benedict clearly recognized many of the bad fruits of the Council and its aftermath, he still dreamed of being able to salvage the Council and its underlying ideologies, and reconcile them with the authentic doctrines and traditions of the Church.  Immersed in the "hermeneutic of continuity," Pope Benedict was apparently not troubled by the co-existence of contradictory things or ideas, and even thought this could somehow redound to the benefit of the Church.  Thus, from within this ideological and philosophical quicksand, he was unable use decisively his power as the Supreme Pontiff and Shepherd of the Church and put the wolves to flight.  Instead, he tried to co-exist with them and with their noxious notions.  Today, we live with the results.

Whether he intended to or not, Pope Francis has done a great service to the Church by at last nailing his colors to the mast and proving decisively that there is no middle course we can take in dealing with our opponents.  We can't "dialogue" with them, because they don't mean the same thing by words that we mean, and because to them "dialogue" is just a tactic to waste our time and exhaust our energy until we cave.  We can't compromise with them, because to them compromise means we give up everything and they give up nothing.  We need to be as committed to defeating them as they are to defeating us.  And we can't do that by remaining mired in the muddy, slippery slime of modernism.

I still love Benedict XVI (not the true Pope any longer, since Jesus Christ cannot be hindered or stymied by any man's loopy ideas, grammatical errors, semantics games or crooked intrigues in conferring or taking away papal jurisdiction).  I still believe he is a good man, that his intentions were good, and that he did his best as Pope, within his limitations.  But we cannot deny the limitations, and should not miss out on the lessons those limitations have for us and how we ought to carry ourselves in the continuing crisis.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

More on Why Francis Is the True Pope

Don Tranquillo, FSSPX, explains why Benedict XVI's abdication was valid, and why the irregularities alleged with the 2013 conclave were not enough to invalidate it.

I highly recommend the whole Crisis in the Church series on the SSPX Podcast.  Even if you don't like what the SSPX says or agree with it, the arguments and evidence adduced are abundant food for thought.  Their positions on various issues in the Church are far from trivial.  They deserve more than just a knee-jerk dismissal.

This series also gives the lie to the allegations that the SSPX are schismatic or sedevacantist.  They spend a lot of time refuting, not only Vatican II Fanboy arguments, but also the arguments of the sedevacantists, and defending the conciliar and post-conciliar Popes as true Popes.  It doesn't make a lot of sense that they would go to all this trouble if they were in schism.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

What Ever Happened to the Medicine of Mercy?

From the vestibule of the "schismatic" SSPX chapel in New Plymouth, Idaho.

I am seeing on social media the sentiment expressed that the latest motu proprio was a just, fitting and appropriate comeuppance for traditionalists.  Those mean, nasty, rotten, Vatican-II-hating trads, leading unsuspecting normal Catholics into schism and disobedience, and probably also kicking puppies and eating kindergarteners for breakfast!  I see even some traditionalists (or at least some professing to be traditionalists) saying, look, we had this coming.  We deserve to get smacked around because we are so mean and uncharitable.  Thank you, sir, may I please have another.

This is even assuming -- which I do not assume -- that the Pope has the authority to do what he has done.  Jesus Christ founded the Church as a monarchy, a family with a father at its head, not as a tyranny.  (The redoubtable Fr. Hunwicke explains brilliantly why Traditiones custodes is not binding, here and especially here.)  The question here is: whatever happened to the mercy and compassion that were supposed to be the hallmarks of the Church in the post-conciliar age toward those who are in, or who are supposed to be in, error?  Whatever happened to the mercy and compassion, pursuant to which canonical penalties have become a thing of the past in the quest to draw malefactors gently back into the fold?  Consider the words of John XXIII at the opening of the Council on October 11, 1962:

The Church has always opposed these errors.  Frequently she has condemned them with the greatest severity.  Nowadays, however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity.  She considers that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations....[T]he Catholic Church, raising the Torch of religious truth by means of this Ecumenical Council, desires to show herself to be the loving mother of all, benign, patient, full of mercy and goodness toward the brethren who are separated from her.

Now, the Vatican II fanboys consider traditionalists to be separated from the Church, or on the verge of being separated from the Church.  If that were true, it would seem to indicate that traditionalists are therefore in need of the Medicine of Mercy.  But it would appear rather that all that Medicine of Mercy stuff held true only as long as the revolutionaries within the Church were the ones being condemned.  It became a whole different ball game once they and their fellow travelers and tools took over the league.  When Archbishop Lefebvre, for example, ordained priests after the purported suppression of his Society of St. Pius X, and then later consecrated bishops against a papal mandate, surely those were occasions to deploy the Medicine of Mercy.  But no: it turns out that the Medicine of Mercy crowd are actually huge fans of canonical penalties, ruthlessly applied -- to their opponents.  Even the threat of canonical penalties turns out to be a very handy political weapon against those who do not want to sign on to the revolution within the Church.  Meanwhile, there is to be no Medicine of Mercy for those who are looted, pillaged and despoiled by even the open pervs, crooks and charlatans who are in lockstep with the revolution.

Traditionalists, being humans, have warts like anyone else.  We are sinners.  We are annoying.  We overindulge our passions and appetites.  We let our anger and hurt get the better of us.  We fight amongst ourselves.  There are even those among us who stray into error of various sorts -- making us indistinguishable from our fellow Catholics in the mainstream, which also includes those who reject all sorts of Church teachings, from the Real Presence to the evils of contraceptives.  

But it takes a real hard-heartedness to consider the Howitzer of Traditiones custodes as being in any way a proportionate response to the flea that is the excesses of traditionalists.