Monday, 24 January 2011

What alternative is there?

The Bishop of Rome, the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, faithful steward of the Divine Deposit, bulwark against heresy, successor of St Peter, vicegerent of Christ on earth, guardian of Tradition. This is what I used to believe, and was indeed led to believe.

But...if the Bishop of Rome is demonstrably not everything the Roman Catholic Church makes him out to be, what is he then? Is he just a kindly old man with delusions of grandeur, or just harmlessly misled? Or is he rather Christ's enemy and a demented megalomaniac, exalting himself in the Church of Christ and bent on the suppression of liturgical Tradition? I am not talking about personal scandal, but rather the magisterial imposition of systematic abuse on every godly and orthodox Catholic in Europe.

I believe, and have felt for some time now, that Pius XII (at least) was an Antichrist, and that such violence as he contrived against Tradition would be the envy of the most reprehensible Iconoclast of the 16th century. This is the uttermost choice, and the litmus test of one's ''loyalty'' I suppose (though to what? a pathetic has-been? The Roman Church is finished) - either Pius XII's reforms were a deliberate exercise of anti-Traditional abuse, or they were just a horrible mistake. Since they clearly fall into the former category, what shall we say of the man himself?

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites all; because you are like unto whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear to men beautiful, but within are full of dead men's bones and of all corruption! (Matthew 23:27).


  1. I wrote a post on how anarchy breeds tradition far better than authoritarianism does. Power renders the most ardent traditionalist the enemy of tradition; meanwhile, those not interested in tradition will just happily go about dashing everything to pieces. A few generations later, and we are all groping in the dark, our 'traditions' actually just half remembered things our grandparents did. The man himself can be a saint, but could even a saint manage to extricate himself?

  2. The Pope is a bishop with universal ordinary jurisdiction and a Holy Spirit Guarantee that when he really puts his mind to it and makes an effort, he won't teach error in faith and morals, because if he was about to, the Holy Spirit will stop him. So even if the Antichrist did get elected Pope (I suppose one would have to know a lot about the nature of the Antichrist before knowing if that is ontologically possible - will the Antichrist be a man? Or a spirit?) you needn't worry about papal infallibility. There is no divine guarantee that the Pope won't be wicked or stupid or make mistakes or all three (cf. Various Popes of the Past).

    Do you ever consider why there are any kind of cottas or any kind of liturgy? What the *point* of Christianity is? What it is that the Church hands on, that is, what the essence of Christian Tradition? Because cottas (I assume you will agree) are only important insofar as they have anything to do with Jesus. And what they have to do with Jesus will determine in what way we should love them.

  3. In light of your recent post, I hope this does not draw your ire. I am a much weaker man than you, being unable to bear harsh words well and violent disagreement tending to move me to tears rather than rage.

    I am suspect of thinking that there are only two poles in the possibilities of what the Pope can be. Is it really the case that he is either the sum of all Christianity, dispensing his power or taking it back up as he pleases, or a foolish old man with no more power than any other bishop? Can the truth of the matter be somewhere in between?

    Among Eastern apologists for the papacy (both Eastern-Catholic and, surprisingly, Eastern Orthodox - see Olivier Clement), the Papacy is to be the living sign of unity. His "power" and "jurisdiction" are expanded solely to aid in holding together the Catholic Church under the headship of Christ and, likewise, are limited to holding together the unity of the Catholic Church under the headship of Christ. I think that one of the greatest confusions concerning the papacy has been the odd modern assumption that terms such as "power" and "jurisdiction" are immediately political. Especially in the Modern West, we tend to equate these terms with monarchs and despots and thus forget the great nuance in such terms.

    In fact, the above (as Clement tends to point out) is a needed piece of the Church. If the patriarchs are divided over a matter, they need an authority which can properly legislate the matter. A set of laws tend to lead toward a form of idolatry (as is the case in American politics where the constitution is the end-all, be-all regarding the definition of everything including human life). A person with his own community is a much safer bet (though clearly not full-proof, concupiscence being what it is). This was why Rome was venerated in the past by all corners of Christendom - the Pope and his diocese were the living sign of the communion of the faithful upon earth.

    The idea of a person being this sign also has certain connections with ideas in incarnational theology and confessional theology, the importance of a confession [e.g. credo] only comes alive when professed and lived - for the papacy, it becomes the living profession of unity (See the last few chapters of Ratzinger's Introduction to Christianity for such thoughts and some disconcerting discussion for traddie views of the pope).

    I must wonder, if this case of unity is the defining aspect to papal "power" and "jurisdiction," I must wonder if Pius XII and the others did not fall into "error" rather than being anti-traditional. Thinking that they were keeping unity, they thought the Liturgy could be placed under their control as such a tool in their ministry. This of course actually fails in keeping unity to Christ in favor of simple "keeping everyone together."

    Doing so clearly does make them an anti-pope, failing in their true job of unity, but I am leery of proclaiming damnation upon him. Saints have made errors of judgment before and will probably do so to the end of days, so how much more the unrecognized saints among the faithful (though I'm don't endorsing Pius XII as a Saint).

    As a follow-up, proclaiming someone anti-pope tends to imply that there is a certain model of Pope which the individual has failed in exemplifying or perhaps perverted. May I ask what you're view of the Papacy is that you term Pius XII (and possibly others) anti-popes?

    Christ is in our midst.


  4. If I'm out of line for commenting on another's comment, please correct me.

    Berenike - All things have to do with Christ. In the matters of cottas, it is the matter of beauty, true piercing beauty. And beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, but is defined in how it reveals and glorifies God in Father, Son, and Spirit.

    I will leave Patricius to comment on your ideas of Papal infallibility, but I would add that a careful reading of Pastor Aeternus is helpful for all in our age (myself included, having it currently tabbed and seeking out a Latin version).

  5. Indeed.
    i find the posts of Tomas interesting. but perhaps should we shed more historical light on the papacy as an institution. For example, how to account for the divergent positions uphelds by different popes during the Carolingian era, and also the role and coincidence of Carolingian renaissance and Clunisian reforms in ecclesiastical history.

    But above all, we must seek to give glory to God in all humility and thankfulness, staying steadfast by the Faith as received from the Apostles and Fathers. It is already a great trial for us Romans to continue in a quasi-aliturgical or pseudo-liturgical environment, but a greater trial is ahead for which we must brace ourselves and resign ourselves to His Will and infinate Love.

  6. What I meant re the meaning of cottas is that if one uses one's nous, then it is obvious that in the valley of Jehosaphat one is likely to wish that one had been nicer to people who had different opinions as to the laciness of cottas, and less attached to one's own views, however correct, on the subject, and not very likely to wish that one had been more zealous in hammering home the truth of the iniquity of lace cottas.

    Am not being piouser-than-thou, it's just that Patricius is proud of being rational and clear-thinking, and I am surprised he thinks that, bearing in mind the meaning of cottas (or what you will), the reaction he describes is a proportionate and reasonable one.

  7. Patricius,

    "Sed nos qui vivimus, benedicimus Domino, ex hoc nunc et usque in saeculum."

    Bless the LORD and rejoice in Him. Pius is dead, his carcass rotted before interment. Leave him to the Lefebvrists and other loonies - You rejoice and move on, don't waste your energy on a vile old man like Pacelli. If he is in Hell, which he probably is, nothing can be done about it.

    The alternative is Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God!

  8. "And the Lord said: Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren."

    Luke 22: 31-32

    Had you lived in the time of St. Peter, I dare say you would not have thought highly of him too, for denying the Lord three times. Popes have always been weak - there is no such thing as a "perfect Pope" just as there are no "perfect Saints". And if there were, he'd be more or less God himself.

    The ultimate judge of popes is God, not us.

  9. Beware of accumulating to yourself power which you would never willingly give to your enemy; for if one day your enemy should occupy your seat of power, by what right would you deny him that which you took on for yourself?
    -a rough translation from Sun Tsu, "The Art of War"

  10. There are Traditionalists, and there are Traditionalists. One kind, like Waugh, Tolkien, and even some contemporary ones, are willing to admit that the reforms of Pius XII made a travesty of Liturgy, and that fundamentally Pius XII was wrong to have done what he did - a brutal act of Iconoclasm to say the least. But then there are this new kind of ''Traddie,'' the ones who blabber on and on about the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms (by which they mean the Novus Ordo, and the liturgical books of 1962), are well versed in works by Cardinal Ratzinger, consider such things as Mass facing the people and Mass ''ad Orientem'' as a legitimate option rather than a Divine ordinance (and don't let's forget the Benedictine Altar arrangement which gives Mass that extra touch! And the new translation!) and consider Popes above reproach in such matters as Liturgy. It is this kind of Traddie I find so repulsive that everytime I see them I have an uncontrollable urge to set them on fire and invite all the local school children to come and beat them with sticks.

    The point about Pius XII being the Antichrist is that either what he did, with his magisterial authority, was right - in which case to object to these reforms is a sin - or he was wrong, in which case I'd like to know where this whole ''infallibility'' crap comes into it.

  11. @ Stephen-True enough, but it takes on another facet when the one delegating certain prerogatives to themselves have no such authority whatsoever and the "enemy" has no need to take a seat of power that was, is, and will always be their own.

    @ Patricius-Certainly you can make the distinction between discipline and dogma? Even admitting the "reforms" of Pope Pius XII were very ill advised and destructive (which I believe they were), not to mention past and present reforms, one certainly can disagree with the prudence of such an action. Disciplinary actions in liturgical matters do not fall under something defined by infallibility.

    The way you carry on and on about Pius XII, you give him more "power" over you than he ever would have claimed during life.

  12. How would you, then, rate Pope St. Gregory the Great and his CHANGES to the Roman liturgy?

  13. Disagreeing with Papal reformations or deformations of the liturgy is not a sin. The Pope cannot rule infallibly on whether it is both proper for the priest to face east or face the congregation during mass or that Latin should be the only liturgical language. I am not sure if you are misinformed or if you are out right lying to prove a point. Liturgy is one aspect of the faith, to be pro life and to support traditional marriage is just as important. Liturgy can be really pretty or traditional but if those who attend really pretty or traditional Liturgies do not uphold the moral teaching of the Church then that Liturgy is useless. Give me a priest with lace cotta facing me but that marches in Washington to defend life versus a Sarum rite mass beautifully said that inspires no one to feed the orphans and take care of the widows. When was I taking lessons from an Orthodox priest for conversion (I never converted) he made it clear you can turn good and noble things into idols. You have turn liturgy into a idol. While it is important and I agree with you it has been greatly marred by the Pope it is not the end all be all you make it out to be. If the venerable Bede lived today and did not consider himself one with the pro life movement for example then he would be just like a lot of Anglican bishops, he would do good liturgy but would be lacking in morality. The Lord, as he tells us in Hosea, wants mercy not sacrifice. Our morality, the way we treat others comes before the liturgy. The Liturgy must play second fiddle.

  14. The Liturgy must play second fiddle....Hence, sacraments must play second fiddle...pushing this logic to its natural conclusion leads one to protestantism or outright infidelity. Without the grace in the sacraments, all good works are abominations before God.

    What if the Liturgy, in fact, Holy Mass and Divine Office, were the most eminent ways to sanctify our days and equip us to resist the devils and perform good works? If you dont give glory to God first, and offer to Him, the Only Acceptable Offering, in the true spirit of the Church, how can your 'good works' and pro-life protests be agreeable to Him?

    And for too many catholics, the pro-life thing has become something partisan, especially in the United States, whereas it has everything to do with the social Kingship of Our Lord.

  15. You need to forget about Pacelli in order to think objectively about this. All Pacelli did was act in accordance with things that he and 99% of Catholics took for granted concerning his office.

    Orthodox will often make a case for the usefulness of primacy/presidency/priority, as exercised in the early centuries. No reasonable person, Orthodox or Catholic disputes that what has emerged over 1500 years represents a “development” from that primitive model. All Orthodox, however, would insist that the modern papacy - supreme, infallible, “ontologically” Petrine - is something quite different in kind, and fatally damaging to an authentic understanding of the Church: not a legitimate development, but a grievous distortion; and not, therefore, something useful, but a positive menace.

    You have to decide, based on the evidence around you, liturgical, theological, ecclesiological, spiritual, cultural, historical, psychological: is what you see more consistent with what you’d expect of something true or something false? If the latter, then you must accept that a falsehood is enthroned at the very centre of Roman Catholic self-understanding, as a consequence of which almost everything else has become skewed to some extent.

    This is a very difficult exercise for those of us conditioned to viewing the tradition through the wrong end of the telescope, brought up in the shadow of the dome of New St Peters, circumscribed by that colossal proof text; difficult, but certainly not impossible.

  16. Jason - morality that is not formed by immersion in the Holy Mysteries is mere ideology, whatever you want to call it. Christianity is not an ideological crusade,but the transformation of the whole human person by grace.

  17. God wants mercy before sacrifice, so yes with out morality and mercy then Liturgy and sacrifice are useless and damaging. Faith without works is dead. So while Liturgy is necessary and important for our lives as humans it does not trump announcing the good news of salvation, Liturgy should be used to serve that announcement. As far as sacraments those are for the benefit of Men. God can and does work outside of those sacraments. Yes, All good works are an abomination if they do not go to glorifying God. To idolize the Liturgy in such a way as this blog and it followers tend to do, demonstrates that there is another way for people to become Cafeteria Catholics. You can not divorce Liturgy from the Church and that seems to be the tendency with some posts and commentators. Liturgy and Morality have to go hand in hand. Once again I agree with most of what Pat is saying but the Pope in the end is a bishop that can error on a lot of matters and while not necessarily becoming a heretic he can lead people into it if he does a bad job. The Church needs to be viewed holistically. I have no problem stating to pro lifers that are fine with a poor novus ordo that they may need to do some serious rethinking. If you push your position far enough Francious you become an Old Calenderist. I think if Pat has serious problems with Rome than he needs to take the next step and study the debate between the idea of the Universal vs. the Local Church.

    May Jesus Christ bless and keep you all. And may he remember us when he enters into his kingdom.