Sunday, 1 November 2015

"Lay power..."

The smiling face of Mr Andrex.

This all comes of what I call the "Pius IX syndrome."  His reign, much like that of John Paul II, was so bloody long that people simply forgot what "kind" of pontificate his predecessor's had been; and those were the palmy days when the Roman church was still a venerable institution, before popemobiles and open-air masses. John Paul II had been pope for nearly 27 years and had presided over so much liturgical and spiritual rot. So far as I can recall, many people, myself included, welcomed the transition from John Paul II to Benedict XVI. A new pope, and a "traditional" one, seemed just what the doctor had ordered; a breath of fresh air for the church. I remember very clearly that a priest told me that one of his seminarians was dancing for joy, crying: "there IS a God!" upon the accession of Benedict XVI. And the accession seemed natural. Ratzinger had been Wojtyla's right-hand man for over twenty years. Not to mention Ratzinger's prolific theological and liturgical work; "must reads" for any would-be traditionalist/neo-conservative at the time.

For a while it seemed good for Traddieland. We had the public displays of inconsistent, liturgical tat; new pallium, new Santa hat ("I only wore it because I was cold..."), new crozier, a few Masses said facing the right way, and the meaty stuff like Summorum Pontificum and the new translation. That Ratzinger never once celebrated nor took part in an "extraordinary form" liturgy was beside the point: surely Benedict was a traditionalist! But then he does something decidedly untraditional and resigns from his post, amid conspiracy theories of miscreant staff and a meddling curia. And the shock of Benedict's resignation is followed by the hysteria on Rorate Caeli (and elsewhere) over his virtually unknown, liberal Jesuit successor, whose first purported comment was: "carnival's over, fellas;" or words to that effect. Since then there has been seething resentment and passive-aggressive sniping from Traddieland over the many outrageous comments and bullying leadership style of their new pope. Comments like:

"Some Catholics, like the Society of St. Pius X and the faithful who remain attached to tradition, will continue to resist the institutional Church, including the Pope if necessary. God bless them. There will be no heavenly reward for obedience to those who betray the clear teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Church." Gabriel Sanchez, here.

Or this headline on Opus Publicum, "God Bless Bishop Fellay." Are the Lefebvrists not schismatic?

"Some Cardinal called Wuerl has said "There are always people who are unhappy about what is going on in the Church, but the touchstone of authentic Catholicism is adherence to the teaching of the Pope". Sounds good; sounds obvious. But ....

"Note that he says, not popes, but pope. So he must mean just the Pope, the present Pope, the pope-for-the-time-being. And note that he can't just mean "the ex cathedra teaching of the Pope", because in that case his words would mean nothing since Bergoglio has defined nothing and it is questionable, to put it mildly, whether Evangelii gaudium and Laudato si are in any sense Magisterial." Fr John Hunwicke, here.

"The other thing I have noticed is that the natural and splendid and time-honoured Catholic instinct to avoid saying critical or disrespectful things about the man who is Sovereign Pontiff is increasingly wearing thinner and thinner. This, I think, is largely because so many of us, clergy and layfolk, bloggers and blogreaders, simply do not know how to understand and interpret the endlessly unkind expressions which flow from the os Petri. Especially after the gentle courtesy and personal charm of Pope Benedict..." Fr John Hunwicke, here.

"In addition to being accused of having allowed the arrest of two Jesuits during the time of the Argentinian dictatorship, as provincial he generated divided loyalties: some groups almost worshipped him, while others would have nothing to do with him, and he would hardly speak to them. It was an absurd situation. He is well-trained and very capable, but is surrounded by this personality cult which is extremely divisive. He has an aura of spirituality which he uses to obtain power. It will be a catastrophe for the Church to have someone like him in the Apostolic See. He left the Society of Jesus in Argentina destroyed with Jesuits divided and institutions destroyed and financially broken. We have spent two decades trying to fix the chaos that the man left us." Quoted by "New Catholic" of Rorate Caeli here, courageously anonymous and dutiful son of his church.

I will not belabour the obvious parallel between the pendulum and the papacy but it seems to me, as Rad Trad has pointed out here, that the tradunculi are so incredibly shallow. Because they are so fixated on the bastard year of 1962, and the exhausted rite and ethos of Papalism from 1939 till then, they turn a blind eye to the inconvenient truths that Pius XII was a vile man, that he hand-picked the trad nemesis Mgr Bugnini and that behind the facade of the sedia gestatoria and the rite of papal low mass was a process, enthusiastically supported by the pope himself, of extensive liturgical, canonical and disciplinary reform; that Mass facing the people was already in evidence in some parts of the world before the 1960's and that the whole traddie worldview has absolutely no legitimacy if they are to remain loyal to their church. On this point I'm afraid I dissent from Fr Hunwicke's over wise erudite commentary when he says that "sedevacantism is the purest nonsense." On the contrary, sedevacantists are the only traditionalists with any kind of consistency and sensibility; for the simple reason that they do not utterly betray intellectual and moral integrity by unquestioning loyalty to the "neo-modernist" "See of Peter." Unlike the traddies they do not make the facts fit their theory. They do not try to equate the sorry state of modern Papalism with the wise man which built his house upon a rock. Come to think of it, I am a kind of sedevacantist myself.

But to come back to the point, with the traddies it's all different because they are shallow. Dress up a pig in a lace cotta, call it "Tradition," and they're tickled pink! They are ostensibly not interested in truth, tradition or historical liturgical accuracy. As Rubricarius experienced with The Mass of the Future, so I experienced with Signum Magnum and Joseph the Worker. Point out any holes in their worldview and you're ostracised, looked upon as a "Fred Phelps," and whatever other nasty names they can contrive.

But the shallowness of the traditionalist position is shewn most clearly in their attitude to the particular occupant of the Roman bishoprick. Don't they just hate Francis! As I said, pendulums and popes. Old Ratzinger might have declared his roast beef to have been an holy relic and they'd lap it up along with all his other tat, but Francis can publish encyclical letters, notably Laudato si, and according to some they don't carry any magisterial authority! Ratzinger, a man with "obvious" charm and a modern day Aquinas; Bogroll, some gruff, uncouth South American whom we can quietly disdain and complain about in private (or worse).

And we're told that the Roman Catholic communion has the fullness of truth? That the Papacy is not a private job and that the pope's authority has limits, and so on and so forth? If this is so, why would it make any difference who the pope is? Or what he does? What cause would anybody have to complain about if the pope is just an exalted bishop of an obscure diocese? Or more aptly, what if it's all a load of rubbish? My advice to Roman Catholics is that one day they might have to give serious consideration to the possibility that their most senior bishop may, in fact, be the Antichrist.

"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" 2Corinthians 6:14.


  1. You keep protesting that you don't care about the 'Roman Communion' anymore, that you've moved on to Gloriously Greek Orthodoxy. Yet it's clear you haven't left at all. Instead you loiter at the gates of the city of Rome, shaking your fist and shouting the same insults over and over. You know those awful 'Traddies' barely take any notice of you, and when they do, it is when you are ranting about anti-Christs and calling for papal assassinations.

    Are you at Orthros and Divine Liturgy today? Are you involved in a Greek parish? There is no shortage of them in London. Is that not better than sitting at the computer haranguing other Christians with whom (you say) you have shaken the dust off your feet and broken communion? If this is an Orthodox blog, where is the discussion of the beauty of Orthodoxy?

    1. James C, but one needs to recognise that when Rome sneezes everyone else catches cold. In this case, many of the issues that Patrick raises about the modern issue of personal papolatry are real and to demand that no one speak about them somehow reeks of a type of Stalinist ecclesiolatry.

  2. In the past I've argued that Traditionalist simply refuse to follow where their ecclesiology leads them. Recently, I've come to think that is too neat of analysis on my part. The situation in the Western Church is impossible to describe except by fragmentation and disorientation. The human mind likes neither state - there is a natural urge to produce a cohesive picture. And you are correct, it is an uphill battle to get anyone to critically evaluate the Pian reforms and reconsider the older Missal and Breviary - an impossible task, really. I'm not sure, however, there is a clearly defined way to clean up the mess.

    1. I think only God Himself can save the wreck of modern Popery. It is simply not within the power of men to rehabilitate people who are stuck in their ways, see no problem with their present situation and resent any meddling - except by force, and wouldn't that be a terrible sin. If God asks me to account for any lives on Doomsday I can at least say I tried, and they wouldn't listen.

    2. An excellent analysis, as always, V. On the one hand the Traddies want a papacy that hurls anathemas and excommunications at people they don't agree with - in which case the Traddies are full of how papal decisions do not require the consent of the Church etc (Execrabilis etc) - yet, when an incumbent does something they don't like, as in the contemporary situation, there is endless chatter about 'limits' on papal authority etc.

      What I find obnoxious about them is their loathing of anyone who does not go along with the party line. That party line, or script as I prefer to call it, is constantly being re-written and mutually reinforced by the party members. Anyone who challenges the script is immediately condemned, dismissed and vilified. As an example I recall twenty-five years ago showing the Oratorian who had received me into the Roman Church a copy of Reinhold's 'Bringing the Mass to the People' with an appendix listing the resolutions of the first three International Liturgical Study Conferences. 'O fuck!' exclaimed the Oratorian 'It's nothing to do with Paul VI then' he continued. Later he realised that such an (honest) reaction does not fit the script so I, eventually, got dropped from his Christmas card list etc.

    3. Rubricarius, they sound rather like the Byzantine Orthodox, especially their Konvertzi. Horrid people actually.

    4. Dale,

      As a friend of mine (who used to be a priest) once said 'Religion brings out the worst in people!'