—– See Topical Index at the end of the paper —–
* * * * * LINK to the lengthy paper, from my old blogspot blog. * * * * *
For further related reading:
Mass Movements: Radical Catholic Reactionaries, the New Mass, and Ecumenism (Book: Dec. 2012, 205p)
Reflections on Radical Catholic Reactionaries (Book: Dec. 2002 / rev. Aug. 2013, 145p)
—– See Topical Index at the end of the paper —–
THE SIX FUNDAMENTAL / PRESUPPOSITIONAL ERRORS
1.That the Novus Ordo Mass is invalid or “objectively offensive to God.”
2. That the Second Vatican Council is qualitatively different from preceding Councils, or invalid, or intrinsically heretical (modernist), or shot-through with modernist “ambiguity,” or a corruption or “evolution” of received Catholic dogma – as opposed to a consistent (Newmanian and Vincentian and Thomistic) development – so that it is not binding on Catholics, and may be routinely opposed, and not obeyed.
3.That Vatican II is the root and central cause of the present modernist crisis (as opposed to the machinations of theological liberals and heterodox, who “hijacked” or “co-opted,” distorted and twisted the orthodox, papally-approved Council for their own wicked ends).
4. That the pontificates of John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II are qualitatively different from those preceding them, or that they have knowingly (or even unknowingly, as dupes) presided over the destruction of the traditional Catholic Faith, passed down from the Apostles, or that they are material or formal heretics.
5. That (authentic Catholic) ecumenism, or the notion of religious liberty, or salvation outside the Church, properly understood in light of Sacred Tradition – as promulgated and developed especially by Vatican II – are radical innovations not present at least in kernel form in previous received apostolic Catholic Tradition.
6. That the Catholic Church could ever institutionally depart from the True Faith (defectibility). This includes conspiratorial notions that the Church could ever be substantially and institutionally overthrown by movements such as Freemasonry, the New World Order, Radical Secularism or Humanism, Enlightenment philosophies, Protestantizing elements, etc.
ADDITIONAL ERRORS AND FALSEHOODS
7. That Vatican II changed defined doctrines.
Vatican II supposedly changed Catholic doctrine, hence that Council is thought to be heterodox and heretical (but of course radical Catholic reactionaries [RadCathRs] ) never want to say it in that way – it always has to be in equivocal language). This cannot happen in a valid Ecumenical Council, according to the principle of infallibility, indefectibility, papal authority, and previously-assumed Catholic ecclesiology. The novelty here is the refusal of RadCathRs to accept the expressed Magisterium of the Church. Come to think of it, this is not new: it has plenty of precursors in past heresies and dissenters from Councils, such as the Arians, Nestorians, Monophysites, Protestants, and Old Catholics.
Thus, it can be truly said that Vatican II operated on the same ecclesiological and theological principles as all former Councils; RadCathRs operate on the analogy of the heretics throughout history: all of whom thought they knew better than the solemnly-expressed will and mind of the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, and headed by the Holy Father. It’s a sad reality that many cannot bring themselves to submit to the spiritual wisdom of Holy Mother Church. I grew out of this resistance, in my own spiritual odyssey, as I converted from evangelical Protestantism to Catholicism. I didn’t expect to see it again within the Church. I did, I suppose, expect it from liberals, but not from RadCathRs claiming to be the exemplary legatees of historic Catholic orthodoxy. Once again, truth is stranger than fiction . . .
8. That Vatican II espoused the notion of evolving, as opposed to developing doctrines (as condemned in Pascendi #26, etc.).
As an avid defender of genuine Catholic development of doctrine (see my extensive apologetic index page: “The Development of Doctrine” – perhaps the only one of its kind on the Internet), I am fully aware that development and evolution are two entirely and essentially different things. I deny that Vatican II was an instance of the latter. I submit that perhaps many RadCathRs have a dim understanding of development of doctrine – what it entails and doesn’t entail, what its distinguishing characteristics are, etc. The emphasis of Vatican II had to do with fresh approaches, methodologies, evangelistic or pedagogical strategies, and new ways of reaching modern man with unchanging Catholic truths – a laudable and thoroughly biblical outlook.
9. That Vatican II was deliberately and perniciously ambiguous in its conscious teachings.
Actual examples of the assumed devious and diabolical modus operandi are rarely given, so that the charge has little objective meaning. The proponent merely assumes what he is trying to prove, and seeks to sound authoritative and magisterial in asserting it, while not providing any “meat” or evidence to back up the ubiquitous charge. Is this to be considered compelling argumentation? Or is all this just “preaching to the choir” in the first place, so that documentation becomes unnecessary and superfluous (one tends to get comfortable and lax within one’s own self-contained worldview)?
10. That Vatican II introduced novel understandings of ecumenism and religious liberty.
As for the supposed departure of the Vatican II documents on ecumenism and religious liberty (the favorite “whipping boys”) – signed even by Abp. Lefebvre at the time. I, for my part, have provided actual historical and theological/biblical arguments for my views, either by myself, or (usually, in this particular subject area) by means of links to others far more informed on such subjects than I (e.g., in this instance, people like Fr. Karl Adam, Fr. John A. Hardon, Fr. William Most, or Fr. Brian Harrison – not exactly flaming modernists . . .).
11. That the “bitter fruits” of Vatican II have all but “destroyed” the Church.
Quasi-defectibility . . . the RadCathR never wants to say this outright (according to their incessant doublethink), but watch how close they habitually come! It becomes an Orwellian situation wherein the Church can’t defect, yet it can come so close that the observer is tempted to opine that it is a distinction without a difference. Meanwhile, RadCathR pessimists continue their exodus from the “middle position” (relatively speaking) to the more logically consistent but less orthodox and formally schismatic positions of the SSPX and sedevacantism (e.g., the “Pius XIII” wackos).
I believe that my God will not let the Church in any way, shape, or form be “destroyed.” My outlook on the Church (even in the truly grave crisis it now endures – arguably the greatest ever) is far more sunny than that of RadCathRs. I venture to say that their incessant pessimism and cynicism often runs contrary to a robust faith and trust in God, and a working knowledge of past crises. E.g., G.K. Chesterton writes:
The Church is from the first a thing holding its own position and point of view, quite apart from the accidents and anarchies of its age. That is why it deals blows impartially right and left, at the pessimism of the Manichean or the optimism of the Pelagian. It was not a Manichean movement because it was not a movement at all. It was not an official fashion because it was not a fashion at all. It was something that could coincide with movements and fashions, could control them and could survive them.
(The Everlasting Man, Garden City, New York: Doubleday Image, 1925, 228)
I suspect that we should find several occasions when Christendom was thus to all appearance hollowed out from within by doubt and indifference, so that only the old Christian shell stood as the pagan shell had stood so long. But the difference is that in every such case, the sons were fanatical for the faith where the fathers had been slack about it. This is obvious in the case of the transition from the Renaissance to the Counter-Reformation. It is obvious in the case of a transition from the eighteenth century to the many Catholic revivals of our own time . . . .
At least five times, . . . with the Arian and the Albigensian, with the Humanist sceptic, after Voltaire and after Darwin, the Faith has to all appearance gone to the dogs. In each of these five cases it was the dog that died.
12. That Pope John Paul II’s teachings contradict the Bible, past papal encyclicals, and Councils.
RadCathRs apparently think that it is a small thing for laymen to routinely and “authoritatively” accuse the pope of material and (by implication) even formal heresy. I think it is scandalous and abominable, for what it is worth. Apart from the unseemly and impious nature of such a charge, made wrongheadedly and slanderously (as it is objectively false to begin with), it is yet another instance where RadCathRs want to have their cake and eat it, too.
They don’t want to say “without horns” that the pope is a formal heretic (as most Catholic theologians and historians have believed that no pope was ever a formal heretic – many also hold that it couldn’t even possibly happen, as a function of the indefectibility of the Church). They want to have it both ways: create the implication, qualify it, yet proceed in the argument as if it were likely true, etc. In other words, ambiguous language and argumentation is hypocritically used, rather in the fashion that they claim to detest as typical of Vatican II documents.
13. That “conservative” Catholics deny the modernist crisis by pretending it doesn’t exist, or by rationalizing and justifying it.
That’s folks like myself, of course. Just for the record, I don’t deny a crisis at all. My difference with the RadCathR position lies in the cause and precise nature of the crisis. I don’t locate its primary cause in Vatican II and post-1958 popes (supposedly “modernist” or “ambiguous,” etc., etc.). I place it where it belongs: on the shoulders of heterodox modernists who have worked to undermine traditional orthodoxy and piety – whether in sincerity, or according to a diabolical plan to destroy the Church (which is, of course, impossible to do – Matthew 16:18).
History offers ample illustration that the heretics always eventually disappear, or at least greatly diminish in influence. The Church will survive. In fact, the beginning signs of coming revival are plain already, if one would simply maintain a little hope and optimistic faith that God is in control.
Speaking for myself, I have “justified” no such thing. I have ignored nothing, either. My own opinion (directly influenced by Fr. John Hardon – who has insanely been called a “modernist” by RadCathRs) is that the present crisis is the most serious the Church has ever faced, per Pope St. Pius X’s summation of the evils of modernism. At the same time (in contrast to RadCathRs), I remain a total optimist as to eventual outcome – through faith, reading the signs of the times and of positive developments, and the knowledge of previous crises in Church history.
I vehemently deny that the Church has defected or been taken over by the forces of evil, and all the other pessimistic, scandalous, and pathetic nonsense that RadCathRs spew out concerning causes of the crisis and institutional demise, “auto-demotion,” etc. I think all is indefectible in the Church, not hunky dory. I don’t know many orthodox Catholic friends who think much differently.
14. That Pope John Paul II (like Honorius of old) has endangered the faith by not defending it.
It is exceedingly strange and odd to accuse John Paul II of such a thing. I guess “defending” can carry vastly different meanings for different people. This charge is too strange and bizarre to deserve the dignity of a response.
15. That Pope John Paul II ambiguously states Catholic truths, thus opening them up to modernist interpretations.
RadCathRs rarely offer proof for such a charge. Again, it is a circular argument – good only for the one who already accepts it as an axiom. And how can one disprove such a charge, itself extremely ambiguous and subjective?
16. That Pope John Paul II interprets Catholic teaching according to unCatholic and foreign philosophies.
Who determines what school is “foreign” or “unCatholic,” pray tell? Is it anything besides Thomism? I have an Orthodox friend who considers the whole of “Latin” Catholic theology as an “alien” philosophical construct. But this is fundamentally silly. The Church has always adopted current philosophies (insofar as they express truth) in order to defend the gospel, whether it was the platonism of St. Augustine, the “baptized” aristotelianism of Aquinas, or (I suppose the RadCathR would say) the phenomenology of John Paul II.
In so doing, they did nothing more than St. Paul did, when he cited pagan poets and philosophers at Mars Hill in Athens, during the course of an explicit presentation of the gospel (Acts 17:16-32). I must say that such a bogus charge betrays extreme ignorance of Church history and the nature and task of apologetics alike.
17. That Pope John Paul II has a malicious intent to introduce false dogma into the Church.
The RadCathR often equivocates, making an accusation, stating a suspicion, even while decrying such judgments of motive and intent (concerning the pope!!!!!) elsewhere. They qualify, in order to soothe their conscience, cover themselves, and to maintain the illusion that they are being obedient Catholics. But when it really comes down to brass tacks, some (particularly sedevacantists) actually believe the above calumny. This is truly pathetic; worthy of the false propaganda and polemics of Luther at his best (i.e., worst). With “friends” like these, the Church certainly doesn’t need enemies!
18. That the Church will eventually wake up and abandon the great “liberal experiment” of Vatican II.
Here is the atrocious and exceedingly un-Catholic belief that a validly convoked Ecumenical Council, ratified by the sitting pope, could be so heretical as to necessitate “abandonment,” as if we were talking about the Robber Council of 449. This is defectibility; this is nonsense – a pure hybrid of Protestantism and “Catholic” liberalism!
19. That Vatican II was merely a “pastoral” and not infallible Ecumenical Council; hence it can be selectively obeyed.
Ludwig Ott (whom few RadCathRs would regard as a modernist) says this about Ecumenical Councils:
The Council of Trent also teaches that the Bishops are the successors of the Apostles (D 960); and so does the Vatican Council [ I ] (D 1828). As successors of the Apostles they are the pastors and teachers of the faithful (D 1821). As official teachers of the faith, they are endowed with the active infallibility assured to the incumbents of the Church teaching office. Two forms of the activity of the teaching office of the whole Episcopate are distinguished – an extraordinary form and an ordinary one.
a) The Bishops exercise their infallible teaching power in extraordinary manner at a general or ecumenical council. It is in the decisions of the General Councils that the teaching activity of the whole teaching body instituted by Christ is most decisively exercised.
It has been the constant teaching of the Church from the earliest times that the resolutions of the General Councils are infallible. St Athanasius says of the Decree on faith of the Nicene Council: ‘The words of the Lord which were spoken by the General Council of Nicæa, remain in eternity’ (Ep. ad Afros 2). St. Gregory the Great recognises and honours the first four General Councils as much as the Four Gospels; he makes the fifth equal to them (Ep. I 25) . . .
b) The Bishops exercise their infallible teaching power in an ordinary manner when they, in their dioceses, in moral unity with the Pope, unanimously promulgate the same teachings on faith and morals. The Vatican Council [ I ] expressly declared that also the truths of Revelation proposed as such by the ordinary and general teaching office of the Church are to be firmly held with ‘divine and catholic faith’ (D 1792) . . .
(Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, ed. James Canon Bastible, tr. Patrick Lynch, Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books and Publishers, 1974; orig. 1952 in German, 299-300)
The Vatican Council [ I ] explains:
Fide divina et catholica ea omnia credenta sunt, quae in verbo Dei scripto vel tradito continentur et ab Ecclesia sive solemni iudicio sive ordinario et universali magisterio tanquam divinitus revelata credenda proponuntur. D 1792. All those things are to be believed by divine and Catholic faith which are contained in the Word of God written or handed down and which are proposed for our belief by the Church either in a solemn definition or in its ordinary and universal authoritative teaching.
. . . b) The Promulgation of the Dogma by the Teaching Authority of the Church (propositio Ecclesiae). This implies, not merely the promulgation of the Truth, but also the obligation on the part of the Faithful of believing the Truth. This Promulgation by the Church may be made either in an extraordinary manner through a solemn decision of faith made by the Pope or a General Council (Iudicium solemne) or through the ordinary and general teaching power of the Church (Magisterium ordinarium et universale). The latter may be found easily in the CATECHISMS issued by the Bishops . . .If a baptised person ‘deliberately denies or doubts a dogma properly so-called, he is guilty of the sin of heresy (CIC 1325, Par. 2), and automatically becomes subject to the punishment of excommunication (CIC 2314, Par. 1) . . .
. . . With regard to the doctrinal teaching of the Church it must be well noted that not all the assertions of the Teaching Authority of the Church on questions of Faith and morals are infallible and consequently irrevocable. Only those are infallible which emanate from General Councils representing the whole episcopate, and the Papal Decisions Ex Cathedra (cf. D 1839).
The ordinary and usual form of the Papal teaching activity is not infallible. Further, the decisions of the Roman Congregations (Holy Office, Bible Commission) are not infallible. Nevertheless normally they are to be accepted with an inner assent which is based on the high supernatural authority of the Holy See (assensus internus supernaturalis, assensus religiosus). The so-called “silentium obsequiosum,” that is “reverent silence,” does not generally suffice. By way of exception, the obligation of inner agreement may cease if a competent expert, after a renewed scientific investigation of all grounds, arrives at the positive conviction that the decision rests on an error.
(Ibid., 4-5, 9-10)
Needless to say, Ott’s opinions (from ten years before Vatican II began), leave no room for the sort of radical and impious skepticism and disobedience (what I describe as the “schismatic spirit”) which is exhibited by many RadCathRs. Note that he says even sub-infallible teachings (certainly those of an Ecumenical Council) are not only to not be disputed at all, but beyond that – accepted with an inner assent, based simply on the sublime authority exercised by pope and Church.
Likewise, the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), states, in its article on “General Councils”:
All the arguments which go to prove the infallibility of the Church apply with their fullest force to the infallible authority of general councils in union with the pope. For conciliary decisions are the ripe fruit of the total life-energy of the teaching Church actuated and directed by the Holy Ghost. Such was the mind of the Apostles when, at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts, xv, 28), they put the seal of supreme authority on their decisions in attributing them to the joint action of the Spirit of God and of themselves: Visum est Spiritui sancto et nobis (It hath seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us). This formula and the dogma it enshrines stand out brightly in the deposit of faith and have been carefully guarded throughout the many storms raised in councils by the play of the human element. From the earliest times they who rejected the decisions of councils were themselves rejected by the Church. Emperor Constantine saw in the decrees of Nicaea “a Divine commandment” and Athanasius wrote to the bishops of Africa: “What God has spoken through the Council of Nicaea endureth for ever.” St. Ambrose (Ep. xxi) pronounces himself ready to die by the sword rather than give up the Nicene decrees, and Pope Leo the Great expressly declares that “whoso resists the Councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon cannot be numbered among Catholics” (Ep. lxxviii, ad Leonem Augustum). In the same epistle he says that the decrees of Chalcedon were framed instruente Spiritu Sancto, i.e. under the guidance of the Holy Ghost.
How the same doctrine was embodied in many professions of faith may be seen in Denzinger’s (ed. Stahl) “Enchiridion symbolorum et definitionum”, under the heading (index) “Concilium generale representat ecclesiam universalem, eique absolute obediendum” (General councils represent the universal Church and demand absolute obedience). The Scripture texts on which this unshaken belief is based are, among others: “But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth . . .” John xvi, 13) “Behold I am with you [teaching] all days even to the consummation of the world” (Matt., xxviii, 20), “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it [i.e. the Church]” (Matt., xvi, 18).
Papal and conciliar infallibility are correlated but not identical. A council’s decrees approved by the pope are infallible by reason of that approbation, because the pope is infallible also extra concilium, without the support of a council. The infallibility proper to the pope is not, however, the only formal adequate ground of the council’s infallibility. The Divine constitution of the Church and the promises of Divine assistance made by her Founder, guarantee her inerrancy, in matters pertaining to faith and morals, independently of the pope’s infallibility: a fallible pope supporting, and supported by, a council, would still pronounce infallible decisions.
This accounts for the fact that, before the Vatican decree concerning the supreme pontiff’s ex-cathedra judgments, Ecumenical councils were generally held to be infallible even by those who denied the papal infallibility; it also explains the concessions largely made to the opponents of the papal privilege that it is not necessarily implied in the infallibility of councils, and the claims that it can be proved separately and independently on its proper merits. The infallibility of the council is intrinsic, i.e. springs from its nature. Christ promised to be in the midst of two or three of His disciples gathered together in His name; now an Ecumenical council is, in fact or in law, a gathering of all Christ’s co-workers for the salvation of man through true faith and holy conduct; He is therefore in their midst, fulfilling His promises and leading them into the truth for which they are striving.
. . . Some important consequences flow from these principles. Conciliar decrees approved by the pope have a double guarantee of infallibility: their own and that of the infallible pope. The council’s dignity is, therefore, not diminished, but increased, by the definition of papal infallibility, . . .
An opinion too absurd to require refutation pretends that only these latter canons (with the attached anathemas) contain the peremptory judgment of the council demanding unquestioned submission. Equally absurd is the opinion, sometimes recklessly advanced, that the Tridentine capita are no more than explanations of the canons, not proper definitions; the council itself, at the beginning and end of each chapter, declares them to contain the rule of faith.
(Catholic Encyclopedia, copyright 1913 by the Encyclopedia Press, Inc. Electronic version copyright 1996 by New Advent, Inc.)
Obedient Catholics (per the above pre-conciliar explanations) obey Ecumenical Councils and give them their inner assent and submission.
20. That in order to be faithful and consistent with pre-Vatican II Church teaching, it is necessary to “carefully nuance” loyalty to post-conciliar popes and Church teaching.
In other words, play the game of equivocation and rationalizing, which I have so often pointed out (ironically, precisely the things they accuse both “conservatives” and “modernists” of). Again, needless to say, I deny that there exists this dramatic contradiction between the popes before 1958 and those after. Even so, RadCathRs apparently think little of disobeying papal injunctions they dislike. So I think their difficulties extend a bit beyond merely Vatican II and its historical aftermath. Internal submission to (even sub-infallible) papal and conciliar teaching is certainly a pre-conciliar requirement for an obedient Catholic, but I don’t see RadCathRs suffering terrible pangs of conscience over their disobedience to that quite traditional and formerly assumed Catholic distinctive.
21. That Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II, in their “astonishing novelty of teachings and practices,” are essentially distinguishable from all previous popes.
How is such a bleak (and false) view not defectibility? Three straight heretic popes?!! Why even have a pope at all if such a radical departure could occur? Why be a Catholic at all, if this is what one believes? What becomes of the faith in God’s guidance of His Church? If I thought like this, I would revert to Protestantism in a second, where at least I wouldn’t have to torture logic and the received understanding of the Catholic Faith, in order to maintain the pretense that I remain “obedient” in my own wanton disobedience. A high price to pay for one’s own prejudices, limited understandings, and private judgment . . . Rather than simply obey the pope and Council, and trust that God understands and controls things which may be beyond us, RadCathRs would rather throw out the Council and disobey the pope, considering him a heretic. How is this at all distinguishable from Martin Luther’s stance at the Diet of Worms in 1521, as I have often argued? In fact, it is worse, as papal and conciliar infallibility are both far more defined now than in his day.
22. That if it weren’t for the noble RadCathR warriors, who act as “salt” and offset “reckless modernist innovations,” the Church would quickly succumb to the forces of modernism and heresy.
Ah, but they neglect to see that it is not for them to determine orthodoxy. That is for the Magisterium, which includes Vatican II and the papacy. RadCathRs saw off the very limb they sit on – cutting off their noses to spite their faces! Why can’t they see the internal contradiction of all this? I find it truly astonishing. Maybe it takes a jolt such as this paper to cause an examination of very fallible and weak presuppositions, and the ever-expanding falsehoods which inexorably flow from them. I do sincerely feel for people who have put themselves in such a despairing, almost hopeless position, because it is so unnecessary. By all means, we should fight modernism and heresy (as I do, very vigorously and zealously), but we mustn’t ever despair of the very means which God has provided for us in that task.
The Church, we are told, has institutionally-defected (or almost so). Never before has rampant (institutionalized, proclaimed) error run roughshod over orthodoxy for 34 years after a Council, or for 41 years in the case of the quartet of heretic, modernist popes. Obviously, the Church is in dire straits. As in the view of Luther of old, the Church has descended into darkness, and brave prophets have now been raised to bring it back to life. Luther thought himself a prophet, too. As RadCathRism seems to follow his example in many other ways, why not this one, too?
23. That there is no need for a “deeper understanding” of the Faith; previous ages already possessed it.
Do RadCathRs wish to deny a place for dogmatic and doctrinal development altogether? Or do they think it ceased (like some Orthodox hold) many centuries ago? This is outright Protestantism, and a very uninformed brand at that, as many Protestants (e.g., myself, formerly) fully accept development in many aspects, especially with regard to Christology and Trinitarianism, even in relation to the Canon of Scripture.
24. That Vatican II cannot be harmonized with Tradition.
RadCathRs could at least interact with the papers on my website which do, in fact, harmonize Vatican II emphases with pre-conciliar Tradition. This would also be a first, in my experience. RadCathRs love to proclaim and detest; they don’t so much love the interaction and give-and-take of true, constructive dialogue (I guess the incessant fear of dealing with “compromisers” would tend to mitigate against such open dialogue). Again, this is my own experience. I have to explain somehow the reluctance to deal with the arguments we faithful, orthodox Catholics offer.
25. That the Novus Ordo (New) Mass is technically valid, but nevertheless “objectively offensive to God.”
This is an absolutely classic, quintessential example of the exact sort of ambiguity which RadCathRs so decry in Vatican II. The New Mass is valid, but then they immediately proceed to tear it down. Likewise with popes and Vatican II. The Church can’t defect, but it can get “very, very sick,” we are told (and there is indeed a sense in which this is true). Most creatures, however, which are “very, very sick” die, don’t they? The Church, to the contrary, cannot die, by its very nature, as it is divinely-ordained and supernaturally-sustained. It can’t die any more than Our Lord Jesus can die (i.e., post-Calvary), since it is His Body: an extension of the Incarnation.
This is precisely why I have come to see and argue that the fine-tuned distinctions made by RadCathRs are worthless – distinctions without a difference; equivocation, rationalization, special pleading. It is the spirit of the thing. Who cares about the technicalities, when the outcome is always the same: one or more manifestations of skepticism, suspicion, conspiratorialism, bleak despair, a martyr complex, exaggerated self-importance, and doubt about the Church and its proclamations?
This modus operandi, mindset, and mentality is positively Pharisaical in many respects – and I don’t say that merely rhetorically, but quite literally. This sort of self-proclaimed false “traditionalism” reduces logically to the SSPX and then in turn to the sedevacantist position (or worse, if indeed that is possible). That fact – once bravely acknowledged – ought to be enough to convince any RadCathR of the grave error of their ways, and to return to conventional Catholic orthodoxy, such as (I hope and pray) I am defending presently.
It’s almost as if these distinctions without a difference are a sort of challenging game whereby the participant sees how close he can get to the “edge” (heterodoxy; defectibility) without going over it. Death by a thousand qualifications and beatings. Who can trash the New Mass with the most flowery, inventive rhetoric, while not ever being brash enough to presumptuously question its validity . . . Doublethink reigns!
26. That Vatican II was qualitatively different in authority and essence from the Council of Trent.
There is no difference in authoritative principle whatsoever, between the two Councils. The question is not one of extraordinary dogmatic definitions, but rather, of routine obedience to a Council, which requires obedience by its very nature, according to the Fathers and unbroken Catholic Tradition. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (himself alternately extolled and excoriated by RadCathRs, who seem to be confused about his “orthodoxy” – they love him when he criticizes liturgical abuses) truly wrote:
It must be stated that Vatican II is upheld by the same authority as Vatican I and the Council of Trent, namely, the Pope and the College of Bishops in communion with him, and that also with regard to its contents, Vatican II is in the strictest continuity with both previous councils and incorporates their texts word for word in decisive points . . .Whoever accepts Vatican II, as it has clearly expressed and understood itself, at the same time accepts the whole binding tradition of the Catholic Church, particularly also the two previous councils . . . It is likewise impossible to decide in favor of Trent and Vatican I but against Vatican II. Whoever denies Vatican II denies the authority that upholds the other two councils and thereby detaches them from their foundation. And this applies to the so-called ‘traditionalism,’ also in its extreme forms. Every partisan choice destroys the whole (the very history of the Church) which can exist only as an indivisible unity.
To defend the true tradition of the Church today means to defend the Council. It is our fault if we have at times provided a pretext (to the ‘right’ and ‘left’ alike) to view Vatican II as a ‘break’ and an abandonment of the tradition. There is, instead, a continuity that allows neither a return to the past nor a flight forward, neither anachronistic longings nor unjustified impatience. We must remain faithful to the today of the Church, not the yesterday or tomorrow. And this today of the Church is the documents of Vatican II, without reservations that amputate them and without arbitrariness that distorts them . . .
I see no future for a position that, out of principle, stubbornly renounces Vatican II. In fact in itself it is an illogical position. The point of departure for this tendency is, in fact, the strictest fidelity to the teaching particularly of Pius IX and Pius X and, still more fundamentally, of Vatican I and its definition of papal primacy. But why only popes up to Pius XII and not beyond? Is perhaps obedience to the Holy See divisible according to years or according to the nearness of a teaching to one’s own already-established convictions?
(The Ratzinger Report, San Francisco: Ignatius, 1985, 28-29, 31)
27. That there is such a thing as a “conservative” Catholic.
I rather prefer orthodox. Conservative implies that there is a legitimate liberal option within Catholicism, which I would vociferously deny. One either accepts the teaching of the Church in toto, or else he has adopted the Protestant principle. A person who rejects even one dogma of the faith loses the supernatural virtue of faith (as Fr. Hardon often states). Since RadCathRs pick and choose what they like, just as their modernist “cafeteria Catholic” friends do (and like Protestants do), I must conclude that they, too, have departed from the Catholic formal principle of authority at that point. The RadCathR dilemma is the espousal of the notion that a legitimate Ecumenical Council can so radically depart from the Faith. They are betwixt and between . . .
28. That Pope John Paul II is an evolutionist [i.e., that this is an improper, scandalous thing].
It is beyond silly for any Catholic to use the title evolutionist as a sort of insult or epithet, or implied synonym for modernist, in light of the fact that Pope Pius XII, in his encyclical Humani Generis (1950) clearly permitted the belief in evolution for Catholics (with only minor restrictions- see #43). If RadCathRs wish to dissent from that encyclical also, I wish they would honestly say so, rather than conveniently conceal a fact that I assume they must be aware of, judging from their generally high degree of knowledge with regard to Catholic theology.
29. That Pope John Paul II is a “theological pluralist,” because, e.g., both St. Therese of Lisieux and Hans Kung are allowed in the same Church.
How then, does one explain Judas as one of the Apostles (he truly was one)? Jesus selected him! Not to minimize the complexity of the Kung matter, but at least he is no longer officially a Catholic theologian. This gets into the deep waters of prudence and papal wisdom with regard to disciplinary matters, and their likely aftermath. Suffice it to say here that the mere presence of dissenters does not prove that John Paul II is a “pluralist,” for any number of reasons, any more than the presence of de Lubac, von Balthasar, Rahner, Ratzinger, Wojtyla, the earlier, more orthodox Kung, or Congar in the Church of Pius XII proved that he was a “pluralist,” or any more than his decision to not denounce Naziism officially “proved” that he was a Nazi sympathizer, or anti-Semite (a clear case of Pius XII prudentially considering the results of a proclamation, as I have argued with regard to dissenters)!
This is very poor logic. If the danger was so apparent (after all, he wrote about it), why didn’t Pius XII boot these people out, so as to avoid the “disaster”? One might argue, rhetorically, that therefore, he was far more responsible for the virtual shipwreck of the faith (as RadCathR alarmist rhetoric would have it) than John XXIII, Paul VI, or John Paul II. He was, in other words (still following the warped reasoning of the RadCathR), guilty of the same inaction that Paul VI is accused of (and arguably, more culpably and inexplicably). Constant preaching to the choir, as we see, has a way of blunting the logical and critical faculties.
30. That Pope John Paul II is a higher critic of the Scriptures.
I would have to see that demonstrated. And – since many RadCathRs’ reading of Holy Scripture apparently disallows, e.g., any possibility of the evolutionary hypothesis -, I would suspect that they may be overly-literal in methodology (as with fundamentalists) in the first place. In other words, their “standard” and conception of proper biblical interpretation may be off the mark to begin with. Just speculating, though, I confess. The point here is that these charges are cavalierly thrown around, but rarely documented.
31. That Popes Paul VI and John Paul II are the most unusual popes ever, and have presided over the destruction of the Faith.
Yes; so unusual that I think the verdict of history will be to deem John Paul II the Great (if not also a saint) – so magnificent are his accomplishments. History will show that – quite to the contrary of these unseemly and shockingly slanderous judgments – John Paul II was the chief factor in the “demolition” not of the Church, but of modernist heterodoxy and apostasy. I dare say that history will take a very dim view of the RadCathR movement. If destruction means what it means, this is the belief in defectibility, and it is, of course, extremely impious and uncharitable language for any Catholic to utter.
32. That a Catholic born – say – in 1943 knows all about how wonderful the Church used to be, whereas now it is merely a shell of its former glory.
Such a person should be quite grateful that they weren’t born in 343 or 943, or 1043 or 1343 or 1743 – bleak periods all (and not the only ones). I say that many RadCathRs suffer from historical tunnel vision.
33. That the documents of Vatican II must undergo a “massive revision,” in order to harmonize them with Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.
I call for a massive revision in RadCathR logic and understanding of orthodoxy and development of doctrine, in order to harmonize it with truth. The harm done to the Church with talk like this is every bit as severe as that which the modernists commit. Modernists know (in their quiet moments) that their movement has peaked and is declining rapidly. It was inevitable; their average age (the revolutionaries at the forefront of the Revolt) is now 65 or so, if not even older. RadCathRs, on the other hand, labor under the illusion that theirs is rising, and will “save” the Church. I just don’t buy these delusions of grandeur. I think the RadCathR movement is the stench in God’s nostrils, not Vatican II or the great Pope John Paul II. They have it exactly backwards. If they can judge popes so severely, I can certainly judge them and their movement.
34. That modern ecumenism cannot be squared with organic development of doctrine as taught by Cardinal Newman.
Why don’t RadCathRs prove this, then, with some real facts and argumentation, for a change (consider that a challenge), if it is so elementary? I am assuming that RadCathRs equate “modern ecumenism” with “Vatican II ecumenism.” Writings of mine about Newman have been published in three Catholic periodicals (including The Latin Mass magazine). I have undoubtedly the largest Newman website on the Internet, and probably the most extensive collection of articles and links concerning development. I have some 45 books by or about him in my library. Reading his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine was a key factor in my conversion. I always love debating anything having to do with Cardinal Newman – especially regarding development.
35. That those who “play with Holy Tradition” by accepting Vatican II “play with Holy Scripture” also.
And those who play with schism and disobedience and private judgment (in the name of “Catholic Tradition”) end up playing with true Holy Tradition, and constructing an ossified pseudo-tradition of their own making (the biblical traditions of men), immune to any development after, say, 1958.
36. That “conservative Catholics” fail to look for the root causes of the present crisis, and delude themselves in thinking that a revival is in the germinating stage.
The heretical tendency has always been with us. I contend that it has never subverted or perverted any Catholic doctrine, because God wouldn’t allow that to happen. RadCathRs disagree. Then they should take up their argument with God Himself, and Holy Scripture.
There are a host of causes for the present crisis in the Church, going back to Protestantism (even elements of the Renaissance and the earlier nominalism), the Enlightenment, materialistic evolutionism, the utopian ideal of Progress, massive secularization, Marxism, philosophical relativism, political and theological liberalism, the Sexual and Feminist and Unisex Revolutions, idolatrous wealth and all the myriad temptations of modern American life, the disintegration of the family, the incessant propaganda and brainwashing of TV and movies and advertising, lack of education and catechesis, etc.
All these cultural and intellectual fads and fashions infiltrate Catholics as individuals, but they cannot penetrate the fortress of Catholic dogma or ecclesiological structure. If such were possible, it is obvious to me that certainly we would have had by now (at the very least) permitted contraception and abortion and divorce, female priests, married priests in the Latin Rites, openly homosexual priests (as with the Anglicans), a denial of the dogma of Transubstantiation, process theology, liberation theology, a demotion of the papacy, etc.
RadCathRs contend with a straight face that the Church has collapsed, apparently mainly because of the New Mass, ecumenism, and religious liberty.
If they want to see a real collapse, they should go look at the various liberalized Protestant denominations, such as the Episcopalians, United Church of Christ, or most Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians (even some Baptists – look at Bill Clinton and Al Gore) these days. Even the Orthodox (who pride themselves on their strict traditionalism and immunity from modernism) accept contraception and divorce! One can’t fail to note the striking contrast. All these groups have institutionalized theological errors and various forms of immorality, and now call evil good, and heresy, orthodoxy.
We, on the other hand, have not done so. We have resisted, with God’s supernatural help. The most recent battle for the Church is already over. Have RadCathRs missed it? The liberal/modernist/”progressive” buffoons have lost, and they know it full well. If only RadCathRs could realize this fact. We are like Europe after World War II. It would take a while to rebuild, but it was inevitable, and the nightmare was over.
In 1990, I was amazed at the preservation – in the Catholic Church alone – of the traditional morality which I had increasingly come to espouse as an evangelical Protestant missionary and pro-life activist. I viewed it as the very last bastion against modernism and the secular humanist onslaught, and the glorious fullness of apostolic Christianity. I was, therefore, compelled to join such a wonderful Church, the Church, and was delighted to discover that it actually existed (I had had the usual invisible church conception of evangelicalism, but I was far less ahistorical than most). And now RadCathRs come around and tell me that all this was an illusion. Poppycock! The beliefs have not changed! We call this development. Obviously, we are operating from two completely polarized views of reality, when it comes to the Church. Someone must be wrong here.
Clearly, the Church has (institutionally) resisted the tides of secularization. There have been many individual casualties, sadly, as always with these huge, momentous spiritual/cultural battles. Priests, bishops, nuns and monks, heretical lay activists, DRE’s (even popes) may indeed have to give account to God for their actions or inactions. But whatever the case may be, the dogmas and structure of the Church have survived intact. I believe we shall see a huge revival (perhaps the largest ever) in the next century, which I will witness when I am an old man, some 30-40 years from now.
We’ve seen every abomination and form of wickedness imaginable in this century. This is the age of martyrs, even more so than the early centuries. That blood is not shed in vain (redemptive suffering). History shows us that – generally – the century following one such as ours is a time of revival, reform, and rejuvenation in the Church. Revival is cyclical, and recurring. It has always been this way. The tide is turning. Signs are all around us. Converts abound, vocations are increasing, and the younger priests are overwhelmingly orthodox. Catholic outreach and apologetics on the Internet is thriving. Catholic radio and TV and book publishing are finally coming up from the ashes (one of my friends has a national Catholic talk show).
The Catholic home schooling movement is flourishing. Catechesis is slowly improving . . . Things are far different even from 10 years ago, right before I converted. I didn’t know a thing about, e.g., Catholic apologetics in those days, apart from Chesterton, who was dead for over 50 years (and I was a Protestant lay apologist). Now one can hardly avoid it. This is almost a Golden Age of Catholic a blind person could fail to see and rejoice over all these positive developments.
One can see the wave of the future if they take off their blinders. It will be a slow resuscitation (we are talking in terms of centuries and ages here), but it is inevitable if the Lord doesn’t return soon, if for no other reason than the fact of God’s amazing mercy, and His Providence, whereby we know that “all things work together for good, for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Therefore, I am optimistic and joyful, in love with God and His Church, the Holy Father, the Virgin Mary and the saints and my fellow Catholic brethren, and honored to be able to share the Good News with anyone I am able to reach.
37. That the Church has been well-nigh destroyed, as is evident from its “fruit” over the last 40 years.
And I have just cited much of that fruit, which RadCathRs apparently have (most remarkably) overlooked. Do they have their head in the sand? Like the Pharisees of old (the legalists and hyper-reactionaries and RadCathRs of that time), they fail to discern the “signs of the times” (Matthew 16:3). They will tell us how many liberals are still around, and point to the scorched earth left in their wake. Well, so what? There were many liberals around during the Catholic Reformation and the Council of Trent, too. It so happened that most of them had left the Church, rather than remain in it (though, of course, many liberals are leaving the Church today). They were called Protestants. There were liberals during the Councils of Nicea (Arians) and Chalcedon (Monophysites).
The point here is that times of great revival and reform can occur even while heterodox liberals and heretics remain a problem. God is not bound by our silly little timetables, desperation and alarmism, limited perceptions, and conceptions of things. He simply ignores the liberals and goes about His business. They are merely pawns in His Grand Scheme, just as the Egyptians or Assyrians or Babylonians or Persians or Greeks or Romans or Nazis or Soviet Communists were (all immensely powerful in their heyday). They are not in the middle of the Divine Plan, as we orthodox Catholics are, because they do not seek to do His will. They have rebelled, and are therefore, “out of the picture.” That is why they are already irrelevant, and destined for obsolescence in the dust bin of history, like all other heresies and schismatic sects (where are, e.g., the Marcionites or Albigensians these days?).
The only Christians – besides Catholics – with any staying-power historically and semblance of apostolic orthodoxy are the Orthodox – precisely because they maintained apostolic succession and have valid sacraments. Apart from that, Christian or quasi-christian sects go liberal (Protestants) or disappear. They have life in them only insofar as they approximate, or draw from, the Catholic Church. Liberalism, too, will disappear as any sort of major influence, because it has no life in itself. It can’t reproduce itself because it is the counsel of despair and disbelief. The very next generation will largely reject it. These things are absolutely certain. The demise (the real “autodemolition”) may take a while yet, but it will happen.
38. That to cite external and sociological causes for the current crisis in the Church reflects an alarming lack of humility and objectivity.
How so? So to cite any cause other than the hated Vatican II – the font of all evils – and its diabolically “successful” conspirators and masters of “ambiguous language” is to somehow lack humility? Very odd . . . As if the sole causes were in the so-called conspiracy at the Council. I agree that liberals were there, and that they had a nefarious plan to subvert the Council. I deny that they succeeded in getting their heresies into the documents. As for other causes, I have suggested a host of them above, and it is by no means clear to me that they can be so summarily dismissed.
39. That the Second Vatican Council deliberately and consciously sought a compromise with humanistic modernism, and that the tragic results can be observed in its documents.
More equivocation: the Council is not heretical; rather, it is “compromised.” We so-called “conservatives” (i.e., orthodox Catholics, in objective terminology) deny this absolutely. The Council is orthodox. It did not depart at all from Catholic Tradition. According to Ludwig Ott and the 1913 The Catholic Encyclopedia, as cited above (wholly in accord with the Catholic consensus of the ages), the Holy Spirit would not allow such a thing. This is Catholic belief; this is Catholic Tradition. How is it that these elementary aspects of the Catholic faith can be flat-out denied by people claiming to uphold (over against alleged “compromisers” such as myself) a false “traditionalism!” The world (as well as the Church) is again turned upside-down by such outrageous insolence and vapid presumption!
I deny this concept of quasi-defectibility, since Ecumenical Councils cannot depart from the Faith in this fashion, if indeed they are Ecumenical Councils. Thus the only rational recourse for RadCathRs who despise Vatican II is to prove that it is not a valid Council in the first place – surely an impossible task. Knowing that this is impossible (so I would hypothesize), they resort to the fatuous nonsense of “ambiguity” and “compromise,” so as to denigrate the Council whose teachings they so detest, for erroneous reasons. It’s valid, yet somehow simultaneously reprehensible and a departure from previous Catholicism – precisely as they believe about recent popes, and the New Mass. It is a foolish game, a dangerous one, an unnecessary one, and spiritually dangerous to souls, which is why I have spent time doing this critique, and other similar ones.
40. That to believe in the theory of evolution is to become – ipso facto – a modernist.
Pope Pius XII (a modernist?) in his Encyclical Humani Generis (12 August 1950) spoke directly to this issue. First of all (I note in passing), he writes concerning the authority of encyclicals (which RadCathRs seem to have forgotten when it comes to Pope John Paul II):
20. Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: “He who heareth you, heareth me”; and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians.
Note again, that submission is not confined to ex cathedra statements – the authoritative “world” which RadCathRs seem to wish to reside in almost exclusively. Pius XII then touches (I notice) upon development of doctrine and Church authority, which has relevance to the current dispute over Vatican II and supposedly “novel” doctrines:
21. . . . together with the sources of positive theology God has given to His Church a living Teaching Authority to elucidate and explain what is contained in the deposit of faith only obscurely and implicitly. This deposit of faith our Divine Redeemer has given for authentic interpretation not to each of the faithful, not even to theologians, but only to the Teaching Authority of the Church . . .
In other words, let the Magisterium determine such weighty matters, not “each of the faithful,” as in RadCathRism and sola Scriptura Protestantism. Then he declares upon the relationship of evolutionary theory to the Catholic Faith:
36. For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter – for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God. However this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faithful Some however rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from preexisting and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question. 37. When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which through generation is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.
Note that belief in the theory of evolution is in no wise prohibited for Catholics in good standing. The pope could have easily stated such a prohibition if indeed this was what the Church wished to teach. But he did not. Good Catholics may believe in evolution in good conscience, provided that they do not accept it in a materialistic fashion, do not deny that each individual soul is a direct creation of God, or accept the false notion of polygenism – which view adversely affects Original Sin. And I say this as a creationist myself – one who has written much against evolution and debated the issue for 18 years now.
So how is it that many RadCathRs speak so dogmatically of evolution, as if it were utterly impermissible for a Catholic to believe? By what authority do they do so? By what reasoning do they refer to the present Holy Father as an “evolutionist,” as if this were some terrible and scandalous epithet? And ho do they manage to blatantly disobey the above Encyclical from Pope Pius XII 1950, which itself is quite harsh on modernism in other sections? More internal contradiction and self-defeating arguments . . . Again, I personally believe that macroevolution has not occurred [actually, since 2000 I have moved a bit and have assumed a provisional agnostic attitude until I do further study, but in any event I deny as vehemently as ever that standard evolutionism can be explained solely through natural processes], but I will not pontificate about issues (as a matter of supposed Catholic dogma) which the Church in its magisterial authority has not settled. I actually think that Papal Encyclicals ought to be adhered to, just as Pius XII said!!! What a novel concept!
41. That Vatican II historically preceded the modernist crisis; therefore caused it.
The logic here escapes me. As far as I can tell, many RadCathRs adopt the fallacy of thinking that because the Council preceded the things they don’t like (some quite justifiably so), that therefore it is the root cause of all these things. “Modernism flourished after the Council, therefore the Council must be modernist . . . oops [lest we ever dare reveal our underlying premises and/or strong suspicions], rather compromised with modernism.” Etc.
42. That Catholics ought not to have any contact or religious dialogue with those of other religions.
Ecumenism has many kernels in Catholic Tradition, most notably with the acceptance by St. Augustine and the Church, of Donatist baptism. The Donatists were formal schismatics, yet the Church accepted the validity of their baptism (just as with Protestants today). As for a relationship to world religions, I have even edited a paper by a priest defending the Assisi ecumenical meeting from St. Thomas Aquinas! See “A Defense of the Ecumenical Gathering at Assisi (Ecumenism in St. Thomas Aquinas)” (Fr. Alfredo M. Morselli). Thus far, no RadCathR friend of mine has seen fit to refute that tightly-reasoned paper.
43. That modernism has “taken root” in the Catholic Church, due to the Second Vatican Council.
Obviously (granting the premise for a moment), it has filtered down to RadCathRs also, since they are so pessimistic about the Church, just like the most liberal, skeptical German Higher Critics of the 19th century. They doubt the Council, they doubt the pope. The Church is practically in shambles; almost in the grips of Antichrist himself . . . Well, what better success could the modernists achieve than to get a committed, devout Catholic to doubt those things, even while he lambasts the modernists who have assisted in the promulgation of such loss of belief (though not through the Council itself)?!!
The entire RadCathR argument about the virtual downfall of the Church is based on a subjective house of cards. Once introduce logic and consistency, and it collapses. It has more holes in it than a pin cushion. My argument, on the other hand, is based on objective facts of Church history, and the analogy of earlier Councils and crises (following Newman’s methodology in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine). I have cited pre-conciliar authorities and popes who express views diametrically opposed to those espoused by RadCathRs. I eagerly await a counter-reply, especially to those past authorities.
44. That RadCathRs do not exercise private judgment in their negative assessments of Vatican II, recent popes, the New Mass, etc.
They disagree with what the Church has solemnly decreed in Ecumenical Council to be legitimate Tradition. This is assuredly private judgment. I know it when I see it, as I used to believe fervently in the individualistic private judgment worldview of Protestantism. A big change in principle takes place when one becomes a Catholic. St. Vincent, in the very same context of his famous dictum on “that which was believed always and everywhere,” also dealt explicitly with development of doctrine, a fact few who cite him for RadCathR purposes seem to be aware of.
45. That “conservative Catholics” don’t believe it is ever proper or necessary to rebuke a pope (as illustrated by St. Paul’s rebuke of St. Peter).
That had to do with hypocrisy, not doctrinal error. I have written about the dispute between Paul and Peter, which certainly involved a rebuke (who would deny that?): “Dialogue: Is St. Paul Superior to St. Peter?” But Paul’s rebuke has no bearing on papal infallibility. The possibility of such a theoretical correction of a pope is not the issue.
The real issue is when and how to do so (and the frequency of such momentous occasions), and whether the present situation is such an occasion, and, on the flip side, the routine obligation of Catholics to obey the pope and his decrees (and Councils), whether infallible or ex cathedra or not – which spirit RadCathRs show precious little indication of possessing. Complaints, undue criticism, condemnation, disobedience, dissent, bickering, moaning and groaning, silly and self-important pontifications, whining, waxing eloquently cynical: that’s what I see in the RadCathR movement. It is extremely unseemly, unedifying, and unappealing.
Sure, laymen can petition and so forth, but RadCathR aspirations are based on the false assumption and presumption that an Ecumenical Council could fail in its purpose in the first place. As that is not Catholic teaching, it is hardly a conceivable scenario. It is the pope’s job to correct Councils, not ours. We possess no such authority. Paul VI changed some things, and then ratified the Council. Rome has spoken; case closed.
This is a common and tired criticism of the so-called “conservative” perspective – so it comes as no surprise. But this has never been my opinion, and I have stated so many times. I understood this even before I converted (because I studied infallibility intensively, from the other side of the fence). I have had a paper expressing my view on this matter on my website for over two years: “Laymen Advising and Rebuking Popes.” In that paper I wrote:
Pope John XXII was soundly and successfully rebuked by the masses when he temporarily espoused belief in a false doctrine. St. Catherine of Siena, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and St. Francis of Assisi rebuked popes, and their advice was respected and heeded (St. Francis wasn’t ordained). These saints were the most revered Catholics of their time (one might think of Mother Teresa in our time).I’m sure there were also many instances of morally inferior popes (e.g., during the Renaissance) being soundly rebuked by holy priests and laymen. This is nothing novel whatsoever in Catholic ecclesiology. No one knows better than Catholics the distinction between the nobility of an office and (too often) the sanctity of the person holding it at any given time. Of course, this has always been the case in the Church and amongst the Old Testament Jews (one need only recall Moses, David, Judas, and St. Peter himself).
In the chapter on the papacy in my book A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, I cite Bertrand Conway’s words, in agreement:
The duty of fraternal correction (Matthew 18:15) may often require an inferior to rebuke a superior in defence of justice and truth. St. Bernard, St. Thomas of Canterbury and St. Catherine of Siena have rebuked Popes, while fully acknowledging their supreme authority . . . . .
46. That an ex cathedra papal pronouncement is necessary in order to fully accept the authority and orthodoxy of Vatican II.
I have no reason to believe that the bulk of RadCathRs would accept such a proclamation, as it goes against their opinions, and since I see how cavalierly and “modernistically” they selectively accept papal proclamations as it is. I could, on the other hand, imagine them petitioning for John Paul II’s removal on grounds of insanity, were he to issue such a pronouncement. One can only go by what they see. I think such a pronouncement would likely make RadCathRs want to leave the Church; give up on it as a hopeless case. They have already made up their own mind that the Holy Father is wrong, about this and many other issues. Why should I think they would receive this papal statement with assent, rather than dissent? Their modernist-influenced “cafeteria Catholicism” precludes such a mass acceptance, I think. This is not the Catholic spirit; it is the spirit of disobedience, private judgment, and schism.
47. That Archbishop Lefebvre “made a noble act of conscience” when he disobeyed papal orders.
More hero-worship, and compromise with schism. How is this distinguishable from the alleged compromise of us so-called “conservatives” with the modernists to our left? We supposedly ally ourselves with modernist heretics (which is untrue), and that (fictional scenario) is abominable in RadCathR eyes, yet at the same time they kow-tow, idealize, and practically idolize the formal schismatic Abp. Lefebvre? More hypocrisy; more tunnel-vision; more self-contradiction and equivocation, according to the self-satisfying needs of the moment.
48. That the propriety and permissibility of Archbishop Lefebvre’s actions have been vindicated by canon lawyers.
There is always an appeal to canon lawyers, isn’t there? But this is the whole point. They will contradict each other. The authority of the Church resides in the Magisterium of Pope, Councils, and Bishops. RadCathRs disagree on this point. Like the false witnesses against Jesus (Mark 14:55-59), they are divided amongst themselves, and contradict each other – a sure sign of error (and the mark of sectarianism and schism). But in another sense, the same schismatic spirit dominates and rules all of the species of RadCathRism and creates many affinities and similarities. They are united in their disdain for the Church, after all; the actual Church, warts (and tares) and all (but who in their right mind would ever naively expect it to be perfect on earth?).
49. That conscience has supreme authority over the magisterium of the Church and the infallible papacy.
More Lutheranism. The Catholic, Newmanian view of a properly informed conscience, on the other hand, is that it must be formulated and grounded within the mind and guidance of the Church, and can never be opposed to it, which of course RadCathR dissent and disobedience violates right and left, having adopted the Protestant principle of authority (private judgment) and also the modernist principle (arbitrary selectivity). RadCathRs wrongly disobey the Church (falsely believing that it is in error, when it is not), and accept the faith-destroying notion of defectibility. This is an utter perversion of the Catholic notion of conscience.
50. That God did not prevent Vatican II from falling into the hands of evil schemers and heterodox conspirators, though only in the sense of ambiguity, not formal heresy.
Oh, so God allows sub-infallible, non-binding blatant error to happen in a Council, and a certain “recklessness.” These fine, arbitrary distinctions are simply the invention of RadCathRs. They have scarcely any precedent in Church history. They believe that all previous Councils were completely infallible (or authoritative and binding, at any rate), whereas Vatican II is a mess! What did God do, forget His promise, or go to sleep? All the other Councils somehow escaped this fate? Whatever happened to Christ’s maxim that “a house divided against itself cannot stand”? The whole scenario is completely ridiculous. Stop the autodemolition! Let’s start a petition drive. We won’t stand for this institutional suicide! We will make a difference, since God has obviously forsaken His duties, where the indefectibility of the Church is concerned. A profound man-centered, humanist religion indeed . . . Who has started a “new religion”?
51. That the texts of Vatican II are a deceptive, diabolical mixture of pure doctrine and deadly poison.
I guess Holy Scripture suffers from the same deficiencies. Yes, all the more reason to ditch the Bible. How many falsehoods it has spawned! Look at Protestantism, the “Bible Only” version of Christianity, with all its rival schools of thought. Away with it! After all, look at all the heretical cults which have derived from various “ambiguous” interpretations of the biblical texts. If it weren’t for the Bible, surely they wouldn’t even exist. Therefore, the Bible caused them. We need to get a pope to declare ex cathedra that the New Testament didn’t departed from previous Jewish Old Testament Tradition, so as to alleviate the problem here.
52. That “conservative Catholics” are (wrongheadedly) more concerned with RadCathRs (those on the “right”) than with modernists, Protestants, cultists, and agnostics (those on the “left”).
Speaking for myself, as a Catholic apologist, I have far, far more material on my site (especially including links) about these other groups than about RadCathRs. Virtually all of my papers are written with Protestants in the back of my mind (i.e., how to reach them, and how to persuade them to convert to Catholicism). I have treated RadCathRism at length because the amount of error and self-contradiction to be found in it is enormous and harmful to souls – and because it masquerades itself as the only “pure” form of Catholicism (analogous to the Protestant fundamentalists). I do such work for the sake of my readers, and for the love of truth, and for Holy Mother Church. Dealing with error (especially with those who ought to be on my side, fighting heresies, since we are fellow Catholics) is always tiring and a solemn task; it zaps one’s spiritual (even physical) vitality, and is to be approached with much trepidation and humility – surrounded by prayer.
53. That ecumenism undermines, and is contrary to, evangelism and apologetics.
It does not at all – the two goals being distinct and complementary endeavors, not contradictory ones. I rejoice in the truths which I share with my Protestant or Orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ; at the same time, I try my best to convince them that the Catholic Church is the fullness of the faith. John Paul II operates from the same presuppositions.
54. That “conservative” Catholics think popes and Ecumenical Councils are verbally inspired, and therefore above criticism.
This is ludicrous. Only the Bible is verbally inspired, of course. RadCathRs often stoop to gross caricature of the orthodox Catholic viewpoint (which they call “conservative”). The obligation of the Catholic is to give religious submission of mind and will and interior assent to popes and Councils – even when sub-infallible, or infallible in the ordinary magisterium (as opposed to extraordinary or ex cathedra). This point has been consistently ignored by all the RadCathRs I have dialogued with. Instead, they merely repeat the caricature of our true beliefs about Catholic authority, because it is a convenient “club” for them to polemically and quixotically swing about.
55. That St. Thomas Aquinas would have rejected modern-day ecumenism.
He didn’t understand it in the 20th century sense, any more than he accepted – let alone understood – the Immaculate Conception. It took the non-Thomist Duns Scotus to fully develop that. My belief is that ecumenism can be developed from the seed of St. Thomas’s teachings about the culpability and/or good faith of non-Catholics and non-Christians; as it can be developed from St. Augustine’s approach to the Donatists, and the controversy over re-baptism – or for that matter from our Lord’s dealings with Samaritan women and Roman centurions. We wouldn’t expect a figure from seven centuries earlier to fully grasp what has developed in the interim. The key is the nature of development of doctrine. Many developments would seem foreign to those from centuries earlier.
56. That Pope John Paul II is doing nothing to alleviate the modernist crisis.
We say he is dealing with the problems. It is just not according to the RadCathR method and timetable. It is with a long view of history, and wisdom and prudence, and care and concern for the entire flock, of which he is the earthly Shepherd. There are certain things he can do, and some things he cannot do (even God can’t do certain things concerning men, if men in their free will won’t let him). The pope makes judgments and determinations based on rational considerations of the likely response, just as Pius XII did with regard to the Nazi question. RadCathRs don’t accuse him of complicity, for not speaking out magisterially, yet they have the unmitigated gall to accuse this pope of implicit complicity with the modernists (if not one himself, as many RadCathRs believe).
57. That those who came of age after Vatican II have little idea what the Church was like before that time.
One RadCathR who leveled this (quite common) charge against me was 46 (whereas I am 41). So at the ripe old age of 9, he was well-acquainted with the pre-conciliar Church, and equipped to authoritatively comment on it with that extraordinary level of experience and wisdom? Seriously, though, this “argument” is every bit as silly and vapid as pro-abortionists saying that men cannot take any position against abortion, since they aren’t women! Or that priests and the pope can’t comment on sexuality because they are celibate. Experience, obviously, isn’t everything. This is why we have books. This is why we learn. As a passionate lover of history myself, I’m glad that most people don’t think that anyone who lived past a particular era is forbidden from expressing an informed opinion about it. On this basis, St. Paul couldn’t even speak about Jesus, since He never met Him before His Resurrection, or experienced the events of His life. St. Luke wasn’t qualified to write his Gospel. I trust that the point is made by now.
58. That one cannot have an informed opinion on the validity of the New Mass unless he is well-versed in liturgical history and canon law.
I have plainly stated on many occasions that I am no expert on liturgical matters. I am just a lay apologist, and make no claim to anything beyond that. But I am entitled to believe – as a function of indefectibility – that God wouldn’t allow the Mass of the vast majority of Catholics today to be invalid or even “objectively offensive to God,” etc. I don’t fully understand the Trinity or transubstantiation, either, but I believe in them, because they are doctrines of the Church, Bible, and Tradition. I am not the expert; the Church is the “expert” – and She tells me that the Sacrifice of the Mass today is legitimate, not blasphemous or idolatrous or a mockery, as the anti-Catholic brand of our Protestant brethren would have it.
59. That “conservative Catholics” must “mature” or grow into the RadCathR position and that dialogue and disputation won’t bring this about: only contemplation will.
Why, then, did Paul “argue” and “dispute” and “reason” with Jews and Greeks, if this were true? Why did Jesus debate the Pharisees? Why did St. Thomas Aquinas write his masterwork in a question-and-answer, back-and-forth, premise and objection form? Why did he debate the Muslims? Why did St. Augustine debate the Manichees and Donatists, and St. Justin Martyr the Jews? Why did Newman debate Mr. Kingsley (thus giving us his masterpiece Apologia pro vita Sua)? And why pit debate against contemplation? This is simply one more ploy to avoid constructive debate – in so doing the RadCathRs who think like this have bought into yet another modernist (and “religious fundamentalist”) error: the sneering at reason as a means to truth. We are simply supposed to shut up and “listen” to the never-ending doom-and-gloom monologues and jeremiads against the Church. How did this become a one-way street? Who said that the RadCathRs were the teachers and we were the students? Who anointed them?
I need to “mature” into the RadCathR position? Well, I “matured” into Catholicism from Protestantism, but that didn’t happen by reading books up in a tree-house somewhere. I did read many books, but it was the many hours of vigorous discussion with my friends, and then reading Newman’s Essay on Development (itself an extended argument against the Anglican version of Church history), and vigorous arguments against contraception and the Protestant Revolution which convinced me – quite the opposite of this contention that dialogue and debate doesn’t change anyone. I had to be “unconvinced” of my former positions, not just “convinced” by reading something different, as if I were Muhammed receiving the Koran out of heaven, with no argument, no questions asked, no mental or rational process. I’ll take the reason, logic, philosophy, and apologetics of Aquinas, Augustine, Jesus, Paul, Newman, Pascal, Jerome, Bossuet, Bellarmine, Chesterton, Francis de Sales, Knox et al, any day, if the choice is between this group and RadCathR contemplation, to the exclusion of rational scrutiny.
60. That the RadCathR position is not characterized by an attitude of pessimism and lack of faith.
“Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (I think that is a correct rendering…..). One reads the sort of comments RadCathRs habitually make, and I believe one is more than justified in arriving at certain conclusions, if words mean anything at all. If proponents of these viewpoints happen to have a joyful heart, wonderful. Glad to hear it. More power to them. I would simply exhort them as a brother to speak more of it, for public consumption. I think they would do well to include some positive remarks also. How about an article once in a while like “What’s Good in the Church?” ? A gloomy “quasi-defectibility” outlook is contrary to a truly Catholic faith in God’s guidance of His Church. Many RadCathR writings do not convey this sort of hope and sunny optimism at all.
“Conservative” Catholics 13, 27, 36, 45, 52, 54, 59
Development of doctrine (vs. evolution of doctrine) 2, 8, 23, 34
Ecumenism and religious liberty 5, 10, 34, 42, 53, 55
Evolution, Theory of 28, 40
Indefectibility (of the Church) 6, 11, 18, 31, 37
John Paul II – lax in duty? 14, 56
John Paul II – modernist? 12, 15, 16, 17, 29, 30
Lefebvre, Abp. 47, 48
Mass, Novus Ordo (New) 1, 25, 58
Optimism (and faith vs. pessimism) 36, 37, 60
Popes, post-Vatican II – liberal? 4, 20, 21, 31
“Pre-conciliar Church” 32, 57
Private judgment and conscience 44, 49
Radical Catholic reactionaries (RadCathRs) (as the unique, noble champions of Tradition and orthodoxy) 22
Vatican II (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council) – “ambiguous”? 2, 9, 39, 50, 51
Vatican II – cause of current crisis? 3, 38, 41, 43
Vatican II – modernist? 2, 7, 8, 18, 24, 33, 35
Vatican II – “pastoral” and not binding? 2, 19, 46
Vatican II – unique among Councils? 2, 18, 26
For further related reading:
Mass Movements: Radical Catholic Reactionaries, the New Mass, and Ecumenism (Book: Dec. 2012, 205p)
Reflections on Radical Catholic Reactionaries (Book: Dec. 2002 / rev. Aug. 2013, 145p)