- WHY FATIMA
- FATIMA CENTER
- PRAYER & DEVOTION
The post-conciliar debacle cannot be assessed without some discussion of its most remarkable epiphenomenon: the emergence of conservative Catholicism. Indeed, the appearance since the Council of the three distinct modes of Catholicism traditionalist, conservative, and liberal is a development never before seen in Church history. The very usage of these terms in modern Catholic parlance is empirical confirmation that there has been a rupture of external unity of cult in the Church during the post-conciliar period, at least in the Roman Rite.
Before the Council there was no need, of course, for special terminology to differentiate strains of Catholicism, for there was only one strain: every Catholic in good standing was a traditionalist. That is, every Catholic worshiped strictly in accordance with the untouchable ancient rites of the Church, regarding as unthinkable any compromise of ecclesiastical traditions for the sake of unity with non-Catholics, much less any form of worship in common, which the Church had always strictly forbidden as a grave danger to the Faith.
Regarding the liturgy, the preconciliar Catholic believed what the Popes had always taught him, up to and including Pope John XXIII in Veterum Sapientiae: that the form of the Mass, including its ancient language, is a work of the Holy Ghost over the ages and is not subject to innovations.
As for Christian unity, the preconciliar Catholic regarded his Church precisely as Catholics had always been taught to regard her: The one true Church to which the separated brethren must return, not merely the most perfect of many Christian churches and ecclesial communities moving toward full communion at some unknown terminus of the ecumenical movement. Only 35 years before the bronze doors opened on Vatican II, Pope Pius XI forcefully restated the traditional teaching on true Christian unity in his encyclical Mortalium animos, which condemned the developing ecumenical movement as a threat to the very foundations of the Christian faith, and forbade any Catholic participation in it:
So, Venerable Brethren, it is clear why this Apostolic See has never allowed its subjects to take part in the assemblies of non-Catholics; for the union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of those who are separated from it ... Let them therefore return to their common Father, who, forgetting the insults heaped upon the Apostolic See, will receive them in most loving fashion. For if, as they continually state, they long to be united with Us and ours, why do they not hasten to enter the Church ...76
Then came the Council and what Paul VI described as its command and its program of newness, including the new liturgy and the new ecumenism. It was especially the liturgical reforms which provoked the unparalleled division of Catholicism into the three modes we now see.
The liberal Catholics, unleashed upon the Church by the Councils abandonment of all condemnations and the Vaticans sudden rehabilitation of numerous suspect theologians, were naturally delighted with the reforms. They demanded, and usually got, Vatican approval for a seemingly endless series of additional changes in the liturgy, including altar girls. The liberal Catholics of today correspond roughly to the old canonical category of excommunicati tolerati (those who remain within the Church despite a sentence of excommunication), except that today no sentence of excommunication is ever pronounced against them by Vatican authorities. Since the Council only one local bishop, Fabian Bruskewitz of Nebraska, has issued a latae sententiae sentence of excommunication against a few practitioners of the liberal mode of Catholicism within the jurisdiction of his diocese, but liberal Catholicism is otherwise universally tolerated in the Church today. It has come to subsist as mode of Catholic praxis and belief, at least in the external forum, where we must presume that the liberals remain members of the Church because they have not been excluded by any sentence of ecclesiastical authority.
As we know, traditional Catholics, who have come to be called traditionalists, opposed the post-conciliar revolution from its inception. The traditionalist position regarding the liturgy in particular was expressed in 1969 by Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci in their famous intervention against the New Mass: The reforms of Paul VI were a striking departure from the theology of the Mass codified by the Council of Trent; an incalculable error producing a crisis of conscience among those who could not simply abandon a liturgical tradition more than 1,500 years standing.77
Rather than submitting with docility to the destruction of the Roman rite, the traditionalists have been guided by the axiom of moral theology stated in the Ottaviani Intervention: that subjects of a legislator, even subjects of the Pope, have always had the right, nay the duty, to ask the legislator to abrogate the law, should it prove to be harmful. The traditionalists have never ceased to exercise that right and duty, and to this day have never embraced the post-conciliar reforms especially the reform of the liturgy, which they regard as an utterly unprecedented abuse of papal authority that no Pope prior to Paul VI would have dared to impose upon the Church. Here it must be noted that in his monumental work Reform of the Roman Liturgy, Msgr. Klaus Gamber (with the approbation of Cardinal Ratzinger) devoted an entire chapter to defending the traditionalist position that the Popes supreme legislative power in disciplinary matters is not an absolute power which would allow the Pope to destroy the liturgy of the Roman rite. As Gamber notes, the popes prior to Paul VI repeatedly observed that the [Roman] rite is founded on apostolic tradition. It follows that not even the Roman Pontiff has authority from God to abolish the received and approved form of divine worship in the Catholic Church, although the act of abolition cannot be appealed to any human authority.78
Into the gap between the liberal and the traditionalist position emerged what is now called conservative Catholicism. It is based in large measure upon confusion between the Popes supreme and full power to rule the Church (plena et suprema potestas), on the one hand, and absolute power on the other, which not even the Vicar of Christ possesses. The conservatives wrongly deduce that since there is no appeal to any human authority from a decision of the Roman Pontiff, his authority must for all practical purposes be regarded as absolute, and the faithful must therefore not only docilely accept but embrace all of the papally-approved post-conciliar reforms. There could perhaps be a polite, private entreaty for reconsideration, but no resistance or opposition whatsoever.
The fundamental problem with this aspect of the conservative position is that it is simply not Catholic. It makes of the Pope precisely what the Protestants falsely claim he is: a despot, whose decrees must be carried out to the letter even if they harm the common good of the Church. Responding to this Protestant caricature of papal authority, Saint Robert Bellarmine, a Doctor of the Church, stated the truly Catholic position:
Just as it is licit to resist the Pontiff who attacks the body, so also is it licit to resist him who attacks souls, or who disturbs the civil order, or above all, him who tries to destroy the Church. I say that it is licit to resist him by not doing what he orders and by impeding the execution of his will; it is not licit, however, to judge him, to punish him or depose him, for these are acts proper to a superior.79
Of course, the teaching of St. Bellarmine is nothing other than the teaching of Sacred Scripture itself: In St. Pauls epistle to the Galatians we read that when Cephas Peter refused to sit at table with the Gentiles, St. Paul rebuked the first Pope for jeopardizing the mission of the Church by scandalously shunning the very souls they had been commissioned to convert: But when Cephas was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. (Galatians 2:11) Some 1,300 years later French theologians would likewise rebuke Pope John XXII for teaching from the pulpit that the souls of the faithful departed do not see God until after the Last Judgement. Shortly before his death John XXII retracted his erroneous opinion, which by the protection of the Holy Ghost he had never pronounced ex cathedra.80
For the conservative Catholic any attempt to rebuke, resist or impede the Pope in any matter whatever is unthinkable. The Pope is king, and that is that. One conservative Catholic leader, who shall in charity remain nameless, even attempted to demonstrate that the Cephas rebuked by Paul in Galatians was not Peter! Even Holy Scripture itself must yield to the exigencies of papolatry! The conservative becomes a modernist/revisionist exegete! (See Resisting Wayward Prelates Catholic Family News, August 1999.)
For the conservative Catholic the principle of papal authority trumps everything, even the common good of the Church although, as we shall see, the conservatives adherence to papal authority curiously weakens when it comes to the definitive anti-modernist pronouncements of any Pope before 1960. Michael Davies captured conservative Catholic attitude perfectly when discussing how conservative clergy, following the latest instructions from their superiors, embrace the very things they once condemned, and condemn what they once taught:
The prevailing attitude among so many of the clergy is to accept a particular belief or attitude not because it has an inherent and enduring truth or value, but because it happens to be the current policy. Thus the very clergy who would have denounced (and rightly so) any layman who had attended a Protestant service before the Council will now denounce any layman who suggests that the faith would in any way be compromised by attending such services ... Thus a matter touching upon the very nature of the Church Christ founded is seen in itself as something neutral; all that matters is the current instruction ...81
As we have seen, Cardinal Ratzinger admitted in his recent memoirs that Paul VIs attempt to abolish the traditional Mass caused grave damage to the Church, damage whose consequences could only be tragic. If that is true and it manifestly is true then the Popes subjects had not only the right but the duty to use all licit means, short of judging or deposing him, to minimize the damage that was about to be inflicted on the Church. For traditionalists licit resistance to the Pope meant simply refusing to abandon the traditional rite of Mass in favor of the new Mass, or to practice any of the other novelties which appeared in the Church during the 1960s. History has already demonstrated that they were right to do so, as Cardinal Ratzingers recent statements will attest.
Conservative Catholicism is a far more complex phenomenon than this discussion might suggest. Within conservative Catholicism there is range of praxis and opinion, with some conservatives coming rather close to the traditionalist position, so that generalizations are difficult. But in all of its variations, conservative Catholicism attempts to forge a middle way between liberalism and traditionalism, presenting itself as the domain of sound orthodoxy lying between the two extremes of the post-conciliar era. It purports to see an equivalence between liberals and traditionalists an equivalence which is quite false, as Dietrich von Hildebrand has noted, because even the most extreme traditionalist does not hold any view which contravenes an article of the faith.82
Conservative Catholicism claims to be motivated by true fidelity to Tradition and true obedience to the Magisterium, even if that fidelity and obedience have required a series of humiliating about-faces which have undermined the very credibility of the Church. As Cardinal Ratzinger has stated regarding the suppression of the traditional Mass by Paul VI: A community that suddenly declares that what until now was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden, and makes the longing for it seem downright indecent, calls its very self into question.83 Yet the conservative Catholic is not disturbed by this. He simply follows the Pope, no matter what: I would rather be wrong with the Pope than right without him is one of the more asinine conservative Catholic bromides.
It needs to be stressed, however, that it would be unjust to condemn conservatives en bloc because they have more or less accommodated themselves to the post-conciliar revolution. The question of opposition to papal acts is a matter of conscience in which no member of the faithful can claim infallibility. Indeed, the very emergence of neo-Catholicism reflects an unparalleled situation which has caused vast confusion about what to do in the current crisis: While there have always been would-be innovators in the Church and traditional Catholics to oppose them, never in the history of the Church have the innovators been the Popes themselves.
As Msgr. Gamber observed in Reform of the Roman Liturgy: It is most certainly not the function of the Holy See to introduce Church reforms. The first duty of the Pope is to act as primary bishop, to watch over the traditions of the Church her dogmatic, moral and liturgical traditions.84 But what happens when the popes, for the first time in Church history, demand reforms which destroy or suppress a number of those traditions? Conservative Catholicism seeks an answer to that question we must presume in good faith even if history is demonstrating that it is the wrong answer.
Mindful of the grave duty to preserve the Churchs patrimony, yet unwilling frankly to question papal acts, the conservative Catholic seeks to relieve the insupportable tension of his own position, thereby falling into self-contradiction. He will say, for example, that a new rite of Mass in the vernacular is not what the Council intended. But, as we have already seen,85, Paul VI declared that it was precisely the Council which provided the mandate for his revolutionary new vernacular rite of Mass; and it was Pope Paul himself who approved the Councils Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, making it his own act as supreme legislator of the Church. Thus, while insisting that papal reform of the liturgy be accepted with utter docility, the conservative implicitly accuses the Pope of gravely erring in the interpretation and implementation of his own document!
Another device which conservatives use to relieve the tension of their position is to assign all of the disastrous effects of the post-conciliar innovations and reversals to abuses committed by faceless liberals, without ever acknowledging that the abuses are nearly all permitted under Vatican guidelines. The conservative often finds himself decrying what the Vatican itself approves or encourages, even as he insists that there be no public criticism of the Holy See.
For example, the neo-Catholic might well lament the current state of the liturgy in a general way. But he will not confront the fact that the spectacle of a charismatic guitar Mass with babbling parishioners, slaying in the Spirit, people falling backwards onto the floor of the sanctuary, altar girls, female lectors, communion in the hand, and readings by a Protestant minister, conducted in a church used jointly by a Catholic parish and a Protestant sect, is entirely permissible under guidelines approved by Paul VI and John Paul II, including the utterly astounding 1993 Directory on Ecumenism.86
To give another example, neo-Catholics can often be heard complaining about the scandal of sex education in Catholic schools. Yet they will never mention that for 30 years the Holy See has been well aware of the pornographic content of Catholic sex-ed curricula and has taken no action to remove them from Catholic schools, much less punish the bishops, priests and nuns who force these vile curricula upon innocent children.87 On the contrary, despite the teaching of the pre-Vatican II Magisterium condemning any form of sex education88, Cardinal Ratzinger declared that there was no problem from the doctrinal point of view with the obscene New Creation course, then passed it over to Cardinal Baum, who likewise approved it and sent it back to America, where it has been destroying the innocence of children ever since.89 While the Vatican goes on allowing little children to be scandalized in Catholic classrooms around the world, the conservatives heap lavish praise on a toothless 1995 Vatican document, issued 30 years too late, which contains the laughable advice that it is recommended that respect be given to the right of the child ... to withdraw from any form of sexual instruction imparted outside the home.90 Recommended? It is an intolerable outrage in the first place that a Catholic child should have to withdraw from a Catholic classroom in order to preserve his innocence!
The same refusal to place the blame where it belongs characterizes the conservative Catholics approach to the post-conciliar Vatican program of collaborating with the very forces of secularism the preconciliar popes condemned. Thus, conservative Catholics will decry Ted Turners gift of a billion dollars to the godless United Nations, as did Mother Angelica at one of the conservatives widely publicized Call to Holiness conferences. Yet they never mention that the Vatican, a permanent observer at the U.N., is one of that organizations staunchest supporters, despite measured reservations about particular U.N. policies or activities which it otherwise subscribes to. [For example, the Vatican is a signatory to the deplorable U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.91] Neither will conservatives mention that the Conciliar document Gaudium et spes called precisely for establishment of a world government92, or that in the very midst of the Council Paul VI traveled to New York to pay tribute to the United Nations as this lofty institution, and the last great hope for concord and peace, declaring: Let unanimous trust in this institution grow, let its authority increase .... Nor will conservatives breathe a word about the fact that Pope John Paul II, a major contributor to Gaudium et spes, expressed the same sentiments as his predecessor in his own address to the U.N. thirty years later. On that occasion the current Pope proclaimed the esteem of the Apostolic See and of the Catholic Church for this institution and pronounced the U.N. worldwide promoter of contraception, abortion and atheistic humanism a great instrument for harmonizing and coordinating (!) international life.93 God forbid.
There is still another device by which conservatives seek to resolve the tension between the continuity of ecclesial traditions and obedience to the current program of unprecedented innovation: Some of them pretend that there is no tension at all by simply declaring that anything whatever the Pope decrees is by definition traditional: [W]hat the Church approves is, by definition, compatible with Catholic Traditions; for the Church, especially the Holy See, is ... the arbiter and judge of Tradition. [The Pope, the Mass and the Council, p. 71-72] The problem with this argument is that it deprives Tradition of any objective content, reducing it essentially to whatever the Pope desires. The result is pure nonsense: altar girls, for example, become traditional, even though they were forbidden for the entire 2,000 year history of the Church, and were even forbidden by Pope John Paul II until he abruptly reversed his own prior decree.
The abandonment of the traditional Mass in favor of a new vernacular Mass also becomes traditional. In fact, innovation itself becomes traditional. The truth of the matter is that the Pope is not the arbiter of Tradition, but its custodian, as Gamber observed with the approbation of Cardinal Ratzinger. When Pius IX declared that I am Tradition!, he meant that he represented Tradition, not that Tradition was his to determine. Tradition does not need an arbiter because Tradition is a manifest fact: the sum total of what Catholics have always believed and practiced in their faith and worship. None of that had changed in any material respect before 1965. To say, therefore, that the changes of the past 35 years are compatible with Tradition is to deny reality; it is even to deny what Paul VI himself said when introducing the new Mass on November 26, 1969: We must prepare ourselves. This novelty is no small thing.
In order to maintain his position, therefore, the conservative Catholic must live in a constant state of denial about the ultimate source of the current crisis in the Church. This assumes the conservative is willing to admit that there is a crisis to begin with. As already noted, many conservatives insist that we are in the midst of a great renewal.
The conservative wants to believe and wants us to believe that the liturgical revolution and the ecumenical venture imposed upon us by Rome are good in themselves, and that the problem, if any, lies with abuses in the application of these unexampled novelties at the pastoral level. He stubbornly refuses to concede the possibility that the vast program of aggiornamento directed from the Vatican over the past 35 years is flawed in principle, even though it has been accompanied by the manifest devastation of the entire landscape of the Church.
When we examine the conservative approach to the pre-Vatican II Magisterium, we find a further tendency to self-contradiction in the conservative position: Many of the same conservatives who counsel blind obedience to the reforms of Paul VI and John Paul II are curiously ambivalent when it comes to the definitive anti-modernist teaching of the great preconciliar popes, which does not square well with the Vaticans current non-infallible pastoral program.
A remarkable example of this is to be found in the writings of prominent conservative Alan Schreck, a professor of theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, which has acquired a reputation for uncompromising orthodoxy. In discussing the Syllabus of Errors of Pius IX, which non-liberal theologians regard as a probably infallible condemnation of the very principles of modern civilization, Schreck opines that:
Unfortunately, the Syllabus condemned most of the new ideas of the day and gave the impression that the Catholic Church was against everything in the modern world ... The Catholic Church looked like it was becoming a fortress Church, standing in opposition to the modern world and rejecting all new ideas.94
But, of course, a fortress against the ideas of the world is precisely what the Catholic Church is meant to be by her divine Founder. The Church has no need of the worlds new ideas (which are really old heresies with new faces) since she is the repository of everything that has already been revealed to us by God. Schrecks slighting of the Syllabus, which appears in Denzinger as binding Catholic doctrine, is in stark contrast to the obsequious obedience conservatives display toward every non-infallible pastoral directive of the post-conciliar era.
Schrecks assessment of the definitive acts of Pius X against the modernists is even more revealing of this self-contradiction within the conservative idea:
It is probably true that Pius X overreacted (!) against the threat of Modernism, which led to the stifling of creative (!) Catholic research, especially in the area of biblical and historical studies, over the next fifty years ...95
So, then, Pope St. Pius X, perhaps the greatest Pope in Church history and the only Pope to be canonized in the past 500 years, is blithely accused of overreacting by professor Schreck of Steubenville! Yet conservatives like Schreck would never dream of accusing Paul VI of overreacting in his quest for Christian unity when he suddenly imposed on the entire Church a new rite of Mass, concocted with the aid of six Protestant advisors under the guidance of a suspected Mason who was later dismissed and packed off to Iran!96
Another striking example of this self-contradiction is to be found in The Pope, the Mass and the Council, a celebrated book-length defense of the conservative view that we must embrace each and every one of the post-conciliar reforms, including the abominable ICEL translation of the Mass into English approved by Vatican bureaucrats. The authors concede that the Catechism of the Council of Trent clearly teaches that the words of Our Lord over the Cup of His Blood are to be translated pro vobis et pro multis for you and for many because the Church has always taught that the fruits of the Sacrifice of the Mass benefit only the elect, not all men.97 Yet ICEL mistranslates for many as for all.
Faced with this undeniable conflict between a solemnly promulgated Catechism of the universal Church and a currently approved vernacular translation of the Mass, the authors give the Catechism the heave-ho: [I]t [the Catechism] was not issued by the Council of Trent but was only prepared afterwards at the request of the Council.98 But the authors fail to mention that the Catechism of the Council of Trent was solemnly promulgated by the authority of Pius V, a canonized saint! In further support of a mistranslation which alters the very theology of the Mass and contradicts Trent, and which Msgr. Gamber rightly calls scandalous, the authors cite a liberal theologian who claimed in 1963 that Christ had no intention of establishing a rigid formula.99 Thus, the conservative will even resort to the opinions of liberals to justify the unprecedented innovations of the current program.
For many conservatives, then, absolute obeisance to papal pronouncements ends at the chasm marked by the year 1960. Beyond that chasm, their allegiance to the constant teaching of the Magisterium seems to wane; the preconciliar popes become for them hazy figures, whose encyclicals and solemnly promulgated catechisms may be minimized as the outdated artifacts of a bygone era to the extent that they conflict with post-conciliar novelties. Two thousand years of traditional teaching and praxis become a closed book, or at least a book which must be edited and revised in accordance with the new and separate book of Vatican II.
The elements of denial and self-contradiction in conservative Catholicism are not the only problem with this phenomenon. Some conservatives, particularly a number of the more prominent ones, seem discontent to remain immured in the compromises of their own position while leaving others to their own approach to the crisis. For these conservatives there is an unfortunate tendency to denounce those who have refused to join them: namely, the traditionalists.
Thus we are treated to the spectacle of certain conservatives who timidly decline to name any of the liberals demolishing the Church before their very eyes, yet fearlessly name and publicly condemn traditionalists whose only offense is to continue to practice the Faith precisely as it was always practiced before 1965.
A notable case in point is Karl Keatings ruthless persecution of Gerry Matatics, the renowned convert from Presbyterianism who was once a conservative but joined the traditionalist movement in 1992. Keating, a conservative Catholic apologist from San Diego, was not content merely to denounce Mr. Matatics in the Catholic press as a sad example of how schism leads very quickly to heresy.100 Pressing his attack ever further, Keating spent the next two years systematically ruining the good name and apostolate of Mr. Matatics publishing article after article against him, contacting bishops and others who had endorsed his apostolate to urge them to withdraw their endorsements, and recommending that he not be permitted to speak at parishes and other conservative venues. Yet Mr. Matatics, the father of eight children, has never ceased to be a Catholic in good standing, and is currently professor of Sacred Scripture at a traditional seminary in good standing with Rome.
Mr. Keating has never in his entire career as an apologist launched such an attack against any other member of the Church not even the arch liberals who are plundering her institutions while Keating, and other conservatives of his stripe, watch silently. And while Keating labored mightily to persuade bishops to withdraw their endorsements of Mr. Matatics, it does not appear that this self-styled opponent of Protestant errors has ever urged any bishop to withdraw his endorsement of Billy Graham, for example, whose Billy Graham Crusade is promoted by bishops around the country even though Mr. Graham condones contraception, divorce and hard case abortions.101
This reveals another aspect of the malignity of certain conservatives toward traditionalists: traditionalists are easy targets, unlike Billy Graham or such liberal prelates as Cardinal Mahony, who endorses Keatings work. The conservative leader who publicly denounces traditionalists can defend the faith without fear of reprisal or loss of support for his middle way apostolate. Indeed, Keating has not been sated by the persecution of one traditionalist with a wife and eight children. At a recent Defending the Faith conference at (where else?) Steubenville, Keating announced that he is writing an entire book about dissenters on the right. The Church burns while Keating fiddles on about extreme traditionalists, illicit Latin Masses, rigorists and Feeneyites.
As the Keating affair demonstrates, there is a kind of Soviet-style purge in store for traditionalists who disrupt the conservatives state of denial, and who suggest by their own repudiation of the post-conciliar debacle that the conservative is an accessory to it. The traditionalist victim of conservative repression is cast into outer darkness, declared a schismatic the conservative Catholics equivalent of the Soviet non-person so that the conservative cohort can continue to accommodate itself to the debacle without further disturbance. In the case of Mr. Matatics, the purge has even extended to the clumsy deletion of his name from programs re-broadcast on EWTN concerning prominent evangelical converts to the Faith, and the announcement on EWTN radio that Mr. Matatics has left the Church. For the conservative establishment Mr. Matatics has ceased to exist; he has gone over; he has abandoned the great renewal to embrace instead the constant traditions of the Church which began to disappear so mysteriously in 1960, when the Third Secret of Fatima was locked away in a desk drawer by Pope John XXIII.
We can see, then, how conservative Catholicism has vastly complicated the current crisis. Unwitting watchdogs of the post-conciliar revolution, the conservatives slumber while an army of burglars ransack the household of the Faith, but now and then leap to their feet to run upstairs and yap at traditionalists who have taken refuge in the attic with their few remaining possessions, including some illicit Latin Masses. Meanwhile, the burglars continue their work without hindrance.
Thanks to the emergence of conservative Catholicism, for the first time in Church history staunch Catholic traditionalism has become an epithet. The very existence of a false conservative middle-ground between revolution and tradition has permitted the revolutionaries to emarginate traditionalists. As arch-liberal Richard P. McBrien put it in his book The Remaking of the Catholic Church: Criticism of the extreme right by moderate conservatives is far more effective than by moderate progressives.102
Indeed it is. The conservatives, however unwittingly, have served the revolution well. Yet it was Pope St. Pius X, ten years before Our Lady appeared at Fatima, who warned the faithful of the growing potential for revolution in the Church, and who reminded us all that the true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries, nor innovators: they are the traditionalists.103
As our brief discussion of "conservative" Catholicism should make clear, the term is really a misnomer. A conservative is by definition one who conserves, with reverent devotion, and even with a certain fierceness, whatever he has received in the sound traditions of his community. This is all the more so in the Holy Catholic Church, a community whose founder is God Himself, and whose traditions reflect as much as possible the perfect conservatism of this immutable God.
For century after century those traditions, especially the liturgy, nourished and instructed the faithful in an abode set apart from time and human progress, where the eternal I am could be heard clearly in the silence and seen in the majesty of rituals by which man strove to give God not one iota less than what He is due.
St. Peter Canisius, Doctor of the Church, expressed the essence of true Catholic conservatism in his Summae Doctrinae Christianae: It behooves us unanimously and inviolably to observe the ecclesiastical traditions, whether codified or simply retained by the customary practice of the Church.104 The duty to preserve traditional praxis, whether or not it is strictly Apostolic, is so crucial to the common good of the Church that it was set forth in the profession of Faith promulgated by Pope Pius IV:
The apostolic and ecclesiastical traditions, and all other observances and institutions of that same Church I most firmly admit and embrace ... I also receive and admit the received and approved ceremonies of the Catholic Church used in the solemn administration of all the aforesaid sacraments.105
Why is the preservation of ancient praxis so vital to the Church that it pertains to the very profession of the Faith? Because the practices of the Faith enshrine the supernatural realities of the Faith, visibly manifesting and affirming their power and truth. To change abruptly - or worse, abolish - practices which have grown up gradually around a doctrine or a sacrament as a work of the Holy Ghost over centuries, is to run the risk that the faithful will lose belief in the doctrine or the sacrament. To change or abolish not one or two, but many ancient customary practices in the Church, is to run the risk of mass defections from the Faith.
We recall that it was Pope Pius XII who spoke prophetically of the suicide of altering the liturgy, predicting the day when sanctuary lamps would no longer be seen in many Catholic churches, and we would ask ourselves Where have they taken Him? His Holiness did not use the word suicide lightly. The fear of ecclesial suicide (in a relative sense, of course, since the Church cannot die) is precisely why the post-conciliar innovations were utterly unthinkable to the preconciliar popes, including the very last of them. In Veterum Sapientia John XXIII called for a massive rededication to the Church's unbroken Latin tradition, and warned: Let no innovator dare to write against the use of Latin in the sacred rites ... nor let them in their folly attempt to minimize the will of the Apostolic See in this matter.106 [It is utterly astonishing that only months later this apostolic letter of a Supreme Pontiff was completely ignored trampled underfoot in the uncontrollable stampede of reform which Pope John himself had unleashed by calling the Council.]
We have already noted that even "conservative" Catholics are constrained to admit that after the Council the Catholic Church embarked on a series of reforms and changes which have scarcely left a single Catholic unaffected; and which, in many respects, have changed the external image of the Church.107 But when the "conservative" remarks this fact, he remarks it blandly - as if it were not an outrage beyond words that those entrusted with preserving the common good of the Church would dare to alter the very image of the Bride of Christ, stripping her of her immemorial liturgy and a host of other precious traditions almost overnight. Surveying the vast effects of this incalculable disaster some thirty years later, the -"conservative" Catholic professes to wonder what the traditionalists are fussing about.
We find a particularly egregious example of this "conservative" attitude in the recent remarks of prominent "conservative" Pat Madrid in the "conservative" organ New Oxford Review.108 Madrid, one of the so-called new breed of Catholic apologists, writes condescendingly of the stultifying anger, smoldering resentment and anti-Vatican II agendas of many traditionalists who attend indult Masses. And Madrid is referring here to his traditionalist friends! [It should come as no surprise that Madrid was until recently a close colleague of Karl Keating, the relentless inquisitor of Gerry Matatics and others he considers extreme traditionalists.]109
In a typical display of the self-contradiction inherent in the conservative idea, Madrid admits that he has abandoned the Novus Ordo for the Eastern Rite to escape liturgical abuses. He even admits that in the Novus Ordo the fire of the Faith is sputtering in the hearts of the people in the pews. Yet, although Madrid recognizes that the Roman rite is now a disaster area, he does nothing but run from the scene while hurling insults over his shoulder at those who have remained behind in an effort to repair some of the damage by restoring the traditional liturgy at indult parishes. Madrid surrenders without protest his entire heritage as a member of the Roman Rite, and then has the amazing temerity to belittle in public his own supposed friends because they refuse to join him in surrender. And, in a kind of perverse loyalty to the revolution, Madrid declines to reclaim some small part of his heritage even when it is offered to him by way of an indult Mass. He cannot bear to worship with those unpleasant traditionalists, who have the bad taste to display righteous anger over the destruction of the Roman Rite! One would dearly like to ask Mr. Madrid if Our Lord was guilty of stultifying anger when He drove the profaners of the Temple into the streets with a whip.
Madrid's flight into the Eastern Rite is not the path chosen by most conservatives, who have simply accommodated themselves to the debacle. We have already noted that some conservatives actually see the post-conciliar reforms as nothing less than cause for rejoicing. "Conservative" Peter Schreck, a great proponent of the "charismatic renewal", opines in his Compact History of the Catholic Church that the post-conciliar years are a new Pentecost marked by thousands of Catholics being baptized in the Holy Spirit. In regard to the sudden eruption of Catholic ecumenism at Vatican II, Schreck offers the following remarkable observation: "This document [Vatican II's Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio] truly began a new era in the relationship of the Catholic Church with other Christians. Throwing off all triumphalism of the past, the Catholic Church openly acknowledged its (sic) share of the blame for the division of Christianity.110
It does not seem to occur to "conservatives" like Schreck that this kind of talk destroys belief in the Church. For if the Church was wrong to be "triumphal" throughout the centuries and must now "throw off" her imposture; and if her ancient untouchable liturgy had gone wrong after 1,965 years and needed suddenly to be "thrown off" as well, then perhaps the Church, being wrong in her triumphalism and in her liturgy, is wrong about other things as well. And if that is the case, then perhaps the Church is not the divinely founded institution she had always claimed " triumphally" to be. At least that is what many of the once faithful Catholics in the pews (or gone from the pews in ever-increasing droves) were led to believe by the bewildering series of reversals which began almost immediately after the Third Secret of Fatima was consigned to oblivion in the papal apartments of John XXIII.
We must remember that generalizations about "conservatives" at the subjective level of the individual are perilous. Many Catholics are conservatives only because the Novus Ordo is all they have ever known, or because it is all they have access to in their dioceses. These "conservatives" have never consciously rejected their heritage as members of the Roman Rite - on the contrary, many of them may long for a return to integral Tradition. Nor is it possible for anyone but God Almighty to judge the personal holiness of anyone, "conservative" or traditionalist.
The focus of this discussion is the idea of "conservative" Catholicism as a system of novel practices and attitudes which began to appear in the Church during the 1960s. The "conservative" idea is exemplified by such "conservative" leaders as Schreck, Keating and Madrid, who embrace it in spite of the ample historical evidence that it has caused, and continues to cause, incalculable damage to the Church. Based on the objective words and deeds of some of the more prominent conservatives, we can safely generalize about the "conservative" idea. Particular applications aside, it is the idea that with the advent of the Second Vatican Council a new mode of orthodoxy suddenly arose in the Church - an orthodoxy stripped of any vital link to ecclesial traditions (especially the Roman liturgy) once considered an untouchable sacred trust. It is the idea that by virtue of Vatican II the Church has in some manner, never clearly defined, progressed beyond what she was before the Council to a new mode of existence, and that this progression requires an assent on the part of the faithful which is somehow different from the assent required to the constant teaching of all the previous councils.
When conservatives like Madrid say that traditionalists are "anti-Vatican II", they are saying more than they seem to realize. They are saying that our Faith has come to be defined by a particular Council and the revolutionary reforms and new attitudes it engendered. What this means is that the "conservative" idea is nothing more or less than a form of progressive or liberal Catholicism - whether a given "conservative" knows it or not, or is, subjectively speaking, a liberal by intent. For the distinctive legacy of Vatican II which the "conservative" celebrates and demands that we "embrace" does not consist in doctrine, but in liberalizing reforms and attitudes many of which were explicitly condemned before the Council.
If this verdict on "conservative" Catholicism seems harsh and uncharitable, let the verdict be confirmed by a leading "conservative" himself. In a recent article in Crisis magazine, entitled Sensibly Center-Right, "conservative" luminary George Sim Johnston praises the book Being Right: Conservative Catholics in America, a compendium of the views of a host of Johnston's fellow "conservative" Catholic leaders, lumped together with pieces written by doctrinaire liberals. In the process of praising the book, Johnston lays bare the whole truth about the "conservative" idea:
"The featured players [James Hitchcock, Helen Hull Hitchcock, George Weigel and James Sullivan, formerly of Catholics United for the Faith] do not locate themselves on the theological right. They embrace Vatican II, don t pine for the Tridentine liturgy, and support the historically radical ecumenism of John Paul II. By any historical measure, the conservatives in this volume are progressive Catholics. Unlike the Sadducees on the Catholic left and the Pharisees on the truly Catholic right, the conservatives in this volume understand the pontificate of John Paul II because they understand the Second Vatican Council. They understand that Christ founded a teaching Church whose doctrines are not subject to whim and manipulation. But they also realize that the Church, being human and organic, has to change".111
There we have it all: The destroyed Roman Rite is a mere Tridentine artifact not worth "pining" over. Liberals are Sadducees, traditionalists are Pharisees, while the progressive conservatives are sensibly center-right. The Church just has to change, you see. Johnston even refers to his own kind as "neo-conservative Catholics", who "are not looking for a nostalgia driven restoration" - as if the ancient ecclesial traditions of the Holy Catholic Church were mere nostalgia pieces to be discarded like the detritus of popular culture.
According to Johnston, the "conservatives" and the "historically radical" ecumenist, John Paul II, understand each other because they all "understand" Vatican II. The Council has become a kind of secret hermeneutical key to the practice of the Faith. Johnston even claims that the Pope is serving as the "guide and inspiration [for] a genuine Catholic renewal" which he describes as "a populist phenomenon ... unfolding outside the official Catholic apparatus." (This "populist phenomenon" does not include any traditionalists or Tridentine Masses, of course.) So the Pope and his sensibly center-right commandos the only people in the Church who really "understand" Vatican II - are going to "renew" the Church outside of her own "official apparatus"! What sort of gnostic-progressivist nonsense is this? It is the "conservative" idea in full flight, cut loose from the ecclesiastical traditions and institutions which were overthrown by the post-conciliar revolution. Notice also yet another example of the "conservative" Catholic's inevitable tendency to self-contradiction: While "conservatives" like Johnston readily condemn traditionalists for working outside the "official apparatus" of the Church, Johnston sees nothing wrong with a populist movement of his fellow "conservatives" which does precisely the same thing, but with no intention of restoring lost traditions which the "conservatives", in their Vatican II gnosis, consider mere nostalgia.
Now, the doctrinaire "conservative" has a ready reply to this verdict on his way of thinking; an argument from authority the mere recitation of which he seems to think must end the case in his favor: If I am a liberal, the "conservative" will declare with a flourish, then so is Pope John Paul II! But in playing the Pope card, all the "conservative" does is to expose precisely why there has been a post-conciliar debacle in the first place. For it is undeniable that "by any historical measure" to use Johnston's own phrase John Paul II's pontificate has been quite liberal in certain matters of discipline, prudential judgment and private opinion. Even Johnston admits that the Pope's wholly unprecedented ecumenism is "historically radical". Indeed, Johnston's very point is that the Pope, like the "conservatives", is a progressive by preconciliar standards. That progressivism is evident in the Pope s ecumenism, his interfaith prayer meetings, his approval of altar girls, his call for greater "enculturation" of an already fragmented liturgy, his attendance at rock concerts, and his views on matters such as evolution and the application of the death penalty, which do not pertain to the charism of papal infallibility.112
It is impossible to mount a serious argument that papal acts such as the World Day of Prayer at Assisi or the permission for altar girls are the marks of a conservative papacy. Nor is it conceivable that Pius XII, Pius X or any other preconciliar pope could have written an encyclical like Ut Unum Sint, which calls for the establishment of a commission (since formed) to examine which aspects of the papacy can be done away with for the sake of "Christian unity". Indeed, the altar girl fiasco showed many "conservatives" that the Pope is actually more liberal than they are in certain matters. The mere sight of girls assisting at the altar of God for the first time in Church history was enough to drive a number of "conservatives" into the traditionalist movement. [Most conservatives, however, followed their characteristic syndrome of denial, suddenly deciding that altar girls were not that important an issue after all, even though only months before they had condemned the demand for altar girls as the worst sort of modernism.]
It must be stressed that although John Paul II has followed a largely liberal program in the realm of prudential decisions and non-infallible pronouncements and opinions, no member of the Faithful has the right to judge his person. Nor should any Catholic, despairing over the current condition of the Church, allow himself to wander into the fever swamp of sedevacantism, where the devil ensnares good Catholics in the terrible delusion that they can decide who is the lawful occupant of the See of Peter.
The fact remains that John Paul II is our Pope, and that whenever it was necessary to make a definitive pronouncement to prevent an actual defection from the deposit of the Faith (on women's ordination, for example), he held the line. Nevertheless, honesty compels us to admit the evidence of our senses: The overall drift of this pontificate, and that of Paul VI, is simply not in line with the course charted by every Pope before 1960. It is ultimately this fact which explains why the Roman Rite has become such a spiritual disaster area that even conservatives like Madrid feel compelled to flee from it.
We have shown that the failure of the "conservative" idea is that it has largely reduced the practice of the Faith to a false middle ground lying between two supposed extremes, when the duty of Catholics is precisely to be extreme, refusing to sacrifice even one iota of the sacred patrimony of the Church to the demands of modernity. If one is to apply political terminology to the practice of the Faith, as Johnston does, then the duty of Catholics is not to be sensibly center-right but radically right-wing, yielding absolutely nothing to the radical Left. For if we (or even the Pope) should yield ground to those who would destroy us, we are lost. No less than Pope Pius XI, who condemned the ecumenical movement and established the Feast of Christ the King, expressed the matter in these very terms:
The crisis we are experiencing is unique in history ... It is no longer permitted to be mediocre. Everyone has the imperative duty to remember that he has a mission to fulfill ... each within the limits of his activity, to bring the world back to Christ. Only by being radicals of the right will Catholics have the dynamism to withstand the radicals of the left and to conquer the world for Christ.113
Because it is largely a compromise with the forces of revolution in the Church, "conservative" Catholicism necessarily lacks the dynamism Pius XI expected of the faithful. Though it contains no heresies, and many of its practitioners may be pious individuals, "conservative" Catholicism was, and remains, woefully short of a radical response to the revolutionaries who swarmed out of that Trojan Horse in the City of God known as the Second Vatican Council.
"Conservative" Catholicism is mediocre. It splits the difference between Tradition and revolution settling for, and even praising, a hopelessly ruined liturgy, while offering an enfeebled evangelization which shrinks from declaring that the very salvation of souls depends upon their conversion to the one true religion. The conservative's version of militancy is limited to complaining about some of the wildest excesses of the revolution, but without daring to suggest that there be a counter-revolution to restore the Church to her perennial state before the Council.
What is more, on a whole range of matters pertaining to the Faith "conservative" Catholicism has given ground to neo-modernism: on the liturgy; on sacred music; on the anti-modernism of the preconciliar popes; on the preconciliar papal warnings regarding Masonic conspiracies against the Church (which many conservatives find faintly amusing); on the constant condemnation of worship in common with non-Catholics; on the duty of the State, as well as the individual, to profess the Catholic Faith; on the consecration and conversion of Russia; on the literal truth of the Bible as history, especially the first three chapters of Genesis; on evolution; on classroom sex education, and even on the virtue of modesty itself. [This last item is amply demonstrated by a recent Life on the Rock call-in show on EWTN, hosted by "conservative" Jeff Cavins. The teen callers were allowed to ask explicit questions about sexual sins on the air, during a show whose ostensible theme was modesty and purity! Matters best left to the confessional were broadcast to the world on live television as topics for casual conversation.]
"Conservative" Catholicism lacks the fighting spirit of the Church militant as exemplified by the people of Vendée, who shed their blood and gave their substance in the battle to defend Tradition against the French revolutionaries. Confronted by what Cardinal Suenens himself admitted was the French Revolution in the Church, the "conservative" Catholic offered no resistance to the disastrous changes, even though he could have licitly resisted with complete safety to his membership in the Church, as the growing traditionalist movement demonstrates.
In sum, the "conservative" Catholic is richly deserving of a new name; for in truth he has conserved nothing but what the revolution has allowed him to keep. He does not seem terribly interested in conserving even what little the revolution might be willing to return to him from his stolen patrimony. He is just as likely to sniff at it with disdain, as Madrid does. The "conservative" has largely buried his own past, seeming no longer to remember that traditionalists are nothing other than what he himself once was, not so long ago.
The conservatives should be described, therefore, by a name which reflects what they really are, and what conservatives like Johnston demonstrate they are: They should be called neo-Catholics, who practice neo-Catholicism. When the counter-revolution is won, when unity of cult is restored to the Roman Rite, when the word Catholic has recovered the same meaning and the same sense for every member of the Faithful, there will no longer be any need for such terms. But for now, there is a need. The neo-Catholics cannot in justice be allowed to continue claiming for themselves the mantle of sound orthodoxy. Nor should they be permitted any longer to portray traditionalists as extremists for worshiping as Catholics have always worshiped and believing as Catholics have always believed.
Eighty years after Our Lady appeared at Fatima, the Faithful who still remember the Church as she appeared only 35 years ago now survey an alien landscape they could never have envisioned before the Council. The liturgy of the Roman Rite has collapsed, as Cardinal Ratzinger admits, shattered into hundreds of ever-mutating vernacular fragments in the various nations. The high altar has been replaced by a table; the marble tabernacle on the altar by a wooden box in a side room. The altar boys have given way to altar girls, and the majesty of Gregorian chant to the bathos of a strumming guitar or a tinkling piano.
For many years now the Vatican, like the new liturgy, has ceased speaking to us about the Four Last Things: death, judgment, Heaven and Hell. Yet it was the loss of Heaven and the torments of Hell which Our Lady was sent to earth to show the seers of Fatima, at the dawn of this century of rebellion against God. It seems that the more the world rebels, the less the Vatican speaks of the eternal hellfire which is the punishment for that rebellion.
As the Four Last Things recede from the pronouncements of the Holy See, the Social Kingship of Christ is being replaced by something called "the civilization of love" a phrase coined by Paul VI which has become a kind of Vatican advertising slogan.114 A reading of various Vatican statements over the years reveals that this civilization of love is a largely U.N.-administered project of building a new world of tolerance and respect for human dignity out of more or less equal parts of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and assorted pagan mystery religions.
The signal event of the new program was the infamous Word Day of Prayer for Peace at Assisi in October 1986, a Vatican initiative underwritten by the globalist National Wildlife Foundation. According to L Osservatore Romano, the Pope had summoned practitioners of the world's great religions to assemble in Assisi in order to celebrate the harmony of spirits in the pluriformity of choices.115 Cardinal Arinze, head of the Vatican Secretariat for Non-Christian Religions, declared that for building world peace we need the United Nations, and he praised the Pope s "unprecedented step" in calling "leaders of all world religions, Christian and otherwise, to Assisi to pray for peace in the world"116
Citing Vatican II s teaching on religious liberty, Cardinal Arinze exclaimed that it is a beautiful thing that Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, African Traditional Religionists, Shintoists, Confucianists, Sikhs and other believers can come together to express a common concern for peace in the world.117 The Pope himself declared that for the first time in history we have come together from everywhere, Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities, and World Religions in this sacred place dedicated to St. Francis, to witness before the world, each according to his own conviction, about the transcendent quality of peace.118 But what sort of peace could come from a bizarre gathering of false religions in a sacred Catholic place, a gesture any preconciliar pope would have regarded as unspeakably scandalous? What sort of peace has the world enjoyed since the World Day of Prayer for Peace at Assisi? Certainly not the peace of Christ nor even a worldly peace.
The Vatican produced an official book of the event, setting forth in alphabetical order the prayers that were uttered by representatives of the world's great religions in the plaza outside the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi: from the Buddhist Prayer for Peace to the Zoroastrian Prayer for peace. Oddly enough, the book does not include a Catholic Prayer for Peace, but only a generalized Christian intercession.119 Is the Holy Catholic Church now a mere denomination of the larger Christian religion?
The Faithful were assured that despite all appearances, the event was not a scandal, because while the "world's great religions" had come together to pray, they had not actually prayed together, but rather one at a time, a distinction that would make a Jesuit blush. And so yet another novelty has taken its place in the life of the post-conciliar Church: the "Spirit of Assisi". In 1996 Cardinal Etchégaray, president of the Pontifical Commission for Peace and Justice, issued a statement celebrating the phrase, which the Pope himself coined. The statement concludes with this strange and disturbing invocation: "Spirit of Assisi come upon us all!"120
At Assisi in 1986 Cardinal Etchégaray declared in the presence of the Pope that "Each of the religions we profess has inner peace and peace among individuals and nations as one of its aims. Each one pursues this aim in its own distinctive and irreplaceable way."121 Is the "Spirit of Assisi" a spirit which leads Cardinals to believe that the false religions of the world are irreplaceable in the pursuit of inner peace and world peace? Is not every false religion which darkens the soul of man completely and instantly replaceable by the true religion founded by Jesus Christ, the very Prince of Peace?
In 1910 Pope St. Pius X was confronted with the Sillon Movement, a group of utopian Catholics in France advancing a thesis remarkably similar to this "Spirit of Assisi". The movement's leader, Marc Sangnier, was teaching that Catholics must build a new civilization through the cooperation of all men of good will, regardless of their creed. Piercing this movement's apparently benign facade, Pius X condemned it as a miserable affluent of apostasy being organized in every country for the establishment of a One-World Church.122 His Holiness called instead for a return to Christendom, to the Catholic confessional state of pre-revolutionary Europe, as the only sound foundation for a just civilization:
"The City cannot be built otherwise than as God has built it; society cannot be built up unless the Church lays the foundations and supervises the work; no, civilization is not something yet to be found, nor is the New City to be built on hazy notions; it has been in existence and still is: it is Christian civilization, it is the Catholic City."123
Pius X condemned the Sillon movement precisely because it exhibited the Spirit of Assisi. As His Holiness observed with just contempt, the Sillon proposed to leave "to each one his own religion or his philosophy", and had abandoned the principle that "Democracy will be Catholic' in favor of "Democracy will not be anti-Catholic, any more than it will be anti-Jewish or anti-Buddhist ... The movement, he noted further, brashly "appealed to the workers of all religions and sects ... to share the same social ideal, to respect all creeds, and to bring with them a certain supply of moral force".
This great sainted pope called the Sillon "a miserable affluent of apostasy" because he knew, with all the wisdom of the Church's perennial teaching, that "there is no true civilization without moral civilization, and no true moral civilization without the true religion".124 He knew, as his successor Pius XI had proclaimed in Quas Primas, that When once men recognize that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony.125 And he knew, as Pope Leo XIII taught us in Annum Sacrum, that the Kingship of Christ "includes not only Catholic nations, not only baptized persons ... but also all those who are outside the Christian faith; so that truly the whole of mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ."126 Is this not what Our Lady came to tell us at Fatima?
Today the Vatican no longer speaks to the world of the social Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ over all men and all nations. It speaks of a pluralistic civilization of love. What is more, Cardinal Ratzinger freely admits that the Vatican has abandoned the traditional teaching for all practical purposes, and will now be content to promote a non-Catholic civilization based on common "human" values:
"I think the tendency to identify a certain society with Christianity will fade ... We hope and will do all we can to ensure that at least the fundamental tenets are retained, the values which underpin human existence, the things that lead to true humanism."127
Cardinal Ratzinger did not mention on this occasion that Pius IX's Syllabus of Errors condemned the opinion that "in the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of other forms of religion."128
In a theology text he authored, however, Cardinal Ratzinger observed that the documents of Vatican II, especially Gaudium et Spes, “comprise a ‘counter syllabus’ designed to ‘correct’... the one-sidedness of the position adopted by the Church under Pius IX and Pius X”, and are an “attempt at an official reconciliation with the new era inaugurated in 1789”.129
That is, the documents of Vatican II are an attempt to overrule the definitive pronouncements of two great Popes and embrace the principles of the French Revolution: liberty for all religions, true or false; equality for all men, regardless of merit; fraternity of all men, whether or not they recognize Christ the King.
Before 1960 the popes understood that God s grace can make possible, even in the "modern world", attainment of the Catholic City praised by St. Pius X as the only truly just society. Yet today the Vatican surrenders the Catholic ideal because it no longer sees it as practical, settling for a human compromise with the increasingly rebellious rabble of modern societies.
As the Kingship of Christ is abandoned of favor of a "true humanism", the evangelism of old, which produced a growing stream of converts until 1960, has given way to a kind of vast ecclesial public relations campaign. The Vatican calendar is full of media events which promote peace, justice and solidarity, but never mention the ultimate salvation or damnation of souls for all eternity: World Youth Days with human chains and rock music; a Year 2000 Jubilee with a contest for the best logo; a Eucharistic Congress in Bologna featuring Bob Dylan in concert (for which the Faithful paid $350,000); and, almost monthly it seems, another motorcade to a stadium full of papal fans, who wave, cheer, go home and generally ignore whatever teaching of the Magisterium crimps their global village lifestyles.
In the 13 years which have passed since the last failed attempt to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as Our Lady requested at Fatima, 600 million children have been murdered in the womb, with no end of the slaughter in sight. Legalized mercy-killing has already arrived and will soon become a new holocaust. Russia has passed a law discriminating against the Catholic Church and in favor of Islam, Judaism and Hinduism. China has driven the Church underground. All of Europe is being merged into a commonwealth of abortion, contraception, divorce and homosexual rights. The United Nations, to which the Popes now pay tribute, busily coordinates emergence of the one-world government called for by Gaudium et Spes (#81).
As we observe the astounding wreckage of the Church we once knew; as the nations of the world are inexorably integrated into a new world order applauded by the Vatican itself, we recognize a truth which sums up the social and religious trends of the past two hundred years which a long line of preconciliar popes heroically resisted: The civilization of love and the culture of death are one and the same thing despite all the efforts of the current Pope to pry them apart. They are one and the same thing because they are inseparably conjoined in what Pius X contemptuously described as the Sillonist utopia of: "a Democracy which will be neither Catholic nor Protestant, nor Jewish. It will be a religion ... more universal than the Catholic Church, uniting all men as brothers and comrades at last in the Kingdom of God ".130
It is indeed the civilization of love but only a human love, and only for those deemed worthy of that love.
And in this brave new civilization, when the people disagree on whether children in the womb, or the old or the infirm, should be loved or killed, or whether men may marry each other, or whether any imaginable evil under the sun may be enshrined in law, they do not place the matter before the Church for her judgment. They place it instead upon the altar of their own volition. And then they confect the Great Sacrament of this new religion "more universal than the Catholic Church" - they cast their votes upon the altar, sacrificing the newest victim of their sovereign will.
Looking upon the visible ruin of our once majestic Church, and the consequent ruin of the world, one can hardly disagree with Dietrich von Hildebrand's observation in 1973 that "the poison of our epoch is slowly seeping into the Church herself, and many have failed to see the apocalyptic decline of our time."131 Pope Paul VI himself said as much in that same year, when he admitted that the Council's opening to the world became a veritable invasion of worldly thinking."132
St. Francis of Assisi began his great apostolate by rebuilding with his bare hands a fallen-down church in Assisi. He went on to seek the conversion of the Saracen infidels from Islam to the one true religion. Nearly 800 years later, at the invitation of the Pope, a Muslim cleric intoned alien prayers outside the Basilica of St. Francis along with assorted Indians, Buddhists, Hindus, Shintoists and Animists. Eleven years to the day after Cardinal Arinze's announcement of the event was published, earthquakes rocked the Basilica, causing its altar to be crushed.133 Yet the lower basilica in which the body of St. Francis is found miraculously escaped damage, as did the frescos depicting his likeness.
In Assisi another church has fallen down and must be rebuilt. Will another St. Francis come soon to rebuild it?
Only a few years before the Second Vatican Council began, Pope Pius XII uttered the prophecy with which we began:
“Suppose, dear friend, that Communism was only the most visible of the instruments of subversion to be used against the Church and the traditions of Divine Revelation ... I am worried by the Blessed Virgin's messages to Lucy of Fatima. This persistence of Mary about the dangers which menace the Church is a divine warning against the suicide of altering the Faith and her liturgy. A day will come when the Church will doubt as Peter doubted. She will be tempted to believe that man has become God. In our churches, Christians will search in vain for the red sanctuary lamp where God awaits them. Like Mary Magdalene, weeping before the empty tomb, they will ask: Where have they taken Him?’”
What did Pius XII see in the Message of Fatima which led him to say these extraordinary things? As we have seen, the first two parts of the Great Secret of Fatima, already revealed, say nothing of the suicide of altering the Faith and her liturgy. Nor is there any reference in the first two parts to the striking detail of the missing sanctuary lamp, so typical of the post-conciliar parish church. But what of the third part of the Message? What of the Third Secret of Fatima?
As we witness the fulfillment of Pius XII's prophecy, our minds return again and again to the sealed envelope dispatched by Sister Lucy to the Vatican in 1957; the envelope that was meant to be opened, for us, in 1960. In 1960 it would be clearer, Sister Lucy said. By 1960, Pope Pius XII was dead and the Second Vatican Council had been convoked. Was it, then, the Third Secret of Fatima which so alarmed the suffering Pope whose earthly life ended at the edge of that great spiritual chasm marked by the year 1960? Was it there that the details of his remarkable prophecy were suggested to him, or even stated explicitly, by the Queen of Heaven?
For 37 years the Vatican has offered ever-shifting explanations for the suppression of the Third Secret. With each new explanation the mystery deepens. The original explanation, in that anonymous ANI press release of February 8, 1960, claimed that nameless "Vatican sources" had decided that "the Church ... does not pledge herself to guarantee the veracity of the words which the three little shepherds claim to have heard from Our Lady" - an absurd claim, given that the Church had already approved as worthy of belief the first two parts of the Fatima Message, which had been confirmed by a public miracle of a kind never before seen in the history of the world. It is even more absurd when one considers that all the faithful, including the Pope himself, were praying in their Rosaries the very prayer dictated by Our Lady to Sister Lucy, and practicing the First Saturday devotions Our Lady had prescribed at Fatima.
In November 1984 Cardinal Ratzinger, ignoring the laughable disclaimer of 1960, stated in an interview published to millions in Italy, that the Secret speaks of "The dangers threatening the faith and the life of the Christian, and therefore the world, and also the importance of the last times.134 But in a subsequent publication of the same interview in the famous Ratzinger Report this language was mysteriously deleted. In the same November 1984 interview, the Cardinal said that the Third Secret had been suppressed to avoid confusing religious prophecy with sensationalism. But in a press conference twelve years later the Cardinal declared that the Secret contains nothing new ... nothing apocalyptic, and nothing essential for the faith.135 If that is so, then why has this non-essential, non-apocalyptic secret been suppressed, when Marian apparitions of decidedly apocalyptic content have been freely disseminated with the approval of the Vatican? In an era when the Index of Forbidden Books has been abolished, when any sort of Marian apparition, true or false, may be freely circulated, only one writing in all the world is censored by the Vatican: the Third Secret of Our Lady of Fatima. Why?
In March of 1990, Cardinal Oddi confirmed the belief of many that in the Third Secret "the Blessed Virgin was alerting us to the apostasy in the Church", and that the date for its revelation, 1960, indicates that "the Secret had something to do with the convocation of Vatican II.136 But in October 1996 Cardinal Ratzinger continued the theme that the Third Secret contained nothing of any great moment: The secret, in fact, has nothing to do with the history of the world, informing about something that could one day happen to us ...137 Yes, but what about something that has already happened to us? He added: It is not a teaching about the future, but a help and an education in faith. So, for 37 years the Third Secret of Fatima has been kept from the Faithful because it would help and educate us!
The mystery of this non-essential, non-apocalyptic, helpful and educational secret, which contains nothing new yet cannot be revealed, continues to deepen with each attempt to explain it away. In November of 1997 an article appeared in Inside the Vatican recounting the belief of Vittorio Messori and Rene Laurentin that the phrase in Lucy's fourth memoir, In Portugal the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved, suggests a loss of dogma throughout the Church, and that Pope John XXIII, seeing that the Secret contradicted his "optimism at all costs, decided to consign it to the Vatican archives".138 Messori concludes that Pope Paul VI and John Paul II are prisoners of John’s decision. In fact, how can they admit that, not heeding even divine warnings, Roncalli did not take prudent measures to head off the predicted crisis in the Church?139
When told of Messori’s conclusion, Pope John's personal secretary, Archbishop Loris Capovilla, now 82, did not contradict Messori, but gave an entirely new and startling hint about the contents of the Secret, which he has read: The Secret does not concern the Church only", but also predicts "an absolutely exceptional event, a manifestation of the supernatural. Asked for his view, Cardinal Ratzinger dismissed the Messori/Laurentin comments as "all fantasies" (without actually saying they were false), but most significantly did not deny the new revelation of Archbishop Capovilla, which must now be added to the growing body of facts which suggest the probable content of the Third Secret.140
Thirty-seven years of shifting explanations have only increased the number of the Faithful who share the view of Cardinal Oddi and Vittorio Messori that the Third Secret of Fatima must point with embarrassing precision to the events which have transpired since its suppression by Pope John. What else could explain the Vatican's otherwise inexplicable refusal to disclose a secret which Cardinal Ratzinger says is not apocalyptic, not essential, nothing new and not a prediction of the future, but rather an education and help in the Faith?
The conviction grows, therefore, that the Third Secret of Fatima mentions the Pope, a Council and a loss of faith and discipline throughout the Church beginning around 1960 in short, a great apostasy. If this is true, then we are entitled to know it for our own spiritual safety; and those whose acts and omissions the Secret may mention are obliged in justice to unseal the heavenly indictment, if that is what it is. On the other hand, if the Secret makes no mention of the Council and the debacle which followed, what better way to defend the conciliar aggiornamento than to reveal that Our Lady had nothing negative to say about it at Fatima? But that question in itself suggests why the Third Secret has remained a secret.
No matter what the Secret says, it is manifest that Our Lady did not come to Fatima to deliver a private communique to a few Vatican bureaucrats, or even the Pope. She came to speak to the world at large, to warn all mankind of looming perils in this century of matchless insanity. If it were not so, then why did She call down the Miracle of the Sun for the whole world to see? Was it to authenticate a Message we were not to be given?
Our Lady's message at Fatima had three parts, two of which the world has long since received. What of the third part? It seems increasingly likely that the Third Secret is a light to guide us out of the great and terrible darkness of the post-conciliar debacle. Are we not entitled to see this light which our Mother came to give us? We must never cease entreating Rome to tell us, in full, exactly what our Mother wanted us to know.
When Annibale Bugnini had finished destroying the Roman Rite, he turned his attention to devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Having renewed the Mass, he offered his modest proposal for "renewal" of the Rosary: The Rosary was to be shortened and rearranged, with the Our Father recited only once at the beginning, and the Hail Mary edited to include only "the biblical portion of the prayer" — whatever that means. The "Holy Mary Mother of God" would be said "only at the end of each tenth Hail Mary. There would also be a new "public" version of the Rosary, consisting of readings, songs, homilies and "a series of Hail Mary’s, but limited to one decade".141
Paul VI responded to this preposterous proposal through the Vatican Secretary of State:
"... the Faithful would conclude that the Pope has changed the rosary and the psychological effect would be disastrous' ... Any change in it cannot but lessen the confidence of the simple and the poor.142
So, the rite of Holy Mass dating back to the time of St. Gregory could be hacked to pieces on a few weeks' notice to the Faithful, but the Rosary would not be touched! That was going too far. It was as if Our Lord, having suffered the disfigurement of the Mass at the hands of "profane intruders", would not permit the slightest damage to be done to the traditional form of devotion to His Mother, out of tender solicitude for Her.
Only the willfully blind cannot see that we are living by Our Lord's fiat in a Marian age, the age of Fatima: "God wishes to establish devotion to My Immaculate Heart in the world ... If people do what I ask, many souls will be saved and there will be peace". So Our Lady said at Fatima; so it will be. "In the end My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, which will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world." Some would say these words are a mere relic of triumphal Catholicism, which has passed away in favor of the civilization of love. Yet the Faithful know that heavenly promises never pass away, but are always fulfilled in the end.
Perhaps we will live to see the inevitable triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the miraculous reversal of the greatest debacle in the history of the Church and through that miracle the restoration of Christendom. Perhaps before these things have come to pass we will learn, from those who no longer have anything to hide, the mystery of the Third Secret of Fatima.
And once we learn this precious Secret, will we not understand that we had known it all along? For the passing of time uncovers all secrets, exposing the misdeeds that men have labored so diligently to conceal.
Our Lady of Fatima! Pray for us!