[Housekeeping note: after a long period of personal upheaval - moving house, etc. and then a longish Christmas/Epiphany holiday to deflate, settle in, get some painting done and relaunch my life, I am returning to this Substack blog. I shall attempt to be more regular, in general about All The Things, including writing and keeping my previously mentioned schedule of Saturday and Wednesday posts. Under the stress of worrying about the developing Italian police state (I am no longer allowed to eat in a restaurant, get a coffee in a bar, get my hair cut, go to a cinema, museum or public sporting event or travel on any public convenience… even in the back… and as of this month will be expecting a fine of 100 Euros to arrive in the post or by confrontation with the local law enforcement…) and all the other things, I found that my pate was so addled I couldn’t string two coherent sentences together, and decided to just let the blogging fade into the background for a while. As always, however, a rest has revived my never-quiet brain and I’m back. We’ll see how it goes.]
Now that some of the initial dust is settled, and we’ve got an idea where things are standing with the Mass in various places, we might usefully take a few moments to think about what’s happening with the new Motu Proprio and the subsequent instructional document, the name of which I forget, and what they might mean in a larger sense.
This is the pope we needed
I realise I’ve been banging this drum for quite a while now, but the howls that ensued at this latest from the Vatican seems to have shown that even some of the people who know me have yet to let it sink in: we needed clarity more than comfort, truth and the Real more than to feel good.
The Long Slide began [in the late 90s], and the apparent political unity of Catholics in the US evaporated out from under “conservative” Catholics, without anyone ever having clearly delineated exactly what a “conservative Catholic” was. This is why, now, we see that “conservatism” is exactly what the name suggests; a movement that attempts to “conserve” the status quo, whose guiding principle really has nothing at all to do with orthodox Catholic doctrine. In fact, it is nothing more than a mechanism for slowing the ratchet-effect of Modernism.
“Conservatism” in the Church is going to fail anyone still clinging to its un-defined, more or less non-existent principles, since by our time those principles have dissolved down to one thing: the Pope. “Conservatism” is now nothing more than company-man papolatry. Or “papal positivism”. It is, by its nature, relativistic, a house built on sand. And as a descriptor in the Francidian age it is an utterly useless term.
I want to talk about why I feel more hopeful now than I think I ever have in my life as a conscious adult Catholic.
Here’s my proposals:
Conservatism is a dead letter in the Catholic Church and that’s a good thing. In fact, it’s the only thing that will save us. Thanks to this pope all that’s left now is Trad or … that other thing. And this is an immensely encouraging development. “Conservative Catholicism” has nothing you need. Walk away from it.
We could not have survived another decade of “conservative” popes telling us comforting lies about the hermeneutic of the New Springtime and blabbity blah. Swallowing that rubbish was poisoning the last of the faithful.
Now we know without the slightest doubt what is and isn’t Real, and we know what to do. Without this pontificate and especially this last slap across the face with a big wet Bergoglian fish, we would still be sleeping in the canoe as we rushed right over those falls.
The Great Clarification is perhaps complete
Probably the most important thing to remember about it is that this is the pontificate of the Great Clarification which I started writing about a long while ago:
One of the things I keep saying over and over is that we are entering a period of great clarity in the Church. It is becoming impossible to continue to adhere to what I have called the “Catholic conservative compromise” – events and persons are forcing closed that comfortable conservative middle ground… We can no longer hide behind the nostrums of American Catholic conservatism that carefully ignores the contradictions in the data.1…
I predict that this period in the Church will be called by historians the “great clarification.” After decades of confusion and arguments over this or that interpretation of the outcome of Vatican II, we now see unfolding before us the indisputable results of it. The Church we have now in all its institutions from top to bottom is a product of the neo-modernist incursion…
The “Hilary Thesis” has been for many years that:
“The Church could not survive another ‘conservative’ pontificate, that it is in fact the ‘conservative’ urge to prevaricate, to fudge, to compromise the truth and wish reality into the cornfield and pretend there is no rampaging rabid elephant at the tea party, that has brought us to our current horrific condition. Another long pontificate spouting the lies and sweet sweet hermeneutic of nonsense we endured under John Paul II and Benedict VI would have completely sunk us.
We were bleeding out from a million slashes, and because we were all required to pretend that there was no problem, that there were no cuts, that up was really the same as down, that truth and falsehood could both ‘have a seat at the table’ - that Christ and Belial could reach a neutral compromise - we were not allowed to so much as wince, never mind reach for a sticking plaster. We had to smile, smile, smile, and pretend we were in a New Springtime, while we slowly bled to death from untreated open lacerations. We desperately needed the brutal slap in the face that only a monstrous creature like Bergoglio could give us. We needed, in short, for the ‘conservatives’ to wake the hell up.”
And brother, I think we’re there.
When a diehard “conservative” American Novus Ordo Catholic like Phil Lawler gives in and accepts reality, we know we’re close to the end. As much for his position as a bastion of the “conservative NovusOrdoist” position as for the essay itself, Phil’s latest in which he effectively admits the Traditionalists were right all along, is a pivotal moment in American and Anglosassone Catholicism. And we have Traditiones Custodes and Pope Francis to thank for this turning point, which no “conservative” pontificate could possibly have wrought.
“It was not the traditionalist movement—much less the traditional liturgy—that exacerbated divisions within Catholicism. It was the current Vatican leadership—the very leadership that is now looking for a scapegoat to blame.”
Alongside the deterioration of the liturgy, we saw the collapse of orthodox Catholic teaching, the flight from Church moral standards, and the exodus (especially of young people) from the pews. All these disasters occurred after Vatican II. But they were not, we repeated, caused by the Council. The misinterpretation of the Council was to blame.
Thank God we could look to Rome for leadership, for orthodox teaching, for inspiration. Pope John Paul II and then Pope Benedict XVI gave us abundant indications that the Church had not changed in any essentials. Unfortunately, at the parish level, things did not notably improve. The liturgy was sloppy, the catechesis sloppier; the young people continued to drift away. We waited, and hoped, and prayed for the time when all that clear papal teaching would filter down to the local churches. As indeed it must, we felt sure, because wasn’t the Pope the final authority on what the Council taught, and what the Church teaches?
And then came Pope Francis.
Didn’t he just.
Conservatism was never our friend and its demise is a good thing
We’ve come to the end of a grave falsehood - the “hermeneutic of continuity” - the foundational idea of the “conservative” position in the Church that proposed that the New Paradigm was a mere continuation and legitimate development of the old Faith. And thank God - and Pope Francis Bergoglio - that this lie that has held Catholics in a kind of moral paralysis for most of the Post-conciliar years, is finally reaching its natural end.
And “Catholic conservatism” was not merely a neutral empty space or buffer zone. It was actively promoting falsehoods. It was “conservatism” that tried to tell us that Catholicism and socialism were compatible. It accepted and promoted religious indifferentism, moral and intellectual relativism, under the name of “ecumenism”. It tried to “Christianise” the demonic ideology of Feminism. Conservatism is the faction that tried to force the round peg of authentic Catholic social teaching - that Christ is King of this world in the political realm and not just “our hearts” - into the square hole of 18th century Enlightenment “liberal democracy”.
And with the death of “Catholic conservatism” under this appalling pope clarity and truth have a way back in - a crack in the great edifice of post-Conciliar lies is letting light in. People really are starting to rethink some of the false things they took as true because they were presented as part and parcel of the New VaticanTwoist package.
The compromise position is, I believe, now completely exhausted. We can see now that appeasement and playing along nicely got us exactly nothing and nowhere. And it was in fact the grovelling appeasement by the “conservative” position that brought us to this pass, the attempt to pretend that the goal from the beginning was not to inject a completely new religion into the life veins of the Church’s institution. That there is room for “conservatives” and “traditionalist” and “liberals” in the Church’s “big umbrella” - revealed now for the absolute tosh it always was.
“Compromise” has no place in the crystalline world of absolute truth in which God dwells and which the Church is supposed to model here on earth. Catholic “Conservatism” was an attempt to find a polite middle ground, where we just perhaps could “get along” without talking too much about the hard stuff. It was always nonsense of course, because the answer to the rhetorical question, “What concord hath Christ with Belial?2” is “None”.
It’s never worked. Not ever.
Why? Because the Catholic Church is not a human institution of politics. It is a unique creation of God for a purpose that no merely human institution, guided by politics, could possibly fulfil. What people say about politics - the actual doing of it - is true: it’s the “art of the possible”. Catholicism doesn’t care about the possible. It cares about what is and is not true.
It was in fact the attempt to reach a “reasonable compromise” that resulted in saner times in the posthumous anathematisation of Pope Honorius3. This was the pope who was condemned, not for heresy, but because he “did not seek to purify this apostolic Church with the teaching of apostolic tradition, but by a profane betrayal permitted its stainless faith to be surrendered.” Honorius had tried to create a polite, neutral safe space where people of differing views could be equally welcomed, affirmed and accompanied.
In short, he tried to make everyone on both sides of the Monophysite controversy, heretics and orthodox alike, “just get along” by banning any further discussion of it. He tried to solve the problem of this fundamental Christological heresy by shutting everyone up, so we could all be one happy Church together, in truth or error, sin or virtue. You will be unsurprised that it failed, and the memory of Honorius, who was certainly no blaspheming Bergoglian lunatic, has been forever associated with the impossibility of creating a third, neutral position between “yes” and “no”.
His mistake was forgetting what Catholicism was for, and offering a political solution, aimed essentially at feelings, for a question that allowed only of a definitive solution, a yes OR a no. In telling “both sides” - the orthodox Catholic writers and the Monophysite heretics - to stop arguing, stop writing and discussing, he was effectively betraying those who were doing the job he was supposed to be doing; defending the Truth of Christ. It wasn’t his job to create “peace” for heresy. It was his job to go to war with it, to condemn heresy in unassailable terms, whatever the cost.
And this illustrates why I believe with all my heart that we are in a much better time and place now to pronounce the Truth of Christ than we were under the last two “conservative” popes. By ending the polite garden party of comforting falsehoods, by declaring open war on the ancient liturgy and the Faith that goes with it, Bergoglio has revealed that he and his “side” do not defend that Truth. They hate and fear it, and want to see it, to see Christ Himself, ousted from His own house.
It can no longer be denied by reasonable believers that this pope - as the self-declared embodiment of “the Council” and the “New Paradigm” it ushered in - is flatly opposing Christ. An they are very clear about the grains of incense they are demanding. They have demanded obedience and loyalty to the new religion of “the Council” and the Novus Ordo Mass that is that new religion’s physical manifestation. THEY, not the traditionalists now, are the ones insisting that the new is NOT a continuation of the old, that this really is a new religion and we must abandon the old.
(The fact that he is using the old religion, specifically the teachings on the papacy and the obedience owed by Catholics to it, to demand we abandon that religion seems to be a piece of logic that has just slid right past them.
But I know I wasn’t the only one to notice.)
Traditiones Custodes has been called a declaration of war, and it is, but not on the Trads, or even only on the Mass, but on the entire 2000 year edifice of orthodox Christianity. And finally - as we saw with debacles like Amoris Laetitia and especially the incredible displays of outright idolatry at the Amazon Synod - it is a declared war on Christ Himself.
And I say, good. Let us accept this declaration of open war and fight it like men. Because our limp-wristed, polite, effeminate conservative “peace” was costing our souls.
Why I believe the Text is immaterial
Some qualified people have examined the two texts from canonical and theological points of view. I’m not going to. If you want to know what they say - and they say a lot - you can read some of it here and here and here. But it kind of reminds me of the hippies in the 70s poring over the lyrics of Beatles songs trying to figure out what they “meant”; it doesn’t "mean” anything. It’s not intended for that.
What the people examining this and other of the pope’s documents have failed to understand is that he doesn’t care what he means. He doesn’t care what he says. He cares what happens. He cares about what he can get, and how he gets it is totally irrelevant. He’ll use a document with erroneous quotes of scripture, with only self-referential footnotes, with hundreds of theological errors if it suits him. In the same way he’ll use blackmail, threats and manipulation, as has been attested by everyone he’s ever worked with or near. He thoroughly adheres to the Maoist principle that words are not meant for conveying meaning, but for use as emotional manipulators, “little sticks of dynamite”.
Those who have examined it in any depth have reported that it is rife with the usual canonical, historical, theological and factual … erm… let’s call them “errors” to be polite, that we have come to expect of documents from this regime. It is thus just more of what the Young People These Days call “flex” - a show of power of the kind beloved of all tyrants: “I don’t care what’s in the law, I don’t care what the rules say, I don’t care what any of my predecessors did or said, I don’t care what Christ said; I’m in power and I’ll do as I please.” This was made clear about the ostensible responses from bishops to the “questionnaire.” When even Wilton Gregory - a leading member of the repulsive McCarrick/Cupich cabal - publicly stated that he knew nothing about it, it became clear the claim that the documents came in response to bishops’ demands was a ruse intended to provide cover and plausibility. Remember, not one bishop has come forward and said, “Yeah, that was me.” Not even the ones who hate the old Mass.
The people who do these things - this pope and his collaborators - have never in their lives been constrained by the letter of any laws, neither civil/secular, nor moral nor divine law, nor even any law they themselves have written. These are people of criminal minds with only their own goals and purposes before them.
This is the key we must understand: they know the law is important to the people they are attacking, which is why they’re using it as a weapon against the remaining faithful. But they themselves don’t care about the law, and do not understand it. They have a completely prescriptive, deterministic, positivist view of the law. The mind of a tyrant is like the mind of a six year old child; the law is what is written down and you must obey it. There is no “higher law” no concept that the law serves a higher set of purposes or principles that lead or guide it. Though they will happily mouth such nostrums, not one of them has ever conceived of laws as servants to any greater good. Law = power.
But it’s a good sign
I agree with the people who say that this attack is a sign they know they’re losing, if only in the sense that these are old men, late-stage Boomers, who know exactly what the Traditionalists know; that their revolution was a catastrophic numeric failure. They may have succeed in driving the great majority of faithful out of the Church, but they have gained no adherents. The number of “young people” - don’t forget they count 35 as “youth” - who follow their programme is a handful compared to the burgeoning Traditionalist movement. This is their last gasp.
But I think the best part is what I talked about above. The “hermeneutic of continuity,” the biggest lie of the last 50 years, is done. The “conservatives” insisted that the Old Religion could peacefully continue to function as a kind of supplicant, crouching in fear in its designated corner, like Cinderella living as a despised and abused serf in her own father’s house. And she was expected to smile and be sweet and grateful for the crust of bread every night.
Now, at last, her continued presence - and the rebuke her very existence so loudly implies - no longer being tolerable, she is being ousted from that home. The Evil Stepfather has decided she is no longer welcome even to crouch in fear in the attic of the house that was once hers by right. But until that happens, she can’t ever get on with the rest of the story. What would have happened if Cinderella had just meekly continued to scrub floors and make breakfast and never asked to go to the ball? What if she had had no spirit in her?
This falsehood had to end before any real correction could occur. The Catholic Faith could not continue to live in a sort of concentration camp reservation within the Church, constantly harried and harassed by the “conservative” kapos of the new religion. NuChurch is by its nature implacably antithetical to the thing it was invented to replace; tolerance is not its nature.
What to do?
Prepare manfully for what is coming next, since we know perfectly well that this is a purge, and Stalin is thorough. There's a siege coming next. Be ready with lots of supplies. And by that I mean, build up your interior life. First find out what an “interior life” is, and then get one.
Find out what you don’t know
If you are a “convert” to Tradition from the Novus Ordo New Paradigm, this is the time to fill in the gaps. Your formation is necessarily going to be lacking if you only had the Novus Ordo in your life. This is not your fault. Learn first what you don’t know. Start digging. I’d suggest a good place to start is the YouTube series I’ve linked here called the Crisis in the Church, put out recently by the SSPX. They go into a lot of detail, and there is a whole course’s worth of information. Let it take the time it needs to take. The knowledge will be your most important weapons
2. Be courageous. Don’t cringe. Don’t apologise.
What’s the one thing these people don’t want us to do? Become Christians. Do that in a way that starts to have an effect on you. Let it change you. Develop an interior life.
Let’s put aside for the moment the fraught expression “sanctification”. Let’s just talk about becoming a true Christian. Dive deep. Learn the early history of the Church. Find out what the Fathers said about scripture and prayer and the sacraments, how to pray and how to grow closer to Christ. Buy a breviary and start using it once a day. Learn something about the great tradition of Christian meditation and mental prayer. This is our chance to really grow in the Faith. God will fill you with graces, especially in a time of persecution.
Do whatever you can to obtain the true Sacraments
Here’s a hard thing: the Mass will likely get taken away from you. Start thinking seriously about what to do about that. If you have the Mass now be grateful, but think about how to do your Catholic life without it. If the Mass is out of reach or if you think it might become so, think about whether you could move to be closer to a stable SSPX or SSPX-affiliated monastic community. For the moment they’re going to be just about the only safe havens until this storm is over. Moving isn’t going to be possible for everyone, but it might be possible for you. Or it might become possible later. Just give it some thought.
Create as much community locally - and I mean in person - as you can
Do whatever you can to get in touch with other Tradition-minded people in your area. Don’t try to go it alone. Don’t rely only on internet networking either. It makes a huge difference to have real in-the-flesh people in your life.
Find and adopt a traditional priest
The people who are going to have a harder time than you are priests who want to adhere to Tradition. Find out who they are and do everything you can to help them, even if it’s just giving him dinner once a week. Get to know him and let him know you and yours are a “safe space” to be a Trad. It’ll mean a lot.
Remember the Church is still One, and still belongs to Christ
Christ was very clear about this. The House of the Lord - the Church Triumphant, Militant and Suffering - is not divided against itself. The sad part about this pope’s claim to be creating “unity” by purging undesirably devout Old Religionists is that he doesn’t grasp that the true unity of the Church is unbreakable in its ontological reality. The Church Militant - that is, the Church of this world - can be obscured, even eclipsed for a time. We can have a situation, and have had many times, where it is difficult for individual Catholics to discern where we may find it in its physical manifestations. The “Kirishitans” of the post-expulsion Japan could not see the Church they believed in where they lived in their day to day lives. The times of the height of the Arian Crisis and the Great Western Schism - when honest Christians were unable to discern who was and who wasn’t a Catholic bishop or pope - were times of eclipse, confusion and darkness, when regular people like you and me had to return to and cling hard to the truths they knew, hang on and wait. But through all that, the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ “Terrible as an army in battle array” - an eternal, supernatural reality - was still there. What we are able to see is not always all there is of reality.
Sorry if this was a bit long.
This Catholic “conservative” phenomenon is mainly an American thing, born out of the political alliance between Protestants and Catholics over the life issues during the Reagan era. It is practically non-existent in Europe where there are only two categories and not much in the way of pro-lifeism.
Worth reposting often, perhaps memorising: “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.”
d. 12 October 638