A correspondent calls my attention to another anti-blog, which I will mention below. I won’t name the correspondent however, because he has a responsible position in the wings of Holy Church, and wouldn’t want his colleagues to know he reads it. I hope some of them are, conversely, concealing from him that they read it; for in the present state of moral and intellectual squalor, which has alas pipped the top of our earthly hierarchy, received Catholic doctrine — the very teaching of the Magisterium, through twenty centuries — must sometimes be communicated by samizdat.
During the recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family, for example — according to widely available reports — Cardinal Baldiserri, the organization man, had more than one hundred copies of the book, Remaining in the Truth of Christ, physically removed from the attending bishops’ mail boxes, and thrown out. The book included essays by five of the most distinguished living authorities on actual Catholic doctrine, touching marriage and communion. The authors, including Cardinals Burke and Brandmueller, identified particularly the heresies in Cardinal Kasper’s writings and utterances, which the pope had unfortunately promoted. It contained material of which all that synod’s participants (to say nothing of the pontiff himself) needed to be aware.
Quite apart from this, intercepting mail is a serious offence in all civilized jurisdictions, and always has been. Cardinal Baldiserri of course deserves a fair trial in an Italian criminal court. Perhaps he did not do what the many witnesses allege. But it is a scandal to the Church that he has not been prosecuted, and meanwhile, that he remains in office.
This is one incident. I am aware of several more, of a like nature, and of commission in Rome, “right under the pope’s nose” if you will. Gentle reader will be aware, too, if he follows the less sycophantic Vatican media. And as every “traditional” (i.e. non-heretical) Catholic must be aware, we have the continuing scandal of the pope himself, whose very job is to defend the Faith, handed down unaltered from our Founder. For he has been, I am genuinely sorry to observe, making reckless and divisive, frequently heretical, off-the-cuff remarks as he travels urbi et orbi; and publicly insulting, repeatedly, often in unnecessarily coarse language, the very people who at some real cost to themselves uphold Catholic teaching by word and example. He is spreading chaos throughout the Church, and thereby doing incalculable harm.
Were he instead some selfish, greedy, calculating, villainous, even murderous Medici, it would not be so bad. We have had some very bad popes, and easily survived them when, but only when, they did not play games with doctrine. The paradox is that a pope governed by the vanity of his “good intentions,” or a craving for popular adulation, can do far more damage.
Much else of what Pope Francis says is orthodox, it should be added, and some of it (ignored in the mass media) is arguably courageous. His more orthodox defenders balance the “sound bite” trash against remarks that are theologically sound (if not widely reported). I am surprised that a man of his age and career experience did not anticipate this “media selectivity”: especially as I’d gathered from Argentine sources that long before he became pope, he devoted assiduous attention to his media image. I keep no scorecard on this, however. My point is instead about the chaos. By mixing true and false together in an incomprehensible jumble, he is doing graver injury than if he were consistently denying the faith, and could therefore be clearly marked and deposed as an anti-pope, to everyone’s edification.
I don’t care whether he has “good intentions,” or whether his much-strutted “humility” is real or affected. I have opinions on this, but they are beside the point. The point is that, from the height of his office down to every parish around the globe, he is giving encouragement to the worst tendencies in the clergy and laity, and discouragement to the best.
But of course, among those both within and without the Church, who despise most if not all of the Catholic teaching, and consider it “oppressive” and “out of date,” he is “a breath of fresh air.” And there could be worse: which is why I fear the next conclave, after the present pope has stacked it.
This popularity is worthless. More generally, it does not matter how popular the pope is, or how popular the Church herself; it matters only that she is true to Jesus Christ. If she is, those who love Christ will find her. She is not a people’s republic, she is a divine Monarchy and ¡Viva Cristo Rey!
In times like ours, the Church ought to be unpopular. We are, after all, preaching a religion that stands in open contradiction to that which is taught in the septic tank of our public square. Praise from the Devil was never our aim. Too, I should affirm that, in the fullness of time, God will draw good from our evils; and that, in a view transcending time, Christ has already done so.
I am not God, however, and from my human view, we have a catastrophe. Moreover, I think that the duty of a Catholic is to adhere to all truth, and as it were, tell it like it is. My loyalty is to the papacy: to the institution but also, personally, not only to Francis but to the two hundred and sixty-five popes who preceded him. Our loyalty cannot bobble from pope to pope, like a dashboard decoration. Our obedience to command is required; but it is not to be toyed with. And mistakes are to be corrected, no matter who makes them. Privately, or when necessary publicly, I doubt very much that even one of those popes, his reign however short, was not corrected on some point, large or small; and usually, by something fiercer than his own press office. For popes are human, and can be forgetful, and need reminding from time to time.
A lot of reminding, in some cases. For now, all the consequential mistakes made in the nadir of the ’sixties and ’seventies are being revived and renewed and rebuilt upon, after all the painful work that was done by two magnificent popes to stop the rot. We will not ourselves contribute to the recovery — that must eventually come — unless we recognize the truth of our situation.
This means recognizing the good as well as the bad, and seeing the promise where it can be seen: mostly in Africa and Asia, where the Church is not only rapidly expanding, but consolidating in her fidelity to what Christ taught. In a longer historical view, this should prove more significant than the filth and error into which we have fallen in Western Europe and the Americas. Yet even here, miracles are happening, and from what I can see, various obscure “traditionalist” enclaves have become factories of vocations. A time may well come, sooner than anyone could foresee, when the Old Mass is fully restored, the old order with it, and the desecration of the “spirit of Vatican II” is not merely disowned, but forgotten. In supplication: Godspeed, I pray.
For it also means using the pain as penance, and carrying the burden of it upon ourselves, in prayer and positive intention. As Catholics we must pray for the pope, and not against him. Some well-informed Vatican observers (Sandro Magister I especially commend) see evidence that Francis himself may be learning from his mistakes, and changing his behaviour. God bless him if he is. How glorious it would be if the pope himself could provide a towering example of true humility: by reversing out of the course he has set as captain, towards the shoals. We do not take pleasure in being ashamed of him. Or rather, some of us do, and by doing, they become a party to the mess.
“Hope springs eternal.” But mind that it is a Catholic and Christian Hope, in Heaven and not in this world. The issue here is not the future in time, but the cure of souls in all times: that is why the Church exists, and why the Deposit of Faith is unchanging. The size of the Church on Earth is irrelevant to her mission; her nominal membership may grow or shrink, and it is all just statistics. Her success is measured by a standard that is not of this world: by the salvation of souls. Heaven rejoices in the salvation of one soul, and cannot be very curious about numbers sported by the diocesan bureaucracies. This is spiritual combat, hand to hand, and who dares wins.
Ah yes, I was going to mention that controversial blogger. He calls himself “Mundabor,” and gentle reader may take it from there. The piece to which my attention was called, and which I rather enjoyed, was entitled, “Liberals: too wimpy for the firing squad.” That will in itself give warning of the tone. I will not comment on the issue Mundabor raises, pertaining to Utah, since he does such a good job of it himself.
I will instead, for my isolated example, refer to one of his passing remarks. It is about the German commercial aeroplane that crashed into the French Alps this week. The explanation for this is “evolving,” as they say, but a figure that caught every news-watcher’s attention was “eight minutes.” This is the time the aeroplane was said to have taken to go from its full cruising altitude of 38,000 feet, to impact with the side of a mountain. There was broad and reflexive comment that this was too horrible: that it would have been better had the plane, say, exploded from a bomb, and all its crew and passengers died “quickly.” (“Painless” doesn’t come into this: I should think hitting the side of a mountain at five hundred knots is quite painless.)
Mundabor, on the contrary, with his tenacious hold on actual Catholic teaching, thought the supposed long and winding descent a good thing. I would add that, twenty minutes would have been better. For you see, gentle reader, once they knew they were doomed, the passengers could use the time to their advantage. Being no longer able to depend on modern technology, they could turn their freed minds instead to God, and to re-orienting their souls to holiness, in light of their impending fate. For most, I would imagine eight minutes hardly enough to make a general, but perfectly sincere First Confession. (In the absence of a priest, God will hear it directly.) But it could count as a show of earnest.
This, indeed, is why hanging — or the firing squad, in Mundabor’s instance — can be so efficacious in the cure of souls; and why, through the centuries, the Catholic Church was admirably consistent in her advocacy of capital punishment for those convicted of deserving crimes. For various reasons, I am not much of an enthusiast for capital punishment, at the moment, but I do try to prefer the continuous teaching of Holy Church to my own passing whims, or those of fey editorialists in the soi-disant Catholic press. I further acknowledge the essential truth in Doctor Johnson’s dictum, that the prospect of a hanging helps wonderfully to concentrate the mind.
Courage, mon ami, as they say. (Not sure, currently, who “they” are; but the remark is not original to myself.) We must find the courage to contradict “secular post-humanism,” even and especially when it is slid on thick latherings of cheap sentimentality, and clinched with false emotional appeals. For like the pope’s, our job is not to play to the gallery. It is instead to evangelize, even proselytize — and usually today to fight, against the easy miserable lie, and in defence of the hard precious truth.
NOTE. As ever happens when one comments on “breaking news,” the facts change. Even while I was writing the above, world media were reporting that a French prosecutor has the new story: the plane was intentionally crashed by its co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, who locked the pilot out of the cockpit. Passengers may not have known their fate until the last moments, when they began screaming. (A very poor use of the available time.) Predictably, the politicians and media talking heads declare themselves unable to comprehend why Herr Lubitz would do such a thing. This implies that they never heard of a cold-blooded murder before — or had any other opportunity to descry the demonic in human affairs. Alternatively, they subscribe to a materialist philosophy that cannot explain evil except on the analogy of defective robots. Among the reasons I would recommend “traditional” Catholicism to the curious of all ages is that, by contrast, it can explain stuff like this.