On the “Correctio filialis”

“No matter what they do in Rome, I’m staying Catholic.”

The quote is from Czechs of beloved memory (through one exiled to Switzerland), and thus from drinking circles forty years ago. I am not the only survivor to remember that wonderful saying, declared in the freedom of a public bar; and what often went with it, from Scripture. “If God is with us, who can be against us?” It was a motto among them, surcharged with youthful enthusiasm. The years pass, people age and die. The young are subject to replacement.

In the mid-’seventies Catholics loyal to magisterium and tradition had already long endured the fallout from mindless “reforms.” The liturgy had been desecrated, yet remained valid. Something similar was happening in all other fields. Pope Paul, a learned and gentle man, hardly taught heresy. But he tolerated it, from all sides, and especially from northern Europe and its echo in post-Protestant America. The faith was being “updated.” Modernism, a comprehensive theological error condemned under many names since the French Revolution, was no longer ascending but apparently triumphant. (I define it as the belief that dogma can “evolve.”)

Against this, even in the heart of modernity, the old Catholic adamant was holding. It continues to hold at the present day, for as I have witnessed, it continues to attract characters who are young, intelligent, deliberate, and brave. Their “reactionary” attitude towards Holy Mother Church is the carriage of a hundred generations. She will be there, and she will be defended, no matter what. She will be in her turn, as Mother Mary was to Christ in the Via Dolorosa, and as every mother to every son in the hidden order of this world — saying, “I am here.”

Sometimes there is nothing more we can say, even to Rome: that we are here, the faithful Catholics, and we will be here, no matter what you do. Should the pope himself ignore Catholic teaching, and ramble instead over his own quaint political and subcultural obsessions, men will arise to correct him. He will or will not be corrected; he may pretend not even to hear. But in the end God deposes all popes, and the Holy Spirit will oversee all necessary repairs and renovations.

For us, the definitive answer is to persist in being Catholic, according to the teaching of Christ, and to its reiteration through twenty centuries. To continue: not in rebellion, or even in rebellion to rebellion, but in reverence to Our Lord, present through the Mass; and too, in every gesture that extends from ancient liturgies through everyday life.

Put not your trust in men; this is part of the immortal teaching. Who can mistake it? If a million men are united in error, be not intimidated; trust in God rather. Remember that one owes a death, and that at the last day, one must make an account of oneself to no human tribunal, but to that singular Christ who knows what it is to be human. And who knows His own.

Crucially: do not despair. What is wrong shall be righted, in the fullness of time. Faith Hope and Charity shall be vindicated. One way or another, those who think these terms can be “updated” will come to see the error of their ways.