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Socci’s Disappointing Advice

by Christopher A. Ferrara
March 17, 2017

Nobody has been more articulate and incisive than Antonio Socci in exposing and justly criticizing — from the perspective of the unchanging Faith of our fathers — the phenomenon he himself has dubbed “Bergoglianism.” His commentary on the Bergoglian tumult has at times been nothing short of scathing.  And rightly so, given the outrageous audacity with which Pope Bergoglio constantly belittles the Church and the defenders of her orthodoxy, including mockery of her supposedly "small things, small-minded rules," as he attempts to impose upon her his personal "dream" of "transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation."

How disappointing then, to read in Socci’s column of yesterday (March 16) the “fraternal advice” to avoid “whoever gets excited, especially those who hurl invective against Pope Bergoglio” and “eleventh hour converts to anti-Bergoglianism (who until yesterday perhaps thought differently and now rise up as intellectual guides).” Socci even declares that “much less should you follow me, only a journalist and not a pastor” — thus undercutting his entire commentary on the Bergoglian debacle. 

Instead, Socci argues, we must follow “only the pastors. And no one else.”  But which pastors must we follow?  Not Pope Bergoglio, obviously, for then Socci would have to retract every word he has written against Bergoglio’s program. Socci identifies only “the four cardinals, authors of the dubia, who have reminded the Church with paternal sorrow of the Magisterium of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Which is the Magisterium of all time.”

With all due respect to Mr. Socci, his “fraternal advice” is bad advice.  First of all, is it really necessary at this time to offer pejorative characterizations of other members of the laity who have been critical of this pontificate, including those who have recently awakened to the reality that it is a disaster and that “the current Pope’s leadership has become a danger to the faith”?  One man’s “invective” is another man’s robust criticism, and indeed much of what Socci himself has written could be dismissed as “invective” when in fact it expresses righteous indignation concerning the ecclesial crisis this Pope has provoked and continues to exacerbate.

Secondly, and more important, the advice to follow “only the pastors” — essentially the four cardinals — is fraught with a severe internal self-contradiction.  That is, how would we know to follow the four cardinals and not Pope Bergoglio unless we also know from an independent source (namely, the sensus catholicus and its comprehension of Tradition) that the cardinals are right and Bergoglio is wrong?

Indeed, Socci himself appeals in the same column to “Sacred Scripture, the constant Magisterium of the Church [and] the Catechism of the Catholic Church.”   How does Socci know that these sources of Tradition are at odds with the Bergoglian novelties?  Is it only because four cardinals have posited five dubia regarding Amoris Laetitia? Hardly. He knows this because he knows the Faith and does not need the four cardinals or any particular pastor to tell him what it teaches and what plainly contradicts it. The Catholic Church is not a gnostic sect whose doctrines and their meaning are determined by the latest auguries of spiritual leaders.

Moreover, Socci expresses the hope that “all the pastors of the Church demonstrate the same love of Christ, of the Church, and of the good of souls” as do the four cardinals. But how does he know that the four cardinals are to be held up as examples of fidelity to emulate unless he also knows, without reference to the four cardinals themselves, that the pastors who do not follow their example have fallen short of their duty under God?

Finally, a word of fraternal advice to Mr. Socci:  Do not waver in your courageous lay witness to the truths of the Faith, which you know because you are a Catholic, not because four cardinals have so informed you.  And, after all, the four cardinals have thus far done nothing more than pose questions to which the Pope will not give an answer. That they will ever actually correct Bergoglio’s errors is now in doubt.

As it was during the Arian crisis, so it is today during the Bergoglian crisis: the laity must take a leading role in defending the Faith, for the pastors have largely defaulted or openly betrayed their obligation.  To quote Cardinal Newman in this regard:

“[I]n that time of immense confusion [the Arian crisis] the divine dogma of our Lord’s divinity was proclaimed, enforced, maintained, and (humanly speaking) preserved, far more by the ‘Ecclesia docta’ than by the ‘Ecclesia docens’;… the body of the episcopate was unfaithful to its commission, while the body of the laity was faithful to its baptism;… at one time the Pope, at other times the patriarchal, metropolitan, and other great sees, at other times general councils, said what they should not have said, or did what obscured and compromised revealed truth; while, on the other hand, it was the Christian people who, under Providence, were the ecclesiastical strength of Athanasius, Hilary, Eusebius of Vercellæ, and other great solitary confessors, who would have failed without them.”

In fact, the correct fraternal advice to be offered at this point in the ecclesial crisis is almost precisely the opposite of Socci’s: the laity must defend the Faith, for the pastors who are supposed to lead us will otherwise fail unless they have our support and, yes, our legitimate criticism.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!