A Welcome Diagnosis but No Cure

Fatima Perspectives #1250

Writing in Catholic World Report, Dr. Douglas Farrow, a professor of Theology and Christian Thought at McGill University, joins the growing ranks of “mainstream” commentators who are, at last, one with traditionalists in sounding the alarm about what Farrow calls “the troubling Bergoglio pontificate…”. (I hasten to add that the very emergence of the term “traditionalist” in the life of the Church, signifying simply those Catholics who have continued to believe and practice the unreconstructed Faith after Vatican II, as is their God-given right and duty, demonstrates the gravity of the crisis that has led to this troubling pontificate.)

I recommend a close reading of the entire lengthy essay, much of which is taken up by a gentlemanly disagreement with Dr. Roberto de Mattei on the precise theological approach to curing the current plague of papalotry, from which discussion I prescind in favor of what the two agree upon: that this pontificate is an unprecedented disaster for the Church, a grave threat to her very integrity, arising precisely from a gravely distorted notion of papal authority according to which the Pope is essentially an absolute dictator, unbound by Tradition, whose will is law merely because he has willed it.

Farrow rightly situates “the troubling Bergoglio pontificate” in the context of “the larger crisis – many are at last admitting that there is a crisis – to which it belongs.” He identifies these elements of the crisis:

  • first, a loss of faith in tradition and a failure to stand fast…
  • second, widespread sexual immorality among the laity and the clergy; 
  • third, malfeasance in high office, including the papal office, regarding doctrine, discipline, appointments, and finances; 
  • fourth, a nexus of deceptions and cover-ups in which even the otherwise well-behaved have too often become enmeshed, despite the fact that ‘no prelate should desire that any good be achieved by a lie’…
  • fifth, in service of those cover-ups a gross and, in some mouths, richly hypocritical distortion of respect for the pontiff…; 
  • sixth, abandonment of the Great Commission in favor of a mission of inclusiveness, where ‘making disciples of all nations’ decidedly does not mean ‘teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’…
  • seventh, a deliberate plan to use the papacy to dissolve what is left of the centralized, authoritarian Tridentine Church and to… generate a decentralized, morally and doctrinally flexible, post-modern Church that is open both to Protestant and to pagan elements…”

Father Gruner devoted much of his priestly career to documenting every one of the enumerated elements in light of the Message of Fatima, unceasingly proclaiming the urgency of employing the means Our Lady of Fatima prescribed to resolve the crisis, including the yet-to-be-done Consecration of Russia that will initiate a process of integral restoration in the midst of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart. 

Farrow’s conclusion is as blunt as anything one would have read in a traditionalist or “Fatimite” publication over the previous five years (not to mention throughout the post-conciliar crisis):

“The critics are right that the revolution is wrong. This is not reform; it is not even conversion. It is conquest. If it is not stopped, the gates of Hades will prevail against the Church, which will die out everywhere just as it is dying out in the lands of the revolutionaries themselves. We must appeal to Heaven to stop it and be prepared to help stop it, confident in our Lord’s promise that those gates shall not prevail and that his Church will not fail.”

Sad to say, however, Farrow stumbles badly when it comes to the question of how one stops this revolution.  He writes:

“Shall we, too, judge what I have called the neo-Vatican synthesis something inherently unstable and the work of Vatican II irredeemably flawed? After all, the revolutionaries themselves agree with De Mattei that this synthesis, with its hermeneutic of continuity, won’t do. To them it is nothing more than an unfortunate interlude – a spell, so to say, in a half-way house – before the work of Vatican II could be resumed. Shall we hold out, instead, for a restoration of something like the old Tridentine Catholicism that the council fathers accidentally or deliberately let slip?….

“For my part, I do not think we should try to reverse course to Trent, or even to Vatican I. It is a Protestant way of thinking to suppose that we can go backward in history rather than forward, just as it is a Protestant way of thinking to suppose that moving forward means endless revolution….”

No, no, no!  The Church’s restoration has nothing to do with any notion of going forward or backward in history, as if the mere passage of time imparted some irreversible “grain” to the course of human events under the influence of divine grace; as if history represents the ineluctable out-rolling of Hegel’s “world-spirit”.

On the contrary, as Saint Augustine famously observed, the beauty of the Faith in all its manifestations is “ever ancient, ever new.”  Thus, there is no more a “Tridentine Church” than a “Vatican II Church.” The Council of Trent merely preserved and defended the Church’s timeless doctrinal, dogmatic and liturgical patrimony. It was precisely the attempt at Vatican II to launch the Church on the currents of mere history — to commit her to a time-bound response to an illusory “modern world” and an equally illusory “contemporary man” — that has caused her human element to shipwreck on the desert isle of mere temporality, adjusting everything to the supposed imperatives of the present day with catastrophic results.

In fact, the problem with the “troubling Bergoglio pontificate” is exactly an historicist relativism that seeks to accommodate the Church to what Pope Francis calls “today’s world” in his personal manifesto Evangelii Gaudium — as if the world of “today” were somehow on a different ontological plane from the world of “yesterday” or as if man himself were somehow a different subject from what he has always been and always will be until the Last Day: a fallen creature in need of redemption through repentance, sanctifying grace, and a life of faith, hope and charity according to the divine will — a process of conversion and salvation the Church alone is divinely commissioned to administer to every soul on earth.

We ought to thank Dr. Farrow for his accurate diagnosis.  But for the cure, as to which he seems completely at a loss, we can look only to the timeless path of Tradition from which this Pope, the conciliar Popes and most of the human element of the Church have strayed — with the apocalyptic consequences Farrow is constrained to recognize when he writes: “If it is not stopped, the gates of Hades will prevail against the Church…”

But of course, it will be stopped.  Of this we are assured not only by the original promise of Christ that the gates of hell would never prevail against His Church, but also by the promises of His Mother at Fatima — a truly timeless prophecy for a Church whose leaders are now stumbling about on the shifting sands of a modernity that has become their god.


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