Revolution Revealed: The Triumph of Modernism and the End of the Traditional Catholic Church (Part I)
“The Second Vatican Council was the main event in the Church in the 20th Century. In principle, it meant an end to the hostilities between the Church and modernism, which was condemned in the First Vatican Council”…Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga
Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga is a very important man in today’s Catholic Church. In addition to being the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, he is the pope’s principal advisor and the chair of a group of eight advising cardinals established by Pope Francis to revise the Apostolic Constitution on the Roman Curia. He also serves as the president of Caritas Internationalis, is a member of the Congregation for Catholic Education, and was considered a serious contender for the papacy during the last conclave. What he says matters.
In late October, Cardinal Maradiaga gave two keynote addresses in the United States, purportedly to set the agenda for the carrying out of Francis’ plan for the Church. The theme of the talks was, “The importance of the New Evangelization.” The first address was given at the University of Dallas’ Ministry Conference, while the second was given at the closing assembly of Miami’s year-long Archdiocesan Synod. The basic text of both addresses was recently published online.
In the past, the “conservative” Catholic media has been quick to dismiss the traditionalist critique of post-Vatican II statements coming from the hierarchy. Since the problematic elements in these statements were often subtle or ambiguous (much like the Conciliar texts themselves) Neo-Catholic commentators would simply apply their own “conservative” interpretation, declare the statements perfectly orthodox, and then move on. They also dismissed the historical evidence of the takeover of the Second Vatican Council by revolutionary progressives as the stuff of conspiracy theory. They confidently assured the faithful that the plan of Vatican II was no revolution, but in complete conformity with the Church of the past.
Reigning in the Revolution
Now, with the recent unprecedented words of the pope’s top advisor spoken for the entire world to hear, all previous Neo-Catholic assurances to the faithful have been shattered. Previously, the extremes of the revolution had been held in check and tempered, at least officially, by Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI. These men were all Council Fathers whoshared many of the general ideals of the more radical periti such as Kung, Rahner, Congar, and Schillebeeckx. However, in contrast to these open radicals, the popes understood that any lasting change to the Church must take place gradually and must attempt to be connected and reconcilable with the Church’s previous teaching. Thus, these popes made exhaustive pains to try to find seeds of the revolutionary ideas of the Council (religious liberty, ecumenism, and collegiality) in past Magisterial texts, the obscure writings of Early Church Fathers, and appeals to the “development of doctrine.” These were all “hermeneutic of continuity” popes. They were men who had experienced the pre-Vatican II Church. Though they wished to reform it, they also wished to keep the essence of what it was. Thus, over the past 50 years we have witnessed a sort of confusing double-speak emanating from the Vatican, which at times authoritatively repeats traditional Catholic doctrine, and at other times proposes and enthusiastically supports novelties which undermine that doctrine. If anything, the past 50 years have been a frustrating and futile effort to reconcile the irreconcilable, resulting in a mass confusion and falling away of the faithful.
A Son of the Council
Now, it seems we have entered a new era. With the election of Pope Francis, we have the first pope since the Council who was not a Council Father. More than this, Jorge Mario Bergogliowas only twenty-five years old when the Council opened in 1962 and was not ordained a priest until December 13, 1969. Thus the Novus Ordo Missae, which had entered into force just two weeks earlier on November 30, 1969, is the only Mass Pope Francis has known as a priest. Also, unlike recent popes, Pope Francis’ life is not so much a bridge between the past Church and the present Church. Where previous popes had been ordained in the Old Rite and formed in Tradition, Pope Franciswas ordained and has existed as a priest only in the post-Conciliar era. Thus we have the first pope who is not a father of the Council, but is rather a son of the Council.
Whereas his predecessors took great pains to try to reconcile their actions with the pre-Conciliar Church they had known, Pope Francis’ starting point is not the pre-Conciliar Church but the Church of the Council. Thus, Francisdoes not seem to have the same pressing need to justify current novel acts by relating them to a past Church he never knew as a priest and that a growing number of faithful have never experienced. The Church Fr. Bergoglio came into as a priest in 1969 was a Church of change, of innovation, of “the people”. For him, religious liberty, ecumenism, and collegiality were not novel teachings, but teachings of the Church; the Mass of Paul VI was not the “new” Mass, but the Mass. Let no one doubt that we are moving into an era where memories of the Pre-Vatican II Church will remain only as ghosts in pictures, movies, and stories. Soon, everyone who has a memory of such a time will have passed from this world. Our next pope may very well have no memories of this period at all.
The era in which Pope Francis lived out his priesthood, and a growing majority of Catholics have lived their lives is one where only the Conciliar Church has existed. In this era, acceptable belief and practice for Catholics has been much more defined by what the authority is willing to allow rather than what has always been done. This is the first effective step of the revolution. For once Church doctrine and practice is tied only to the will of authority, all that is left is to get that authority to change it. We see this attitude from many on the left who perceive women’s ordination and approval of homosexual relations as completely achievable goals as long as they can elect a pope who would approve of such things. For now, the authority has been unwilling to compromise on such things, but will this be the case in the future? As the idea that tradition is changeable (and should be changed) grows in the Church, will there be a future pope who attempts to follow this legal positivism to its logical conclusion? Will the remaining threads tying the current Church with its past remain, or will they attempt to be explained away as “reformable” teachings?Only time will tell.
For now, however, it is enough to look at the words of the pope’s principal advisor. The ideas of the revolution could not, up till now, be spoken of openly by Vatican officials. Any talk of a break between the pre- and post-Conciliar Church was frowned upon by authorities as continuity was seen as the key to acceptance and credibility of the reforms. Now, with Cardinal Maradiaga’s speeches come a watershed moment and turning point in the Church. Ideas explicitly condemned by the Church have now been, not only publicly spoken by the pope’s top Cardinal, but applauded by millions of Catholics. The Neo-Catholics, previously used to hearing such radical ideas only from dissenting priests and perhaps a few wayward bishops over the years, have met the Cardinal’s shocking pronouncements with a profound and confused silence. Sadly, they can hardly do otherwise, as to do so would be to contradict the public statements of the pope’s own advisor about the implementation of Francis’ pontificate; statements they cannot dismiss as easily as the personal ramblings of a dissident priest.
“The Church is Rising?”
Cardinal Maradiaga introduced his remarks by referring to Vatican II as both, “an event of grace and a paradigmatic reference.” The paradigm he sees in the Council is a frightening one, which will be discussed in a moment. The Cardinal then immediately launched into a defense of the fruits of the Council. As no good fruits of Vatican II are readily evident, it seems the Vatican must, from time to time, point out to the faithful where such good fruits are to be found. This is redolent of the tailors pointing out to the Emperor how nice his “clothes” are.
According to the Cardinal, the post-Conciliar Church is “rising.” Knowing that the Church in the West is not rising and the Church in Europe is on life-support, the Cardinal predictably describes the places where the Church is purportedly thriving. Of course, these are all places of which most Catholics in the United States have little intimateknowledge. In addition, hard statistics to back up these claims never seem to come. Nevertheless, even if we assumethat there is some sort of measurable growth in these places, it is never explained in what way “the Council,” brought this growth about. Especially since in the very places Vatican II was implemented most vigorously, the United States and Europe, the Church has been dying ever since.
The Cardinal then moved on to mention a “hostile culture” in Europe, “fed by secularism and laicism.” Seeing as how the Cardinal goes on to later praise secularism and laicism in the Church, it becomes hard to see how he can criticize it in Europe as a destructive force to the culture. Do forces which destroy secular culture somehow work towards the opposite goal in the Church?As for the United States, the Cardinal informs us that:
…the Gospel of Christ is…alive and effective. George Weigel assures us in The Courage To Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform, and the Future of the Church (Basic Books, 2000) that, 200,000 people embraced the Catholic faith in the United States in Easter of 2002, a number that for us is cheerful, and optimistic, and “a vital sign.”
Even though Weigel is considered by many Neo-Catholics to be a prophet, how he can assure us in a book published in 2000 that 200,000 people would embrace the Faith in 2002 is not clear. To be fair, I searched in the post-2002 versions of Weigel’s book to find any sort of reference to 200,000 people in any context and could not do so. Nevertheless, even if we assume that the number of those entering the Church in the US in 2002 was higher than usual, what we are not told is how many people exited the Church in the same year and, more importantly, whatchurch these people believed they were entering. For if they believed they were entering the church the Cardinal is about to describe, it is not a Catholic Church any Traditionalist, or even conservative Catholic, would recognize.
“…An End to the Hostilities Between the Church and Modernism”
At this point, Cardinal Maradiaga proceeds to drop a bombshell on the Catholic world that the Neo-Catholic press has virtually ignored:
The Second Vatican Council was the main event in the Church in the 20th Century. In principle, it meant an end to the hostilities between the Church and modernism, which was condemned in the First Vatican Council. On the contrary: neither the world is the realm of evil and sin –these are conclusions clearly achieved in Vatican II—nor is the Church the sole refuge of good and virtue. Modernism was, most of the time, a reaction against injustices and abuses that disparaged the dignity and the rights of the person. The Vatican II Council officially acknowledged that things had changed, and captured the need for such a change in its Documents…
This overt justification of what Pope Saint Pius X condemned as the “synthesis of all heresies” by the premiere Cardinal advisor to the successor of Peter in front of the entire world stands as a watershed moment in the history of the Church. Although previous progressive cardinals and prelates have made statements based on Modernist principles, or have preached Modernism using veiled and ambiguous terms, never before have any of them been so brazen as to state that Vatican II ended the Church’s condemnation of Modernism. That day has now arrived.
That the premiere Cardinal in the Church has absolutely no reservation in stating such a thing on two different occasions in laying out Francis’ plans for the Church in the United States should indeed be chilling to every Catholic. Unfortunately, this was just the beginning. After attempting to preemptively disarm all opposition by dismissing in one paragraph all previous condemnations of the Modernist heresy by the Church, the Cardinal then went on to lay out the principles of the revolution in the Church for the world to see. Take note that this is the very revolution we were warned about for years by such figures as Michael Davies and Archbishop Lefebvre, the very revolution documented in historical accounts of the Council and proclaimed by the revolutionaries themselves, and the very revolution we were assured did not exist.
“The People of God”
The Baltimore Catechism defines the Church as, “the congregation of all those who profess the faith of Christ, partake of the same Sacraments, and are governed by their lawful pastors under one visible head.” In contrast, the Cardinal lays out as his first principle that which is the Conciliar redefinition of the Church as “the people of God.” All that is needed to cut through the tomes of liberal verbiage used to explain this phrase is to replace the word “of” with the word “are.” What is really being said by the revolution is that “The people are God.” The Cardinal drives this home by continually demeaning the hierarchy of the Church and raising up the laity as the true authority. For instance, the Cardinal explains that,
The People of God” is, for the Council, the all-encompassing reality of the Church that goes back to the basic and the common stuff of our ecclesial condition; namely, our condition as believers. And that is a condition shared by us all. The hierarchy has no purpose in itself and for itself, but only in reference and subordination to the community. The function of the hierarchy is redefined in reference to Jesus as Suffering Servant, not as “Pantocrator” (lord and emperor of this world); only from the perspective of someone crucified by the powers of this world it is possible to found, and to explain, the authority of the Church. The hierarchy is a ministry (diakonia = service) that requires lowering ourselves to the condition of servants. To take that place (the place of weakness and poverty) is her own, her very own responsibility.
If we find partial truths in the Cardinal’s statement, we should not be surprised. Modernism is itself a mixture of truth and error. This is precisely what makes it so dangerous. While it is true that the Church hierarchy “serves” the laity, this has always been understood in the sense of faithfully passing down the Deposit of Faith and providing the laity with the sacraments and spiritual formation; in other words, providing them what is necessary to save their souls. As Our Lord said, “I did not come to be served, but to serve.” However, is this the manner in which Cardinal Maradiaga is speaking? Or instead,is he trying to level the playing field of power and authority between the hierarchy and the laity? The answer becomes clearer as the Cardinal reveals his thoughts on the priesthood. However, before moving to that topic, we would do well to remember the words of Pope St. Pius X in Pascendi as he described the Modernist’s vision of authority in the Church:
They insist that both outwardly and inwardly it must be brought into harmony with the modern conscience which now wholly tends towards democracy; a share in ecclesiastical government should therefore be given to the lower ranks of the clergy and even to the laity and authority which is too much concentrated should be decentralized.
“This Change in the Concept of Priesthood is a Fundamental One…”
The Cardinal then goes on to reveal a “change in the concept of the priesthood” which is a remarkable claim since we have been told time and time again since the Council that the concept of the priesthood has not “really” changed at all. The Cardinal states:
Within the people, there is not a dual classification of Christians –laity and clergy, essentially different. The Church as a “society of unequals” disappears: “There is, therefore, in Christ and in the Church no inequality” (LG 12 32).
No ministry can be placed above this dignity common to all. Neither the clergy are “the men of God,” nor are the laity “the men of the world.” That is a false dichotomy. To speak correctly, we should not speak of clergy and laity, but instead of community and ministry. All the baptized are consecrated as a spiritual house and a holy priesthood (LG 10). Therefore, not only we clergymen are “priests,” but also, side by side with the ordained ministry, there is the common priesthood of the faithful. This change in the concept of priesthood is a fundamental one: “In Christ the priesthood is changed” (Hebrews 7: 12). Indeed, the first trait of the priesthood of Jesus is that “he had to be made like his brothers in every respect.
Yet is this true? Are the laity and the clergy not essentially different? Is not the soul of the priest stamped with an indelible sacramental mark at ordination that makes him essentially different from a layman? Is the previous view of the Cardinal in keeping with Tradition? Consider the words of Archbishop Lefebvre:
A confusion has been made with regard to the relation of the priesthood of the faithful and that of priests. Now as the cardinals said who were appointed to make their observations on the infamous Dutch catechism, “the greatness of the ministerial priesthood (that of priests) in its participation in the priesthood of Christ, differs from the common priesthood of the faithful in a manner that is not only of degree but also of essence.” To maintain the contrary, on this point alone, is to align oneself with Protestantism.
The unchanging doctrine of the Church is that the priest is invested with a sacred and indelible character. “Tu es sacerdos in aeternum.” Whatever he may do, before the angels, before God, in all eternity, he will remain a priest. Even if he throws away his cassock, wears a red pullover or any other color or commits the most awful crimes, it will not alter things. The Sacrament of Holy Orders has made a change in his nature.
Also consider the words of the Roman Catechism:
…the faithful should be shown how great is the dignity and excellence of this Sacrament considered in its highest degree, the priesthood.
Bishops and priests being, as they are, God’s interpreters and ambassadors, empowered in His name to teach mankind the divine law and the rules of conduct, and holding, as they do, His place on earth, it is evident that no nobler function than theirs can be imagined. Justly, therefore, are they called not only Angels, but even gods, because of the fact that they exercise in our midst the power and prerogatives of the immortal God.
In all ages, priests have been held in the highest honour; yet the priests of the New Testament far exceed all others. For the power of consecrating and offering the body and blood of our Lord and of forgiving sins, which has been conferred on them, not only has nothing equal or like to it on earth, but even surpasses human reason and understanding.
The Cardinal then went on to almost channel verbatim the language of the Modernists with the following statement:
The new thought of the Vatican II Council had been slowly brewing in the Christian conscience, and the time had come to articulate it clearly before the universal Church. The socio-ecclesial reality posited problems and questions, serious challenges to which the Council wanted to respond.
First, the Cardinal is surprisingly unashamed to admit that the principles Vatican II espoused are “new.” This notion is in direct opposition with the admonition of St. Pius X who warned, “Far, far from the clergy be the love of novelty!” Furthermore, it is surprising that the Cardinal would speak of a “brewing in the Christian conscience”which has finally been articulated “before the universal Church.” This is precisely the methodology by which the Modernists sought to push their novel doctrines on Church authority. As St. Pius X states:
Already we observe, Venerable Brethren, the introduction of that most pernicious doctrine which would make of the laity the factor of progress in the Church. Now it is by a species of covenant and compromise between these two forces of conservation and progress, that is to say between authority and individual consciences, that changes and advances take place. The individual consciences, or some of them, act on the collective conscience, which brings pressure to bear on the depositories of authority to make terms and to keep to them.
The Cardinal then proceeds to spell out this “new thought” that had “been slowly brewing in the Christian conscience.” He starts by advocating a reform of the Church by returning to Jesus and states that “to discern what constitutes abuse or infidelity within the Church we have no other measure but the Gospel.” So far so good. However, the Cardinal immediately gives away the game by stunningly stating that “Many of the traditions established in the Church could lead her to a veritable self-imprisonment.The truth will set us free, humility will give us wings and will open new horizons for us.” Thus, according to the Cardinal, many of the Church’s own traditions apparently constitute abuse or infidelity within the Church as they are contrary to the Gospel.Only “truth” and “humility” will “open new horizons for us.” This is a notion that would surely make Luther proud. Fortunately for us, St. Pius X, proving even more prophetic than George Weigel, anticipated and answered this absurd notion back in 1907:
They exercise all their ingenuity in an effort to weaken the force and falsify the character of tradition, so as to rob it of all its weight and authority. But for Catholics nothing will remove the authority of the second Council of Nicea, where it condemns those “who dare, after the impious fashion of heretics, to deride the ecclesiastical traditions, to invent novelties of some kind…or endeavor by malice or craft to overthrow any one of the legitimate traditions of the Catholic Church…