Monday, December 09, 2013

The next asteroid

I think that with the publication of this new document, a lot of the things we've been worried about with this new papacy are made explicit. With the whole world hopping up and down over Francis's (frankly meaningless) economic witterings, and with most of the world's media having no knowledge of the real issues facing the Catholic Church, it seems to have been missed that the pope is talking about a "devolved" Church in which the papacy is no longer a doctrinal bastion against the insanity of the local bishops and national conferences.

But now that we have seen it, we know without a doubt that this pope's plans will destroy the governing structure of the Church as we have known it since the Council of Trent: give the national conferences the authority (that they have always lusted after) of deciding matters of faith and morals.

It is one of the earmarks of the Traditionalist position that we pay attention to the structures of Church governance and think them important. It worries us, for instance, that the pope is no longer crowned but instead only "inaugurated". We cringe when he behaves like a politician because we know what the papacy is and is not (is the sole defender of the Truth of the gospel; is not a political appointment). We have seen the slide over the last fifty years from a papacy that knew what it was: one man with supreme temporal, doctrinal and moral authority, granted by God and supported by the Petrine Charism, the Vicar of Christ, to a politicised office on the corporate model, a first-among-equals CEO of a multinational company.

One of the foremost criticisms of this papacy from the Traditionalist front, is one that has been largely misunderstood as a matter of a preference for a particular style, a hankering after lace and glitter. But in truth, what we dread is the downgrading of the papacy from its historic position in global affairs. And it is precisely this downgrading that this pope has indulged in from his first five minutes. When he refused to wear choir dress on the loggia, only reluctantly donning the Apostolic Stole for the few moments it took to bless the crowd, we have all been filled with a sense of dread and foreboding. We had a sense of what was coming because we were able to read the horrid signs of the egalitarian spirit in the first few gestures of this gesture-heavy papacy. (And it is not to be brushed aside that Benedict himself did a great deal to hasten this when he announced that the papacy was just another job that one could quit if it seemed too burdensome.)

It seems that a few others, now that Francis has made his plans for the democratizing of the Church more explicit, are starting to be more vocal.

On the role of the pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio credits John Paul II with having paved the way to a new form of the exercise of primacy. But he laments that “we have made little progress in this regard” and promises that he intends to proceed with greater vigor toward a form of papacy “more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization.” (This statement by Pope Francis is a strong - one might even say searing - indictment of his hundreds of predecessors. He is claiming they did not act with the Will of Christ in creating the papal-centric mode of governing the Church, something many early Church Fathers I think would find rather surprising.)

But more than on the role of the pope – where Francis remains vague and has so far operated by making most decisions himself – it is on the powers of the episcopal conferences that “Evangelii Gaudium” heralds a major transition.

The pope writes in paragraph 32 of the document:

“The Second Vatican Council stated that, like the ancient patriarchal Churches, episcopal conferences are in a position ‘to contribute in many and fruitful ways to the concrete realization of the collegial spirit. Yet this desire has not been fully realized, since a juridical status of episcopal conferences which would see them as subjects of specific attributions, including genuine doctrinal authority, has not yet been sufficiently elaborated. Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach.”

In the 1985 Ratzinger Report, the Cardinal warned that the national conferences - a whole-cloth invention of the Post-Vatican II Church - routinely abused their powers, and if given more authority were likely to turn the entire Catholic Church into a "federation of national Churches". With a few exceptions to the rule, all the bishops have effectively surrendered their authority to these national conferences and this has been mirrored in Rome by dicasteries who will frequently freeze out individual bishops and give preference to declarations of national conferences, even on doctrinal matters, over individual bishops (cf: the Winnipeg Statement about which nothing has been done by Rome since 1968).

Gian Maria Vian, the unfortunate editor of L'Osservatore Romano made this explicit a few years ago when the paper was in the midst of a frenzy of praise of US President Obama.

Now, Francis is determined to create a "devolved" papacy that bows to the national conferences to create "decentralised" governance and doctrinal authority.

Until now, the strength of the papacy was the last thing holding the Church together and our last bastion against the doctrinal degradation of the national conferences and wacky individual bishops. We could say, "We know the Church teaches this, and not this."

Much, much bigger trouble is coming if Francis destroys this last line of defence.



gemoftheocean said...

Well said. I wouldn't be too down on Pope Benedict for resigning though. I have a feeling we don't know the whole story. I.e. has he shown early signs of perhaps dementia or something that would be so debilitating that he really couldn't do the work? Don't forget he watched Pope JPII not being able to focus on things he should have been taking to task -- and then he watched the backstabbers in the Vatican duff him over. Benedict himself was duffed over by them with the Williamson debacle. Someone should have taken him aside and said "hey, apparently you missed it but Williamson is a holocaust denier."

Unknown said...

As an Orthodox Christian, I actually welcome the idea that he will try to return to the form that reigned for nearly 1000 years at the beginning of the Church. The Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church are where we find the guidance of the Holy Spirit - not in one bishop.

My concern, however, is that the Roman Church is so over run with a modernist train of thought, and they do not hold to the beliefs of those undivided councils, that they will invent their own teachings on the belief that they are an ecumenical council unto themselves.

BillyHW said...

Hilary, release the hounds!

Ecgbert said...

Yeah, it's bad. He's another Paul VI. A friend emailed me a New Oxford Review article that noted: "What Pope Francis is saying won’t rock the boat of contemporary culture... Bergoglio is still stuck in the church of the 1970s."

The good news is the church as such CAN'T change to what the secular world wants. That's the limit on the Pope and on the conferences.

But what you might see is what some naysayers predicted in the dark ages of Paul VI, that some liberal country's conference might go Episcopalian and try to take the country's Catholics into schism, voting through some doctrinal changes too. It'd be marketed as a soft schism, "redefining their relationship" with Rome rather than outright repudiation. (Like how I think the mainline will apostatize: they won't tell Grandma she can't believe in Jesus anymore but will officially make the trinitarian God of the creeds optional.) They will have left the church but it won't be presented that way; in short, the conference and the media will lie. (What Henry VIII would have done if he had the Internet.)

In any event, it will be a bumpy ride in the church. In a pinch I have the Greek Catholics and the SSPX.

- John Beeler

Dymphna said...

I won't go Orthodox and I can't go Byzantine Catholic and the SSPX mission in my area only has Mass once a month even if so I guess I'll have to be that loud protesting crank in the back pew.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Mr Aluise, I cannot share your sentiments.

I have tried Neohimerites and then gone back to RCC.

If you are a RCC but shares your sentence on the papacy as I did, Neohimerites are no solution because they are Modernist, they resent you if you like your history, if you are against not just pills but condoms too, if you are not confortable with attacks on Benedict XVI for being too harsh on condoms in Africa - he was too lenient.

And Paleohimerites are no solution either, they are too anti-Latin, especially if you are Austrian. Seem to confuse two very different démarches of the Austrian Emperors:

a) encouring Roumanian Orthodox of Transsylvania to become Uniates was done by a pious Roman Catholic Habsburg

b) destroying Roumanian monasteries and Churches was done by Joseph II, who cannot at any strech be classified as pious RCC or obedient to his Pope. He was a freemason.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

I am reminded of C S Lewis: "we used to have rulers, now we have leaders: of a ruler you expect justice and equity, of a leader you expect dynamism".

The new form called "Apostolic Exhortation" is somewhat illboding in that particular respect.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

It is an error to look for "somewhere else to go".

There is no where else to go. The Church is the Church and we adhere to it, to the last day, because it was founded by Christ.

Mike said...


You are exactly right and it's good to hear someone say it.

From his first days I've been concerned that Francis will "reform" the curia by, in effect, disbanding it; that he will "reform" the papacy by, in effect, abolishing it.


Anonymous said...

Miss White, you are spot on. Time to hunker down and watch the fireworks

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Of course, this being said, we may end up in the position of having to choose which is the biggest and most seaworthy bit of flotsam to which to strap ourselves for the duration of the storm.

Anthony said...


What are Neohimerites and Paleohimerites? Thanks.


Santiago said...

You are about a half a step away from sedevacantism...

I don't see why you don't allow yourself to be seduced by the peace and joy emanating from the faces of JP2, B16, and F1... Do you really think that they are all wrong, and the truth lies in the staff of the Remnant?

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...


I am the staff of the Remnant.

Santiago said...

nope... you're a better writer than all of them... there's a reason why i still read your blog. haven't gone to the remnant in years...

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

I just reread a paragraph.

Here is my reaction:

Upgrading Episcipal Conferences, is he?

Anonymous said...

But what are we supposed to do with our kids? Easy for you all to say "just cling to some flotsam," your hands are free. - Karen

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Palaeohimerites stick to Julian Calendar even for feasts tied to a date even in countries where Gregorian calendar is used.

Neohimerites (excepting Estonians) celebrate only Easter Cycle according to Julian Calendar but other feasts according to Gregorian.

As Russia and Serbia still use Julian Calendar anyway, the distinction does not quite exist there.

Most Orthodox (except Estonians) would if greeted Happy Easter by a Catholic (except a few years now and then) say they are still in Lent. A Russian or Serbian or Palaeohimerite would answer he was still in Advent if we wished him Merry Christmas.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Santiago, I am not saying Sedisvacantism is utterly wrong and accepting JP II? B XVI? Bergoglio (...) is obligatory.

I am saying that if they are not Popes, then EITHER there have been other Popes OR papacy is not the primary succession of St Peter, but individual bishops of sees are the primary succession.

If St Peter was the first Pope (RC sense), he certainly was the first man to episcopate in Jerusalem. But if he was the first man to episcopate in Jerusalem he might also have been the first Ordinary Bishop. Which was my position while among Orthodox.

Φιλολoγικά/Philologica : Answering Dimond Brothers about Eastern Orthodox

Anonymous said...

@Santiago: "I don't see why you don't allow yourself to be seduced by the peace and joy emanating from the faces of JP2, B16, and F1."

Yikes. Frankly, I've seen just as much apparent peace and joy emanating from the faces of the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, and John Lennon. One's subjective impression of a personality is no basis for a faith commitment. I, for one, am a committed Catholic largely in spite of the three pontiffs you mention, not because of them.


Anonymous said...

Yeah I've actually been in the physical presence of the Dalai Lama. He glows with peace 'n' light 'n' love 'n' stuff. If that's your basis for faith then go ahead and be a Buddhist I guess. - Karen