Rumblings on the Catholic Right

Several recent news stories indicate a certain impatience among Conservative Catholics.  Perhaps they are signalling that they are not going to be quite as quiescent for this Pope as they were for Paul VI.

Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the radical traditionalist SSPX, gave a homily recently in English in which he criticized Pope Francis quite harshly.  He accused the Pope of being a modernist, of making the situation in the Church 10,000 times worse, and of dividing the Church.  Strangely, the Vatican apparently felt the need to respond to these criticisms.  Cardinal Pell, a ConservaCath member of Pope Francis’s new-fangled privy council, got the job and said: 

To put it politely, I think that’s absolute rubbish!   Francis said he’s a loyal son of the Church, and his record shows that.  He’s very, very concerned for the day-to-day life of the people, and for those who are suffering, those not well off and those in difficult situations.  He’s a completely faithful exponent of Christ’s teaching and the Church’s tradition.

Q.  So people like Fellay have completely misread Pope Francis?

A.  Yes, it is a gigantic misreading!  In actual fact, the Lefebvrists – many of them – have misread the situation for decades.  It was to Benedict’s great credit that he tried to reconcile with them, but they didn’t respond. Now the Church today accepts the Second Vatican Council. You don’t have to accept every jot and tittle of it, but it is part of Church’s life now, there’s no way around that.

That the Vatican felt it necessary to send Pell to do this work is interesting.  That his defense of the Pope is so comically weak “Hey, the Pope says the Pope is orthodox, so no problem!” is even more interesting.  I guess he vaguely references the Pope’s record, but what can he be talking about?  As bishop, the current Pope was enthusiastically and publicly disobedient of Benedict XVI in liturgical matters, and as Pope he has been a copious fountain of odd sayings.  But, the most interesting thing is that second answer above.  Here is a Cardinal of the Church, the Pope’s own privy councilor, repeating the SSPX position on the Council—that Catholics don’t have to accept all of it.   It is disguised as a criticism of the SSPX, of course, but it says what it says.

It seems implausible that the Pope would wish to be defended in this precise way.  No matter how you read this defense—as a genuine attempt by a ConservaCath to defend the Pope or as a disguised criticism of him, it is bad.  If I am wrong above and this defense by Pell was not at the Vatican’s request, it is even worse.

Also in the news, Cardinal Cipriani, the first member of perhaps the most important ConservaCath organization in the Church, Opus Dei, publicly rebuked Abp Mueller, the disturbingly liberal Prefect of the CDF, as “naive.”  In context, “naive” seems to be a very polite way of saying Communist.  Mueller responded to the rebuke, and then Cardinal Cipriani rebuked him again, repeating the earlier charge and calling him a liar into the mix.  This all happened just a month after Francis confirmed that Mueller would be remaining as Prefect, thus basically promising that Mueller would be made a Cardinal.  The normal way to criticize the King is to say he is badly advised, and the normal way to attack the King is to attack an important adviser of the King.

Finally, the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (a group somewhere on the border between being ConservaCath and moderate traditionalist) was, over the summer, attacked by Pope.  Specifically, it was denied the use of the Latin Mass amid the Holy Father’s hurled invective against traditionalists generally.  Now, this was done for the reason (on the pretext?) of protecting the more liberal elements of the FFI from the evil traditionalists who were allegedly torturing them.  The evil traditionalist elements have (evidently) responded with a petition by some 200 friars to form a separate congregation devoted to the Latin Mass.  This action puts the Holy Father in the position of either agreeing to the request and essentially vacating the earlier attack or refusing the request and admitting that the reason was, in fact, a pretext.  This, again, is a time-honored way of resisting an unjust ruler (and, no I am not claiming that I know that this is what is going on here): putting him in a position where he must either be just or make his injustice publicly manifest.

One way of reading these stories is that the more conservative elements of the Church are firing shots across the bow of the current administration.  They would then be indications that Bp Fellay’s prediction about His Holiness’s divisiveness was not so far off the mark.

12 thoughts on “Rumblings on the Catholic Right


    Hate your neighbor,
    Love those who come from the other side of the world

  2. No it doesn’t. It means that Pell is not retarded and recognises that there may be legitimate disagreement in conscience over some issues. (not doctrine) Pell is one of the good guys. He gets pilloried here in Australia all the time by the left wing press who absolutely hate him.
    He’s refused communion to the obviously unrepentant, he’s had false sexual abuse allegations thrown at him, protests etc.

    Pell’s not saying that the Trad Mass guys are retarded, he’s saying the desire for Trad Mass is a legitimate concern of conscience. People who disagree with Church on such matters can still be in the Church. Catholics are allowed to have opinions.

    Like I said in a previous post. The Church is about to get it’s second blow. It’s first was the desertion by the liberals who didn’t like what the Church had to say, the second will be by the Trads who don’t like what it has to say either. A small core will be left and it will be high powered, the deadwood being pruned from the tree.

    • Thank you for the clarification. Glad to hear Cardinal Pell is doing good for the Church in Australia. It is good that church leaders tolerate legitimate differences of opinion among the laity and among each other. Yet, I rather like a bishop who clearly separates the jot and tittle from the really important bits, otherwise laity on both sides of the aisle can use the ambiguity of such remarks to promote their positons on false bases. I must say that a brief interview is hardly a venue for theological elaboration. Perhaps it is unrealistic to expect much from a bishop in that setting. But I hope he and other bishops will clearly elaborate upon this issue in the future, thereby providing all sides with suitable guidance to navigate through these difficult times. God bless!

    • That is really not a plausible interpretation of Pell, in context. Post Summorum Pontificum, it is no longer a matter of controversy whether or not priests and the laity have the right to the old Mass. They do, and the bishops who persist in denying it are disobedient. Furthermore, there is nothing in Vatican II which mandates, encourages, or even really foreshadows the new Mass. So, liturgy and Council, though related per accidens, are separable, per se. As the SSPX has explained, the new Mass is not a barrier to them coming back. They don’t like it, and they will not stop criticizing it, but its existence and normativity are not the barrier. In short, the barrier for them is no longer liturgy and has not been for a while. Furthermore, Pell is not an idiot. He knows this.

      The argument with the SSPX regarding Vatican II is quite specifically over doctrine. Unless Pell had a slip of the tongue, he is saying Catholics may reject some of the alleged development of doctrine which occurred at the Council. I agree that, under Benedict XVI, it became just barely possible for important, canonically regular, obedient people to hint that there might be doctrinal problems with the Council. Furthermore, Pell may be saying that Conservatives view that door as still open and will continue to view it as open at least until HH slams it shut. Perhaps a form of passive resistance, since it is not probable, based on his sayings and doings, that HH actually wants this door to remain open.

      But the SSPX will not agree to limit itself to hinting, nor will it agree to desist in its critiques in the event that HH does slam the door shut. That’s what stopped them coming back into regularity.

      • A better take would be to deny that some of what is presented as “doctrinal development” actually is such. The Church’s teachings on “religious liberty” (their co-opting of a leftist/modern/secular term for what they really mean to call “religious toleration”) for instance are clearly bound up with the circumstances of the present age — Dignitatis Humanae doesn’t outline doctrine, it outlines a strategy for applying doctrine in the here-and-now. It wasn’t true 500 years ago and may not be true 500 years hence. Since it’s prudential, they may well have gotten it wrong.

  3. My personal opinion – as a sympathetic outsider who would wish to see a strong Roman Catholic Church – is that the necessary change will not come unless or until the Pope and Magisterium acknowledges that – taken on the whole, and with perhaps a few exceptions – Vatican II WAS A MISTAKE.

    Then (and only then) can the mistake be repented, and learned from.

    But for as long as the attitude is maintained that Vatican II was on-the-whole a-good-thing (with a few exceptions – as with “…the Church today accepts the Second Vatican Council. You don’t have to accept every jot and tittle of it, but it is part of Church’s life now, there’s no way around that…”) well, then there is *no realistic hope* of putting things right.

    • I agree. As far as I can tell, it is licit for a Catholic to believe that it was imprudent to hold the Council, that the Council chose to express itself in a form and style which were imprudent, that the Council, in fact, had bad effects, and that the basic, animating ideas of the Council, that it is possible to co-exist peacefully and successfully with modernity and that it is a good idea to re-present the Faith using modern language and categories, were wrong. Furthermore, I think this is eventually (centuries hence, perhaps) where the Church will settle, on something like “the Council, rightly interpreted, contains no error, but it expresses the Truth in so time-bound a way that there is almost never a reason to read it and never a reason for non-specialists to read it.” You can almost hear a future Karl Keating (famous American ConservaCath apologist) adding this to his list of approved mantras.

      The happy-talk part of the Conservative line can’t hold. John Paul II’s springtime of Vatican II objectively did not exist. When the current Pope says “I dare say that the Church has never been so well as it is today,” one wonders what he is talking about. That Vatican II is a failure is obvious. For a couple of decades now, we have been marking time until we figure out what to do about that. A principle question is whether this failure is due to Vatican II being a bad idea, whether it is due to some minor and fixable implementation mistakes, or whether it is due to it not being tried hard enough. These are the Traditionalist, Conservative, and Liberal positions (as read by me, obviously). Like so many Traditionalists, I view the Liberal position as incorrect and the Conservative position as bonkers, sufficiently bonkers that I suspect that the Conservative position is not actually held by smart Conservatives. This makes me wonder what position they actually do hold . . .

  4. I left the so-called Vatican 2 church in the 80’s and never looked back, a string of popes of Rome from the freemason john 23 (named for another heretical pope) to the vanilla pope of Rome now sitting in Rome the Marxist Francis the 1st. The Orthodox have never deviated from the ancient or any other legitimate Ecumenical council. Rome started its corrupted ways with the filioque and the “so-called” supremacy of the bishop of Rome. Now you know why millions of EX (roman) Catholics now attend the Orthodox Divine liturgies Worldwide, Christians have had enough of the machevellian antics of the corrupt roman church.


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