burden of faith

In his Accompanying Letter to Traditionis Custodes, Pope Francis makes the astounding claim

To doubt the Council is to doubt the intentions of those very Fathers who exercised their collegial power in a solemn manner cum Petro et sub Petro in an ecumenical council, and, in the final analysis, to doubt the Holy Spirit himself who guides the Church.

I don’t believe I’ve ever heard before that Catholics are obliged as a matter of faith to credit the intentions of Council Fathers. Ordinary charity and the piety we owe our bishops demands we give them the benefit of doubt (although in any other context, I would be accused of “clericalism” for saying so), but to extend them unconditional trust on pain of “doubting the Holy Spirit” (presumably in this context meaning His efficacious guidance of the Church, rather than His existence)? This seems to be a new burden of faith, unimagined, I dare guess, by the Fathers of Vatican I.

If the Pope, for whatever private intention (let me not risk blaspheming against the Holy Spirit by even speculating about what it might have been!), wanted to suppress the Latin Mass, there was an acceptable official reason on hand. “The Church cherishes her history and traditions, above all in her ancient liturgical form. However, we are in a state of war. The Church is under attack throughout the world, and war demands a greater degree of uniformity than would otherwise be desirable.” There you go.

Of course, that’s not what Pope Francis said, because to do so would be to violate the modern world’s supreme dogma. There are two groups of people in the world today: those with “proud history” and those with “shameful past”. The intersection of these is the null set. Jews and blacks only have Proud History. European Christians only have Shameful Past. No contemporary churchman would dare dispute the supreme dogma. The supreme Catholic dogma (“Before Vatican II, bad.”) is a corollary of this, since the main effect of the Council Fathers’ efforts (let us not even think about their intentions!), aside from triggering a mass apostasy, was to tear down the liturgical and artistic inheritance of European Christendom. According to the supreme dogma, this could only have been good. Hence also the worship of the demon Pachamama must be good, because aboriginals only have Proud History.

Dogmas about the moral status hierarchy are the most fervently held and most socially consequential in today’s world. For example, an academic may be in good standing while saying that women/blacks/aboriginals are cognitively identical to white men but have been unjustly excluded from the sciences, or he may claim that women/blacks/aboriginals have superior ways of knowing/thinking, and that the sciences must overturn their white man ways of thinking to embrace this. The two claims are contradictory on substance, but they are consistent in social logic: “women/blacks/aboriginals > white men”. What an academic may not do while remaining in good standing is to say that white men’s scientific reasoning is superior to female/black/aboriginal ways of knowing; this would violate the supreme dogma. The whole thing may seem petty, but it is not, and the Left is wise to prioritize their moral status hierarchy dogmas.

As a duty of piety, if one was to suppress the Latin Mass, it was necessary to insist that it was not because the old rite, or the spirituality it embodied, was somehow defective. But that is what Pope Francis was most particularly not allowed to do.

3 thoughts on “burden of faith

  1. In my experience, a man who is thin-skinned about his intentions has a bad conscience about his intentions. In any case, I would prefer a council that instituted beneficial policies with evil intentions over a council that instituted evil policies with beneficial intentions. I would say that a central doctrine of Jesus is that a good man is a man who does good, not a man who intends (or pretends) to do good. All classical philosophy recognizes that good will is worth very little unless it is tied to good skill, and I’m insufficiently obedient to grant that the V2 rocket was launched with good will.

    Your comments on the progressive stack are correct and very droll. Envy is the ruling sin of our age, so one might expect a Church under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit to say something about envy. The medieval Church often denounced the pride of the mighty, but the modern Church has never denounced the pride of the measly. Envy is the pride of the measly.

    • I don’t believe the intentions of the Council Fathers even get much attention in the standard traditionalist critique. Defending intentions that haven’t been questioned does indeed look suspicious.

  2. Is the Holy Father really saying any more than Cardinal Manning’s famous rebuke to the Tractarians?

    “The first and final question to be asked of these controversialists is : Do you or do you not believe that there is a Divine Person teaching now, as in the beginning, with a divine, and therefore infallible voice ; and that the Church of this hour is the organ through which He speaks to the world ? If so, the history, and antiquity, and facts, as they are called, of the past vanish before the presence of an order of facts which are divine namely, the unity, perpetuity, infallibility of the Church of God”

    Τί ζητεῖτε τὸν ζῶντα μετὰ τῶν νεκρῶν

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