Monday, February 11, 2019


A remark I made following the most recent blog post,

What's needed is what amounts to a spiritual makeover of "the American people," one that would allow for a principled remake of the country. 

sparked two comments from differing yet converging perspectives.

Commenter Joe addressed this remark from a specifically Catholic perspective and related it to the upsurge of abortion extremism in the US. Obviously this relates, as well, to politics in the Trump era. Trump's strong support of pro-life policies, including in his judicial appointments, is well known. Further, he is well known to listen closely to the advice of a devout Catholic, Kellyanne Conway--who was also the primary writer of Trump's wildly successful and outspokenly pro-life SOTU address. Joe goes so far as to tentatively relate some of what we're seeing in our public life to possible "End Times" signs. Rod Dreher addresses those darker concerns in light of recent events in a riveting blog: The Age Of Antichrist.

On the other hand, commenter Steven Fine wrote from a specifically Jewish perspective, drawing attention to "Catholic concern over Islamization and other issues as expressed by William Kilpatrick" at Crisis Magazine. The relation of these Catholic concerns (Islamization, abortion, gender politics, etc.) to the politics of both the Trump presidency and the West in general is clear enough. However, Steve also draws attention to the circumstances surrounding the resignation of Benedict XVI (as was, Joseph Ratzinger as is) and his replacement by Jorge Bergoglio, currently known as Francis I (I won't get into the fraught controversies over these events). It's not hard to see that Steve relates Bergoglio's policies regarding immigration as playing very much into "Islamization," both in Europe and in the US. That conservative Jews should share those Catholic concerns is not new. However, coming as they do at a time of the Vatican II Church's growing embrace of Islam, in tandem with the increasingly overt anti-Semitism of the Left--with which the Catholic bishops typically align--must be troubling. Bergoglio's own well known and close ties to Soros operatives can only add to that sense of alarm.

So, the convergence I see in these two commenters is the recognition and concern that the Catholic Church--arguably the central institution of the Western world--should be playing a conservative role (in the broad sense of preserving the cultural principles of the West) but is instead abandoning that traditional role. The moral and spiritual leadership that not only Catholics but also non-Catholics have come to rely upon--in the moral, spiritual, and intellectual arenas--is degenerating into a modernist style Babel and withdrawal from any claims to leadership.

That appearance of collapse was only strengthened last week when Bergoglio traveled to the Dar-al-Islam--the House of Islam, Abu Dhabi--to formally renounce the Catholic faith in favor of a type of Neo-Gnostic syncretism, claiming: “The pluralism and the diversity of religions, ... are willed by God in His wisdom.” The symbolism of the event could not have been starker, and it should be raising alarms among all those--Catholic and non-Catholic alike--who share a concern for not merely the health but the very survival of Western civilization.

Lest anyone suppose that my assessment of the significance of Bergoglio's Abu Dhabi adventure is simply alarmism, I would direct them to the statements of the eminent Catholic philosopher Josef Seifert. Seifert is himself a close associate of Benedict/Ratzinger and now, in measured terms, emphatically states that Bergoglio has "rejected Christianity" and "professes the sum-total of all heresies":

I do not see any artful mental acrobatics capable of denying that this statement not only contains all heresies but also alleges a divine will that a large majority of mankind espouse all kinds of false and non-Christian religious creeds. 
... God is turned into a relativist ... 
By signing the statement that God wills a plurality of religions, the Pope defied both fides and ratio and rejected Christianity ... 
If he does not do this [retract his statement], I am afraid that Canon Law may apply according to which a Pope automatically loses his Petrine office when professing heresy, especially when he professes the sum-total of all heresies.

Another Catholic philosopher, John Lamont, weighs in in a coolly logical fashion, but with a similarly explosive conclusion: Francis: A Public Repudiation of the Catholic Faith.

Further, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, formerly head of the Vatican's top doctrinal congregation under both Ratzinger and Bergoglio, has now issued a "Manifesto of Faith" that is clearly intended as a corrective to Bergoglio's errors. Mueller's Manifesto was originally intended for release on February 10--the eve of the anniversary of Benedict’s abdication, as well as the eve of the cardinal's own ordination. The decision to release the Manifesto a few days earlier than intended was almost certainly connected to Bergoglio's renunciation of the Faith.

For a sample of Mueller's state of mind regarding Bergoglio--and bear in mind that he's a professional theologian of a modernist bent--try this out:

[For Bergoglio] To keep silent about these and the other truths of the Faith and to teach people accordingly is the greatest deception against which the Catechism vigorously warns. It represents the last trial of the Church and leads man to a religious delusion, “the price of their apostasy” (CCC 675)  it is the fraud of Antichrist. “He will deceive those who are lost by all means of injustice, for they have closed themselves to the love of the truth by which they should be saved” (2 Thess: 2-10)

Rod Dreher comments:

This is absolutely extraordinary. The cardinal who, until he was sent down by Francis, was the chief doctrinal watchdog for the Roman Catholic Church, is now warning that the confusing teaching coming from St. Peter’s successor is a sign of the End Times. There’s really no other way to read this.

For my own part, I have made no secret of my view that the (relatively) proximate source of Bergoglio's rejection of Christianity--with all its attendant ramifications--is to be traced to Vatican II, and specifically to Dignitatis Humanae, the Declaration on Religious Freedom, which openly embraced a liberal concept of freedom as a freedom from constraint, rather than a freedom for truth. Bergoglio himself stated during his return flight from the House of Islam that his renunciation of Christianity had been "made in the spirit of Vatican II". I see no reason to doubt either his sincerity in that regard, nor the accuracy of his assessment.

The fact is, Bergoglio is now speaking openly what has been common theological/ideological currency in Catholic circles since the Council, including previous popes. Wojtyła's (John Paul II's) own flirtations with religious syncretism are only too well known to informed Catholics. Ratzinger's life-long campaign (jihad?) against the Catholic tradition of the perennial philosophy (philosophia perennis) in both its metaphysics and in the natural law is also well known to those with eyes to see. This rejection of traditional Catholic intellectualism should be a matter of grave concern for all conservatives, not just Catholics.

The question remains: What is to be done?

Fr. Thomas Weinandy, OP, (i.e., a Dominican) was among the first to set off an alarm regarding the non-Christian nature of Bergoglio's thinking. He spoke with some claim to authority, since he had for years been a theological adviser to the US bishops. That is, he was a theological adviser to the US bishops until he wrote, and published, a letter to Bergoglio criticizing Bergoglio for causing a "chronic confusion" and for obscuring "the light of faith, hope, and love." That was in July, 2017. After his dismissal by the US bishops, Weinandy followed his letter up with a thoughtful essay:

The Four Marks of the Church: The Contemporary Crisis in Ecclesiology
We need to mount a robust defense and clear advocacy of the Church’s four marks, for without such an apology, the Church’s identity – what she truly is – will become disordered, and so will enfeeble her ability to live and to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Weinandy sets out the contemporary crisis in ecclesiology in stark terms, which clearly are aimed at Bergoglio:

For a bishop to espouse heretical teaching, whether concerning doctrine, morals, or pastoral and sacramental practice which bears upon doctrine and morals, Ignatius would have contended that such a bishop no longer was in union with the catholic ecclesial community for he no longer professed the one apostolic faith of the Church and thus rendered himself incapable of exercising fully his office as bishop. He could no longer teach and govern as an authentic successor of the Apostles, nor could he preside over the Eucharistic liturgy in a manner that bore witness to and enriched the oneness of the holy catholic Church. Simply put, such a heretical bishop would no longer bear within himself as a bishop the four defining marks of the Church and, therefore, he could no longer justifiably act as an ecclesial member within the Church. He may continue to act outside the Church, or even within the Church, but his actions would lack a genuine ecclesial character, for the essential and indispensable four marks of the church would be absent within his specious ministry. Such, I believe, would be Ignatius’ rejoinder to a heretical bishop. And an argument I will similarly employ in face of our contemporary ecclesial crisis.

But what is to be done? Action by bishops appears to be the only viable path, but who's holding their breath for that?

Writing from an Anglican perspective, Fr Hunwicke advocates for the soon-to-be-canonized (whatever that means, these days) Cardinal Newman's theory of a "temporary suspense" of the teaching office of the Church (Newman on the Suspense of the Functions of the Magisterium). Newman is speaking of the 4th century Church, a Church that had only just emerged from the catacombs after the Diocletian persecution:

"... the body of the episcopate was unfaithful to its commission  ... at one time the pope, at other times a patriarchal, metropolitan, or other great see, at other times general councils*, said what they should not have said, or did what obscured and compromised revealed truth ... I say, that there was a temporary suspense of the functions of the Ecclesia docens. The body of bishops failed in their confession of the faith. They spoke variously, one against another; there was nothing, after Nicaea, of firm, unvarying, consistent testimony, for nearly sixty years ..."

While interesting, this concept seems of doubtful use or even applicability for our times. In fact, the application of this concept seems a bit anachronistic. In fact, the application of this concept seems a bit anachronistic. The fact is, Catholic doctrine in the post Nicene years was not as settled an affair--certainly not as settled as most believed it to be from Trent to Vatican II. The nature and role of the papacy was a developing thing, nor was the concept of ecumenical councils clearly articulated. Much of what was going on was directed by the Emperor, both in Church discipline as well as doctrine. To speak of heretics and heresy in that historical context is simply different than today. Talk of a "temporary suspense" in such circumstances might be justifiable, but is it justifiable when we're dealing not with confusion but with a concerted effort at what could be termed an institutional transubstantiation: a substitution of a new religion under the institutional appearance of the Catholic Church?

In the meantime, while we await action from the hierarchy, Catholics should welcome signs of concern from all men of good will, because they have a real stake in the health of the Church as much as Catholics do, albeit in a different way.


I made reference to my criticisms of Ratzinger. For those who are interested, here is a list of older blogs in which I lay those criticisms out. I do this because Ratzinger was a central figure at Vatican II, a central figure in theological discussion from then until the present, and remains a rallying point for Vatican II enthusiasts. I don't dispute that some of Ratzinger's actions--specifically his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum--had important beneficial effects, but any advocacy for Ratzinger must be done with eyes very much wide open:

Antonio Livi: There Is A Disturbing Continuity Between Ratzinger And Bergoglio

A Case Study On Continuity Between Ratzinger and Bergoglio: The Spirit And "Living Tradition"

Bergoglio's LetterGate--Continuity and Discontinuity

Another Attempted Defense of Ratzinger's Orthodoxy

Bergoglio And Ratzinger: Two Peas In A Pod?

More Ratzinger, Modernism, and Livi - with Legal Input!

Heresy, Thy Name Is Benedict. Or Ratzinger.

Cardinal Ratzinger On Europe's Crisis of Culture

Biblical Interpretation in Crisis: The 1988 Erasmus Lecture

Benedict at Regensburg


  1. I am not Catholic, so haven't really paid attention to any of these machinations. However, what I observe is that the Catholic Church is dying in the West and perhaps also in the third world countries of Central and South America. If you view the hierarchy as primarily politicians rather than Catholics, you might suspect that what they are trying to do is hitch their wagons to a more dynamic and expanding religion such as Islam.

  2. Yancey, I think your perspective probably captures the mentality of at least some clerics on the Left. I think, however, that your use of the terms "dynamic and expanding" hits on a factor that is very important. That is the pervasive influence of Hegelian ideas throughout the West for the last two centuries. Bear in mind that Hegel's ideology arose very much in the context of the French Revolution, which in turn followed on from political and social developments in the wake of the Protestant Revolt. Hegelian influence became very strong in the progressive moments, both in Britain and America, in the years before WWI. For a short overview of its influence on our legal institutions: From Hegel to Wilson to Breyer. A readable book length survey of the Hegelian influence on progressives as a whole can be found here: The Revolt Against The Masses.

    That Hegelian influence has also been very influential in the Neo-Gnostic "New Theology" that has become the default theology of the Church in the wake of V2--preeminently in the ideology of Teilhard de Chardin. The result is that thinkers of that stripe are very receptive to hitching their creaking wagon to anything "dynamic and expanding", as you put it. FDR and others were, after all, quite taken with Mussolini in the 30s, so that "liberal" theologians should be fascinated by Islam and seek to link it in a new syncretism--well, it's a natural for anyone who thinks in Hegelian terms of dialectic and historical convergences.

    I get into some of the even earlier historical antecedents in two Ratzi blogs (linked above): "Cardinal Ratzinger On Europe's Crisis of Culture" and "Benedict at Regensburg". In addition, three Scotus related blogs:

    Scotus and the Reformation, interestingly deals with a review by a Protestant professor of Art History at Wheaton College.

    John Duns Scotus and the Western Crisis, Part 1

    John Duns Scotus and the Crisis of the West, Part 2