Sat 25th Oct 2014 | Last updated: Fri 24th Oct 2014 at 18:39pm

Facebook Logo Twitter Logo RSS Logo
Hot Topics

Comment & Blogs

The pope moves towards the SSPX and against all those radical feminist nuns. The old ‘reactionary’ back again? No: those liberal clichés are as silly as ever they were

Joseph Ratzinger has always said ‘no’ to heresy: but only so the Church could say ‘Yes’ to God

By on Monday, 23 April 2012

Last week, rather to my surprise, Pope Benedict became, at 85, the oldest pope in the last 110 years. He is, furthermore, one of only six to reign past 85 in the last 500 years. Last week was an interesting week for him: if you had just reported it as though the last seven years hadn’t happened, it might have been taken as a confirmation of what many expected on his election: that he would be, in the words of one commentator, a “ruthless enforcer” of orthodoxy.

Firstly, the possibility emerged that there really might be an agreement to heal the rift between the Holy See and the SSPX, possibly by establishing it as a prelature, along the lines of Opus Dei. Seven years ago, any such possibility would have been explained by many as a confirmation of the Pope’s unyieldingly reactionary temperament. Nobody says that now. The second evidence of the Pope’s rottweiler remperament would have been last week’s crackdown on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the main umbrella group of women’s orders in the United States. This was after a three year doctrinal assessment by the CDF, as a result of which Cardinal Levada declared that there was a situation of “crisis ….characterized by a diminution of the fundamental Christological center”. There was “a prevalence of … radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith …. theological interpretations that risk distorting faith in Jesus and his loving Father … including commentaries on ‘patriarchy’ which distort the way in which Jesus has structured sacramental life in the Church; others even undermine the revealed doctrines of the Holy Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and the inspiration of Sacred Scripture.”

So: at the same time as a convergence with the SSPX, a crackdown on all those non-habit-wearing radical religious: absolutely typical, no? Well not quite. As the liberal commentator John L Allen pointed out in the National Catholic Reporter

If we take the last seven years into view, not just the last week, the picture changes considerably. Quite often, the most intriguing feature of this papacy isn’t how Benedict has confirmed expectations, but rather how he’s confounded them.… Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the great “Doctor No” of the Catholic church in his quarter-century as the Vatican’s doctrinal czar, has actually turned out to be the pope of what I’ve termed “Affirmative Orthodoxy.” It’s an approach to church teaching that emphasizes the Catholic “yes” — putting the accent on what Catholicism supports and affirms rather than what it opposes and condemns.

Allen illuminatingly quoted the Pope himself:

Firstly, you have to know what we really want, right? Christianity, Catholicism, isn’t a collection of prohibitions: it’s a positive option. It’s very important that we look at it again because this idea has almost completely disappeared today. We’ve heard so much about what is not allowed that now it’s time to say: we have a positive idea to offer … I believe we need to see and reflect on the fact that it’s not a Catholic invention that man and woman are made for each other, so that humanity can go on living: all cultures know this. As far as abortion is concerned, it’s part of the fifth, not the sixth, commandment: “Thou shalt not kill!” We have to presume this is obvious and always stress that the human person begins in the mother’s womb and remains a human person until his or her last breath. … But all this is clearer if you say it first in a positive way.

All this took me back to the astonishment that greeted Pope Benedict’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, in both the Catholic and the secular media. The Guardian’s report, I see from my files, was headed “Pope surprises Catholics with warm words on power of love”. It was written by Stephen Bates, the Guardian’s religious Affairs correspondent, himself a liberal Catholic, and its tone of gratified amazement reflected the general reaction among Catholics hostile to the overall direction of the pontificate of John Paull II, and particularly to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and its supposedly cold-hearted former prefect. “Pope Benedict XVI thawed his previously chilly image yesterday” wrote Bates, “by producing as his first message to his worldwide flock a notably warm rumination on the nature of love. Deus Caritas Est … was greeted last night with some astonishment and relief among senior Catholics”. The encyclical’s message, opined Bates, “was far from the finger-wagging ‘thou shalt not’ tone that characterised some of his predecessor’s pronouncements and contrasted with Benedict’s stern reputation…”.

True enough: the tone of the encyclical did, as we all vividly remember, belie the Pope’s “stern reputation”: but where, it had to be asked, did that come from? The answer is that the cold-hearted “Panzer-Cardinal” Ratzinger of former times was from beginning to end a media construct. But what the press constructs, the press can deconstruct: and there followed a media makeover unequalled since Dickens published the final instalment of The Christmas Carol, and mean old Ebenezer Scrooge, transformed by the Spirit of Christmas, astonished and slightly terrified the Cratchit family by turning up on Christmas day with a huge turkey (the encyclical was signed on Christmas Day). “There never was such a turkey”; wrote Dickens: “there never was such an encyclical” almost wrote The Tablet.

So: what was going on? Monsignor Andrew Faley, the assistant general secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said “We are seeing the substance of the man as a pastor and shepherd of the flock. A cuddly Benedict? Well, well”.

The fact was of course that the pope was being just as pastoral as prefect of the CDF when he said “no’ to some new heresy. As for being “less prescriptive”, Deus Caritas Est was just as prescriptive as anything the former Panzer-Cardinal ever published, prescriptive exactly as Our Lord was prescriptive when he gave us his “new [ital] commandment [end ital], to love one another as I have loved you”.

This was no soft-centred “cuddly Benedict”; the pope still had a spine, as we have seen over the years that followed. He was exactly the same Joseph Ratzinger as he had always been. There was no contradiction: as he wrote as Prefect of the CDF in 1993, “Christianity is at its heart a radical ‘yes,’ and when it presents itself as a ‘no,’ it does so only in defence of that ‘yes’.” The secular world does not, of course, WANT a radical Christian “yes”; it wants a “yes” not to the love of God but to our own “personal choices”; and so, it has to be said does the secularising fifth column within the Catholic Church (including the American Leadership Conference of Women Religious).

There was always a limit to the Pope’s new cuddliness. There was no change in direction, as that old curmudgeon Hans Kung correctly diagnosed at the time. Thus, having praised the encyclical’s “solid theological substance” he also grumbled that the pope had failed to mention the charity the church should show toward loving couples who use contraception, and those who divorce and remarry. Poor old Kung, he didn’t get it then, and he doesn’t get it now; he knows what he believes and has stuck to it through thick and thin. But so does the Pope; and so, the Lord be praised, has he.

  • Benedict Carter

    No, nu-Churchers don’t like being reminded that they no longer hold the Catholic Faith.

  • jae

    man does not have a right to worship in another religion or live in error
    however there is one important qualifier that is..ONCE their conscience convicts
    them of the truth of Catholicism, but BEFORE this time they MUST seek and
    worship God in the ways that they believe he has revealed Himself. This is a
    simple yet necessary distinction we need to make. God demands that all men seek
    after Him, yet not all men know the complete truth of the Gospel. As such, on a
    natural level, He demands that they worship Him as best they can. The Roman
    officer named Cornelius as told in the Bible is an excellent example of this…a
    devout pagan “who can fear the Lord” ouside judeo- christian religion.

    can say that Satan does not have the right to spread his error and neither do
    humans unless given by God to tempt man. That is not the issue here. The issue
    here is, in the context of ignorance and his search for truth, does man have a
    right, based on the dignity of his person and not on the error he may profess,
    to search for that truth? Satan knows the truth but many non-catholics, pagans
    etc do not.this…a devout pagan “who can fear the Lord” ouside judeo-
    christian religion.

    We can safely say that Satan does not have the right
    to spread his error and neither do humans. That is not the issue here. The issue
    here is, in the context of ignorance and his search for truth, does man have a
    right, based on the dignity of his person and not on the error he may profess,
    to search for that truth? Satan knows the truth but many non-catholics, pagans
    etc do not.

  • Parasum

    Of course Catholicism’s dangerous. God is dangerous. The Christian life is dangerous. The Church is dangerous, because it is theologically worthwhile, and very important in the economy of salvation. Because the Bible is more valuable than Wisden, it is more dangerous when it’s used corruptly. The authority of Wisden has never been used to enslave and murder others – that of the Bible has. The more valuable a thing, the greater the harm when it is perverted.  To say that something is dangerous is not the same as saying it’s evil or undesirable.
    As for the quotation, it doesn’t consider all the possibilities, which is why it is unconvincing. Exactly the same argument could have been made by the Old Catholics – with whom, I take it, you would not agree – as well as by many other groups. The quotation leaves out significant details; if it went into details, it would be less memorable. It would be a good argument against Christianity, and against conversion. It takes for granted that mere lack of change is the same as fidelity.  One of the problems there, is that flies caught in amber have been changeless for millions of years – and they are not alive, but dead. A dead, fossilised orthodoxy is no blessing.  Christ brings us life, life in its fullness; not the sterile fixity of a dead fossil.

    To live, is to change, as Newman pointed out in 1845. The Church *has to* change, for if she does not, she cannot grow. But growing means losing one’s earlier appearance, one’s previouys bodily form, it means gaining  and developing fresh interests and tastes, while growing out of some earlier ones that were good and necessary for the earlier stage of life. To be faithful includes both fidelity to what has been received, and, receptiveness in the present. Both old *and* new are important – not one or other. A church that does not grow, is acting against her nature and her mission – if she does become greater than other plant, she cannot shelter all the nations. She does
    not exist for herself, but for her mission & the One Who laid it upon her.

    If the objection is, that the Church has changed as a result of outside influences that are not already principles for organic development with in the life of the Church, that is true – but it’s not an objection. If the Church learnt from adopting Aristotelian philsophy, when previously the Church had not been Aristotelian, the Church was doing no more than any of us does when we are influencecd by things previously foreign to us.  And if the Church can do that once, what disallows its doing the same in later times ?  What the Church can do without blame in the 1200s, it can do without blame in the 1900s.

  • jae

    Benedict, Benedict you are again putting interpretive authority on your shoulders of what Tradition truly says. There is NO “contradiction” between past and present Magisterium, the “contradiction” is just due to your flawed interpretation of Tradition alone apart from the living Magisterium, thus only existed in your mind though I’m not saying there is no problem but the “problem” has to do with (clergy)  liberal agenda and not the Teachings of the Church. 

    Martin Luther did that too putting interpretive authority on his shoulders of what the Bible truly says apart from the Magisterium, thus they scatter. To Luther it’s Bible alone to the ultra ‘traditionalists’ it’s Tradition alone apart from the Magisterium, thus they scatter too (Sedes, Conclavists, old catholics etc).

    Google “Catholic Legate” and click on Traditionalism and look at the dialogue section between Robert Sungenis (SSPX) and John Pacheco (Catholic) to answer most of your objections that posted here.

  • Parasum

    OTOH, it is not our believing that is primary – to believe is a gift from a Person; three Divine Persons Who is One God. Without Jesus Christ, the man Who is God-with-us in the flesh, the Church would be nothing. Nor would we. God is not changed or made or created by our believing in Him – we are.

    (I *think* that’s dotted the Is & crossed the Ts.) Very nice definition of human life BTW. 

  • jae

    As much as I would like for the SSPX to join in full communion with the Church to counter balance some of the liberal agenda however, SSPX also have some doctrinal innovations by the way they practice and teach ‘cherry pickin’ of  which Church Council’s documents/Teachings they deem right according to them. (their interpretation of Tradition).

  • jae

    Patrick Jesus Christ is both man and God thus a person and a “BEING” and according to the Teachings of the Church and the Bible, the Holy Truine God has Three PERSONS in One Godhead, namely God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.

  • Parasum

    Do you know of any site or, better still perhaps, any book or books, regardless of origin, in which these four issues, and their presuppositions & implications, have been dealt with exhaustively ? Thanks.

    There are sure to be solutions to those problems – the thing is to find them.

  • jae

    The problem with these two groups (liberals and SSPX) was the failure to realize that one can can sidetracked by both sides of the road, that the pendulum of disobedience swings both ways, one to the extreme Left and the other to the extreme Right. Orthodox Catholics stay in the center with the pope at the driver seat.

    In fairness, I prefer  SSPX anytime of the day over the liberals.

  • jae

    Welcome home! Just stick with the Church and  Peter.

  • jae

    “You can’t turn a Trabant into a Rolls Royce by adding a couple of go-faster stripes and leather seats or making the language of the English Novus Ordo a bit more sacred.”It is a another model of Rolls Royce inherent in its nature since the very beginning because the “essence” is the same,  Holy Eucharist – God Himself. So by saying it’s inferior and throwing all kinds of accussation you are greatly sinning against the Almighty Holy  God. Repent!

  • Parasum

    Are you thinking of Spain after the 1953 Concordat ? The public exercise of Protestantism was illegal, though its private practice was allowed. (It probably helped that there was not much of it at the time to declare illegal.)

    STM that if one regards a false religion as morally comparable to evils such pornography or narcotics, which could poison the holders of the true religion, one has a very good case for rejecting religious liberty as a cancer. Whether that is an entirely adequate way for Christians to think, is another matter.

    The comparing of past doctrine with present is a matter of perspective, to some extent. It’s like reading a Rorshach blot or a drawing of a duck-rabbit, only worse.  

  • jae

    “Then there is Pius XII’s famous linking of the Fatima message to apostasy in the Church, which validates what traditionalist Catholics see as the problems of the Vatican II revolution.”Where in the Fatima message does it say the apostacy was due to the validly ratified Council of Vatican II? Can you please furnish us or it’s just again putting interpretive authority of  private revelations apart from the authoritative interpretation of the Magisterium?  The problem is, you keep on believing in yourself or any looney about the correct interpretation of prophecy. Tskkk.

  • Benedict Carter

    The use of Aristotelian logic was Aristotle PURGED of the paganism, of all that was incompatible with the Faith. 

    The adoption of the French and American Revolutionary tenets has been done with NO purging of the elements that are incompatible with the Faith.

    Chalk and cheese – though your argument is an interesting one.

  • Benedict Carter


    There are several – but the problem is, that NO-ONE I have read CAN bridge the gap. This is the whole problem right there. 

    The best books by far that I have read are Michael Davies’ book on Religious Liberty (easily found by googling) and “Iota Unum” (ditto). 

    You will thoroughly enjoy both, and learn a lot. 

  • JabbaPapa

    If I remember correctly, the Ordinaries did warn about the possibility of administrative mess-ups in the early months until they got their organisation sorted out — do what Ben says, just call them again, and resend your application.

  • Patrickhowes

    Dear Jae,

    Jesus Christ had a human form but nonetheless was divine.During his time on earth he constantly revealed his Divine nature through miracles and on the Cross.So no he was not an ordinary mortal as you and I and his physical resurrection proved this!

  • Patrickhowes

    Very interesting indeed!If you apply what you say to the post war Church.John XXlll wanted to change an Institution and what happened was that the whole tradition was eradicated.I think that he wanted major change to the Holy See in terms of its secretive modus operandi.He did not request a major rethink of Catholic doctrine.Hence Paul Vl ´s staunch defence of Humane Vitae to counter what had happened and his comment about black smoke within the Vatican.Was this a direct referral to sexual abuse and financial handlings.Then with John Paul ll Iam distinctly left with the feeling that we got Paul when we required Peter.He wanted to travel and get out to see a flock that was already thinking differently to the Chuch.In Benedict we have Peter,building the Church for renewal and part of the evolution Parasum has to be ensuring that its identity is secure,  its theology as watertight as ever.Surely this is what forced Mons Lefebvre to break ranks.He simply could not accept the level of confusion .The Catholic faith is Christian humanism,Benedict but one in which Man strives to emulate God and to reach up to him and his example in Christ.In the Mass it is us who must lift our hearts to God and not make God descend to our human level which is humanism.I repeat God expressed himself in a human form only to put a stop to our confusion and sinning,but Christ´s character was always divine in nature and not human.He was born in to the world in a supernatural way through his conception.Change for change s sake is never good`,as there is nothing substantial that warrants the change.Surely the fact that Benedict has brought the english version of the litury to mirror the Latin is evidence of this?.Your pint about changing to stay faithful to Christ is a valid one as surely that is what we do.St John of the Cross refers to the dark and light nights of the soul.That sometimes we are closer to Christ than others,is part of our discovery of him.This discovery of Christ is or should be constant as we move through life and hopefully become more like HIM

  • nytor

    Yes, quite, I am sure you can easily be found a contact. There are groups all over the country. Where are you? There is a list here.

  • Nat_ons

    Would that this were true of more in the SSPX; at the leadership level there are those who distrust Rome much more than they hate schism. On the local level I know a fair number who would prefer to join the Sede Vacantist movements .. and these not just the shoot-from-the-hip ideologues who post on the web. So you can dismiss my concerns as myth, and others can like what you say of these real concerns, all I do is point out what anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear and a level head to judge with can appreciate.

    Note, it is loyalty to the Holy See and in particular the awesome Benedict XVI by which I measure both the SSPX and those who (still) oppose its blessed witness to the Faith. If I appear harder on the SSPX it is because I expect more of it, and because it is a society to serve in holiness not the church itself – an assembly that includes sinners. So if a sodality seeks to run the Magisterium, as the sodality sees fit, this is when a tail seeks to wag the dog ..

  • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

    We desperately need to ratify the true status of the SSPX and affirm that they have never been outside the Church. There role is crucial, not only in reviving the Liturgy, but in restoring orthodoxy. Benedict is finally figuring out who his true friends are. 

  • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

     “Their role”

  • JByrne24

    Some of what you would probably call “the Catholic Faith” is nothing of the kind.
    It is an ancient metaphysic, a Human intellectual construct, which is now understood to be deficient by virtually the entire Human race – including many in senior positions in the Church.

  • Benedict Carter

    Not my experience at all. 

    We need the agreement – then everyone will calm down.

  • jae

    I totally agree with you Patrick however my post above is also correct according to the Bible and Catholic Tradition. Google “Holy Trinity-catholic teachings” and you will see the 3-PERSONS in One Godhead, if you don’t believe this then you are not a catholic.

  • Benedict Carter

    Hear, hear!

  • theroadmaster

    Yeah, the Catholic Faith has been so universally revealed to be a fiction that it has now slightly over a mere billion baptized members and Christianity overall a mere 2 billion adherents.  It is strange that there seems to be no correlation between this fact and the pompous, unfounded assertions that you make.  The Faith certainly has been in decline in western Europe for some time, but this is because of an over-exposure to a hodgepodge of secular liberalism and a materialistic rationalism which still come up short regarding the key questions in life.  The power of religion is growing on all continents outside the narrow confines of that part of Europe and this will only further reveal the “deficiencies” inherent in the rationalist/atheist mindset.

  • Benedict Carter

    That’s JByne24 outed.

    So many people making comments on the Catholic Herald pages as if they were Catholics are so clearly nothing of the sort. It’s good to get confirmation. 

  • Patrickhowes

    How puerile are you?

  • JabbaPapa

    No, the Godhead is actually something else. The Godhead is of the Divine Nature, rather than the Divine Being.

  • JabbaPapa

    Claiming that the Godhead is the Trinity is an Error, that can be compounded as a formal heresy, as it is in Mormonism for example.

    The Godhead is the Nature of God’s Presence in Reality, as in the Incarnated Christ. It is also the Soul of the Christ, insofar as it can be viewed as different in whichever particular ways to His Flesh.

    It is the Presence of God’s Action inside Reality — and whether it is anything else beyond that, is outside of mortal knowledge.

  • Patrickhowes

    Thany You JabbaPapa

  • JByrne24

    As you very well know I commented on  ” what YOU would probably call ‘the Catholic Faith’ ” in your usual imperious manner – and not the true Catholic Faith in which I am a strong believer. Many priests (Catholic) Bishops and Archbishops share my views.

    Please DO try to be a little less arrogant – I know it will be difficult, but give it a shot.

    Consider: just WHO do you think you are? Almighty God on our day of judgement?

  • Benedict Carter

    Nope. Just a Catholic layman who refuses to be a nu-Church protestant. 

  • JByrne24

    Right – then live your Faith by all means as best you can in all conscience and sincerity.

    And let others do likewise, without labelling them as non-true-Catholic or anti-Catholic.

    I hope God will help us both together with all others as we struggle, with our little brains, to cope during our lives.

  • Sweetjae

    You are flowing with arrogance yet claiming to be catholic.  Anyways, to both of you and Jabba, I must admit I accidentally put the word “head” rather should be 3- Persons in One God, here is the Athanasian Creed: “the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God.”Ad Hominem again like Benedict Carter always do?

  • Sweetjae

    Here is another one from the Catholic Encyclopedia, “The
    Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion — the truth that in the unity of the Godhead there are Three PERSONS,
    the Father, the Son,
    and the Holy Spirit,
    these Three **PERSONS** being truly distinct one from
    another.” My argument is the word PERSON as valid word to describe Holy Trinity. So before you accuse of me of heresy, I suggest you read this first.

  • Parasum

    Thanks :) – that’s a lot of help. I have both, IIRC -  I believe Romano Amerio wrote a second book, so far untranslsated.

    TY again.

  • kalbertini

    Benedict can you explain why in the first 1ooo years Emperors & not Popes called councils ? Can you explain why in the first 1500 or more years nobody heard of Papal infallibilty ? Where was the Pope & his infallibilty when Pope arias sighned the arian confession(which as Cardinal Newman points out was defeated by the laity who are the church)  Can you explain why in the Council Of Constance it hailed “this council has recieved its authority from Christ & all are bound to obey including papal…” Why were popes always trying to excuse there way out of councils being called(thats why Trent was delayed & prolonged for 20 yrs),was it because they were afraid of councils & their power over popes.The church is the people of God thats why when Gregory the great taught sex in marriage was a necessary evil,Pope gregory the 16th condemned the work of the railroad as the work of the devil,Nicae,Vienne,Lateran,Sixtus condemned usuary under any circumstance but the Vatican bank charges usury today,Pope pius IX condemned democracy & held slavery as moral etc(I could go on forever,at Vatican 1 41 examples of papal error were presented to tame the novel teaching of infallibilty)These & more got changed or defeated because the people(the church) rejected them in the Doctrine of reception & the sense of the faithful.Your knowledge of history is non existant,theology one sided & teachin selective

  • kalbertini

    Benedict please ! there are not many infalible teachings(a anathaema sit does not mean dogma),the term dogma as we now now it came long after Trent. As Bisop Gasser stated when issuing the Dogma of infallibilty “the consent of the church(including the people) can never be lacking.Thats why Pius IX polled his bishops before issuing the immaculate conception dogma to see how the people were RECIEVING the teaching.This is called reception.Vatican 1 was a incomplete council.John XXIII stated one reason for Vatican 2 was to complete the one sided vatican 1.Paul VI confirmed this.When a teaching is not recieved(most catholics could care less about the views of society of pius x) since there selective of history & we would have to condemn freedom of the press(Gregory 17,Pius IX) & all other papal absurdities to unite ourselves with their past.Why don^t you push for the mass to be said in the original greek & not latiin.I know jesus spoke lation when he instituted the eucharist & turned his back facing against the apostles.If a pope in the 1st thousand years interfered  with another bishops archdiocese,he would of been told to bugger of.But accoeding to Benedict I bet the first 1000 yrs of Christianity were heretical.Only