Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
Francis’s Remedy for ‘Rigidity’ in Morals: Situation Ethics
Taken from here [slightly adapted - emphasis mine].

As we have seen in the two preceding articles, Pope Francis has been conducting a campaign against “rigidity” in moral issues, particularly in the area of the Sixth Commandment.

But this is simply a cover for moral relativism, for the kind of Situation Ethics (masquerading under any other name) espoused by dissenters from Humane vitae such as Frs. Charles Curran, Hans Küng and Bernard Häring. In the area of marriage ethics, there are no grey areas: Adultery, in the Church’s 2,000-year-old teaching drawn from the Divine Law, is a non-negotiable, black-and-white issue.

A “grey” Pope, however, is a contradiction in terms, for it indicates a failure of his primary duty to communicate Divine Revelation by means of the Ecclesia Docens, without which we would not have the certainty of infallible Truth.

But for the proponents of Situation Ethics, there are no moral absolutes that can give universal, binding, immutable norms of morality. In their view, every moral decision must be based on a unique situation judged according to individual standards of what is right in a given circumstance and at a given time. Morality, then, is simply a matter of individual preferences.

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Fr. Curran attacked Catholic morality in 1968

The solemn warning on this issue given by Pope Pius XII in 1952 has obviously been set aside:

Quote:“The distinctive mark of this morality is that it is in fact in no way based on universal moral laws, for instance, on the Ten Commandments, but on the real and concrete conditions or circumstances in which one must act, and according to which the individual conscience has to judge and choose. It is in these situations that human action takes place. This is why the supporters of this system of ethics affirm that the decision of one’s conscience cannot be made to conform to ideas, principles and universal laws.”1

A strong flavor of situational morality can be found in many of Pope Francis’s teachings, especially concerning the Sixth Commandment (about which he accused traditionalists of having a “fixation”). That he wanted priests to exonerate adultery is clear from the context of his recently issued Amoris laetitia.

There, he had encouraged priests to set aside the Law by admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to Holy Communion, in the name of “accompaniment” and on the basis of discernment in individual cases. But once intrinsically disordered acts are exonerated in one area, the whole of the Natural Law is undermined in every area, and the entire edifice of Catholic doctrine would be brought crashing down by inevitable logical consequence.

Amoris laetitia (§ 305) does precisely that when it claims that “the natural law could not be presented as an already established set of rules that impose themselves a priori on the moral subject; rather, it is a source of objective inspiration for the deeply personal process of making decisions.” This is a quote from a document produced by the Vatican’s International Theological Commission in 2009, whose title, "In Search of a Universal Ethic: A New Look at Natural Law," reveals its non-Catholic nature.

It is gravely damaging to the Faith for several reasons. First, the Catholic Church does not need to go in search of a universal ethic because she already possesses one in the Deposit of Faith which is to be guarded intact by the Hierarchy and handed on to future generations. But Francis wishes to liberate modern man from what progressivists see as rigid, archaic rules and codes.

Second, the objective Moral Law presupposes the order willed by God for all His creatures. It is necessarily an a priori truth because Christ, Who embodies the Word, and through Whom all things come into existence, was “in the beginning” (John 1:1); and, as the Gospels also record, our knowledge of what is required for the good life is based on “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4) i.e., not by deciding our own moral behavior from subjective experience. Francis and the Theological Commission deny that they are promoting Situation Ethics, but they fall into self-contradiction by supposing that Natural Law can admit exceptions.

Third, the objection to “an already established set of rules” being universally binding is a clear rejection of the Ten Commandments which Christ imposed as a fundamental and indispensable requirement for anyone who would be His disciple. In matters of marriage ethics, Francis talks as if Catholic morality was an invention of theologians:

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Pius XII condemned the very attacks against Morals made by Francis & modern theologians

“At times we have also proposed a far too abstract and almost artificial theological ideal of marriage, far removed from the concrete situations and practical possibilities of real families.”2 (Emphasis added)

Instead of preaching the Gospel, however, he and his collaborators on the Theological Commission twist and distort it by taking the widespread practice of adultery in modern society as a fait accompli to which Christian life must adapt itself. This is exactly what constitutes Situation Ethics as it had been defined by Pius XII in 1952:

“It is an individual and subjective appeal to the concrete circumstances of actions to justify decisions in opposition to the Natural Law and God’s revealed will.” (Emphasis added)

Their progressivist teachings thus constitute an attack not only on the indissolubility of marriage, but also, as Pius XII explained, on the very Person of Christ as the Word of God.

Häring – key to understanding Francis

Tyrrell was not the only major 20th-century figure whose modernist ideas were wholeheartedly adopted by Francis. The German Redemptorist moral theologian, Bernard Häring (one of the main leaders of public dissent from Humane vitae in 1968), also exerted a malign influence on his thinking with his “new theology” of marriage. Häring, it must be remembered, was a member of the Commission that produced Gaudium et spes, the Vatican II document that inverted the primary and secondary ends of marriage and described it vaguely as a “communion of love” (§ 47), and an “intimate partnership” (§ 48).

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Fr. Bernard Häring, enemy of infallible teachings & model for Francis

In spite (or, perhaps, because of) Häring’s long track record of vocal opposition to infallible teaching on Catholic Morals, Francis clearly thought of him as a model leader. He praised his pioneering efforts in the renewal and “progress” of Moral Theology, and Häring himself for being “the first to start looking for a new way to help Moral Theology to flourish again”.3

But Catholic Moral Theology, backed up by hundreds of years of Tradition, was already flourishing in the pre-Vatican II era before it was consigned to the trash heap by groups of progressivists at the Council. Its reputation was destroyed by corrosive criticism from an influential lobby of clergy who accused it of being “legalistic,” “rigid,” sin-obsessed, rules-based and subservient to the Magisterium – all of which made it, in their eyes, completely useless for the needs of modern freedom-loving people.

What attracted Francis to Häring’s “New Morality” was its aim to abandon the “rigidity” of true Catholic Moral Theology which was based on the Natural Law, objective truth and immutable moral principles, and was taught through the scholastic system. (Pope Pius X had stated in Pascendi that modernists held Scholasticism in contempt). In his book on “Christian Personalism,” Morality Is for Persons, Häring had redefined the meaning of Natural Law:

“Natural law means the sharing of existential experience and reflection by persons”.4

This makes the Natural Law a mere social agreement based on the conventions and customs of man, rather than emanating from the Divine Word which imposes duties and obligations on all people, in harmony with human nature.

Amoris laetitia & the attack on the Natural Law

It is enlightening to note the close link – sometimes word for word – between the manner in which Häring presented the concept of Natural Law and that of the Theological Commission which furnished the material for Amoris laetitia. Francis quoted from the Commission which taught that, “within a pluralist society,”

Quote:“moral science cannot furnish an acting subject with a norm to be applied adequately and almost automatically to concrete situations; only the conscience of the subject, the judgment of his practical reason, can formulate the immediate norm of action … Natural law could not, therefore, be presented as an already established set of rules that impose themselves a priori on the moral subject; rather, it is a source of objective inspiration for the deeply personal process of making a decision.”5

But here the Commission departs from the Church’s doctrine. It sees the Natural Law, not as a fixed “given” emanating from the Divine Legislator, but as something that “humanity … always seeks to give itself” 6 and that is continually evolving:

“This natural law is not at all static in its expression. It does not consist of a list of definitive and immutable precepts."7

And it has to be interpreted anew by subsequent generations:

“It is a spring of inspiration always flowing forth for the search for an objective foundation for a universal ethic.”

The Commission goes on to say that “the norms of behavior in society should have their source in the human person himself, in his needs, in his inclinations,” and supports the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the Magna Carta of modern ethics. But this sort of “Personalism,” beloved of the modernists, is contrary to Catholic doctrine because it turns the Moral Law into a subjective creation of man. It also denies that it was fixed in God’s mind as part of the Eternal Law of nature, i.e., prior to any operations of the human will. Even a child can understand the a priori nature of God’s Commandments.

With the “New Morality,” the foundation of the Natural Law is thus destroyed. It would be more accurate to say that this “New Morality” is no morality at all, for it panders to concupiscence and lures souls with the siren song of freedom to pick and choose according to their baser instincts. It is, therefore, only a Potemkin façade to hide a sordid reality.

And as the Ecclesia Docens no longer sees itself as the custodian of the Revelation given by God, or competent to preach Christian morality as obligatory, it is not surprising that all manner of immorality has proliferated unchecked throughout the Church and in society.

In a hypocritical display of self-defense, progressivists often claim that they are “following the Gospel” in the true liberty of the early Christians by connecting directly with the Spirit of Christ, without the intermediary of the juridical structures of institutional religion. This, of course, is a classical Protestant position. Yet it has now metastasized almost throughout the whole body of the Church under the influence of Vatican II’s “Religious Liberty.” In his efforts to break down the “rigidity” of Catholic teaching, Francis is endangering the survival of the Church and the salvation of souls that depends on it. That he wanted the Church to disappear and be reinvented in a new transformation is obvious from his statement in Evangelii gaudium:

Quote:“I dream of a ‘missionary option’, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.” (§ 27)

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Francis dreams of the Church abandoning ‘self preservation’

So much for his love of the Church: he is not concerned for her preservation. In fact, his arguments against “rigidity” have no foundation in Catholic Tradition. Furthermore, they are completely devoid of credibility because they have been proposed by progressivists who have lost contact with reality, both natural and supernatural. The evidence shows that Francis is simply rehashing errors that were typically made by progressivists in the 1960s to support positions promoted by some of the foremost modernists in Fr. Tyrrell’s day, and for which they – and he – were excommunicated.

To be continued

1. Pius XII, "Soyez les bienvenues", Speech to the Participants in the Congress of the World Federation of Catholic Young Women, April 18, 1952, AAS 44, 1952, p. 414.
2. Francis, Amoris laetitia, § 36.
3. Francis, ‘To Have Courage and Prophetic Audacity,’ Dialogue of Pope Francis with the Jesuits gathered in the 36th general Congregation, in Fr Antonio Spadaro SJ, La Civiltà Cattolica, November 24, 2016.
4. B. Häring, Morality Is for Persons: The Ethics of Christian Personalism, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1971 p. 162.
5. Francis, Amoris laetitia, § 305, apud International Theological Commission, In Search of a Universal Ethic: A New Look at Natural Law, 2009, § 59.
6. In Search of a Universal Ethic, § 115.
7. Ibid., § 113.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
Pre- & Post-Vatican II Seminary Training Compared

Taken from here. All emphasis mine.

For 400 years after the Council of Trent’s reform of the seminaries, the life of a Major Seminarian was much the same the world over: a tightly structured order of the day, comprising early rising, Mass, Breviary, Rosary, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, prescribed studies (including Scholastic Metaphysics), meditation, spiritual reading, ascetical practices, a strict dress code, recreation and the Great Silence before retiring at the end of the day.

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Seminarians in the Newark Diocese 1900, strict order & seriousness

The strict regime resembled that of a tightly-knit monastic community (pre-conciliar, of course) insofar as it enforced separation from women, discouraged close friendships with other seminarians, restricted students to seminary grounds and forbade them, among other things, to frequent places of entertainment. Minor Orders and the Sub-Diaconate were mandatory before Ordination to the priesthood.

It is this fixed order of seminary life, upheld by the requirements of ecclesiastical law, that the progressivist reformers disparagingly labelled “rigidity.”

But they entirely missed the point. It is obvious from this checklist that the principles upon which life in the seminary were founded arose from a desire to lead a life that was more spiritual, prayerful and austere, and that the goal to be achieved was the salvation of souls.

The Symbolism of the ‘Hortus Conclusus’ (Enclosed Garden)

The idea of a pre-Vatican II seminary – often located in a secluded area and surrounded with a wall – was separation from the world in order to remove students from temptation, in the interests of the higher calling of celibacy. When Vatican II encouraged unlimited openness to worldly values, and re-envisioned the role of the priest to suit, the model of a seminary as a “world apart” from ordinary life was held up to scorn by progressivists as foolish and unpractical.

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A closed world: St. Joseph’s Seminary in Upholland, England

Those who chose to immerse themselves in the worldly ways of living encouraged by Vatican II failed to appreciate how the rich religious symbolism of the “enclosed garden,” dating back to the Canticle of Canticles (4:12), was an eminently fitting model for a seminary. This is clear from the following analogies.

First, the garden (contrasted with Eden) was interpreted by the Church Fathers as an allegory of the nuptial union between Christ (the Bridegroom) and the Church (the Bride). It follows that the young men who aspire to the priesthood so as to become, like Our Lord, wedded exclusively to the Church, must live in conditions that foster fidelity. The most suitable conditions were found in the pre-conciliar seminaries, where the students were separated from worldly relationships, especially with women, which might entice them away from contemplating a celibate life.

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Our Lady pictures in a closed garden, Jan van Eyck

Second, the biblical image of the hortus conclusus was also applied to the perpetual virginity of Our Lady insofar as the garden of her womb, made accessible only to the Holy Spirit at the moment of the Incarnation, was closed to all others. This Marian doctrine, believed by the Church from the earliest times, was expressed poetically by Fr. Henry Hawkins S.J. in 1633:

“The Virgin was a garden round beset
With Rose, and Lillie, and sweet Violet,
Where fragrant Sentss without distast [offence] of Sinne
Invited GOD the Sonne to enter in.”

Fr. Hawkins also mentioned that the Incarnation was brought about by the action of the “Holie Spirit” operating “like a subtile wind” – so subtle, in fact, that the birth of the Savior left Mary’s virginity intact.

For those who aimed to lead a celibate life in imitation of the purity of the Blessed Virgin, no better living arrangements for their training could be devised than the protective walls of a seminary. Because of the weakness of Fallen Nature, these walls were considered necessary in order to screen out as much as possible the noxious influences of the modern world. They are all the more necessary in the present day when society is awash with materialism, hedonism and eroticism.

And third, the cloistered garden, a hallowed space of prayer and tranquillity walled off from the outside world, was recognized as an image of the interior life.

No matter how sound these arguments were in support of the Church’s former decision to build seminaries in areas remote from worldly influences, and to keep clerical students segregated from lay people, they made no impact on progressivist reformers in charge of the post-conciliar seminaries. The reason for this rejection of traditional seminaries is not hard to find.

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After Vatican II a casual & worldly attitude entered the seminarians

Vatican II distorted the ends of the priesthood and the Church by playing down their essentially supernatural nature while at the same time placing vastly more emphasis on secular activities and humanitarian goals to be pursued together with all the inhabitants of the world. This objective of the progressivists was remarked upon by one of the Council Fathers, Bishop Rudolph Graber of Regensburg who charged that they aimed to “deprive the Church of her supernatural character, to amalgamate her with the world... and thus to pave the way for a standardized world religion in a centralized world state.”2

In this Masonic scheme of things, seminarians are presented with new objectives – the building up of the community in this world – for which he will need new skills – dialogue, listening, solidarity, conciliation, assembly-gathering etc. But these are suitable for the promotion of naturalistic ends, as we can see from the fact that they are required, for example, by any shop steward or union representative in the world of labor. Seminarians are expected to mix freely and socially with the laity and join in their efforts to “make a better world” for mankind.

And so the seminary which, as its name indicates, should be the seed bed of vocations in the supernatural sphere, becomes a construction site where trainee priests are given apprenticeships for naturalistic, Masonic projects. In this way, the purpose of the hortus conclusus becomes redundant.

Revolutionary Basic Plan for Priestly Formation

Now let us contrast the traditional manner of training priests with the methods based on the new concept of priesthood put forward by Vatican II. In March 1970, the Congregation for Catholic Education (which was then in charge of the seminaries) issued general guidelines for implementation by various Bishops’ Conferences around the world. The following points of the Basic Plan for Priestly Formation highlight what is required:
  • “A greater esteem for the person” [i.e. individual wishes must be catered for];
  • Removal of anything whose reason is an unjustified “convention” [i.e. no rights accorded to Tradition];
  • Genuine dialogue must be established among all parties [i.e. no orders from “on high”];
  • More numerous contacts with the world must be encouraged [i.e. secular life is not be viewed as a danger to priestly vocations, and precautions can be abandoned];
  • Everything that is prescribed or demanded should show the reason on which it is based, and be carried out in freedom [i.e. no one must be constrained to obey].3

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Basic plan for Ongoing Formation of Priests

These new criteria for priestly training indicate that an anthropocentric revolution has taken place in response to Vatican II. This is the reverse of what pertained in the history of seminaries since they were first established by the Council of Trent.

The whole tenor of the training programme betrays its subjectivist foundation, as priority over objective truth is given to the personal wishes of the subject, which fosters egoism and eventually a sort of self-deification. The Basic Plan for Priestly Formation exemplifies the new religion of “Personalism” put forward by Vatican II under the guise of “the dignity of man.”

All of this shows that the concept of the authority to govern exercised by a superior has been changed into a meeting of minds in a fraternal relationship among equals. The new kind of obedience is a misnomer, as it does not involve the submission of one’s will to that of another, but only a mutual agreement which is the result of dialogue.

It is evident that the Catholic idea of authority (to be obeyed because it comes from God) is here cast aside in favor of the autonomy of man who decides according to his own desires whether to obey or not. Thus, the goal of the priesthood has lost its transcendent orientation and is now primarily the service of man.

To put flesh on the bones of the Basic Plan for Priestly Formation, Fr. John J. Harrington C.M., an advisor to the American Bishops’ Conference, drew up a list of desiderata in 1973 which were subsequently adopted in US seminaries:
“Frequent “one-on-one” encounters of long duration with other seminarians in which both parties manifest themselves rather totally and tell each other of their mutual regard;

Frequent informal gatherings of seminarians that can consume much time in a working day;

Liturgical celebrations in which the emphasis is often on the communal shedding of inhibition, a short-cut to “feeling at one with the Lord and one another”;

Apostolates to adolescents in which acceptance is both easily obtained and given;

Avoidance of dress or behavior that will mark him [the seminarian] off as “different” from his contemporaries and thus possibly make acceptance by others more difficult;

Courses and classes that will be of immediate assistance in his problem of “belonging.”4

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Seminarians at Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving TX, immersed int the modern world

The moral implications of this programme have been devastating for the Church. Not only does it encourage inappropriate relationships between young men, but it also allows vice to be practised quite openly through a system of unaccountability. The link between the abandonment of the former “rigidity” of seminary life and the post-conciliar decay of Catholic Morals could not be more obvious. Yet it is the former “rigidity” that is blamed for all the Church’s ills after the Council.

This is how an Irish-born priest, Fr. Hugh Behan – ordained in 1964 – voiced his criticism of the “old guard” of seminary Professors:

“[T]hey were prisoners of a system of negative theology and a culture that was destructive and produced the crisis that we face today. That is why suspicions of friendships even between the same sex in seminaries and convents and dangers of friendship with the laity were stressed, and hardly a word was said about the beauty and the power and the meaning of God’s love which is made present for us in the lives of other persons.”5

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Fr. Hugh Behan in 1960; today, at right, he is accused of molesting minors

The case of Fr. Behan illustrates the consequences of the false optimism about human nature that was the keynote of Vatican II and the “New Evangelization.” The reformers set about destroying the very conditions considered in the Church’s age-old wisdom necessary for fostering holiness in seminarians – the strict discipline, the emphasis on penance and asceticism, the traditional, rule-bound liturgy of the seminaries.

All this was abandoned in the interests of greater freedom and self-determination, as seen in the above list. With the relaxation of morals encouraged by Vatican II, it is not surprising that the clergy abuse crisis exploded in the 1970s and the Church has been suffering the consequences ever since.

It is not without significance that after Fr. Behan criticized the pre-conciliar teaching for putting “a too heavy emphasis on guilt, particularly sexual sins,” 6 he himself was removed from the ministry by the Bishop of the Jefferson City Diocese in 1999 amid accusations of sexual misconduct stretching back for years.

To be continued

1. Henry Hawkins SJ, Partheneia sacra, or, The mysterious and delicious garden of the sacred Parthenes: symbolically set forth and enriched with pious devises and emblemes for the entertainment of devout soules, contrived all to the honour of the incomparable Virgin Marie, Mother of God, for the pleasure and devotion especially of the Parthenian Sodalitie of her Immaculate Conception, Rouen: John Cousturier, 1633, p. 13.
2. Rudolph Graber, Athanasius and the Church of Our Times, London: Van Duren, 1974, p. 37.
3. The Congregation for Catholic Education, The Basic Plan for Priestly Formation, Introduction § 2, National Conference of Bishops, Washington, 1970.
4. John J. Harrington CM, ‘Ten Years of Seminary Renewal’, American Ecclesiastical Review, November 1973, Vol. 167, Issue 9, p. 589
5. Fr Hugh Behan, ‘Whatever became of Adolphe Tanquerey?’, The Furrow, Vol. 28, No. 3, March 1977, p. 169
6. Fr Hugh Behan, Editor of the Catholic Missourian, the newspaper of the diocese of Jefferson City, ‘The Faithful Departing’, The Furrow, Vol. 49, No. 4, April 1998, p. 244
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
Vatican II & Priestly Formation

Taken from here. All emphasis mine.

The matter of the last article brings us to a reflection on what has brought about the sea-change in the ministerial priesthood in the first place, which has been a reality of ecclesiastical life since Vatican II. An obvious place to start our investigation would be the kind of formation given to those training for the priesthood in accordance with the guidelines of the Council document Optatam totius.

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A female instructs relaxed seminarians at Saint Sulpice in Issy-les-Moulineaux seminary, France

We must keep in mind that the document offered only general guidelines. As part of the drive to decentralize the government of the Church in the interests of Collegiality, the task of implementing the guidelines was left to the individual Bishops who were expected to adapt their programmes of priestly formation to suit the different circumstances of life in their Dioceses.

The salient feature of Optatam totius is its desire to jettison the “rigidity” of former patterns of training based on the command-and-obey rule of past centuries. Instead, its emphasis was on a revolutionary liberty from restrictions imposed by authority structures, coupled with a fatal openness to the world and its influences. With regard to the reform of seminaries, this means that the teaching staff and students must open themselves to the influence of the modern world, and model their thoughts and behavior on the pattern of contemporary life.

Let us keep in mind that the publication of Optatam totius (and that of its parent document Gaudium et spes) coincided with and reflected the rebellious mood of the 1960s, with the result that they fanned the flames of revolution in the Church.

If any proof were needed of the disastrous effects of this anti-rigidity policy, we can take as an example the controversy that transpired in the 1960s between Card. James McIntyre, Archbishop of Los Angeles, and the priests of the Congregation of the Mission – the Vincentian Fathers – who were teaching at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California.

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An aerial view of St. John’s Seminary, Camarillo, California - closed in 2002, reopened in 2006;
below, its rector Marco Durazo, a convicted predator priest

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The history of the tensions that arose between the Cardinal and the “new breed” of seminarians at St. John’s has been well documented. One historian noted:

“He intensely loved the Church that existed prior to the Council and he could see little need for change.”1

Records show that Card. McIntyre was troubled by the Vatican II changes in the liturgy and in the concept of obedience to ecclesiastical authority, and that he resisted these changes with his customary “rigidity.”2 The price he paid for his principled stand was a sustained barrage of vilification by American liberal Catholics.

The prolific writer of Californian history, Kevin Starr, accurately described him as “the scapegoat for those pushing the ecclesial revolutions, so frequently self-destructive, of the 1960s after the Second Vatican Council.”3

And there are many other examples of the ill treatment suffered by McIntyre for his resistance to the Vatican II reforms. (In particular we must note the public defamation of the Cardinal by the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, Dorothy Day, for his longstanding “non-co-operation” and opposition to her involvement in radical political issues).4

Within five years after the Council ended, a Professor at St. John’s Seminary (later its President), Fr. Stafford Poole, C.M., could remark with accuracy in 1969:

The American seminary has experienced a revolution. Anyone who compares the status of the average seminary in this country, whether it be diocesan or religious, with what it was 10 years ago has to be struck by the almost total reversal of policies and approaches that has taken place.

"And what is all the more remarkable is that most of these changes have taken place in the past five years. A decade ago it would have been normal to find the seminary in an isolated location, with heavy emphasis on rules and silence, with a quasi-monastic programme of spiritual exercises, and with detailed and lengthy regulations governing such weighty matters as visiting rooms after night prayers, and with student mail censored.”5

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Card. McIntyre defended traditional seminaries

This, we now know, is also an accurate description of the transformation in post-Vatican II seminaries on an international scale. For the American scene, a detailed study of this phenomenon, confirming Fr. Poole’s analysis, was published 20 years later.6

It is true that the ‘60s were characterized by student rebellion in all secular academic institutions; but, within the Church, the actual catalyst for revolution was provided by the Council’s documents themselves.

Optatam totius in particular encouraged the relaxation of rules and restrictions imposed by the pre-Conciliar seminary regime in order to allow for greater autonomy in the personal life of the individual seminarian concerning freedom of movement, subjects of study, choice of company etc. Both Optatam totius and Gaudium et spes can be said to have opened the door to radical activists and ushered them straight into the seminary classrooms, allowing them to spread their ideologies and false philosophies.

It is only to be expected that after Vatican II, as Fr. Poole stated, “There followed a period of experimentation and then turmoil.” He went on to show the outcome of the new Conciliar policy:

“Experimentation with a few specified structures opened the way for questioning all of them. The old order came under attack as students demanded more openness, more consultation, and the abolition of whatever they considered to be “irrelevant” to their needs and those of their time.”

Fr. Poole noted that “enrollments fell dramatically, and many seminaries had to be closed.” This included St. John’s Seminary when the axe fell in 2002.

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Seminary in Huntington, Long Island, closed in 2011

A further point to consider about the intentions of the conservative Fathers at the Council is that whoever among them failed to implement the thrust of Optatam totius towards openness to worldly values were subjected to savage reprisals. This took the form of campaigns of vilification conducted not by the media, but mainly by diocesan priests against their own Bishops.

It is pertinent to note that, while some stood firm against the hail of arrows directed against them, most conservative Bishops decided it would be easier to compromise and eventually to succumb to ideological pressure to update the seminaries as demanded by the revolutionaries. These two reactions to Vatican II were highlighted in a historical work that contrasted the respective policies of two conservative Archbishops of Los Angeles, Card. McIntyre (who stood firm in his traditional principles) and his successor, Card. McGucken (who first tried to appease his opponents and then completely lost control of the situation).8

In spite of the undeniable evidence of the failure of the Council’s reform of the seminaries to attract and foster enough vocations to the priesthood, Fr. Poole insisted, however, that there should be no return to the policies of the Tridentine seminary, which had set the norm for priestly training in the Church. What did he have against the Tridentine seminaries?

An Unmerited Criticism

His vehement denunciation reveals the commonly expressed criticism of the progressivists:

“The Catholic Reformation put a conservative, authoritarian and legalistic stamp on the face of Catholicism; and the condemnation of Modernism brought in its wake suppression and the stunting of intellectual growth.”9

In other words, both he and they were opposed to the preservation of Tradition, the power exercised by the former structures of authority and the enforcement of disciplinary laws under the ultimate control of the Pope.

Contest for Control of Seminaries

The battle over who controls the seminaries was fought during the Council, and ended with a victory for the progressivists. Fr. Poole echoed the reformers opinion when he stated:

“Only if the Bishops take the lead will seminary renewal be a true success, for only they can supply the needed direction and apply the admirable spirit of Vatican II to this particular area of the Church’s life.”10

[Image: F229_FrP.jpg]

Progressivist Fr. Poole wrote spitefully against the prestigious traditions of seminaries

The Council handed control of the seminaries to the Episcopal Conferences “so that the general rules may be adapted to the special circumstances of time and place.” (Optatam totius § 1) But the direction that the Bishops gave was not a glorious success, as Fr. Poole was later forced to admit. After Rome lost its central control over priestly formation, and the Bishops collegially succumbed to the dictates of the zeitgeist, all that happened was that anarchy reigned supreme in the seminaries.

Dead Metaphors

The excuse given by Fr. Poole for jettisoning pre-Conciliar seminaries was that, in his view, they were examples of the Church’s “most static and ossified institutions,”11 and were no longer able to keep up with the times. The metaphor of ossification was a common trope among progressivists who saw the inflexibility of the Church’s laws as an obstacle to their revolutionary plans for change. They still use it to convey their sense of frustration with the former seminary regime that was characterized by hard and fast rules, strict rubrics and fixed formulas.

In addition to calling traditional Catholics dinosaurs, some reformers use the word fossilization to denigrate the Catholic Tradition that was known and experienced before Vatican II. But here two different realities are being confused: fossilization is not the same as the stability and permanence of a tradition that lives on unchanged over centuries of the Church’s existence.

It is a living tradition and has the same spiritual value for traditional Catholics today as it had to their ancestors throughout the whole the History of the Church. And to prove its worth, seminaries based on the old “rigid” system of discipline and traditional liturgy never fail to attract plentiful vocations, while the reformed ones have been toppling one after the other in many parts of the world, forced to close through lack of enrolment.

To be continued

1. Jeffrey M. Burns, “Postconciliar Church as Unfamiliar Sky: The Episcopal Styles of Cardinal James F. McIntyre and Archbishop Joseph T. McGucken,’ in U.S. Catholic Historian, vol. 17, n. 4, Catholic University of America Press, 1999, p. 64.
2. John Donovan, “The 1960s Los Angeles Seminary Crisis,” in The Catholic Historical Review, vol. 102, n. 1, Winter 2016, p. 78.
3. Kevin Starr, “True Grit” (a review of His Eminence of Los Angeles by Msgr. Francis J. Weber, 1997), Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 22, 1997, p. 3.
4. Dorothy Day, “The Case of Cardinal McIntyre,” in Catholic Worker, July-August 1964, p. 1. In this article she stated that McIntyre’s censure and prohibition “has increased the separation of clergy and laity, and has built up a wall of bitterness.” She also reported that a priest from Los Angeles (Fr. William DuBay) “wrote a letter to the Holy Father, asking for the removal of Card. McIntyre from the work of the Diocese,” and that the letter was widely published. But she did not defend the Cardinal against DuBay’s allegation of “conducting a vicious campaign of intimidation against priests, nuns and lay Catholics” supporting the Civil Rights Movement. For an earlier example of her public opposition to McIntyre in support of a politically radical priest, Fr. Hans Reinhold, see Carol Byrne, The Catholic Worker Movement: A Critical Analysis, Authorhouse, 2010, p. 245.
5. Stafford Poole C.M., “Requiem for Seminaries?” in American Ecclesiastical Review, 1969, vol. 161, Issue 4, p. 245.
6. Joseph White, The Diocesan Seminary in the United States: A History from the 1780s to the Present, Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1989.
7. S. Poole, “Ad Cleri Disciplinam: The Vincentian Seminary Apostolate in the United States,” in John Rybolt C.M., The American Vincentians: A Popular History of the Congregation of the Mission in the United States 1815-1987, New York: Vincentian Digital Books 18, 1988, p. 151.
8. Jeffrey M. Burns, op. cit., pp. 64-82.
9. S. Poole, “Renewal in the Seminary,” in The Furrow, vol. 16, n. 11, November 1965, p. 668.
10. Ibid.
11. S. Poole, Seminary in Crisis, New York: Herder and
Herder, 1965, p. 55.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass

Examples of Vatican II’s Failed Seminary Experimentation

Taken from here

If American seminaries, as Fr. Poole observed, have undergone a revolution in the wake of Vatican II, the same can be said of other such institutions around the world. We will now look at three British seminaries that had been established within 150 years before Vatican II, focusing on their commitment to promoting the Catholic Faith, and comparing them with the innovative seminary training recommended by the Council and put into effect by diocesan bishops.

Seminary of Ushaw College

St. Cuthbert’s College Ushaw, near Durham, was the principal Roman Catholic seminary in the North of England. Having started its working life as the English College in Douai, France, in 1568 with the help of refugees from the persecution of Catholics in England by Queen Elizabeth I, it was hit by a second wave of persecution during the French Revolution. It was relocated to England where the Douai priests founded Ushaw College in 1808. It finally closed its doors in 2011 on account of a shortage of vocations.

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Ushaw College

After its glorious 400-year history which witnessed hundreds of ordinations and the death of 158 priest martyrs (who had secretly slipped back to England in Elizabethan times to minister to the beleaguered Catholic population), Ushaw met an inglorious end – at the hands of today’s Bishops. Its passing is generally regarded with indifference by most people, and even welcomed by some as the end of a bygone era of vigorous defense of the Catholic Faith.

The seminary, a magnificent building in extensive grounds, with a main altar that is a Puginesque masterpiece, is now a tourist attraction, hosting a medley of secular activities – start-up businesses, art exhibitions, music and theatre events, marriages and civil partnerships, wedding receptions, drinks parties and food festivals. A seminary trying to finance itself without students is as preposterous as a hospital trying to do the same without patients.

On May 8, 1987, the Catholic paper, The Universe, published a full-page story on Ushaw and on its reformed programme of formation, which gives us an idea of the kind of identity its future priests were expected to have. One student said: “The priest’s role is now seen as that of co-ordinator of the parish gifts.” Another summed up his idea of the priesthood vacuously as “to love and be loved as part of a loving community.” However, in the full-page article on training priests, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was never alluded to – not once.

Upholland Seminary

St. Joseph’s College, Upholland, in the Archdiocese of Liverpool, was founded by Arch. Bernard O’Reilly in 1880 to be the seminary serving the North West of England. In the ensuing decades, the number of seminarians (both minor and major) grew so rapidly that an extension was built by Arch. Frederick Keating, completed posthumously in 1930. As with Ushaw, the scale and magnificence of the buildings and grounds were breathtaking, reflecting the importance that the Church attached to the purpose of the Seminary’s existence. A contemporary commentator remarked:

“Now we are privileged to look upon the whole majestic pile to see the full mid-day glory of the ‘garden enclosed.’”1

[Image: F230_Uph.jpg]

Upholland Seminary

Dr. Peter Doyle, a former student and member of staff at St. Joseph’s College, provided documentary evidence of Arch. Keating’s vision for the training of priests. The Archbishop said it was to be “a centre of sacred learning, an exemplar of religious observance, a treasure-house of ecclesiastical culture.” The teaching staff would be well qualified and “unsullied by Liberalism.” The Rector from 1926 to 1942, Msgr. Joseph Dean, chosen by the Archbishop, was a Scripture scholar who enforced unbending discipline and traditional practice on all seminarians. The Archbishop maintained that the views expressed by the Professors should always be strictly in line with those of Rome as conveyed through the Catholic Hierarchy.2

Keating’s successor as Archbishop of Liverpool, Msgr. Richard Downey, who was first a Professor of Dogmatic Theology at Upholland and then its Vice-Rector, defended the seminary system as the traditionally-conceived hortus conclusus designed for spiritual growth:

“The candidate is not encouraged to be clever or smart, to uphold strange and original views, to be abreast of the fleeting novelties of the day, to break away from the abiding, age-long traditions of the Church. For this the Church wisely ordains that at an early age he be withdrawn from the world and its dangers to within the sheltering walls of the seminary, for this the intensive culture of charity, chastity, humility and obedience; for this the many spiritual exercises, the constant round of prayers, mental and vocal, the daily Mass and Communion, the visits to the Blessed Sacrament and the shrine of Mary, frequent confession that the soul lose not its lustre, spiritual direction, weekly conference, monthly recollection, annual retreat, constant encouragement, exhortation, admonition, correction.”3

This is important to keep in mind when we come to examine the changes in seminary formation introduced by the Vatican II reforms and their impact on the future of St. Joseph’s College.

When the last senior seminarians left Upholland in 1975 to join the few remaining ones at Ushaw, their quarters were turned into the Upholland Northern Institute (UNI), a centre for lay leadership and the re-education of clergy, with Fr. Kevin Kelly as its founding Director. Fr. Kelly explained:

“As a result of the Second Vatican Council, adult Christian education for laity and in-service training for clergy and religious became key priorities.”4

Its purpose was not to train men for the priesthood, but “to promote Vatican II renewal.”

In his role as Director of the UNI, Fr. Kelly initiated pioneering educational and formational programmes, as outlined in his book 50 Years Receiving Vatican II – a Personal Odyssey.5

He also invited in visiting lecturers with highly unorthodox views on moral issues, such as Fr. Bernard Häring and Fr. Charles Curran. Like them, he stressed the importance of human experience and the changed approach to the theology of marriage found in Vatican II. He was succeeded in 1980 by Fr. Vincent Nichols, now Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster.

The coup de grace came when Arch. Patrick Kelly of Liverpool decided to close St. Joseph’s in 1996. The building, together with its grounds (where the mortal remains of Bishop O’Reilly and Bishop Keating, the two Prelates to whom St. Joseph’s Seminary owed its existence and development, had been buried), were sold to a development company in 2003.

St. Peter’s Seminary

Surrounded by acres of Scottish woodland, St. Peter’s Seminary, Cardross, is an example of Le Corbusier’s modernist, brutalist architecture. Built entirely in concrete – including its altars – it has the appearance of a multi-tiered car park or a post-WWII Soviet tenement building that fits with the communist ideology. The dystopian seminary was opened in 1966, buoyed up by the wave of optimism launched by Vatican II’s promise of a “New Springtime” for the Church. It closed 14 years later for lack of sufficient vocations, without ever having reached anything like it its intended capacity of 100 seminarians.

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Garish ruins of St. Peter’s seminary

By the time it opened, however, its demise was already pre-empted by Vatican II’s decision to downplay the importance of the ordained priesthood and exalt the role of the laity as the key to the Church’s future. Its gaunt and hulking skeleton is all that remains after decades of dereliction. The Archdiocese of Glasgow once described it as an “albatross around its neck.” They could not sell it or even give it away for free; nor could they demolish it, as it was an A-listed building. So they were stuck with the eyesore, until it was transferred to a charitable trust in 2020. So much for the ruin of material property, not to mention the waste of diocesan money and the ruin of priceless souls that accompanied it.

As a final irony, the modernist structure that was built to house a typically Vatican II-era generation of men and imbue them with a “naturalist,” this-worldly view of the priesthood, was itself overtaken by the forces of Nature: it was slowly but surely encroached by the surrounding woodland, eroded by the elements and subjected to the repeated depredations of vandals. The site, which has been long exposed to the scorn and derision of sightseers, reinforces the humiliation of the Catholic priesthood initiated at Vatican II. The last word can go to a writer who visited the devastated vineyard:

“As one descends a stone staircase littered with broken glass, there are yet visible many such altars, all in rows, altars that have long since fallen into disrepair. Today these altars are marked and defaced by obscene and macabre graffiti. The overall scene is a pitiful one; it is more Tarkovsky [a Russian film producer] than St. Thomas Aquinas.”6

Where the Real Fault in Seminary Closures lies

When the original founder of Upholland, Bishop O’Reilly, died, the 19th-century Liverpool priest, Fr. James Nugent, wrote that the seminary project had been “the cherished child of his heart, even to his last breath.”7

In a cruel and perverse fate, that child is no longer cherished by the clergy, because it was unloved, unsung and neglected by them when they collectively transferred their allegiance from Tradition to the revolutionary principles of Vatican II.

Vatican II’s Contribution to the Crisis in Priestly Identity

Just as it did with Matrimony, the Council inverted the ends of the priesthood; it accomplished this by placing far greater emphasis on the role of the priest as a service to man than to God. This broader vision left the way open to interpretations which included anything from gun-running in Latin America by priests and nuns, to clerical support for adultery and same-sex unions. The Council’s innovative doctrines encouraged the clergy and laity to adopt the cult of man over and above the cult of God, to prefer earthly considerations to heavenly realities, the profane to the sacred, the secular to the religious, and to exalt the laity over the clergy. As the Council sought a compromise between unchangeable doctrine and the anti-Christian theories of the modern world, the immutable principles of the Moral Law were subordinated to the free expression of modern man’s impulses and desires.

What is the Priest? After Vatican II, the Question is Still Up in the Air

The Coadjutor Archbishop Thomas Murphy of Seattle asked this very question in 1988, but was still searching for an answer over 20 years after the Council’s Decree on the Ministry and life of Priests:

“The question – What is the priest? – is of tremendous significance today because when we are able to articulate a theology of the priesthood that is appropriated by the Christian community, then we will have a clearer idea of the direction of seminary education and formation today, in its task of preparing ordained leaders for the Church of tomorrow.”8

This is an admission that in the post-Vatican II Church even Bishops are still unsure of the answer. A radical shift from the transcendent to the mundane had taken place in the modern Church’s understanding of the sacramental priesthood, which was bound to impact on the kind of seminary training received by those seeking Ordination. The basic problem was that the meaning of the sacramental priesthood had been compromised by the Council’s technique of obfuscation (literally throwing into the shadow) of the priestly office of sacrifice, leading to confusion about the identity of the priest.

So it would not be an exaggeration to say that many of today’s priests do not seem to know what they are. That is because the Council sidelined the traditional teaching that their first and highest duty, the raison d’être of their ministry, is to go up to the altar of God to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the living and the dead. This supernatural mission is encapsulated in the immortal phrase, Introibo ad altare Dei, the opening words of the traditional Mass that the reformers have been making every effort to extinguish.

It cannot be denied that the differences between the two systems of seminary formation – pre- and post-Vatican II – outlined in this article could not be starker; nor could those between how priests perceived themselves and their mission before and after Vatican II be more evident. The Council, then, can be seen as a point of inflection in the history of the post-Conciliar Church that would determine the course of future developments in the area of priestly vocations.

To be continued

1. Quoted in David W. Atherton and Michael P. Peyton, St Joseph's College, Upholland, Lancashire, One of the glories of Catholicism in England: Its rise and fall, 2013, p. 18.
2. Peter Doyle, Upholland College: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Priestly Training, Wigan: North West Catholic History Society, 2018.
3. Archbishop Richard Downey, Lenten Pastoral Letter, 1934.
4. Kevin Kelly, ‘A Rich Vatican II Resource’, The Furrow, vol. 65, n. 9, September 2014, p. 439.
Dublin: Columba Press, 2012.
5. K. V. Turley, National Catholic Register, January 18, 2021.
6. Thomas Burke, Catholic History of Liverpool, Liverpool: C. Tinling, 1910, p. 236.
7. Thomas Murphy, ‘Forces Shaping the Future of Seminaries’, Origins, vol. 17, n. 37, February 25, 1988, p. 637.

✠ ✠ ✠

Update on Ushaw Seminary

Dear [TIA],

Re: Examples of Vatican II Failed Seminary Experimentation

Thank you for posting my latest article [above]. I have some more information on Ushaw College, not included in the article, which I would like to share with your readers. It comes from Volume 2 of my series, Born of Revolution, which, incidentally, has just been published. The new material concerns the Junior Seminary at Ushaw, an educational establishment for boys of high school age who might be considering a vocation to the priesthood.

With the lack of enthusiastic support from the Hierarchy, the Junior Seminary closed in 1972. The irony is that it had always been much sought after by Catholic parents because it was a school that offered a Classical education for their sons, not all of whom were expected to become priests. It could have continued to operate as it had always done. Instead, it was reused as an inter-denominational, residential Youth Village providing employment training for teenagers of both sexes. The project soon collapsed, and the Junior Seminary, with its magnificent Puginesque Chapel dedicated to St. Aloysius, was abandoned for decades to the ravages of time and the depredations of vandals.

Photos on the internet [1] taken by an “urban explorer” who climbed inside the Chapel reveal some harrowing scenes of desecration. The fabric of the building was extensively damaged. A heaped-up tangle of pews had been dumped in front of the altar to clear a space for what one witness described as “bricklaying practice” by members of the Youth group; the altar’s carved stone reredos depicting scenes from the life of St. Aloysius was defaced; and a white marble sculpture of the Madonna seated with her Child in the midst of the ruins added an extra touch of impiety to the macabre scene.

A different photographer shows its side altars (including an altare privilegiatum[2]) trashed, with parts of columns and decorative fixtures littering the floor, the scene resembling the aftermath of a visitation by Thomas Cranmer’s or Oliver Cromwell’s men.[3]

It was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened: in July 2023, after more than 50 years of dereliction, the Chapel became the target of a suspected arson attack, and the conflagration spread to the adjoining Junior House, gutting them both.[4] That was the inglorious end of an establishment that had nurtured the minds of thousands of boys over the decades of its existence and had filled the Major Seminary at Ushaw.

Yours sincerely,

Carol [Byrne]


[1] https://www.28dayslater.co.uk/threads/us...16.104962/

[2] A “privileged altar,” codified in the 1917 Code of Canon Law, was a designated altar upon which a priest celebrating Mass could gain a plenary indulgence for a specified soul in Purgatory. This indulgence was granted in addition to the ordinary fruits of the Mass he celebrated. (See Harold Collins, The Church Edifice and Its Appointments, Philadelphia, Pa., The Dolphin Press, 1940, p. 73) But the “privileged altar” was suppressed by Paul VI in his Apostolic Constitution Indulgentiarum Doctrina (1967), Norm 20, when he changed the traditional concept of indulgences.

[3] https://www.flickr.com/photos/silverstea...otostream/

[4] https://www.victoriansociety.org.uk/news...t+Ushaw+to+ SSt+Aloysius+Chapel+and+the+Ushaw+Junior++House
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
Francis: No-No to ‘Rigidity’ in Seminaries
Taken from here. [Emphasis mine]

While clerical purveyors of dissidence and immorality enjoy papal favor on a global scale, Pope Francis has nothing but criticism for young clerics whose lifestyle is characterized by their commitment to doctrinal and moral rectitude. The former are flattered for their “humanity,” while the latter are accused of “rigidity.”

“When I find a seminarian or a young priest who is rigid, I say ‘something bad is happening to him inside’. Behind every rigidity there is a serious problem, because rigidity lacks humanity.” 1

(Here we could interject with a paraphrase of his famous saying that he chose not to apply in this instance: “If this young priest is sincerely seeking God, and has good will, who am I to judge?”)

Prime Targets: Young Priests & Seminarians

It is obvious that Francis’s barbs were directed at young clerics who – unforgivably in his estimation – showed their allegiance to pre-Vatican II codes of dress: he singled them out for an act of gratuitous aggression in a speech to a group of Jesuits, heavily larded with sarcasm and mockery:

“Clericalism has a direct consequence in rigidity. Have you never seen young priests all stiff in black cassocks and hats in the shape of the planet Saturn on their heads? Behind all the rigid clericalism there are serious problems. One dimension of clericalism is the exclusive moral fixation on the sixth commandment.” 2

It seems that the mere sight of priests in traditional dress produces a knee-jerk reaction that compels him to glower disapprovingly at their adherence to Tradition. Here, he adds two more accusations, smearing the reputation of traditional priests with allegations of “worldliness” and “effeminacy”:

“About rigidity and worldliness, it was some time ago that an elderly monsignor of the curia came to me, who works, a normal man, a good man, in love with Jesus – and he told me that he had gone to buy a couple of shirts at Euroclero [the clerical clothing store] and saw a young man – he thinks he could not have been more than 25.

"He was either a young priest or about to become a priest – before a mirror, with a cape, large, wide, velvet, with a silver chain. He then took the Saturno [wide-brimmed clerical headgear]; he put it on and looked himself over: a worldly, rigid man. And the very wise monsignor was able to overcome the pain, with a line of healthy humor, and added: ‘and it is said that the Church does not allow women priests!’ Thus, the work that the priest does when he becomes a functionary ends in the ridiculous, always.” 3

Sartorial Semiosis

Instead of appreciating the value of sartorial semiosis – the sign-language of dress that communicates an unambiguous message which, in this case, distinguishes the priestly role – Francis treated it with derision. He could hardly contain his mirth in reducing it to funny hats, fancy dress and women’s clothes.

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Pomp & rich vestments, despised by Francis

But these dismissive remarks can themselves be dismissed as flatly opposed to Catholic truth and common sense. The continuous witness of the Church shows that when priests went about in public wearing their cassocks, saturnos and capes, they did so not for worldly reasons, but for precisely the opposite: because these items of apparel were seen as iconic symbols pointing to a reality above and beyond the mundane experiences of this world. Now, however, with the new “theology of encounter,” clerical vestments are perceived as an obstacle to having a close relationship with the people.

It is indeed a bitter irony for Francis and the progressivists that they are now facing their own nemesis in the form of a new generation of young priests who do not share their negativity and ideological battles against Tradition. Au contraire, they are enthusiastic about preserving as much of their rich spiritual patrimony as possible, of which they had been deprived by the older generation. The issue at stake is the recovery of a sense of identity through faithful, ahem, “rigid” adherence to Catholic Tradition, doctrinally, morally and liturgically.

‘Grandma’s Lace’

Francis similarly drew media attention with his depreciative remarks about priests wearing traditional vestments adorned with what he termed “grandma’s lace.” He wanted to discourage it on the grounds that it is not “how mother Church wants to be celebrated” and because it is not in keeping with “the true liturgical reform that the Council sent out.” 4

[Image: F231_Lac.jpg]

Lace vestments would be sign of stubborn ‘rigidity’

To view liturgical vestments adorned with lace as a sign of stubborn “rigidity” in the wearer is totally, perhaps deliberately, to miss the point. If we examine the underlying history of lace, we will see its appropriateness for liturgical vestments and linens.

In centuries past, lace was a visual symbol of status, worn by the elite – royalty, nobility, the rich and titled, and the Church Hierarchy. What all these people had in common was that they were of superior rank in society. (It is not without relevance that the French Revolution dealt a near-fatal blow to the lace making industry in France).

So we can see the Pope’s lace-shaming exercise as an element of the “class war” pursued (consciously or unconsciously) in the Church today, where progressivists refuse to recognize the superiority – in the sense of greater dignity, privilege and power – of the clergy over the laity. Rightly has it been remarked that Vatican II was the French Revolution in the Church.

The fundamental reason why “grandma’s lace” is appropriate in the liturgy is that it evokes connotations of royalty: the priest, being the representative of Christ, wears it to honor the King of Kings. Francis, on the other hand, said it was to “honor grandma.” 5

It is worth noting that delicately woven lace possesses a certain ethereal quality that makes it a suitable medium for conveying a sense of the transcendent meaning of the liturgy. Furthermore, as the beautiful and intricate designs of lace work required great skill and dedication to produce, this tells us something about the liturgy that has been lost in modern times. It reinforced the idea that the worship of God was not a casual, incidental, run-of-the-mill activity, but a privileged occasion to be celebrated in the noblest, most beautiful settings fit for a King. Hence, laughing at lace has no justification in Catholic liturgy.

Admission to Seminaries Blocked for ‘Rigidity’

While there are legitimate concerns about admitting into seminaries men who are unfit for the priesthood, this cautionary approach does not seem to have been given a high priority in the wake of Vatican II – judging by the clergy child abuse crisis that has hit the Church in the last few decades. But the greatest corruption has come from the Council’s own liberal agenda which has succeeded in overthrowing traditional doctrine, standards and discipline, especially in the area of Catholic morality – the very things that the Church, in her wisdom, has always considered essential for the formation of young men training to be priests

We know from well-documented studies and personal testimonies that, since Vatican II, many candidates exhibiting even a streak of attachment to traditional Catholic values of piety and orthodoxy were screened out by those in charge of the selection process because they were seen as a threat to their liberal agenda. (Some seminarians said they survived by hiding their attachment to the Rosary which they prayed in private; others who were caught in the act were sent for psychological assessment or dismissed from the seminary). Precisely how often this happened is not known, but it was widespread enough to frustrate many genuine vocations and change the face of seminary training for generations of priests.

What we do know, however, is that Pope Francis was one of those who favored the elimination of what he termed “good” candidates – he said so himself at a conference for the Congregation for the Clergy in 2015. 6 In his address, he explained that when he was a master of novices in 1972, he took the results of a “good” candidate’s personality test to a psychologist for her assessment.

According to Francis, her diagnosis, based on Freudian psychoanalysis, was devastating: this young man must not proceed to the priesthood because his attraction to rigid structures is a sign of unconscious repression that will later manifest itself in mental illness. He quoted the psychologist’s words:

“Father, have you ever wondered why there are so many police officers who torture? They enter young, they seem healthy but when they feel confident, the illness begins to emerge. Those are the strong institutions that these unconsciously sick ones seek: the police, the army, the clergy.” 7

[Image: F231_Sem2.jpg]

Carefully chosen future priests who will ‘toe the line’

The inference meant to be drawn from this analysis is that all young men looking for “security” in rigorously disciplined institutions – a goal frequently denounced by Francis – must be mentally unstable and have a high probability of turning into psychopaths. That is how the post-Vatican II progressivists besmirch the reputations of traditional priests and seminarians who adhere to the Faith in its entirety.

There is a remarkable similarity between the demonization of traditionally-minded candidates and one of the techniques of the old Soviet re-education camps to “rehabilitate” those who opposed the “Party line.” In both cases, the non-conformists were hunted down, publicly denounced and, crucially, labelled as mentally ill.

In opposition to this grossly unjust assessment, another professional psychologist working in the field of seminary recruitment came to a different conclusion. He observed that “many who have felt called by God to follow Christ in this special way have too often been under attack by dissidents, feminists and homosexuals that were aided and abetted by psychologists who saw themselves as ‘change agents’ of the Catholic Church.” 8

It is now an established fact that Francis condones this baneful process of winnowing out seminarians attached to any aspect of Catholic Tradition. In the same address to the Congregation for the Clergy, he warned them about admitting such young men:

“When I realize that a young man is too rigid, too fundamentalist, I do not have confidence; in the background there is something that he himself does not know… It is a rule, a rule of life. Eyes open to the mission in seminaries. Eyes open.”

Preaching to the Converted

To put the Pope’s address into perspective, it is important to know that the Prelates in charge of the Congregation for the Clergy had been hand-picked by him for their revolutionary views on seminary training. The two most prominent figures were the Mexican Bishop Jorge Carlos Patrón Wong, appointed Secretary for Seminaries in the Congregation in 2013, and titular Archbishop Beniamino Stella, appointed Prefect of the Congregation in 2013 and made a Cardinal in 2014.

[Image: F231_Won.jpg]

Bishop Wong, Secretary for Seminaries

Both have long-standing form as opponents of Catholic Tradition, and owe their promotion on the career ladder to their sycophantic loyalty to Pope Francis and his “New Age” obsessions.

To be continued

1. Francis, Speech to seminarians at the Pius XI Pontifical Regional Seminary in Ancona, June 10, 2021.
Antonio Spadaro, “The Sovereignty of the People of God: The Pontiff meets the Jesuits of Mozambique and Madagascar,” La Civiltà Cattolica, September 26, 2019.
2. Francis, “Mediators or intermediaries.”Address to the community of the Pontifical Roman Major Seminary, Morning Meditation in the Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, December 9, 2016.
3. Francis, Speech to the Bishops and priests of the churches of Sicily, June 9, 2022.
4. Ibid.
5. The conference was organized by the Congregation for the Clergy in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.
6. Francis, Address to the Congregation for the Clergy, November 20, 2015.
7. John Fraunces, "Vocation Crisis: The Self-Inflicted Wound," Homiletic and Pastoral Review, March 1998, p. 53.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
The Secretary of Seminaries

Taken from here. [Emphasis mine]

February 9, 2024

Shortly before his appointment by Francis as Secretary of Seminaries, Bishop Patrón Wong had spoken about recent developments in seminary training at the U.S. Conference of Bishops:

“For 10 years now I have been a close witness of the way the Latin American and Caribbean Seminaries Organization (OSLAM), together with national Seminary organisations, has moved towards what we have called a ‘Copernican revolution,’ a radical change in focus.”1

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Bishop Wong, Secretary for Seminaries

He did not, however, address the connection between the revolutionary changes and the cataclysmic decline in vocations to the priesthood that followed in the wake of Vatican II.

When the Congregation for the Clergy issued its new guidelines in 2016 for the selection and formation of candidates for the priesthood, Bishop Wong was enthusiastic about the new approach precisely because of its revolutionary nature. For those who might be tempted to think that this document ‒ entitled The Gift of the Priestly Vocation, also known as the Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis ‒ had departed from the standards outlined in Vatican II, he assures us that it was faithful to the Council:

“The Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis finds its origin in the first article of the Conciliar decree Optatam Totius. It establishes general norms that will subsequently be applied to different cultural contexts, according to the reality of each country.

"The focus is on the dialogue between the universal view of the Holy See and the specific perspective of the Conference of Bishops. The raison d’être for this dialogue lies in the Conciliar determination that envisages priestly formation with a pastoral objective. It is not intended to standardize training, but to set forth those fundamental principles, the implementation of which would be determined by respective Episcopal Conferences.”2

Thus, Rome had deliberately jettisoned its central control over the curricula and discipline used in seminaries, with consequent chaos in doctrinal, liturgical and moral areas, which has actually taken place on a global scale after the Council. Priestly formation is now determined by whatever ideas progressivist Bishops around the world have managed to impose via national Episcopal Conferences, which can vary from country to country – hardly a recipe for orthodoxy and unity.

Bishop Wong is evidently keen to keep this dystopian situation in operation, judging by his Congregation’s criteria for the exclusion of candidates who do not fit in:

“Admission to seminary however, must be denied to certain anomalous kinds”.

These he facetiously identifies as:
  • “Those with a big head but a small body (intellectualism)”; [i.e. Francis’s “Doctors of the Law”/ “Pharisees”/ Scholastic theologians]
  • “Those with a strong spirit but a fragile mind and body (spiritualism)”; [i.e. devoted to the Rosary, the traditional Mass and traditional forms of piety, asceticism etc.]
  • “Those who boast of having great pastoral interest but possess little motivation (pastoralism)”; [i.e. who see priests as having a separate identity from the laity and do not, in Francis’s words, “smell of the sheep”]
  • “Those with a strong body but who have a small mind and spirit (superficiality).” [i.e. having a too narrow, “outdated” theological outlook, attached to rules and rubrics, not open to Ecumenism, Religious Liberty and Synodality, as promoted by Vatican II and Pope Francis]3
The contemptuous tone of these criticisms betrays his hostility to the traditionally-minded priests and faithful whom he urges to “leave their comfort zones in order to achieve true growth.” Anyone who appreciates the value of traditional seminary formation, which continues after many centuries to produce plentiful vocations, can rightly deplore his rejection of Catholic Tradition which he has cynically trampled underfoot for the sake of pleasing those in power.

The Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy

Cardinal Prefect Beniamino Stella, a long-serving member of the Vatican’s Diplomatic Corps, put his skills to full use in an interview published in the Osservatore Romano in which he presented the Congregation’s guidelines on seminary formation in the most glowing terms. We must keep in mind that The Gift of the Priestly Vocation was thoroughly imbued with the new theology of Vatican II, and he was proud to announce that these guidelines were all approved by Francis.

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Card. Beniamino Stella

We will examine how the document stays within the “Overton window” of discourse that limits the parameters of discussion only to those ideas that the progressivists find acceptable. Any policies that fall outside this restricted frame of reference determined by Vatican II are deemed politically incorrect, extreme, rigid or retrograde.

In his interview, Card. Stella spoke in the same register as Vatican II, that is to say, in a spirit of rejection of the past. So, naturally, out of the Overton window were thrown key concepts of seminary training that the Church, in her wisdom, had considered essential to the theological and moral formation of future priests. In particular, he stated that “old sacral and bureaucratic views of ministry [must] be surpassed, so that we may have priests passionately motivated by the Gospel, capable of ‘feeling with the Church’ and being, like Jesus, compassionate and merciful ‘Samaritans.’”4

He was, of course, referring to the new theology of the priesthood, largely modelled on the Protestant concept of ministry, which was conceived as primarily “pastoral” in character. It is clear from Card. Stella’s words that the intention of the reform was to displace the “sacral” model of the priest that the Council of Trent had identified as the essence of the Catholic priesthood.

Fr. Yves Congar, one of the chief influences behind the drafting of Presbyterorum Ordinis,5 considers “departure from Tridentism” as one of the great “benefits” that Vatican II “has brought to the Church and even, one might say, to the world.”6

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A progressivist manual for seminaries

But this resulted in an inversion of the ends of the priesthood. Priests would no longer be trained to think of themselves as the “man of the Mass” who is consecrated primarily to confect the Eucharist through Transubstantiation – a term definitely excluded from the Overton window. Instead, priority over the Mass and the Sacraments is given to a corporate “Mission” shared with all the faithful, to a life immersed in the secular and profane world, with the goal of helping to improve conditions in this life.

Hence, the Conciliar decrees and subsequent documents insist to an obsessive degree that priests must not be “isolated” from the faithful, should have “compassion” and “understanding” and show evidence of psychological “maturity.” All these sly criticisms – which subtly undermine traditional seminary training – are reinforced by Francis in his constant rebukes to traditionally formed priests for their “rigidity” in adhering to Tradition.

As for the remedy proposed by Stella for the supposed ills of Tradition, he recommends the application of large doses of “accompaniment” and “dialogue” in the seminary in order to achieve the much-vaunted “affective maturity” which was supposedly lacking in pre-conciliar priests:

“Only in this way will it be possible to have priests with friendly traits, who are authentic, loyal, interiorly free, affectively stable, capable of weaving together peaceful interpersonal relationships and living the evangelical counsels without rigidity, hypocrisy or loopholes”.

But this gives a different purpose to the training and ordaining of priests. The faithful do not need priests to be their friends, partners, brothers or psychological counsellors but, rather, Fathers who extend to them the means of eternal life from the cradle to the grave. This aspect of spiritual fatherhood is entirely lacking in the Cardinal’s address, as is any mention of the priest’s primary duty to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

In the same interview, the Cardinal continues on the subject of one of Francis’s favorite themes – “discernment”:

“He who follows the Gospel way and who immerses himself in life in the Spirit, overcomes both an ideological as well as a rigorist approach, discovering that the processes and situations of life cannot be classified through inflexible schemata or abstract norms, but instead need listening, dialogue and interpretations of the heart’s movements.”

We cannot fail to note a close similarity between the Cardinal’s vacuous choice of words and phrases and the language of the Vatican II documents themselves. Both are characterized by a cloying sentimentality and are expressed in vague, utopian terms intended to arouse positive emotions about the reforms.

The Cardinal then expanded on the meaning of discernment for seminarians:

“While speaking to the most recent Assembly of the Society of Jesus, Francis expressed his worries regarding this subject: ‘I am noticing’, he said, ‘the lack of discernment in the formation of priests. We are risking, in fact, becoming accustomed to ‘black and white’ and to that which is legal. We are quite closed, by and large, to discernment.

"One thing is clear, today in a certain quantity of Seminaries a rigidity has been re-established which is not related to situational discernment’. The principal challenge upon which the Ratio is intended to concentrate was suggested to us, yet again, by Pope Francis: to form priests who are ‘visionaries in discernment’ (Misericordia et misera, n. 10)”.

What are we to discern from all this? It is nothing more than a rehash of the “Situational Ethics” that had entered the seminaries in the 1960s and continues to subvert the minds of candidates for the priesthood in our day.

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A clear decline in U.S. vocations after Vatican II

Straight after the Council, the training of seminarians immediately felt the effects of these revolutionary ideas expressed in terms of modern pedagogy, sociology and psychology (with the latter proven to have directly contributed to instances of moral perversion among the clergy and the collapse of many religious orders).

These modern approaches, which are imbued with false philosophies antagonistic to the Catholic Faith, such as Marxism, Freudianism, Feminism etc., are made compulsory in the training of seminarians, and are reiterated three times in Optatam totius (§§ 2, 10, 20).

Card. Stella, who was a faithful supporter of Vatican II, confirmed the fundamentally anthropological emphasis of the Council when he addressed these words to priests: “Let yourselves be sustained and taught by pastoral life and by the People of God.”7

Under the guise of “human development,” post-Conciliar seminary reform has enabled the word of man to triumph over the Word of God, leading to the gradual secularization of the priesthood in an ever downward spiral.

To be continued

1. Jorge Carlos Patrón Wong, Coadjutor Bishop of Papantla, México, ‘Candidates for the Priesthood and Religious Life. Selection, Screening and Formation’, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, February 2012.
2. Jorge Carlos Patrón Wong, Archbishop Secretary for Seminaries Congregation for the Clergy, ‘The key aspects of the Ratio Fundamentalis and their application’, Conference of the Bishops of the Philippines, January 27, 2018.
3. Ibid.
4. “Interview with the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy His Eminence, Beniamino Cardinal Stella, ‘The Gift of Priestly Vocation’, Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis,” L’Osservatore Romano, December 7, 2016.
5. Y. Congar, My Journal of the Council, p. 867. With reference to the Commission that prepared the draft for the future Presbyterorum Ordinis, Congar states that “the work has been done, essentially, by Lécuyer, Onclin and myself.”
6. Y. Congar, Fifty Years of Catholic Theology: Conversations with Yves Congar, edited and introduced by Bernard Lauret, trans. John Bowden, Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1988, p. 3.
7. B. Stella, L’Osservatore Romano, December 7, 2016, commenting on the imminent release of the document, The Gift of the Priestly Vocation, by the Congregation for the Clergy.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
Burning the Manuals: Knowledge of the Faith under Attack

Taken from here. [Emphasis mine]

Whenever we consider the various waves of damage inflicted on the Church by revolutionaries throughout her History, we tend to think in terms of real estate, like cathedrals, monasteries and parish churches, or the accoutrements of religious ritual, such as vestments, chalices etc. – and understandably so, as Maurice Barrès, a member of the Académie Française, wrote in 1914:

“Our churches are among the greatest treasures of civilization. We have received them from our ancestors; we have a duty to hand them on to our descendants; we must not allow ourselves to be confounded by those who declare them to be useless.”1

These words are, of course, self-evidently true, but need to be repeated again in our times when dioceses are selling or demolishing churches declared “useless” at a rate that rivals or even exceeds the destructive efforts of revolutionaries at any given point in History.

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Traditions of Catholic Europe are the treasures of History; above, Chartres Cathedral

But mention is rarely made of the more intangible parts of our spiritual heritage that have suffered the ravages of hostile forces, namely the storehouse of knowledge of the Faith which has been with us from the beginning of Christianity. This knowledge, called the Deposit of the Faith, has been under attack by the Church’s own leaders since Vatican II. Its written form is found in various published and unpublished sources, such as the collections of manuscripts, codices, Acts of the Martyrs, Acts of the Popes and Councils, liturgical books, Scriptures, writings of the Church Fathers, catechisms for the laity and Manuals for seminarians and priests. All had been treasured and preserved as vital resources for handing on knowledge of the Faith from one generation to the next.

It is to the Manuals produced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that we now turn, as they are a distillation of the Church’s authentic Magisterial teaching, both written and oral. That, evidently, was why they were the object of attack by progressivist reformers. Only those Manuals authorized by the Hierarchy will be considered here, not the individual theories of individual authors found in some text-books. We are concerned solely with the unanimous teaching of the Scholastic theologians found in these Manuals that are now considered “decadent.”

When Sir Thomas Bodley founded the Bodleian Library in the 1590s, rescuing, among other things, the contents of the monastic libraries that had been destroyed by Henry VIII, Francis Bacon described it as “an ark to save learning from the deluge” – by which he meant the effects of the Protestant Reformation. The Church has since then been suffering from this and other deluges, notably the one launched by the French Revolution. But none was as devastating as the tsunami of Vatican II-related reforms that inundated the ecclesiastical landscape and turned the institutional Church upside down.

“Thought control,” as we know from the activities of the communists and their sympathizers in the 20th century, was the device through which revolutionaries destroyed true knowledge based on objective evidence, and influenced the masses to accept as true whatever the Party in power wanted them to believe. All the evidence show that this device was alive and well at Vatican II. It was used by a clique of Modernist theologians even before the Council to identify the Manuals, the bearers of the body of doctrine expressed in Scholastic terms, as a hindrance to the imagined transformation of the “People of God” and an impediment to “progress” toward the desired utopia. A logical outcome of this revolutionary position was the inclusion of the Church’s own Tradition as an enemy to the progressivist cause.

All of this explains why the Church’s traditional moral and dogmatic theology came to be regarded as “intransigent” and was routinely attacked as “rigid.” Progressivist theologians before and after Vatican II wanted to reformulate the Faith so as to make it compatible with modern secular sensibilities. Prominent among those who were staunchly opposed to the long-venerated “Manualist tradition” were the cluster of theologians who later founded the international journals Concilium (1965): Hans Küng, Yves Congar, Johann Baptist Metz and Edward Schillebeeckx) and Communio (1972): Joseph Ratzinger, Henri de Lubac and Urs von Balthasar. (To these we may add their long-deceased spiritual father, George Tyrrell).

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Ratzinger & Balthasar, two theologians determined to burn even the books of the old ways

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Their opposition had been well received at Vatican II which favored a liberal vision of the Faith compatible with religious pluralism and moral relativism. This challenged and implicitly denied the absolute character of Catholic Dogma and Moral Law. As a result, seminarians were given carte blanche to criticize the Church in her institutions, clergy, liturgy, devotions and traditions, which made it impossible for them to genuinely sentire cum Ecclesia (think with the Church).

Monuments of Tradition

In order to understand what happened to the Manuals which were a staple of pre-Vatican II seminary training, we need to know what these now forgotten Manuals were and why the Church had considered them indispensable for the formation of priests.

Before proceeding, however, an important point needs to be made. These approved Manuals belonged to the centuries-old tradition of Scholasticism that explained the Church’s teaching in the area of dogmatic and moral theology in a systematic and logical way, making it intelligible to serious students. The attractiveness and credibility of the Catholic Faith were thus enhanced by the demonstration of its harmony with reason and sound philosophy.

Contrary to the absurd accusations made by their detractors, the Manuals were never regarded as an all-encompassing theoretical framework that claims to know everything about the mind of God and encapsulates Divine omniscience in a few neat phrases (syllogisms). The knowledge contained in them was considered to be only the bare minimum that must be possessed by any priest-theologian before engaging in research or setting foot in the pulpit or the lecture hall.

Another major point in favor of the acceptability of the Manuals was that their authors were men of noted piety and erudition who actually taught in the seminaries. The content of their courses was based on the work of eminent theologians such as St Thomas Aquinas and St Alphonsus Liguori, to name two of the greatest. It can be said that the Manuals were instrumental in bringing the work of these luminaries into the 20th century.

Pope Pius XII himself taught this in his 1950 encyclical Humani generis:

Quote:“To neglect, or to reject, [things] which in many instances have been conceived, expressed, and perfected after long labor, by men of no ordinary genius and sanctity, under the watchful eye of the holy Magisterium, and not without the light and guidance of the Holy Spirit for the expression of the truths of faith ever more accurately, so that in their place conjectural notions may be substituted, as well as certain unstable and vague expressions of a new philosophy, which like a flower of the field exists today and will die tomorrow: not only is the highest imprudence, but also makes dogma itself as a reed shaken by the wind.”

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St. Alphonsus Liguori penned some of the most solid manuals of the Faith

These Manuals were praised successively by centuries of pre-Vatican II Popes. And Bishops ensured their use for the formation of priests in their dioceses because they exemplified the Magisterial teaching of the Church in Faith and Morals. They gave, therefore, a solid grounding in Catholic philosophy and theology. For these reasons, the authentic “Manualist tradition” was recognized as a sure guide for Catholic doctrine up to Vatican II.

It is significant that St Alphonsus, from whom the pre-Vatican II Manuals derive much of their content, was declared by Pope Pius XII to be the “celestial Patron of both confessors and moral theologians.”2 The relevance and value of the Manuals in pastoral life stem from the fact that they hold the interpretative key to judging questions of Catholic Morality in any era – hence their continued usefulness in the confessional for our times. (No priest formed in the “Manualist tradition” would dream of saying, with Pope Francis, “Who am I to judge?”)

It cannot be denied that without the “Manualist tradition” certain negative consequences have ensued for the transmission of the Faith in its entirety, for the moral life of the faithful, both clerical and lay, and for the evangelization of those outside the Church.

First, the general consensus that once prevailed among Bishops and was a rock-solid guarantee of unity simply fragmented into myriad “positions” on doctrinal and moral issues.

Second, the idea of what constitutes objectively grave sin has now been generally lost from view, as has the concept of eternal damnation.

Third, this has led to the increasingly widespread sacrilegious abuse of the confessional for the purposes of admitting remarried divorcees to Holy Communion without any purpose of amendment.

Fourth, the lack of “Manualist” guidance has enabled not only the subversion of the Church’s Constitution, but also the collapse of the Missions and the false relationship of the Church to the modern world proposed by Vatican II.

To be continued

1. Maurice Barrès, La Grande Pitié des Églises de France (The Tragic Situation of the French Churches), Paris: Émile-Paul Frères, 1914, p. 19.
2. Pius XII, Apostolic Brief of April 26, 1950
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
Sudden Demise of the ‘Manualist Tradition’ after Vatican II

Taken from here. [Emphasis mine]

How exactly the theological Manuals suddenly fell from grace, and were just as suddenly reduced to the status of mere quisquiliae (useless things to be discarded) after being hallowed by long tradition, is not a subject generally known today, even among traditionalists. We can take it as true that most priests do not know how and why they disappeared, and show little interest in finding out. They prefer, apparently, to cling to the unflattering portraits repeated by progressivists that depict the Manuals as a blot on the Church’s intellectual landscape.

Few post-Vatican II conservative-leaning Catholics realize that Fr. Joseph Ratzinger, in collaboration with Fr. Karl Rahner, was the main theologian in the opening months of the Council who rejected most of the initial draft documents, and who demanded that they be reworked to suit modern sensibilities. It is important to keep in mind that these official drafts, prepared by the Central Preparatory Commission under the direction of Card. Ottaviani, were based on the authentic Catholic doctrines taught by pre-Vatican II Popes, which crucially, represented the theological content of the seminary text-books or Manuals.

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Rahner & Ratzinger collaborated to undermine the perennial Catholic doctrine

Before going on, a further point needs to be made on this subject. [color=#71101s]Ratzinger was in the strongest position to exert immense influence on the formulation of the Council documents because he was the personal adviser to Card.Frings, Head of the German Bishops’ Conference. He rejected the “Manualist tradition” in favor of greater theological freedom to reformulate doctrine.[/color] In his Introduction to Christianity, first published in 1968, he made a harsh denunciation of “fixed formulas” (an oblique reference to the “Manualist tradition”) and their use in passing on the Faith to future generations. Ratzinger stated:

“[Modern disbelief] cannot be countered by merely sticking to the precious metal of the fixed formulas of days gone by, for then it remains just a lump of metal, a burden instead of something offering by virtue of its value the possibility of true freedom. This is where the present book comes in: its aim is to help understand faith afresh as something that makes possible true humanity in the world of today, to expound faith without changing it into the small coin of empty talk painfully laboring to hide a complete spiritual vacuum.” 1

As he mentioned in the Preface, the content of his book was taken from a lecture he gave in 1967 to students at the University of Tübingen. Paradoxically, he seems to have considered that his role as Professor was to teach them to despise the “Manualist tradition.” For that is the inevitable outcome of denouncing as a now useless anachronism the Church’s revered (and highly successful) Scholastic method of teaching the Faith with Manuals.

Ratzinger’s complicity with radical revolution

Prof. Ratzinger’s 1967 lecture could not have come at a worse time. West Germany was at the centre of the European student protest movement of 1968, and was led by the Socialist student activist, Rudi Dutschke. (It was he, incidentally, who formulated the term, “Long March through the Institutions” as a strategy for working against established structures while working within them).

Many students at the University of Tübingen, where Ratzinger had been teaching for two years, were among those who took an active part in the ensuing widespread riots, violence and destruction. Their rebellion was essentially a protest against all “fixed formulas” (as found, for instance, in Humanae vitae which was a particular flashpoint) that supported patriarchal structures, lifestyle patterns and traditional morals operating in the Church and society.

As with similar lectures by his contemporaries, Fr. Karl Rahner and Fr. Hans Küng, Prof. Ratzinger’s were packed with hundreds of radicalized students attracted like bees to a honey pot. (In later life, he put a euphemistic gloss on his popularity with the students by saying that they “reacted enthusiastically to the new tone they thought they heard in my words.”) 2

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Fr. Ratzinger & Card. Frings listen to Hans Maier, Bavarian Minister of Education

But what they actually heard and reacted to was a new theological orientation that would justify their revolutionary impulses for “liberation,” and help them devise plans for radical action in the Church and society. This sort of anti-authority rebellion is amply demonstrated to have been the case in the 1968 student movement in Germany.3 Moreover, it cannot be denied that all three progressivist theologians – Ratzinger, Rahner and Küng – exploited the relatively immature intellectual development and gullibility of young people, for the most part still in their teens, to pump them with anti-traditional propaganda by presenting opinion as fact.

Ratzinger’s determination to rid the Church of “fixed formulas” ‒ which had acted as the glue that helped keep the Christian order of Church and society from dissolution ‒ did nothing to improve the situation, and even helped to fan the flames of revolt. With so much pressure from all sides for “emancipation,” the University descended into a maelstrom of revolution and radical theology, and the Church itself followed suit, fracturing in the process its common bonds of tradition, custom, culture and morality.

This parlous situation can be seen as an early stage of the abdication of clerical authority that would become evident after Vatican II when bishops and priests simply gave up the fight for the interests of the Church against revolutionary forces that sought to destroy her. There can be no doubt that keeping the “Manualist tradition” with its “fixed formulas” would have been a sure bulwark against the revolution.

Mid-20th century crisis of the 'Manualist tradition' in seminaries

Referring to his own seminary days, Ratzinger commented with obvious relish:

“All of us lived with a feeling of radical change that had already arisen in the 1920s, the sense of a theology that had the courage to ask new questions and a spirituality that was doing away with what was dusty and obsolete and leading to a new joy in the redemption.” 4

His opinion that “courage” was needed to ask new theological questions in the early 20th century was a veiled critique of the Roman authorities who were attempting to crush the Modernist movement. He did not distinguish between questioning as enquiry (as in “faith seeking understanding”) and questioning as implying either doubt or outright incredulity (as in Modernism’s scepticism towards accepted doctrine). And yet the distinction is crucial, for right understanding and effective communication of ideas always involve making careful distinctions, as he would have found in the Manuals, had he consulted them.

The point of Ratzinger’s opinion was obviously to reinforce the usual progressivist stereotype of the pre-Vatican II Church as a hidebound, obscurantist institution propping up a tyrannical regime that suppresses progress by stifling intellectual enquiry and debate. What he failed to appreciate was that the Scholastic method of explaining the Faith does not require people to refrain from asking questions; but it does prevent them from arriving at wrong answers in the sense of drawing conclusions from initial premises that are contrary to Catholic principles.

In fact, the value and legitimacy of asking questions were always recognized in the Church. St. Thomas’s Summa, for instance, was constructed on that method: it contains as many questions as there are answers.
Then there were the great Disputationes and Controversiae of the Counter-Reformation period which were dedicated to solving quaestiones about theological matters. These gave rise to much intellectual ferment and debate, all of which was subsumed in the Scholastic system, eventually emerging in the “Manualist tradition.”

The Church, then, never had a problem with asking questions. The problem was with progressivist theologians who did not want to hear the answers.

Ratzinger’s attraction to turn-of-the-century progressivist theology (of the kind dubbed “Modernism” and condemned by Pope Pius X) was a key factor in his dismissal of “fixed formulas” found in the dusty old tomes of the “Manualist tradition.” Like his fellow neo-modernists, he was intoxicated by the prospect of the exciting new developments in theology that would open new horizons for him and satisfy his thirst for novelty. The leading progressivist theologian of Pius XII’s time, Henri de Lubac SJ, attained hero status in his eyes: he, too, scorned the Scholastic tradition found in the Manuals.

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Ratzinger with the no less radical Yves Congar

Then there were de Lubac’s companions – Chenu, Congar, Daniélou – who were particularly active in promoting “ressourcement” theology in the 1940s, and with whom Ratzinger collaborated in their efforts to dethrone Scholastic theology.

In addition to these French sources, Ratzinger adds in his Memoirs a Pléiade of contemporary German progressivist theologians 5 who exerted a fundamental influence on his thinking. These included his professor of Moral Theology, Fr, Richard Egenter and his colleagues who were seeking “to end the dominance of casuistry and the Natural Law” and would allow people to “to rethink morality on the basis of the following of Christ.” 6

Unsurprisingly, they all rejected the “Manualist tradition.” The Bible, rather than Tradition, would be the guiding rule. This is enough to show that Ratzinger belonged to a bohemian fringe of theologians who rallied against mainstream theology and challenged dominant values in the Church.

The inescapable conclusion is that Ratzinger was on the side of the neo-modernists who want unlimited academic freedom rather than submit their intellects to the authority of the Hierarchy in matters of revealed doctrine. This is confirmed by his observation that, at the beginning of the Council, Pope John XXIII “by the force of his personality” had infused the proceedings with a “holy freedom” and a new spirit of “openness and candor.” He saw this turn-around as a catharsis in the sense that “the anti-modernistic neurosis that had again and again crippled the Church since the turn of the century here seemed to be approaching a cure.” 7

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Fr. Ratzinger, the personal secretary of Card. Frings

Ratzinger’s image of Pope John XXIII as a smiling, avuncular figure dispensing liberal amounts of good cheer at the Council has a deeper significance. First, it was Ratzinger himself who played a major role before and during the Council to change its tone, mood and orientation. 8 There is evidence that he single-handedly drew up the blueprint for Vatican II when he composed a lecture for Card. Frings to deliver in Genoa in November 1961 at a Conference on the Church in the Modern World. 9

According to Frings’s biographer, Fr. Norbert Trippen, John XXIII was so pleased with its contents and tone that he declared it to be entirely compatible with his own intentions for the Council. 10 Anyone who reads the Lecture (a translation of selected passages into English is also available) 11 can see an exact correspondence at several points with the text of John XXXIII’s Opening Speech, Gaudet Mater Ecclesia. Interestingly, Romano Amerio who was a peritus at the Council, detected the hand of a hidden author:

“The opening speech of the Council … is a complex document, and there is evidence that this is partly because the Pope’s thought is given in a version influenced by someone else.” 12

He was apparently unaware of Ratzinger’s role as ghost writer of the document.

Secondly, and even more significantly, Ratzinger’s contrived image of a jolly John XXIII was a pretext to present in a negative light the Church’s “old policy of exclusiveness, condemnation and defence” that he interpreted as “leading to an almost neurotic denial of all that was new.” 13 It was his way of saying that Vatican II was the “cure” for Tradition.

To be continued

1. Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, (original title Einführung in das Christentum) trans. J. R. Foster, Herder and Herder, 1970, pp. 11-12.
2. Benedict XVI with Peter Seewald, Last Testament: In His Own Words, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016, p. 108.
3. The subject of clerical patronage of the1968 student protest movement in Germany is well documented by Christian Schmidtmann, Katholische Studierende 1945-1973: Ein Beitrag zur Kultur und Sozialgeschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Catholic Students 1945-1973: A Contribution to the Cultural and Social History of the Federal Republic of Germany), Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2005, pp. 280-282.
4. Joseph Ratzinger, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977, trans. Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998, p. 57.
5. Ibid., pp. 49, 55; notably Frs. Richard Egenter, Michael Schmaus, Gottlieb Söhngen, Josef Pascher, Fritz Tillman, Theodor Steinbüchel, and Friedrich Wilhelm Maier.
6. Ibid., p. 55.
7. J. Ratzinger, Theological Highlights of Vatican II, trans. Henry Traub, Gerard Thormann, and Werner Barzel, New York: Paulist Press, 1966, p. 11.
8. Benedict XVI with Peter Seewald, Last Testament, p. 130.
9. ‘Kardinal Frings über das Konzil und die moderne Gedankenwelt’ (Cardinal Frings on the Council and the Modern World of Thought), Herder-Korrespondenz, vol. 16, 1961/62, pp. 168-174.
10. Norbert Trippen, Josef Kardinal Frings (1887-1978): Sein Wirken Für Die Weltkirche Und Seine Letzten Bischofsjahre (His Work for the Universal Church and his Final Episcopal Years), 2 vol., vol. 2, Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2005, p. 262.
11. Jared Wicks, SJ, ‘Six texts by Prof. Joseph Ratzinger as peritus before and during Vatican Council II,’ Gregorianum, vol. 89, no. 2, 2008, pp. 254-261.
12. Romano Amerio, Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the Twentieth Century, Angelus Press, 1996, p. 73.
13. J. Ratzinger, Theological Highlights of Vatican II, p. 23.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
The ‘Maladie Catholique’

Taken from here. [Emphasis mine]

What exactly was the pre-Vatican II malady for which the Council was the supposed cure? Fr. Joseph Ratzinger spelled it out in no uncertain terms:

“Towards the end of the 19th century French psychiatrists coined the phrase ‘maladie Catholique,’ by which they meant that special neurosis that is the product of a warped pedagogy so exclusively concentrated on the 4th and 6th Commandments that the resultant complex with regard to authority and purity renders the individual so incapable of free self-development that his selflessness degenerates into a loss of self and a denial of love.”1

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Fr. Ratzinger was favorable to Freudism

Before proceeding, it will be useful to recall that Ratzinger admitted to having been deeply influenced in his formative years by these ideas through the work of the German theologian, Fr. August Adam. (See article 15) In the above quote, he repeated the standard narrative that was – and still is – circulating in seminaries and progressivist circles.

This posits that the Church’s traditional teaching on morality impairs psychological and emotional development, leading to an anxiety-inducing and guilt-ridden “neurosis” based entirely on oppressive relations of power. These deleterious effects were supposed to have been caused by the “rigidity” of the moral ethics presented in the Manuals. The charge, in other words, is that the pre-Vatican II faithful were emotionally scarred and psychologically damaged by the “Manualist tradition.”

But we are dealing in reality with the post-Vatican II “psychologizing” of Catholicism in the form of a heady mix of Freudian-Marxist analyses. It was Freud who attacked the authority of the “Father” (4th Commandment) and the prescriptions of the Moral Law (6th Commandment); while Marx preached emancipation from all authority structures, including that of the family. After Vatican II, spiritual counsel and pastoral care were contaminated with these false and harmful influences enabled by Gaudium et spes § 62, which states:

Quote:“In pastoral care, sufficient use must be made, not only of theological principles, but also of the findings of the secular sciences, especially of psychology and sociology, so that the faithful may be brought to a more adequate and mature life of faith.”

Scholasticism Displaced by Inexact Science

In place of the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas, the theories of Freud, Jung and Carl Rogers were freely circulating in seminaries and Catholic educational establishments. And without providing clearly defined theological principles drawn from the Scholastic Manuals, Gaudium et spes § 62 let the Church be inundated by the secular influence of clinical psychology,2 even to the point of appropriating it within the sphere of theology.

In the midst of this welter of confusion, it is only to be expected that many practitioners of psychology who denied the Church’s teaching on morality saw themselves as competent to override the Catholic position on this issue.

Two examples illustrate this point, though many more could be provided.

First, when Humane vitae was promulgated in 1968, it was heavily criticized by some professional bodies for failing to comply with modern standards of psychology. Its shortcomings were listed as having an inadequate view of the human person; “employing a faulty psychology that was no longer acceptable as adequate,” not understanding the complexity of psychological factors in the “total experience of marriage,” and failing to recognize that “responsible human beings must develop a mature conscience.” 3

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Freud & Jung, two heads of Psychiatry worshipped by progressivists

Here, incidentally we can see the effects of the Council’s error in conceding legitimacy to psychology as a source of maturity in the faith. It has encouraged the widespread belief in the primacy of individual conscience over submission to God’s Law, which leads to the self-deification of man.

Second, the prestige granted to psychology by the Council has led to its adoption by marriage tribunals as a basis for granting annulments, with the inevitable result that these have increased exponentially in the post-Vatican II era. With the new “personalist” approach to marriage outlined in Gaudium et spes, it was all too easy for judges to make arbitrary decisions on the supposed invalidity of marriages. Their method was to use psychological theories to judge the spouses’ “maturity” to enter freely into a contract or to maintain a relationship in a “psychologically mature” way.

This approach is enshrined in Francis’s Amoris laetitia where a lack of maturity, knowledge and freedom is simply presumed in most cases of granted annulments..

The influence of modern psychological theories can also be seen in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which confused the proper hierarchy of the ends of marriage, demoting procreation from its status as the primary purpose intended by God, and unduly elevating Eros. This opened the floodgates to a veritable “culture of annulment,” which, in the estimation of many reasonable people, came to look very much like Catholic divorce by the back door.

With Vatican II, the ‘New Theology’ replaced Catholic Truth

An important consideration to keep in mind is that the shift from the pre-Vatican II method of training priests was not just a change of style from the Scholastic precision of the theological Manuals to a more “understandable” way of presenting the Faith to the modern world. All the historical evidence shows that, with the loss of the Scholastic Manuals, neo-modernists took advantage of the general ignorance of Aristotelian metaphysics that they themselves had brought about to promote their own ideas, relying on sympathetic Popes and Bishops to impose them on the faithful.

No matter how highly qualified they were in academic studies, they lacked the one quality required by Catholic priests for the effective transmission of the Faith in a sceptical world – the disposition of mind towards Truth that St. Thomas Aquinas called an “intellectual virtue” or habitus, and which can best be gained through familiarity with the systematic scientia of Scholastic philosophy and theology.

There is thus a wide chasm between the content of their theological formation and that of virtually all clergy before Vatican II, with the result that pre- and post-Vatican II Catholics are divided in their understanding of the Faith. Even where the same words are used, e.g. Church, Eucharist, sin and salvation, they now have different meanings.

We can thus speak of the emergence of a new religion brought into existence with the help of Vatican II and managed by Church leaders who are now largely ignorant of Aristotelian metaphysics and who, consequently, do not understand it or appreciate its value. As we shall see in the next article, Benedict XVI was a self-declared non-Thomist and proud of it.

The tendency among progressivist theologians to ridicule and destroy what they do not understand – a common characteristic of revolutionaries – is evident in the frequent gibes they make whenever the topic of Scholasticism is mentioned.

One example which springs to mind is the well-known caricature of Scholastic disputations involving “angels” and “pins.” Benedict’s former seminary mentor, Fr. Alfred Läpple, had obviously swallowed this cartoonish view: He accused Scholasticism of “degenerating into absurd logic-chopping exercises, as in the proverbial question raised by late Scholasticism of how many angels could fit on the head of a pin.” 4

Ridete quidquid est domi cachinnorum” (laugh with whatever laughter there is in your home). It seems that the anti-Scholastics had their own lex ridendi (laughing law). When the guffaws have subsided and the farcical point is exposed to the cold light of day, the reality appears differently: The allegation has long been exposed as an old canard initiated by an early 17th-century Protestant clergyman, William Sclater, who reduced Scholasticism to a debate on “how many [angels] might sit on a needle's point.” 6 It cannot, therefore, be attributed to any Catholic Scholastic writer.

The myth, however, was spread by post-Reformation Protestants,7 and has been with us ever since, surviving in Catholic progressivist circles as a favorite expression with which to mock Scholasticism. But such sarcasm is unwarranted for, as Aquinas has shown, the location of non-corporeal beings, such as angels, is a philosophical question of fundamental importance, which he illuminates by the doctrine of Causality.8

This would have been self-evident before Vatican II; as an early 20th-century philosopher pointed out, Scholasticism has its own in-built system of coherence and rationality:

“A trained Scholastic theologian would first propose the question, and then he would marshal in its defence various arguments or proofs in a clear, concise, unadorned, logical, and unimpassioned form. He would solve the principal arguments brought forward in support of the contradictory doctrine. He would use the terminology which other theologians would accept and employ in exactly the same sense. He would not distract the mind by idle words or useless matter.”9

In other words, the theological Manuals took theology seriously. There was no allowance made for frivolity, triviality or time-wasting exercises involving disputations about angels dancing on the head of a pin.

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The Scholasticism of St. Thomas Aquinas: clear, concise, & logical

What is not often realized today is that the Scholasticism of the “Manualist tradition” was a superbly crafted pedagogical tool, a systemized method of presenting the truth of the Gospels in a rational and intellectually satisfying way by the application of rigorously precise and logical thinking. Many are unaware that, through the “perennial philosophy” contained in the Manuals, the Church has provided the means of guaranteeing that Truth, so that we can still believe with absolute confidence that the words spoken by Our Lord over 20 centuries ago are still relevant today.

Those who charge that it is a failure and of no use for modern times have themselves not only failed to prove their point, but also have never brought forward a suitable alternative. There is no convincing reason why, given the chance, it cannot work in modern times. In fact, it is the only approach that works to make the Faith intelligible.

Their purpose was to displace Thomism and the Catholic philosophical heritage in order to replace them with their own views. These views, which revived characteristic elements of the Modernist heresy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, need to be grasped in order to understand the current situation of the Church generally.

Under the influence of Vatican II and its official interpreters, progressivist theologians have been allowed to drift across an ocean of opinions without compass or chart (or, as some might prefer to say, without “fixed formulas”) towards no precise destination – except inevitable shipwreck of the Faith.

Having cast aside the basic structure of traditional Western philosophy, they have also jettisoned the fundamental philosophical insights it contains, which have buttressed the Catholic Faith and brought Christian Civilization to the world. Their rejection of the whole “Manualist tradition” was tantamount to destroying the record of essential knowledge required by priests not only for the understanding of the Faith but also for the practice of their ministry. The perpetrators might as well have consigned the Manuals to the flames, for they have produced the same effect in turning that knowledge to ashes.

To be continued

1. Joseph Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987 (a collection of essays written in the 1960s and ‘70s)
2. We have seen in the previous article how psychology is used in assessing the suitability of candidates for the priesthood. It is also employed in many dioceses not only for clergy and religious in ongoing formation programmes, but also for pre-marriage preparation courses and the pastoral care of those already married.
3. Kevin Gillespie SJ, ‘Psychology and American Catholicism after Vatican II: Currents, Cross-Currents and Confluences’, U. S. Catholic Historian, vol. 25, n.. 4, ‘American Catholics and the Social Sciences’ Autumn 2007, p. 119.
4. Alfred Läpple, The Catholic Church: A Brief History, New York: Paulist Press, 1982, p. 45.
5. Catullus, Carmen 31, line 14, urging his home-coming companions to give themselves over to laughter.
6. William Sclater, D.D., An exposition with notes upon the first Epistle to the Thessalonians, London: W. Stansby, 1619, p. 385.
7. For a historical overview of the topic, see Peter Harrison, ‘Angels on Pinheads and Needles’ Points’, Notes and Queries, Vol. 63, Issue 1, March 2016, pp. 45–47.
8. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Part 1, q. 52, art. 3.
9. J. O’Fallon Pope SJ, ‘A Plea for Scholastic Theology’, Journal of Theological Studies, vol. 5, n, 18, January 1904, p. 180.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
Dr. Carol Byrne: A Series on the History of the Dialogue Mass
Benedict XVI Had No Use for Scholasticism

Taken from here. [Emphasis mine]

Although the young Ratzinger’s early seminary formation included courses on Scholasticism – it was, after all, mandatory for seminarians throughout the Catholic world – it evidently made no impact on his mind. He described his formation as “completely biblically oriented, working from Holy Scripture, the Fathers, and the liturgy,” adding that “it was ecumenical.”

He unabashedly admitted: “The Thomist-philosophical dimension was missing; maybe that was the real benefit.”1

Philosophical Deformation

But Thomism had not just “gone missing” from Ratzinger’s intellectual formation: it was deliberately purged from his mind by his theological mentor at the major seminary at Freising, with the result that ever afterwards he studiously avoided it like the plague. We know that from the testimony of his lifelong friend, Fr. Alfred Läpple, who took the young Ratzinger under his wing and exerted a formative influence on him. This was later acknowledged by Ratzinger when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.2

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Fr. Alfred Läpple initiated the young Ratzinger in Progressivism, this Neo-Modernism

In a revealing interview,3 Fr. Läpple expanded on their relationship. They spent much time in each other’s company discussing the “New Theology” on their frequent walks, which Ratzinger enjoyed immensely. It was during these occasions that Fr. Läpple encouraged him to adopt a neo-modernist approach to the Faith, which would color his outlook for the rest of his career. It was he who introduced the works of Henri De Lubac SJ, The Supernatural to him:

“I gave it to him thinking it would make a nice surprise. And in fact he writes in his autobiography that it became a reference book for him, and offered him a new relationship with the thinking of the Fathers, but also a new standpoint on theology. In effect, more than a third of the book was made up of quotations from the Fathers.”4

Ratzinger was instantly bowled over by this work of De Lubac, and was eager to read his entire œuvre. His admiration for his “hero” was unbounded, and he expressed his sense of indebtedness:

“In the fall of 1949, Alfred Läpple had given me Catholicism, perhaps Henri de Lubac’s most significant work, in the masterful translation by Hans Urs von Balthasar. This book was for me a key reading event. It gave me not only a new and deeper connection with the thought of the Fathers but also a new way of looking at theology and faith as such.”5

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Ratzinger was strongly influenced by de Lubac's condemned books

But that “new way” proposed by de Lubac was censored by Rome and denounced by Pius XII in Mystici Corporis as a “false mysticism” corrosive of the true Faith. It goes without saying that de Lubac, whose seminary training left much to be desired, also set aside Scholastic philosophy and theology in favor of biblical and patristic studies.

With role models like these, it is not surprising that Ratzinger developed an early aversion to anything that smacked of Scholasticism or that came out of the “Manualist tradition.” Instead, he was persuaded to go directly to the Bible and the Fathers of the Church as the preferred theological source.

Fr. Läpple showed how Ratzinger was impervious to the Scholastic teachings of the Professor of Philosophy at Freising, Arnold Wilmsen, whose lectures he attended:

“Wilmsen’s lectures slipped off like water off a raincoat. He said to me: I regret the time I’m wasting, it would be much more useful to go for a stroll with you.”

The effects of this deficient education became evident in his later theological output, as Professor, Cardinal and Pope, which was largely characterized by Neo-Modernism.

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Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar wanted to destroy the ramparts of Scholasticism

Fr. Läpple explained: “The impulse to consider the truth as a possession to be defended has always unsettled him. He didn’t feel at ease with neo-scholastic definitions that seemed to him like ramparts, whereby what is inside the definition is the truth, and what is outside is all mistaken.”

But the Church has always claimed to have possessed the truth from the very beginning of Christianity and has defended it at all costs, to the point of death if necessary. Ratzinger’s objection to the “ramparts of the neo-scholastic definitions” that had supported the Catholic Faith by means of “fixed formulas” is revealing. For the modernist heirs of our day, faith and all its manifestations (doctrine and liturgy) never reach fixed truth but are continually evolving.

“Ramparts” were also a favorite target of Ratzinger’s progressivist colleagues. Fr. Urs von Balthasar, for example,6 identified Scholasticism as one of the ramparts to be brought down.
After describing himself as “languishing in the desert of Neo-Scholasticism,” he fancied himself, perversely, as a latter-day Samson bringing the house down on the Philistines (traditionalists):

“My entire period of study in the Society of Jesus was a grim struggle with the dreariness of theology, with what men had made out of the glory of revelation. I could not endure this presentation of the Word of God and wanted to lash out with the fury of a Samson: I felt like tearing down, with Samson’s own strength, the whole temple and burying myself beneath the rubble. But it was like this because, despite my sense of vocation, I wanted to carry out my own plans, and was living in a state of unbounded indignation.”7

Balthasar’s efforts contributed significantly to the collapse of apologetics, moral certitude and catechetical instruction, to name just a few casualties of his iconoclastic urges.

Consequences of Razing the Bastions

Without a reasoned defense of the Faith that pinpoints the distinction between such things as truth and error, good and evil, nature and grace, the flesh and the Spirit, the faithful quickly become submersed in a morass of confusing theories put about by today’s neo-modernists. As a result, many Catholics today have lost the ability to tell the difference between right and wrong in God’s eyes.

No one can deny that this is the current situation we are faced with where people mix up reality with emotions which then become the standard of truth for them. Yet only a few decades ago everyone was taught (from the “Manualist tradition”) that to accept Revelation was to assent to a truth or body of truths on account of the authority of God revealing, and that what was required of the believer was the submission and homage of his intellect and his will.

Ratzinger’s Crusade against Scholasticism

From his younger days as a seminarian to the end of his life, Ratzinger never took upon himself the onus of the Scholastic system that was central to the Catholic theological tradition. This was a major break with the policy of pre-Vatican II Popes. It was clear that he himself had no use for it. That does not mean that he never acknowledged its strengths, but on the rare occasion when he praised the tradition, he did so as a formality in a manner that was distant, calculated and devoid of any personal warmth.

For example, in 2009 he stated that “in reading the Scholastic summae one is struck by the order, clarity and logical continuity of the arguments and by the depth of certain insights.”8 But this was merely faint praise, for his words were not accompanied by any conviction that it should serve a useful purpose in the Church as an important – even indispensable – method of explaining and preserving the Faith.

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Kung & Ratzinger - both committed to change

It is not just that Ratzinger thought that Scholasticism was an irrelevance in the modern age; incomprehensibly, he regarded it as a lethal threat to the survival of the Catholic Faith, a threat that he felt it was his duty to combat. In 1971, he wrote an article that was published in a book of essays edited by Karl Rahner, in which he stated:

“I want to emphasize again that I decidedly agree with [Hans] Küng when he makes a clear distinction between Roman theology (taught in the schools of Rome) and the Catholic Faith. To free itself from the constraining fetters of Roman Scholastic Theology represents a duty upon which, in my humble opinion, the possibility of the survival of Catholicism seems to depend.”9

One cannot fail to notice the subversive undertones of this polemical passage. His aim was to detach Catholic theology from the very system that supported it, leaving it defenseless against attack, on the grounds that Truth can look after itself, and does not need defending by means of “exterior safeguards.” Not long before he became Pope, Ratzinger reiterated this point:

“But might not she [the Church] be taken to task for holding the reins a bit too tightly, for the creation of too many laws, given that not a few of these helped abandon the century to disbelief rather than save it? In other words, might she not be rebuked for trusting too little that power of truth that lives and triumphs in the faith, for entrenching herself behind exterior safeguards instead of relying on the truth, which is inherent in liberty and shuns such defenses?”10

It was a characteristic of Vatican II’s optimistic outlook that modern man, ever more conscious of his “human dignity,” would naturally turn to the truth. That was the message contained in the Opening Speech delivered by John XXIII but influenced, as we have seen, by Ratzinger himself. The corollary to the message was that people today enjoy unprecedented freedom and do not need infallible pronouncements to be imposed on them by the Church, especially not in the Name of God.

For Catholics, however, the highest goal is not Liberty, but the attainment of Truth amidst snares of the devil and the afflictions of fallen human nature, which is exactly what the Scholastic Manuals were helping them to attain.

To be continued

1. Benedict XVI with Peter Seewald, Last Testament, p. 83.
2. In a letter to Fr. Läpple dated June25, 1995, Card. Ratzinger thanked him for providing essential support in his philosophical and theological journey at the beginning of his academic career. (J. Ratzinger, ‘Tu sei all’inizio del mio cammino filosofico-teologico,’ 30 Days, February 1, 2006).
3. Gianni Valente and Pierluca Azzaro, “That new beginning that bloomed among the ruins: Inteview with Alfred Läpple,” 30 Days, February 1, 2006.
4. Ibid.
5. Joseph Ratzinger, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977, trans. Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998, p. 98.
6. Urs von Balthasar, Razing the Bastions: On the Church in This Age, trans. Brian McNeil, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993
7. Peter Henrici SJ, “Hans Urs von Balthasar: A Sketch of His Life,” Communio, vol. 16, Fall 1989, p. 313. Note 15 gives the original source as the Introduction by Hans Urs von Balthasar (ed.) to Adrienne von Speyr, Erde und Himmel. Ein Tagebuch (Earth and Heaven: a Diary), Part 2, Die Zeit der Grossen Dictate (The Age of the Great Dictates), Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1975, p. 195. Fr. Henrici was von Balthasar’s nephew, and Adrienne von Speyr was his close companion and inspiration.
8. Benedict XVI, “Monastic Theology and Scholastic Theology,”, General Audience, St Peter’s Square, October 28, 2009.
9. J. Ratzinger, “Widersprüche im Buch von Hans Küng” (Contradictions in Hans Küng’s Book), Stimmen der Zeit (Contemporary Voices), (ed. Karl Rahner), vol. 187, Freiburg: Herder, 1971, pp. 97-116.
10. J. Ratzinger, The Ratzinger Reader: Mapping a Theological Journey, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2010, p. 212.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre

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