Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Stop Shooting the Messenger, Please

There is so much going on this week I don't know where to start.

Regarding the situation with the Franciscans of the Immaculate, I wanted to respond a fallacy I am seeing repeated on many Catholic blogs, so much now that I daresay it has become the party line on the situation. The fallacy goes something like, "Calm down! The Pope is not rolling back Summorum Pontificum. This action applies to a specific group and concerns internal issues particular to the Franciscans of the Immaculate. There is no general assault on Summorum Pontificum or the ancient rite."

Why do I call it a fallacy? Because it is a fallacious straw man argument. When I first reported on this story, I did not suggest there was any general attack or roll back of Summorum Pontificum, nor did Rorate or any of the other major blogs I know of. And why is it suddenly news that this concerns a particular group with its own specific, internal issues? We all already knew that. Sandro Magister reported that in his initial article.

But how is the fact that this has to do with the issues of one specific group supposed to be a consolation?

Look, I know Pope Francis has the authority, yes, yes. Plentitudo Potestatis. Yes, yes, I know. Please, popular Catholic commentators, let's get this right - The question is not whether the Pope has the power to do what he did. We all agree he does. The question is not whether this is a general attack or assault on the ancient rite. It's not; it is an action pertaining to a very specific situation in a particular order. We all understand that. The original Chiesa article by Sandro Magister said this clearly. These are not the issues, so let's stop restating the facts and pretending like this somehow solves or addresses the problem.

The issue is not even whether Pope Francis contradicted one of the provisions of Summorum Pontificum. Clearly he did. And he's within his right to do so. That's not in question.

As I see it, the real issue is that this establishes a legal corollary to the principle of free celebration of the EF laid down by Benedict XVI. While Benedict XVI stated, "Anyone can celebrate the Extraordinary Form without permission of the ordinary (or with the permission of their superior)", Pope Francis has added the proviso, "Unless there is a good reason to require permission." There may not have been a legal "contradiction" of Summorum, but there has been a drastic interpretive shift in how it is applied. In his decree regarding the Franciscans, Pope Francis has established that the provisions of Summorum can be set aside in particular cases if Rome judges there is good reason. We can debate the merits of this approach, but what is not debatable is that this is a new approach, one that Benedict did not seem to envision when he issued Summorum Pontificum.

If this is not a general attack on Summorum, then why is it troubling? Simply because it puts the existence of the EF Mass back under the aegis of authorities who can now suspend it if they feel there is just cause, and what sorts of "just causes" may potentially be brought forward in the future, no one can tell. In the case of the Franciscans, the mere allegations of disunity by one faction was enough. Now that the principle is established that the freedom granted in Summorum can be set aside for pastoral reasons, the question becomes how broad or narrow will these reasons be interpreted in future cases. It creates a precedent that strengthens the hands of every bishop who would like to extinguish celebration of the EF.

Regarding the divisions within the Franciscans of the Immaculate. Father Angelo Mary Geiger of the FIs in the United States, one of the leading voices of the anti-EF wing of the order, has further enunciated what the nature of these divisions are. As reported on Taylor Marshall's blog, he states that too many of the friars are gravitating towards "radical traditionalism." He defines radical traditionalism as:

a) the denial of the Jewish holocaust
b) the outright denial of Vatican 2 as a valid council
c) rhetorical style of the Rorate Caeli blog
d) the embrace of isolationist sub-culture of Catholicism or “Amish Catholicism”
e) the denial the charismatic gifts and the charistmatic movement
f) sympathy for the Bp Williamson’s style of traditionalism
g) disdain for Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis
h) the belief that Latin Mass Catholics are “A Team” and Novus Ordo Catholics are “B Team”
i) Gnostic ecclesiology – that “traditionalists” form the one true invisible Catholic Church

Okay. Let's look at these one at a time, because I think a lot of this is too vague or unfair:

a) the denial of the Jewish holocaust: While I agree that it is absurdly stupid to deny the reality and fact of the Holocaust, why does this keep coming up as if it is a liturgical issue? This is a historical question, not a doctrinal one. It just seems out of place, and I don't see the intrinsic connection between the Extraordinary Form and Holocaust denial.

b) the outright denial of Vatican 2 as a valid council: Not even the SSPX denies Vatican II is a valid council, let alone non-SSPX traditionalists. I fully affirm the validity of Vatican II. At worst, Traditionalists say that Vatican II can only be reconciled to Tradition with great difficulty; at best, they suggest that some of the documents are ambiguous or need clarification, as Cardinal Kasper and Archbishop Schneider recently did, and nobody accused the of being rad trads. This is a straw man attack.

c) rhetorical style of the Rorate Caeli blog: I don't know how a "rhetorical style" can be sufficient to lump one in as a radical traditionalist. There are many sorts of people in this world with many sorts of styles of writing. This is a vague non sequitur.

d) the embrace of isolationist sub-culture of Catholicism or “Amish Catholicism”:
Traditionalists can be isolationist. I have to admit I have noticed this. But then again, perhaps if the EF was more widely available, this would not be the case. If the EF was offered in more than one parish within a seventy mile radius, maybe the conditions would not be so conducive to isolationism? We must also remember that it was not some traditionalist who said to not even eat with a brother who is a sinner, but St. Paul (1 Cor. 5:11); it was not the SSPX who said we should not let those who do not preach the same doctrine into our home "lest you share in his evil deeds", but St. John the Beloved Apostle (2 John 1:11); it was not Bishop Fellay or Rorate Caeli who admonished Catholics to "come out of" our sinful culture lest we share in its punishments, but the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev. 18:4). While we can never go out of the world, and while we must be lights to the world, all things must be done in moderation - we must not cast our pearls before swine. There has always been an isolationist element to Christianity. What is the life of the desert hermits or the early monks other than an isolationist sub-culture?

e) the denial the charismatic gifts and the charistmatic movement:
This is interesting; is Father Geiger suggesting that denial of the charismatic movement is tantamount to denying the faith? There are many, many Catholics who do not subscribe to the charismatic movement, and by far not all of them are traditionalists. I find it supremely ironic that Father Geiger wants to deny the traditionalist movement because the traditionalists deny the charismatic movement. Both are legitimate expressions of Faith, although one is manifestly inferior to the other. Why should the charismatic movement be given pride of place and elevated to such a degree that to question or deny its legitimacy is put forward as a tenet of "radical" traditionalism? Furthermore, who is denying the charismatic gifts? Traditionalists acknowledge healings, miracles, visions, locutions, even the gift of tongues; SSPXers even acknowledge these - what they deny is that the things being reported in the Catholic charismatic renewal are the same gifts St. Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 12. No traditionalists deny that these gifts exist.

f) sympathy for the Bp Williamson’s style of traditionalism
: "Sympathy" and "style" are too vague to make any response to. What does it mean to "sympathize" with a "style"?

g) disdain for Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis: I do not disdain Pope Francis, nor do I disdain John Paul II. I loved John Paul II and cried when he passed. I think many of his writings are very profound. But I question some of the things that he did. I think he made some serious mistakes. Does that equate to disdain? Do any of you have a brother or sibling who made some very bad choices? Do you "disdain" him or her because of them? Of course not. It is one thing to question the prudence of a person's actions, another to disdain the person. Let us hopefully be able to move past this very elementary distinction between a man and his deeds. Let us also note that, if disagreement with certain prudential actions of the popes constitutes "disdain", then St. Cyprian is guilty of disdaining Pope St. Stephen, St. Athanasius disdained Pope Liberius, and St. Paul disdained St. Peter. All foolish, of course. This sort of ridiculous reasoning only becomes possible when we have adopted the untenable position that every prudential action of a pope must not only be lauded as good, but as the best possible course of action.

h) the belief that Latin Mass Catholics are “A Team” and Novus Ordo Catholics are “B Team”: Again, too vague to be of help. If he means that "Latin Mass Catholics" believe they are superior to Novus Ordo Catholics, then this would certainly be problematic. We are to regard ourselves as the least of all, not a superior sort of Catholic. If we are blessed with greater knowledge or graces, it is only because we are so stupid and impoverished that we need more help; if we have greater graces, it is because we are so dense that we need them. But, on the other hand, there is a valid argument to be made that the Extraordinary Form may be more meritorious than the Novus Ordo, in the subjective sense. While both rites are equally valid, there are other things to consider besides validity, especially in the realm of graces received ex operate operantis; Fr. Ripperger, who I do not agree with all the time, has written extensively on this, and I think he has some valid points. But if we are going to discuss this, let's be precise with our terminology. Phrases like "A Team" and "B Team" do not help.

i) Gnostic ecclesiology – that “traditionalists” form the one true invisible Catholic Church
: Aside from Sedevacantists, I don't know any traditionalists who actually believe this. It is objectively true, however, that the Extraordinary Form preserves much more of the Catholic Tradition than the Novus Ordo. To say this is not to make a statement of ideology, but a statement of fact. To deny it is to deny a point of history. Instead of denying simple facts, let's just acknowledge them and get them out in the open, because only then can we deal with them. To pretend that the Novus Ordo and the developments since Vatican II are these extraordinarily rich embodiments of Catholic Tradition is simply false. They contain some embodiment of Catholic Tradition, but not the most authentic embodiment possible. The sooner we acknowledge that there is a profound discontinuity, the sooner we can get on to fixing it.

Moving on but related to this last point, I think it is time that we vehemently protest against the "shoot the messenger" mentality that so often surrounds these issues. When I offered my opinion a few weeks ago that John Paul II's canonization at this time was imprudent because there were very real objections to his actions that had never been adequately answered for, many people got upset with me. One gentleman on another blog said, "Keep your doubts to yourself, Boniface!" and others suggested such commentary was not helpful to the salvation of souls, etc. Nevermind that Fr. Zuhlsdorf also suggested that the modern canonization process has resulted in a "shift in the criteria" of what constitutes sanctity. But in his case it is a thoughtful reflection; in mine, it is expressing a "doubt."

Let's clear the air: I have no doubts about the legitimacy of John Paul's canonization and I have no problem calling him saint, so I don't know what "doubts" I am expressing. Here's the thing, though - it is not bloggers pointing out scandalous activity that is the problem; the problem is the scandalous activity. Michael Voris reports that Cardinal Timothy Dolan called God "him or her"; Rorate Caeli reports that the same Cardinal Dolan told Muslims to "keep their faith" - and it is Voris and Rorate who are the problem for being mean spirited and negative? In both cases, it was the reporters who were accused of scandalizing the faithful! Is this right? No. Voris and Rorate are not the problem - the problem is a Catholic cardinal, the head of the USCCB at that, calling God "him or her" and telling Muslims to keep their faith. That is the scandal. That is the problem. The problem is not that I report on Cardinal Schönborn participating in a irreverent balloon Mass; the problem is that Cardinal Schönborn participated in a scandalous balloon Mass. If others are too blind or mentally lethargic to make this connection, then it is hardly the fault of those who are awake and alert for perceiving it.

It might be objected that it is not the reporting that is the problem, but the glee with which Traditionalists report these things, because to report such scandals proves their point. I can't speak for anyone else, but I do not report with glee that our Cardinals are embarrassments to the Church, that our pontiffs have actually invoked St. John the Baptist to protect Islam, that there is a gay lobby in the Roman Curia. What real Catholic could report these things with glee? I report them with tears, with consternation, with indignation, with righteous zeal, with fervent prayers to heaven that our exile will be mercifully ended, but not with glee. Never with glee.

So no more of this "shoot the messenger" nonsense. It's not Jeremiah's fault that he predicts bad news, and throwing him in the well because you don't like his prophesying isn't going to solve anything. The fact is that this farce that we are in the middle of a great restoration (the "New Springtime") is coming apart and everybody knows it. The Emperor has no clothes and everyone is scrambling to make sense of it.

Let us close with the famous quote of St. John Eudes,

"The most evident mark of God's anger, and the most terrible castigation He can inflict upon the world, is manifest when He permits His people to fall into the hands of a clergy who are more in name than in deed, priests who practice the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than the charity and affection of devoted shepherds. They abandon the things of God to devote themselves to the things of the world and, in their saintly calling of holiness, they spend their time in profane and worldly pursuits. When God permits such things, it is a very positive proof that He is thoroughly angry with His people and is visiting His most dreadful wrath upon them."


Kimberly said...

Yes, yes, yes!

Православный физик said...

Thank you, for saying everything that I've been thinking....I hope you don't mind if I borrow this for my own use with proper credit to your blog :)

Boniface said...

Joe, borrow away my friend! Borrow away!

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

I am waiting for The Brick By Brick Bund to publicly warn Pope Francis that his actions will lead to an increase in the numbers of real men who quit this crummy church in favor of the sspx.

I find myself increasingly persuaded that loyalty to the Pope is a modern error whereas loyalty to Tradition is what is required.

Loyalty to the Pope is what caused the defeat of Tradition at Vatican Two; the CPI fathers and the ultramontinists ought to have walked-out of the council and told the Pope Paul and the modernists to go to hell when they applied the universal solvent of ecumenism to Catholic Tradition

Give this Papal nut ten years and he will completely eviscerate what little is left

Nancy said...

I think you are wrong in that is IS the glee.....or "attitude" of that which the "messenger" speaks. It is the PRIDE that is so very evident.

Boniface said...

Well, I would say that loyalty there is always a necessity of personal loyalty and affection to the Holy Father, but that this affection must be more to the office than the person. We have loyalty to the person because he holds the office, and if the office is what necessitates this loyalty, then the loyalty will be more or less fervent to the degree that he holds the office well. A pope is not beloved just because he is pope; he beloved because he is a good pope.

Beefy Levinson said...

I've often thought that if bishops and religious superiors are so worried about the "division" us terrible, terrible Traditionalists cause then the solution is obvious.

They should order that every parish and religious house under their command must offer at least one TLM every Sunday. Simple, yes? So far they've been less than receptive to that idea when I've had the chance to talk to my bishop or any religious, heh.

J. said...

As far as I can tell, that list defining "radical traditionalism" is Taylor Marshall's, not Fr. Geiger's. Marshall has been shooting "friendly fire" at his fellow traditionalists ever since Bergoglio was elected pope. I don't know why, unless he's trying to ingratiate himself with the pop-Catholic, Hahn- and Kreeft-cheering New Advent network of bloggers. Maybe, like so many converts trying to make some sense out of the chaos, he just picked a side for the sake of having a side to stand in. He just comes off like a hockey-raised Canadian moving to St. Louis, and immediately offering advice on how to run a baseball team. Or as a preachy middle brother who thinks that his siblings are being bad children when they complain about Dad's violent and drunken episodes.

Good post. All the "Don't worry, relax" commentary from other sources was really starting to get to me.

Anonymous said...

"I am waiting for The Brick By Brick Bund to publicly warn Pope Francis that his actions will lead to an increase in the numbers of real men who quit this crummy church in favor of the sspx.

I find myself increasingly persuaded that loyalty to the Pope is a modern error whereas loyalty to Tradition is what is required.

Loyalty to the Pope is what caused the defeat of Tradition at Vatican Two; the CPI fathers and the ultramontinists ought to have walked-out of the council and told the Pope Paul and the modernists to go to hell when they applied the universal solvent of ecumenism to Catholic Tradition

Give this Papal nut ten years and he will completely eviscerate what little is left"

-You really do not know any traditionalists that are nuts in exactly the ways the list proclaims? You just had one spout off (see quote above), and you rolled over and managed to say "um, well, loyalty to office, blah blah blah." Way to defend the Church against heresy.

The history of the Church is rife with scandal--what is so disheartening is that "Rad Trads" (whatever that means) are such bad historians, and have so little faith that the gates of hell will not prevail over the Church--we have endured much, much worse before (from within and without the Church), and in the days past, were happy to be persecuted like our Lord was persecuted.

These days? We bitch about our "rights," like a bunch of U.N. liberals. Pathetic.

-Anon., because drivel does not deserve respect.

Magdalene said...

I know of no one in the FI who embraces any of those points!

Boniface said...


What? I said that loyalty was due to the person, but I made the observation that this loyalty flows from the office, not vice versa.

In history, people never confused these two principles. People in past used to not even understand or know anything about the pope personally; they were loyal to an office, even if they knew nothing about or disliked the person - even if, in the case of Charles V, they were loyal to the pope as head of the Church but actively at war with him in temporal matters. It is not heresy to point out that this is historically how most Catholics have approached the papacy - as an important office, one that is the keystone to the Church, the supreme jursidiction, but this cult of papal personality is a novelty.

Barbara said...

This is excellent, thank you very much! I shall keep a copy of this too to share with others.


Stella Maris said...


Stella Maris said...

BRAVO!! <3

Brwno said...

Alas! I couldn't resist and posted this on Fr. Angelicos comment box (

"I’m not going to judge the Pope or the case of the Franciscans, of which I do not know enough. What I do know is that the NO masses are very prone to abuses and everyone knows it as well. I heard that nowhere does the Church authorize ad populum masses (with the priest facing the people); in spite of that, ad populum became the norm, which is, to my week and young faith, quite scandalous. Scandalous I say! The Church remains the Church, but it is hurt by it – and so am I.
And of course we can disagree with the Pope. Do you think that making Cesar Borgia a cardinal was a good choice from Alexander VI?
Oh! and by the way, please read this:"

Maybe I should have kept quiet, since I am an ignorant and tend to be too aggresive in writing.

Boniface said...


As I said, there is no pride or glee in saying any of this. I would rather be reporting that the heathen were converting, priests were proclaiming the true faith and liturgy was being carried out reverently. There is no glee here.

AMDG said...

So, if the answer to wacky rad trad ideas is to prohibit those who hold them from saying the EF Mass and bound to say only the OF Mass, then surely the antidote to liberal wackiness is to have them banned from the OF Mass and require them to say the EF Mass exclusively. I'm sure any day that the announcement will be made that Frs. Richard McBrien and Hans Kung will henceforth be celebrating the EF Mass exclusively. Right . . .

Hayfarmer said...

Thank you for addressing Taylor Marshall's blog! I was especially aghast when he stated,"I love the Latin Mass. However, if I were Pope Francis and read the comments at Rorate Caeli, I'd be tempted to shut it all down. It looks sinful and disgusting from the outside. Keep a lock on your lips. Stay out of traddy online forums/blogs."

I'm so blessed that we discovered the Mass of All Ages, hidden from us by design for years! We will defend the Holy Mass!

Enoch said...

I believe that Taylor Marshall and others who think as he does are worried about what others will think of them. They don't want to be associated with "those types" of traditionalists. This seems to me to be an elitist view. Yes, there are traditionalists who have the problems which Taylor Marshall adresses, but so what. Learn to love them anyway. What all traditionalists have in common is our love for the Mass of all time. That should be our focus, and we must defend it, even if it means not always being "nice."

David said...


I would agree with Nancy that there is often a glee with which some traditionalists point out evils in the Church and this gives the impression of disdain for the Church hierarchy in general and certain Popes in particular.

I often compare the attitude I think that we should have towards the Pope with that we should have towards our own biological Father. We would be foolish to expect our Father to be perfect and may disagree with him about many things but this does not lessen our obligation to love and respect him as our Father. If we criticize our Father we should do so carefully and with regret that the criticism is necessary and we should not inject criticism of him into our every conversation. Likewise, I think we should criticize the Pope with a certain caution, discretion and even sadness which would convey the reverence with which we hold the office of the papacy and definitively preclude others from thinking we take glee in what we say.

I am not saying that you personally are doing this and in fact one of the reasons I enjoy your blog so much is the absence of this attitude but there are other places where I notice it frequently.

Anonymous said...

I think this Franciscan mess is a model of the story of the coming decades - a growing traditional movement and a shrinking neo-modernist contingent coming into conflict while still under the authority of men not favorable to the fullness of tradition. This conflict will cause tension, which will be used to justify the suppression of the old rite. I hope this is not the case, but I'm slowly beginning to think Pope Benedict did not represent the victory, but only its very early beginnings. Fr. Z's brick by brick strategy may take longer than many anticipated...

Anonymous said...

Could you please post these two official press releases from the FI countering the nonsense being spread by Vatican Insider and multiple other sites:

I imagine the second should be translated into English soon. In it we learn that Pope Benedict did NOT order the visitation of the FI!

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear David. When Dad runs around the world telling everyone that some of his kids are pelagian heretics who are part of some restorationist movement he finds offensive then it is rather rude to tell those kids to shut-up and leave the abusive Dad alone

Boniface said...


It is not very helpful to refer to the pope as an "abusive dad", regardless of how we feel about his actions.

Swarthy Jim said...

a) Antisemitism/Holocaust denial : Prominent enough, especially on the forums. Plus Williamson put his foot in it. Those forum people might be more discreet in person, but they go to trad chapels.

b) SSPX said earlier this year that Vatican II had "grave errors", and Fellay said the New Mass was evil. See the sermon below from a well-known priest who makes the conference circuits and rubs shoulders with the SSPX, the Remnant, Fr. Gruner, etc. He has taught in the past that Vatican II had heresies, and the New Mass was evil and sacrilegious, and both needed to be scrapped wholesale.

d) Listen to the Fr. Ripperger talks below for more on this point. The isolation promoted by the Church is because the world is good, not because the world is bad.

Fr. Ripperger talks:

Traditionalist Problems

Tradition, Part X

f) Congregationalism and separatist. Anti-pants. Conspiracy theorist. Etc. Williamson is a hero to some trads.

g) Disdain for JPII, and building for Pope Francis, are not that uncommon either. There will be trads who will not recognize JPIIs canonization. They won't even acknowledge that act as valid when it comes. One priest I know said JPII was the second worst Pope in history after Paul VI. See the sermon above from Our Lady help of Christians in California for some good conspiracies, like he was paid off by Opus Dei to slacken the canonization. I went to a "trad" party once in which there were going to be bookburnings of JPII and Benedict's books. I heard some harsh words that night. And most people would see them as common trads.

i) They might not think they are the true Church, but that they have the secret knowledge which the rest of the world lacks. Fr. Ripperger talks about this too.

"The sooner we acknowledge that there is a profound discontinuity, the sooner we can get on to fixing it."

So I take it that you do *not* support Benedict's theory of reform in continuity.

As for voicing concerns, I agree, as long as people respect a decision that is authoritative, and the authority of the Magisterium.

My particular view is we are all called to be holy, and we cannot use other people's bad behavior as an excuse to be uncharitable, angry, judgemental, prideful, etc. etc. Again, Fr. Ripperger tells us some of what we should watch out for. All messages to holiness should be spoken. We can't xempt ourselves from criticism and introspection. We need to be just as willing to critique ourselves as we are others.