Thursday, April 16, 2015

Two Reviews: War Against the Papacy by James Larson and Rending of Christendom Sourcebook

When we launched the Unam Sanctam Catholicam website back in 2012, we originally featured a little store to sell our self-published books and other merchandise. 

Last month, I revamped the USC web-store and hosted it at a separate site called Cruachan Hill Press. Cruachan Hill is the name I self-published my earliest books under; I have retained the name for all subsequent works. We now have 8 books published under the Cruachan Hill name, along with 1 eBook and the always popular "Free Constantinople" T-shirt.

We are kicking off the new Cruachan Hill web store by offering a series of new books. First, the Rending of Christendom Primary Document Catholic Study Guide and Answer Key. These books are designed for home schoolers studying the history of the Protestant Revolt who wish to use primary sources.

From ancient Greece until the early 20th century, the study of history consisted in reading primary sources: documents written first-hand by persons involved in historical events. This reliance on primary sources was abandoned at the dawn of the 20th century by educational ‘reformers’ who pushed learning by textbook instead - with the result that most students now have no contact with the great documents of the past.

Featuring biographies, theological treatises, papal bulls and polemics from the towering figures of the 16th and 17th centuries, The Rending of Christendom sourcebook puts students in direct contact with the past by immersing them in the controversies of the period to learn its history first hand from those who were there. Catholic writings such as those Bellarmine, Borromeo, and the martyrdom of Thomas More, but also Protestant sources like Luther's 95 Theses and excerpts from the ecclesiastical ordinances of Calvin come together to give students a firsthand look at the religious landscape of the tumultuous period.

The book was originally designed to supplement one of my courses I teach through Homeschool Connections, but it can stand alone and includes a recommended reading schedule for semester long course to help parents pace the course accordingly. And - if you are not the sort of parent that likes grading essays, there is an answer key (sold separately) to help you along with this.  Click here for a review of the Rending of Christendom sourcebook from Mary Ellen Barrett's website.

Contains readings and study questions intended for ages 14–18, 110 pages, paperback. For more information, please visit the Cruachan Hill webstore here

Our second book is War Against the Papacy by author James Larson. James Larson is one of the best traditional Catholic authors out there. Many of you may have visited his website, War Against Being, where his voluminous articles advocate a return to God using the golden wisdom of St. Thomas Aquinas. I have always appreciated Mr. Larson's essays; not your typical traditionalist, Mr. Larson does not harp on Vatican II or the 1960's as the source of our troubles but takes us way back to the 14th century, showing how our troubles all began when Catholics started to abandon Thomistic metaphysics. If you have never frequented Mr. Larson's site, I strongly recommend it.

"Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church" (Matt. 16:18). It was to St. Peter that our Lord entrusted the Keys of the Kingdom and vowed that his faith would never fail. For centuries the Petrine office has been the bulwark of truth against heresies and ideologies which threaten the integrity of the Church's faith. In War Against the Papacy, James Larson explains why the apparent auto-demolition of the papacy under the post-conciliar popes has not changed this fundamental reality - and why attacks against the papacy, even in the name of tradition, betray a lack of trust in Christ's promise to St. Peter.

Larson presents a much needed balance in contemporary discussions of the papacy. While not denying the troubling and often scandalous actions of the modern popes, he nevertheless argues convincingly that no pope has lost the faith, and why full and formal union with Rome remains a Catholic's only option. Liberal errors about a new ecclesiology in the spirit of Vatican II are refuted, but Larson is equally harsh with Sedevacantists, as well as the arguments put forward by certain traditionalists, whom Larson critiques from a traditionalist standpoint. Those looking for balance in a traditionalist approach to the papacy will appreciate Larson's studious, patient, and deeply spiritual examination of the papal office.

War Against the Papacy is 160 pages, paperback, $16.49 + shipping. Please click here to purchase War Against the Papacy from the Cruachan Hill product page.


Dutch Boy said...

Thank you for providing a link to Mr. Larson's blog. I have found it most enlightening.

Overseas said...

Doesn't say if you ship overseas, or at least I can't find it.

Boniface said...


I am not really set up to ship overseas at the moment...I will probably be adding this service shortly. When I am able to ship overseas I will post something on the blog.

I also fixed the other problem I told you about. Thanks!

Andy said...

I am not an expert on the details of Sedevacantist arguments. I will read this book.

However, based on the preview given in this article, it appears the book doesn't understand what I think is a basic Sedevacantist premise:

Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis were never Popes to begin with, and therefore never entitled to the protection promised by Our Lord to the Successors of Saint Peter.

It seems this article (and most arguments against Sedevacantism that I have seen) and potentially the new book don't understand or at least do not acknowledge that premise, and I think that premise weighs heavily on arguments for and against Sedevacantism. But I have not read the book yet and could be wrong.

Boniface said...


No, the book understands the Sedevacantist premise just fine. It was my poor summary that gave you the misunderstanding, not the book.

The crux of the book is that the Faith of Peter's successors is never failing. He unpacks what this means in the context of various different arguments that the popes have fallen into error, or that the office is vacant, etc.

I should say, he has a very novel rebuttal to Sedevacantism that I have never read anywhere else, but I think is extremely powerful.

Anonymous said...

In reading "The Sifting" from Larson's site, which I'm guessing is consistent with the argument taken in the book, it seems to me that a variation of the fundamental option idea is proposed:

"It is this personal faith of Peter which is the object of Christ’s prayer after the First Mass – “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren.” Despite Peter’s fall to Satan’s sifting. and his threefold denial of knowing Christ, we may be certain that in the depth of his soul, his faith “failed not.” "

There appear to be multiple levels of consciousness or decision-making going on here, where while it only appears Peter denied Christ, he only did so outwardly, on one 'level' if you will, while he never really did so in the depth of his soul.

So then, what would his or our actions really mean, and how could one ever discern if one has denied Christ - which Christ says would render one in turn denied by Him?

Andy said...

I was looking at James Larson's website this morning. Is his book "War Against the Papacy" a compilation of the articles there, or is it something different?

Boniface said...


It is substantially the same, with a new introduction and some edits and revisions.

Boniface said...


As I recall, "fundamental option" theory has to do with denying that a single mortal sin can destroy charity in the soul. It asserts that one unrepentant mortal sin is not enough to damn one because one can remain fundamentally oriented towards God while still sinning.

I am fairly certain Mr. Larson does not believe that or anything like it. Having read the whole book several times, I am sure he is making the point that there is more to heresy or losing faith than a mere statement or act against faith - heresy always involves a kind of pertinacity or obstinance, without which heresy is lacking. He reminds us of the distinction between an act damaging to faith and the actual loss of the habit of faith in the soul, which is something much more serious. Just because one may commit an act against faith does not mean they have "lost the faith" in a theological sense.

As for levels of willing, obviously man has a single will, but remember Aquinas' teaching on different ways of willing. One can will one thing simpliciter while simultaneously willing another thing secundum quid.

Aquinas gives the example of a merchant ship caught in a storm who has to jettison his cargo. In one general sense (simpliciter), he does not will to jettison his cargo; he would prefer to keep it and complete his voyage. However, in this circumstance, he wills (secundum quid) to throw his cargo overboard, because only thereby can he survive.

This is not two wills, but it is two different sorts of willing, one being willing simply, the other being a kind of reluctant willing.

This is traditional Thomist teaching on the will, not the fundamental option theory. But then again, I am not Mr. Larson so I don't want to presume to speak for him, but I think this answer is in keeping with his opinion.

Sal said...

I found Mr. Larson's site several weeks ago, while researching something he covers. What a convenience to find most of his material in a compilation.
Thank you for doing this.

Anonymous said...

I think that is a facet of the fundamental option, but not its fundamental essence. With the FOT, we have a fundamental or deep choice for or against God (which seems to me to suggest one ‘level’). Then there are individual acts which may or may not be consistent with that deeper option for or against God. Point being that those individual acts (on another level, it seems) do not necessarily alter our fundamental option. So one could sin mortally, seemingly, by an individual act, and yet not rupture one’s fundamental relationship with God (though I also understand it as conceding that one could rupture one’s fundamental relationship). Consistent with Rahner’s epistemology, I think, is this sense of ‘mystery’. We really never know where we stand with God since our individual acts may or not may reveal our deeper option for or against Him. Thus, it’s practically impossible to discern whether one has committed mortal sin in the sense that one has fallen out of a state of grace.

I brought this up because of Larson described Peter’s interiority:

"It is this personal faith of Peter which is the object of Christ’s prayer after the First Mass – “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren.” Despite Peter’s fall to Satan’s sifting. and his threefold denial of knowing Christ, we may be certain that in the depth of his soul, his faith “failed not.” "

That sounds like the FTO to me. Somehow, Peter did not sin gravely in denying Christ (seemingly denying Christ?), for if truly denying Christ is a grave sin, and yet if somehow Peter could fall to Satan and deny Christ (on a more superficial level?), all the while “in the depth of his soul” still possess supernatural faith, then there seems to imply a disconnect between Peter’s ‘level two’ individual acts and his “fundamental option” – that which was in the “depth of his soul.”

Unless denying Christ is grave matter, but Peter did not fully consent or fully have knowledge of his sin, and so did not sin gravely so, which is what I think you were getting at.

Unknown said...

Small correction, you say when you first launched the blog in 2012, but when you wrote the post saying goodbye to blogger Athenatius Contra Mundum that was back in April 2011. I haven't visited the blog in several years till today but that caught my eye. I still love the Traditional Roman liturgy (that's what attracted me to your blog in the first place, your outlook and love of tradition) but since then I've gone East, (Byzantine) my official switch as far as rite happened last year around this time.

Boniface said...


I manage two sites, this blog and a sister site ( This blog was started in 2007, but the other site was begun in September, 2012.

Unknown said...

I have read most of Mr. Larson's articles and enjoy them very much however there is a big problem with this article, War Against the Papacy that he cannot get around.

The entire argument is grounded upon Luke 22:32 in which Mr. Larson holds that all popes possess a "never failing faith." On this foundation his argument is constructed. The problem is that it is not true.

St. Thomas in Catena Aurea on Luke 22:32 does not even mention it. In Rev. Cornelius a Lapide's Great Commentary the problem is specifically addressed and denied:

But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not. For thee, because I destine thee to be the head and chief of the Apostles and of My Church, that thy faith fail not in believing Me to be the Christ and the Saviour of the world. Observe that Christ in this prayer asked and obtained for Peter two especial privileges before the other Apostles: the first was personal, that he should never fall from faith in Christ; for Christ looked back to the sifting in the former verse, that is the temptation of His own apprehension when the other Apostles flew off from Him like chaff and lost their faith, and were dispersed, and fled into all parts. But Peter, although he denied Christ with his lips, at the hour foretold, and lost his love for Him, yet retained his faith. So S. Chrysostom (Hom. xxxviii.) on S. Matthew; S. Augustine (de corrept. et Grat. chap. viii.); Theophylact and others. This is possible but not certain, for F. Lucas and others think that Peter then lost both his faith and his love, from excessive perturbation and fear; but only for a short time, and so that his faith afterwards sprang up anew, and was restored with fresh vitality. Hence it is thought not to have wholly failed, or to have been torn up by the roots, but rather to have been shaken and dead for a time.
Another and a certain privilege was common to Peter with all his successors, that he and all the other bishops of Rome (for Peter, as Christ willed, founded and confirmed the Pontifical Church at Rome), should never openly fall from this faith, so as to teach the Church heresy, or any error, contrary to the faith. So S. Leo (serm. xxii.), on Natalis of SS. Peter and Paul; S. Cyprian (Lib. i. ep 3), to Cornelius; Lucius I., Felix I., Agatho, Nicolas I., Leo IX., Innocent III., Bernard and others, whom Bellarmine cites and follows (Lib. i. de Pontif. Roman).
For it was necessary that Christ, by His most wise providence, should provide for His Church, which is ever being sifted and tempted by the devil, and that not only in the time of Peter, but at all times henceforth, even to the end of the world, an oracle of the true faith which she might consult in every doubt and by which she might be taught and confirmed in the faith, otherwise the Church might err in faith, quod absit! For she is as S. Paul said to Timothy, “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. iii 15). This oracle of the Church then is Peter, and all successive bishops of Rome. This promise made to Peter, and his successors, most especially applies to the time when Peter, as the successor of Christ, began to be the head of the Church, that is, after the death of Christ.

What is more damaging to Mr. Larson's opinion is the declaration of papal infallibility from Vatican I specifically cites Luke 22:32 as its authority and yet the definition says nothing about a papal prerogative of a "never failing faith."

What follows from Mr. Larson's opinion is that the pope's personal faith becomes the rule of faith. The correct rule of faith is dogma. If the pope's personal faith were the rule of faith then the pope would necessarily have to be free from even material heresy because it matters not to the faithful who are following him if his error is formal or only material, the result is the same.