Truth is: if more people were happy we wouldn’t need so many vague affirmations and pep talk pop psychology. But we aren’t, and we avoid this truth.


Sola Papa

While Protestants have their sola scriptura, despite it being nowhere in the Bible, Catholics have their sola papa — pope alone — which guides their reasoning about what is wrong or right. This is as much a novelty as many perceptions propagated by the mass media becoming popular within the last century that were for the most part invisible, if they even existed, throughout history. That is: because so much of the pope’s actions and words can reach distant audiences, he garners a sort of cult that relies on him to express what Christians must do in the modern world.

I have had a few conversations within the past week that have confirmed this, and seen multiple articles in response to Fr. Weinandy’s publicized inquiry and request to the pope to,  yet again, clarify certain things the faithful have not understood.

I would first like to note that my confirmation saint, Pius X, specifically called for love from the faithful. In his era, modernism — the synthesis of all heresies, as he called it, fused into an attempt to modernize the faith so that it can appeal to modern minds — was abounding in the Church. He took it quite seriously and sought many reforms in the Church. He catechized children in the courtyard of the Vatican and defined as well as condemned modernism with his encyclical Pascendi Domini. He knew what he was dealing with — a rebellion — and he wanted it to be squashed.

I mention this for two reasons, one directly flowing from the other. Firstly, context for the pope’s reign must be understood. The fact that Vatican II has demarcated the beginning of an era in the Church where error seems commonplace and the faithful often have to avoid Masses or warn their friends about them. A laundry list of issues in the Church that many wish to whitewash, hoping to thereby rid of stains from Vatican II, could be reiterated here, but I will spare my audience. It is enough to say the Church has seen an increase in troubles since Vatican II and it leaves one to wonder where they came from. If Pope St. Pius X himself opposed and intended to thoroughly suffocate modernism in the church, we should expect his words and actions to reflect that. So let us consider that he taught children in a courtyard in the Vatican, instructed priests to teach from the catechism every Sunday, and declared only sacred music (Gregorian chant and polyphany) to be worthy of a place in Mass.

He was aware that in his time, “It is a common complaint, unfortunately too well founded, that there are large numbers of Christians in our own time who are entirely ignorant of those truths necessary for salvation.” He did not simply suggest there are those in need of pastoral outreach, but he went further and offered a reason why that is: because they don’t know what it takes for their soul to be saved.

He wanted the faithful to be instructed, therefore, with no excuses abiding.

“There is too much preaching and too little teaching. Put aside these flowery and elaborate discourses, and preach to the people plainly and simply on the eternal truths of faith and on the teaching of the Gospel. Think of the good of souls rather than of the impression you are making.”

He held no illusions about what the consequences of this kind of twaddle substituted for catechesis and proper instruction:

“When we consider the forces, knowledge, and supernatural virtues which are necessary to establish the Christian City, and the sufferings of millions of martyrs, and the light given by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and the self-sacrifice of all the heroes of charity, and a powerful hierarchy ordained in heaven, and the streams of Divine Grace – the whole having been built up, bound together, and impregnated by the life and spirit of Jesus Christ, the Wisdom of God, the Word made man – when we think, I say, of all this, it is frightening to behold new apostles eagerly attempting to do better by a common interchange of vague idealism and civic virtues. What are they going to produce? What is to come of this collaboration? A mere verbal and chimerical construction in which we shall see, glowing in a jumble, and in seductive confusion, the words Liberty, Justice, Fraternity, Love, Equality, and human exultation, all resting upon an ill-understood human dignity.”
Because he understood that the modernists were trying to alter the Church’s teachings, he warned that “he who dissents even in one point from divinely revealed truth absolutely rejects all faith, since he thereby refuses to honour God as the supreme truth and the formal motive of faith.” From his fidelity to the Church’s teachings flowed his great respect for tradition and what had been handed to him. In his evaluation, Modernists “exercise all their ingenuity in diminishing the force and falsifying the character of tradition, so as to rob it of all its weight.”
Having no patience for these false Catholics, he demanded clergy to “thwart such proud men, to employ them only in the lowest and obscurest offices; the higher they try to rise, the lower let them be placed, so that their lowly position may deprive them of the power of causing damage.” Who would blame him? He rightly understood what could be described as the trajectory of the West since the Reformation: “The first step in this direction was taken by Protestantism; the second is made by Modernism; the next will plunge headlong into atheism.”
I hope it has been clear that Pope St. Pius X spoke on the authority of his office because he felt a deep pang at the sight of a prospect of the faithful being mostly lost to sin, essentially his own office being disregarded and his own responsibility unfulfilled. With foresight he spoke of his mission and its purpose for being iterated at that time:
“Our Apostolic Mandate requires from Us that We watch over the purity of the Faith and the integrity of Catholic discipline. It requires from Us that We protect the faithful from evil and error; especially so when evil and error are presented in dynamic language which, concealing vague notions and ambiguous expressions with emotional and high-sounding words, is likely to set ablaze the hearts of men in pursuit of ideals which, whilst attractive, are nonetheless nefarious.”
So when he says “Tradition is represented by religious authority”, it is because the tradition comes from a mandate from God and must be safeguarded at all times.
But not everyone understands this, apropos my second point. The authority of the pope is invoked selectively. Just last week, Scot Eric Alt posted on Facebook a quotation from St. Pius X in particular which would afford support for Pope Francis’s actions: “When we love the pope, we do not say that he has not spoken clearly enough.” He then links an article from Rorate and neglects to provide any context at all. I hope the above will suffice as context, however. Many do not recognize the fact that, as I’ve mentioned, tradition simply means what is handed on to a subsequent generation. The authority of the pope hinges upon this. That is why we say the pope cannot teach heresy. Heresy is a direct negation of the tradition handed on. If a Catholic taught what Protestants teach about Mary, what others believe about the Eucharist, what Hindus believe about the after life, we would be borrowing from their traditions and not our own. The integrity of the Faith depends on maintaining continuity between the past and the future, which is tradition.
It is not clear that we are, however. Instead, it is clear that many — and I don’t know if it is most: so many Catholics don’t even attend Mass, many are just going to Mass to fulfill and obligation or have first communion or for other reasons — stow all their trust regarding what Our tradition encompasses in the pope. Sola papa is the common interpretation of the magisterium and Church teachings.
Earlier this week, two friends of mine that I highly respect — and trust to likely have a more informed faith than me in many areas — basically said that whatever the pope and those in the hierarchy who follow him do is right. I am not equivocating. To one friend I tried to stress that Lefebvre viewed the Church to be in a crisis — a point, with, however, some equivocating, pope apologists will admit — as well as the fact that he was simply handing on the faith tradition granted to him, but all that was said is that whatever the Church is doing at the moment, led by the pope, we must do. With another friend, I have been discussing Fr. Weinandy’s letter and forced resignation. When I took to a Socratic method for questioning why the pope should be followed, all I got was “because he’s the pope.” Nothing more. The same friend quoted the following from St. Pius X “To debate and criticize the wishes of the pope…[does] scandal to the good and great damage to souls.” Once again there is no admission of any differences in the contexts of Pius X and Francis’s pontificates.
Katie van Schaijik criticizes the letter, starting with a clarification all of Francis’s Satellite Swiss Guard suggests: “The reverence (which is something more than respect) we owe the Pope is not to his office—not to a position or a set of functions—but to a person, the person of the Holy Father.” This is her response to Fr. Weinandy beginning his letter by saying
“I write this letter with love for the Church and sincere respect for your office. You are the Vicar of Christ on earth, the shepherd of his flock, the successor to St. Peter and so the rock upon which Christ will build his Church. All Catholics, clergy and laity alike, are to look to you with filial loyalty and obedience grounded in truth. The Church turns to you in a spirit of faith, with the hope that you will guide her in love.
She claims “Fr. Weinandy begins by professing his respect for the Pope’s office, and immediately a red flag goes up for me.” One word at the end of one sentence from the entire first paragraph that speaks of a person invested with the highest authority in the Church brings into sight a red flag. I’m not sure I understand that level of caution being confirmed that early on unless one’s bias weren’t subdued by the gravitas of charity. But charity is never important for the prideful or those taken by the certitude that they are not only without error, but that their incapable of being wrong.
The bias continues: “Setting aside its shocking brazenness (who is he to lecture the Vicar of Christ?!), is this a just criticism? It doesn’t seem so to me. I don’t hear Pope Francis demeaning doctrine, only rebuking the doctrinaire.” First of all, I don’t know how anyone, again, could read Weinandy’s letter and take it to be a lecture. As I have mentioned to friends, I myself thought it was too nice a letter concerning the subject. But it is what it is, and a lecture it definitely is not. Secondly, doctrinaire’s are not rebuked by vagueries. They are simply confused by them, which is precisely what’s been going on, which is precisely why these apparently heterodox and condemned responses to Amoris are wrought with questions and admitted deference to the pope. They are asking to be led. Call it the dumbness of a lamb. I gladly admit such an idiocy to be ripe in me — and often. But for the love of the Lord, take these men at their word: perhaps they are genuinely concerned and need just as much mercy and compassion as homosexuals, immigrants, and all the other marginalized groups do — Lord knows if they are full of sin as so many progressives suggest, it would only benefit their soul (and by extension, amply benefit the souls entrusted to their guidance).
Later, Schaijik  warns of how ” Experts in law and doctrine are naturally inclined to exaggerate the importance of doctrine and law. They are inclined to become disengaged from the concrete and individual and to prefer the abstract and general. It’s a widespread, deep and serious problem; the Holy Father is right to warn us against it.” (Her emphasis.) This is a charge that bloomed with Francis speaking of rigorism and rigidity in the Church. It’s a full blown apple tree now, its fruit hanging ripe for the taking and being taken all the time. I will admit there is a tendency for elites in any field of knowledge to become divested of real world experience. But such a worthless claim cannot be taken otherwise when the same speaker says the “chronic confusion” Weindandy speaks of isn’t real because “when I look around it seems to me that it’s not the faithful generally who are confused and uneasy, but only a particular (and very small) set of the faithful, vis. the doctrinely-focused conservative set.” My experience has been quite otherwise, and the same goes for the cardinals behind the dubia, those who signed the filial correction, and even Fr. Weinandy who said he has “received many positive and encouraging notes from theologians, priests, and lay people.”  I should like to know how those marching on the anniversary of Summorum Pontificum feel as well. One might have to take some time to get a proper sample size relative to the whole. As Joseph Shaw says, those pictured were just the vanguard, those leading the way.
Schaijik ends with a few an equivalence she doesn’t recognize and a contradiction. Her reaction to the letter, that she did not finish reading, “wasn’t ‘How dare a priest criticize the Holy Father!’ rather it was, ‘Fr. Weinandy has completely misunderstood Pope Francis, and he’s hurting the Church by publicizing his misunderstanding.’ I understand the distinction, but there is no way to begin with the latter and not arrive at the former. At least I haven’t seen a papal apologist accomplish as much.
Then this: “Attacks like his do harm because they foster fear and mistrust; they prevent us opening our hearts and minds to what ‘the Spirit is saying to the churches’ through the person of our Holy Father.” Attacks like Fr. Weinandy’s do harm because they foster fear and mistrust, but here, because I am in agreement with the person of our Holy Father, I’d like to foster your fear that some traditionalists are fostering fear and mistrust and therefore dividing the Church. Honestly, what gives? Plain speech is a plain rarity now.
Another issue that isn’t talked about much when it comes to pope apologists is how they inadvertently make the point that traditionalists are right. They often, as Msgr. John Strynkowski does, insist on greater clarity — “Unless you are willing to name …”; ” …it would have been more responsible to specify…” — even as they are rebuking another for humbly requesting the same from the pope. But unbeknownst to the instructor is their own error.
I came to the Church for Her unfettered honesty, the clear notion made amply visible in the liturgy, the Douay-Rheims Bible, the prayers in Mass and apart of other devotionals, the artwork and icons, the cross as a throne that didn’t hide Our King. All of it gave me the impression that, as Augustine said, “God does not need my lie.” So I have done my best to be more honest with God, myself, and others. I admit my dislike for a lot of what is happening in the Church is more or less personal, for it is based on having experienced similar ideas — I almost said ideologies — outside of the Church. That is one reason I have a nagging response to many liberals and progressives which I as of yet have not uttered to any of them: if you want mercy, compassion, and joy without any hint of judgement (or should I say cross?), then you can find it in resplendently outside of the Church. Ergo, when Catholics talk about these things, it takes every last fiber in me to not completely withdraw from the labor of taking them seriously.
When I hear Francis talk about these things, when he emphasizes them over tradition, building virtue, preparing one’s self for reception of the Holy Eucharist, examining our conscience and finding truth outside of the world’s ideologies — well, then I struggle to take my faith seriously. Those who defend him, I completely understand, but at a certain point it ceases to be the right thing to do. God does not need our lie, and neither does the pope.
Here are some suggested readings on what’s happened until now with this situation.
Others are already in the article:

Comfort Came Against my Will

To some degree, at least. As I came home from Mass on All Souls Day, an influx in some of my convictions dawned on me. With all of the things that have been going on in the Church, I’ve felt more of what pushed me to the faith: one does not have to be happy to belong, and indeed belonging might often feel a lot like being misplaced. So I was dealing with even more feelings of being out of place than usual. It seems like Pope Francis and his Satellite Swiss Guard are out there in numbers defending mistruths and gaining steam. Many days it is hard to tell where the direction of the Church is truly pointing.

So Thursday night, I had felt that good old feeling of righteous indignation, but coupled with the feeling that there really is no other way to feel and it is a shame some do not feel this way. To be more specific, as I got into bed to read a pamphlet a sedevacantist friend gave me, I started to realize that after a certain point, people get really tired of believing that it is them who have the problem, and all the folks willing to smile through their teeth in order to be taken for kind, all those that promise mercy but whiff an attempt at dialogue with traditionalists, all those who say the Church is true in all ages and must also in this one change are those who’ve rightly discerned what is true and good. Eventually, people start to deny this reality and assert that they are in fact right.

That is what is behind the animosity with which all people, rightly or incorrectly, called conservative feel — those white nationalists who don’t want to hate themselves for their skin or apologize for either pulling themselves out of poverty or simply working hard on their own to become successful. The rejection of the liberal agenda that turns into pride in what one believes is also behind the traditionalists inside and outside of the Church, for they have the sense to suspect that the world was not made to be confined to the principles set out in the last 60 to 100 years, that good things bloomed in ages now buried in man-laid dirt. They have, in a word, their senses. And so, they don’t want to believe that they are the chief problem to be dealt with by giving up everything they know. To whatever extent that is true, it is how the feel. It is why Trump won, it is why some White Nationalists feel more invigorated than they’ve felt in quite a while, it is why people don’t feel sorry for immigrants in any capacity.

Speaking with regard to traditionalists in the Church, Joseph Shaw of Latin Mass Society says this: “The progressives have no idea what forces they have unleashed. What they have done is pushed these good people into a corner. They have reached their non-negotiable principles.”

Similar commentary exists on the appeal of Trump. Regarding his plain speech and his victory, Matthew Walther says this: “This was not because voters are irresponsible or childish or too stupid to know what’s good for them. It is because they know all too well that they are human and would appreciate not being treated otherwise.”

The forgotten and marginalized for simply not fitting the mold formed by the anti-normative, anti-mold-fitting progressives are engendered by the labor of the very liberals that have hated them for so long.

Hearing this fact elucidated by voices outside of the amorphous and emotive one in my head was indeed comforting. Things may indeed turn around for America and for the Church. One should hope they will. In the meantime, it is time for these types of folks to clear their head, clear their throat, and clear the air.

Progress You Can Wait On

I overheard the pitcher for the Astros talking about how much the baseball has changed over the course of his life in an interview with the press. I am not a fan of baseball, but what he was saying made plenty of sense. He said that on the one hand you have manufacturers saying the balls are just the same as they have always been, and on the other you have many players saying the new baseballs are different.

What stood out to me about this is that this is the reality of progress. While we in the modern world insist that life is better than it was in the past because we have this or that technology, this or that reform, this or that institution, every step along the way has meant sacrificing something in exchange for the new.

This is not just the case with technology either. We have come to live in a world where we are always acclimating to the policies, advice, technology, scientific findings, food sources, and education that is being constructed for us. AS a Catholic, I can point to the clear reality of Vatican II as just one such case, and many of the attempts inside the Church to modernize the whole institution. Outside of the Church, I can point to a mother who told a progressive professor of mine in college that she is struggling to keep up with all of the new technology out there. One has to wonder when all of this will stop, or are we forever doomed to maintain this rate of change simply because we content ourselves with lies about the Middle Ages  and the rest of history.

All I can say it is exhausting and we should wonder why we are so proud to be alive when we are dependent on forces at compelled almost strictly for profit and power.

On Pope Pius XII’s humility

In public, my uncle wanted to always look perfect, impeccable. He represented the Church, feeling a high sense of this supreme dignity. His behavior and his clothes, outwardly, were impeccable as that of a sovereign. But in fact he was very poor. After his death, we discovered that his kit bedding was poor: only had three shirts, worn and patched, which changed often starched cuffs because, as you could see. He had two or three pairs of shoes that was continually adjusted and resoled. During the war years he gave everything he had to the poor, all the money he received. When he died, he left nothing to anyone, because he had nothing. As we all were able to see by observing the photographs published after his death, he slept in a room bare, on a cot iron.”

On the Roman Mass

Michael Davis does a fine job of elucidating the history of the Mass of the Roman Rite without a hint of bias or irony. He is quite straight forward so far as I can tell.

What I took to heart from reading this book was that the codification of the Mass by St. Pius V was the eventuality of the Council of Trent, which was the Church’s most significant and formal response to the Reformation. The Mass was meant to prevent Catholic liturgy from becoming infused with novelties and disparity that already existed to some degree. It was meant to put into rubrics the theology of the Church which must forever contest any and all other theologies.

Secondly, it is the oldest form of Christian worship around. I have been told that if I want old liturgy, I should just become Orthodox. Turns out, the Tridentine Mass is older because all it’s prayers and the canon itself originated from the earliest days of Christian life after Christ’s death.

Lastly, I was reminded that St. Pius V actually did leave the possibility for other rites to exist, so long as they had been practiced for more than 200 years.

All this clarifies what a stark difference there has been in the history of the Church with Vatican II as the divider between.

Tru Azz Conservatism

From a source I have fallen away from reading lately, The American Conservative, here relayed as the positions of the anti-federalists:

They insisted on the importance of a small political scale, particularly because a large expanse of diverse citizens makes it difficult to arrive at a shared conception of the common good and an overly large scale makes direct participation in political rule entirely impracticable if not impossible. They believed that laws were and ought to be educative, and insisted upon the centrality of virtue in a citizenry. Among the virtues most prized was frugality, and they opposed an expansive, commercial economy that would draw various parts of the Union into overly close relations, thereby encouraging avarice, and particularly opposed trade with foreign nations, which they believed would lead the nation to compromise its independence for lucre. They were strongly in favor of “diversity,” particularly relatively bounded communities of relatively homogeneous people, whose views could then be represented (that is, whose views could be “re-presented”) at the national scale in very numerous (and presumably boisterous) assemblies. They believed that laws were only likely to be followed when more or less directly assented to by the citizenry, and feared that as distance between legislators and the citizenry increased, that laws would require increased force of arms to achieve compliance. For that reason, along with their fears of the attractions of international commerce and of imperial expansion, they strongly opposed the creation of a standing army and insisted instead upon state-based civilian militias. They demanded inclusion of a Bill of Rights, among which was the Second Amendment, the stress of which was not on individual rights of gun ownership, but collective rights of civilian self-defense born of fear of a standing army and the temptations to “outsource” civic virtue to paid mercenaries.

A lot of what I’ve read about Distributism echoes much mentioned here. Distrubitism seeks to distribute power as widely as possible, discouraging it’s coalescing into a central authority or bureaucracy. I am willing to bet if the right followed the tract initiated by the Anti-federalists above, the country would look a lot different, be a lot fairer, and most people would lean right as well.

More to the point of what I said on an earlier date about conservatives being definable as those willing to admit and respond to life’s tragic character, the article puts this fact in another light, namely the recognition of the law of unintended consequences.


…there is the conservative disposition, one articulated perhaps most brilliantly by Russell Kirk, who described conservatism above all not as a set of policy positions, but as a general view toward the world. That disposition especially finds expression in a “piety toward the wisdom of one’s ancestors,” a respect for the ancestral that only with great caution, hesitancy, and forbearance seeks to introduce or accept change into society. It is supremely wary of the only iron law of politics—the law of unintended consequences (e.g., a few conservatives predicted that the introduction of the direct primary in the early 1900’s would lead to increasingly extreme ideological divides and the increased influence of money in politics. In the zeal for reform, no one listened). It also tends toward a pessimistic view of history, more concerned to prevent the introduction of corruption in a decent regime than driven to pursue change out a belief in progress toward a better future.

“The kingdom is at hand.” “Read the signs.” Do you see the language I’m playing with here? I love this messianic concept that’s explored by some of the European philosophers. As the Silicon Valley technocrats might put it, “We’ve got it all figured out. It’s all perfect now. We’re all progressing towards it. Once we balance the equation, everything will just be perfect. There will be no more suffering; there will be no more evil. It will be the end.” That’s precisely the blasphemy maniacs like me utterly and completely reject. – John Maus

Dorothy Day, briefly, on Usury

“The Money is Not Ours”

City Treasurer: Dear Sir,

We are returning to you a check for $3,579.39 which represents interest on the $68,700 which we were awarded by the city as payment for the property at 223 Chrystie Street, which we owned and lived in for almost ten years, and used as a community for the poor. We did not voluntarily give up the property–it was taken from us by right of eminent domain for the extension of the subway which the city deemed necessary. We had to wait almost a year and a half for the money owed us, although the city permitted us to receive 2/3 of the assessed valuation of the property in advance so that we could re-locate. Property owning having been made impossible for us by city regulations, we are now renting and continuing our work.

We are returning the interest on the money we have recently received because we do not believe in “money-lending at interest.” As Catholics we are acquainted with the early teaching of the Church. All the early Councils forbade it, declaring it reprehensible to make money by lending it out at interest. Canon law of the Middle Ages forbade it and in various decrees ordered that profit so obtained was to be restored. In the Christian emphasis on the duty of charity, we are commanded to lend gratuitously, to give freely, even in the case of confiscation, as in our own case–not to resist but to accept cheerfully.

We do not believe in the profit system, and so we cannot take profit or interest on our money. People who take a materialistic view of human service which to make a profit but we are trying to do our duty by our service without wages to our brothers as Jesus commanded in the Gospel (Matthew 25). Loaning money at interest is deemed by one Franciscan as the principal scourge of civilization. Eric Gill, the English artist and writer, calls usury and war the two great problems of our time.

Since we deal with these problems in every issue of THE CATHOLIC WORKER since 1933–man’s freedom, war and peace, man and the state, man and his work, and since Scripture says that the love of money is the root of all evil, we are taking this opportunity to live in practice of this belief, and make a gesture of overcoming that love of money by returning to you the interest.

Insofar as our money paid for services for the common good, and aid to the poor, we should be very happy to allow you to use not only our money without interest, but also our work, the works of mercy which we all perform here at the headquarters of THE CATHOLIC WORKER without other salary or recompense than our daily food and lodging, clothes, and incidental expenses.

Insofar as the use of our money paid for the time being for salaries for judges who have condemned us and others to jail, and for the politicians who appointed them, and for prisons, and the execution chamber at Sing Sing, and for the executioner’s salary–we can only protest the use of our money and turn with utter horror from taking interest on it.

Please also be assured that we are not judging individuals, but we are trying to make a judgment on THE SYSTEM under which we live and in which we admit that we ourselves compromise daily in many small ways, but which we try and wish to withdraw from as much as possible.

Sincerely yours,


Editor, The Catholic Worker