- The American Conservative - https://www.theamericanconservative.com -

The Wreckage Of The Church

In a humdinger of a cover story in National Review, Catholic writer Michael Brendan Dougherty waylays Pope Francis. [1] Excerpts:

What is a pope for Catholics? The Council of Florence said that he is “the true Vicar of Christ, and the Head of the whole Church, and the Father and Teacher of all Christians; and that to him in blessed Peter was delivered by our Lord Jesus Christ the full power of pasturing, ruling, and governing the whole Church.” The first Vatican Council rejected those who claimed the pope can deliver new doctrines, saying that his responsibility was to protect and safeguard the existing truths of the Catholic faith. “To satisfy this pastoral duty, our predecessors ever made unwearied efforts that the salutary doctrine of Christ might be propagated among all the nations of the earth, and, with equal care, they watched that it might be preserved, genuine and pure, where it had been received.”

Francis’s defenders have rejected that modest duty. One of his chief apologists and attack dogs, Father Thomas Rosica, has grandly claimed that “Pope Francis breaks Catholic traditions whenever he wants because he is ‘free from disordered attachments.’” He explains that the Church has entered a “new phase,” and that “with the advent of this first Jesuit pope, it is openly ruled by an individual rather than by the authority of Scripture alone or even its own dictates of tradition plus Scripture.” By this definition, the papacy would be transferred from a guardian of truth to its living oracle. It would be easy to dismiss Rosica as a mere enthusiast but for the fact that Francis openly challenges Church teaching. Most recently, Francis revised the Catechism of the Catholic Church to say that the death penalty had become inadmissible, effectively declaring that the Church had been in error until his arrival.

Can you believe Rosica’s statement? It’s like something straight out of Jack Chick comics — but Rosica really did say that. And he’s one of Francis’s top media people. More MBD:

Ultimately the vision Francis has promoted presents a God who is not merciful but indulgent, even lazy, and indifferent. It is God as a Baby Boomer parent. He expects less of you, and you can expect less of Him. In this new religion, where our faults become semi-virtues, salvation itself is changed. Instead of a free gift from God, it becomes a debt owed to us. Christ is not moved by an act of love to sacrifice himself as a propitiation for sinners. Instead, he dies on the cross because our human dignity, revealed in our semi-virtues, obliges him to do so.

What Francis is slowly instituting is a religion of presumption. A religion of “good enough,” where our misguided efforts put God in our debt. Communion becomes a participation trophy. And by freeing the Church from its preoccupation with outdated sins such as adultery, Francis can refocus the Church on the things he likes to denounce, such as the building of border walls, or air conditioning.

And no wonder, then, that the Vatican itself is filled with moral mediocrities, with men who are sexually and financially compromised. No wonder the Vatican investigates and inveighs against whistleblowers immediately but waits decades to investigate predator bishops. Believing in sin is now worse than sin itself. No wonder this church has a pope who refuses to wear red shoes. They symbolize martyrdom. That’s for heroic Christians, not for men like Pope Francis.

Read the whole thing. [1] It is a succinct and punchy an indictment of this papacy as you’ll have seen anywhere. If you are of the opinion that Francis is a gentle lamb unfairly maligned by rich right-wing Americans (the current Vatican line), you should read the piece to get a better idea of what Francis has actually done, and failed to do.

It pairs well with this stunning interview the Vatican journalist Aldo Maria Valli did with Alessandro Gnocchi [2]. The link takes you to an English translation by Robert Moynihan. Excerpts:

Alessandro Gnocchi, who in the pages of the magazine Riscossa Cristiana follows and comments on the events of the Church with passion and intellectual honesty, is one of the few voices able to judge the current crisis in an historical perspective. In doing so, he explains that what Monsignor Viganò has revealed to the world about the current situation has a precedent: the denunciation of Emanuele Brunatto [1892-1965], the first spiritual son of Padre Pio [1887-1968].

To return to those facts means to immerse oneself in a reality that many Catholic faithful would prefer not to see and not to know. Yet it is necessary. At the time of Benedict XV [1914-1922] and Pius XI [1922-1939] moral corruption within the Church was not only widespread, says Alessandro Gnocchi, but greater than today. This is why the argument that the ruin began with the Second Vatican Council [1962-1965] does not persuade. In reality, the ruin (of the Church) is born each time holiness is not put in the first place. And this applies to all times. Nor can it be maintained that it is sufficient to safeguard the right doctrine in order to have a good Church.

Gnocchi read the testimony of Brunatto, who defended Padre Pio [3] — the stigmatist and wonderworker who was attacked as a fraud by some in the institutional Church, but who was canonized in 2002 as St. Pio of Pietrelcina. Through Brunatto’s heretofore unpublished work, Gnocchi found that the corruption at the summit of the Catholic Church earlier in the 20th century was as bad as today, or worse. Gnocchi tells Valli:

Besides, I must confess that I can no longer stand all those “traditionalists” who hold that the world was perfect until midnight on October 10, 1962 [the day before the opening of the Second Vatican Council on October 11, 1962] and then Vatican II came to destroy everything. Just as it does not seem honest to me to argue that, perhaps, evil-doers and supporters of evil-doers were active even before Vatican II, but only outside the Leonine walls [the walls that surround the Vatican].

According to some commentators, even later in the analysis, the disaster stemmed from a renunciation of the exercise of authority. But why? And since when? I believe that, as regards the Catholic Church, the problem is not in the renunciation of the exercise of authority, but in the renunciation of sanctity by authority. That’s why I wanted to tell even just a very small part of what I discovered.

Look at this incredible passage:

Aldo Valli: What were the distinctive features of the moral degradation reported by Brunatto?

Alessandro Gnocchi: It can be summarized in one concept: corruption. Moral corruption, with the spread of homosexual practice and the domination of the homosexual lobby, reaching even to the papal throne. I can assure you that the pontificate of Benedict XV is simply appalling from this point of view. But under Pius XI the situation did not change.

Evidently the infection came from very far away and, as you could also perceive as you studied the revelations of Viganò, it spread very far. And it will spread very far. It is a matter of the corruption of ecclesial life, with the struggle for offices, careers, favors, compromises and, naturally, money.

In the end we perceive the corruption of the men, who practiced this abomination using the name of Christ as a shield.

Aldo Valli: But, one could point out to you that the preaching of orthodox doctrine never failed in those years …

Alessandro Gnocchi: Formally, one can also try to support this thesis, which in any case is a an historical falsehood.

This, for me, is the most painful point, because I too had fallen into the trap of the equation “good doctrine equals good Church.”

The facts show us that this is not the case.

Among the vices of the Catholic Church is that of formalism linked to an excessively juridical mentality.

The idea that one may simply state the letter (of the law) correctly to save any practice. In this way we have arrived, and not just over one century, to a Church founded on canon law instead of the Gospel.

When we do not have holiness as our first goal, we end up corrupting everything that comes after, and I mean everything.

Good doctrine is proclaimed only as a weapon to wage war on one’s adversaries.

But when the doctrine is used as a weapon, it always ends up being adapted to the war and, therefore, is altered.

We start by considering the doctrine under a new, instrumental aspect, and we end up finding a new doctrine, perhaps more effective, but a new one in our hands.

Not to mention that if you use it to wage war and the war is lost, the doctrine will succumb together with the defeated.

I assure you that this is what has happened in the years we are talking about, involving names that I considered crystalline only because I applied the deceptive equation “good doctrine equals good Church.”

This is how we arrived at the famous midnight of October 10, 1962.

If there is no faith, if there is no holiness, these are the results: good doctrine handled by a corrupt person is worth the same as bad doctrine handled by a person of integrity.

What an important and necessary point! He’s saying that the moral and theological collapse that followed the Council occurred because the foundations had been rotted by moral and spiritual corruption of previous decades.

One more passage:

Aldo Valli:In this regard, you say, rightly, that the only answer to Evil is that of Padre Pio: holiness. In your opinion, how can we harmonize today this search for holiness with the need not to further split a Church that is already very divided?

Alessandro Gnocchi: Look, in this Church, now, there is nothing left to split, there is only to rebuild. We need to build it brick by brick, and the bricks are our individual souls.

If I belong to the Church — and here we should have the courage to ask ourselves where the Church really is — my personal sanctity is the only relief I can bring to His wounded body.

Assuming there ever was such a time, the time is over to seek or create small reserves, even with the good intention of preserving the faith.

These environments always end up being places where the need to “do” prevails, because they must demonstrate to the world their existence: but the world, to grant its consideration, asks that only things that it is able to understand be done.

Moreover, inexorably, these places become small places of a small power that always end up “doing” things that are understandable to the great power in a relationship of limited conflict. You can obtain some success and visibility, but nothing more.

Only holiness is subversive with respect to this infernal order in which we are immersed.

I do not know if I have come to these conclusions because I am sick, or tired, or getting old, and, while I am answering you, I am suffering.

But I assure you that this weakness purifies, allows you to see clearly and makes you very free.

At the end of all, if I have a teaching that I think I can pass on to those I love, starting with my children, this is what I learned from Padre Pio: be good Christians.

Read it all.  [2]

It could be that Gnocchi is making a veiled swipe at the Benedict Option (“the time is over to seek or create small reserves, even with the good intention of preserving the faith”). If so, I want to make clear what is already in the book: that there is no fully safe place within which to be a Christian, and that Christians who try to create sanctuary communities for themselves face particular risks. In the book, I quote a young ex-Catholic woman whose Catholic parents were so afraid of the world that they raised all the kids in a state of constant siege, and ended up driving them away from the faith.

I would point out, though, that Gnocchi’s “be good Christians” is only practically feasible if we know what a good Christian is. We learn that from the Bible and the lives of holy men and women, but we also learn it from each other. We need virtuous community to achieve the personal holiness that Gnocchi rightly says is the only effective answer to the corruption all around.

To put it another way, there are no human institutions or structures that can substitute for personal conversion and personal holiness. It will never be possible to construct a society at any level that is so perfect that man does not have to strive to be good. But we can realistically work towards building habits and structures within which it is easier — though never easy! — to achieve holiness. That is the best we can hope for with the Benedict Option. This passage from The Benedict Option [4] speaks to this aspiration:

A faithful Catholic, [anti-communist dissident Vaclav] Benda believed that Communism maintained its iron grip on the people by isolating them, fragmenting their natural social bonds. The Czech regime severely punished the Catholic Church, driving many believers to privatize their faith, retreating behind the walls of their homes so as not to attract attention from the authorities.

Benda’s distinct contribution to the dissident movement was the idea of a “parallel polis” — a separate but porous society existing alongside the official Communist order. Says Flagg Taylor, an American political philosopher and expert on Czech dissident movements, “Benda’s point was that dissidents couldn’t simply protest the Communist government, but had to support positive engagement with the world.”

At serious risk to himself and his family (he and his wife had six children), Benda rejected ghettoization. He saw no possibility for collaboration with the Communists, but he also rejected quietism, considering it a failure to display proper Christian concern for justice, charity, and bearing evangelical witness to Christ in the public square. For Benda, Havel’s injunction to “live in truth” could only mean one thing: to live as a Christian in community.

Benda did not advocate retreat to a Christian ghetto. He insisted that the parallel polis must understand itself as fighting for “the preservation or the renewal of the national community in the widest sense of the word—along with the defense of all the values, institutions, and material conditions to which the existence of such a community is bound.

I personally think that a no less effective, exceptionally painful, and in the short term practically irreparable way of eliminating the human race or individual nations would be a decline into barbarism, the abandonment of reason and learning, the loss of traditions and memory. The ruling regime—partly intentionally, partly thanks to its essentially nihilistic nature—has done everything it can to achieve that goal. The aim of independent citizens’ movements that try to create a parallel polis must be precisely the opposite: we must not be discouraged by previous failures, and we must consider the area of schooling and education as one of our main priorities.

From this perspective, the parallel polis is not about building a gated community for Christians but rather about establishing (or reestablishing) common practices and common institutions that can reverse the isolation and fragmentation of contemporary society. (In this we hear Brother Ignatius of Norcia’s call to have “borders”— formal lines behind which we live to nurture our faith and culture—but to “push outwards, infinitely.”) Benda wrote that the parallel polis’s ultimate political goals are “to return to truth and justice, to a meaningful order of values, [and] to value once more the inalienability of human dignity and the necessity for a sense of human community in mutual love and responsibility.”

I don’t know about you, but I find that I cannot be a “good Christian” alone. I need others. We must not imagine that there was ever a perfect time in the society of the church, or society at large, and that if we could only reclaim that Golden Age, all our problems would disappear. But we also must not go too far in the opposite direction, and assume that it is hopeless to try to create small communities — families, churches, schools, fellowships, et cetera — that can serve as, to use St. Benedict’s description of the monastery, “schools for the Lord’s service.”

The key question is: what are these communities and their practices for? That is, what is their telos, their ultimate end? From a Christian viewpoint, if they exist to serve themselves, or to serve any other ultimate end but the conversion of life and the acquisition of the Holy Spirit, then they are disordered.

Anyway, read MBD’s story, and reflect on Gnocchi’s observation:

Look, in this Church, now, there is nothing left to split, there is only to rebuild. We need to build it brick by brick, and the bricks are our individual souls.

He’s talking about his church, the Roman Catholic Church. To my fellow non-Catholic Christians: are we really so sure that doesn’t apply to us too?

UPDATE: A reader posts part of an essay by Alexander Stille that puts Brunatto in a highly unfavorable light. [5]You should read it for balance.

34 Comments (Open | Close)

34 Comments To "The Wreckage Of The Church"

#1 Comment By Bob On October 11, 2018 @ 5:04 pm

cart before horse….good people striving to be holy, to be united to God totally, to be saints, to be showing who God is by their very lives, WILL associate, WILL build community, WILL change society from the inside out…

That wonderful place of refuge of which you speak, is called a church, in union with Holy Church, of whatever remains….one with a priest striving for holiness and who guides his flock..

Or even a diocese…they DO exist….and you find refuge THERE….

Where it is a real family with one Father….

And if you need move, to find such, then MOVE…

and then comes the parable of the rich young man, who turned away, sad, because he had so many things….

Most people demand that to be a disciple of the Christ means automatically a rooted stable lifestyle,…

whereas the Christ proclaimed even wild animals had more stable a life than he, our head to us, his body. Good priests, good bishops, come and go….so should we….

Let the world see what we take with us when we pack and leave….

Everybody packing, let’s see a show of hands…
hello?….I can’t see…..just shout out……..hello?……..is anybody here?……

#2 Comment By ROB On October 11, 2018 @ 5:50 pm

If Francis is as Rosica claims how is he different from Luther?

#3 Comment By Bob Taylor On October 11, 2018 @ 5:50 pm

Of course it applies to us Protestants.

Here’s something ghastly: a recent survey shows that 20% of the American people identify as Evangelical. Yet, of these Evangelicals, 78% ( ! ) believe Jesus is God’s first and greatest creation.

In other words, 4 out of 5 American Evangelicals believe in a Jesus who is not the Second Person of the Triune God. Of course, by definition, such people are not Christians.

My math is very bad, but to me this means that the actual number of Americans who self identify as Evangelicals but who can truly be considered Christian is about 4%. I don’t claim great insight, but for many years I’ve thought that well under 10% of the American people were genuinely Christian.

We Protestants in the United States don’t have much finger pointing we’re entitled to do at the expense of contemporary American Roman Catholics.

#4 Comment By Augustine On October 11, 2018 @ 6:06 pm

I think that the Orthodox Church has maintained more of what Gnocchi said to be essential to a healthy church. If anything, its synodal form of government promotes subsidiarity and the self governing status of some Churches mitigate excesses by patriarchs. In other words, if something goes awry and, since God mysteriously left His Church under the leadership of men, it surely goes, it can be more easily contained and its effects, limited.

#5 Comment By No comment On October 11, 2018 @ 6:11 pm

Typical conservative response. After describing the problem at some length, MBD follows it up with a call to do … nothing.

No call for Francis to resign.

No call for conservatives to rally around resignation.

No call for the bishops to remove him.

No call for action of any kind.

[NFR: You are assuming that a papal resignation would be an improvement, or is the obvious conservative response. Why? — RD]

#6 Comment By charles cosimano On October 11, 2018 @ 6:50 pm

And I always thought that Frank did not wear red shoes because he gave them back to the Wicked Witch of the East.

I am beginning to think that the only disordered people out there are the people who use the word “disordered.” This all sounds so utterly disorderly.

#7 Comment By Mac61 On October 11, 2018 @ 6:53 pm

I already teach at Barbaric State Community College. No one can hear you when you scream.

To be honest, all I have found is something along the lines of something C.S. Lewis said. Everyone believes in right and wrong. When you pose questions that force them to choose something, they have to figure it out. It is pointless, at least with students who have grown up without tradition, without religion, without reason, without learning, to talk about history or anything philosophical or theological. I have called it The Great Forgetting. We are starting at zero.

It’s lonely in there.

#8 Comment By James C. On October 11, 2018 @ 6:54 pm

Besides, I must confess that I can no longer stand all those “traditionalists” who hold that the world was perfect until midnight on October 10, 1962 [the day before the opening of the Second Vatican Council on October 11, 1962] and then Vatican II came to destroy everything. Just as it does not seem honest to me to argue that, perhaps, evil-doers and supporters of evil-doers were active even before Vatican II, but only outside the Leonine walls [the walls that surround the Vatican].

This is a huge and unfortunate strawman. I don’t know any serious traditionalist who would espouse this. Most traditionalists would argue (correctly) that the Church had a rotten substructure in a lot of places before the Council, and the Council (which could have addressed this) was instead used (both wittingly and unwittingly) as a vehicle to set off a massive doctrinal, liturgical and moral conflagration which still burns today.

No serious traditionalist hasn’t read St. Pius X’s enyclical Pascendi in response to the Modernist Crisis over a century ago. Moral decadence and doctrinal latitudinarianism were very fashionable among the elites of that time in Western society, and no doubt among elites in the Church as well.

Traditionalists would argue that the Council was a disastrous attempt to orient the Church “to the sources” that was hijacked as a vehicle to bring about a modernist revolution. Reasonable traditionalists want the Church to return to the authentic sources.

Holiness is at the center, of course. But you can’t have true holiness without truth, and community is a divinely-appointed vehicle for sharing and spreading and cultivating habits of holiness.

So Gnocchi has a point about personal holiness, but doctrine and community (the BenOp) should not be excluded or marginalized. They are essential.

#9 Comment By G. Poulin On October 11, 2018 @ 6:59 pm

I don’t know of any Traditionalist who thinks that the world or the Church was perfect before Vatican 2. Utterly stupid straw man attack on people he should welcome as allies. Too dumb to know who his friends are.

#10 Comment By James Arntz On October 11, 2018 @ 7:32 pm

I enjoyed “and failed to do”

#11 Comment By JohnPerth On October 11, 2018 @ 7:44 pm

@G.Poulin – and too dumb to check bona fides of “authorities”? What do we know about this Brunatto?


This policy almost worked. “A dozen years after the stigmata first appeared on the Capuchin friar’s body his cult looked ready to burn out,” Luzzatto writes. “But there was something that Padre Pio’s enemies had not taken into account.” That something or someone was Emanuele Brunatto, whom Luzzatto describes as “a con man of great talent, infinite imagination, and world-class enterprise…a chronic liar, a ruthless extortionist, and an incorrigible double-dealer.”

Brunatto, who had been convicted of fraud, had found his way to San Giovanni Rotondo in the early 1920s and attached himself to Padre Pio—perhaps to escape from the law, perhaps out of genuine religious devotion, perhaps because of his remarkable instinct for opportunity, and perhaps through some combination of the three. Brunatto wrote one of the first biographies of the future saint (which the Church promptly banned) and skimmed money from the flow of cash arriving from around the world to Padre Pio, according to one Church report. When Padre Pio found himself reduced almost to a condition of house arrest, Brunatto fought back with the methods he had acquired in his earlier life. He assembled a dossier of the alleged misdeeds and sexual misconduct of the Puglese clergy and, at a high-level meeting at the Vatican, threatened to publish it as a book. Not long after, the Church decided to lighten most of the restrictions on Padre Pio’s ministry.

In the early 1930s, this imaginative man cooked up an investment scheme for the followers of Padre Pio, putting himself at the head of a company that would sell locomotive patents. With Padre Pio’s backing, Brunatto raised millions of dollars, set himself up in Paris, and traveled the continent living grandly and supposedly selling patents to the governments of Europe. The one attempt to build a locomotive based on one of the patents proved a fiasco, but Brunatto succeeded in keeping the scheme going for several years while insisting that the company was inches away from a major bonanza.

Padre Pio does not appear to have profited from the scheme. The investors, of course, lost all their money and Brunatto moved on to other dangerous games, among them spying for the Fascist police. During World War II, Brunatto made a fortune as a black marketer and collaborationist, selling rationed foodstuffs and keeping the German army supplied with French wines and champagne. With extraordinary foresight, he placed a portion of his stratospheric profits into a charitable fund to help Padre Pio build a hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo. Certainly, this charitable act proved helpful when Brunatto sought (and managed) to avoid a lengthy prison sentence for collaboration with the Nazis.

#12 Comment By David J. White On October 11, 2018 @ 7:47 pm

What an important and necessary point! He’s saying that the moral and theological collapse that followed the Council occurred because the foundations had been rotted by moral and spiritual corruption of previous decades.

I’ve said for years that if the 50s had really been so wonderful, the 60s wouldn’t have happened. That applies to society as well as the Church.

#13 Comment By Eliana On October 11, 2018 @ 8:09 pm

This is all very interesting.

If a Pope were to come along who for some reason wanted to be considered a sort of “living oracle” with the power to alter Church tradition according to his will (framed as the will of God), such a man would certainly seem to fit right in to this age of deep confusion we are in, sadly.

Made me think of a group of earnest, quite charming, clean-cut and shining-faced young adults who showed up recently in a nearby town, invited by some well-meaning folks.

These young adults were seeking an “in” with the local public school district to promote a pleasant-sounding, free, “values education” program created by the “secular” international organization they represent, which they hoped the school district would want to use.

Surely this school district, in a town haunted by violence and poverty, would welcome
such a program, so kindly and charmingly offered for free.

But come to find out that the man who heads the “secular”
organization they represent is also the head of a highly
controversial movement headquartered abroad that bills itself as a Christian church but operates rather secretively and considers this particular man who heads both organizations to be the one true (and possibly immortal) spokesperson of God and Jesus on earth, all others be damned.

The well-meaning people who had invited these bright-eyed young adults to town had no idea.

And the young adults revealed no such connection.

However, the Internet did.

So their “pitch” to some townsfolk did not end up getting them an “in” with the school district.

“Living oracles”, tradition-smashers and bright-shiny object trackers we have always had with us, I guess

But in this age of increasing confusion, in which we crave stability and so many of us are not sure even where to look for it, much less where to find it…

…we need to be so careful about checking out who’s holding the pole that flies the banner.

Following the banner alone is just not enough.

I do think that the irreducible
equation is the one which takes us back to a trust in the Lord who blesses us and keeps us.

All others pay cash.

#14 Comment By kalendjay On October 11, 2018 @ 8:41 pm

“Love the sinner but despise the sin”.

I believe this cardinal rule of faith should be reexamined in the wake of these troubled times. If we are approaching a state of civil war, I cannot say that this Pope is of any help in avoiding it. It boils down to glorification of sin as justifiable or rationalizable behavior, with no requirement of genuflection by the sinner.

You may also blame the fact that Francis’ Latino heritage is simply one of collectivism veiled in a grudge oriented mindset of progress — that is, the fundamental definition of ‘Progressivism’. So individuals have no role in “justice” — that only belongs to the of history, no matter what the individual cost.

Doesn’t this sound a bit like how we elevate Supreme Court Justices, of late?

#15 Comment By Ted On October 11, 2018 @ 8:58 pm

Uncharted waters. Here be monsters. Pass the hard tack and shiver me timbers.

#16 Comment By stephen Cooper On October 11, 2018 @ 9:09 pm

“I don’t know about you, but I find that I cannot be a good Christian alone.”

Dorothy Day, until her last day, refused to repent for her criticisms of people who, unlike her, worked hard in boring jobs and lived in houses where they raised families – she preferred disliking them. And refusing, in her heart, to consider them – the hated bourgeoisie, in the words of her day – her fellow Christians.

She would have been better off, poor proud woman, alone than in the company of people who felt, like her, such dislike for ordinary average people.

Chesterton, who celebrated the joy of life, never apologized for his columns in which he called for the children of Jews – even if those children had parents who fought in a war for Britain, something Chesterton never did – to be absolutely and completely humiliated by watching their fathers forced to wear “Oriental garb”, as the paradox master cleverly and viciously called it, to work in the London that they had fought for, back in the trenches. Remember this – Chesterton never served a day in uniform, and he called for former soldiers to be humiliated if they were Jewish and lived in England and had a job in England. The poor man would have been better off with no friends to give him a job in journalism.

Poor Maximilian Kolbe is remembered here in the West as the guy who bravely – or, to tell the truth, perhaps in a sinful moment of embracing the sin of suicide – gave his life for others. In Japan he is best remembered, perhaps, as the white guy who brought Anti-Semitism, that unpleasant sin, to a country where no Jews lived.

Poor Wojtyla, as good as he was for so many years, in the pride of his success, turned a cold eye to people who begged him to do everything he could to protect the victims of sexual abuse. It was not Wojtyla, the saint, who stopped the worst of the abuse, but his obviously unsaintly friend Joseph Ratzinger.

We could go on. I do not want to think that Jorge Bergoglio does not pray, every night, for wisdom. In a world where even the Dorothy Days and Chestertons, and the Wojtylas, have shown so clearly that they did not have, in its fullness, the only gift worth having – the gift of caring about other people – I am not going to give up on hoping that Bergoglio, too, will one day do the right thing.

And if he doesn’t – people who care about him will try to mitigate the evil he has done.

We will all, with just a couple of exceptions, be long dead a hundred years from now. It will be easy, then, to pray for people who have done bad things. It is harder, right now, but it shouldn’t be —

we all will appear to die alone, if you look to the future with faithless eyes.
none of us will die alone.
God will be there.

Even if you are one of those people who do not have a friend in this world who would sacrifice any real comfort to make your life better (we have all been there, me more than most people, but that is just a trivial fact), even if you are terrified of dying alone, or getting old alone , you still have to know this –

you were never alone
you never will be

Christianity is a religion of joy

sure we live in a time where even lots of people who are almost saints don’t show that, so what

Peter was brave enough to stay near Jesus, to talk to people who hated Jesus in the last hours of Jesus’s life, and all he got for it was to be vilified for centuries as a betrayer, when all that Jesus criticized him for was his minor fault of trying to stay close to Jesus in a way that was not completely honest

next time someone you know is going through hard times, stay close

and if nobody cares about you enough to want you to stay close

then remember this, you are one of God’s elect

nobody is more loved by God than somebody who is a Christian alone

#17 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 11, 2018 @ 9:09 pm

If you claim that one man holding one office is the Vicar of Christ on Earth, endow him also with pagan Roman offices once held by the Caesar’s, such as Pontifex Maximus, this is the risk you run. You never know what each new holder of the office is going to pronounce. And whatever they pronounce, this is your father speaking.

#18 Comment By MikeS On October 11, 2018 @ 9:14 pm

I don’t envy anyone who holds up the Religious Institution as an article of faith. Religious Institutions are natural magnets for megalomaniacs, ideologues and grifters. I recommend pursuing spiritual growth only at the individual level, or at most, the house church or small congregational church level. There may be downsides to this, but the downsides of Institutional Religion are now obvious.

#19 Comment By AMJ On October 11, 2018 @ 9:17 pm

Bob wrote:

… “Everybody packing, let’s see a show of hands…
hello?….I can’t see…..just shout out……..hello?……..is anybody here?…… ”

I’m here. My Church is here. No need to search elsewhere.

#20 Comment By Theresa On October 11, 2018 @ 9:24 pm

“At the time of Benedict XV [1914-1922] and Pius XI [1922-1939] moral corruption within the Church was not only widespread, says Alessandro Gnocchi, but greater than today. This is why the argument that the ruin began with the Second Vatican Council [1962-1965] does not persuade…”

Must be all those Communists (and homosexuals) that Bella Dodd “planted” for Stalin in the Catholic seminaries in the 1920s and ‘30s (in order to destroy the Church from within).


Oh, wait! That’s what some of those “traditionalists” claim!

Sorry. I have to agree with some of the previous posters who say “straw man.” Trads range from the Sedevacantist to those who accept the current pope – but just don’t like him – so which “traditionalists” is Gnocchi talking about? I’m not aware that any of these Trads along that vast gradient from “left to “right” claim it all “started” with VCII. If anything, VCII (many Trads say), was the flowering of the Modernist heresy that began infecting the Church even in the late 19th century – a heresy our popes in that era warned us about.

In addition, his Charge of moral corruption is one thing, but when Gnocchi claims that the Church’s doctrines themselves are now corrupt (as in “Church founded on canon law instead of the Gospel“), I think he needs to provide some specific examples of precisely which “doctrines” have been corrupted, because, so far, I haven’t seen a single de fide dogma being “corrupted.” Even from Francis. Nor even any Sententia Fidei Proxima or Certa doctrines being corrupted. He seems unable to make a distinction between Divine law and Ecclesiastical law. The latter has not replaced the former.

So I’m taking his statements with a huge grain of salt. His language is far too imprecise, and raises far too many questions.

#21 Comment By John L On October 11, 2018 @ 10:13 pm

I would like more detail about the claim that moral rot in the Vatican was just as bad or worse under Benedict XV and Pius XI as it is now. I’m not denying this; I just want to see the evidence.

#22 Comment By Woody On October 11, 2018 @ 10:17 pm

In the words of the old NR, mater si, magistra no.

#23 Comment By Jasper On October 11, 2018 @ 10:22 pm

There have been 260+ popes in the history of the RC Church. Some have been dreadful; it is not surprising that we should have another such pope.


#24 Comment By Woody On October 11, 2018 @ 10:35 pm

For those readers lucky enough to be too young to have read the (in)famous aphorism in National Review when published in 1961 or so, the Wikipedia article on it correctly states that it was in response to John XXIII’s social encyclical Mater et Magistra, but the article is wrong in its description of the provenance of the original slogan. In fact, the NR slogan was a take off from the then current Cuban communist slogan, Cuba si, Yanqui no.

#25 Comment By JohnPerth On October 12, 2018 @ 2:15 am

We still have people like Dougherty not saying things as they are.

“In Italy, after interventions by two influential allies of his theological agenda, Francis restored to ministry an infamous priest, Mauro Inzoli, who had molested children in the confessional and who had been defrocked by the relevant Vatican authorities. As civil trials in Italy revealed to the public the depth of Inzoli’s depravity, Francis removed him from ministry again.”

Let’s be clear about the facts. Inzoli molested 12-16 year old boys. This is not “pedophilia” it is classical, Greek-style, homosexual NORMALCY.

Now, read again Dougherty’s summary. This man “molested children”. Well, he did, but that avoids the salient facts that shed much light on the entire abuse crisis, precisely because those facts are almost always the same – priests who are homosexual abused 12-16 year-old boys. We can fantasize with the left that there can be a future in which homosexual men do not fondle teenage boys, or we can face reality and keep homosexual men away from teenage boys. Which do you think the faithful would agree with, if given the choice? Which does Francis favour? Which agenda is Dougherty aiding by disguising the facts?

#26 Comment By Aaron On October 12, 2018 @ 2:55 am

Francis isn’t unfairly maligned by rich right-wing Americans. But he is unfairly singled out.

Rod — what do you think is worse? Francis saying he thinks it’s maybe OK for divorced and remarried Catholics to maybe receive Holy Communion in some cases? Or John Paul II kissing the Koran and praising voodoo (yes, voodoo!) [7]

Francis is merely extending to the 6th commandment the “aggiornamento” that previous popes have given to all of the other commandments and to the fundamental dogmas of the faith. And it goes without saying that they couldn’t have done this were it not for the general acceptance of the idea that popes are living oracles rather than guardians of tradition. Fr Rosica is not coming up with some bold new heresy. He’s merely re-stating the modus operandi of post-Vatican II Catholicism.

#27 Comment By William Murphy On October 12, 2018 @ 4:00 am


Many thanks for the link to the Alexander Stille essay on Padre Pio and Brunatto. It is hardly a surprise. Look at the disgusting Medjugorje fraud in Bosnia. A vey similar pattern has been evident. A poor village in the middle of nowhere with very little going for it is transformed into a thriving pilgrimage center with pilgrims from all over the world. The Church is initially sceptical or even positively hostile, but starts to swing round as piles of money rolls in. There are conmen and fake spiritual phenomena galore around the core “miracle” but, hey, it’s all the work of the Holy Spirit! Look at all the genuine devotion aroused and the real conversion of so many people’s lives.

Fortunately none of these suspect miracles is part of essential Catholic belief and we are free to ignore them.

#28 Comment By Daniel (not Larrison) On October 12, 2018 @ 8:21 am

Instead of a free gift from God, it becomes a debt owed to us. Christ is not moved by an act of love to sacrifice himself as a propitiation for sinners. Instead, he dies on the cross because our human dignity, revealed in our semi-virtues, obliges him to do so.

Oh, this is not limited to Francis–not by a long shot. It’s not even limited to MTD mainline churches.

I see this attitude repeatedly displayed by many who might consider themselves very conservative believers of various denominations, expressed when pressed about what salvation means and to whom it is offered and why.

At heart, this is the essence of much of universalism. There certainly are some universalists who arrive at that conclusion because, though we are totally undeserving of salvation–and indeed fully deserve hell–God nevertheless elects to save all. But far more common is the belief that hell and damnation is essentially evil and God would be evil to damn anyone. In essence, we “deserve” salvation. “Amazing Grace” becomes “Entitled Reward”. “Unmerited favor” becomes “earned wage.”

Even those who reject universalism often think that they, personally, have “earned” salvation–and that God would be unjust not to save such a wonderful person as them.

But this is totally contradicted by Scripture–and indeed, historically by the Church. Yet the fact that this entitles attitude is contrary to the historic faith, it is immensely popular. When the biblical phrase “the fear of God” is rejected, nothing orthodox is sure to follow.

#29 Comment By Egypt Steve On October 12, 2018 @ 9:35 am

Re: “Jesus is God’s first and greatest creation.”

I am not sure this is an orthodox statement! My recollection of the creed: “Being of one substance with the Father, begotten, not made.” My recollection of the Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” I myself would interpret the statement “Jesus is God’s greatest creation” to imply that there was a time when Christ was not in existence, and if that’s what the statement means, Christians should reject it, right? If that’s not what it means, I would think it should be clarified so that it more clearly reflects what it does mean.

[NFR: It’s entirely heterodox. The Nicene Creed tells us that Christ was “begotten, not made”. — RD]

#30 Comment By red6020 On October 12, 2018 @ 11:14 am

At the time of Benedict XV [1914-1922] and Pius XI [1922-1939] moral corruption within the Church was not only widespread, says Alessandro Gnocchi, but greater than today. This is why the argument that the ruin began with the Second Vatican Council [1962-1965] does not persuade. … Nor can it be maintained that it is sufficient to safeguard the right doctrine in order to have a good Church.
…Besides, I must confess that I can no longer stand all those “traditionalists” who hold that the world was perfect until midnight on October 10, 1962 [the day before the opening of the Second Vatican Council on October 11, 1962] and then Vatican II came to destroy everything.

I agree with previous commenters. Total strawman. I don’t know of any prominent Traditionalists who would agree with these statements.

What Traditionalist would say that all you need is right doctrine to safeguard the Church? He sounds like Pope Francis with his regular strawmen verbal beatings of Traditionalists/Conservatives.

Indeed, I would say that Traditionalists are more keenly aware of these problems. Traditionalists are far more likely to talk of the Modernist crisis and Modernists operating in the Church, building up strength before Vatican II. Talk to some Traditionalists about the Holy Week Reforms of the 1950s and Bugini’s role.

What’s more, why malign the role of doctrine? If someone ceases to believe, then they are far more likely to undermine God’s Holy Church. And they are far more likely to not be holy!

Instead of the caricature Gnocchi draws, what Traditionalists say is that holiness, doctrine, and liturgy are all tied together. So, it’s not about a crisis in the liturgy, or in morality, or in doctrine, or in authority! These little crises are all interrelated and feed off one another. It is a distinct phenomenon called “Modernism” that erodes the foundations of Christianity in liturgy, doctrine, morality, and authority simultaneously. And Traditionalists oppose this corrosion altogether.

Footnote: if the moral rot was greater in the time of Benedict XV than it is today, then why has the Church collapsed today and not then? (I’m putting aside the evidence that the moral rot actually is greater now than then) It seems rather silly to hold that crises are brought about by a lack of holiness but that the times when the Church is more holy than before is the time of crisis.

#31 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 12, 2018 @ 3:30 pm

Instead, he dies on the cross because our human dignity, revealed in our semi-virtues, obliges him to do so.

The ultimate in “noblesse oblige” huh? Reminds me of Toby Jones as the Duke of Clarence in Amazing Grace. Which is a great movie, even if I lean toward Thomas Clarkson over William Wilberforce, and even if the real Thomas Clarkson didn’t wear his hair loose like a 1970s hippie.

#32 Comment By REJ On October 12, 2018 @ 6:39 pm

“It is a distinct phenomenon called “Modernism” that erodes the foundations of Christianity in liturgy, doctrine, morality, and authority simultaneously. And Traditionalists oppose this corrosion altogether.”

While true, there was most certainly corruption in the Church long before Modernism (what wearies him about Trads is the failure to see this). This is just using the time machine Gnocchi talks about – some locate the problem at the time of Vat II, some go back further to the advent of Modernism. He makes the much broader point that corruption has been altering doctrine and Tradition for a loooong time and advocates going back to the “font” and bringing that Tradition forward to current day. While unsaid, I assume he means in order to rid ourselves of all the accumulated error developed along the way. If that’s his meaning I think he is right. I think the Church probably started going off the path way back in the 4th century before the first schism involving the oriental churches. (IMO schism = pride and arrogance; the need to be the one who is ‘right’ or the one who is ‘in charge’. Certainly not a fruit of the Holy Spirit). I’d like to see all 3 communions hold another Council and set down in writing where we all 3 agree – the font – and go forward together from there – all in committed communion.

#33 Comment By Mike On October 12, 2018 @ 9:48 pm

This stuff about Benedict XV is a total straw man. Full stop.

#34 Comment By Dr. Diprospan On October 15, 2018 @ 2:25 am

Communism – the idea of creating a paradise on earth actually, borrowed a lot from Christianity. The communist parties accordingly borrowed a lot from the church, including the doctrine of the infallibility of dogma, because of the Holy Spirit that has been active in it at all times. Only the Communists renamed the Holy Spirit into a revolutionary spirit.
The bureaucratic apparatus that serves the idea wears out like any apparatus. The CPSU did not escape this fate. She grew old physically, morally and died. The Soviet Union died next. Meanwhile, the teaching of the Holy Spirit contributed to the invincibility of the Christian church, protecting it, in particular, from historical and philosophical criticism. Throughout history, the Holy Spirit descended on individuals with the goal of endowing them with supernatural powers: prophets, priests, Christian martyrs, and saints.
Christians believe that God the Son was embodied through the actions of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ called the Holy Spirit the Comforter.
Dr. Gnezdilov – the founder of the first hospice in Russia comforts dying patients. He believes that the vagueness of what awaits us has given rise to the old principle:
“do not rush death”
Somehow, he agreed with one woman that when her days are over, she will try to let know whether there is something behind the coffin or not. She died, and he began to forget about the agreement. Once, when he was in a country house, he suddenly woke up from the light in the room. He thought that he had forgotten to turn off the light, but then he saw that woman from the past. She was sitting on the bed opposite. He wanted to talk to her but remembered – she died! He thought it was a dream, turned away and tried to fall asleep to really wake up… He looked up after a while. The light shone, he looked around and felt horror: she was still sitting on the bed. Then he realized that this is the dead woman in front of him. He tried to say something, but could not. Suddenly she smiled sadly and said: “But this is not a dream.”
Recently, after watching one American film about the Avengers, I caught myself thinking that in a week I can’t remember anything about its content except for one phrase at the end of the movie:
“The time of the heroes ends; the time of miracles is coming.”