Mamma mia, this is a red-hot letter to the editor of La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, or “The New Daily Compass,” a publication run by Catholic journalists in Italy. I asked our friend Giuseppe Scalas to translate it for me. He said the Italian used by the letter’s author is literary, and therefore difficult to translate into clear English. I’m grateful to him for trying. Here’s what it says, in translation. The author of the piece is Renzo Puccetti; translation by Giuseppe Scalas:
The Benedict Option for a Disfigured Church
“What else does it takes for Catholics to finally stand up? For stand-up they must, and cry out loud their indignation from rooftops”. This passage was part of a letter Mario Palmaro wrote to you. You published it on January 8th, 2014. Mario died two months later, after struggling against a merciless illness, leaving a wife and four children.
Dear Editor, It has been months since that that cry from Palmaro keeps coming to my mind in waves. It both disturbs and questions me. Yesterday I read Zambrano’s article telling about the priest from the Turin diocese who had obliterated the Creed from the Mass. He doesn’t believe into it, so what’s the need for that identitarian listing? The article doesn’t make clear if the priest rejects it entirely or in part (which one?) or if he rather thinks that it has to be done away with altogether. To be sure, Zambrano tells us that the priest has removed it completely.
Interestingly, the original video of the Christmas mass was taken down by the parish. The church reposted an edited version in which the priest’s statement that he no longer believed in the Creed was snipped out. Take a look at the new video from the parish’s website, around the 26:50 mark. You can clearly see that something was edited out — no doubt the progressive icon Father Fredo Olivero’s shocking remark, and the congregation’s tittering. Father Olivero, by the way, is a founder of an ecumenical organization in Turin that holds a purported Eucharistic celebration in a different church (including Protestant ones), and gives communion to those outside the Catholic Church, in violation of Catholic teaching. He doesn’t do this in secret, but out in the open — and claims it is in fidelity to Pope Francis’s teaching.
Do you know what I find most distressful about that story? The way the people in the church reacted: with laughter. They had the same attitude as that congregation clapping in time when their priest sung “Because I love you” from the altar while swaying his hips. The same as those thunderously applauding Emma Bonino as she affirmed her support to abortion laws and Fr. Gregory Greiten as he declared his homosexuality. The same as those applauding the priest who left priesthood because he got a parishioner pregnant and the one who blessed the wedding ring of a lesbian couple about to enter into a civil union.
Applauses, approval, and complicit assent to what the world sees as righteous: this is the attitude of congregations with respect to every abuse carried out on the presbytery. Recently, someone talked about old ladies who could believe righteously without the need for a theology degree, just by their instinct. It’s the celebrated and traditional sensus fidelium. Sure enough. However, the one making the talk didn’t specify that this was about an elderly person who grew up in that very Church of the past that is now charged with rigidity, dogmatism, lack of mercifulness and, therefore, repudiated as part of the current palingenesis [in this context, the term means “evolution” — RD]? Nor did he ask himself whether the newer generations possess the same ability to tell good from evil and truth from lies.
Are not those instances, a small part of a long list, the sign that the only “instinct” the faithful still have is the one leading them to accept the morals of globalist uniformity of thought? “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”, said Marcellus, the king’s guard, to Horatio, Hamlet’s loyal friend. It looks like the majority of God’s people is entirely unaware of the rot and the stench spilling over from every corner of our disfigured Church: they rather perceive it as the perfume of a rose.
Dear Editor, how can the faithful reject the way of thinking of the world? The teachers themselves keep silent when the freedom and innocence of our children is threatened. They talk about everything, ranging from oil drilling to toilet flushes and the citizenship issue, safely sheltered behind their bodyguards, high walls and bronze doors. Those same teachers surround themselves with aspiring or jaunty sodomites and promote them to the highest posts. One has to be thankful when their speeches bore you to death, because, for once, one is spared the usual horror. They are strong with the weak and weak with the strong, and cover up or are even responsible for the worst filth.
What to do? To be outraged? To cry out loud? Those things used to make sense when a feeble glimpse of reason was still there. When Catholics weren’t completely lobotomized through “theo-sentimentalism”. When their minds hadn’t been confounded by decades of “peace at any price” and their disordered appetites weren’t presented as natural and acceptable. When those who used to be the princes of the Church didn’t theorize adulterous sex as an antidepressant. When “black popes” didn’t expound the “Theology of the Voice Recorder”. When the enemies of God and the Church didn’t get commemorative medals. When scandal-giving Scout leaders were dismissed rather than protected by a smokescreen of meaningless “discernment”, and when academics whose only guilt had been to affirm reason and the Catechism weren’t fired by their institutions.
Please someone tell me, how a simple Catholic could keep his sensus fidelium, infallibilis in credendo, when the founder of the Lutherans, who approve of abortion, contraception, IVF, euthanasia and gay marriage, who don’t believe into the virginity of Our Lady, or in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist in body, blood and divinity, not to mention a number of other truths of faith, is celebrated as a renovator rather than a destroyer. And not a voice was raised among the multitudes of those who were bestowed the fullness of the priesthood to defend the few dissenters?
[Mario] Palmaro’s appeal was to men who were raised to let their “yes” be “yes” and their “no” be “no”. Generations educated to say “yes, but also…” have long replaced them. There used to be a people that could be counted upon, but that’s all in the past now. I assure you, this is not an outburst; this is rather a call to be actively hopeful in a time when all hope seems in vain. There is nothing left for us but Benedict Options to resist the rising tide while preserving some fertile land, drinking water and fire to warm and light ourselves up as we wait for the bridegroom.
Those news monasteries have intangible walls. They are the bonds of families and friends keeping the faith, they are the bits and pixels uniting the readers and supporters of your own “Bussola”, they are the radio waves, books and magazine pages of courageous writers and publishers, and they are the many small communities of those who won’t apostatize. A new year begins. Best wishes to you and your readers. Bullets will keep flying and bombs will keep falling: all quiet on the front.
I don’t know who Renzo Puccetti is, but I know that he speaks for many, and by no means only Catholics. It might be encouraging to him and to other Italian Catholics to learn that The Benedict Option is scheduled to appear in an Italian language edition later this year. It is out in French and Slovak now. Coming later this year: editions in Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Czech, and Korean.
I just returned from a spiritually intense dinner conversation with a couple of non-Catholic Christian ministers — I’m being deliberately obscure here, to protect their privacy — who were traveling through town, and reached out to me, as enthusiastic readers of the book. Very solid, sensible men. One of them lives and works overseas, and does some of his ministry in the Global South. He exhorted me to keep working on the Benedict Option project, and to strive to make it more practical for the faithful. His belief, shared by his ministry companion, is that the situation in terms of systemic stability, as well as spiritually speaking, is far more tenuous than most Christians grasp — and that because of that, time to prepare for what’s to come is short. They were strongly against any kind of bunker mentality, calling it anti-Christian, but they did powerfully echo the Benedictine Father Cassian’s warning in The Benedict Option that Christians who think that ordinary Christian life is going to be sufficient training for the trials ahead are not going to make it through with their faith intact.
I can’t be more specific, because the dinner conversation wasn’t on the record, but the things I learned tonight about the general and global nature of apostasy were very sobering indeed. For example, I learned tonight that like many conservative Christians living in the West, I have a grass-is-greener view of Christianity in Asia and Africa that is more uninformed about realities on the ground than I realized. If what these pastors said to me tonight is true, then in that regard, I can fairly be accused of theosentimentalism.
I hope to be able to do an on-the-record interview with one or both of them soon. I got home from the restaurant and found the Renzo Puccetti translation in my e-mail from Giuseppe. It was startling to recognize that what I heard tonight from these Protestant ministers about Christianity in general tracks closely with what Puccetti writes about the Catholic Church in Italy.
UPDATE: Some readers believe — understandably, given the wording — that Puccetti condemns Luther himself for believing in IVF, contraception, etc. I don’t think he does, because that wouldn’t make much sense. I think he’s talking about contemporary Lutherans. Keep in mind too that he’s surely referring to European Lutherans, who are on the whole rather liberal. He should meet some LCMS Lutherans.
By the way, Giuseppe tells me that Puccetti is not a letter-to-the-editor writer, but actually a writer for the magazine who adopted the letter-to-the-editor form as a stylistic choice.
From what I can tell about his convictions, I assume that Signor Puccetti would have some strong things to say about “schismatics” like me. That’s fine. I can take it. Doesn’t make him wrong in his criticism of his own church. I suspect very conservative Lutherans, while rejecting Puccetti’s specific criticisms of Luther, would probably agree with him more broadly about modernism and theosentimentalism.