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Tolkien on Modernity, Part I

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Recently it was announced that an old reel-to-reel audio recording of a talk by J.R.R. Tolkien will be restored and released after having been kept from the public for many years. In 1958 Tolkien gave a speech at a dinner given in his honor in Rotterdam, which was attended by about two hundred enthusiasts of his mythology. The entire event was recorded and then forgotten about. Subsequently, the recording was found and then hoarded like part of Smaug’s treasure. Now it has been rescued from the clutches of the dragon and all are about to share in the fortune. It is a wonderful find, especially since it promises to reveal a few new insights about The Lord of the Rings.

It has long been known that a recording was made, but it was lost until 1993 when a collector named René van Rossenberg discovered it in a basement. Only now has he agreed to partner with several Tolkien fan sites to restore and release the recording.

What is extraordinary about the tape is that it contains the entire twenty-minute speech and gives an insightful look at the personality and character of the author. In the speech, Tolkien deals with the serious issues that he is passionate about, but in a playful manner. Tolkien speaks to his listeners as though he were Bilbo giving his farewell speech to the Hobbits of the Shire, though he shows much more insight about the evil of the Ring than Bilbo ever possessed. Indeed, Tolkien has much to say about the evils of modernity.

The Meaning at Last?

Legendarium and the Middle Earth Network, who have partnered to restore and release the recording, are looking to raise funds and are luring potential donors with the promise that in “unambiguous terms” Tolkien tells us the real meaning of The Lord of the Rings. We will have to wait and see how truly revelatory this will be, but I suspect it will do more to confirm what we already know than shatter long-held conclusions.

Perhaps the little of the recording already revealed offers some insight into what we will learn when the whole thing is released. Here are the last few minutes of the speech:

Twenty years have flowed away down the long river, but never in my life will return to me from the sea. Ah, years in which looking far away I saw ages long past, when still trees bloomed free in a wide country. Alas, for now all begins to wither in the breath of cold-hearted wizards. To know things they break them. And their stern lordship they establish through the fear of death.

I looked East and West, I looked North and South and I do not see a Sauron but I see many descendants of Saruman! And I think we hobbits now have no magic weapons against them. And yet, dear gentle hobbits, may I conclude by giving you this toast: To the hobbits! And may they outlast all the wizards!

So far here there is nothing terribly surprising. Tolkien rages against the reek and havoc laid upon us by the necromancy of Mordor and the technocracy of two world wars. Tolkien’s hatred of the Machine and the kind of Magic (not Enchantment) that dominates the wills of other men is a major theme of The Lord of the Rings. And although the “meaning,” of the mythology may be something else, this theme of the “evil as Machine” remains dominant.   What is particularly interesting about this passage is that Tolkien does not see in the modern world the work of Sauron, the ultimate sorcerer, but that of Saruman, the pragmatist. I’ll come back to this.

Death by Machine

The above passage may point us in the direction of the “meaning” that is promised to be revealed in the rest of the recording. And it is likely to correspond to what we already know. In one of his letters Tolkien writes that the “real theme” of The Lord of the Rings is “Death and Immortality,” and the paradox of men who are doomed to love and leave the world, while the elves are equally doomed to linger on as their world fades away (Letter 186). In another letter he writes this:

But certainly Death is not an Enemy! I said, or meant to say, that the ‘message’ was the hideous peril of confusing true ‘immortality’ with limitless serial longevity. Freedom from Time, and clinging to Time. The confusion is the work of the Enemy, and one of the chief causes of human disaster. Compare the death of Aragorn with a Ringwraith. The Elves call ‘death’ the Gift of God (to Men). Their temptation is different,: towards a faineant melancholy, burdened with Memory, leading to an attempt to halt time (Letter 208; emphasis mine).

I would suggest that the meaning of “Death and Immortality” is related to the theme of contempt for the Machine in a fundamental way, and I speculate that this will come out more fully in the recording. Men use the Machine to control death, to quicken it upon their enemies and to delay it for themselves. Both temptations are in the Ring: power and lengthened life. Elves use Magic not to lengthen their own lives but to preserve the earth against their quasi-immortality. So men unnaturally attempt to lengthen their lives in order to cling to the world, and elves unnaturally attempt to lengthen the life of the world so they can longer enjoy it. This was Galadriel’s temptation to take the Ring. It would empower her to save Lothlorien and prevent her from having to leave Middle Earth.

Allegory as Machine

For Tolkien, this is the temptation of modernity. It is the temptation of the Machine and, one might say, also of allegory.

But the first thing that should jump out at us from Tolkien’s parody of Bilbo as well as his soapbox rant against the modern world is the fact that the whole speech is allegorical, and unabashedly so. Tolkien has always seemed somewhat contradictory concerning his views on allegory. Throughout his life he adamantly denied that his mythology was intentional allegory and was quick to indicate is dislike for literature that was. But here he is clearly allegorical, and he was on other occasions as well, such as when he wrote this:

You can make of the Ring an allegory of our own time if you like, an allegory of the inevitable fate that awaits all attempts to defeat evil, power by power. But that is only because all magical power, or mechanical does always so work.

This is the perfect passage to illustrate what I think is the solution to this conundrum of Tolkien’s dislike of allegory. He hated machines. His son Christopher commented in a documentary how his father expanded the meaning of “Machine” to represent the modern world and its attempt to provide “alternative solutions” to those that organic to the “development of the inherent and innate powers and talents of human beings.” This is why in Tolkien’s secondary world there is so little space provided for the “man-made.” Tolkien once said to his son: “You know, it isn’t the not-man, like the weather, nor man, even at a bad level—it is the man-made that is so ultimately daunting and unsupportable.”

This is why in Middle Earth there needs to be both elves and men. Magic and the Machine go hand in hand. Men can produce either tools that allow them to function on a truly human level by “making” as they were made, or they can build Machines for the purpose of power and domination. The elves and the higher powers can either use their natural power to enchant the world around them and raise it up in an artful way, or they can resort to Magic in order to coerce and dominate. The human intuition is toward functionality and more easily leads to the choice of power and domination. The elves are less disposed to this error, but when they fall, they fall badly, as when they were deceived by Sauron to make the rings of power and to teach him the ring-craft so that he could forge the One. Magic is the ultimate Machine.

Middle Earth is an archaic society, and only those who are bent on the coercion and domination of other wills wish to make it otherwise. Mordor was the fruit of modernity. Tolkien called World War I, “the first War of the Machines,” in which only they were triumphant. And he wrote: “the servants of the Machines are becoming a privileged class” (Letter 96), just like the servants of the Dark Lord in Middle Earth.

What does this have to do with his dislike for allegory? I think in Tolkien’s mind intentional allegory was a form of the Machine. C.S. Lewis once called myth “lies breathed through silver,” and Tolkien rebutted this in his in poem Mythopoeia, in which he placed in opposition the “legend-makers” and those who shunned such craft in favor of “organized delight,/in lotus-isles of economic bliss.” He called the latter’s sin a selling out for a “Circe-kiss,“ which was “machine produced” and the “bogus seduction of the twice seduced.” The legend-makers were not lying, but making “by the law” in which they were made. On the contrary, it was the organizers and controllers who lied, and the stories they told were like machines that seduced. If I understand him correctly, the first seduction is the failure to see that the machine is a substitution for the real, and the second seduction is to place one’s hope in what the machine produces.

A lie breathed through silver is like a machine. It is artificial and manipulative. In heaven there will be no such lies or seduction. Tolkien writes:

In paradise they look no more awry;
and though they make anew, they make no lie.

In his forward to the trilogy, Tolkien distinguished “applicability” from allegory, saying that “the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and in the other in the purposed domination of the author.” So it would seem for Tolkien, allegory was an attempt to coerce and dominate the reader. This is analogous to the operation of a machine.

Regardless of how consistent Tolkien was in his views and practice (or even how right he was about the issue), it is clear that what put him off about allegory was exactly what he hated about machines. This is why I suspect he equally disliked Lewis’ later view of myth (a softened view based on Tolkien’s influence), that myth is a way of “smuggling the gospel.” Like the Ring, allegory would then be an attempt to defeat evil, “power by power.” Tolkien’s very trilogy would become a manipulative Machine. But as Tolkien says of the Ring “that is only because all magical power, or mechanical does always so work.” Tolkien was not “the Lord of the Rings.”

Not Sauron but Saruman

The second thing that jumps out from the first release of the lost and found recording is Tolkien’s comment on Sauron and Saruman:

I looked East and West, I looked North and South and I do not see a Sauron but I see many descendants of Saruman!

This seems to correspond to something noted by Christopher Tolkien in the documentary already mentioned. He said that one of his father’s greatest fears was “coercion for good ends.” Gandalf and Galadriel, who both had opportunities to seize the Ring for themselves were much worse threats to Middle Earth than Sauron, because, to quote Christopher Tolkien, they would be “righteous and self-righteous.” In other words, they would come more fully under the domination of the Ring because they would accept the lie of the Machine, thinking that they were doing good, whereas Sauron fully knew and desired the malice that poured into the Ring. But, of course, both Gandalf and Galadriel “passed the test,” and overcame the temptation to use the Ring for a good end.

Saruman, on the other hand, did not. He was too pragmatic. He tallied up the resources on both sides of the conflict and chose the winning side in the foolish hope that some good could be done in spite of an alliance with Sauron. Of course, this was a thinly veiled attempt to obtain the Ring for himself and become the new Dark Lord.

At the Council of Elrond, Gandalf recounted his conversation with Saruman on the matter:

‘“For I am Saruman the Wise, Saruman Ring-maker, Saruman of Many Colours!”

‘I looked then and saw that his robes, which had seemed white, were not so, but were woven of all colours, and if he moved they shimmered and changed hue so that the eye was bewildered.

‘“I liked white better,” I said.

‘“White!’ he sneered. ‘It serves as a beginning. White cloth may be dyed. The white page can be overwritten; and the white light can be broken.”

‘“In which case it is no longer white,” said I. “And he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.”’

Saruman now counts himself wise because of his pragmatism. In fact, he even misappropriates to himself the making of the Ring. He wants to be lord of the Machines. Tolkien said in his recorded speech:

Alas, for now all begins to wither in the breath of cold-hearted wizards. To know things they break them. And their stern lordship they establish through the fear of death.

He is obviously referring to the words of Gandalf and Saruman above. In their effort to control and dominate, the cold-hearted wizards, that is, the technocrats of the world, have chosen science over wisdom. Even religious men have lost wisdom and have failed to see that some things are greater than the sum of their parts, such as sacred scripture, the deposit of faith, the sacraments and even the liturgy. To know these things, they break them. Theirs is not the path of wisdom because the fruit of their knowledge is not freedom but control, which brings death, destruction and damnation. Tolkien called those who produced the atomic bomb “babel builders,” who hoped in vain that their creation would bring peace (Letter 102). So too, the architects of the “Church as Machine,” constructed in the service of Revolution or Counter-revolution, break the very thing they wish to reform or restore. For Tolkien the real danger was not open malice, but the self-deception of overcoming power by power. The real danger even today is the mirage of the benevolent Machine.

Saruman summarizes the argument for Gandalf thus:

“As the Power grows, its proved friends will also grow; and the Wise, such as you and I, may with patience come at last to direct its courses, to control it. We can bide our time, we can keep our thoughts in our hearts, deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose: Knowledge, Rule, Order, all things that we have so far striven in vain to accomplish, hindered rather than helped by our weak and idle friends. There need not be, there would not be, any real change in our designs, only in our means.”

This seems to be an accurate description of modernity, as well as the revolution against modernity, which by definition is “modern.” It is the spirit of the activist, the community organizer, the social engineer, the technocrat and the theocrat. All is permitted in the service of the good. This is not wisdom, but the logic of power.

Modernity Defined

It may just be that Tolkien offers us one of simplest and yet farthest-reaching and most accurate definitions of modernity or the “modern world,” which the Church has attempted to critique without every quite defining exactly what it means. Modernity unfettered is the Machine and the subjugation of the human person, and even the attempt to subjugate God, to the logic of power. I will reflect on this further in the next post. Meanwhile, let me take this opportunity to register this essay as my prediction about what might be revealed when the recording is released in full.

Filed under: Catholicism, Heroes, Religion, Tolkien Tagged: Galadriel, Gandalf, Lengendarium, Machine, Middle Earth Network, Modernity, Mordor, Saruman, Sauron, The Lord of the Rings
From MaryVictrix.com

In Defense of XXXXXXXXXXXXXX the Latin Mass

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

That should be “In Defense of Pope Benedict and the Latin Mass.”

The Week has recently published a hit peace on the new Mass and Vatican II by Michael Brendan Dougherty. Ostensibly it is praise of Pope Benedict and his support of the Traditional Latin Mass–well deserved praise, I must say, the Pope Emeritus’ promulgation of Summorum Pontificum.

But then there is this:

Benedict’s intervention was not perfect. His intellectual attempt to save the Council and the new Mass from criticism with a “hermeneutic of continuity” was a noble failure. If the council intended continuity, why did it throw every aspect of Catholic worship up for possible revision in its documents? Why was the council swiftly followed by the worst spasm of iconoclasm in the history of the church — a tearing down of altars, images, statues — and a hasty revision to nearly every part of Catholic life?

Interesting rhetorical questions, which Dougherty does not answer.  But the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy is a nice spinning lure that always hooks the fish.

It just illustrates how Benedict XVI is so often used and abused in order to push one agenda or another.  Calling Pope Benedict’s hermeneutic of continuity a “noble failure” and brushing it off with a wave of the hand also illustrates why I am not a traditionalist.

Filed under: Catholicism, Church, Holy Father, News, Religion Tagged: Benedict XVI, Extraordinary Form, Ordinary Form, Summorum Pontificum, Traditional Latin Mass
From MaryVictrix.com

I Believe in Ghosts, or Even More on Crypto-Lefebvrism

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

For a group of people who believe that there is no content to the term “crypto-Lefebvrism” those at Rorate Caeli along with Roberto de Mattei devote a good deal of time and space to the question. They also seem to be quite concerned about the criticisms I have been lodging, devoting as much time and energy as they have to the question, while making sure that they avoid linking to my blog.

But I am willing to concede that the crypto-Lefebvrists are ghosts. At least, they sure do behave like them. Etherial creatures they are, lurking in the shadows and working in the dark.

The latest contribution about this matter on Rorate Caeli is from pseudonymous Fr. Pio Pace who claims that the Holy See has been engaged in the “programmed destruction of the Franciscan of the Immaculate.” Not surprisingly, he calls the allegation of “cryto-Lefebvrism” simply the absurd and baseless pretext for the destruction of the FI. All the while he employs a revisionist historical narrative of the dialogue of the Holy See with the SSPX in the service of his allegation of the Church’s attack on traditionalism within the FI.

I have written an account of the dialogue of the Holy See with the Society of St. Pius X, which you can find here. The facts of the case show clearly that the leaders of the Society never intended to modify their doctrinal position, nor was the Society ever near an agreement with the Holy See. Furthermore, my account also documents the collusion between the Society and the crypto-Lefebvrists on the outside, including those associated with the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. I urge you to take the time to read the account. It makes everything else here much more understandable.

Scapegoating Pope Francis

Fr. Pio’s essay is likely to leave the poorly informed reader with the impression that the current want of movement in the dialogue of the SSPX with the Holy See has something to do with Pope Francis and his lack of interest in the Society. But the truth is that the dialogue was effectively over before Pope Benedict announced his resignation. (Again, read that account.)

It is true that Ecclesia Dei sent a letter to Bishop Fellay on January 8, 2013 asking him to accept the doctrinal preamble as it was, but this was a last ditch effort after the personal letter of Archbishop di Noia of December 8, 2012 went unheeded. Pope Benedict announced his resignation on February 11, before the deadline for the Society’s response (February 22), which seems to indicate that he was letting everyone know that the window of opportunity was closing. This had nothing to do with the person who would actually succeed him more than a month later.

Fr. Pio imagines what would have happened had Pope Benedict, in spite of the SSPX’s unresponsiveness, gone ahead an reintegrated the Society after the announcement of the Holy Father’s resignation but before its execution. Had this occurred, he says, it could have entirely changed the outcome of the subsequent conclave and the current position of the SSPX.

But this does not take into account the fact that the dialogue simply failed due to the disintegration that occurred prior the announcement of the resignation. The SSPX had their chance—the best chance that they could have ever hoped for, and they let it pass. Pope Benedict could have held on if he had believed that a reconciliation was a realistic possibility, or he could have simply regularized the Society on its own terms had he been as determined as Bishop Fellay suggested he was. But he did not regularize the Society, whose representatives then declared their satisfaction that they had held to their principles and that the episcopal consecrations of 1988 thus proved to be fully justified. And it was Pope Benedict, and no other, who turned over the future the reformed-minded cardinals.

False Pretext

So it is not at all fair to say that Pope Francis ignores the Society. The dialogue had breathed its last prior to any talk of a new pontiff and Bishop Fellay had already expressed his being resigned to a long period of waiting for more advantageous conditions.   But Fr. Pio’s assessment is based on the same false pretext popularized by Roberto de Mattei, namely, that Pope Benedict himself was the sponsor of the “permanent ‘interrogation’” of Vatican II, and at least implicitly had been encouraging the Society to maintain its “loyal” opposition. (Read that account.)

Fr. Pio is correct in saying that Pope Francis does not share the theological preoccupations of his predecessor, and therefore, the questions of continuity and discontinuity do not hold the same place in his thought. But in this regard, there are several things to consider beyond the obvious differences between the former head of the Holy Office and the former Jesuit superior.

First of all, the Benedictine pontificate ispso facto has permanent value in the life of the Church. Pope Benedict has left a patrimony that will not and cannot be ignored. It is condescending and shortsighted to think Pope Francis is ignorant or dismissive of this.

Secondly, Fr. Pio minimizes the several references of Pope Francis to the work of Archbishop Marccheto. That Pope Francis is an outsider to the debate does not mean he is uninterested. But he has reason to remain aloof from the debate over continuity—the same reason that Pope Benedict ignored the appeal of Monignor Gherardini for a great clarification and reordering Council. Fr. Pio maintains the false tradition that Pope Benedict is the sponsor of the great questioning, and that he himself believed that it was urgent and necessary to prove continuity or otherwise abandon the Council. Pope Benedict ignored this contention for a reason, and Pope Francis does as well.

Finally, Fr. Pio leaves the reader with the impression that the situation with the SSPX was ripe for forward movement and hands-on intervention as Pope Francis ascended to the Chair of St. Peter. But actually the opposite is true, as I have shown irrefutably in the post already mentioned several times. The situation when Pope Francis was elected was altogether different than the one in 2007, when Summorum Pontificum was promulgated and then in 2009, when the excommunication of the four SSPX bishops was lifted. Pope Benedict had opened the doors wide to the Society and took them under his wing. It seems to me that this opportunity was exploited by the leaders of the Society to further their own ends and concluded in an inevitable stalemate. The principles expounded by Rome and the SSPX are substantially and intractably at odds. This is the only reasonable conclusion that can be reached after years of failed dialogue.

The Doctrinal Agreement

But not according to Fr. Pio. On the contrary, he contends that, in the reflected light of Pope Francis’ exclusively pastoral preoccupations and his general lack of interest in anything seriously theological, now Vatican officials believe it was a mistake to have submitted “too strict” a doctrinal statement to Bishop Fellay for his signature.

But what was the real difference between the doctrinal statement that Bishop Fellay that he ultimately rejected and the one he was willing to sign? It was the difference between fundamentally accepting the continuity of the Council and insisting that such continuity must be proven before accepted. What Fr. Pio fails to mention, but which Bishop Fellay openly admitted on December 30, 2012, is that Pope Benedict not only agreed to the strengthening of the text of the agreement (55:10) but he also insisted in writing on three points: 1) the SSPX must accept that it is the magisterium which is the judge of what is traditional or not; 2) the SSPX must accept that the Council is an integral part of Tradition; 3) the SSPX must accept that the New Mass is valid and licit (54:43-56:39).

But neither the SSPX nor those represented by Roberto de Mattei could fulfill even the demands of the weaker agreement. This is so because the discussion of such matters among traditionalists sympathetic to the SSPX is not simply the exercise of theology in the service of the magisterium, but counterrevolutionary activism.

This needs to be emphasized. There is all kind of talk about “legitimate” theological discussion, study and explanation of difficult conciliar passages. But this is not really the fundamental issue. The Society and its supporters could not even come close to complying with the CDF’s Instruction Donum Veritatis, on the “Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian,” because their basic work has nothing to do with academic theology but with propaganda and community organizing. Indeed, the anticonciliar agenda is carried out from the pulpit, in seminary and religious formation, in popular literature, in journalism and on the blogs. In other words, it is a complete anticonciliar propaganda machine and an instrument of political agitation. And even if Pope Francis was as uninterested in theology as Fr. Pio suggests, which I do not believe for a second, he is nobody’s fool, and he understands what he would get if all he had was a weak, toothless agreement from the Society.

We are not talking about an agreement involving mere abstractions. In fact, the touchy point in the doctrinal preamble was not about what one may and may not be free to believe, but about what an ecclesiastically approved society with a ministerial mandate may actively promote. And therefore, it is about whether a charism can or cannot be harmoniously integrated into the life of the Church. It is about whether it is practical and advisable to grant the Society such a wide measure of independence, which would be afforded by a personal prelature, if the Society does not actually agree to behave differently than it has up to now.

Fr. Pio goes on to suggest that now with Pope Francis’ lack of doctrinal concern there is an openness of certain Vatican officials to admitting the Society without a strict doctrinal agreement, but, unfortunately, the Society is now much too volatile to accept any agreement with Rome. But Fr. Pio is simply rewriting history. The SSPX has never been close to an agreement with Rome and this has nothing to do with Pope Francis. Furthermore, a regularization without an agreement would be seen as a vindication of the Society’s long held principles and would be used as a pretext to continue their counterrevolution. Neither Pope Benedict nor Pope Francis is so naïve.


And this brings me back to the allegation of Fr. Volpi, the Apostolic Commissioner for the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, that the problems of the Institute are related to crypto-Lefebvrism, a contention that I have already defended multiple times. Fr. Pio Pace, concurring with Rorate Caeli and Robero de Mattei, pretends he has no idea what I am talking about, and that, in fact, I am not really saying anything meaningful.

Crypto-Lefebvrism is theoretical and practical agreement with the anticonciliar ideas of the SSPX, involving whatever dissimulation is necessary to continue to operate within full communion. Bishop Fellay has made reference to bishops who act in this fashion, who are in agreement with the SSPX, but more or less camouflage their intentions in order not to be removed from influence (1:14:00-1:16:30).

An example of this is the attempt to justify the Society’s behavior and the theories of its sympathizers, like Roberto de Mattei, on the false basis that Pope Benedict was the one that encouraged the questioning of the “hermeneutic of continuity” The falsity of this is shown clearly, both from my arguments here, as well as my documentation of the dialogue between the Society and Rome.

Another instance is the “95% argument,” namely, that the SSPX agrees with 95% of what Vatican II teaches and therefore could never be construed logically to be fundamentally opposed to the Council. This is simply sophistry contrived to produce sympathy toward the Society. It is abundantly clear that the SSPX believes Vatican II is a poisoned apple. It does not matter what percentage of the Council the Society accepts. Anyone, who has read the sources I have pointed to knows that the SSPX believes the Council and the Mass it produced to be a Modernist, Freemasonic and Jewish betrayal of tradition.

One final example, Chris Ferrara claims that no “crypto-Lefebvrist” would question the liceity of the Ordinary Form, if by that one means “the Latin Typical Edition of the Mass of Paul VI celebrated in Latin with a high altar, Gregorian Chant, and no communion in the hand or altar girls, a la the Brompton Oratory.” But I have personally heard traditionalists argue against the liceity of the Ordinary Form, reasoned from Quo Primum. There is also an argument against it liceity in the comments on my own blog based on the PECD’s Prot. 156/2009, though the author claims it is a position he does not hold, or at least not firmly.

The Haunting

I imagine that readers will notice that I do nothing here to substantively defend Vatican II against the traditionalist arguments. My purpose is different. Here I just want to hold their feet to the fire and get them to commit themselves to their position like the counterrevolutionaries they are.

I understand the reasons for not doing so, especially among priests and bishops, whose positions would be at risk within the postconciliar Church if they came clean. For this reason, Internet anonymity and pseudonymity are very effective tools of the counterrevolution.   But it is bad business all the same, and someone has to point it out.

And I have just the motive to do it, since the crypto-Lefebvrists have chosen to make the religious Institute to which I have been committed for more than twenty-five years the battlefield of their little war on the Council. That is one of the reasons why the Holy See has intervened within the FI in the manner as it has, and all the complaining just makes the problem even more evident. The more people who clearly have agendas claim that “crypto-Lefebvrists are just ghosts, the more it is clear they have something to hide.

Filed under: Catholicism, Church, Holy Father, News, Religion Tagged: Benedict XVI, crypto-Lefebvrism, Pope Francis, Roberto De Mattei, Rorate Caeli, Second Vatican Council, Society of St. Pius X, Traditionalism
From MaryVictrix.com

What Happened to the Dialogue between Rome and the SSPX?

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

This post has been a long time coming.  It recounts much of what ought to be clear to the careful observer, but since it runs contrary to the popular narrative this documentation is in order.  I wish to put to rest the fatuous misrepresentations of the dialogue between Rome and the Society of St. Pius X.

My account is by no means complete, but neither does it omit the pertinent facts. A separate analysis could be devoted to the various nuances of positions represented within the Society.  The Society is by no means a homogeneous group and admits of degrees of intensity in regard to the “hardline.”  It is certainly true that there was more sympathy within the Society towards the Pope Benedict’s efforts at reconciliation than was often manifested in the media.  However, for several reasons, I do not think it is necessary to attend to these nuances in order to bring to light the aspects of the history that are often ignored.  First of all, this is so because it is what the leaders of the SSPX think that is decisive.  The opinions of individual members do not represent the Society per se.  On the other hand, what the leaders, particularly Bishop Fellay, set down is policy.  Secondly, the nuances are not essential to this account because the position of Bishop Fellay is relatively moderate within the SSPX.  In fact, he was greatly criticized by many members for his willingness to consider a doctrinal agreement at all.


The Crypto-Lefebvrist Dodge

Monday, June 30th, 2014

The following is my response to Professor Roberto de Mattei (Italian, English) who recently came to the defense of Rorate Caeli. I note that neither de Mattei nor Rorate Caeli link to my original critiques (1 & 2).

Professor Roberto De Mattei, like New Catholic at Rorate Caeli, believes that my use of the term “crypto-Lefebvrism” is meaningless. They say that it is name-calling directed at faithful Catholics. In particular, de Mattei believes that my intention is to demonize those whose only wish is to be guided by Tradition and the Magisterium, and who under that guidance decide for themselves when the reigning Pope is to be followed and when he is not.

I have been saying for a long time that Bishop Fellay, the superior of the Society of St. Pius X, has been highly successful at executing his intention for the now failed dialogue with Rome. That intention, which he explicitly stated a number of times, was that the work of the Society should serve to weaken the influence of Vatican II. Roberto de Mattei has labored at this right along the Society of St. Pius X.

Obscuring the Hermeneutic

No one in this discussion seriously questions that Tradition and the Magisterium must be the criteria for the Interpretation of Vatican II. The problem is that de Mattei and others, like the Society of St. Pius X, claim that the “hermeneutic of continuity” proposed by Pope Benedict (December 22, 2005) was an invitation to debate the merits of the Council, which is simply not true. Whereas those of us who accept the hermeneutic of continuity, do our best to find the continuity between the Council and Tradition, rather than insist that the modern Magisterium, including Pope Benedict, prove to us that such continuity exists.

De Mattei goes so far as to say that if my use of the term “crypto-Lefebvrism” is justified at all, then that would make Pope Benedict himself a crypto-Lefebvrist, because he is the one who proposed the “hermeneutic of continuity.” I cannot imagine a more convoluted interpretation of Pope Benedict’s teaching than this. Indeed, the very last words of Benedict XVI on Vatican II contradict it.

Just days before his abdication, he talked about the virtual and the true Council and how the virtual Council brought ruin and obscured the true Council. But now the virtual Council has been broken and the true Council manifests itself as a “true force” for the “true renewal of the Church.” He said that it is our task now is “to work so that the true Council, with its power of the Holy Spirit, be accomplished and the Church be truly renewed.”

My position here is in accord with that of Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, who on several occasions was named by Pope Francis the best interpreter of Vatican II. One of those occasions was his response to our (the FI’s) question about the Council. In an interview the Archbishop stated that de Mattei

ignores the interpretation Pope Ratzinger gave in the famous discourse of 22 December 2005 to the Roman curia: the Council has represented continuity and not discontinuity. De Mattei espouses the cause of discontinuity and rupture. In this sense, he does not accept that which is the measure of the Pope’s hermeneutic. And it is true that he then takes refuge in a corner, noting that he writes as a historian and not a theologian, and then says he does not address the hermeneutical question. But he does not realize that the reasoning of Benedict XVI is necessarily based on history.

Indeed, de Mattei espouses the discontinuity and rupture of the Council, ignoring and contradicting the teaching of Pope Benedict, not defending it.


In fact, de Mattei reckons the Council as “the Revolution” (with a capital “R”)—not simply the disastrous postconciliar implementation, but the Council itself. Following Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, he proposes a Counterrevolution (with a capital C). This is his a priori position in respect to any question regarding Vatican II.

Thus, he does not deny the validity of the acts of the Council, but neither does he believe that the Council can be really separated from “the Revolution.” This simply is not the position of Pope Benedict. Nor is it the purely academic position of a historian, but rather it is the agenda of a man of action who uses the media and political maneuvering to achieve his end. He even speaks of these things under the aegis of Angelus Press of the SSPX, with whom Rorate Caeli cooperates as well.

I certainly have no objection—nor should I—to the debate among academics concerning the relative merits of the Council or of postconciliar liturgical changes as long as it is done in an ecclesial manner. And I hope de Mattei and Father Lanzetta learn something from Archbishop Marchetto, with whom they are in dialogue.   I believe this is a very good thing.

But I have to wonder how much this dialogue is an effort to learn, and how much of it is an occasion simply to push the agenda, which is not an academic but a counterrevolutionary one. On the other hand, I am quite sure that de Mattei would like to see our Institute become a full-fledged cog in his counterrevolutionary machine, all the while justifying it under the title of “constructive” and “in-depth” theological and historical inquiry.


When Roberto de Mattei publishes on Corrispondenza Romana he is the propagandist and politician par excellence. For instance, he has stated that our friars would be justified for disobeying the Holy See in the matter of the restrictions regarding our use of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, and has encouraged friars and sisters to leave the Institute if the Holy See does not capitulate to his (their) demands. He also gave an interview to one of the most rabid anticonciliar news outlets, expressing his opinion that the canonization of John XXIII was invalid. In these matters, he is not acting in the capacity of an academic in the service of the Church, but as a counterrevolutionary. And so he is when he attacks me.

In fact, Roberto de Mattei, as much as he contends “crypto-Lefebvrism” to be a term without content, could not find himself in compliance to the modus operandi urged on the Society of St. Pius X by Archbishop di Noia. Just as the dialogue between the Society and Rome was disintegrating, Archbishop di Noia, at the time, Vice President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, wrote to the Society:

It has been a mistake to make every difficult point in the theological interpretation of Vatican II a matter of public controversy, trying to sway those who are not theologically sophisticated into adopting one’s own point of view regarding subtle theological matters.

Further, quoting the Instruction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Donum Veritatis, which specifically treats of the responsibility of theologians, Archbishop di Noia warns that a while the academic has a duty to make known to the Magisterium his conscientious concerns regarding non-infallible teaching that seems to be problematic, the theologian

“should avoid turning to the ‘mass media’, but have recourse to the responsible authority, for it is not by seeking to exert the pressure of public opinion that one contributes to the clarification of doctrinal issues and renders service to the truth.”

As Archbishop Marchetto notes, de Mattei takes refuge in the corner, by denying he is is saying anything theological. But just has Pope Benedict’s hermeneutic of continuity is based on history, so Roberto de Mattei’s rejection of it has immediate theological consequences.

Loving what the Church Loves

But my problem is not fundamentally with Professor Roberto de Mattei the academic historian, but with Roberto de Mattei the propagandist and politician, especially as it regards the way in which he has—to quote my superiors—“instrumentalized” our Institute. Since he is not a professional theologian or cleric, he doesn’t come under the same hierarchical control by which theologians and clerics are bound.  But that is precisely the point.  On this he follows the example of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, who used his position as lay historian and propagandist to operate outside of the control of bishops.  Thus, de Mattei continues to be the head of the spear in the resistance against the Holy See’s efforts to renew the Franciscans of the Immaculate.

Even now, De Mattei and Rorate Caeli characterize those who support the efforts of Fr. Volpi, Apostolic Commissioner of the FI by the will of the Holy Father, as “dissidents.” All the while there are friars, who following the encouragement of de Mattei, subvert the work of the Commissioner—and the Holy Father—and spread unfounded rumors that the representatives of the Holy See who established the Commission as well as the Commissioner himself are the enemies of the Church.

But thanks be to God, Pope Francis, who is nobody’s fool, has taken a personal interest in our welfare, even working to find us a house in Rome, as we are being evicted by our former benefactors. He also fully supports Fr. Fidenzio Volpi in his work as Apostolic Commissioner.

Roberto de Mattei states:

The ultimate criteria of judgment for a Catholic must be the one of the Church: to love and hate what the Church loves and hates: loving the truth in all of its uniqueness and integrity and hating error in all of its multiplicity of expressions. Orthodoxy and heterodoxy remain the final measure of judgment which Christian Reason must be subject to.

Yes, and this means thinking with the Church and being faithful and obedient to the Vicar of Christ.

The full measure of the damage to our institute caused by Roberto de Mattei ought to be more than evident by now, even to those friars who are encouraged by his support. No good will come of it.

This opposition is not against “a few dissidents,” nor against just the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Apostolic Commissioner. It is against Pope Francis. And he who eats the Pope dies. This has been verified over and over again. I pray that those who have been radicalized among the traditionalists finally learn this lesson and I sincerely hope that Roberto de Mattei, as well as New Catholic and Francesca Romana at Rorate Caeli will truly love what the Church loves and hate what it hates.

It is time for them to stop opposing Pope Francis and his work to renew our Institute.

Filed under: Catholicism, Church, Holy Father, Religion Tagged: Archbishop Marchetto, Benedict XVI, Fr. Fidenzio Volpi, Francesca Romana, Hermeneutic of Continuity, New Catholic, Pope Francis, Professor Roberto Mattei, Rorate Caeli
From MaryVictrix.com

The Crypto-Lefebvrist Dodge

Monday, June 30th, 2014

The following is my response to Professor Roberto de Mattei (Italian, English) who recently came to the defense of Rorate Caeli. I note that neither de Mattei nor Rorate Caeli link to my original critiques (1 & 2).

Professor Roberto De Mattei, like New Catholic at Rorate Caeli, believes that my use of the term “crypto-Lefebvrism” is meaningless. They say that it is name-calling directed at faithful Catholics. In particular, de Mattei believes that my intention is to demonize those whose only wish is to be guided by Tradition and the Magisterium, and who under that guidance decide for themselves when the reigning Pope is to be followed and when he is not.

I have been saying for a long time that Bishop Fellay, the superior of the Society of St. Pius X, has been highly successful at executing his intention for the now failed dialogue with Rome. That intention, which he explicitly stated a number of times, was that the work of the Society should serve to weaken the influence of Vatican II. Roberto de Mattei has labored at this right along the Society of St. Pius X.

Obscuring the Hermeneutic


The Paternal Solicitude of Pope Francis for the FI

Saturday, June 28th, 2014


Vatican City, Jun 26, 2014 / 05:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican has revealed that a house is being sought for members of the Friars of the Immaculate who study in Rome, and assured that Pope Francis is well-informed on the order’s temporary receivership.

In a statement released June 24, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. published the answer of Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo addressing several questions regarding the Franciscans of the Immaculate following a June 10 meeting with Pope Francis.

“The Holy Father is punctually informed of all the steps as they are taken,” he observed, explaining that currently “a house in Rome is being sought to accommodate the Friars…who attend a Pontifical university in Rome to pursue their studies.”

More Crypto-Lefebvrism from Rorate Caeli

Friday, June 27th, 2014

New Catholic at Rorate Caeli claims to be taking the high road of honesty under the patronage of the Sol Iustitiae, even though he assiduously avoids permitting, even by way of links, anything that points out the errors made on the blog. A case in point is the grossly exaggerated figures concerning the departures from our Institute, which still have not been corrected. He has not even acknowledged that there might be a problem with his facts.

At least my superiors and Andrea Tornielli have the intestinal fortitude to put their real names on what they write and to correct their mistakes, rather than lurk in the darkness spouting lies and calumnies and then pretend they have no responsibility for what they say and do.

Regarding New Catholic’s claim that he cannot comprehend what I mean when I call Rorate Caeli “crypto-Lefebvrist”: Anyone who has been associated with the traditionalist crowd knows very well that among many there is one narrative for the public and another for the initiated.  That stream of traditionalist thought beginning with Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira overtly recommends this practice, but it is not restricted to the TFP and those who venerate de Oliveira, like Roberto de Mattei. (more…)

The Crypto-Lefebvrism of Rorate Caeli

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

I need to refute certain claims made by Rorate Caeli concerning the audience that some of us (about sixty, not forty, as RC reported) had with the Holy Father on June 10.

Regarding Summorum Pontificum

Contrary to the claims of RC, there are many who are confused about the way in which the particular application of Summorum Pontificum attempted in our community involves a modification of our founding charism.  Some of these are people on the Internet, mostly in forums and comment sections, who believe our founding charism to include an attachment to the vetus ordo.  Others are within the Institute.  In fact, I have heard friars formerly in positions of responsibility who have argued that the charism has evolved to include such an attachment, even though this “evolution” is not reflected in our ecclesiastically approved legislation. (more…)

Urgent Prayers Requested

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

Urgent Prayers Requested

Father Kenneth WalkerFSSP, Associate Pastor, was murdered. Requiescat in pacePlease, pray also for the consolation of his family: his parents, brothers and sisters. Father Walker was 28.

Father Joseph Terra, FSSP, Pastor, was severely wounded by the criminals, and is (at least to our knowledge as of this moment) hospitalized in critical, but stable, condition. Please, pray for his health and his complete recovery, through the mercy of God Almighty.


Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: Father Joseph Terra, Father Kenneth Walker, FSSP, Rorate Caeli
From MaryVictrix.com

Marian Mysticism

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

I return now to my series on “mysticism.” You can find the introduction here. I have said that, whether broadly, strictly or narrowly defined, any mysticism that deserves the name Catholic must be 1) Eucharistic, 2) Marian and 3) Ecclesial. In my last post I explained what Eucharistic mysticism is. In this one I will cover Marian mysticism.

Marian Analogy

In the last post I explained how the Eucharist in a particular way shows forth the power of God to transform the soul. What God does to the gifts on the altar by transforming them into the Body and Blood of Christ, he does in an analogous by our participation in the sacred mysteries, especially in the reception of Holy Communion. In a similar way, the Blessed Virgin is the icon of such a transformation.

A mere creature, She is wholly divinized by grace from the first moment of Her conception, so that when the angel Gabriel appears to Her at the Annunciation he calls Her Full of Grace. This means that She is the one who, already at that moment, possesses the plentitude of God’s supernatural gifts. As a mere creature, in Her Immaculate Conception, She already is the unique temple of a holiness beyond which one cannot even conceive. It is because Our Lady is full of grace that God chooses to take from Her substance the flesh of the Son of God, conceived by Her virginally through the power of the Holy Spirit. (more…)

Freudian Slip

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Freudian Slip

I love how Rorate Caeli calls honesty ham-handed and amateurish, and praises Machiavellianism, calling it “sly and skillful.”


Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: Lies, Machiavellian, Rorate Caeli
From MaryVictrix.com

State of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

In this post I am publishing two documents.  First, there is an unsigned piece written by a friar of the Immaculate, which has been distributed in the form of a Word document named “State of the FFI.docx”.  Whether this document has been received by a small number of friars only or has had a wider distribution I do not know.  Clearly, however, the document is a concise set of talking points defending the former superiors of the FFI against the Apostolic Commissioner, Most Reverend Fr. Fidenzio Volpi, and the Prefect for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, His Eminence Cardinal João Braz de Aviz.  I certainly do not agree with what is said in this document.  It is is reproduced here in its complete unedited form.

The second document is my commentary on “State of the FFI,” which I wrote with assistance of Fr. Agnellus Maria Murphy and am publishing with the approval of Fr. Alfonso Maria Bruno.  Please read both documents and simply do not bother to comment unless you have read both in their entirety.  Please also bear with my use of emphasis, as from experience I know that points get glossed over or ignored in the heat of the reading.

I am one of the original five friars who appealed to the Holy See concerning the problems within our Institute.  I mention this in the interests of full disclosure.

Comment moderation is on.

Since the establishment of the Apostolic Commission more than eight months ago, disinformation has continually emanated from within (more…)

Prophecy and the FI

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

This post is tangential to my mysticism series (1 & 2). It is an aid to understanding why I am writing on the subject, as well as a practical application of the principles I have been working with.


Prophecy has always existed in the Church in one form or another. Like all the charisms, when prophecy is authentic it is an aid to the magisterium’s role to sanctify, teach and govern.  Prophecy requires the careful discernment of the Church, especially when it takes the form of an apparent special revelation from God or the foretelling of the future. Since the death of the last Apostle, prophecy belongs to the category of private revelation.

There also less extraordinary ways in which the spirit of prophecy may manifest itself, such as the influence that the charism of a religious institute may have on the historical circumstances in which it is given. This too is subject to the discernment of the Church. (more…)

Eucharistic Mysticism

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Having provided a definition of “mysticism” in my first post, I now continue with a description of the characteristics of true mysticism. We can identify three primary qualities of any authentic Catholic mysticism, broadly, strictly or narrowly defined. Any mysticism that deserves the name Catholic must be 1) Eucharistic, 2) Marian and 3) Ecclesial.

This does not simply mean that true mysticism is everywhere in the Catholic Church where people who go to Mass, spend time in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and pray the Rosary. These are all foundational aspects of Catholic mysticism, but by themselves they do not guarantee its authenticity. These external acts must be real signs of full communion with the Church, an active effort to conform oneself to the life of Christ, and to do so by allowing the Immaculate Virgin to form Jesus within us. True mysticism does not support fundamental and willful inconsistencies in these matters.

It is necessary here to see the analogous relationship between the different definitions of mysticism so that we can accurately discern between the true and the false. In this post we will focus on the Eucharistic aspect. (Again, here is the link to the page with the various definitions of mysticism.) (more…)