April 9, 2002
volume 13, no. 67

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Scalia and Buchanan "Suspend Obedience" to Novel Papal Teaching

By Christopher A. Ferrara

      Reprinted with the gracious permission of editor Michael Matt of The Remnant.

"Roman Catholic traditionalism is nothing but a defense of the obvious, while neo-Catholicism is nothing but a denial of the obvious."

    Chris Ferrara steps to the plate to launch one fast ball of facts after another at the wobbly-kneed Wanderer in response to the latter's attacks on Traditional Roman Catholicism and the resistance to post-conciliar novelties. Now with the latest revelations The Wanderer can only hide in the dugout of doubt, especially after being struck out by one of their own pitchers - Pat Buchanan.

    "For Scalia had not contradicted or defied any Catholic doctrine. Rather, it is the Holy Father and the bishops who are outside the Catholic mainstream, and at odds with Scripture, tradition and natural law." Patrick J. Buchanan

   As we have seen in recent months, the denunciations of Roman Catholic traditionalists by the neo-Catholic establishment have been increasing in frequency. The Wanderer, for example, has already devoted a good dozen issues to lengthy public attacks by Pete Vere, Matt Abbott, Farley Clinton and others, all of which are long on innuendo and distraction and short (as in none) on evidence.

   Now I am informed that The Wanderer is planning another series on Father Gruner, whom Uncle Al evidently considers the Most Dangerous Man Alive. My source (a Mr. Lang from Massachusetts) tells me that editor Alphonse Matt, Jr. (a.k.a. "Uncle Al" ) promises to demonstrate that Father Gruner is a "bad priest." What? He hasn't done that already? I have written to Uncle Al, requesting that he offer Father Gruner the opportunity to comment on the allegations that he is a "bad priest" before Uncle Al publishes said allegations. What was I thinking? Uncle Al didn't even give his own cousin that opportunity before denouncing him as a schismatic in seven consecutive issues of The Wanderer.

   I am quite certain that Uncle Al is about to "step in it" again, since I have known Father Gruner for many years and have witnessed - day after day, night after night - his utter dedication to the sacred priesthood. (The man prays about three hours a day, and works another 12.) But there's no stopping Uncle Al. After all, he thought nothing of denouncing his cousin in print, when Michael Matt had not provoked the attack in any way.

   The point of all this? The point is that Uncle Al and his merry little band of neo-Catholic inquisitors like to play hardball even if they are constantly striking out. And that means that quite often we here at The Remnant have to play hardball too. Let us not forget that the contention between neo-Catholicism and Roman Catholic traditionalism is a kind of World Series of ideas, whose stakes - for Holy Mother Church, for our families, indeed for the family of man - could not be higher. We may be minor players in the great contest for the Church, but we have to do what we can, even if it's only a broken-bat single. (I hate sports metaphors. Why I am using them here? Oh well. Press on, press on.)

   Now it is always a pleasure in a game of hardball when a nice big fat one comes over the plate, spinning lazily in the sunlight and just waiting for you to whack it - with a bat that suddenly seems the width of a tennis racket. Recent events have delivered a nice big fat one concerning the We Resist You statement.

   Before I take my swing at the approaching fat one, let us first recall that the most controversial aspect of the Statement was the signers' declaration that they felt obliged in conscience to "suspend obedience" to certain "progressivist teachings" they believe are "objectively contrary to the prior ordinary and extraordinary papal Magisterium."

   As I pointed out in my defense of the Statement signers (a defense that Tom Woods and I have expanded into a now-completed book-length apologia for the entire traditionalist position), this "resistance" operates only in the potential. Upon careful examination, it becomes apparent that not one of these "progressivist teachings" has actually been imposed upon the universal Church - although we are given the impression that obedience is required. One recent example of these shadow teachings is the sudden discovery by the Italian press of an obscure book by the Pontifical Biblical Commission (preface by Cardinal Ratzinger), which says that the Jewish wait for the Messiah who has yet to come is perfectly valid - for them. Cardinal Ratzinger put it this way: "The difference consists in the fact that for us, he who will come will have the same traits of that Jesus who has already come." (New York Times, January 22, 2002) The same traits as Jesus? And only "for us"? Would one say that the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has, for us, the same traits as Cardinal Ratzinger? Why do postconciliar churchmen habitually resort to such nonsensical equivocations? Does this kind of verbal chicanery fool anyone?

   So, in other words, the Jews are entitled to live as if Christ had never come. First Coming, Second Coming, what does it matter? This book written by an anonymous group of theologians for a Vatican think-tank that no longer constitutes an organ of the Magisterium, is now "official Church teaching" we were told at a Vatican press conference - by Pope Joaquin Navarro-Valls! Puhleeze.

   Another perfect example of shadow teachings in the Church is the real Pope's opinion on the death penalty, expressed (among many other places) in her sermon at Saint Louis on January 27, 1999:

    The new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life: who will proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation. A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform (cf. Evangelium Vitae, 27). I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary.

   In short, to be pro-life means to be anti-death penalty. This is nothing other than the "seamless garment" doctrine invented by the late Cardinal Bernadin.

   The Pope's view is undeniably contrary to the entire teaching of the Church on capital punishment as a legitimate, and even obligatory, exercise of natural justice by public authority. In its teaching on the Fifth Commandment, the Catechism of the Council of Trent declares:

    Again, this prohibition does not apply to the civil magistrate, to whom is entrusted the power of life and death, by the legal and judicious exercise of which he punishes the guilty and protects the innocent. The use of the civil sword, when wielded by the hand of justice, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this commandment which prohibits murder. The end of the commandment is the preservation and sanctity of human life, and to the attainment of this end, the punishments inflicted by the civil magistrate, who is the legitimate avenger of crime, naturally tend, giving security to life by representing outrage and violence.

   Likewise, Pius XII, teaching some 500 years later, declared that

    "even when it is a question of someone condemned to death, the state does not dispose of an individual's right to life. It is then the task of public authority to deprive the condemned man of the good of life, in expiation of his fault, after he has already deprived himself of the right to life by his crime" (AAS, 1952, pp. 779 et seq.).

   The Pope's sermon in Saint Louis represents precisely the sort of "progressivist" teaching that the signers of the Statement are "resisting." There is a profusion of such teachings - none of them actually binding - in the postconciliar Church. The signers rightly refuse to agree that the death penalty must never be applied, or that it should be abolished as "cruel and unnecessary." One is entitled to say that the Pope's opinion on the matter is simply wrong, and can be "resisted" in the intellectual sense. This the signers do. And so does any other Catholic who recognizes that the current pope has no power to repeal the natural law and the teaching of all his predecessors, all the doctors of the Church, and Sacred Scripture itself - going all the way back to the good thief on the cross, who exclaimed that "we receive the due reward for our deeds." (cfr. Lk. 23: 39-42).

   And now, at last, comes that big fat one over the plate. During a recent address to his fellow alumni at Georgetown University, none other than Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia - the father of many children, one of whom is a priest - publicly parted company with the Pope on the death penalty. "No authority that I know of denies the 2,000-year-old-tradition of the church approving capital punishment," he said. Asked to comment on Scalia's statement for CNN, Pat Buchanan responded with an entire column demonstrating that the Church has supported the death penalty with utter consistency for 2,000 years, and that the Pope's opinion has no foundation in Catholic tradition. Buchanan concluded: "For Scalia had not contradicted or defied any Catholic doctrine. Rather, it is the Holy Father and the bishops who are outside the Catholic mainstream, and at odds with Scripture, tradition and natural law." (WorldNet Daily, February 8, 2002).

   Integrists! Schismatics! - so the Wanderer would proclaim had Buchanan's and Scalia's remarks come from a traditionalist. But since Buchanan has written for The Wanderer, and since Justice Scalia, is, well, Justice Scalia, The Wanderer will doubtless save those epithets for hurling at Uncle Al's cousin Mike, whose newspaper's long established positions seem to be preoccupying most of Uncle Al's editorial staff these days.

   Yet here we see a bona fide Catholic Supreme Court justice and one of America's staunchest Catholic commentators doing exactly what the Statement's signatories have done: resisting a "progressivist teaching" that obviously has no warrant in Scripture, tradition or natural law. What else can a Catholic do when faced - as we have been so often since the Council - with an unprecedented departure from what the Church has always believed!

   The comments by Scalia and Buchanan only demonstrate what The Remnant has been saying for years and what Tom Woods and I have set out to prove in our book: that Roman Catholic traditionalism is nothing but a defense of the obvious, while neo-Catholicism is nothing but a denial of the obvious.

   This development is a home run for our team. As for Uncle Al and his fellow inquisitors, it's strike three again.

P.S. On a more satirical note, has anyone noticed that The Wanderer has been reduced to four basic features of late? These are,

    (1) Reporting the latest pedophile scandals and other signs of terminal decrepitude in the rapidly collapsing Novus Ordo - whose disastrous failure The Wanderer somehow never manages to trace back to Rome.

    (2) Paid advertising.

    (3) Lambasting Roman Catholic traditionalists, such as Father Nicholas Gruner and Mike Matt.

    (4) Providing a journalistic nest for those fledgling traditionalist-bashers, Matt Abbott and Pete Vere, who are both just flapping their wings like crazy. (Soon they will be able to lift from the nest, and then who knows what will happen?)

   Did you know, by the way, that Vere is the very youngest canon lawyer in all of America? That's right - he said so in The Wanderer. But Vere's expertise is hardly limited to canon law. Consider his scintillating review of the George Foreman 10AWHT Champ Grill on Amazon.com:

    Now you can cook a number of foods on this thing, but what we have found comes out the best are hamburgers, morning sausages and chicken patties or nuggets (sic). Even if slapped on frozen, they cook in under ten minutes, and come out nice and crunchy on the outside without burning, as well as juicy on the inside without being raw. They also taste better than the microwave (sic). So I highly recommend it.

   Well said! So, when Vere is not trying to roast the reputations of traditionalists in the Wanderer, he's grilling the old "nuggets" on his Foreman 10AWHT. Hey, a guy's gotta eat. (Did you know that Vere is the youngest reviewer of the Foreman Champ Grill in all of America?)

   By clicking on the "Learn More About Me" link, one can find Vere's favorite people (including Stephen Hand) and his reviews of other important household appliances and Catholic books, collected in one convenient location. It's all right there at www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/cm/memberreviews/A1BOJ3936E1E0/2/ref=cm_mp_rv/102-3088203-36801.12.

   While I was most edified by Vere's assessment of the Ronco Food Dehydrator, Yogurt Maker and Beef Jerky Machine, his review of the Conair Sap Bathmat Bubble Massager (Model MBVTS) was even more enlightening: "I found the bubbles intensely massaging without being overpowering on the high setting, and simply relaxing on the low setting."

   Well said again! Really, I cannot think of a better champion for the Wanderer's all-important battle against Father Gruner, Mike Matt and the other Integrists who, even now, are plotting the overthrow of the conciliar renewal. Why, when Pete ("the griller") Vere gets done with them, they will be "nice and crunchy on the outside without burning."

   Sometimes you just have to laugh.

For past articles in the archives of Traditional Thoughts, see www.DailyCatholic.org/2002tra.htm

Tuesday, April 9, 2002
volume 13, no. 67
Traditional Thoughts