'Lidless eye reactionaries', the 'lidless eye crowd', the 'lidless ones' - these are some of the cyber-space nick-names for Traditional Catholics.
The "lidless eye" reference is from the movie version of J.R.R. Tolkien's Fellowship Of The Ring. In the movie the eye of Sauron appears as an unblinking, black vertical slit surrounded by flames. Since Sauron is the incarnation of evil in Tolkien's world, being called a 'lidless eye' is not a compliment.
Interestingly, the name callers are not liberals or Freemasons, but Catholics - specifically, Catholics with a pronounced, at times exaggerated, veneration for the person of Pope John Paul II, and an equally pronounced allegiance to the EWTN network. They are known generically as conservative Catholics, and of late as neo-Catholics. For reasons I think will become clear, however, I will refer to them as anti-traditional Catholics.
The veneration of anti-Traditional Catholics for the Bishop of Rome does not extend to the Bishops of America. Many of the anti-trads were outspokenly critical of the American episcopate when the homosexual scandal in the priesthood was publicized. The fact that most of the cardinals and many of the bishops were approved by His Holiness John Paul II was quietly ignored. But perhaps I quibble. Half the truth is better than none, and several of the anti-Traditionals were right on target in their criticisms of our shepherds, who seemed more concerned about protecting their precious backsides than reforming the morals of our clergy.
Fortunately, the scandals didn't dampen enthusiasm for ecumenism, as witnessed by the issuance of Reflections On Covenant And Mission. This document was a joint effort by Jews and a Catholic Bishop's committee chaired by Cardinal William Keeler, who defined Reflections as "a significant step forward in the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community in this country." The thesis of Reflections is that "Campaigns that target Jews for conversion to Christianity are no longer theologically acceptable in the Catholic Church." This is not a difficult statement for the Vatican to accept, raising the possibility that the timing of the release of Reflections was intended to mollify those in the Vatican perturbed about the bad publicity the Church in America has received.
Although many of the anti-traditional Catholics are still Catholic enough to be dismayed by the Reflections document, the fact of the matter is that the American episcopate is playing catch-up with the Pope and Cardinal Ratzinger. Both are on record as saying that God's covenant with the Jews was never revoked, a position supposedly supported by the "non-pastoral" Vatican II document Nostra Aetete. As if proof were needed, Reflections sports numerous quotations of Pope John Paul II, extolling the "irrevocable" covenant of God with Israel, the virtues of present day Judaism, its "spiritual fecundity," and so on.
In short, the Reflections document was a lot for the anti-traditional Catholics to swallow, and one of them didn't. Robert Sungenis, a Catholic apologist and EWTN personality, was provoked into a response wherein he took issue with, among other things, the benevolent depiction of the Talmud in Reflections. Sungenis' anti-Traditional friends not only closed ranks against him, they defamed him as an anti-Semite and made repeated attempts to damage and even end his apologetics career.
One anti-Traditional critic of Sungenis operates a web log (blog) site called Catholic And Enjoying It! His name is not important, so I'll call him Enjoying It! I don't single out this web site because it was the worst or the nastiest, but because it is representative of a certain mindset. Enjoying It! claims to be a friend of Sungenis, which is another reason to pity Mr. Sungenis. Enjoying It! led his fans in a running detraction campaign against Sungenis, complete with solemn hand wringing and fervent ejaculations to Heaven that they didn't turn into psychotic anti-Semites like Sungenis.
Other than baiting lidless eye types and vilifying Cardinal Keeler for Reflections, it wasn't always clear what Enjoying It! was enjoying. A lidless eye interloper pointed out that Reflections was consistent with the Pope's views on the Jews, and how the Pope interprets the Vatican II document Nostra Aetete. Aside from insulting the interloper, Enjoying It! did not address this issue - a common reaction by anti-Traditionals when someone connects enough dots in a given problem to form an arrow pointing to the Pope.
The issue of Jewish conversion is one of the many points of divergence between Traditional Catholicism and the conciliar religion practiced by the anti-Traditionals. The difference is simple. The Church has always taught that God's covenant with Israel was revoked when the Jews explicitly rejected Christ as the Messiah: "We have no God but Caesar!" Consequently, the heirs to God's covenant are Christians. Because it is a dogma of the faith that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, Jews go to hell if they don't convert.
Since 1965, however, many prelates, and Pope John Paul II, maintain that the Council document Nostra Aetete has "developed" the traditional teaching thusly: the original covenant made between Israel and God has never been revoked, therefore Judaism can save Jews. This is preached by Cardinals Lustiger and Kasper, who were made Cardinals by the present Pope. Cardinal Ratzinger has said that the Jews wait for their Messiah "is not in vain." Is it that surprising then, that we have documents like Reflections saying there is no need to convert the Jews?
What is really surprising is the way Enjoying It! and other anti-Traditional Catholics ignore the obvious fact that prominent members of the Church hierarchy are Judaizers, and choose to belabor one of their own who defects from the anti-Traditional line. The battle lines here result directly from the Second Vatican Council, where traditional Catholicism began to be co-opted by a still evolving conciliar religion that focuses on what human beings have in common - our humanity- rather than our religious differences. Implicit in the new rules is a contempt of and a horror for the Traditional Faith. This manifests in a variety of ways, like the anti-anti-Semitic snit of Enjoying It! when his "friend" dares to mention that the Talmud is anti-Catholic, and has some questionable moral teaching.
Even EWTN was forced to note (in an August 14 news brief) that the Reflections document "does not cite any authority from Catholic Tradition prior to Vatican II (aside from the Scriptures), or comment on the Traditional dogmatic Teaching that 'outside the Church there is no salvation.'" [extra Ecclesia nulla salus] Enjoying It! knew there was something wrong with Reflections, but when push came to shove, it was easier - and safer - to vilify an anti-Talmudic Catholic as an anti-Semite than to try to reconcile the Pope's novel views on the Jews with Catholic dogma.
I intend no unkindness is singling out Enjoying It!. He is only one of many conciliar Catholics who doesn't see how his adherence to the conciliar religion has made him that most unusual of all creatures: an anti-Traditional Catholic. Less than a century ago St. Pius X called Traditionalists "the true friends of the Church." According to Enjoying It!, however, Traditionalists are "lidless eyes" who "just stare with unblinking malice and hostility at everything the Church has done and said since Vatican II." Hmm, that can't be good.
Attack Of The Lidless Eye
Well, here's one lidless eye who's not afraid to learn how to blink. I joined a Catholic Internet forum so I could mingle with my fellow Catholics, learn some manners, and start Enjoying! things. The forum I joined professed loyalty to the Magisterium, and discouraged reliance on sources other than "approved" ones, like - you guessed it, EWTN.
I remember watching EWTN about five years ago. I recall liking Mother Angelica, especially when she wasn't talking about Medjugorge. So I thought I had a chance to fit in. My first post was something nice about devotion to the Immaculate Heart. I was off to a good start. I felt - almost friendly. Unfortunately, I joined the week Jose Maria Escriva was canonized.
One of the forum conversations concerned a USA Today article critical of the canonization. Most of the responses to this article either defended Escriva's sanctity or defended the canonization process as thorough and careful. I remarked that the canonization was controversial because of the close ties Pope John Paul II had with Opus Dei before and after becoming Pope, and because of the remarkable speed of the canonization. I said that these two facts created a perception of partisanship.
The very next response bemoaned the liars, betrayers, mockers, taunters, and Judases who plagued the present Pope. The bemoaner was referring to me, of course, and I told her to lighten up. She replied that she wasn't talking about me directly, just people like me. Another poster said I was uninformed, then challenged me to document my statements. I did so, and never heard from him again. The bemoaner returned, complaining about USA Today being a communist newspaper, and how people shouldn't feel bad because the canonization process was "a little speeded up." I replied that in less than twenty-five years the present pope has beatified or canonized over the half the saints in the Church's history, that this was more than "a little speeded up," and that the reason for the remarkable change was the reform of the canonization process the present Pope began in 1983. One noteworthy "reform" was the scrapping of the adversarial process, which many believe has significantly diminished the quality of the investigation into a candidate's supposed sainthood, I concluded.
At this point the forum administrator entered the discussion with a long, glowing article about Opus Dei from the EWTN web site. It struck me that some of my fellow Catholics seemed to be mistaking EWTN and Opus Dei for the Magisterium of the Church. To test my theory I posted the web address for ODAN (The Opus Dei Awareness Network) as an alternative source of information to EWTN. My post was immediately deleted, and with equal immediacy I was banned from the forum. I e-mailed the administrator asking for an explanation, but never received a reply. So ended the attack of the lidless eye. Score: EWTN 1, Lidless Eyes 0.
I can only surmise that the administrator was an Opus numerary, or thought I was disputing the Pope's infallibility in canonizing Escriva. I was not, although it is an interesting question. There is a canonization formula that is generally considered to be an infallible pronouncement when made by a pope, and John Paul II used this formula for the Escriva canonization. For many this settled the matter. Others pointed out that Saints Thomas Aquinas and Robert Bellarmine believed popes could err on issues that concern human testimony - like canonization proceedings.
Adding strength to this last point was the way Escriva's canonization process appeared rigged from get go. Eye witness testimony from those who knew Escriva and disputed his sanctity was barred, including the unflattering account of Father Escriva feigning insanity during the Spanish Civil War, and hiding out in a mental ward while his fellow priests were being martyred. Similarly, negative testimony against the organization he founded, Opus Dei, was banned. The required miracle for Escriva's sainthood was reported by an Opus Dei doctor. Escriva's canonization occurred less than thirty years after his death. A few other saints have been canonized very quickly, one example being Francis of Assisi. Perhaps Escriva rivals St. Francis in sanctity, but I'm betting the doctor testifying to Francis' miracles was not a Franciscan.
There are thousands of sincere lay Catholics who seem to have found in Opus Dei a touch of the pre-conciliar rigor that made it seem like their faith meant something; at the very least they found something that was missing in their Novus Ordo parishes. Some of the criticisms of Opus Dei, for instance that the organization is too "conservative," can be safely dismissed as either liberal sour grapes or sheer incomprehension.
Other criticisms are more difficult to discount because they are specific and documented: Opus' cult-like tactics in snatching children from their parents, and evidence of Opus intrigues in international finance and geopolitics. Opus Dei has been implicated in everything from the Vatican banking scandal to running guns for Solidarity. Whether or not one agrees with the particular causes Opus funds is not the point. Rather, it is the remarkable flexibility of this supposedly religious organization, its pronounced secrecy, its invisible membership, and the apparently unlimited freedom (financial and otherwise) it has to follow its own lights.
This freedom is courtesy of Pope John Paul II, who early in his pontificate elevated Opus Dei's status to that of personal prelature. This means that no matter what diocese Opus operates in, they are answerable to the Pope alone. Given John Paul's close ties to Opus, one might think those seeking an admittedly controversial canonization for Escriva would be prudent enough to avoid the perception of partisanship, or patient enough not too ram Escriva's cause through so blatantly. This has not been the case, and the predictable backlash to Escriva's fast track canonization has done more than cast suspicion on Escriva's sanctity and Opus' methods of achieving their ends. Doubt has been cast on the entire canonization process, and consequently on the beati themselves. Responsibility for this state of affairs appears to rest with the pope.
Today it is a mistake to call followers of the pope Traditionalists, for John Paul II, despite the complaints of progressives, is not a Traditionalist. He is in fact a consistent innovator: the first pope to organize indifferentist pep rallies at Assisi; the first pope to kiss the Koran; the first pope to ask John the Baptist to protect Islam; the first pope to maintain Judaism is a salvific religion; the first pope to offer NFP to married couples as a positive good in reducing the size of families; the first pope to propose a "theology of the body"; the first pope to apologize not for the problems of his own pontificate but for most of Church history prior to his pontificate; and now, the first pope to reform the canonization process in a way that calls the whole process into question.
The most recent innovation involves adding mysteries to the Rosary. Perhaps the Luminous mysteries will be succeeded by the Phosphorescent mysteries, the Incandescent mysteries, and the Day-Glo mysteries. While we await those happy events, let it be noted that those who unquestioningly follow the present pope do so at their own risk. To the extent they do so they are anti-traditional, and in peril of losing their Catholic birthright for the mess of pottage that is the conciliar religion. Those few who insist on holding to the integral Catholic faith are "lidless eyes", and can anticipate being shunned as lepers. For what else are accusations of anti-Semitism, betrayal, treason or being a Judas than variations on the age old cry: Unclean!
There is still no cure for leprosy. Its method of transmission remains as mysterious as its first appearance thousands of years ago in the Valley of the Nile. The prevailing assumption was that leprosy was a punishment from God: "death before death," the disease was called. Treatment focused on prevention, and the primary means of prevention is segregation of the clean from the unclean. In a like manner, Tradition and its followers have been segregated from the conciliar Church. The watchdogs of the new religion are anti-Traditional conservatives and progressives, who claim allegiance to various portions of the "living tradition" of Vatican II.
This "living tradition" lives on lies, novelties, and innovations which are used to condition Catholics to expect not continuity with the past, but endless experimentation. The fruit of this conciliar (dis)-orientation is everywhere to behold, and present in the most unlikely of places. For instance, in a peculiar sort of "theology of the body," the twisting and warping that disfigures the physical frame of the present pope may be a visible glimpse of what the "living tradition" of Vatican II really looks like, or a visual warning of the consequences of not confirming the brethren in the Faith.
The "living tradition" of Vatican II is the method of transmission of a spiritual leprosy that is truly pitiful to behold. No self-respecting Catholic should consider himself anti-Traditional, but today that is the price of admission to the Conciliar Church, a spreading leper colony whose victims blame Traditionalists - who refuse to blink their 'Lidless Eye' - for what they don't understand, and never dream - or dare - to look to Rome, and the real source of the disease.
Reflections On Covenant And Mission, Issued by the National Council of Synagogues and Delegates of the Bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, released by the Office of Communications of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
US Bishops' Committee Rejects Evangelization Of Jews, EWTNews Brief, August 14 2002.
- Kenneth L. Woodward, Making Saints, How The Catholic Church Determines Who Becomes A Saint, Who Doesn't, And Why, New York, Touchstone, 1996.
- Robert Hutchison, Their Kingdom Come, Inside The Secret World of Opus Dei, New York, Doubleday, 1997.
- Jonathan Kwitny, Man Of The Century, The Life and Times of Pope John Paul II, New York, Henry Holt And Company, 1997.
Opus Dei Awareness Network, www.ODAN
EDITOR'S NOTES: We have received the gracious permission of John Vennari, editor of Catholic Family News to reprint various articles that have appeared in his publication that would be of interest to our readers. We urge you to subscribe to John's excellent monthly publication for only $20 a year by calling 1-905-871-6292 or e-mail them at CFN.
For past FOCUS articles, see www.DailyCatholic.org/2002fcs.htm Archives