Question: What do Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz, Father Peter Stravinskas, Karl Keating, Patrick Madrid, Scott Hahn, Dr. Arthur Sippo, Steve Ray, Father George Rutler and William Marshner all have in common?
All of these men are prominent neo-Catholics who, back in 1997, provided glowing endorsements of Mr. Robert Sungenis’ book, Not By Faith Alone. And when I say “endorsements,” I don’t mean little blurb lines; I mean entire paragraphs, even page-long forewords and epilogues. To read their enthusiastic accolades, one would think that there must have been a fiery chariot parked in Mr. Sungenis’ spot in the parking lot at neo-Catholic headquarters. Here was a man who was clearly a favored son of the neo-Catholic establishment, a fact which makes recent developments involving Mr. Sungenis all the more astounding.
Readers might be surprised to learn that Robert Sungenis has, in recent months, fallen from neo-Catholic favor. His crime? Why, traditionalism, of course. He’s been found guilty of what we might call Neo-Catholic High Treason for his failure to ignore a crucial fact which they’ve have been ignoring with astonishing alacrity for thirty years: the human element of the Catholic Church is in the throes of a self-imposed revolution that starts at the top. For pointing out that the Emperor is about to catch cold, all references to this “audacious peasant” will no doubt be removed from the neo-Catholic lexicon. Like Matatics before him, it will seem as if Sungenis never existed.
Mr. Sungenis is an expert apologist. He makes his living defending the dogmas of the Catholic Faith against a whole host of clever critics. He certainly does not need me (nor has he asked me) to defend him against his newest adversaries, who, until recently, were also his friends. But the blackballing of Mr. Sungenis is interesting because it revisits a question which the neo-Catholics have so far refused to answer. The question is this: Why are we traditional Catholics? What on God’s green earth do Catholics stand to gain from becoming traditionalists?
Men such as Robert Sungenis, Gerry Matatics, and even The Wanderer’s former lead columnist Dr. Thomas Droleskey (all confirmed traditionalists now) had already won for themselves prominence and favor that are virtually non-existent down here in the catacombs of traditional Catholicism. Mr. Sungenis was often featured on EWTN; his books were endorsed by powerful neo-Catholic media outlets, as well as bishops and well-known neo-Catholic spokesmen. In terms of furthering his career, what could Sungenis possibly have imagined would be gained by looking at Assisi II and saying: “Now hold on just a minute…. Something’s terribly wrong here”?
And yet, that’s precisely what he did. Why? That’s the question I’d like to put to our neo-Catholic friends. Why indeed!
Was it to capitalize on that “lucrative” traditionalist market? Yeah, right, maybe he figured he’d bump into Steve Forbes at a Remnant Forum out here in fly-over land. That’s it.
Did Mr. Sungenis have some insatiable desire to win the approval of The Remnant? Please!
Not enough air time on EWTN?
One wonders what the neo-Catholics would say if the following question were put directly to them—Why do you think Sungenis became a traditional Catholic? Here, in my opinion, is where we begin to get to the heart of the neo-Catholic dilemma. Here is where we might also glean some vague comprehension of what’s really been behind their campaign against traditionalism. They’re not evil people; they’re not knowingly supporting the revolution in the Church. And, in the last analysis, many of them are probably as concerned as we are over the unsettling reality that is the almost unrecognizable face of the modern Church. Perhaps they even suspect that traditionalism will, in the end, prove to have been the only legitimate course of action. But consider their dilemma: If traditionalism is justifiable, even obligatory, then what’s to become of the neo-Catholics? At worst they’ll be branded the willing accomplices of the most audacious revolutionaries in the history of the Church, and at best they’ll be regarded as decent folks who were hopelessly duped for over four decades. Neither prospect could be described as being particularly appealing.
So, for some of them, the only way they can rest easy is if it can be demonstrated that traditionalists are either already in schism or certainly halfway there. Thus their near-frantic campaign to paint all of us with the broad brush of schism.
But schism is a difficult charge to prove these days, especially when the accused in this case can easily demonstrate their innocence—for years we’ve been pleading with Pope John Paul to use his authority in favor of tradition. To then turn around and deny that he has that authority would make us schizophrenics, and I don’t think even our friends over at The Wanderer have proffered that particular diagnosis yet.
Lately, the neo-Catholics seem to be reaching a point of desperation that probably has much less to do with the persuasiveness of traditionalist polemics and much more to do with the increasingly baffling antics of the Church’s leadership. They seem to be trying to convince themselves of the rationality of their position almost as ardently as they’re trying to convince us. And while many of their leaders remain obstinately enamored with their positions of leadership, the neo-Catholic grassroots is growing uneasy; indeed many are alarmed by what’s coming down from on high of late. As a result of this growing concern, traditionalism is suddenly not wanting for new recruits.
And who could blame anyone for being alarmed by the new face of the modern Church! There’s that peculiar new New Mass, for example, that is virtually indistinguishable in outward appearances from a Protestant service; there’s to be no more kneeling for Communion; an updated Rosary is in the works; the priesthood is in a full-blown sexual misconduct crisis; bishops’ conferences are calling for a moratorium on converting Jews; the image of the Pope praying with pagans, heretics and schismatics in Assisi is indelibly seared into the Catholic memory; and soon, perhaps, when a neo-Catholic takes his newborn baby to the local parish church for baptism, a deaconess might meet him at the font, shell in hand. Yes, I know, for the moment the Vatican seems to be backing away from the idea of ordaining deaconesses, but I remember when the Vatican was backing away from a lot of things, including authorizing Communion in the hand and altar girls. To all you gals out there who just can’t wait to be ordained to the deaconate, I’ve got two words of hope for you—patience and time.
So, what’s next—a new and improved Sign of the Cross? A new novena to Our Lady of Green Peace? Who knows?! What seems chillingly plausible, however, is that, if the present collision course is not altered, every aspect of the traditional Catholic Faith will have been refashioned in the image and likeness of Vatican II and its spirit. And as that dreary fate visits itself upon the Church, the neo-Catholic position becomes markedly more untenable, even preposterous. So preposterous is it, in fact, that the best and brightest neo-Catholics have simply abandoned it altogether. Even Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz showed sings of abandoning it in Dallas this past summer.
Of course, we welcome Robert Sungenis into the Catholic counterrevolution, but we have no illusions about the impetus of such “conversions.” These good men are becoming traditionalists because the hierarchy seems to have developed an insatiable thirst to sow confusion, discord and scandal throughout the Church. Catholic men of integrity and with a sense of history are becoming convinced that the solution to this crisis is to be found in earnestly petitioning the hierarchy to restore the Church’s own traditions and to immediately abandon this insufferable regime of novelty which, since Vatican II, has been conducting a kind of reign of terror. While preaching religious liberty, the equality of all men and cultures, and the fraternity that ecumenism brings to all members of the “Church of Christ” (Catholic and non-Catholic), this reign of terror has succeeded in driving the historical Mass from most dioceses, banning kneeling for Communion, introducing women acolytes (and deacons?) to the Catholic sanctuary, changing the rite of every Sacrament, smashing most high altars, “updating” (and destabilizing) ancient devotions such as the Stations of the Cross and now even the Rosary, and, in general, creating a bizarre new “Catholic Christian” milieu where a Catholic from just forty years in the past necessarily finds himself a stranger in his own Church….And all this in the name of Vatican II.
It’s been only forty years since that Council was called. And yet would not our forefathers in the Faith have imagined that it would require at least four hundred years of all-out warfare against the Church to bring about such a traumatic deformation of the Church? There’s been no mere reform since Vatican II; the Church has suffered all the rigors of a classic revolution…the kind of revolution that St. Pius X warned was brewing at the “heart and bosom of the Church”. It is as if he had a vision of these past forty years of chaotic “reform”, in fact, when in 1907 he wrote in his landmark encyclical, Pascendi Dominici Gregis:
It remains for Us now to say a few words about the Modernist as reformer. From all that has preceded, it is abundantly clear how great and how eager is the passion of such men for innovation. In all Catholicism there is absolutely nothing on which it does not fasten. They wish philosophy to be reformed, especially in the ecclesiastical seminaries. They wish the scholastic philosophy to be relegated to the history of philosophy and to be classed among absolute systems, and the young men to be taught modern philosophy which alone is true and suited to the times in which we live. They desire the reform of theology: rational theology is to have modern philosophy for its foundation, and positive theology is to be founded on the history of dogma. As for history, it must be written and taught only according to their methods and modern principles. Dogmas and their evolution, they affirm, are to be harmonized with science and history. In the Catechism no dogmas are to be inserted except those that have been reformed and are within the capacity of the people. Regarding worship, they say, the number of external devotions is to be reduced, and steps must be taken to prevent their further increase, though, indeed, some of the admirers of symbolism are disposed to be more indulgent on this head. They cry out that ecclesiastical government requires to be reformed in all its branches, but especially in its disciplinary and dogmatic departments. They insist that both outwardly and inwardly it must be brought into harmony with the modern conscience, which now wholly tends towards democracy; a share in ecclesiastical government should therefore be given to the lower ranks of the clergy, and even to the laity, and authority, which is too much concentrated, should be decentralized. The Roman Congregations, and especially the Index and the Holy Office, must be likewise modified. The ecclesiastical authority must alter its line of conduct in the social and political worlds; while keeping outside political organizations, it must adapt itself to them, in order to penetrate them with its spirit. With regard to morals, they adopt the principle of the Americanists, that the active virtues are more important than the passive, and are to be more encouraged in practice. They ask that the clergy should return to their primitive humility and poverty, and that in their ideas and action they should admit the principles of Modernism; and there are some who, gladly listening to the teaching of their Protestant master, would desire the suppression of the celibacy of the clergy. What is there left in the Church which is not to be reformed by them and according to their principles?
(Paragraph 38, Pascendi)
The fact is that, while traditionalists are resisting the modernist reformers’ reign of terror (which St. Pius X warned was imminent only a hundred years ago!), the neo-Catholics are seeking to absolve it of any wrongdoing by christening every noxious innovation it enforces as just another organic development of Catholic governance, teaching and worship, which, somehow someday will work for the good of the modern world. But as time marches on, it becomes increasingly obvious to more and more Catholics that the strategy has been disastrous for the Church, and that the loyal response to such reckless innovation is not blind obedience but rather measured resistance. Many neo-Catholics are simply becoming “compromised out.” From the approval of Communion in the hand, to the altar girl decision, to Assisi II, and now to the declaration that Jews need not be converted, many of them have simply had enough; they can no longer reconcile Catholic orthodoxy with the endless proliferation of novelty by which the Catholic hierarchy seems to be hopelessly seduced. Those neo-Catholics with the keenest sensus catholicus are finding themselves face-to-face with the brick wall of contradiction. And when they admit that they can go no further, as Mr. Sungenis has done, they automatically become traditional Catholics, which once more demonstrates that traditional Catholics are what all Catholics were for nearly two thousand years, before Vatican II’s regime of novelty began obfuscating the face of the Church.
So we must repeat this question to our neo-Catholic friends who still hold fast to their desperate position: Why would any Catholic choose to be a traditionalist if he felt that there was some other way…any other way? Could he be motivated by money? That makes no sense at all, since everybody knows that there certainly is little of that to be had inside traditionalism. If I, for example, wanted to make money, the first thing I’d do is take “The Remnant” off of the masthead of this newspaper and replace it with “John Paul II, We Love You.” Marketing a minority Catholic opinion to a miniscule remnant within an anti-Catholic society is a less-than-lucrative proposition, to say the least.
Is it power, then? On a good day, 20,000 people might read this newspaper. If 20,000 was the total number of people in attendance at a World Youth Day or an NFL football game, the event would be chalked up as a colossal failure and a marketing disaster. Our “power” is hardly the stuff which gave Lord Acton insomnia.
Glory? Traditionalist leaders are excommunicated, traditionalist priests are pariahs who live out their days in obscurity, traditionalist positions are more often ignored than challenged, traditionalist mothers and fathers spend their days home schooling a dozen children, and traditionalism’s leading apologists are ostracized before they can even make martyrs of themselves. Glory? Huh? What percentage of Catholics today even knows that a so-called traditional Catholic movement exists? Five percent? Three percent? One percent? And of that one percent, how many care that it exists?
Ah, then, it must be personal pride. We are proud and arrogant; we think we know more than the Pope; we’re more Catholic than the Church. It is our pride that spurs us on. Fine! Let’s for the sake of the argument give them that—we are all consumed by pride. But if we’re little, mean-spirited egomaniacs with nothing but carping and self-promotion to bring to the table, then is the Church not better served by the neo-Catholics ignoring us into obscurity (as, until only recently, they had been doing in earnest)? Why all the fuss suddenly? After all, we’re just a remnant…who cares what we say?!
And even if it is mere pride that motivates traditionalists, that still does not explain Robert Sungenis, the latest in a conspicuous queue of well-known neo-Catholics who’ve found traditionalism unavoidable. Was he not adequately flattered by EWTN’s television cameras? Did Scott Hahn’s glowing endorsements and Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz’s laudatory forewords fail to stroke Mr. Sungenis’ vanity? If so, then what’s he doing over here: Looking for a high-five from a “schismatic”? An “Atta boy!” from an “integrist”?
It just doesn’t make any sense!
(By the way, some would argue that personal pride is best bolstered by wrapping oneself in the mantle of the “most recognized man on earth”—Pope John Paul II. John Paul the Great—the most beloved pope in history. “He’s my pope! I’m on his side and he’s on mine!” But most traditionalists try very hard not to engage in such nasty retaliation.)
The bottom line is that traditionalism is no place for those who hunger for the limelight. So, there’s a glaring non sequitur in this argument that personal pride drives well-known Catholic apologists to embrace traditionalism. In human terms, traditionalism has nothing to offer. There is no money…no power. The only thing it has to offer is the old Faith itself, which, in the end, must be the very thing that makes traditionalism such a nuisance to the neo-modernist revolutionaries and to their unwitting neo-Catholic accomplices.
It’s true that if you’re a revolutionary you would indeed have every reason to fear the old Faith. After all, that Faith has emerged victorious time and time again, even when it went head-to-head with history’s most capable revolutionaries. Martin Luther couldn’t destroy it; neither could Robespierre; Napoleon Bonaparte inadvertently helped it more than he hurt it, even after the French Revolution had blazed a trail through Catholic Europe with a mother lode of rationalism and Deism. Marx, Stalin and Hitler are dust in their coffins at this very moment, but the object of their supreme loathing—the old Faith—is still here. The resilience of the Catholic Faith has to be one of the greatest marvels of human history, and perhaps that is why those who cling to it are considered problematic. It is not us they fear—it’s the survival of the old Faith through us. Even after Vatican II, the liturgical revolution, and the triumvirate of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II, the old Faith—like the Phoenix—is showing signs of rising again out of the ashes of Catholic tradition.
The revolutionaries can have their Masses in Swahili, if they’ve a mind to; they can have a rosary with forty mysteries; they can stand on their hands for Communion; they can dress their priests in tutus. They can do whatever they like, but nothing will change the reality that the new Church is becoming a parody of the Catholic Church, and that the regime of novelty and experimentation launched by Vatican II has no binding authority and will eventually be condemned by a pope for the rupture with Catholic tradition that it caused throughout the modern world.
All Catholics are at a kind of crossroads now, and no one really knows what the future holds. But what seems inevitable is that Catholics who keep the old Faith may soon find themselves “out in the cold”. Already, most of us have not been in the churches of our baptism in twenty years or more. The day will come when there’ll be even fewer priests than there are now; the sacraments will be difficult to find; the old Mass may disappear from entire continents. If we allow our faith to hinge on this scenario never playing out, then it seems to me that we place our faith in great danger. One no longer needs be a prophet to see where this is heading. The human element of the Catholic Church is in critical condition. And when the holy priesthood itself becomes a playground for sodomites, it is no longer difficult to see that a spiritual chastisement is upon us.
And so we stand at the edge of a kind of vast spiritual desert, fraught with perils of every description. There’s every reason to be afraid for ourselves and for our children. But in the years to come before God restores His Church, perhaps at least some human consolation will be found in our fellow travelers, those Catholics who, like us, saw no other way but to cling to the old Faith and wait for this awful night to pass. Confirming each other in that Faith might well become an important part of a Catholic’s daily duty. And as this reign of terror runs its course, perhaps tradition-minded Catholics will not be as alone as one might anticipate. It may take another conclave, but I think the majority of neo-Catholics will, in the end, be crossing that desert too. After all, they’re not faithless brethren. For the most part, they are conscientious Catholics who are trying very hard to recognize the old Faith in the face of the new Church. There is no sin in this; but sooner or later they will come to realize, as we all have, that such efforts—no matter how Herculean—are futile. Probably events—again, more than traditionalist polemics—will determine their course of action. But in the end the real division will be between a remnant which will remain Catholic and refuse to relinquish the old Faith, and a progressivist majority which will try very hard to convince the world that the old Faith is dead. Surely, there will come a time when all true followers of Christ will band together against them.
If there is a silver lining to all this, then, it is that traditionalists will not go into that desert alone. Over the next few years, there will be many more brothers in arms, and qualifiers like “neo” and “traditional” will have outlived their usefulness. Only Catholics will remain, united in the old Faith, and making their way through the darkness together.
Let us pray that every one of us will be counted among their number, and by that I mean that we will, by God’s good grace, manage to keep the Faith regardless of the abomination of desolation that will scandalize the Catholic heart, and give ugly form to all manner of doubt and temptation. We cannot give up! The Church will rise again, as she always has. Her greatest martyrs did not die for nothing, and this reign of terror cannot last forever.
And so we resist the novelty and pray for perseverance, so that our faith will not fail us. As Dr. Marian Horvat puts it in her Foreword to Atila Sinke Guimarães' monumental new book, Animus Delendi – II (Desire to Destroy):
At this critical stage when the Revolution seems to be on the verge of taking radical new steps toward achieving a Pan-religion and the establishment of a new formula for society, it seems very important to keep in mind a weak point of the Revolution. It needs unanimity. Without unanimity it cannot go ahead. Hence, if there is a significant number of Catholics who do not accept secularization and ecumenism and are able to resist them, the Revolution has to stop; and if it stops, it dies.
Here’s to the death of unanimity, then. And, in the name of that same Catholic counterrevolution, let’s see if we can’t get a message through to our neo-Catholic friends: The Catholic Church is under attack; she needs all of her sons to rally to her defense. Let’s get to work.
EDITOR'S NOTES: We have received the gracious permission of Michael Matt, editor of The Remnant to reprint various articles that have appeared in his publication that would be of interest to our readers. We urge you to subscribe to The Remnant, the vanguard of the Traditional Catholic Resistance for only $18 a year by calling 1-651-462-8323 or e-mail them at The Remnant.
For past MASS CONFUSION articles, see www.DailyCatholic.org/2002mas.htm Archives