"The Pope's cathedral? Why is Dr. Droleskey writing about the Cathedral of Saint John Lateran, which serves as the Pope's cathedral in his capacity as Bishop of Rome?" Good question, except for the fact that this article is not about the Cathedral of Saint John Lateran. It is about the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles.
"Well, Dr. Droleskey, what does the Pope have to with the cathedral planned by the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Roger Cardinal Mahony?" Obviously, very little in a direct sense, that is. However, the Vatican did not try to stop the monstrosity in Los Angeles from being built according to the design submitted by Spanish architect Jose Raphael Moneo. The Pope did send a representative there to be present at the Mass in which the cathedral was dedicated on September 3, 2002 (which featured liturgical dance around the obscenity of the table that serves as an "altar" in the middle of the cathedral, naturally). Not a word of criticism has been leveled about the cathedral from a single Vatican official, including the Pope. Thus, it is not too much of a stretch to say that the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is the Pope's cathedral. After all, what he must approve of that which he does not explicitly disapprove, right?
Unfair. Yes. However, there is a point in my stretching things as I have. Many uninformed Catholics believe everything the Pope says and does is received from the hand of God, protected infallibly by the Holy Ghost. Anyone who dares to say a word in criticism of the Holy Father is a disloyal Catholic, one that is exhibiting Protestant tendencies. The truth of the matter is, of course, that it is the new religion of anthropocentricity, enshrined so marvelously in Cardinal Mahony's monstrosity, that is derived from Protestantism, not criticisms of the Holy Father's seeming unawareness of how the Faith is being destroyed from within the Church as a result of his own words and actions, no less those of his bishops and cardinals. Thus, some ordinary Catholics, people who do not understand the history of the Church, recoil when they are asked to apply simple logic and the Socratic principle of non-contradiction to conciliar and postconciliar documents, as well as to the statements and encyclical letters of Pope John Paul II.
The positivistic reduction of the entirety of the Catholic Faith to the person of the Supreme Pontiff is, in reality, exactly what uninformed Protestants believe Catholicism is. While the Pope is the visible head of the Church on earth, he is not in his person Catholicism. The Pope is the chief guardian of the Deposit of Faith, about which he cannot err when teaching ex cathedra and when reaffirming that which has always been taught as part of Apostolic Tradition. A Pope has no authority to teach as binding that which is outside of the Deposit of Faith, and in fact contradicts it. To assert, for example, that the Old Covenant was not superceded by the New and Eternal Covenant instituted by Our Lord on Holy Thursday and ratified on the wood of the Holy Cross on Good Friday is to make a novel break with the Deposit of Faith (both Scripture and Tradition), as Christopher Ferrara and Thomas Woods point out in The Great Facade. Just because a Pope says something is so, does not mean that it is so if he is contradicting defined teaching or attempting to engineer the liturgy in such a way that undermines the sensus Catholicus in the Mass.
Ultramontanists want to hear none of this. The Pope can do no wrong. Period. Indeed, one of the reasons that some bishops at the First Vatican Council were opposed to the solemn proclamation of the doctrine of papal infallibility was that they believed the average Catholic would not make the proper distinctions between doctrine and discipline, no less have an understanding of the patrimony of the Church. These bishops, who were not in concert with the bishops at the time who rejected the doctrine out of hand, believed in papal infallibility but thought that its solemn proclamation would result in the worship of the cult of the particular person who holds the Chair of Peter. This has shown itself in recent years to have been a very valid concern.
Thus, Vatican II orders "revisions in the Missal" in Sacrosanctum Concilium, which we now know was based upon false assumptions. Anyone who points out the fact that Sacrosanctum Concilium's basic presuppositions have been proven false, though, is accused of opposed to the will of God. After all, wasn't everything Vatican II and Pope Paul VI did protected by infallibility? No, it was not. As one woman said to me recently by way of protesting against my commitment to the Traditional Latin Mass, "It is a shame you on not on God's side. God wants the Novus Ordo." How does she know that? Well, if Pope Paul VI said the Novus Ordo was good, then God had told him to say that. Truly remarkable, and very un-Catholic.
Similarly, many Catholics, myself included, tried to hold the line against altar girls for years and years and years. One bishop after another either permitted the use of women to serve at the altar in violation of the tradition of the Church or looked the other way as their priests did, hoping against hope that the Pope would surrender to them in the face of the widespread nature of the disobedience. When the Pope did surrender to the dissidents in 1994, some of us made the decision then and there to no longer attempt, at the point of trying to make absurdity seem logical, to defend the indefensible, as I had, shamefully, done on more than one occasion prior to that time. Others, though, continued to try to defend the indefensible, saying that altar girls must be all right if the Pope says they can be used. Who are we to question the Pope?
Well, something is either good or bad or its nature. Something related to the Faith is either good for the Faith or it is not. This is merely an application of the principle of non-contradiction to the words and actions of those who hold ecclesiastical office. We are neither rationalists, who reduce everything to human reason, nor are we fideists, who reduce everything to faith to such an extent that pronouncements made by popes and bishops that are in direct contradiction to both reason and faith must be accepted in a spirit of blind faith that these men are doing the will of God.
The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, California, is either good or bad. It is quite bad. It is ugly. The architecture of a Catholic Church is supposed to reflect that which is beautiful, that which uplifts the soul to God, that which provides a dignified home to the Blessed Sacrament and for the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. As Pope Pius XII noted in Mediator Dei in 1947, the church recognizes that there are a broad variety of styles that can convey this beauty and dignity. However, the new religion engendered by Vatican II and the Novus Ordo has produced novel designs of new Catholic churches and the "renovations" of existing churches to reflect the horizontal and to deliberately de-emphasize the vertical in our relationship to the Blessed Trinity and how the Mass is offered. An ugly, demeaning ambiance detracts from a belief in the Real Presence and in a belief in the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice for sins.
Michael Rose, who is not a traditionalist, has explained in his book, Ugly as Sin, how the new Catholic churches and wreckovated older churches are ugly, not conveying any sense of beauty, which has a most objective dimension to it. However, he does not seem to understand that this ugliness is the direct result of changes in the church's theological language, outright contradictions of doctrine (especially as it relates to the necessity of winning coverts to the Catholic Church), and the very nature of the new Mass, which reflects the spirit of the world, not the legacy of Catholic tradition.
Indeed, the aforementioned Sacrosanctum Concilium presaged the disaster that is the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels by authorizing a devolution of liturgical decision-making to the level of the national episcopal conferences of diocesan liturgical commissions. Coupled with the great latitude that is given a diocesan ordinary to have churches designed or "renovated" according to the dictates of local customs and the "genius of the peoples" found in the General Instruction to the Roman Missal (the subject of my own forthcoming book), all a bishop has to do to justify that which is ugly and actually demeaning both to God and to His Church is to say that a particular design reflects the relative circumstances and tastes of a particular people and the time in which they live. Obviously, this vitiates entirely the sense of the transcendent that is meant to be captured until the end of time in a Catholic Church. The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Chartres does this magnificently, as do, of course, the four major basilicas in Rome. Postconciliar churches, built according to the specifications of revolutionaries intent on building churches in their own warped images, actually damage the Faith.
There are many factors that account for all of this. Modernism is one of these factors. And one of the enduring features of Modernism is the positivist mentality. That is, those who belong to what can be called "the cultural magisterium" believe that any statement they make is, ipso facto, automatically true because they have pronounced it to be true.
Sadly, as I pointed out earlier, this positivist mentality has infiltrated Holy Mother Church. We have faced nearly forty years of attempts to assert positivistically that conciliar and postconciliar documents--as well as many Papal pronouncements--that are completely at odds with the entire patrimony of the Church are, ipso facto, true simply because they have been asserted as such. Novelties enshrined in the new Mass of Pope Paul VI and in such movements as "ecumenism" had been condemned consistently by one Pope after another until 1958. What was once condemned is now considered to be beyond question.
Christopher Ferrara's and Thomas Woods' well-written and documented book, The Great Facade, unmasks the positivism that has characterized the past forty years. The authors apply simple reason enlightened by authentic Catholic tradition to point out that Socratic principle of non-contradiction has been turned on its head by the neo-modernists and positivists in the Church. Even though the entire corpus of Pope Leo XIII's great encyclical letters on the State, human liberty and Freemasonry have been contradicted by recent documents and statements, the defenders of the new order of things continue to assert that "nothing has changed." Alas, a great deal has changed, and Christopher Ferrara and Thomas Woods point out that the Faith itself has been undermined as a result.
The Great Facade is must reading. It forces the reader to examine the reality that faces us within the Church with logic and precision. This book will be used as a tool in the decades ahead to judge the abandonment of Catholic tradition in favor of novelties condemned consistently until 1958 and thereafter. It is one of the ways by which a truly discerning Catholic can come to understand that it is not too much of a stretch to call Our Lady of the Angels "the Pope's cathedral." For, in reality, the ability of Roger Cardinal Mahony to have even thought such a venture possible is the direct result of an approach to worship and doctrine and governance that have been Papally sanctioned since Angelo Cardinal Roncalli succeeded Pope Pius XII in 1958.
The Great Facade provides a way for Catholics to understand that the phenomena documented by Michael Rose in Goodbye, Good Men and Ugly as Sin are no accidents: they are the direct result of a warfare on the Catholic Tradition that has been leveled against it by Popes themselves.
Thomas A. Droleskey, Ph.D.
For past columns in The DAILY CATHOLIC by Dr. Droleskey, see Archives