September 2002
volume 13, no. 105

E-mail       Print
The Regime of Novelty Decimated
Part Two

A Book Review by John Vennari* of the blockbuster book by Christopher A. Ferrara and Dr. Thomas Woods Jr. in exposing the novelty-ridden post-conciliar Church: The Great Facade - continued.

Contempt of the Past

    The Sim Johnston quote illustrates another revealing point not lost on the authors of The Great Facade. Neo-Catholics are quick to cry "schismatic" and "outside the Church" against traditional Catholics who insist, with the Second Council of Nicea and Pope Saint Pius X, that it is wrong for any Catholic, especially the Pope who should be exempla prima, "to deride the ecclesiastical traditions, to invent novelties of some kind. . . ." or to "overthrow anyone of the legitimate traditions of the Catholic Church".

    Yet these neo-Catholics think nothing of disparaging any pre-Vatican II teaching or Pope that conflicts with the new conciliar program. So George Sim Johnston will boast that he and his neo-Catholic friends are helping to liberate the Church from the "triumphalism, legalism, clericalism and Jansenism that plagued the Church forty years ago." One wonders how Saint Padre Pio would have regarded this arrogant deprecation of the Church of his period -----a Church he loved and served.

    Likewise Professor Alan Schreck of the Charismatic Franciscan University at Steubenville, who has somehow acquired a reputation for uncompromising orthodoxy, laments Blessed Pope Pius IX's Syllabus of Errors. Schreck remarks: "Unfortunately, the Syllabus condemned most of the new ideas of the day and gave the impression that the Catholic Church was against everything in the modern world. . . . The Catholic Church looked like it was becoming a fortress Church, standing in opposition to the modern world and rejecting all new ideas." [22] 22. Alan Schreck, The Compact History of the Catholic Church (Ann Arbor: Servant Books, 1987), p. 95.

    This is a gross caricature of the Syllabus, since Pius IX did nothing but restate traditional Church teaching in the face of an increasingly paganized modern world. But then, Schreck appears to be more the spiritual son of Cardinal Ratzinger than Pope Pius IX. Ratzinger himself boasted that Vatican II is a "counter-syllabus" and complained of the "one-sided" approach of Popes Pius IX and Pius X. [23] 23. Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1982), p. 381.

    In short, for the neo-Catholic, it's open season on the pre-Vatican II Popes, or anything that traditional Catholics hold as sacred and true.

    Then there's Michael Novak who praises Pope John XXIII for casting the Church free "from the island of Latin Scholasticism on which she has for some centuries been marooned." That's the neo-Catholic image of the pre-Vatican II Church. Thank Heavens Pope John XXIII and the post-conciliar Popes cut us loose and plunged the boat into a monsoon. I was getting mighty bored with the safety of that island.

    These neo-Catholic "luminaries", however, choose to ignore a basic truth reiterated by the eminent liturgist, Msgr. Klaus Gamber. In his 1993 work The Reform of the Roman Liturgy, Gamber insisted: "It is most certainly not the function of the Holy See to introduce Church reforms. The first duty of the Pope is to act as primary bishop, to watch over the traditions of the Church-----her dogmatic, moral and liturgical traditions." [24] 24. Gamber, The Reform of the Roman Liturgy, p. 97.

Ecclesia Dei: Catholic Tradition as a "Pastoral Problem."

    Because The Great Facade is a collaboration of an attorney and historian, the reader greatly benefits from the joint expertise. Thus the reader will encounter important lessons from history that bear on today's crisis such as the heresy of Pope Honorius, the failure of the Second Council of Constantinople, and the courage of Pope Saint Gregory VII who enacted reforms against abuses at the risk of his life.

    The reader also encounters the work of a brilliant attorney who is skilled at examining the inner logic of a given document or statement. Thus by the time Ferrara and Woods get through with the trendy "civilization of love" decrees, there is nothing left but tatters, In fact, I even experienced a mixture of amusement and pity for Cardinal Etchegaray when the authors tear to shreds his insipid "Spirit of Assisi, come upon us all" monologue. Yet the Cardinal only gets what he deserves. Catholic prelates should be teaching us truths of the faith instead of parroting trendy slogans, even though these slogans and buzzwords-----"new springtime", "new evangelization", "civilization of love"-----practically now govern the Church.

    The authors apply this rigorous logic to various post-conciliar writings, including the well-known apologia for the Novus Ordo, The Pope, The Council and the Mass, by James Likoudis and Kenneth Whitehead. In fact, The Great Facade contains the most devastating critique of The Pope, The Council and the Mass ever penned.

    Readers will recall that about five years ago, Ferrara distinguished himself with an unprecedented study of Vatican II's Sacrosanctum Concilium [SC], the Council's decree on the liturgy. Ferrara approached SC as a lawyer looking at the document's strengths and weakness. He found SC to be a massive collection of loopholes, a veritable blank check for the entire liturgical revolution. [Thus, a return to the Council documents to "fix" the Mass is a waste of time]. Sacrosanctum Concilium, he explained, was so badly written that any lawyer drawing up such a document could be sued for malpractice. The superb treatment of SC is found in The Great Facade as Chapter 12: "Returning to the Council: A Case Study."

    The authors' "cross-examination" often expose a document's weaknesses and ambiguities, as is the case with the unduly-praised Dominus Iesus [DI] by Cardinal Ratzinger [Chapter 13]. Here, the authors observe that DI forcibly restates some basic Catholic truths neglected for 40 years, but then undermines these good statements in subsequent paragraphs.

    Further, DI reiterates that it is false to claim that all religions are equal means of salvation. But DI leaves untouched the major error of our time, namely, the belief that all religions are good enough for salvation, even if they are not equal. The authors then recount, not without humor, that certain members of today's Vatican Curia treat DI as a grand embarrassment, and fall over each other trying to distance themselves from even the few good lines that DI contains.

    Also, this examination of a document's inner logic exposes indirect admissions that the drafters of the document surely hoped we would never notice-----a revelation that gives the game away.

    This is what happens when the authors discuss the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei. It is the part of the book where the authors challenge the neo-Catholic's claim that all post-conciliar changes must be accepted because, after all, "nothing of substance has been changed".

    The authors write, "The claim that the 'substance' of the Faith has not been changed by the onslaught of conciliar and post-conciliar changes in the Church is, we submit, nothing but pretense that is impossible to maintain consistently in the face of reality. Every now and then a Vatican prelate, and even the Pope himself, will issue a statement that implicitly admits the stunning magnitude of the change . . . "Perhaps the most dramatic example of this is to be found in a passage from John Paul II's 1988 motu proprio, Ecclesia Dei, which declares the excommunication and putative 'schism' of Archbishop Lefebvre and the four bishop's he consecrated for his Society of St. Pius X [SSPX], and also announces the establishment of the Ecclesia Dei Commission. The Holy Father's statement of the Commission's purpose is most revealing: 'facilitating full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, religious communities, or individuals until now linked in various ways to the Fraternity founded by Mons. Lefebvre, who may wish to remain united to the Successor of Peter in the Catholic Church while preserving their spiritual and liturgical traditions. . . .' "

    Now it is obvious that as of 1988 the members of the SSPX had not invented their own peculiar spiritual and liturgical traditions, nor have they invented any spiritual or liturgical traditions in the ensuing fourteen years. What, then, is meant by their spiritual and liturgical traditions? There can be only one answer: 'their' spiritual and liturgical traditions are none other than those of the Roman Rite-----which is to say, our spiritual and liturgical traditions before Vatican II. Since those traditions have been abandoned, from the Pope's perspective a special Vatican commission is now required to determine how those who continue to adhere to the former traditions of the Roman Rite may be 'facilitated' in remaining united to 'the successor of Peter'. "

    The very suggestion in Ecclesia Dei that there now exists a kind of tension between the preservation of Catholic spiritual and liturgical traditions and communion with the Pope is itself utterly astonishing. But there it is for all to see. When our traditions suddenly became 'their' traditions, adherence to those traditions just as suddenly became a problem with respect to ecclesial 'communion.' Since the Pope and nearly all the hierarchy have moved away from those traditions, Catholics who declined to move with them are perceived as having ruptured their 'communion' with the Pope. At the same time, legions of liberal clerics, including bishops, are considered as being in full 'communion' with the Pope, even though they undermine or openly dissent from settled Catholic doctrine and brazenly disobey papal disciplinary measures, many of which are repealed as a reward for their disobedience.

    Again, the only 'schism' that alarms the Vatican is the 'schism' of traditional clergy. The de facto schism of much of the hierarchy [noted by Cardinal Gagnon as to North America] is completely ignored." [25] 25. The Great Facade, pp. 93-95.


    Speaking of schism, Chapter 9 of The Great Facade annihilates the charge of "schism" that is leveled against traditional Catholics who resist the new orientation. A schismatic is not someone who simply disobeys the Pope, but someone who denies that the Pope has the authority to rule. Traditional Catholics do not deny the Pope has the authority to rule. They only resist those conciliar novelties that conflict with traditional Catholic teaching and practice; a resistance counseled by Saint Robert Bellarmine, Francis Suarez, and other Saints and Doctors. Traditional Catholics are usually called schismatics by neo-Catholics who either do not know what "schism" means, or who deliberately misuse the word.

    And on the subject of how traditionalist Catholics, including the Society of Saint Pius X might possibly be "regularized", the book closes with a cautious proposal of an Apostolic Administration for traditional Catholics, such as what was recently agreed between the Vatican and the priests of Campos, Brazil. The authors insist that no "deal" should be struck that in any way compromises traditional Catholics, nor must it curtail the Catholic's vocal resistance to post-concilar novelties.

    This is an area in which traditional Catholics will agree or disagree. For my part, though it is theoretically plausible, I do not see how the Apostolic Administration could work under the present Vatican bureaucracy whose first allegiance is to the regime of novelty that the book exposes. I also believe the Society of Saint Pius X is wise to be extremely wary of Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos. [26] 26. For Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos' underhanded treatment of Father Nicholas Gruner, see articles at posted under the heading "The Truth About Father Gruner". As for the Society of St. Pius X, see Bishop Fellay's Letter #62 in The Angelus, July 2002. Here Bishop Fellay presents evidence that Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos is not dealing honestly in the present "negotiations,' and is trying to divide the SSPX.

    In fact, as The Great Facade observes, two days after the Campos agreement was signed, Father George Cottier, the official theologian of the papal household, declared, ". . . Little by little we must expect other steps as well: for example, that they [the Campos priests, Ed.] also participate in concelebrations in the reformed rite. However, we must not be in a hurry ." [27] 27. Zenit, January 20, 2002.

    Thus while the ink was still wet on the Campos Agreement, a top papal theologian expressed publicly his conviction that these traditional Catholics will be gradually absorbed into the Novus Ordo construct. It's just a matter of time.

The Reform of the Reform

    Another fascinating aspect of the book is the author's discussion of the Adoremus proposal. This "solution" to the liturgical revolution, also championed by Father Joseph Fessio, is not to a return to the Tridentine Mass, but to go back to the "pure teaching" of Vatican II on the liturgy. The Adoremus Bulletin is edited by Helen Hull Hitchcock, whom George Sim Johnston praised as a fellow "progressivist Catholic" who does "not pine for the Tridentine liturgy" and "supports the historically radical ecumenism of John Paul II. . . ."

    Now neo-Catholics tend to scream the loudest at traditional Catholics because we dare to claim that papal reforms since the Council are less than perfect. They falsely accuse us of "Private Judgement". [28] 28. In fact, the false accusation of "private judgement" is discussed thoroughly in Chapter 7, aptly titled, "Private Judgement?" In light of this, The Great Facade makes the following observation:

    "Another example of the tendency to self-contradiction in the neo-Catholic system is the program being advanced by those neo-Catholics who advocate a 'reform of the reform' in the liturgy-----that is, a revision of Paul VI's Missal more in line, supposedly, with the intentions of Vatican II. The leader of this neo-Catholic constituency group, an organization called Adoremus, announced some six years ago that it was launching 'a new liturgical movement' for a 'reform of the reform,' declaring with a fanfare of bulletins and advertising that 'Our work will be guided by the intention of the Second Vatican Council as expressed in its decree on liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium.' [29] 29. Adoremus Bulletin, December 1995, p. 2.

        "Adoremus did not seem to notice the repeated teaching of both Paul VI and John Paul II that they [the Popes] themselves have already carried out the 'intention of the Second Vatican Council.' As we noted earlier, Paul VI insisted that this new rite of Mass was precisely what the Council intended, and that he was imposing it on the Church in obedience to the Council's 'mandate'; and on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the conciliar document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, John Paul II lauded the 'liturgical renewal' begun by his predecessor as 'the most visible fruit of the work of the Council,' observing that "for many people the message of the Second Vatican Council has been experienced principally through the liturgical reform." His Holiness later added altar girls to boot.

        "Thus, while condemning traditionalists for declining to accept the new liturgy with utter docility, these same neo-Catholics implicitly accuse two Popes of erring gravely in their implementation of the supposed conciliar 'mandate' for liturgical reform, and they announce to the whole Church that they will seek to fulfill the Council's true intention. No 'private judgment' there!" [30] 30. The Great Facade, pp. 265-266.

Buy Two Copies

    The Great Facade's 407 pages contain much more than I have crammed into this review. And though I have spotlighted various sections, the book follows a logical theme of its own. It also contains a superb Index.

    I recommend that all Catholics obtain a copy of this book, read it, study it, internalize its contents. I even suggest, if possible, to buy two copies right away, since every traditional Catholic has at least one friend or family member who "needs' to read" The Great Facade.

    I also recommend this book to be included in high school curriculum, especially for senior year [Homeschoolers could do this easily]. Apologetics, a rational defense of the Catholic faith, should be an integral part of high school studies. And in the present climate, our children need to be armed with many of the arguments in this book. Upon leaving high school, they will plunge into a world antagonistic to the traditional Catholic Faith. Often, as already mentioned, the sharpest barbs come from the New-Church Catholic who solemnly denounces you as schismatic, then slips out to all-night adoration at his Novus Ordo parish.

    Finally, I recommend this book to be the basis of discussion clubs and study groups throughout the English-speaking world. The Great Facade gives traditional Catholics the arguments, the documentation, the battery of quotations, the tools they need to strengthen their resolve, and also to rattle neo-Catholic organs such The Wanderer, The National Catholic Register, EWTN; and even L'Osservatore Romano. Perhaps it's time for more traditional Catholics not to be content with a defense of their own position, but to mount an offensive of their own: to politely, but firmly, challenge neo-Catholics as to how they consider themselves truly Catholic when thy accept post-conciliar novelties that warm the hearts of Richard McBrien, Rosemary Reuther and Rembert Weakland. In closing, it must be noted that the authors do not denounce neo-Catholics as "evil". Rather, the book illustrates, without stating directly, that the neo-Catholic system is a trap into which good Catholics can fall. No doubt, some fall into this trap through genuine confusion of intellect. Others through bad will. Many neo-Catholics do not realize that they adopt a mode of thought that is detrimental to the Church they love.

    But judging the motives of individual neo-Catholics is not the purpose of the book, as only God can read hearts. Rather, as stated earlier, The Great Facade demonstrates that the neo-Catholic mode of thinking is an intellectually untenable position, supported by neither Church teaching nor Church history. It is a nest of contradictions, harmful to the Church, that guarantees the unimpeded forward march of the Conciliar insurrection.

      The Great Facade $24.50 US dollars postpaid:
        Catholic Family News
        Dept. 7248
        POB 694, Niagara Falls, ON L2E 6V5 [CANADA]
        MPO 743, Niagara Falls, NY 14302 [USA]

    For first part of this review, see Part One of the Book Review of The Great Facade.

*The reviewer John Vennari is the editor of CATHOLIC FAMILY NEWS. This review is reprinted with permission from the August issue of his excellent monthly Traditional periodical.

September 2002
volume 13, no. 105
Return to Current Issue