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May 31st , 2016

Traddery and Trumpery

There has been quite a rumpus recently in Traditional and Conservative Catholic circles about an article in the American Trad newspaper The Remnant by Ann Barnhardt,   describing  Pope Francis as “personally responsible for the most loss of human souls to eternal damnation, above Luther, above Mohammed, above Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), above Paul VI Montini”.

Well, I think most readers, even those most critical of the present pontificate,  would agree that such language is more than a little over the top. And Miss Barnhardt goes on to insist that the Pope  must be “deposed and anathematised for being a heretic” by  what she describes as “those bishops remaining who still hold the Catholic Faith”, called together in an “imperfect Ecumenical Council”.

Whoa! In the first place she can’t possibly know how many—if any—souls have been lost because of the Holy Father’s admittedly destructive polices and heterodox utterances. In the second place, it is not our business as lay people to advocate what would amount to a schism.

All the same, I can’t go along with John Médaille, (a theology teacher, a retired businessman and a Distributist more or less on the lines of Belloc and Chesterton) who bitterly attacks The Remnant‘s editor Michael Matt for carrying Miss Barnhardt’s piece at all. He insists that Mr Matt is just trying to  increase his circulation by appealing to the worst passions of his audience and saying the most outrageous things—thus becoming “the Donald Trump of Catholic Traditionalism”.

Now, every editor wants to increase his circulation. But I’ve met Michael Matt on several occasions, and I’m sure his motives are worthier than that. I think he felt that Ann Barnhardt’s voice was one that should be heard, and I think—despite the  hysterical tone of the piece—that he was probably right. You can read John Médaille’s critique on www.ethikapolitica. org. In the appropriate  combox on that site you will find dozens of entries arguing for and against Mr Matt’s decision to carry the article. Mr Médaille concludes:

And who can fail to note the irony that on the eve of the five-hundredth anniversary of Luther’s famous 95 Theses that split the Church apart, some Traditionalists, with their own theses, want to do the same? And to make the irony complete, they seem to want a council to overrule the Pope, which sounds a lot like the conciliarism they pretend to oppose.

Christopher Ferrara, distinguished pro-life lawyer and Remnant columnist retorts:

And who can fail to note the irony that Francis is going to Sweden next year to commemorate the 500th anniversary of that same “Reformation”, including participation in a joint liturgy with faux Lutheran “bishops” who condone abortion, contraception, divorce, the “ordination” of women and practicing homosexuals, and who would be viewed as worthy of the flames by Luther himself? Surely we Catholics have not lost the capacity to recognize this kind of thing as simply insane. There is more to the Remnant‘s position than the rhetoric and tone of one column.

And in a separate comment,  Mr Ferrara says: “No Pope in Church history has received the world’s praise like this Pope. That is a very bad sign, as Our Lord himself made clear.”

In another comment, one Stephen Hand notes:

Just weeks before the Irish same sex referendum in which Ireland was lost to the Catholic Church for the first time since St. Patrick, Francis appointed the notorious gay advocate, Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, as Consultor to the Vatican’s Peace and Justice Commission. What a sly signal to the Irish in that critical hour. And that appointment also illustrated that Francis, unlike JPII and BXVI has been driving a sly wedge between Church praxis (works of mercy) and traditional Catholic doctrine. The former must ever be the “fruit” of orthodoxy, sound doctrine, never a substitute for it.

I would agree with John Médaille that no matter how bad things get, schism is never the answer. Perhaps our best course  would be to heed the advice of Cardinal Raymond Burke:

I think of so many faithful who express to me their profound concerns for the Church in the present time, when there seems to be so much confusion about fundamental dogmatic and moral truths. In responding to their concerns, I urge them to deepen their understanding of the constant teaching and discipline of the Church and to make their voices heard, so that the shepherds of the flock may understand the urgent need to announce again with clarity and courage the truths of the faith and to apply again with charity and firmness the discipline needed to safeguard the same truths.

Both Mr Matt and Mr Médaille were at last year’s symposium of the Roman Forum in Gardone on the Italian lakes. I hope they’ll both be there again.

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