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A criticism of “papolatry,” or hyper-montanism, from 40 years ago August 13, 2015

Posted by Tantumblogo in abdication of duty, Basics, catachesis, episcopate, error, foolishness, General Catholic, Papa, scandals, secularism, the struggle for the Church, Tradition, Virtue.

Highly interesting post from Rorate containing a never-before published memo from the late traditional Catholic publisher Neil McCaffrey on the phenomenon of “neo-Catholic” papal cheerleaders in the post-conciliar period.  The memo identifies a number of weaknesses in the hyper-montanist viewpoint, which frequently seems to ascribe to the reigning Pontiff not just a narrow infallibility in faith and morals taught Ex Cathedra to the entire Church, but a form of impeccability, an idea that the Pope can do no wrong even in the smallest of prudential matters – or at the very least, can never be criticized for even the most questionable prudential judgments.

What is conveyed below is not the idea that Catholics should engage in willy-nilly opposition to the Pope on any matter that crosses their mind, but with several decades now of far less than stellar Popes, and where the good of souls is in question, it can be seen that refusal to countenance any criticism of the Holy Father is a major factor in the ongoing crisis in the Church, as born out by reams upon reams of real-world data on the status of the Church.

I actually think the memo below misses several key points, which may not have been as visible when written in 1976 as they are now, but it’s an interesting analysis, nonetheless.  I pick out some highlights, go to Rorate Caeli to read the rest (my emphasis and comments):

1. Scripture makes no bones about the weaknesses of the Apostles and especially of Peter; which in any case were well known to the early Christians, whose faith survived the knowledge. Catholic history, from the age of the Fathers on down, provides us with the model. It was only in the 19th century that some Catholics found it necessary to refine the policies of the Holy Spirit. [Sort of a jab at Vatican I?  There were very good reasons for defining papal infallibility at Vatican I, since the Doctrine of the Faith was so under attack throughout Europe at the time.  And, it made sense in another way, that the Church had been blessed with an unusually strong group of Popes from Pius VI on through St. Pius X. This probably helped build confidence in the idea that a Pope would never do anything nutty, since no one had a memory of a Pope doing so.  But what it did, perhaps inadvertently, overlook, was a future time when the Church might be afflicted with a bad Pope, or a whole string of them.  Such had certainly occurred in the past.  But the Dogma of infallibility has had the effect of many Catholics putting the Pope on such a pedestal that he is above criticism, and perhaps rightfully so to some degree, but as the Church, through her leadership, has veered severely off course in the past several decades, the limitations of this idolization have become increasingly apparent]


2. The papacy is given primacy from the earliest years, yet there is little evidence of papolatry until we get to the last century. The papolaters of our day would have been regarded with astonishment by the Fathers, by Dante, by St. Catherine, by Bellarmine, by Suarez, by just about anyone you can name. [I’m not expert, but my limited reading would tend to confirm this supposition]


3. We can see papolatry in perspective when we put it beside its kin; and we can do that with a flying visit to Moscow or Peking. There too we are allowed to criticize underlings. Pravda does it every day. But the Leader, never.  [Good point. Is it possible to view papolatry as an ecclesiastical mirror of the (particularly) 20th century tendency towards the deified, strong man, infallible Supreme Leader of disordered nationalism?  That is, people formed by nations to worship the national leader transferred the same kind of obeisance to the spiritual leader?  Just a wild thought]


4. Those orthodox Catholics who feel most comfortable with the spirit of Vatican II are least comfortable with its encouragement of free speech. John [XXIII] and Paul [VI] told us to relax and speak our minds. Perhaps they meant us to make an exception about speaking of themselves, but in fact they didn’t say so. So their admirers hasten to protect the Popes from themselves. (It seems, then, that popes can make mistakes; but only a privileged few are allowed to notice them.) [There’s been a great deal of this mentality from some quarters lately. Privately, they might hold opinions of Pope Francis that would surprise, even shock, many souls, but publicly they will admit of no criticism, because they hold only a very narrow cohort, including themselves, naturally, faithful enough to hold such thoughts]


5…… I have never heard a good argument for the new liturgy or for the new laxity in discipline.  [But, buh…….the opening of Scripture!  Language of the people!  LOL]  Even the papal cheerleaders can’t muster an argument, for the excellent reason that there is no argument that would commend itself to the orthodox. All the arguments, such as they are, come from the infidels. The papal cheerleaders can only repeat their incantation: obedience, obedience, obedience. [That was the mantra by which faithful reaction to the revolution in its early days was effectively beat down?] By which, ironically, they don’t really mean obedience. They mean something else. They mean: shut up. [Exactly.  Nah nah I can’t hear you!  Don’t tell me inconvenient truths!] Is it necessary, in this circle, to spell out the distinction between obedience and calling black white? (By way of underscoring the bankruptcy of papal policy, have you remarked that nobody ever talks these days about devotion to the Mass? There are no more courses on the Mass, no more books, no more private studies so that we might assist more knowledgeably and devoutly. [Well, there are today, but most are either re-prints of pre-conciliar sources or firmly traditional in character]  In fact, if you so much as call it the Mass, you are a reactionary. There is a message here for the apologists of the new liturgy. But they don’t want to hear it. That would be “disloyal”. As long as we polish up the reputation of the present Pope, it would seem, we can forget about what happens to the Mass.)……..


7. We heard a lot of talk Sunday about the importance of faith when authority misbehaves, all of it sound. I think faith involves a corresponding devotion to truth, even unpalatable truth. What does a Catholic have to fear from truth? Shrinking from the truth is an indecent posture for a Catholic. Granted, tender souls need not concern themselves with high policy, and with the blunders of those in authority. That does not exonerate the mature Catholic. Moreover, if nobody concerns himself with these blunders, nobody will criticize them; and evil will flourish, unopposed. [Exactly.  And it is not for me to decide who is mature, and who is not.  It is up to the soul themselves to determine what ideas their faith can countenance, and if they screw up, my “culpability” is minor, at worst, because I wasn’t writing for them, anyway.  I have heard far too much talk of “oh, don’t criticize the Pope, you’ll scandalize someone and they’ll lose faith!”  Well, if a stupid blog post is going to cause someone to fall away from the Faith, they must have been within a hair’s breadth of doing so, anyway.  I’d say a far more substantial moral “threat,” is to think what we write or present on the internet is so all-powerful and so garsh-darned important that scads of souls hang on our every word and will fall away in their thousands if we make the slightest slip.  Ego much?]


Not only that, but the papal cheerleaders are naive if they suppose they can silence criticism. All they succeed in doing is suppressing it among the orthodox. [Ding ding ding!] So the only criticism the Pope hears….is from the enemies of the papacy. When we reflect that this Pope is obsessed with public opinion (‘‘human respect,” the spiritual writers used to call it), it becomes double folly to choke off constructive criticism from the loyal orthodox.  


————–End Quote————–

OK, I’ve certainly got a point of view.  And I worry about that point of view from time to time.  I have some concern that I might hold some latent protestantism that causes me to not have sufficient respect or deference towards authority.  But then I read things like the above and see that my beliefs line up with some very reputable and devout souls.  I tend to think they are right, and that maybe coming from the outside into the Church as an adult provides a greater perspective.

I have long believed that “papolatry” or “hyper-montanism” is one of the key factors that has allowed the revolution in the Church to occur.  The fact that the revolution, or major portions of it, seem to have had the support of the recent pontiffs, to varying degrees, has chilled the Catholic response for exactly the reasons highlighted above.  And I have great sympathy for those who cannot bring themselves to criticize the Pope.  I think they are wrong, but I understand their motivations.

But after some possibly illusive, hopeful years under Benedict, we see that the revolution is not done.  In fact, it is never done, until it has either totally destroyed whatever it afflicts, or is definitively opposed and broken.  And since the papacy has either allowed or encouraged so much of the revolution to occur, it seems that restoration can not occur by just castigating bishops and priests.  The Faith will never be restored until we have pious Popes who restore the Faith.

Pointing out problems with the past and current popes is one way to help make that restoration occur, and I’d argue, an indispensable one.


1. tg - August 13, 2015

I saw a good kids’ film “The Greatest Miracle” on the Mass. My sister bought it for her grandson. It’s actually on the NO Mass but it is good. It explains what is going on. I’m going to buy it for my grandson so he can have a better understanding. It’s hard to explain it to a kid and I know at CCD, he didn’t learn much. However, he did learn that the host becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus. (Agree with the post and your comments.)

2. Magdalen - August 13, 2015

I think you mean Roger McCaffrey because Neil, the son, is very much alive and I just saw him this week!

Magdalen - August 13, 2015

Could be wrong, I see now. Two Neils?

Tantumblogo - August 13, 2015

They said Neil at Rorate.

Eoin Suibhne - August 14, 2015

Neil is Roger’s late father.

3. Tim Thunell - August 13, 2015

The folks at CMTV need to read this.
I know people who’s mantra is “obedience, obedience, obedience”……obedience-olatry.

Ann Malley - August 13, 2015

They can read it, Tim. They’ve been confronted with as much. They refuse, vehemently and rather nastily, to take the lesson, Tim. Goes against policy, the policy of spinning the truth or only reporting the bits and pieces that can be pasted together to support CMTV’s shaky position. (…to maintain funding? Who knows. But it’s certainly not representative of the “principled” position they shout others down with while doing the exact opposite.)

A principled news organization would not have tampered with Bishop Schneider’s interview in his final paragraphs. A principled position would have not amended the His Excellencies words only to tag on a soundbyte warning, taken out of context, from Bishop Morlino.

A principled position, if in fact Bishop Schneider’s views on the SSPX were egregious or “foolish” as CMTV tells those they treat as subordinate rubes, would have been to publicly rebuke Bishop Schneider. (Voris certainly takes others to task, no problem.) A principled news organization wouldn’t have carried the tainted interview at all. For where is the principle involved in CMTV offering a readership – driven by the rod of ridicule, blackballing, and fear mongering that the Society that Bishop Scheider indicates is worthy of jurisdiction, is no better than advocating for sodomy marriage – such a tainted and dangerous interview? (To even provide news of such a document would surely indict CMTV in the crime of saying that the Society should have jurisdiction.)

CCC 2468 Truth as uprightness in human action and speech is called truthfulness, sincerity, or candor. Truth or truthfulness is the virtue which consists in showing oneself true in deeds and truthful in words, and in guarding against duplicity, dissimulation, and hypocrisy.

And yet, CMTV still maintains as of today that it is foolish and a waste of time (this is at least a step back from sinful) in desiring that the whole truth about the Society be exposed instead of trapped in the lies and falsehoods unleashed at CMTV behind the scenes.

And how principled is it, Tim, to carry the words of Bishop Schneider calling for traditional, believing Catholics to ban together only to skew, edit and paraphrase to effect a call to do the opposite? Certainly not truthful….. and not principled.

I pray God whoever is pulling the strings at CMTV take a moment to get their head on straight and try again. Lies and falsehoods need to stop. All of them. Whoever the man is, he is leading his crew to outright sin if not plain foolishness.

4. c matt - August 13, 2015

A lot may stem from a misapplication of “Roma locuta est; causa finita est” The problem is it is not always clear when Roma has actually locuta. Some Catholics (both cradle and convert) take every utterance of the Pope to be Roma lotuca, but that is just not the case. Thus, they mistakenly believe they cannot criticize and/or must defend every such utterance.

5. Camper - August 13, 2015

Men who do not care very much about morality have been running the Church for decades. Pope Francis is the worst; Pope Benedict gave the Holy Eucharist to Robert Mugabe, the tyrant of Zimbabwe; and JPII ran the polytheistic “Assisi” functions. Fill in the names of Wuerl, Kaspar, (John XXIII and Paul VI) blah blah blah here. Leo XIII was confused on morality when he approved of government handouts.

Though I know it is a little silly, I imagine a Texan pope: loves firearms, so he appeals to men easily. Believes in St. Thomas Aquinas, protecting property, and executing unrepentant murderers. He is strongly against bribery and the perversion of justice so he also recommends, not de fide, but nevertheless recommends that in countries with rampant bribery like Mexico a monarch be installed (like Porfirio Diaz of the late 19th century) who will punish the corrupt with execution. That would help the nominally Catholic countries around the world take the absolutely necessary steps to make their countries serious contenders on the world stage. Imagine if the Congo (50% Catholic), Uganda (43% Catholic), Brazil, and the Philippines (actually ~50% Catholic) were military and economic powers how different and how much better the world stage would be! That would be my kind of Pope!

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