This brings us to a short meditation on our current pre-Conclave period. That there are in some sense factions among contemporary cardinals is clear. Tension among these factions ought to be quite intense, given the fact that the road that the Church will tread will be very different depending upon which of three possible “parties” comes out of the Conclave victorious: one that will follow Pope Benedict XVI’s lead, but perhaps more consistently brake the Revolution within the Church and ultimately realize that it must reverse it entirely; one that will more openly and enthusiastically join in the dismantling of the pitiful remains of Catholic Christendom; or one that will continue mindlessly to smile and praise the “fruits of the Council” as the Mystical Body of Christ is mocked, outraged, and reduced to utter impotence.
Dr. Rao’s assessment is a good summary of the traditionalist/crypto-traditionalist habit of mind. As a writer for The Remnant, he can hardly be characterized as a crypto-traditionalist, but I believe his tripartite division of the partisanship within the conclave betrays the evangelical bent of the crypto-traditionalists. It is a bit of having it both ways in the interests of “conversion.”
So, according to Dr. Rao the three parties of the conclave are as follows:
- Party of Pope Benedict on Steroids
- Party of Modernist Dismantlers
- Party of Conciliar Disaster Denial
Rao and the crypto-traditionalists would have us believe that they are on the side of Pope Benedict, who they claim agrees with them in principle, but for one reason or another (lack of moral fortitude, blackmail from the homosexual cabal, fear of the Jews or whatever) has not found himself able to follow through with his own beliefs.
But this is where Rao wants to have it both ways. The crypto-trads wave the Holy Father’s flag when it suits them. Rao claims to be following “Pope Benedict’s lead,” but with perhaps with “more consistency” than the Pope himself. Under the banner of the Holy Father and against those who wish to see the Second Vatican Council implemented properly, Rao hopes to stop the Revolution which is the Council and turn back the clock. This we are told is, in principle, the position of Pope Benedict, which he has not been able to apply consistently.
But more transparent traditionalists would say that this is just silly, because clearly the Holy Father has not abandoned his support of the Council at very fundamental levels of principle. Take, for example, Pope Benedict’s most recent defense of interreligious dialogue, which traditionalists claim is undeniably contradictory to the position laid out by Pius XI in Moralium Animos. Likewise, in his last substantive address on the matter of Vatican II, the Holy Father renewed his defense of the hermeneutic of continuity, which is hardly something that the traditionalists, such as Professor Roberto de Mattei, to whom Rao refers, except. I wonder how far Dr. Rao will go to follow the following “lead” of Pope Benedict XVI:
It seems to me that, 50 years after the Council, we see that this virtual Council is broken, is lost, and there now appears the true Council with all its spiritual force. And it is our task, especially in this Year of Faith, on the basis of this Year of Faith, to work so that the true Council, with its power of the Holy Spirit, be accomplished and the Church be truly renewed.
If Dr. Rao were not trying to engage of boilerplate traditionalist propaganda he would more logically realize that there are actually four parties in the conclave to be reckoned with:
- Party of Benedict XVI’s Hermeneutic of Continuity in Reform
- Party of Trad/Crypto-Trad Counter-Revolution
- Party of Modernist Dismantlers
- Party of Conciliar Disaster Denial
In actuality, I believe the fourth party is rather small. Rao tries to invoke Pope Benedict as his leader and places the hermeneutic of continuity in the Party of Conciliar Disaster Denial because that is what the propaganda requires. The moment the traditionalists admit that the current situation is more complex than they imagine, and thus, that the solution is more nuanced, is the moment that their show is over. In all actuality, those who are neither modernists or traditionalists are quite willing to engage in the reform of the reform. They just wish to do in on the basis of the sound principles laid down by the Council and taught by the postconcilar popes.
Rao appears to be following de Mattei who in turn is following Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, founder of Tradition, Family and Property and whose thought has inspired more radical traditionalist organizations like Tradition in Action. De Mattei and apparently Rao also, routinely refer to the Council as “the Revolution” (capital R) obliquely revealing their adherence to de Oliveria’s interpretation of history given in his work Revolution and Counter-Revolution. As I show in a previous post, de Mattei imposes an ideological framework on his historical analysis. Therefore, his conclusions are a priori inevitable: the Second Vatican Council was and has to remain a disaster no matter what a pope has to say about it.
So the “Conclave of the Media” has begun and the traditionalists are quick to point out that the progressives and deniers are promoting their cause in any way they can. All the while, however, the traditionalists seem oblivious to their own campaigning, spinning, and preemptive interpreting of a conclave that has not even yet begun.
Indeed, de Mattei has things all figured out. According to him, Pope Benedict made a mistake in abdicating, because he was passive “victim” (read “active proponent”) of the collegiality mandated by the Council. De Mattei completely overlooks and minimizes the Holy Father’s stated reasons for abdicating because it does not fit his ideological framework:
But, most of all, Benedict XVI and his predecessor, even if very different in temperament, were victims of the myth of the collegiality of government which they both sincerely believed in, and so renounced taking on many responsibilities which could have resolved the problem of the apparent ungovernability of the Church. The perennial interest in the Papacy is in the charisma of the Office: the supremacy of government over the universal Church, of which the infallible Magisterium is a decisive expression.
Some say that Benedict XVI did not exercise his power in governing with authority because he is a meek, gentle man, who has neither the character nor the physical strength to face this situation of grave ungovernability. The Holy Ghost infallibly illuminated him, suggesting the supreme sacrifice in the renunciation of His Pontificate in order to save the Church. But we do not take into account of just how much this talk humanizes and secularizes the figure of the Supreme Pontiff. The government of the Church does not rest on the character of a man, but of his corresponding to the Divine assistance from the Holy Ghost.
If it were not for the fact that the traditionalists can only provide us with non-infallible contingent arguments for what they consider to be self-evident and obliging on the consciences of all, we should all be happy and grateful that have prepared us for the “worst.” On the one hand they want us to have us realize that the Holy Father is assisted by the Holy Spirit in his deliberations, but then we are also to preemptively decide for the next pope what he is supposed to do under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Well, I should expect that there will be a great deal of disappointment among the prognosticators of the Conclave. Unfortunately, the faithful are liable to be led astray by the know-it-alls. Let the paranoia begin. It all serves the traditionalist cause:
“You’ll know whether the pope is good by his agreement or disagreement with us. And since Pope Benedict should never have resigned in the first place, in all likelihood we should expect the sky to be falling shortly.”
I agree that all this talk “humanizes and secularizes the figure of the Supreme Pontiff.” But once again, the trads are blissfully unaware that they have convicted themselves in the process of pointing out the problem.