In the Round ...
then is our duty? Not to lament the past nor to
of the future, but to accept the present. Dreams
lamentations weaken the sinews of action … We must
the duty and the necessity of seeing things as they
in their exact and naked truth."
elevation of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to the Chair of
St. Peter has come as a relief to most traditionalists
Christian Order we understand and share that
relief in large part.
credibility in this matter is second to none. While mainstream
UK journals, both so-called 'Catholic' and secular, regularly
mocked and railed against then-Cardinal Ratzinger throughout
his time as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctine
of the Faith [CDF], CO consistently supported
and promoted his work. We defended him against the relentless
attacks of the dissidents and gave him full credit for
his strong support for the Old Mass and his admirable
defence of orthodoxy in many areas. Indeed, just last
month our feature article was full of praise for his strong
leadership and challenged bishops everywhere to support
the Cardinal rather than ignore or moan about his stands
for the Faith on pivotal issues ("An
Open Letter to Catholics").
particular, CO carried a series of devastating
and prophetic reports by the late Michael Davies which
documented the Cardinal's magnificent lone defence of
the Faith against the treacherous compromises which surfaced
in the ecumenical ARCIC discussions with the Anglicans
(summarised in Michael's response to Mr Larson, linked
below). We are all deeply appreciative of such efforts
as head of the CDF, as too with his restatement of Catholic
teaching on the one true Church in Dominus Iesus.
His recent Good Friday comments highlighting the desperate
state of the Church and his superb address before the
conclave summarising the ills of a sick world also augur
are, therefore, well aware of the new Pope's many strengths
and thank God for giving us one who will surely stand
firm against the arsenal of catastrophic ideologies now
marshalled against the life of souls and wielded so furiously
by the death-dealers, moral degenerates and perfidious
"liberal Catholics" in their relentless assaults on Holy
Mother Church. May the Lord enlighten, guide and protect
His new Vicar on earth in this most onerous of roles.
strong points notwithstanding, however, human respect
must never blind us to that which we consider threatens
the integrity of our Holy Faith. In these tumultuous times
a superficial, rose-coloured view of those we have come
to admire will not do. We have nothing at all to fear
from facing facts but, today more than ever, very much
to lose if we do not address them.
so, while we understand the relief and excitement of neo-cons
and trads, in order to inject some balance and reality
into post-conclave celebrations and assessments of Benedict
XVI at the outset of his pontificate - to see him in the
round - we are posting for wider readership the following
series of compelling and controversial articles by James
Larson, published in Christian Order during 2003-04.
doing the heavy duty reading and research of Cardinal
Ratzinger's many works, a task eschewed by most of the
Cardinal's fervent supporters, Mr Larson found that some
fundamental theological, philosophical and scriptural
views espoused by the Cardinal had all the hallmarks of
fact, the impossibly fuzzy mixture of orthodox, heterodox
and heretical ideas found in some neo-conservative works
today clearly owes much to the filtering down of Cardinal
Ratzingerís more progressive ideas, promoted through his
numerous books, as explained in the Larson series.
particular, the increasingly popular mantra that "God
is relationship" - the subjective core of process theology
and Modernist flux - is the very foundation of the Cardinalís
Personalist/Phenomenological system of thought in which
he posits that "God is entirely relationship"
[Larson, Nov. 2003]. Mr Larson points out the corrosive
ramifications of this spurious view in precisely the sort
of erroneous or confusing scriptural, ecumenical and sacramental
notions that Daphne McLeod discovered in her review of
Pure and Simple by Dwight Longenecker.
marginalisation of St. Thomas Aquinas, and consequent
shoring up of ecumenism (which project we can thus expect
Pope Benedict to pursue with vigour), appears to underlie
this new Personalism. Accordingly, we find a complete
lack of Thomistic precision in neo-con apologetics like
Christianity Pure and Simple, which work has
been received as uncritically as have those troubling
aspects of Cardinal Ratzingerís views critiqued in the
Larson series. (I suggest that if advocates of Phenomenology
and Personalism believe the insights offered by their
system will eventually do for Thomism what St. Thomas
himself did for Aristotelianism, they should read Christianity
Pure and Simple - and think again!)
to put all this in postconciliar perspective.
Apropos of the Vatican, and echoing the famous lamentation
of Pope Paul VI, renowned exorcist Father Gabriel Amorth
has stated that "The smoke of Satan has entered
everywhere. Everywhere!" Modernism "the
synthesis of all heresies" - is surely central to
in that light, the Larson revelations are not so surprising.
Like many of his peers, Pope Benedict XVI (who was the
first non-Thomistic Prefect of the CDF in centuries) is
simply a product of his era. Regarded as a Ďreformed liberalí
who gradually distanced himself from the excesses of his
ultra-liberal brethren, he appears not to have jettisoned
all the 'progressive' nostrums he imbibed down
the years from the likes of his notorious compatriot at
the Council, Karl Rahner (a purveyor of heresies - as
documented by Fr. George Duggan SM in CO, Aug/Sept
2001 - who was lauded by the Ratzinger-CDF during last
year's Rahnerian 'rehabilitation' excercise in Rome.)
new Holy Father is, after all, only human and it is a
fact of Catholic history that a few of his predecessors
have been notoriously guilty of personal Ďskirmishesí
with the heterodox or heretical!
"grace of state" afforded the Vicar of Christ, however,
is always a strong antidote to whatever erroneous views
may have been held before elevation and a Divine protection
against proclaiming those errors from the Chair of Peter.
Thus, while readers may be rightly concerned they need
not be unduly disturbed by the Larson critiques, but maintain
with full confidence their belief in the unfailing capacity
of the successors of Peter to confirm their brethren in
the one true Faith - Catholic, Apostolic and Roman. This
is certainly Mr Larson's position after reflecting on
his series in light of Cardinal Ratzinger's election as
Pope. He writes:
have carefully re-read all my articles on Cardinal Ratzinger.
I find nothing that I can, in good conscience, now deny
as being my firm conviction. His writings clearly contain
what must be considered objective errors or heresies.
more certain (with the certainty of faith) is my complete
submission of intellect and will to the dogmatic teaching
of Vatican Council I (in three very striking passages)
that a Pope cannot lose his personal Catholic faith.
with the elevation of Cardinal Ratzinger to the Papacy
there is, as of now, no way in which I can reconcile
these two convictions and statements. This does not
mean that they are not reconcilable, but simply that
I do not now have the necessary knowledge to do so.
There is, of course, the grace of the office, which
has converted at least one Pope (Vigilius), and possibly
more (Pius IX), from material heresy to orthodoxy. I
have no way of knowing, at this time, whether such a
scenario corresponds to the present case. Above all
else, I pray that it does.
is also the very important point that a person who has
written or spoken objective error or heresy is not necessarily
a heretic. We all tend to make mistakes, and some Popes
have made mistakes in their exercise of the non-infallible
teaching office (John XXII is a very interesting example).
This does not constitute legitimate grounds for calling
such persons "heretics" or claiming that they
have lost their faith.
my response to the late Michael Davies, who grossly
misrepresented my position by accusing me of calling
Cardinal Ratzinger a heretic, I replied: "I have,
on the contrary, been quite careful not to call
the Cardinal a heretic. The formal designation of someone
as a heretic certainly does require his or her pertinacious
resistance to Church authority. Such restrictions, however,
do not at all apply to designating certain writings
or words as being heretical in content, or of designating
such writings or oral formulations as someoneís heresy."
other words a person can still possess the faith, but
be materially quite wrong in some of the particular
articles of that faith. I do not know if such a distinction
could be applied to Cardinal Ratzinger. And I certainly
have no knowledge concerning its applicability to Pope
is possibly more likely is a combination of the above
two scenarios. By the grace of his office Pope Vigilius
certainly withdrew from his former heresies, but it
is also true that he still retained some of his former
weaknesses and inclinations. What is to be most feared,
therefore, is that Pope Benedict XVI, not thoroughly
imbued with the spirit of Thomistic ontology, and still
deeply imbued with the ecumenical spirit which is a
result of this weakness, will pursue this same spirit
of ecumenism which has been a primary source of alienation
for traditionalists. And then considering themselves
to have been profoundly betrayed in the hopes they have
placed in this new Papacy, there may well be a mass
exodus of traditionalists into various forms of schism
and sedevacantism. In anticipation of such a possibility,
I wish in advance to emphatically condemn any
use of my writings to support even the slightest movement
in this direction.
also cannot absolutely dismiss the possibility that
I am wrong in my analysis of Cardinal Ratzingerís writings.
As of right now, however, I certainly cannot, in my
own conscience and knowledge, retract the conclusions
I have reached in my articles. However, if the Pope
ordered me to retract these writings from circulation,
I would immediately comply.
I wait and pray. And for the record, to allay any further
misrepresentation of my writings following the Cardinalís
elevation, the definitive statement of my position is
this: Pope Benedict XVI has not lost his faith and is
not a heretic, and cannot be a heretic.
the charges made and questions raised by Mr Larson are
now even more pressing in light of Cardinal Ratzinger's
elevation. The secular press have already picked up on
our new pontiff's curious 'line of thought', as revealed
in this comment by Daniel Henninger, deputy editor of
the Wall Street Journal's editorial page:
his memoirs "Milestones"] Joseph Ratzinger describes
how he prefers Augustine to Thomas Aquinas, "whose crystal-clear
logic seemed to me to be too closed in on itself, too
impersonal and ready-made." Anyone familiar with Augustine
and Aquinas would at least pause to reflect on this
remark.... Augustine is the more mystical personality,
closer in some ways to the "new age" impulses of our
times. In the writings of Augustine, arguably the most
complex mind Christianity has produced, the exercise
of deep faith carries with it the possibility of what
I would call a "high" experience in one's pursuit of
and relationship to God... I get the impression that
Joseph Ratzinger ... is at heart more a vibrant 5th-century
Christian than a stale 19th-century dogmatist; as conceivably
was John Paul II, who often let himself slip into an
Upward-directed reverie in public. In short, Benedict
XVI looks to be very different from the stolid, authoritarian
German described this week in the public prints.
Larson would doubtless see this aversion to St. Thomas
and intimacy with Augustinian-type "mysticism" as central
to the Cardinal's controversial rehabilitation of Rosmini,
who was also known as a "mystic".
Mr Larson indicates and as stated in our May 2004 edition,
however, we are not suggesting that his articles are the
last word on this matter. Obviously not! They were simply
considered too important not to print. The lamentable
'Ratzinger-effect' revealed in Mrs McLeod's later review
of Christianity Pure and Simple only served to
underline their import. Further considered and rational
comment (not mere eulogies of the Pope's aforementioned
virtues) may be communicated to Mr Larson directly - 26283
202nd St., Long Prairie, MN 56347, USA - and/or the Editor.
But it is mainly hoped that this controversy will finally
be taken up and addressed, without fear or favour, in
specialist theological and philosophical journals, where
it rightly belongs.