Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

Surviving the Postconciliar Madness


Pope Francis calls cohabitation "real marriage."1

He refers to Italy's most prolific abortion supporter as "one of the forgotten greats."2

He bows down before a statue of Pachamama, an Amazonian demon-godess.3

He refers to as "a man" a woman who had sexual reassignment surgery.4

He talks about love and mercy, but treats orthodox Catholics like dirt.5

He kowtows to China's Communists, selling out faithful Chinese Catholics in the process.6

He constantly pushes for the mass immigration of Muslims into Europe,7 and belittles the martyrdom of Christian victims of jihad when he co-signs, with a Grand Imam, a statement that says that the “pluralism and diversity” of religions is “willed by God," without making clear that it is only by His passive will that such is allowed.”8

With the publication of Traditiones Custodes, he treats with cruelty those Catholics who want to worship as our ancestors did.9

He is intentionally destroying contemplative religious communities.10

A list of the problems the faithful are suffering under Pope Francis could go on for a long, long time (see, for ex., this Call for the Resignation of Pope Francis, pdf format). And in response, confusion, anger, despair, and infighting abound. Some think the Pope is a heretic and is, therefore, no longer the Pope. Some think that may be true, but they don't have the authority to proclaim it. Some think he was not rightfully elected in the first place, and that Benedict is the Pope. Some think the Holy See hasn't had a real Pope since Pius XII. Some go back and forth, and in the meanwhile, post walls of text consisting of everything from Canon Law to St. Robert Bellarmine to support their thesis-du-jour. Some think they not only have it all figured out, but have the authority to "excommunicate" or call "schismatic" those who disagree with their conclusions. Some fear that the Church is no longer truly Christ's Church, and leave in despair. Some are just confused and don't know what to think.

But we don't have to have it all figured out. If Francis had not been rightfully elected, or if he's lost the papacy due to formal heresy, it's not up to us laypeople to figure out. That's not our job. That's up to a future Pope to handle. And, in the meanwhile, we Catholics need to remain calm and carry on, holding on to the same Faith and receiving the same sacraments in the same way as Catholics always have, no matter who the Pope is or isn't or might be or could be, no matter if Francis is the last Pope or a Pope to be followed by 277 more Popes or not a Pope at all (he may well be judged by a future Pope to be an antipope, which is something only a Pope can judge). Whatever's going on or not going on, we must continue to hold the Faith intact, pray, love God and neighbor, and receive the Sacraments from a true Catholic priest when we're able.

Look, St. Peter, our first Pope, denied Christ three times (Matthew 26:31–35; Mark 14:27–31; Luke 22:34; John 13:31–38), and St. Paul "withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed" (Galatians 2:11).  Pope Honorius I was later proclaimed a heretic. We had 67 years of "the Avignon papacy" which began with friends of France's King Phillip IV kidnapping and beating Pope Boniface VIII, and was followed by: their being absolved by his successor, Pope Benedict XI; a friend of the King becoming Pope Clement V; the curia moving from Rome to Poitiers and, later, Avignon; and years of Pope and anti-Popes -- during which people who were later canonized argued against each other about which man was the true Pope. We endured the "Borgia Popes" with their mistresses and embrace of usury.

The point: as Pope Leo the Great said, "the dignity of Peter suffers no diminution even in an unworthy successor" (cujus dignitas etiam in indigno haerede non deficit). None of the above, and none of Francis's doings make the papacy less what Christ made it. And certainly none of it means that "the Church" has gone off the rails. If you're dazed and confused and, especially, if you're prone to despair over all this, you simply must come to have a deeper sense of history -- and to know precisely what papal infallibility is and isn't.

You have to keep in mind always that we've been promised that the gates of Hell will never prevail against Christ's Church. But that doesn't mean that we've been promised a leisurely walk in a rose garden. Quite the contrary, and we've already endured much. Consider how we were relegated to the catacombs for a few centuries -- and then came the Arian crisis in the 4th century, when the majority of bishops embraced heresy. Consider how we were sold out by many of our own bishops and priests during various Protestant rebellions, forced to worship in homes and attend Masses offered on rocks in forests. Consider how even now our Catholic brothers in places like Nigeria are slaughtered by Muslims. We've survived horrors in the past, and we'll survive the present horrors as well. And know that we have  been told that, toward the end of time, the Church will follow Christ in His Passion and Resurrection. We will have much to suffer -- perhaps even having to witness the Antichrist himself situated in the highest office of Holy Mother Church (many Church Fathers -- including SS. Jerome and John Chrysostom -- believed this will be the case, just as others predicted he will be found in the rebuilt Temple at Jerusalem). Whether that "end of time" is now, I can't say. But we don't have to worry about that either; each individual, no matter in what historical period he lives, has his own "end of time" to endure. Each of us will die. And that -- not Church politics -- is what we are here to concern ourselves with.

If the horrors of Francis's papacy derange you and negatively affect your faith, stop reading about him, and keep in mind the hundreds and hundreds of years of Church history in which the typical Catholic knew nothing about what was going on in Rome. Minding the 24/7 news cycle that repeats papal blatherings uttered on a plane is not typical of how Catholicism was lived for its first 1,950 years.

Build up in your mind a concept of the Church as what She truly is: the spotless Bride of Christ, made pure by grace. She is like a Platonic Idea, greater in Her Form than Her earthly manifestation lets on with its sinners and rogues, many in clerical robes. She is not just the Church Militant, but the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant. No matter how badly those aforementioned sinners and rogues dirty Her garments, She, Herself, is spotless, and outside of Her, there is no salvation. She is your mother, and one doesn't abandon one's Mother, leaving her helpless while those aforementioned sinners and rogues have their way with her. Quite the opposite!

Focus on your soul and the salvation of those you love, especially those you have a duty toward. Stay close to Christ. Develop a deep prayer life. Receive the Sacraments in the traditional way, if you can. Find particular devotions that suit you. Will to grow in virtue. Embrace Tradition. Attend only the traditional Mass if it's at all possible. Study the Faith to know what is true and what is not, and hand that Faith down to your children. Focus on the domestic church, your home, and make it a place of joy and peace. Live deeply the liturgical year and its seasons. Form communities with like-minded Catholics. Starve the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and similar Bishops' conferences of your financial support and attention, and do the same with heresy-ridden parishes, supporting traditional priests, religious, and apostolates instead. And don't let fools with mitres and Roman collars take you away from Christ and His Church; they only have that power if you give it to them.

Finally, when you're tempted to despair, think of what Christ said to His disciples when they were on a boat in a raging, stormy sea, and pray for faith if you lack it:

Mark 4:35-40

And He saith to them that day, when evening was come: Let us pass over to the other side. And sending away the multitude, they take Him even as He was in the ship: and there were other ships with Him. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that the ship was filled.

And He was in the hinder part of the ship, sleeping upon a pillow; and they awake Him, and say to Him: Master, doth it not concern Thee that we perish?

And rising up, He rebuked the wind, and said to the sea: Peace, be still. And the wind ceased: and there was made a great calm. And He said to them: Why are you fearful? have you not faith yet?



Back to Being Catholic