At his longtime blog, Creative Minority Report, 1P5 and Remnant contributor Patrick Archbold has a five-part series about “actuating” the schism in the Church. Some of you are going to want to read the whole thing, but I’d like to offer a Cliff’s Notes version here by way of introduction.
In the first installment, Archbold begins with a quote attributed to Pope Francis back in 2016 – which we covered here – wherein he is alleged to have said, “It is not to be excluded that I will enter history as the one who split the Catholic Church.”
“That quote,” Archbold writes, “is from Der Spiegel. But it is Spiegel’s correspondent in Italy, Walter Mayr, who characterizes that statement as self-critical. Based upon all the evidence to date and what I think may be coming, I suspect that is a misreading of the statement. The Pope wasn’t being self-critical, he was telling you the plan.”
He was telling you the plan.
For years, something it appears that many Catholic commentators have missed in trying to make sense of the current papacy is that gaffes, well intentioned mistakes, malformation, and even outright incompetence do not explain the Francis phenomenon.
I can’t read hearts and minds, and I certainly can’t read souls. But I can tell you where the evidence points. And every indication I’ve seen shows that Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the man who became Pope Francis, looks at the Catholic Church as it exists with destruction and reconfiguration at the forefront of his mind.
Archbold uses as a launching point the obvious manipulations of both synods on the family, and then the absolutely transparent fait accompli that was the Youth Synod this past October. Archbold writes:
Not only did they do away with all the rules in advance and pack the synod with the pliant, but they actually published a synod document that was substantially about a topic that wasn’t even discussed at the synod, synodality itself. You must hand it to these folks, they are the honey badgers of heretics, they just don’t care.
Archbold argues that the ramping up of synod-rigging came in direct response to “faithful Catholics” who have been “very loud and have caused them more problems than they are willing to put up with.” (Yes. He’s talking about you and me, among others.) His thesis is that the Church “has been in a de facto state of schism for some time” but that while those who reject the Church’s teaching used to just refuse to leave, now “they are in charge.”
“They didn’t want their own Church,” he writes. “They wanted ours. Now they have the power and they use the power.”
The overarching question that follows is, how do they rid themselves of the Catholics who are fighting against their power? Or, more to the point, “How do you turn a de facto schism into a real one?”
In part two, Archbold argues that those who are now in power in the Church “have been putting in place mechanisms that will give faithful Catholics no quarter.” And by no quarter, he means:
… they are taking a series of steps intended to give faithful Catholics, particularly traditional Catholics, no place to go other than where they want us. In short, they are executing a series of plays from their playbook intended to put traditional Catholics in a position in which they must capitulate or be disobedient to some degree. It is the disobedience they seek.
It is his theory that this mechanism – forced disobedience – will be used to “separate traditional Catholics from the Church.”
He gives examples. The Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. A South American visitation used to take out a tradition-friendly bishop who had been critical of other bishops in his region. The never officially explained removal of Bishop Martin Holley from Memphis. (Holley appears to believe it was a retributive act by the disgraced-but-still-powerful Cardinal Wuerl for a previous slight.) The “visitation and destruction” of the Petites Sœurs de Marie Mère du Rédempteur, who, says Archbold, “committed the double crime of being a little ‘too conservative’ and having some assets that the local Bishop coveted.” The Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
There are probably more who could be added to the list.
“Whether you are a traditional leaning order,” writes Archbold, “moderately conservative, or even a bishop not getting with the program, the message and method is clear. When they want you gone. They can make you gone.”
Recently, additional directives from Rome have made it even harder for such people to have recourse when they are treated unjustly. Even bishops, so often pointed to by Francis as those who should be making decisions for their regions, now have to get permission from Rome before erecting institutes of consecrated life in their dioceses – something bishops have always had the power to do.
The third part of Archbold’s series focuses on what is being done to religious life. He says, quoting Hilary White, that some of the rule changes made recently by the Vatican signal “the end of the contemplative monastic life.” He quotes Hilary further on the vital nature of cloistered religious, and it bears repeating here:
Once they’re inside, the world forgets about them. But contemplative religious life is like the mitochondria of the Church. The power source of the cell that makes all the other systems function. The mitochondria are the most unobtrusive and hidden of the organelles of the body, and for a very long time their purpose was not fully understood. But now we know our lives depend on the health of this tiny, secret and hidden little thing. And mitochondrial disease – when the mitochondria fail to function – is devastating.
I won’t go into the level of detail Archbold does here, but he highlights a number of indicators that “Pope Francis clearly dislikes contemplative orders” and has acted accordingly. “Traditional Catholic monasticism,” he concludes, “is done. It cannot and will not survive this onslaught, if nothing changes.”
And this is not just about ending things. It’s about killing off new beginnings. Think about this:
Step by step they have been destroying avenues for religious to practice traditional Catholicism. They are simply not giving traditional Catholics with a vocation anywhere to go, except where they want you to go. They are diligently and systematically cutting off all avenues of escape. This is critical in understanding my thesis about how they may in the future cause the split in the Church for which Pope Francis has openly pined.
Part four of the series is about “synodality” – the strange, ill defined concept that was the major takeaway from the Youth Synod, a topic which, as Archbold argues, was not even discussed at the synod itself. Rather than attempting to summarize, I will quote at some length here:
The politburo approved Catholic media will tell you that synodality is all about decentralizing the governance of the Church closer to the people in the form of the Bishop’s conference. This, obviously, could not be further from the truth. In an incredible validation of the lie, before the ink was even dry on the synod document on synodality, the Pope personally intervened to publicly castrate the USCCB before they even thought about even discussing doing something useless about the abuse scandal. It was quite the show, even for veteran Church watchers.
In order to understand what the push for synodality is all about, you have to look at the above described pattern. In every step, they have restricted the rights of bishops and other groups to act on their own and under their own authority in a way that conflicts with the super-dogma of Vatican Two-ism. Synodality is not about empowering Bishop’s conferences, as undeniably demonstrated in Baltimore. It is about restricting the ability of any single bishop to act on his own. It is about making sure that no stray orthodox bishop can be a bastion of tradition and a safe space for traditional Catholicism. He can’t allow new groups of religious to form in his diocese, he can’t invite traditional nuns to set up shop in his diocese, and if he does anything too traditional, he will be on the receiving end of an apostolic visitation for the crime of not getting along with his Bishop’s conference. All of this has been about cutting off all escape paths for traditional Catholics.
That last line, Archbold concedes, is “not entirely true.” This is the critical point:
Some escape paths they will leave open. I opened this essay with a quote from Sun Tzu, “To a surrounded enemy, you must leave a way of escape.” Cut off all paths of escape but one. Get your enemy all into one place by making them think they have no place else to go.
Archbold then cites a story we covered here a couple of weeks ago, in which a bishop at the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) meeting in November attacked Summorum Pontificum and its assertion that the traditional Latin Mass was never abrogated and thus, everywhere permitted.
As Archbold speculates, this universal permission to say the old Mass without a go ahead from the local ordinary or Rome “is what must be done away with. This is an escape hatch they just cannot abide.” He continues:
How do you turn a defacto schism into a real one? How do you get the faithful Catholics to be on the outside, seen to be in schism? To surround the enemy, you must cut off all other paths of escape. You need to get the enemy, traditional and red-pilling conservative Catholics, all into one place where they feel safer, before you lower the boom. …
I believe they intend to do away with Summorum Pontificum and its individual right of priests to say the mass and force all traditional Catholic into one or a few approved sources, perhaps the FSSP and the ICKSP or some juiced up Ecclesia Dei commission, if they can’t close the deal on the SSPX.
Archbold calls this “the Honey Pot, the place to gather all the recalcitrant under one roof, where they lie in wait for the final blow.”
In his fifth and final part of the series – entitled “The Hammer Drop” – Archbold outlines how he sees this happening.
He believes that Rome will “move us back to the indult era and consolidate us into a few groups.”
They will claim, and their lickspittle brethren in the mainstream Catholic media will gush, that this is not an anti-Traditional move. “The Pope hasn’t done away with one single Traditional mass, this is about governance only.”
And when the dust settles, that is when the Pope will lower the boom. No, he won’t ban the Traditional Latin Mass outright, I don’t think. Too much blowback for that and there is a much easier way to achieve his aims. The Pope will do something much worse than ban it. He is going to change it. He is going to change the 1962 missal.
The Pope will exercise his legitimate authority to aggiornomento the 1962 missal. Perhaps he will replace the lectionary with the current 3 year one, changes some prayers, permit communion in the hand, or some other changes that will shock the consciences of traditional Catholics. They will Vatican Two the TLM. You can hear them now, “The Pope didn’t ban the Latin Mass, he just used his legitimate authority over the liturgy to make it more meaningful.”
In his predicted vision of the Church, Archbold says that the consequence of such an action is clear:
Any approved group that resists the changes or complains too loud gets the Apostolic Visitation and is squashed for refusal to submit to the Pontiff. Any diocesan indult community that resists is squashed. And any Catholic who thinks he can go underground and just have masses said in someone’s house? Nope. Individual priests no longer have the right to say the mass. Do it and you have refused to submit to the authority of the Pope. You are a schismatic. So too any bishop. You either accept the Vatican Two boot on your neck or you are a schismatic.
Any attempt to live an authentic traditional Catholic life, whether as a religious, or just attending the mass of the ages, will make you a schismatic by default. Go SSPX, you are schismatic. Go to an underground mass. Schismatic. Form a group of faithful under a traditional rule without permission of Rome, schismatic. They will turn any and all attempts to live a traditional Catholic life into an act of disobedience.
It’s a dim view of what may come, but it hasn’t stopped raining for months in the trenches, the shelling goes day and night, and it seems that whenever we appear fresh out of the ability to believe in new horrors, they conjure another one up.
I stress here that Archbold’s take on this is only a theory, and it’s pretty dour. So I put it to the readers: what do you think?
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children.