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Fr. Hunwicke: “Ultraultraultramontanist Ultraultraultrapapalists Again”


There’s some fantastic commentary in the Catholic blogosphere today, and as I come across new gems I’ll be excerpting and/or sharing it here. I submit to you Fr. Hunwicke’s excellent assessment of the curiously specific Mottramism happening in a way that strains credulity:

Some Cardinal called Wuerl has said “There are always people who are unhappy about what is going on in the Church, but the touchstone of authentic Catholicism is adherence to the teaching of the Pope”. Sounds good; sounds obvious. But ….

Note that he says, not popes, but pope. So he must mean just the Pope, the present Pope, the pope-for-the-time-being. And note that he can’t just mean “the ex cathedra teaching of the Pope”, because in that case his words would mean nothing since Bergoglio has defined nothing and it is questionable, to put it mildly, whether Evangelii gaudium and Laudato si are in any sense Magisterial.

So, when a pontificate follows a pontificate, this strange man clears his mind of the teaching of all the previous popes (except possibly when ex cathedra), so as to have a tabula rasa upon which to inscribe whatever idiosyncrasies and obiter opinions the new pope turns out to possess. And this is what he is recommending to the rest of us. Have I got that right?

I find myself wondering how these rabid ultra-extreme fundamentalist papalists imagine their pronouncements must sound to non-Catholics. Do they seriously imagine that Lutherans, Anglicans, Orthodox are likely to be attracted to the idea of a Papacy in which every whimsy of the current occupant of the See of S Peter has to be swallowed without question, otherwise one has abandoned the ‘touchstone’ of ‘authentic’ doctrine?

I left some of the best bits out, so be sure to go here for the rest.

I haven’t heard anyone else touch on the ecumenical drawbacks of such extreme papal positivism, but it’s certainly a consideration – at least to those who believe the purpose of ecumenism is return to the fullness of truth by membership and participation in the sacramental life of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

I know, I know, I’m so old-fashioned.

46 thoughts on “Fr. Hunwicke: “Ultraultraultramontanist Ultraultraultrapapalists Again””

  1. The idea of the Pope as “spiritual leader” of the Church is fairly new. Some popes were more spiritual than others, but they were not necessarily the best popes, in terms of preserving the Church. Heck, Peter doesn’t seem to have been a very “spiritual” guy, but he knew right from wrong and knew what his assignment was.
    I think what happened after the Council was that we had a terribly weak Pope during the Council briefly followed by somebody who was immediately removed by the enemies of the Church, followed by somebody who was no doubt a very saintly and very orthodox person, but a completely inept administrator. In fact, he didn’t seem to regard that as part of his job. In any case, while people lacked the authority to be provided by a pope, they knew they could turn to an orthodox, prayerful person as their defense (sort of, since he didn’t defend the orthodox very well).
    But this set the pattern. BXVI tried to manage the Church, since he had done much to improve things during the later years of JPII’s pontificate when JPII was no longer more than technically in charge. But he simply was not capable of holding up to the pressure and had too many forces working against him, far more than did JPII, who pleased many liberals because of his weakness.
    In any case, this set the pattern for the Pope as focus of the Church, something which, naturally, is being exploited to its fullness by this horrible little Italian-Argentinian leftist and his German backers. And all the pious are out there nodding their heads and saying we have to be “submissive” to the Pope in every way, no matter what, thus turning the Church into the parody-Church that the Protestants always summon up in their fevered imaginations.

    • Paul VI was anything but weak in his determination to throw tradition over the side of the barque when the opportunity beckoned.

    • “And all the pious are out there nodding their heads and saying we have to be “submissive” to the Pope in every way….” Unfortunately for your analysis here, this was also true, for example, of Pius XII; I know, I lived under his papacy for many years. This peculiar way Catholics have of seeing the pope may be fairly new as you say, but it has a longer history than you suggest.

      • I think the doctrine of infallibility probably affected the way Catholics came to view the Pope’s position after the 19th century, but to me this focus on the person of the Pope is fairly new. It’s partly driven by the media, of course, and certainly the type of media coverage any celebrity gets is something that has only been possible in our time. Still, I think that a lot of this very personal focus began with JPII, who did not manage the Church very well and made only occasional stabs at controlling heterodoxy, but was orthodox and devout himself. People began to focus on him for spiritual guidance and support since they could not rely on him for much else, and I think as a result the concept of Pope and the Pope’s leadership became much more populist, so to speak. Thus we have people declaring an almost embarrassing and maudlin “loyalty” to the person of Bergoglio, no matter what he does, and a focus not on the Church (its doctrine, tradition, history, theology, and significance in the divine order) but on this one person, right or wrong.

        • I believe John Henry Newman feared the proclamation of the doctrine of infallibility for just the reasons you cite. He didn’t contest the doctrine per se, merely its effect on less-educated laity, the possibility of future abuse.

        • I would not say someone who practiced idolatry was orthodox but I suppose that the meaning of that word, as with all others, has changed.

          • JPII was personally very devout, I think, but he was sometimes carried away by a somewhat Slavic emotionalism…and also, he was afraid of looking like a “bad guy,” and thus went along with anything the bishops r whatever of the various countries had designed for him.
            I don’t think this was good, and frankly, I don’t think he had a successful papacy. If we’d gotten a stronger, more aggressive person out there at that point, things might have been different. But mighta, woulda, coulda don’t matter. He was not strong and could not resist the pressures, but I think he himself was orthodox.
            However, he had the Slavic intellectual’s prolixity and vagueness, and quite frankly, I think his voluminous and fuzzy writings, including his whole “Theology of the Body” stuff, laid the groundwork for Francis’ kidnap of the project.

  2. Some Cardinal called Wuerl…

    Hahahaha. This is why I always refer to him as the great Father Hunwicke.

    Also, from the excellent Catholic blog The Paraphasic: The Best Catholic Blogs (1) – Fr. John Hunwicke. (#2 is Father Blake.)

    On the matter at hand, Father Hunwicke makes an important point that is too often forgotten in these, our shallow (yet deeply stupid) times: Catholics are not loyal merely to the current occupant of the Petrine Office, but to the entire line of his predecessors stretching back in time to St. Peter. The man currently occupying the papal throne may be a good pope and a holy man, but he may equally be only one of the two, or (much less frequently) neither. It is astonishingly, ahistorically dumb for a Catholic to surrender his faith to the personal probity of whoever happens to be the pontiff of the day, but that’s where we’re at today.

    • It would be interesting to see how others here see Pope Francis, what their personal take is on his actions since he took office. My view is that he is politically liberal, i.e. he endorses many of the premises that fueled the so-called Enlightenment, far too many of them for the good of any Catholic prelate, let alone the pope. Beyond that, I think he is the most incompetent administrator to occupy the papal throne (which, of course, he refuses even to sit on) since John XXIII and Paul VI, both exemplary incompetents. He makes many bad appointments, regularly sends mixed and confusing messages, sets bad example (e.g. accepting a communist “crucifix”), etc. And he has a tendency to trust men whom he should be firing rather than applauding (e.g. Cdl. Kasper). In short, I think the conclave made a perfectly terrible choice 30 some months ago, that it passed over several men far more qualified than the bishop of Buenos Aires.

      • I think you’ve summarized it nicely in fewer words than I would have used. I’m in a similar situation to a commenter on another of today’s posts on this site, in that I am a relatively recent convert (2005) and have since that fateful day of March, 2013 become more and more horrified by what we have seen this pope do and say. As a result I have become a regular reader of this site, the Remnant, and a few other traditionally-oriented sites from which I have begun to learn exactly how pernicious much of Vatican II and the “catechesis” that followed it have been to the Faith, as well as the history of the Modernist heresy and how it was unleashed on the Church through that “pastoral Council.”

        I would just add a couple of thoughts to your summary: I think Francis is more than just liberal politically. He appears to be a Peronista, with all that entails, and at least a sympathizer if not a proponent of liberation theology, which many of us perhaps naively believed had been put to rest conclusively by JP II and Benedict XVI. As for why the conclave elected him, even if we discount for the sake of this discussion the evidence of an active plot by Modernists to drive B-XVI out of office and elevate one of their own to the Chair of Peter, I suspect a great number of the Cardinal electors were simply fooled into thinking they were picking someone who would be an effective administrator and could “reform the Curia”, and assumed his orthodoxy on matters of faith and morals. I base this on remarks made by the late Cardinal George in an interview he gave to EWTN shortly before his passing. In that same interview, George said he would like to have a chance to discuss with Francis exactly what his vision was for the Church, in light of his often confusing public statements. Francis George was an extraordinarily intelligent man, as are many of the other electors who are, at least by post-Vatican II standards, more or less strongly orthodox. So in my book there must have been a concerted and well-planned effort to hide Bergoglio’s real character and views to get him elected. On the other hand, maybe it was a pitched battle in the conclave and the orthodox side lost, and Cardinal George was too discreet to talk about it publicly. I suppose we’ll never know the whole story.

        • Thanks. You’re right about the influence of Peronism on the pope. I’ve never read a satisfactory explanation of why he was chosen in 2013, nor of why Benedict decided to resign. Who knows if I’ll live long enough to read the “inside stories” unearthed by a future vaticanista? The long and short of it, though, is that I see him more as an administrative disaster than as any kind of consciously devious or heretical leader.

        • “…and Cardinal George was too discreet to talk about it publicly”

          Discussing what happens in a conclave is supposed to result in immediate excommunication. However, some cardinal(s) have reportedly said that Jorge came in second when Ratzinger was elected. The leakers were probably liberals who wanted him to win the next time, and so marked him as the serious contender..

          • Discussing what happens in a conclave is supposed to result in immediate excommunication.

            The reality is that, like pre-conclave politcking and canvassing, it happens all the time, regardless of the law. How else would we know so much about how past conclaves have played out? The history of conclaves over the past 12 centuries or so is . . . well, it would scandalize the innocent. The Papacy has been bought at discount more than once.

            In 2005, Bertone outhustled the liberal brigades (and had a good candidate to work with – liked, well respected, status quo, and very old). This time, Bertone wasn’t around, and liberals did the outhustling.

          • I’d read Malachi’s “FC” decades ago, it was an eye opener.

            I’d have to wonder about:
            1) how many cardinals knew what Bergolio is and liked it? a third or so?
            2) how many in the middle were naively duped? IOW, how many were like those Catholics today who think he really wants to do the right thing but he’s just misunderstood? Can a cardinal be that naive?
            3) how many just made side deals in their own interest…

            I’d like to think that lots of them are ashamed of their vote. Probably just wishful thinking.

          • My sense is that not many knew him well – not that this is unprecedented. Few knew much about Karol Wojtyla, who even for being a Father at Vatican II and made a few trips to the West, but was, thanks to being behind the Iron Curtain, otherwise a largely unknown quantity who only broke through belatedly as a compromise dark horse candidate. A conclave is roughly 120 men from all over the world, speaking a myriad of languages, with only the occasional synod or consistory to (briefly) meet a wide array of fellow cardinals. A conclave happens, and suddenly you only have a week or so to size up the field. (Thus, cardinals with lengthy curial stays thus have usually had a natural advantage in recent centuries.)

            These two synods, however, have proven to be an interesting opportunity for many to expand that exposure.

            As for the rest: A journalist has reported this week that perhaps only ten cardinals would vote for Bergoglio today. That seems low to me. But there’s a growing sense of buyer’s remorse out there, no question – no matter how much many prelates will smile and say the right things in public.

          • Then from what you say (which makes sense), the conclusion I draw would be that Benedict bears a lot of culpability for not arranging a more prolonged exit. Say, 6 months from announcing to actually retiring.

            I know he was eager to get back to his academic pursuits. I think he was never really strong enough to be pope, or else he would have at least squashed the nuns for abortion. But all that doesn’t explain the rush. Add that to the big public display months ago of the beaming smile and the handshake of approval for Jorge. That made me actually wonder if they’ve had him sedated. Or a stroke maybe? Else he’d have to have known the implications of his approval, and weak or not how could he live with that?

            I dont think there’s any reason to buy into the nefarious theories, like money dealings and corruption. From the little I’d seen of him, he seemed very decent – unlike Jorge.

          • …the conclusion I draw would be that Benedict bears a lot of culpability for not arranging a more prolonged exit.

            Perhaps. But given how great the disparity in organization was between Bergoglio’s backers and anyone else, the result looks almost preordained to me.

            As for Benedict, one hears theories that he was reassured by senior cardinals that a like-minded successor was going to be elected. Or if not, he might have assumed it would happen in any case. It’s hard to know what to blame him for without more information.

            Bear in mind that with the 2013 conclave, cardinals had several more weeks to prepare for a conclave than they’ve had for many generations. And who’s to say that even several more months wouldn’t have actually worked to the liberals’ advantage even more?

        • …maybe it was a pitched battle in the conclave and the orthodox side lost

          If it was a pitched battle, it was a brief one, since it lasted only four ballots – a speedy decision even by 20th century standards.

      • Was there perhaps some conspiracy to remove Pope Benedict XVI and prepare the way for Bergoglio?
        Why has the former been so silent through this crisis? Does he even know about it or have the freedom to speak up?

        • There are all kinds of rumors, many of them fed by the (usually) careless European tabloids, but nothing substantial. I suspect that Pope Benedict does not speak out because he fears his words would only make matters worse, perhaps even touching off a total and formal schism. He’s probably right.

      • You aren’t sure why? Who are the people in the conclave? Aren’t they those whom previous popes elevated? Does a leader pick people who he knows agrees with his agenda or opposes it? Why were the number of cardinals increased almost threefold from the time of Paul VI when that number (70) remained the same for almost 300 years? When a minority becomes the majority, does that tend to change things?

          • Simply replacing one heretic and idolater with another doesn’t seem to matter to most Catholics.

            The only difference between Benedict and Francis is Benedict, the sly wolf, used his command of language to influence others to adopt his love of heresy, promulgated by Modernist’s such as Hans Kung, Henri de Lubac, and Hans Urs Von Balthasar, as both a cardinal and pope, using the Modernist tactic of stating something orthodox to fool people and then contradicting it, while Francis openly and shamelessly shouts out heresy.

          • Sorry, but if you really believe the twaddle you retail here, you and I are on different planets and probably have nothing to teach each other. Unlike modernist goo-goo talkers, I don’t put any stock whatsoever in “dialoging”

          • The “twaddle” I retail here is simply a facing of the truth, of reality. No, I don’t put any stock in dialoging with heretics and apostates either but the popes of the last 50 years do. Not only dialoging with them but praying to and worshipping with them to their false gods. But that isn’t charitable, is it? Sacred Scripture and the interpretation of it by the Catholic Church up until the Second Vatican Council was simply incorrect on this?

          • Also read the articles on Bendict/Ratzinger written by James Larson at

            particularly his November 2003 article entitled: “The Heart of Betrayal” and his three part series entitled “The War on Being” beginning in June-July 2003 at the same website which delve into the heresies of Benedict.

  3. The idea of everyone being bound to follow along with the musings of one flawed and fallen individual would not be a selling point. We don’t have to sacrifice reason.

  4. “Some Cardinal called Wuerl”



    Fool me once,

    Shame on you,

    Your red birds

    Strut with bravada.

    Like birds of a feather

    Flocking together –

    As if the Barque…

    A regatta.

    Fool me twice,

    Shame on me,

    Your pink bird

    Weurls & twirls…

    Our pearls before swine –

    Plucked grapes off the vine –

    And what’s Papa do?


  5. I stopped reading when he said “Bergoglio.”

    When I was a young whelp, no one ever referred to St. John Paul as “Wojtyla.”

    Here’s my assessment of the Synod:

    Over 200 prelates showed up. Ten or so were spouting some Bad Ideas. Some stuff of concern came out, lots of angry essays and commentary followed. Suspicions that Pope Francis might not be a Catholic were floated.

    The Synod after another long session has established that the prelates are still Catholic. Still, it’s not enough. Now the double guessing of motives has moved back to the Holy Father. Guessing, guessing, guessing. Will he issue an exhortation that is heretical, thus sending the Church into schism and precipitating a chastisement? It could still happen, but so far, I’ve seen a system working that is guaranteed to keep the Pope in check.

    The Good: Lots of us prayed and fasted and gave extra alms. Maybe those things worked. I think they did for me personally and I’m glad I did it.

    The Bad: A lot of disrespectful language was used by otherwise faithful Catholics against the Church as a whole. “Those bishops…” “Those heretics…”

    “Those” turned out to be very prominent yet tiny minority of clerics with an idee fixe for sodomy and divorce/remarriage. These men apparently never took Sacramental Theology 101 or Dogmatic Theology 101.

    In truth, I think we’ve much to be thankful for and I believe that when all is said and done, the Church’s teaching will only be made that much firmer and more certain. And I’m hardly an optimistic person.

    • There’s nothing wrong with calling the Pope by his surname. Many, including myself, use a Pope’s surname interchangeably with his papal name. I have referred to him as Bergoglio, Pope Francis, Francis, and the Pope.

      Never using a Pope’s surname is an American peculiarity
      and custom. In Italy, it’s much more common to use a Pope’s surname. The past Popes have been referred to as Pope Wojtyla and Pope Ratzinger.

      • In the context of the recent past, the pope’s surname has been used with greater frequency and it signals disdain. It’s my personal take and I could be wrong.

    • The Synod bobs on an ocean of heresy. What we are hearing is most probably only a small part of what is happening there. One only has to review the history of the Church since Vatican II to see how far and fast it has fallen. I am afraid the devil is at the tiller of this boat. More prayer and penance please.

      • What we have heard is that sodomy plays a very small role in discussions between bishops. Same as in session one.

        The impression left by folks like Fr. Rosica is very different, but he’s a press guy, not a synod father. I count 250 or so who are still Catholic out of the 270. Pope Francis would have to defy the wishes of a huge number of prelates and I’m not sure he wants to be the pope who goes down in history as violating faith and collegiality over sexual ethics.

        • No, he doesn’t have to defy the wishes of a huge number of prelates at all. In fact, if he merely goes along with the rebels’ scheme for “devolving” power to bishops’ conferences, the rebels win; the road to abolishing the notion of sin would be wide open. And this supremely damaging move could be made and covered over with a thick veil of “mercy” very easily by the pope. It is what I fear most.


        Closer analysis of the third edition of the small group reports (which corresponds to the three parts of the Instrumentum Laboris) indicates no expectation that there will be any pastoral change in favor of the “penitential path” for divorced and civilly remarried to receive Communion. A majority of bishops recognize that admitting “irregular relationships” to Communion is an assault on the entire sacramental economy and the theology of grace. Furthermore, if the Church can ignore Jesus’ own direct teaching on marriage, it raises the question, “Who do you say that I am?”

        That’s the bottom line of this entire synod: major issues that affect families worldwide were simply overwhelmed by the “euro-centric” gambit to achieve “flexibility” for sexual relationships outside the teaching of the Church.

        The flip side to the coin from the same publication.

        • And so it will go, this way, that way, and every which way. He said this, they said that, but we say something else, etc., and there are many more ways than one to wear gradually away the Catholic faith from society. You say, ” A majority of bishops recognize that admitting “irregular relationships” to Communion is an assault on the entire sacramental economy and the theology of grace.” A majority! I suppose that’s better than the alternative, but it isn’t as if this were some involved question of theology on which Aquinas had one opinion and Suarez another! Imagine if we were forced to write, “A majority of the Catholic bishops oppose beheading infidels as a tool for conversion.” I agree with your penultimate sentence, though. This Synod not only did not do what the pope initiated it to do allegedly, but it gave libertines and liberals around the world plenty of ammo to use against those still willing to defend the family. Wonderful.

          What a fine mess we are in!


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