There are a number of things which are only now becoming clear — or at least, clearer than they were — to a large segment of the Catholic population. The handwriting has been on the wall since before I was born, though it was hard for many to discern. At the beginning of this papacy, it was thrown into stark contrast, like the faded, almost-invisible colors of phosphorescent paint made brilliant when introduced to ultraviolet light. I have been writing about these indications since very nearly the beginning of this pontificate, even before I answered the call to found this website and undertake the work that we now do. I pled urgently with readers to “take the red pill” and wake up, an image drawn from the 1999 science fiction film, The Matrix, which itself drew heavily on the symbolism of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland. The scene, and the metaphor it weaves, speaks for itself:
It is a persistent idea in these particular works of fiction — that things are not what they seem, the idea that we can be lulled into a waking dream, a hallucination which appears real, but in fact obscures reality. The promise is held out: one need only take the antidote and awake, to see things as they really are.
In the real world, in the Church, we have been fooled. We have been fed a meticulously-crafted illusion, a normalcy bias that innoculates us against an authentic understanding of what has actually transpired — and is still happening even now. It blinds us to what is unfolding right in front of our eyes. In our case, there is no pill, no potion, only God’s grace. If you sincerely ask Him to help you see the truth, He will show it to you.
But once you see it, you can’t unsee it.
We have reported a great deal of news to you over the past few weeks, since Amoris Laetitia came down upon the Catholic consciousness like the blade of an axe. But though the knowledge of the factual circumstances now unfolding is important, it is, in itself, insufficient. As I wrote in May, 2014:
Please. Take the red pill. Stop trying to find a way to tell yourself that what is happening is impossible, and start trying to understand what it means, and how we can survive it and rebuild.
It’s time, once again, to offer the red pill. It’s time to come out of the rabbit hole — a hole that goes much deeper than the papal election of March, 2013. There are some ideas I am working on, things I’m trying to come to an understanding of how best to express, and I hope to share them with you soon.
Until then, my friend Hilary White has just produced two very important essays. Though I suspect she does not realize it, they may be the most important things she has published in her long career as a writer and journalist. I will excerpt them here at some length, but I encourage you very strongly to go and read every word of them yourselves. They matter. They are part of the antidote. They are an invaluable resource in climbing out of the rabbit hole.
The first essay is called, “Un-knowing what you know.” And it wastes very little time in exposing the big ecclesiastical lie:
Years ago, in fact, about 2003, as the culmination of a long period of research (on the religious life) I realized that the rift in the Church was worse than I had been led to believe from what we then categorized as the “conservative” Catholic writers. This was the uncomfortable moment that I “tradded,” and though I’ve never wished I could go back to not knowing what I know, the understanding hasn’t come without a cost. I’m not a Trad because I want to be. I’m a Trad because I can’t ever un-know things I now know.
I had started from a position of believing in the simplistic conservative narrative. It goes something like this: there had been a group of “liberal” prelates at the Council and afterwards who had tried to “hijack” the conciliar documents and the subsequent acts for their own purposes. This had met with quite a lot of success and things had been pretty bad until the 80s and 90s, particularly with the bad bishops under Paul VI. But then the “conservative” pope John Paul II thwarted them, “cleaning up” seminaries and appointing (mostly) “conservative” new bishops. The attempt to hijack the Barque had, in the main, failed and things were returning slowly to the natural course of the Church. There were lots of signs that this younger “conservative” movement – particularly among seminarians – was the future. New(ish) Catholic colleges were consciously self-identifying as “Ex corde ecclesiae” colleges; parishes and some whole dioceses were getting rid of the bongos and retiring the guitars and puppets and balloons in the Mass… it was all slowly returning to normal.
It sounds great. Good guys win. The trouble is that it wasn’t true. The foundation of “normal,” that is, of “orthodoxy,” was in fact a false floor. The reality of the Church was that under that false floor there was a vast edifice, a lost Church, that had been buried and nearly forgotten, and about which it was strictly forbidden to talk. Moreover, that false floor was movable.
Hilary goes on:
[I]t was inescapable: there was and is a vast cleavage in the Catholic Church that amounted to a de facto schism. A new and false religion was being produced, like the toxins from a bacterial infection that sickens the body, inside all the institutions of the Church, and hardly anyone had noticed. It was a hidden schism that had been nesting within the Catholic institution entirely uncorrected, since the close of Vatican II. Neo-modernism had succeeded in replacing authentic Catholic teaching to the point where to hold the doctrines of the Faith in certain areas and profess them out loud was enough to have you ostracized from this “conservative Catholic revival”. The New Modernism had, in fact, become the new conservatism.
Thirteen years is a long time and since then, particularly in the last three years, the false categories of this simplistic “conservative/liberal” narrative are rapidly becoming obsolete. The contradictions are finally becoming inescapable to a vast swathe of Catholics. And it didn’t start with Francis. John Paul II pushed along its long decline when he approved the use of female servers at Mass, and a great many of these “conservatives” in the Church (including Cardinal Ambrozic of Toronto btw,) who had been loudly calling for restoration of the norm were suddenly undermined by their darling “conservative” pope.
This blow to the carefully constructed public image of John Paul II as the “conservative” icon (thanks in large part to George Weigel’s bizarre pre-humous canonization) was a severe dent in their entire worldview and could not be encompassed. They took the only solution they could, and simply redefined orthodoxy to include whatever theological or disciplinary novelty a pope was willing to install. Papolatry or Papal Positivism, as we’ve started to call it, was born. The person of the pope, the man himself, became the new orthodoxy, a kind of semi-divine oracle who brings us either the old or the new doctrine, as the mood strikes, straight from the mouth of the “Spirit” whispering in his ear. “Altar girls” were fine, just fine, and anyone who continued to call for their abolition were extremists. Reactionaries! Rad Trads! Schismatics! etc…
And there was a thing — really, just one big area of overlap — that kept “conservative” Catholics on the same side as “Trads”:
[S]lowly, the ground on which these “neoCatholics” stand was being chipped away, until the only metric left to them has been the Church’s teaching on sexual morality. As long as the pope continues to defend and uphold these, the narrative tells them, it doesn’t matter how many Korans he kisses. All that stuff is open to debate. Sex, marriage and babies is the bottom line. Except that this bottom line has been drawn in chalk on the false floor. And Francis has begun to erase it. The “conservative Catholic” position had been safe in this demarcation zone, at least until Amoris Laetitia.
(Ironically, perhaps, hooking Catholic orthodoxy exclusively to the Church’s teaching on sexual morality has meant that they have taken precisely the line of the mainstream media: Catholicism is all about the “pelvic issues”. Neither a Catholic neoconservative nor the religion editor of the NYT has ever heard of the Social Reign of Christ the King. This large blank space where the Catholic religion used to be, is why the novusordo-apologists continue to say that they “like traditionalists” but only as long as they are the kind that personally prefer the Old Mass. Those other ones, the ones always going on about the Syllabus of Errors, are labelled “radical Catholic reactionaries,” because we challenge an entire paradigm. The good kind of traditionalist are the ones Francis was talking about, this mythological group of people who just happen to be “addicted” to a prior aesthetic. We Bad Rad Trads prefer to live in a whole different Church, that vast buried ruined edifice that no one is supposed to know about.)
It took a long time, a lot of reading, a lot of talking and thinking and visiting and learning to understand all this, but when I did, it was like being pulled out of the Matrix. The entire universe of Catholicism was, in reality, nothing at all like what I had thought. I realized that not only had I, somehow, come to a perspective in which all the puzzling pieces fit together to form a coherent, though horrifying, big picture, but that without this perspective it was going to be nearly impossible to convince anyone else. How do you tell people that things are, indeed, much worse than even their darkest imaginings and, more importantly, aren’t getting better? I figured we were going to need an act of God for that. (You can see where this is going, right?)
There are a lot of Trad-converts who would certainly rather not know what we know. It is damned uncomfortable, and it meant too that a great many doors were going to be closed to me forever – particularly vocational doors, which was very hard to bear. But that simply was where the evidence led. There was no way around it. Only the Real counts, even if it means you can’t ever, ever have the one thing you’ve wanted all your life. Even if it means you’re going to be going in a direction in life, and for the rest of your life, that you never, ever would have chosen for yourself. But it is why I and my Traditionalist friends are able to understand what is going on now.
And what is going on now is nothing less than the systematic dismantling of the Catholic Faith by the man whose sacred duty is to act as its chief guardian and defender. As I wrote in 2014 in the above-linked piece:
I would suggest to you that the diminishment of the papacy — or as [Francis] would call it, the Roman See — is something he will not fully embrace until he has used every last drop of that authority to change all that he can; to set an unalterable future course for the Catholic Church. He is opposed to the centralization of authority in the papacy except when he is ecstatically for it. I see it as a papal kamikaze mission, set to self-destruct the institution but still wringing from it the maximum benefit to the revolutionary agenda which animates this papacy.
The truth is, he did not get here alone. He is the culmination of decades of defiance and denial of the true identity of the Church from successors of St. Peter. Those who are at this very moment questioning what Pope Francis is doing to Church teaching must, if they have any concern for The Real, evaluate what was done at the time of, and directly following, the Second Vatican Council.
Hilary’s second essay, “How to get out of the Matrix on your own“, attempts to tackle this problem:
To sum up, Francis isn’t a weird and inexplicable anomaly. He’s really just the logical conclusion of what has been happening in the Church, and the world, since 1965. He’s not a surprise. He’s not “confusing.” He’s not a diversion from the glorious path of gloriousness the Church has been on since the close of Vatican II. He’s the embodiment of everything that’s been happening, including the intellectual and moral degradation, since the Church opened the windows and let the post-Enlightenment world in to run things. This includes his apparent inability – and the inability of his friends and supporters – to understand why a logical contradiction is meaningless. (When I mention “intellectual degradation” that’s what I mean. The loss of the ability to employ the basic principles of rational thought.)
All of this, I continue to maintain, is OK. It’s not a disaster unless you too start nonthinking that way. Moreover, this is all going to work out to a good thing in the end, since in Francis we finally see just what a grotesque parody of the Faith and of rationality this direction produces. He’s not just the embodiment of Vaticantwoism; he’s a walking, talking, blithering, selfie-taking, blaspheming, antirational, heretical twaddle-spewing example of the ancient parenting principle of the Bad Example; a guy so brazenly a bad father that he serves as a salutary lesson for the children in what not to do.
From the first day of this pontificate, I have been saying that this is the wake-up call the Church has so desperately needed. So obvious was this that it was the first thing my longtime atheist friend said when we talked after the Conclave: “Well, well… Pope Francis sure is popular with non-Catholics, isn’t he?”
I have maintained that the Church, bleeding out from a million papercuts, could not have survived another “conservative” pontificate. John Paul and Benedict had the capital of centuries to spend, but it’s all gone now, and we have to start from scratch. Francis is not only going to make that possible, but he’s going to make it the only possible path for believers. And that’s a good thing. In short, this pontificate was exactly what has been needed to force Catholics to re-learn their Faith, in order to defend it, now not only from the world but from the entirety of a hierarchy steeped in and addicted to their intellectual and carnal sins.
And [Halleluja!!] the remaining believing Catholics are starting to figure it out. Even the ones who were infected with the papal positivism that had become the norm under John Paul II, have started to question the nostrums of novusordoism – that set of ever-so-slightly-off and often unspoken assumptions about Catholicism that are in reality direct contradictions to the Faith of our fathers.
That “Unknowing” post has generated a big rush of emails. I will use one as an example. I won’t identify the writer, but she is a devout young lady from the US, who asks, “What are the main tenets of traditionalism as you refer to it? What is meant by “neo-modernism”? What was wrong with Pope Benedict’s pontificate? Can you recommend articles or books to read that cover this issue in greater detail?” Since I (and the small group of Trad bloggers out there) have been getting quite a few of these requests, I thought it would be a good idea to do a post giving the secret away.
Hilary goes on to suggest a reading list, which you should study carefully. I bought two books from it myself just yesterday. But her list is only a starting point. We need to flesh it out even more. I personally started with the Ottaviani Intervention (link goes to SSPX, but EWTN has a copy too, without the historical background), which ripped the scales from my eyes at a moment when I was determined not to believe that such blindness could even be possible. Michael Davies did most of the rest of the work for me, as did any number of articles and blogs. Possibly the best, most positive and fruitful work I’ve read is The Heresy of Formlessness, by Martin Mosebach.
You will note that each of the resources I mention concern themselves with the changes to the liturgy. But of course, this is where the ecclesiastical revolutionaries concentrated their greatest efforts. It is the most important place to start, before examining other accounts of what went on at the council, and how cleverly the proceedings were hijacked by those who wanted massive, irreversible change in the Church.
There are a number of other titles that are considered de rigeur (or soon will be). But rather than attempt to list the ones I know of here, at the end of an already-long post, I would like to solicit suggestions from you in the comments. If we get enough, I will compile a short bibliography of these works which we can put into the (as yet) little-used resources section of this website for future reference.
We’ll also be covering this topic more in the immediate future. We’re going to climb out of the rabbit hole. And we’re going to do it together. Stay tuned to find out how you can get your own Post-Conciliar Secret Decoder Ring™!
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 seven children.