In order that the Christian people may more certainly derive an abundance of graces from the sacred liturgy, holy Mother Church desires to undertake with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself. For the liturgy is made up of immutable elements divinely instituted, and of elements subject to change. These not only may but ought to be changed with the passage of time if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become unsuited to it… The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity; they should be short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetitions… In this restoration, both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify…The rite of the Mass is to be revised in such a way that the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them, may be more clearly manifested, and that devout and active participation by the faithful may be more easily achieved.
While a measured degree of self-criticism can be a fruitful undertaking, in the passage quoted above, which comes to us from the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, it is difficult to ignore the tacit indictment of the very Tradition the Council was presumably called to uphold. Whatever merits the Council Fathers were willing to concede in the liturgy of their forebears, their stated goals nevertheless betray a marked conviction that prevailing rite of Holy Mass had become somehow unfit to provide for the needs of the faithful. From even a cursory reading of the text, one can readily discern that what we now know as the Tridentine or Traditional Latin Mass was evidently thought to suffer from a number of rather considerable defects:
- Its facility for the transmission of graces was noted to be less certain than it might have been.
- Its so-called mutable elements were said to have suffered from intrusions – useless encumbering repetitions – unsuited and out of harmony with the interior nature of the Mass.
- Its expression of holy things, and the mysteries they signify, were found to be less clear than they might have been.
- Its manifestation of the intrinsic nature and purpose of the Mass was thought to be more obscure than it might have been.
- Its fostering of the devout and active participation of the faithful was considered to be less effective than it might have been.
In other words, the Mass itself – in both its efficacy and expressions – was perceived to be somehow inhibiting the very ends it was meant to achieve. If such an appraisal of the Church’s supreme act of worship sounds a bit strange and self-loathing, what remains stranger still is the fact that the text provides us with little insight into the grounds for these condemnations. Instead, it simply asserts that the Mass needed to change in order to fulfill a threefold purpose; namely, “to adapt more suitably to the needs of our time…to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ…[and] to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church.”
What are we to make of this? Even if we give these quintessentially ambiguous statements the most generous reading possible (i.e. that their principal aim is to subdue modernity on route to converting both Protestants and unbelievers), they nevertheless continue to beg a crucial question; that is, why was the Mass of the Ages, which had subdued every epoch and converted every culture it had encountered, suddenly found wanting when measured against the challenges of the modern world? What was so unique about the conflicts of the mid-20th century that the Church – just as the fighting was growing fiercest – felt compelled to lay down her most faithful and effective arms, and instead take up some ill-conceived attempt at battlefield diplomacy?
In the face of how utterly, completely, categorically, and catastrophically wrong the Council Fathers have proven in their optimism about the renewal that would follow the conciliar changes, it is no sufficient accounting to simply cite the naïveté of certain misguided prelates. Were there some who fit that profile? Absolutely. Were there others too weak to resist the changes? Without question. And were there others still who carried the Council far beyond its mandate? It’s undeniable.
But to stop there simply strains credulity beyond breaking. In short, no institution of divine pedigree, and with such ancient and enduring Tradition, errs that badly, that quickly, through mere frailty and false optimism. Would that it were otherwise, but when the warnings – which predicted the consequences in prophetic detail – were pronounced well in advance – there remains an ominous and unpleasant possibility that we cannot overlook.
Imagine for a moment that for some within the Church the original impulse to alter the Mass arose, not from a recognition of its latent deficiencies, but rather from a sober assessment of its strengths; that for some, all the flowery and inflated talk about liturgical aggiornamento was only so much window dressing for some darker revolutionary design. Suppose that the Church’s sleepless adversary – having bitterly recollected some countless centuries of defeat – began to perceive that, however shrewd his plans may be, they would only ever end in failure so long as the Church’s most potent source of power remained uncorrupted and intact. Thus, in addition to redeploying his hordes of fracturing Protestants, fanatical Muslims, sexual libertines, and sneering atheists, suppose the enemy sought, above all else, to compromise the liturgical bulwark that had never previously failed to repel these same heretical assaults.
In other words, suppose the Devil understood (apparently far better than many of those called to oppose him) that so long as the Mass of the Ages remained in place – and thus the Church’s indefectible lifeline to the Most High – whatever attacks his forces might muster, her standard would nevertheless remain high. Conversely, then, suppose he saw that if he could somehow manage to change that standard – and substitute her flag for a foreign banner – he might at last succeed in bringing the Bride of Christ to heel. Catholic scholar John Zmirak offers this perspective from history:
In every revolution, the first thing you change is the flag. Once that has been replaced, in the public mind all bets are off – which is why the Commies and Nazis filled every available space with their Satanic banners. Imagine, for a moment, that a newly elected president replaced the Stars and Stripes with the Confederate battle flag. Or that he replaced our 50 stars with the flag of Mexico. Let’s say he got away with doing this, and wasn’t carried off by the Secret Service to an “undisclosed location.” What would that signify for his administration? If people accepted the change, what else would they be likely to accept?
With respect to the Church, if the last 45 years are any indication, to say nothing of recent papal scandals, it would appear that the answer is just about anything and everything. And why not? If we can effectively change our flag from this to this, and then proceed to permit all manner of nonsense without censure, is there really any mystery regarding whether the Devil has accomplished his coup? But lest I be accused of peddling speculation devoid of any substance, what the remainder of this series of essays will attempt to prove is that there are a number of compelling reasons to conclude that for some within the Church the conciliar changes to her liturgy did indeed have more to do with revolution than renewal.
I also assert that it is possible to launch such a critical analysis from a place of orthodoxy; faithful sons of the Church, in full communion with Rome (as I am), need not fear to tread where we are going. Instead, we must consider objectively the manifold evidence for the following conclusions:
- That there is in fact an organized cabal – expressly acknowledged by popes Gregory XVI, Pius IX, and Leo XIII – whose stated purpose was and is to infiltrate and destroy the Roman Catholic Church.
- That a member of this cabal, a priest who was identified as such and excommunicated accordingly, went on to predict – some 90 years in advance – that an Ecumenical Council would subvert the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church.
- That the exact character of this cabal, and a description of its 20th century assault on the sacraments, was identified by name in an approved apparition of Our Lady over a century before it ever came into being.
- That the timing of the conciliar changes in the Church’s liturgy conforms credibly with Pope Leo XIII’s alleged vision of Satan’s 20th century ascendancy.
- That the historical events which led to these changes effectively invited the destructive influence of the infiltrators.
To this end, with respect to our first two points, it must be noted that these ideas were first developed at length in a short book by John Vennari. Along these same lines, in his biography of Pius IX, the vice-president of the Italian National Research Council, Roberto de Mattei, provides evidence of Gregory XVI’s rising fears regarding the existence a secret revolutionary network arrayed against and within the Church.
On 20 May 1846, sensing that death was approaching and filled with foreboding, Pope Gregory XVI summoned the French historian Jacques Crétineau-Joly to the Quirinale Palace. Crétineau-Joly was already known for his histories of the resistance in the Vendée to the French Revolution, and of the Jesuits. The Pope, who in the 15 years of his difficult reign had shown himself to be an implacable enemy of liberalism and of sects, wanted to confide to the French historian as his ‘last testament’ the task of writing a history of secret societies and their consequences. For this purpose, the Pope gave him a series of exceptional documents, including the Instructions in the correspondences from the Alta Vendita, whose networks constituted the most significant penetration of the forces of the revolution in Europe.
Foremost among these exceptional documents was a text known as the Permanent Instruction on the Alta Vendita, which Crétineau-Joly later incorporated – at the further direction of Pius IX – into his 1859 work entitled, L’Église romaine en face de la Révolution (The Church in the Presence of the Revolution; more on this work and Crétineau-Joly are available here). From there, the Instruction subsequently appeared in an 1885 book by Msgr. George F. Dillon (beginning on page 65), resoundingly endorsed as follows in a preface penned by Pope Leo XIII:
Beloved Son, Health and Apostolic Benediction. The presentation which you have recently made to Us…is your proof of your fidelity… You desired, as is evident by your writings, to describe chiefly those things which, in the last century and in our own, have been done by these perverse combinations of men whom a common hatred of virtue and truth binds together in an impious league against God and His Christ. On which account the very gravity itself of your subject tacitly exhorts Us that whenever any time should be given to Us from Our cares, that time We should willingly devote to the reading of your volume. For the noble zeal which aroused you to write of the atrocious war by which the religion of Christ is assailed, gives Us reason to hope that in the discharge of the ministry of the word you will assiduously labour to cause the faithful deeply to abhor those criminal societies condemned by Us and by Our predecessors, and understanding their most mischievous evil nature, not permit themselves to be ensnared by their fraudulent arts.
Thus, with a threefold papal approbation, the Instruction is not a text that can be dismissively consigned to the realm of conspiracy theory. To the contrary, it is a document that raised the hackles of men not only charged with defending the Faith, but also wise enough to understand when her enemies were on the march.
Concerning the identity of these enemies, Msgr. Dillon explains that they were an elite sect of Italian Freemasonry, which constituted “the supreme government of all the secret societies of the world”. Known as the Alta Vendita, its members comprised an organization with aspirations of worldwide domination. Doctrinally committed to both naturalism and materialism, the Alta Vendita understood explicitly that their advance could only proceed at the expense of their global ideological counterpart; namely, the institution of the Roman Catholic Church. To this end, the Instruction – as first intercepted by Gregory XVI – unequivocally sets forth the marching orders of the Alta Vendita:
Our final end is that of Voltaire and the French Revolution, the destruction forever of Catholicism and even of the Christian idea.
Having thus established its raison d’être, the Instruction quickly moves from broad strokes to detailed strategy. Recognizing that Catholicism has historically “seen the most implacable, the most terrible adversaries, and…often had the malignant pleasure of throwing holy water on the tombs of the most enraged”, the Instruction wisely discourages any overt assault on the Faith. Moreover, even as it acknowledges with envy the unparalleled influence of the papacy, it nevertheless concedes the futility of trying to bring the Roman Pontiff formally into its ranks.
Instead, the Instruction endeavors to undermine both the Church and her papacy by means of patient infiltration and longsuffering interior compromise. Intent on corrupting the youth in particular, the Alta Vendita envision a day when the Church, having become so imbued with the precepts of Freemasonry, will quite unconsciously find herself led by a pope who espouses secular humanism as if it were Sacred Tradition. The authors of the Instruction describe their ambitions thusly:
The Pope, whoever he may be, will never come to the secret societies. It is for the secret societies to come to the Church… The work we have undertaken is not the work of a day, nor of a month, nor of a year. It may last many years, a century perhaps, but in our ranks the soldier dies and the fight continues… Now then, in order to secure to us a Pope in the manner required, it is necessary to fashion for that Pope a generation worthy of the reign of which we dream. Leave on one side old age and middle life, go to the youth, and, if possible, even to the infancy. Never speak in their presence a word of impiety or impurity. Maxima debetur puero reverentia. Never forget these words of the poet for they will preserve you from licenses which it is absolutely essential to guard against for the good of the cause. In order to reap profit at the home of each family, in order to give yourself the right of asylum at the domestic hearth, you ought to present yourself with all the appearance of a man grave and moral. Once your reputation is established in the colleges…and in the seminaries – once you shall have captivated the confidence of professors and students, act so that those who are engaged in the ecclesiastic state should love to seek your conversation…then little by little you will bring your disciples to the degree of cooking desired. When upon all the points of ecclesiastical state at once, this daily work shall have spread our ideas as light, then you will appreciate the wisdom of the counsel in which we take the initiative… That reputation will open the way for our doctrines to pass to the bosoms of the young clergy, and go even to the depths of convents. In a few years the young clergy will have, by force of events, invaded all the functions. They will govern, administer, and judge. They will form the council of the Sovereign. They will be called upon to choose the Pontiff who will reign; and that Pontiff, like the greater part of his contemporaries, will be necessarily imbued with the…humanitarian principles which we are about to put into circulation… Let the clergy march under your banner in the belief always that they march under the banner of the Apostolic Keys. You wish to cause the last vestige of tyranny and of oppression to disappear? Lay your nets like Simon Barjona. Lay them in the depths of sacristies, seminaries, and convents, rather than in the depth of the sea… You will bring yourselves as friends around the Apostolic Chair. You will have fished up a Revolution in Tiara and Cope, marching with Cross and banner – a Revolution which needs only to be spurred on a little to put the four corners of the world on fire. Let each act of your life tend then to discover the Philosopher’s Stone. The alchemists of the middle ages lost their time and the gold of their dupes in the quest of this dreams. That of the secret societies will be accomplished for the most simple of reasons, because it is based on the passions of man. Let us not be discouraged then by a check, a reverse, or a defeat. Let us prepare our arms in the silence of our lodges, dress our batteries, flatter all passions most evil and most generous, and all lead us to think that our plans will succeed one day above even our most improbable calculations.
No, this is not an excerpt from The Screwtape Letters, though it may well have served as Lewis’s source material. Unfortunately, this is the actual voice of the enemy; and as much as we might wish to dismiss it all as mere fairytale and fiction, there remains, not only that nagging complication of three papal endorsements, but also the manifestly obvious fact that the Church and the world have seemingly lived this Instruction to the letter. From top to bottom the aims of humanism have supplanted the Church’s missionary enterprise, a fact which brings into sharp relief why the Magisterium of today sounds like a consumptive kitten when read alongside the lion she once was. Those who have ears let them hear.
With that said, the careful reader, not entirely bewitched by the preceding machinations, may wonder why this essay, which attempts to identify the Traditional Latin Mass as the target of a diabolical plot, would quote from the text – however nefarious – which says nothing whatsoever about the Church’s liturgy. Simply put: one can hardly imagine such a sea-change in Catholic teaching without a concomitant revolution in Catholic praxis; it’s certainly no great mystery among the enemies of the Church that the two go hand-in-hand.
To this end, while the Instruction does not explicitly finger the liturgy in its designs, those who carried out its orders certainly did. In the next installment of this analysis, I’ll explore the liturgical facet of this agenda more deeply, along with Our Lady’s warning (and Pope Leo’s vision) that just such an infiltration would threaten the Church.
Originally published on April 15, 2015.
Alongside his career in the insurance industry, Brian Miles is an avocational author of fiction, poetry, and the occasional essay. He received a BA in Religious Studies from the University of Colorado and an MA in Divinity from the University of Chicago. He is a convert to Catholicism from Evangelical Protestantism. He lives with his wife Elizabeth in Dallas, Texas.