Above: three lay fathers issue their articles of resistance to Pope Francis at the CIC Conference, MMXXII. Photo by Allison Girone.
At the risk of oversimplification, I do believe that the present crisis in the Church can be boiled down to a crisis of fatherhood.
First, the fathers of the Liberal revolutions (beginning with John Adams and his wife in 1776) were effeminate against the rise of Feminism. Their ancestors had destroyed the cult of Our Lady, and thus had created the seeds of Liberalism’s ugly daughter in Feminism. This made men of God weak and helpless against the machinations of the fallen angels in the 19th century.
After the industrial revolutions dismantled the family and created the reductionist institution known as the “nuclear family,” the First Sexual Revolution (1917-1945) effeminised men in the face of a new creation of Modernity – the teenager – who took Liberalism to its logical end: the revolt of the son against his father in every family. A weak and cowardly father can never raise a man out of an unruly “teenager.” Instead, such a father will forsake his duty and seek to rationalise his lack of fatherhood in order to avoid confronting his “teenager.”
The Medicine of Mercy Destroys Fatherhood
After the Second World War punished humanity for their sins, fatherhood, already effeminised for generations, was broken by the mass slaughter of that war and rendered powerless over families. The publication in 1946 of Dr. Spock’s The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care nullified the role of fatherhood as the authority and disciplinarian of the home. “American homes overnight became child centered” viewing physical discipline as “psychologically unhealthy.” The concept that a father would act masculine and strong for his wife and children was summarily rejected by the new “science” of “psychoanalysis.”
Churchmen in western Europe and the United States, feeling an inferiority complex in the face of “modern science,” took these false claims at face value, and began to adopt an attitude about fatherhood that emphasised mercy at the expense of justice. A growing attitude under Pius XII’s reign began to view the authoritarian rule of the Holy Office, for example, as “oppressive” and “unhealthy” – as if a father should not watch over his children.
Thus the opening speech of Pope John XII about the “medicine of mercy” juxtaposed “condemnations” and “mercy.” Taken in an absolute sense (which many effeminised fathers inside and outside the clerical state took it!), this introduced a false dichotomy between justice and mercy. As if “admonishing the sinner” was not an act of mercy.
As a result, the charitable anathema was abandoned in favour of mercy alone. Dietrich von Hildebrand pleaded with Paul VI to condemn heresies in the summer of 1965, but the Pontiff considered this to be “too harsh.”
Indeed, the accusations against Paul VI regarding homosexuality can be dismissed as tabloid fodder. But that the accusation gained enough ground for the Pontiff to publicly deny the charge was merely evidence of Europe’s (and the world’s) shock that masculine fatherhood seemed absent from the Holy See. Paul VI rightly issued his Credo and Humanae Vitae, then did nothing as the wolves (including bishops publicly!) rejected him and this orthodox teaching.
Following Paul VI’s lack of strong fatherhood, many bishops no longer acted like fathers to defend their flock against the wolves, but fled instead. The bishop of South Bend at this time, just as Notre Dame was becoming the anti-Catholic propaganda wing of the United States, feared to place the college under interdict because Paul VI wouldn’t support him.
And so we see in our day that the medicine of mercy has sucked the fatherhood out of priests just as lay fathers of families had already laid down in the face of Liberalism and Feminism. We must not judge clerics too harshly, since this weak fatherhood started in the family.
But this excessive medicine of mercy is precisely the Trads’ point. The Trads have urged (beginning with the aforementioned Hildebrand and continuing with Ottaviani and Lefebvre) that the charitable anathema be issued by bishops to protect the sheep from the heretic wolves. Indeed, above every other innovation, it could be said that perhaps the most unique thing about Vatican II is that it issued no anathemas and thereby tacitly interpreted the “medicine of mercy” as excluding the same.
The Influence of
As we have attempted to show in our series on this topic, the hyperpapalism that began long before Vatican II reached its climax with Paul VI jettisoning the Roman Rite in favour of his modern rite, popularly known as the Novus Ordo. Through hyperpapalism, an agonising paradox was injected into the existing vacuum of fatherhood in the Church. While many clerics and bishops were good men but cowards, afraid to take a stand against the heretics, there were other bishops and priests who were abusive fathers. If the hallmark of hyperpapalism is the idea (from De La Mennais) that one must obey the pope even to the denial of rationality, then abusive clerics used this to their advantage. The clericalist imbalance created (in part) by the 19th century hyperpapalism resulted in a situation where, in innumerable parishes throughout the Roman rite, abusive iconoclasts who possessed the Sacrament of ordination literally took hammers to statuary and ripped Rosaries out of the hands of pious grandmothers.
Their justification? This is the will of the Pope! This is the will of the Council!
As Kwasniewski shows in his most recent volume, this claim is not entirely false. Paul VI did not promulgate the reverent, Latin Novus Ordo, but himself promoted a rupture in the liturgy that Ratzinger later attempted to salvage.As we know now, this more general spiritual abuse was sometimes yet more horrific, in the demonic sexual abuse perpetrated by these wolves against innocent children. Yet in both cases these wicked wolves justified themselves against their victims by gaslighting, telling their victims it was their fault for not obeying the cleric or that the victim should “look to your own sins” (as Pope Francis’ friend Daneels said to a victim!).
Yet is it not the same thing in regards to the spiritual abuse by evil clerics? By their words and deeds they abuse the faith of little children, harming the Faith in their immortal souls and provoking the zeal of fathers to defend their children.
The True Fathers Respond
As Vatican II was happening and these abusers were descending on parishes, every father in Christendom – lay or cleric – faced an internal crisis. His good instincts told him he must resist to his face every abusive cleric who attacked the faith of his children. Yet every father in Christendom also distrusted himself (in Catholic humility) and saw the danger of immoderate zeal which would provoke a Protestant-like revolt against the hierarchy and thus the divine constitution of the Church (as Canon 1373 warns).
As a result, the true fathers of Christendom have erred on one side or the other of this true fatherhood. Some followed the former path, openly critiquing clerics, bishops and even the pope if necessary, in order to defend the faith of their children (biological or spiritual). These men of God became the traditional Catholics and were vilified for decades for their allegedly “schismatic” attitude.
Kennedy Hall has a good piece on Archbishop Lefebvre in this vein, in which he defends the consecrations of 1988: “What can a father do in a situation such as this? Certainly he cannot look his children in the eyes and tell them that the fight is over.”
Yet other fathers saw these actions as nothing less than the evil spirit of Martin Luther. Michael Matt’s family famously split along these lines, with the old Catholic newspaper Der Wanderer becoming a newspaper dedicated to defending the orthodox interpretation of the Council and the Novus Ordo, while Mr. Matt’s Remnant took the Trad line.
As Trads we should realise that the path of The Wanderer is also a truly masculine Catholic spirit. Ultimately a good father submits himself to God and leads his family in this submission. The “Conservative” route of The Wanderer and other such Catholics is also true fatherhood, even though we as Trads would disagree with many things contained in this approach after the Council. No one can deny that this is still a Catholic attitude of true fatherhood.
But we must emphasise here that The Wanderer et al. who took a “Conservative” tack after the Council, would still agree with the Trads in pleading with bishops and the Holy See to issue the charitable anathema against the wolves. I have seen some of most intense anti-Trad critics out there nevertheless agree with what I’m saying here: the medicine of mercy, insofar as it excludes the anathema, is excessive. We must issue the anathema against heretics.
But I ask Conservative Catholic men of good will to consider this: can your good fatherhood in submission to God in the hierarchy reach a limit? Where do you draw the line in submission to clerics? Do you disobey when a cleric commands what is against the Faith? Against reason? Against the faith of your children? For this crisis has reached the breaking point under this pontificate, and many formerly “Conservative” Catholics (like the great scholar Fr. Aidan Nichols) are now signing on to “resist” Pope Francis in one way or another. The Francis pontificate has caused the lines formerly drawn between “Conservative” and “Trad” fathers to boil down in favour of the latter, at least on this question of “resistance” to the Pope. The latest CIC Conference bears this out in a powerful way.
Fr. James Mawdsley
In reflecting on the controversy which was stirred up regarding the “articles of resistance” at the conference (of which we will speak in a moment), it occurred to me that this controversy quickly evaporated if we considered these things in terms of the resistance of men of God against abusive fathers. Two potent statements at the conference bring this out.
The first day of the conference was dedicated by Mr. Matt to priests, and all day long the conference attendees heard talks from various priests, including words by Bishop Athanasius Schneider who proclaimed “The Catholic Faith is invincible” and spurred our souls to martyrdom for the Faith like our fathers.
The keynote on the first night was given by Fr. James Mawdsley. Get to know Fr. James here:
This priest has suffered from controversy as a result of his public stand against the hierarchy over COVID and Latin Mass restrictions. Mr. Matt emphasised that day, in the spirit of “Unite the Clans,” that all of us may not agree on the particulars of each of our efforts. As with Archbishop Lefebvre, some Trads may disagree with Fr. Mawdsley in his actions of resistance. However, this good priest showed to us his pastor’s heart that night in his keynote, as he, with fear and trembling, spoke with the fire of Elias against the priest of Neo-Baal in our own day. His speech was interrupted by loud applause so many times that he ran out of time and had to shorten his speech.
Even if you disagree with Fr. Mawdsley’s actions in this or that case, who can be so uncharitable as to not see a man of God striving with all his might be a father of souls?
But this note about fatherhood struck me as powerfully as he poignantly expressed the soul of Trad priests in our day. He asked rhetorically about what would happen if a father was told to stop feeding his family. A father who is charged with work for the sustenance of his family, is commanded to stop feeding them.
Would this not be “monstrous”? cried the priest.
Yet this is what Bishops told priests during COVID, and what the Holy Father has told priests with Traditionis Custodes. Fathers (priests) have been commanded to stop feeding their children with bread, and give them stones. Fr. Mawdsley rightly called on the bishops (who, in the US, are attempting a “Eucharistic revival”) to publicly repent of depriving their children of Sacramental food throughout the COVID nightmare. What abusive fatherhood! In their inferiority complex regarding modern scientism, too many bishops manifested their lack of faith in the Real Presence and suspended the Sacraments as non-essential services.
Priests, as good fathers, did all they could to feed their children anyways. And some – like Fr. Mawdsley – knew that this was an abusive fatherhood and took a stand.
Even if we were to grant that COVID was indeed a severe plague, even in that case (were it true!) priests would still be bound to fight like men of God to provide for their children what every father would provide – even at the risk of their lives. For such is the heart of the good shepherd: he lays down his life for his sheep. This is without a doubt the heart of Fr. James Mawdsley. Therefore let every priest imitate the fatherly zeal of Fr. Mawdsley, who is willing to lay down his life for his sheep, just as he did as a layman before seminary, suffering in prison for the Burmese people. Support Fr. James by buying his books here:
against the Holy Father
Then the heart of the controversy came on Day 2 of the Conference, when three lay fathers issued their “articles of resistance” against Pope Francis. This shows our second potent example of fatherhood.
I found out later in the conference that a mainstream news site attempted to stir up controversy regarding this by soliciting a comment from the local ordinary which distanced itself from the Conference (which included three of the Ordinary’s brother bishops besides priests). This tack seemed to take certain phrases used in titles at the Conference as a means to discredit something before that event took place. It was truly a remarkable journalistic skill to predict the future before it occurred! But I digress…
For those who attended the conference, the intensity of the “resistance” displayed by Mr. Matt and other speakers at the conference was in the context of a great emphasis on charity and fidelity to Christ and His Church. I attempted to emphasise this aspect (which no doubt will be scrupulously avoided by some anti-Trad critics) in my real-time Tweets sitting in the front row of the event at the Press table:
.@JhWesten, @Michael_J_Matt, and Eric Frankovitch insist they “respectfully, filially, and charitably” resist Pope Francis in imitation of St. Paul as “loyal sons” of the Church, in defense of the Catholic faith of their children. pic.twitter.com/WzLvawMrSc
— OnePeterFive (@OnePeterFive) October 1, 2022
.@Michael_J_Matt: "We do not enjoy being in this position. We did not create this scandal…we have no intention of leaving the Catholic church now or ever [applause].” https://t.co/HhzLH3GDwu
— OnePeterFive (@OnePeterFive) October 1, 2022
.@JhWesten: "Our position is one of love: love for Pope Francis, love for the Church, and love for our children, for whom we will resist.” https://t.co/HhzLH3pAuu
— OnePeterFive (@OnePeterFive) October 1, 2022
Papa Bergoglio was addressed as “Holy Father” as these lay fathers filially and respectfully voiced their resistance to him. Their heart and soul was of sons standing up against an abusive father to shield their young brothers and sisters from his attacks.
When the time came for press questions I asked the panel: “It is often understood by Catholics and non-Catholics that as Catholics we must obey the pope. Bishop Burbidge recently claimed that this is ‘who we are as Catholics.’ How do you resolve this confusion?” To which John-Henry Weston, from the heart of a father, gave this answer:
“We don’t know. This is insanity. This doesn’t make any sense… But we are all fathers. We can’t help but defend the faith of our children.”
Mr. Matt added “We gain our confidence from the constant Magisterium of the Church… Until this is resolved we have to stay with what” was established. Mr. Frankovitch added, “We believe we are being faithful.” In short, what has been publicly promulgated by the Magisterium is known to all from the First Communicants to the great grandfathers. But we have no reasonable way to resolve the contradiction between this and the Holy Father’s words and deeds. (See here for a discussion on just the most recent of these.)
This is an entirely Catholic attitude of a father. The fact is, at least prima facie, no one can reasonably deny that the Pontificate of Francis presents perplexing contradictions with what was previously considered settled dogma. Since the innumerable dubia (both formal and informal) have not been answered, every father is forced to resist Francis.
Mr. Weston told the story of his adult daughter calling him on the phone after news broke that the Roman Pontiff had said that fornicating “cohabitation” has the grace of Marriage. She said to her father who had formed her in the faith in effect, “Is this true, Dad?”
What else could a father do but resist Francis?
Mr. Weston drove his point home by asking the audience about what they would do if their parish priest said and did all the things Francis has done and said. Let’s say your parish priest invited a well-known abortionist to the church and praised her; he publicly praised James Martin, welcomed Nancy Pelosi, while teaching that adulterers should receive Holy Communion and the Pachamama idol should be adored, while calling into question settled dogma like the death penalty.
“Would you not move parishes?”
Might you not, I add, confront this priest to his face?
Every good Catholic father would do something against this parish priest. Who is so uncharitable as to fail to see what these fathers were doing at the CIC? You may not agree with the intensity of their approach. But you might not have children. Or you may have been able to shelter your children from the scandals to the Faith committed by Pope Francis.
These are men enflamed with the zeal of true fathers, and they are doing what they believe is right to defend the faith of their children. They are leaders in the Traditional movement because they are fathers and they act like fathers. Let every father imitate their zeal to defend their children’s Faith against every heretical attack.
Trads Seek Fatherhood
If the crisis in the Church can be boiled down to a loss of fatherhood, I suppose the Traditional movement can be boiled down to an effort to restore fatherhood to the Church.
Let us restore fatherhood: let Bishops give their faithful the ancient Roman Rite in all its splendour and reverence for the Holy Sacrament. This will give their children bread instead of stones. Let them tear up liturgical abuses from the roots in their diocese, and not fear the wolves of hot-shot Jesuits and the mass media mind control.
Let bishops issue the charitable anathema to protect their flock against the wolves. Indeed, these fathers who stood to resist Pope Francis are doing all they can to defend their children against the wolves, because the bishops are letting wolves destroy the faith of little children.
Yea, let the men of God arise in this new crusade, for the fathers must act in our time against the wolves. This is the answer that has been given by the Trads, and we believe that under His Holiness Francis, many more are joining to this cause to restore true fatherhood. Therefore I thank these men of God – Fr. James Mawdsley, Eric Frankovitch, John-Henry Weston, and Michael Matt – for leading the charge for all fathers in our time. Theirs is the balance of truth and charity (as Mr. Weston emphasised with the motto of LifeSite, veritas in caritate), which seeks not the excess of neo-Jansenist Protestantism (as is alleged falsely by critics), but the filial resistance to the Papacy of our forefathers.
 Already in March of 1776 when the Continental Congress was seizing power, Mrs. Abigail Adams threatened her husband John Adams that if “particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation” Abigail Adams to John Adams, March 31, 1776 in Miriam Schneir, ed., Feminism: The Essential Historical Writings (New York: Vintage Books, 1972), 3.
 Traditionally “the family” meant mother, father, children – and aunts, uncles, grandfathers, grandmothers and innumerable cousins. The industrial revolution created a situation where the “nuclear family” was cut off from these relations unnaturally.
 Before this time, there was no such thing as a “teenager,” but everyone was considered either a child or an adult. An adolescent was merely a young adult who, at the “teenage” age, was getting ready for Matrimony and adulthood. “The marriageable age is fourteen full years in males and twelve full years in females, under penalty of nullity (unless natural puberty supplies the want of years)” (The Catholic Encyclopedia). See also John Savage, Teenage: The Prehistory of Youth Culture: 1875-1945 (Penguin, 2008).
 Schweikart and Allen, Patriot’s History of the United States, 682-683.
 In fairness, the Council does in fact condemn many and various ills of modernity (even in Gaudium et Spes), as well as nuclear weapons and implicitly Latinisations among the Eastern Christians.
 “A person who publicly incites among subjects animosities or hatred against the Apostolic See or an ordinary because of some act of power or ecclesiastical ministry or provokes subjects to disobey them is to be punished by an interdict or other just penalties” (Canon 1373).
 Kennedy Hall, “Lefebvre: A Man Who Reminded us that Bishops are Fathers,” Catholic Family News (April, 2020).
 “The pastor of souls is bound to administer the Sacraments to the faithful when they stand in extreme spiritual necessity [i.e. about to die with no hope of recovery] even at the risk of his life or other great temporal harm. They are bound in time of plague or infectious disease to administer the Sacrament of baptism and penance even at the risk of their life, according to this Scripture: the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep (Jn. x. 11). The same applies concerning the administering of extreme unction, provided there is a certainty that the sick man is not able to receive the Sacrament of penance.” Prümmer, Manuale Theologiae Moralis, Vol III, no. 72ff, my translation. See T. S. Flanders, “Duties of a Priest in Time of Plague.”
Timothy Flanders is the editor-in-chief of OnePeterFive. He is the author of City of God versus City of Man: The Battles of the Church from Antiquity to the Present and Introduction to the Holy Bible for Traditional Catholics. His writings have appeared at OnePeterFive and Crisis, as well as in Catholic Family News. In 2019 he founded The Meaning of Catholic, a lay apostolate dedicated to uniting Catholics against the enemies of Holy Church. He holds a degree in classical languages from Grand Valley State University and has done graduate work with the Catholic University of Ukraine. He lives in Michigan with his wife and six children.