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September 4, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The month of August opened with a bang—and closed with a nuclear detonation. On August 2nd the world learned of Pope Francis’s disdain for the witness of Scripture and the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Church on the death penalty as he took it upon himself to “develop” into oblivion over 3,000 years of Jewish and Christian teaching. On August 25th the world learned of Pope Francis’s disdain for justice, victims of abuse, and the eradication of the homosexual elite. In the space of a single month, Catholics beheld the prodigy of a pope who neither guarded orthodoxy of doctrine nor protected the faithful from the predation of wolves.

We knew it was bad before, but something has changed. Comparisons are not easy, but I suppose it would be like thinking your country is ruled by Mussolini and discovering it is actually ruled by Stalin. Before Viganò, people could persuade themselves to believe with faint and remote hope that Bergoglio might “come around” and do something about the sexual abuse crisis exemplified in McCarrick, that he might “wake up” to the gravity of the situation and respond as befits the Vicar of Christ. Now, it appears that he himself is the enabler, the patron of criminals, the head of a religious Mafia that has occupied the vineyard of the Church.

There are, it is true, some people who reacted with “I knew it all along! From the very day he stepped out on the balcony of St. Peter’s…”—and it could be that they were gifted with a preternatural intuition. I was uncomfortable from the very first Angelus address in which he praised the theology of Walter Kasper. There are also those, who, like olympic ostriches practicing the sport of extreme head-burying, continue to defend the pope at all costs (including the cost of their intellectual honesty). 

But for the vast majority, it has been a moment of awakening: the scales have fallen from our eyes, the scales that prevented us from seeing clearly the magnitude of the problem and therefore assessing the magnitude of the solution required. As some like to say, it is a “clarifying moment.”

As such, it is also a moment of decision: decisions about who we are and what we believe as Catholics, how we will relate to wolves in shepherd’s clothing, where we will turn for truth and salvation, and why we will remain faithful in spite of the infidelity of those who were graced by God with the office of teaching, governing, and sanctifying. 

We can see more clearly than ever that we do not and must not lean on men, no matter how lofty their titles, but on Our Lord Jesus Christ, the head and rock of the Church. We see that our religion, in its holy worship, its perennial doctrines, and its life-giving code of morals, is not a man-made edifice subject to constant manipulation but a God-given revelation to which we must submit ourselves and remain unbendingly true. 

It may be that the best effect of August 2018 is that it prompts sincere Catholics—those who still wish, above all, and in spite of all, to follow Christ the King in His one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church—to ask painful questions not just about the past five years, but about the past fifty years. What has made this pontificate and its attendant chaos possible? Is it a stray chastisement permitted for the purification of our sins? Or is it the fruition of an entire trend, the distillation of decades of ambiguous doctrine, catechetical waffling, worldly accommodationism, strategic secularization? Are we not beholding the fully consistent manifestation of “the spirit of Vatican II” that not only wilfully outstripped the texts of the Council but had already permeated the conciliar assembly in the well-documented machinations of the progressive European bishops who dominated the proceedings and whose spiritual descendants are today running the show?

Today’s “clarifying moment” is a divine judgment on the evils that were set in motion decades ago, evils from which we can no longer hide if we wish to be rid of them for good, or at least cleanse our lives of their poisonous influence. All of the evils—evils of liturgical deformation, evils of immoral behavior, evils of heterodox teaching—share one thing in common: each and every one is based on a rejection of Catholic tradition.

In times of distress, the only safe path is to follow the tried-and-true path of tradition, that which was handed down and accepted by all Catholics until the postconciliar rupture, and which has never ceased to be followed and transmitted by that portion of the faithful who, over the past half-century, held fast to their inheritance. Concretely, this means traditional liturgy and sacraments, traditional catechisms, traditional examinations of conscience, traditional devotions and spirituality. One can never go wrong with such things in and of themselves, whereas one may frequently go wrong with their modern substitutes. 

We do not want ersatz Catholicism but real Catholicism. August 2018 has dramatically proclaimed that the former is totally bankrupt. It is up to us to draw the conclusion and to act accordingly.

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Peter Kwasniewski, Thomistic theologian, liturgical scholar, and choral composer, is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College in California (B.A. Liberal Arts) and The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC (M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy). He taught at the International Theological Institute in Austria and the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Austria Program, then helped establish Wyoming Catholic College in 2006. There he taught theology, philosophy, music, and art history and directed the choirs until leaving in 2018 to devote himself full-time to writing and lecturing.

Today he contributes regularly to many websites and publications, including New Liturgical Movement, OnePeterFive, LifeSiteNews, Rorate Caeli, The Remnant, and Catholic Family News, and has published thirteen books, including four on traditional Catholicism: Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis (Angelico, 2014, also available in Czech, Polish, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and Belarusian), Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness (Angelico, 2017), Tradition and Sanity (Angelico, 2018), and Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright: The Genius and Timeliness of the Traditional Latin Mass (Angelico, 2020). His work has been translated into at least eighteen languages.

Kwasniewski is a scholar of The Aquinas Institute in Green Bay, which is publishing the Opera Omnia of the Angelic Doctor, a Fellow of the Albertus Magnus Center for Scholastic Studies, and a Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center. He has published over a thousand articles on Thomistic thought, sacramental and liturgical theology, the history and aesthetics of music, and the social doctrine of the Church.

For news, information, article links, sacred music, and the home of Os Justi Press, visit his personal website, www.peterkwasniewski.com.

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