A few words need to be said on the topic rocking the Catholic media world: the Pope’s comments on condoms in the new Seewald book. We need not analyze here the meaning of the Pope’s statements; thousands of others have by now. Let me make just a few general remarks. First, the issuance of this interview is obviously part of a coordinated Vatican initiative to defuse the conflict with the Western media which came to a head this year. Another component of this effort is the new Vatican initiative on child abuse. Second, the interview contains other remarks, even more extraordinary than those on AIDS, that have been obscured by the condom flap, such as:
I modified [the ancient Good Friday petition to express that] Christ is the Savior of the Jews…but in such a way that one did not pray directly for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense…
Third, the impact of all this on “conservative Catholics “ has been understandably traumatic. Only a few dispute the correctness of the remarks. Others (like Archbishop Chaput or Andrea Tornielli) have been more forceful in denouncing the by now legendary incompetence of the Vatican communications functions (e.g., incorrect translations; timing the publishing of excerpts from the book to conflict with the ceremony of the creation of cardinals, a total lack of preparation for the resulting firestorm).
We hope later to review here the Seewald book (in the original language) at which time we will be able to say something more specific about those issues that relate to the text itself. I would like, however, to focus on the some other points which I do not believe have received sufficient attention. These are more fundamental issues that should be a concern for every Traditionalist.
We follow the analysis of the late Prof. Thomas Molnar in viewing Vatican II and its aftermath as, in essence, a process of the subjection of the Church to the modernity and its rulers. Earlier ages had seen similar if less extreme examples: the “Babylonian Captivity” of the Avignon papacy under the French monarchy: the establishment of Henry VIIl as head of the Church in England; the triumph over the papacy by the Bourbon monarchs, the German prince bishops and Emperor Joseph II around 1780. But the lords of modernity are not an aristocracy or a monarch but “civil society”: the press, the corporations, the law firms, the universities, the pressure groups etc. Molnar viewed, for example, the participation of Pope John Paul II in an earlier book of interviews with an Italian journalist as the epitome of Church conformity to the expectations of civil society.
It is amazing that none of the commentators find inappropriate that Pope Benedict not only gives an interview to a journalist but uses it as the vehicle for potentially revolutionary theological and moral comments. Moreover, nobody, other than one or two perceptive commentators, stops to consider that such remarks technically are only the Pope’s private opinions; the overwhelming majority (including the Vatican and L’Osservatore Romano) treat them as immediately establishing new law. Moreover, judging by the excerpts published so far, it is the press, speaking through the interviewer Seewald, who sets the agenda and frames the discussion. A clearer example of the abject submission of the Conciliar Church to “civil society” could not be imagined.
Furthermore, if the Vatican thought that the Seewald book would be a step in reestablishing peace with the powers of “civil society,” early indications are that they are sorely mistaken. With one bastion having fallen, the forces of modernity simply turn to the next objective. And our concern is that this next step may be a renewed direct attack upon Traditionalism and its supporters. An article that appeared in the leading German newspaper may give a hint of what is to come.
The German journalist Christian Geyr , who had offered some eminently sensible commentaries on Church affairs during the reign of John Paul II, has lately turned into a relentless critic of Pope Benedict and the Church. In his article “Eine goldig verzierte Moral” (A gilded Morality) in the FAZ of 11/22/2010, he launches a savage attack upon Traditionalist Catholics in the form of a review of a book by one David Berger. Mr. Berger, a “theologian” (in German usage, often nothing more than a student or school teacher of the subject), had profiled himself in recent years as a “conservative Catholic” and a rabid foe of Traditionalists – somewhat like Mark Shea in the US. His reign as a hero of the “neo-Catholics” came to an abrupt end with his “outing” in a homosexual scandal but of course his celebrity status with the German secular media followed the opposite trajectory.
Berger and Geyr find that the Traditional liturgy “has a special attraction for queers” which to them is a paradox, because such liturgical movements are represented by “groups which, more than all others in Catholicism, condemn homosexuality.” Berger is no fan of Martin Mosebach. “A Traditionalism, elegantly perfumed by aesthetes like Martin Mosebach, has in the meantime become socially acceptable” – so Mr. Berger. Berger further alleges that “to this very day the flourishing professional market in vestments for the Traditional liturgy has been largely in homosexual hands. Every clerical vestment that the 18th and 19th centuries produced – from rose to violet and always ornamented with gold thread – can in the meantime be bought from gay merchants in the internet.” But the “homosexual sublimation” that is the “root and source of the Traditional Catholic cult” also explains the “homophobia” in such circles. Geyr finds that after the Seewald book, this culture of “discretion and repression” can no longer be maintained. The loosening of the restrictions on condoms is only the first step in liberating sexuality from a “Catholic fantasy world.”
In the present atmosphere these remarks give cause for concern. Already, the current spirit of appeasement in the Vatican and the utter unpredictability of Team Ratzinger have caused some commentators sympathetic to Tradition to view the recently revived rumors of the long awaited issuance of implementing regulations for Summorum Pontifcum with anxiety, not with joyful anticipation. We shall see – perhaps before the end of this year. But I would not be at all surprised in the meantime to see a renewed attempt on the part of the media and some national hierarchies to choke off the developing Traditionalist movement.