Newman and the problems of Catholic intellectual history

With every passing year, I am more and more convinced that too many problems within the Church today, and between Christians, are both historiographical in nature.

Left: Painting of Cardinal Newman, by Jane Fortescue Seymour, circa 1876; right: Newman's desk in the Birmingham Oratory. (Images: Wikipedia)

Last fall I cheered the impending news of John Henry Newman’s canonization, for which we now have a date: October 13 of this year. October happens to be the month in which, after many years of study and agony, Newman was received into the Church in 1845. What sealed matters for him was the completion, on the eve of his reception, of his landmark Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. That book, and the rest of Newman’s corpus, has much to teach us not just about doctrinal history and development but also about historiography.

Newman would, I dare say, be appalled by how badly many Christians today view and handle our history—just as they did in his own day. Suspicion fell upon Newman by some Catholics after 1845 because he was a man of the Fathers and not especially of the Scholastics. His patristic formation in, and intellectual debts to, the first millennium seemed to set him at odds with certain Catholics who viewed the tradition as bookended by Thomas Aquinas and Trent.

That dynamic of not just periodization of history but prioritization, even glorification, of select periods, has not changed much in our own day—merely the timeframe. Today among some Catholics it is as though history ends somewhere between 1958 and 1962—with the death of Pius XII and the opening of Vatican II. For others, the Church only comes alive after 1965 when the council ends, the period before it being regarded (as I’ve heard not a few French Canadians claim, including one prominent archbishop) as la grande noirceur.

With every passing year, I am more and more convinced that too many problems within the Church today, and between Christians, are both historiographical in nature. We prefer to write, and read, history in a way that either amplifies or denies the messiness for present felt purposes. We ransack history for ways to condemn or elevate the present depending on our politics, a process often aided by treacly doses of nostalgia and romanticism.

The ways in which we write and read history reveal much about us and our psychology. Rather than reading and writing history ascetically, we too often read and write it passionately. To write and read history “ascetically” is to do so in a way that keeps our own egos and agendas out of the way so far as possible. If we do not do this, then we write “passionately,” in the sense used by Evagrius of Pontus: the disordered passions (logismoi)—or what come to be called capital sins in the West—control us, robbing us of peace and grace and the ability to see the truth clearly, resulting in distortions and disorders of every kind—moral, spiritual, and intellectual. If we suffer from the passion of anger (which Evagrius feared more than any other) at, say, Pope Francis, we may tend to write and read history in such a way as to portray him in the worst possible light.

To write Christian history ascetically does not mean to do so in a way drained of all color, conviction, or commentary. It is not to abandon any sense of judgment about good and evil. It does not give in to either exaggerated fear or ungrounded hope.

The person who does all this so well is of course Newman. Consider just the concluding paragraph of his famous Biglietto speech in Rome in 1879 upon being made a cardinal. Newman captures the unbreakable tension Catholics must maintain in looking at our plight today, and in telling our history. After laying out unsparing evidence of the apparent widespread ravages of “liberalism” (see how little things change!), Newman ends thus:

Such is the state of things in England, and it is well that it should be realised by all of us; but it must not be supposed for a moment that I am afraid of it. I lament it deeply, because I foresee that it may be the ruin of many souls; but I have no fear at all that it really can do aught of serious harm to the Word of God, to Holy Church, to our Almighty King, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Faithful and True, or to His Vicar on earth. Christianity has been too often in what seemed deadly peril, that we should fear for it any new trial now. So far is certain; on the other hand, what is uncertain, and in these great contests commonly is uncertain, and what is commonly a great surprise, when it is witnessed, is the particular mode by which, in the event, Providence rescues and saves His elect inheritance. Sometimes our enemy is turned into a friend; sometimes he is despoiled of that special virulence of evil which was so threatening; sometimes he falls to pieces of himself; sometimes he does just so much as is beneficial, and then is removed. Commonly the Church has nothing more to do than to go on in her own proper duties, in confidence and peace; to stand still and to see the salvation of God.

To stand still and see the salvation of God, in hope that He will not abandon us: this is the task today for all Catholics who are tempted to despair over the state of the Church!

To aid us in holding on to our hope when things seem dark, we must begin again to read church history from serious scholars. Over the last several decades, we have had no shortage of first-rate historians just in English alone: e.g., Christopher Dawson, John Bossy, Jonathan Riley-Smith, and both Henry and Owen Chadwick (all deceased); among those still living, Eamon Duffy, John Pollard, Hermann Pottmeyer, and Francis Oakley. The Society of Jesus has seemed particularly adept at producing first-rate historians and historical theologians, including John O’Malley, Klaus Schatz, Brian Daley, and Robert Taft. What sets them all apart is the tension and the dynamic, they try to maintain: unflinching acknowledgement of evil in our history, and recognition of where God has seen us through and where His holiness has triumphed.

In more concrete terms, this is the same dynamic we must maintain with regard to history of the post-conciliar period, too: recognizing both the good and the mischief unleashed by Vatican II. (To know conciliar history is to recognize that there was conflict and messiness at and after every other council, too. Nicaea I grappled with Arianism, but Constantinople I had to continue the work fifty years later. Iconoclasm got worse in some respects after Nicaea II in 787 and only began its final, but never complete, decline after the mid-ninth century.) While I have defended Vatican II in many ways (see, for example, my essay, in Matthew Levering and Matthew Lamb, eds., The Reception of Vatican II, Oxford University Press, 2017) I have never understood the urge either to rubbish the entire thing, or to defend everything.

Totalized thinking (to borrow a phrase from Robert Jay Lifton), in which something is all good or all bad, is almost never the way serious Catholic thinking takes place, especially Catholic historicizing. (Moral theology is another matter, and here, as we know, there are some things rightly and totally condemned as “intrinsically evil.” Paragraph 80 of Veritatis Splendor gives a long list, including, we must note today, “subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation.”) Thinking with the mind of the Church is a discerning act, sorting wheat from chaff, “despoiling the Egyptians” as some Fathers called it; “baptizing the pagans” as others did. This is the method that allows and indeed encourages Christians fearlessly to dive appreciatively but critically into our own past as well as into, say, Freud, Marx, Nietzsche, Hegel, or a thousand others, and learn from them—just as Chrysostom and Augustine and Aquinas did from Aristotle and others of Greek antiquity. It does not mean we accept everything, nor that we reject them outright. We take what is good and leave the rest behind.

We need not only to better “read, mark, and inwardly digest” our own history, but learn how it is written and best handled, too. Rather than doing that, some people today delight in tendentiously yanking out some section from, say, the Fourth Lateran Council, or a letter of Pope Clement II, or some other eminence preserved in Denzinger, and banging it onto a blog page alongside some other equally brutalized quotation from Vatican II, or the latest utterance from Pope Francis. All this is done with a triumphal flourish in what one might call “gotcha apologetics” grounded in romanticism about a past that never was, a past which is treated as monolithic, unequivocal, and unambiguously good. This is church history told in one of only two possible registers: that of “chosen trauma” or “chosen glory,” to use the terms of Vamik Volkan of the University of Virginia.

In the Church today we see this approach in the form of theories about infestations of Masons in the Vatican, infiltrations from Marxists into seminaries, and ineligible pontiffs ascending to the throne after an illegal “abdication” by Benedict XVI. There is no shortage of what one might call Catholic crackpot capitalists whose websites you can join, podcasts and videos you can purchase, and books you can buy giving you a version of history that would be unrecognizable to the Fathers, to Newman, or scholars today.

We can, and should, laugh at such monetized foolishness, but we should also answer it. Like many in the academy, and like just about every bishop on the planet, I’m not inclined to answer cranks and crackpots, but in failing to do so we thereby condemn too many Catholics to perish in this intellectual wilderness which they have entered in a desperate search for answers as to how and why the Church is in such a state today. Once again Newman is a sure guide here: he did not allow the crackpottery, the “fake news” to stand unchecked as when, for instance, he wrote out by hand over six weeks the many newspaper articles that later became his spellbinding Apologia Pro Vita Sua to refute slanderous mendacity about why he became Catholic.

If, today, Newman still helpfully gives us the big picture, it is the late Byzantine Jesuit historian Robert Taft who fills in the methodological particulars. It is from him more than anyone that I have learned about Christian historiography, and to him so often returned. Elsewhere at length I have reflected on Taft’s historiography in some detail, and how learning from him might help in Catholic-Orthodox disputes about the past, and Christian-Muslim disputes about interpreting Crusades history. Let me quote here only one crucial passage from his 1996 article “Ecumenical Scholarship and the Catholic-Orthodox Epiclesis Dispute” (Ostkirchlische Studien 45). After laying out bad approaches to the writing and telling of history, he then gives us some concrete measures for how to proceed, arguing that, following his historico-critical method,

one deals with texts and facts in context, and that theories cede to historical data, not vice-versa. Objective means evidence must be presented not tendentiously slanted to support a position, but without bias, to find an answer to the question whatever that answer might turn out to be. Though no study can ever pretend to cover all the evidence, the selection and presentation of the evidence must be comprehensive, i.e., sufficiently representative to avoid glossing over or explaining away whatever does not fit comfortably into some preconceived theory. Finally, one must be scrupulously fair in presenting and evaluating the evidence, sedulously avoiding caricature, and without substituting rhetoric for the facts.

This is not just good historiography: it is basic Christianity, a putting into action of easily the most overlooked (especially on social media) of all Pauline dictums about preaching the truth in love. Both Taft and Newman reflect what I can only see as a genuinely Catholic approach to the intellectual life, which eschews ideology and its simplistic and totalized solutions, and is not bothered one whit by the fact that not just papal but all of Christian history is composed—as Duffy titled his masterful one-volume papal history—of Saints and Sinners. For Catholics today, there is no piety to be advanced or protected by only focusing on the saints; there is no “scandal” to be avoided by denying the presence of sinners at all levels of the Church, and across Church history down to the present day. Nothing is gained by refusing to talk about our problems.

And problems there are, as Stephen Bullivant’s important and very welcome new book, Mass Exodus: Catholic Disaffiliation in Britain and America since Vatican II, makes clear. Now we can begin a forthright and blunt discussion of the data Bullivant has amassed, and continue to look for similar and further studies so we understand clearly the present reality we are facing. (I myself began looking at some similar data in the late 1990s in Canada when I was research assistant to a professor writing a book on the history of the sacrament of confession. The staggering and massive collapse in its practice—and that of other sacraments—after 1960 and the Quiet Revolution in Quebec anticipated the collapse Bullivant has documented now in the UK and US. In 1960 we saw, e.g., 85% Sunday Mass attendance on the island of Montreal; by the mid-1970s it was hovering in the mid-20s; today it stands somewhere c. 2-4%.)

As we face these numbers and realities today, the Catholic is unafraid to admit that things look dire in some places, but that we also know the Church is growing in others, and that in all things and all places, God is in charge. Thus we can freely recognize the presence of both sin and grace in one’s own life and that of the Church at large. We neither downplay nor magnify the problems. We do not passively dismiss them by saying “Well, there’s always been sin” but neither do we let the present realities of sin paralyze us from doing what we can and must in this present hour. We press on, as Newman said in one of his “Meditations on Christian Doctrine” to do the best we can now for

God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes…; I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain…. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place.

May St. John Henry Newman’s intercession enable us all to do this today in a way as honest and hopeful as he did in his.


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About Dr. Adam A. J. DeVille 73 Articles
Dr. Adam A. J. DeVille is associate professor and chairman of the Department of Theology-Philosophy, University of Saint Francis (Fort Wayne, IN) and author of Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy (University of Notre Dame, 2011).

19 Comments

  1. “Today among some Catholics it is as though history ends somewhere between 1958 and 1962—with the death of Pius XII and the opening of Vatican II. For others, the Church only comes alive after 1965 when the council ends, the period before it being regarded (as I’ve heard not a few French Canadians claim, including one prominent archbishop) as la grande noirceur.”

    There are some who see the “history as ending” exactly in 1958 and who would put “the great darkness” as starting on October 26 1958.

    For Catholics who believe that Vatican II was apostate or heretical or simply are able to honestly and seriously reflect on statistics on mass attendance similar to the ones provided in the article and are thus able to judge the tree by its fruits, then of course they are going to believe that Church history “ends” sometime between 1958 and 1962.

    I have noticed that there are some who seem to be always taking about the latest from Francis (or Benedict XVI or John Paul II). I have suspected that it is probably very rare (if ever) that you will here them quoting Pope St. Pius X or Pope Pius IX.

  2. I agree with the basic premise. The past was never perfect. I think this goes for political systems as well as in the church. However, there is ample real evidence of some of the historic attacks on the church within the couple hundred years. And they are contributing mightily to the current imperfections.

  3. The non-linearity of history…

    “Historians are always talking as if the sequence of historical events were meaningful, are they not? For example: here comes the philosophical enlightenment of the 18th century; that, of course, was the intellectual preparation for the French Revolution; and that in turn was the basis for the appearance of Napoleon, who became, with his arms, the means of spreading the revolutionary ideas throughout Europe. And that, again, was the basis for the resurgence of nationalism in Germany and Italy—and so on. BUT THE QUESTION IS, was the enlightenment aiming at the Revolution?” (Dino Bigongiari, “The Philosophical and Political Backgrounds of the Divine Comedy”).

    TRANSLATION: sailing on an irreversible trajectory into the future, the SS Titanic was sunk instead by a single hole below the waterline (a footnote to Evangelii Gaudium: the hole is greater than the whole!). But history would have reversed again had the crew on the nearby SS California not closed down their radio and had they not then misinterpreted the distress flares as coming from a deck party celebration.

    And TODAY aboard the Barque of Peter and with the Magisterium turned off, are we to believe that synodal incoherence (next up—Amazonia) is a celebratory flare from the Holy Spirit?

  4. “A genuinely Catholic approach to the intellectual life, which eschews ideology and its simplistic and totalized solutions” (the ‘masterful’ Duffy in DeVille). Whether it’s prejudice, premonition, or my own masterful common sense I knew what DeVille was all about before reading DeVille. The relentless repudiation of papal infallibility as definitively pronounced by Pius IX Vat I. Deifying Eamon Duffy falls short of the deification of Cardinal John Henry Newman not because Adam DeVille has evidence Newman was a god but that he must be close because of Newman’s agreement with his own, DeVille’s thought. O that we poor mortals with simple Faith had such godlike discernment. Who would have thought that only Definitively pronounced Magisterial doctrine alone binds conscience [ref to coercive Church authority] as safeguard to heresy and certainty of what is true, what must be believed-is wrong? How simplistic of us? So we must instead follow DeVille, Newman, Duffy and others to get it right. Who with intelligence could have possibly conceived that teaching faith and morals by any bishop or pontiff outside the strictures of papal definition should be thought non binding and subject to error? We were all unwittingly Ultramontanists. DeVille Juxtaposes the error of Ultramontanism [as he perceives it synonymous with the Latin Church] with an unrealistic vision of a Church and its papacy comprised of saints only. Bullivant’s religious realpolitik deftly explains Mass Exodus in Quebec, and by implication elsewhere. Poor fools we are we didn’t believe sin abounds within a Church as scripturally described and preached for centuries as composed of saint and moreso sinners. That lack of realization brilliantly exposed by Adam DeVille shows that the mystery of Evil and erosion of Faith had nothing to do with free will. Rather with a lack of true Christian intellectualism.

    • This is an Apologia in reference to my opinion of Prof DeVille’s article.
      “His [Newman’s] patristic formation in, and intellectual debts to, the first millennium seemed to set him at odds with certain Catholics who viewed the tradition as bookended by Thomas Aquinas and Trent. We need to better ‘digest’ our own history. Rather than doing that, some people today delight in tendentiously yanking out the latest utterance from Pope Francis. All this is done with a triumphal flourish in what one might call ‘gotcha apologetics’ grounded in romanticism about a past that never was, a past which is treated as monolithic, unequivocal, and unambiguously good”. DeVille commends “A genuinely Catholic approach to the intellectual life, which eschews ideology and its simplistic and totalized solutions, and is not bothered one whit by the fact that not just papal but all of Christian history is composed—as Duffy titled his masterful one-volume papal history—of Saints and Sinners”. Adam DeVille does offer sound advice, “We neither downplay nor magnify the problems. We do not passively dismiss them by saying ‘Well, there’s always been sin’ but neither do we let the present realities of sin paralyze us from doing what we can and must in this present hour. We press on”. Nonetheless what comes across in these extracts is not simply the reality of sin and imperfection, rather a reality that extends to “a past which is treated as monolithic, unequivocal, and unambiguously good”. A past and “tradition as bookended by Thomas Aquinas and Trent”. A “composed” papal history that must consequently include documents issued by pontiffs. It appears that DeVille is somewhat edging unwittingly into the conundrum of Sola Scriptura. If anyone cares to dissect and better assess my opinion of DeVille’s important essay please do so.

      • Since no response I add the obvious concern for Apostolic Tradition. Church doctrine documented and pronounced on that Tradition is long held the definitive interpretation of Revelation and Sacred Scripture. Does DeVille’s then historical exegesis cast more than doubt, rather in effect asserts that 2000 years of belief in what is presumed unequivocal, unambiguously good, is myth. It is exactly this form of historical exegesis that Benedict XVI repudiates as contrary to faith in Jesus of Nazareth.

        • My guess is DeVille’s unstated point is that there is more to Tradition than papal pronouncement, nor is it limited to or exclusively defined by papal pronouncement alone. Only through genuine historiography can there be a proper evaluation of Rome’s claims concerning the papacy and whether they were acknowledged by any other patriarchate. At least in the dialogue concerning Roman primacy, the representatives of the Latin side are willing to acknowledge the need for good historiography.

  5. Mr. DeVille:

    I am reading your recent book “Everything Hidden….”

    I agree that the Church has promoted a culture of “infantalization,” and that this “infantalizing cult” is simply beneath the dignity of men and women and children offered liberty from sin at the price of the self-sacrifice of The Son of the Living God.

    I also love Newman, having some 18 years ago read his Apologia, and loved him all the more for it. I also, in the same vein, deeply love and respect Joseph Ratzinger, and so many Catholic writers and thinkers at Ignatius Press, here at CWR, and at TCT, including Chris Altieri and Phillip Lawler over at Catholic Culture, etc, etc. I was a long-time subscriber to First Things when it was run by Fr. Neuhaus.

    Newman’s faithful work is, as we know, often tortured and distorted by men and women who oppose his rejection of “modern liberalism,” including the current crop of characters like “Cardinal Cupich” and what I would call the “Jesuit college cult” who promote individual conscience over “the mind of Christ.”

    I am certainly

  6. Unintended Part 2 –

    I cut off my post above…sorry.

    While I note the concern about “cranks and crackpots,” I am growing very wary about just who is being so labeled. For instance, I know that Jeff Mirus at Catholic Culture has labeled Marshall Taylor “an idiot.” And of course, George Wiegel and Michael Voris dump on each other back-and-forth, Wiegel referring to Voris as “click-bait.”

    I would simply say this: while I might agree that Marshall Taylor’s new book is not the best medicine, I certainly disagree with Mr. Mirus that Marshall Taylor is “an idiot,” and I think a lot less of Mirus having so crudely attacked Taylor. Especially so since Taylor, like Phillip Lawler, was an original defender of Pope Francis, and then decidedly changed his mind, in the face of mounting evidence. I happen to think that Phillip Lawler, a colleague of Mirus, is more measured than Taylor, but I consider Taylor to be “one of the good guys” in the long-running crisis, because he is willing to talk about problems in the open. I frankly think that the advice of Jeff Mirus for “quietude” is much more of a problem than Marshall’s book.

    And as for Voris vs Wiegel, I am taking Ross Douthat’s advice from 2018 that to learn what is really happening, we have to listen to what people are saying who are labeled as “on the fringe” or as Wiegel prefers, “click-bait,” because most voices in the “recognized” Catholic media depend on CathoLeicester “laics” (I am reading your book) acting like cattle and pretending that this abysmal and profane and utterly decadent reality inside the Church isn’t happening.

    So as to Bishops etc “ignoring crackpots” … we had all best be careful when we are standing outside saying such things, lest lightning strike.

    • And finally…my apologies for failing to police my I-phone spelling robot, who is the author of the new word “CathoLeicester.”

      Sigh…

    • Hi Chris – for what it’s worth, I talked to my dad about the title to his review of Marshall’s book, and he told me his intent in calling the book “an idiot’s guide” was not to refer to Marshall but to the one who is taken in by Marshall’s book. This still may seem uncouth, and I think it was counterproductive, but on the other hand my dad didn’t even mention in his review Marshall’s revival of slanderous rumors about Pope St Paul VI – which to me, is an offence considerably worse than idiocy.


  7. To know conciliar history is to recognize that there was conflict and messiness at and after every other council, too. … I have never understood the urge either to rubbish the entire thing, or to defend everything.”

    Seriously. Vatican II was unlike any other council. It made ambiguity the new benchmark. I don’t agree with everything J W O’Malley writes, but he at least gets it. The medium was the message, and the Church as a doctrinal voice has been in free fall ever since. “Let you yes be yes and your no be now”… That’s the antithesis of VII. And hence we now have Francis. No, VII did not teach error. It just muddied the waters on too many key points. Maritain saw as much. No, it wasn’t all bad. Nor is James Martin. Or Pope Francis.

  8. As a Christian academic, Saint John Henry Newman is my hero. If our university professors could recover even a small part of his wonderful spirit of devotion and intellectual precision, we would see a radical and welcome change — a change for which I pray daily.

  9. This low-level theologian uses far too many pompous words to deify Newman and trash Voris. Spare me. I only began reading because I thought he was going to say something about Newman’s canonization occurring (unfortunately) during this heretical synod. Who planned that? I did love the photo of Newman’s desk, however. If all of us had to write at such a place, we’d all be deeper thinkers.

  10. I wish Hilaire Belloc could be cloned with a cell of Blessed Newman – it might help Newman bet rid of the donnishness.
    I think perhaps a slight misreading of la grande noirceur – this narrative pertains to the century before 1960, and refers to the claimed heaviness of the Catholic Church in Quebec, and is considered a pernicious myth by a surprising number of Quebeckers who promoted it in the 1960s. Fun fact – when the Empress Zita had to flee Belgium because there were reasonable reports that the Gestapo wanted to kill her because of her denunciation of them and their ilk, the only place in the world she chose to take her children to, because of education and culture, was Quebec.

  11. Dr De Ville, I understand your view on those who claim infiltration by Masons/communists etc., and illicit abdications/elections of Popes as ‘crackpot’ and, I agree that too much infusion of conspiracies is not good for one’s mental health or one’s observations of the faith. However, it is all very well to dismiss these theories as delusional, but you have failed to address the reason why they exist. You say you defend Vatican II but criticise it (presumably you are saying that you are objective); if so, if the theories about Masons etc are so crackpot, please explain;
    Why did the Vatican abandon a beautiful liturgy that had been in existence with very little change, since the early church?
    Why did Paul VI impose the Mass of Bugnini (who was a Mason), on the Church, and suppress the existing Mass?
    Why did the liturgy and the Church calendar change at the instigation of Bugnini, even when Paul VI was known to be upset at the changes?
    That is, I can understand a group of people thinking that the liturgy should be changed. What is inexplicable is that there seemed to be a concerted and unified will to impose the changes and to suppress and forbid the old. I don’t know about you, but I have always experienced variations in enthusiasm in groups of people regarding actions, even more so when these actions involve change. When the actions involve change to a two thousand year old liturgy, that was handed to us by Christ and was celebrated by the saints, I would have thought that there might have been suggestions and then they might have allowed the two to co-exist – after all, if the Novus Ordo is really so good, it would naturally prevail wouldn’t it? I would, at the least, have expected variations in enthusiasm in embracing the radical changes, which were not to just anything, but the Holy Mass. instead, it appears that there was a unified approach by key persons in positions of authority by which the new Mass was not only imposed, but the old Mass was completely and ruthlessly suppressed. The practices and observances of the faithful were also suppressed by the changes to the liturgical calendar and by active discouragement.
    Ok, so let’s hold the theory that the people in key positions were somehow so enamoured of Bugnini that they truly believed his changes would enliven the Church and bring Christ’s message to the people. What did we see? We saw thousands of religious leave the religious orders – to the point that my children do not see nuns. But, importantly, we also saw a mass exodus of the faithful from the pews.
    The one thing we did not see was a group of Church leaders saying ‘Hmmm, the new Mass has prevailed over a massive decline in numbers. As people who love Holy Mother Church, let us look at what could be causing it.’ Instead, what did we see? We saw Church leaders who said, ‘yes, the Novus Ordo has not attracted or kept the faithful – the evidence is there (decline in attendance/decline in belief of the Real Presence) – what do we do? We apply more of what has been shown not to work’ ( or, in the case of the current Pope, we not only apply the fail again, but we rubbish the young people who are finally turning up to church, because they are traditional, ‘rigid’.”
    What sort of attitude does this reveal? Especially following upon a sixty year history of imposed and coerced failure, when the Pope himself denigrates young people observing the faith, not by a pagan adaptation but by orthodox Catholicism?

    I realise that there are other explanations besides infiltration for this course of conduct that has lasted nearly 60 years, including stupidity or stubbornness, but there is also the possibility of a co-ordinated effort to destroy the Church by the destruction of her liturgy. To have this suspicion is certainly not without support from an historical examination and especially when one considers that normally one would expect a Pope to be pleased, and to support, practising Catholics who are returning to the faith.
    If you think that it is far-fetched and crackpot to posit the theory that there was infiltration, then please give a good explanation as to how so many men, who should have respected the past and tradition, who should have recognised beauty, and, most importantly, who should have venerated the Holy Mass, managed, not only to individually vandalise the liturgy and observances of holy Mother Church, but in unison, with complete suppression of dissent and that this course of action persisted in the full face of evidence that the changes were driving the faithful away.

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