The need for clarity in a time of moral and doctrinal ambiguity

In contrast to the firm certainties of faith, ambiguity is like a stealth fighter plane. The danger is often unnoticed until too late. Indeed, ambiguities even silence sober churchmen lest they stand accused as “hateful” and “judgmental.”

A screenshot of Fr. James Martin, S.J., giving a March 2018 a presentation titled "Spiritual Insights for LGBT Catholics". (YouTube)

“So faith, hope, love abide, these three,” Saint Paul reminds us, “but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13). The Sacrament of Penance is a Sacrament of mercy. In the service of love, priests help penitents identify their predominant faults and help them chip away at them over time.

A priest sits in the confessional with awareness of the words of Jesus. How many times must I forgive my brother, seven times? “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven” (Mt. 18:22). God also uses the Sacrament of Penance to remind the priest of his own sins. It is charitable for the priest to know and profess the difference between right and wrong.

Scriptural teaching is unambiguous. The unrepented sins of Sodom and Gomorrah inflamed God’s wrath, and He destroyed the cities with fire and brimstone. Jesus warns against adultery and lust with complete clarity: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt. 5:27-28). Saint Paul is inclusive with his heavenly exclusions: “Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

In 1975, Pope Paul VI wrote in Evangelii Nuntiandi:

Another sign of love will be the effort to transmit to Christians not doubts and uncertainties born of an erudition poorly assimilated but certainties that are solid because they are anchored in the Word of God. The faithful need these certainties for their Christian life; they have a right to them, as children of God who abandon themselves entirely into His arms and to the exigencies of love.

In contrast to the firm certainties of faith, ambiguity is like a stealth fighter plane. The danger is often unnoticed until too late. Indeed, ambiguities even silence sober churchmen lest they stand accused as “hateful” and “judgmental.” In 1986, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger unmasked the technique. He identified ambiguity as a tool of the gay agenda:

A careful examination of their public statements and the activities they promote reveals a studied ambiguity by which they [those promoting a change to the Church’s teaching on homosexuality] attempt to mislead the pastors and the faithful… Some of these groups will use the word ‘Catholic’ to describe either the organization or its intended members, yet they do not defend and promote the teaching of the Magisterium; indeed, they even openly attack it. While their members may claim a desire to conform their lives to the teaching of Jesus, in fact they abandon the teaching of his Church.

Cardinal Ratzinger hardly extinguished corrosive doctrinal ambiguities under the cover of pastoral sensitivities. In 1996, shortly before his death, Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago requested the Windy City Gay Chorus to perform at his funeral. It took place at Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral. Marianne Duddy, president of the national Gay Catholic group, Dignity U.S.A observed, “This is a magnificent gesture to let it be known that he acknowledged the presence of Gay and Lesbian people within the Church community.”

Studied ambiguity has become a cornerstone of much of contemporary ecclesiastical policy-making. Pope Francis recently appointed Archbishop (now Cardinal-designate) Victor Manuel Fernández as the head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF). The Archbishop is the author of Heal Me With Your Mouth: The Art of Kissing and seems to be an expert on marriage, but undoes a clear understanding of marriage with LGBTQ ambiguities:

…marriage” in the strict sense is only one thing: that stable union of two beings as different as male and female, who in that difference are capable of generating new life. There is nothing that can be compared to that and using that name to express something else is not good or correct. At the same time, I believe that gestures or actions that may express something different should be avoided. That is why I think that the greatest care that must be taken is to avoid rites or blessings that could feed this confusion. Now, if a blessing is given in such a way that it does not cause that confusion, it will have to be analyzed and confirmed. [Emphasis added.]

Ambiguous hypotheticals to the contrary, there will never be a blessing for same-sex “unions” that doesn’t confuse.

Archbishop Fernández’s studied ambiguity is not without precedent. In 2006 he undermined the Church’s teaching on contraception using the “Christian hierarchy of values crowned by charity” to rationalize the intrinsic evil of contraception. He describes a difficult marital situation and then laments an “inflexible refusal of any use of condoms.”

However, Cardinal-designate Fernández—the new watchdog for Catholic orthodoxy in the Vatican—isn’t ambiguous about the art of kissing: “The penetrating kiss is when you suck and slurp with the lips. The penetrating kiss is when you stick in your tongue. Watch out for teeth.” In his defense, the Cardinal-designate explained his early book targeted, well, teenagers and quoted many of their descriptions of kissing. What bishop would issue a “letter of good standing” for a priest who speaks to kids like this? A breathtaking double standard.

Several presumed Church-affiliated organizations—such as the LGBTQ activist group New Ways Ministry—use the tactics of studied ambiguity in promoting dissident moral doctrines. In 2010, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, writing on behalf the bishops of the United States and echoing then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s 1999 notification, warned:

New Ways Ministry has recently criticized efforts by the Church to defend the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman and has urged Catholics to support electoral initiatives to establish same-sex ‘marriage.’ No one should be misled by the claim that New Ways Ministry provides an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching and an authentic Catholic pastoral practice. Their claim to be Catholic only confuses the faithful regarding the authentic teaching and ministry of the Church with respect to persons with a homosexual inclination.

That was then.

The recent papal appointment of Father James Martin, S.J. as a member of the Synod on Synodality provides another aspect of the web of doctrinal confusion among churchmen. According to the Jesuit periodical America: “Father Martin is a Jesuit priest, editor at large at America magazine and the founder of Outreach, a ministry for L.G.B.T. Catholics. Since 2017, he has served as a consultor to the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications.”

In 2016, New Ways Ministry–the same group disciplined by Cardinals Ratzinger and George—awarded Martin the “New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award, which honors individuals “who by their scholarship, leadership, or witness have promoted discussion, understanding, and reconciliation between LGBT people and the Catholic Church.” Faithful priests and bishops go unrewarded for promoting the Sacrament of Penance as the primary means of reconciliation.

In 2017, Father Paul Mankowski, S.J., got to the heart of the ambiguities of Martin in his review of Martin’s book Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity:

If the man next to me in the pew is struggling with kleptomania, I have no reason to believe he denies church teaching on property rights. But a person who announces himself as “gay” for that very reason (so it would appear) regards his same-sex attraction not merely as a libido experienced but as an identity embraced, and this embrace seems all but impossible to reconcile with Catholic doctrine.

Indeed, among a good confessor’s duties is to disabuse a penitent of “LGBTQ” labels. (Nobody is “transgendered,” for example. They are either male or female.) The designations are purely political and enshrine the legitimacy of the sinful inclination. (It is even spiritually unhealthy to proudly self-identify as an alcoholic, however necessary it is to recognize the enslaving predilection.)

Before he died in 2020, Mankowski sent around a photo of a group of flamboyant Jesuits dressed as Easter bunnies [sic] to a wide audience. He wrote that one of the Jesuits studied theology concurrently with him at Weston and was a pastor of a gay-friendly parish in California. He said that the priest

…marched in all the gay pride parades, but doubtless ‘celibate’ according to the assurances of Jim Martin. Then (prepare for the shocking revelation) he left the Catholic Church, turned Anglican, and is now an Episcopal priest married to his chum. [The priest is] wearing the grey clerical shirt in the bar photo. The bunny to his left is currently a Jesuit priest in my province, studying in Manhattan. Of course, we are all obliged to believe that Paddy is “celibate” as well—as long as the fiction is convenient for Paddy, that is.

(The expansive and extraordinary wit and wisdom of Fr. Mankowski can be found in Diogenes Unveiled, edited by Phil Lawler, and Jesuit at Large: Essays and Reviews by Paul V. Mankowski, edited by George Weigel, both published by Ignatius Press.)

Pope Francis had several cordial meetings and phone calls with Martin before Martin’s appointment to the Synod. In his handwritten letter to the Jesuit in 2021, the Pope wrote: “Regarding your… [Outreach LGBT Ministry Conference], I want to thank you for your pastoral zeal and your ability to be close to people, with that closeness that Jesus had and that reflects the closeness of God.”

Mankowski, again:

Very few of these men and women [Catholics who are struggling with same-sex attraction] identify themselves as “gay” or wish to be so designated. They are simply Catholics, neither more nor less, struggling (as do the rest of us) with the spiritual and moral hardships that come their way. It is astonishing that Martin seems never to have met such a person.

Alas, nobody speaks of the “shoplifters’ community,” and Jesus didn’t eat and drink with “the publican community.” Even the Pharisees called it right. He ate with sinners, and Jesus explained sinners need Him as “a physician” (cf. Mk. 2:17).

In 2022, Luxembourg’s Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich (also a Jesuit), the Pope’s relator general of the Synod on Synodality, called for a change in the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. He said, “I believe that the sociological-scientific foundation of this [Church teaching on homosexuality] is no longer correct.” By condoning sodomy (as he awaits papal ratification), the Cardinal implicitly calls into question the charitable work and motives of faithful Catholic priests in the confessional and undermines the confidence of penitents.

I believe that the fix is in. The target of these doctrinal stealth bombers is clear. The Synod on Synodality will almost certainly seek to enshrine the “pastoral, not doctrinal” studied ambiguities that tear at the fabric of the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics. The equivocations of many high-ranking Catholic prelates—and priests such as James Martin—on same-sex attraction have not only given up on forgiving sins, they undermine the work of priests in the trenches. By default, they allow LGBTQ activists to depict faithful priests as cruel and heartless enemies of the “LGBTQ community.” They uncharitably discourage many same sex-attracted persons who struggle with God’s grace, often heroically, against temptations.

It has become common to refer to the Synodal Church. It has taken decades, but the battle is now open for all to see. We need the Catholic Church and a return to Pope VI’s appeal for clarity with charity.

Studied ambiguities shall not stand. “Nothing is hid that shall not be made manifest, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light” (Lk. 8:17).

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About Father Jerry J. Pokorsky 38 Articles
Father Jerry J. Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington. He is pastor of St. Catherine of Siena parish in Great Falls, Virginia.. He holds a Master of Divinity degree as well as a master’s degree in moral theology.


  1. I am close friends with a man I’ve known for over 40 years, who some 20-odd years ago stepped out of the dark abyss of the “G” faction of the “LBGTQ lifestyle,” which he inhabited for 15-20 years. He now suffers the ravages of STDs and AIDS, and knows he will die (too young) from these diseases.

    He has returned to his childhood faith in Jesus Christ.

    He speaks unambiguously about the evil, darkness and insanity of the pathology of sodomy. He says this: “It is insanity for adults to support or teach that it is OK for a man to inseminate the intestines of another man.”

    That is his unambiguous message to his fellow man.

  2. Here’s my understanding about Catholic males of our species (XY-only chromosomes) – especially with reference to clerics like Martin, S. J., Cupich, McElroy, Tobin, Gregory, Fernandez, et al:
    Men who would make good husbands and fathers would also make good deacons, priests and bishops. Likewise, men who are exemplary examples of good deacons, priests and bishops would have made exemplary husbands and fathers.

    Similarly, men who are lousy husbands and fathers would make lousy deacons,priests and bishops and men who are lousy deacons, priests or bishops would have made make lousy husbands and fathers.

    Think of the finest examples of clerics you’ve met over the years and you’d have to agree that they would have made good husbands and fathers. Now think of some of the worst clerics you’ve known and you’d have to agree that they would have made lousy husbands and fathers.

    It just so happens that the same virtues that are needed for the clerical state are also needed for the married state.

    • For some reason, Saint Isaac Jogues comes to mind. He was deeply gratified to have received a dispensation from Pope Urban VIII so that he could continue to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass—despite having lost several fingers to the ferocity of those he tried to introduce to Christ. The underlying point is that Church discipline mandates that there should be certain perfections in the men called to the priesthood, reflecting the exalted demands of those entrusted with fatherhood.

  3. Thank you as always Fr. Jerry for your clarity and charity.
    Amoris Laetitia is an atomic bomb being set off inside Catholic morality. It seeks to blow up the Cross of Christ. The Way of Christ never enabled others to skip the Purgative Way. But it looks like our leaders are Hell-bent on trying. Your writing is a blast shield!

  4. Cardinal Hollerich annual salary: ???,000
    McCarrick Annual Income: ???,000 / million?
    Wuerl Annual Income: ???,000 / million?

    How much are you willing to take To Sell The Catholic Truth to the Prince of this World?

  5. A lack of clarity on moral precepts that were considered self-evident for decades is a form of social entropy with a million analyses, but there is little excuse for not being forceful at every encounter with moral sophistry that kills by pointing out that truth can never be evolutionary. It is not any stupid thesis/antithesis Hegelian process. Truth is a reflection of the eternal, perfect, unchanging mind of God, and man does not create any truth at all. To reject this truth about truth, is to be an atheist, no matter what religious delusions one might hold.

  6. Refrain:
    What difference homosexuality and bestiality?

    It is not ambiguous.
    The Holy Spirit is at work in the Church. The young priests are devout, orthodox and heroic.
    Biology will rid us of these perverts in clerical costumes.
    The Way, the Truth and the Life will prevail.
    The Mystical Body of Christ staggers along a modernist Via Dolorosa.

  7. It seems to me that the Satanic plan to undermine confidence in the foundation of Catholic faith–Holy Scripture and Tradition–has resulted in the abandonment of the doctrine of original sin and confidence in the clear and unambiguous teachings of Jesus on sexuality. I believe has been a serious mistake for the Church to have adopted the language and concepts of this worldly “wisdom” in defining a human being by one aspect of his or her nature. Obviously, disordered sexual desires are a consequence of our fallen nature for some, but it should not define our nature per se. It is also the case, I think, that there is a widespread belief within the Church of salvation that undermines confidence in Church teaching of dying in mortal sin and ignoring the plain teachings of Jesus on the narrow road to salvation and the broad road to destruction. The biblical modernists have done their work very effectively in undermining confidence in historicity of the Gospels. I have no doubt that God’s plan and purposes are being worked out, even if we do not see it.

  8. lol, since when is the RCC -NOT- ambiguous? my devout catholic father literally believes that hell does not exist. if Catholics can’t even agree amongst themselves what is going on around the ontological dealio (something perfectly unsurprising considering God’s skill at hide and seek), what are the rest of us to think? I’ll be kind here, but in short it’s a bad look, to say the LEAST.

    btw I did not read any of this piece.

    • Andrew, I think you’ve illustrated an example of the lack of catechesis for Catholics in your parents’ generation. And I think grandparents’ as well.
      I have a dear auntie in her 80’s who is clueless about Church teaching on marriage & family. I suspect she was taught properly as a child but since then has depended upon popular culture to inform her. “The Gospel According to Oprah” sort of thing. If our shepherds don’t inform us, someone else will.

      • “invisible but wants to be your buddy”

        uhhhhhh, yea I absolutely believe in that and “invisible but wants to be your buddy” is not even remotely confusing.

        • Believing that Jesus simply wants to be a buddy would be a result of poor catechesis to begin with. And He was hardly invisible.

        • Question for ya: Do you see love or its obverse, hate? Do you see infinity or eternity? We cannot see these entities, but we are fairly certain they exist, right? Applying the same logic to the being/existence/person/principle we arrive at God. Or do you believe the universe and everything alive within it arose randomly?

  9. No man, had he not been Called to become a Good and Holy priest, would as a Good and Holy husband and father, ever condone the engaging in or affirmation of any act, including any sexual act, that regardless of the actors or the actors desires, are physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually harmful, and demean the inherent Dignity of a beloved son or daughter, and thus are not, and can never be an act of authentic Love.

    All Catholics are called to be, in The Holy Name Of Jesus, “a counter cultural light” that shines in The Darkness illuminating The Sacred Heart Of Jesus. How then, can any Catholic Institution honestly claim that substituting “Pride”, which serves to exclude respect for The Sanctity of the marital act, within The Sacrament Of Holy Matrimony, for Christ’s Sacred Heart, in order to tolerate, accommodate, justify, and eventually mandate respect for the engaging in or affirmation of sexual acts, that regardless of the actors, or the actors desires, including if the actors are a man and woman, united in Marriage as husband and wife, are physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually harmful, demeaning the inherent Dignity of every beloved son and daughter, and thus, due to the fact that these sexual acts are not and can never be, acts of authentic Life-affirming and Life-sustaining Love, can never serve for The Common Good or the Good of any beloved son or daughter.

    Perfect Love does not divide, it multiplies, as in The Loaves And Fishes.

    The Veil Has Been Lifted exposing those responsible for The Great Apostasy, those who Deny The Truth Of Perfect Love from the moment of Genesis. How can anyone who Loves Our Lord And Savior Jesus Christ not speak out?

    “Woe to us!”

  10. Regarding moral and doctrinal ambiguity, reordering human persons according to sexual desire/inclination/orientation, first and foremost, sexually objectifies the human person, in direct conflict with God’s Commandment Of Love, regarding lust and the sin of adultery.

    Although it is not a sin to have a disordered inclination, it is a sin to not desire to overcome our disordered inclinations and become transformed through accepting Salvational Love, God’s Gift Of Grace And Mercy, available to those who desire to repent, serve our Penance, and Believe The Good News.

    For if it were True that it is Loving and Merciful to remain in our sins, we would not need Our Savior, Jesus The Christ.

    Reordering persons according to sexual desire/orientation/inclination, which sexually objectifies the human person in direct opposition to God’s Commandment regarding lust and the sin of adultery, is not of God, and does not serve God., and does not serve for the Good of any beloved son or daughter.

    “4For it is impossible for those who were once illuminated, have tasted also the heavenly gift and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5Have moreover tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come…”, to not believe that Christ’s Sacrifice On The Cross will lead us to Salvation, but we must desire forgiveness for our sins, and accept Salvational Love, God’s Gift Of Grace And Mercy; believe in The Power And The Glory Of Salvation Love, and rejoice in the fact that No Greater Love Is There Than This, To Desire Salvation For One’s Beloved.
    “Hail The Cross, Our Only Hope.”

    “To whom much has been given, much will be expected.”

  11. I am so grateful for the clarity of Fr. Pokorsky’s article. Would that more priests and bishops who speak up about the obvious and evil agenda of the upcoming Synod.

    • Agreed. But the last ten years, which have driven millions of Catholics out of the Church, have driven those of us who remain Almost Mad. We cannot pray in good conscience for the Active Ministerium’s Intentions… For they appear Evil.

  12. The world was not prepared for the weaponization of ambiguity consequent to Vatican II. (“Let your yes be yes and your no be no”). We now recogize it and call it out – the most relevant case here – the post-Amoria Laetitia Dubia of 2016. Keep up the pressure.

  13. Thank you Fr. Pokorsky for your courage in defending the Gospel. Sadly, there are not many priests, bishops, and cardinals that are willing to stick their necks out these days. Of course, the same can be said about us, members of the laity. Thanks again, may God bless you.

  14. Am I a bad Christian because I feel a sense of visceral, spontaneous revulsion when I see pictures of James Martin and think about the error he represents and propagates? Just curious 🤔.

      • Since I don’t know how Christ FEELS I will have to rely on what He SAID. “Go and sin no more”, “Millstone around the neck”.:” Your SINS are forgiven you”…etc. In recent years, due to the press of secular culture and spinelessness of our clergy, ” anything goes” has become our low standard for behavior. Everything a person wants to do or believe ISN’T ok if it violates church law, not by a long-shot. And sins require repentance, not general approval under the fake guise of Christian Love and Charity. Too many people these days mistake Christianity for Socialism or communism. They are in fact, quite distinct things, no matter WHO is peddling that tripe. I find myself wondering why the pope gets SO angry about the Traditional Latin Mass ( which I have not seen in more than 40 years) and yet has nothing (NOTHING!!) to say to Pro-abortion Biden or sexual amorality proponent James Martin. One can “Love” a sinner without giving tacit or official approval to their sin.

        • If we as the Body of Christ are to emulate Him in charity I think your last sentence explains how to do that well.

  15. The author is very polite and maybe even pastorally sensitive, but Catholic moral theology rejects the idea of a black/white perfect and neat set of rules. Augustine and Aquinas were very clear on that, that we have to continue to develop doctrine without respect for personal opinions or an agenda (on any side of the issue). Furthermore, scholars have long rejected the idea S&G were destroyed for homosexuality.

    • Share with us, O wise one, your encyclopedic knowledge of Aquinas and Augustine on these matters and identify these “scholars” whom you assert have proved that S & G were not destroyed for homosexuality.

  16. when I set out to have a relationship with someone, the first thing I check is that the other individual is completely undetectable. That helps me to have a deeper relationship. If I can see you, then you are not playing hide and seek correctly. Hide and seek is paramount; it determines your eternal outcome. It’s very important that you guess God’s hiding spots strategically.

  17. Times are changing. One cannot pretend to journey in the 21st century wearing gowns, costumes, and mindsets of the bygone centuries. Clarity is a rich concept to work with. It keeps evolving all the time. Clarity liberates us from being rooted and grounded in eternal rigidity. The Holy Spirit is at work. Praise the Lord now and forever.

    • “Times are changing. One cannot pretend to journey in the 21st century wearing gowns, costumes, and mindsets of the bygone centuries.”
      The point is more about what is timeless & transcendent. Not about keeping up with the times. We can do that anywhere else.

    • Dear Dr Catejan,
      If we are not rigid Catholics, rooted in Christ and the Sacred Doctrines of the Apostles as handed down the ages through the work of the Holy Ghost to 1958, we are lost souls blown about by the “Spirit of the Age” portrayed as a New Source of Revelation by the AntiChrist. Our souls are in grave danger from the “Spirit of Francis”.

  18. Am Italian historian recently wrote:
    The appointment of Monsignor Víctor Manuel Fernández as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has significant symbolic importance and represents, in a way, the culmination of Pope Francis’ pontificate. On November 24, 2022, when meeting with the members of the International Theological Commission, Pope Francis referred to those he called the “backward-looking” individuals within the Church.

    The appointment of 21 cardinals, including Fernández, in the consistory preceding the opening of the Synod on Synodality in September, is another signal in this direction. Pope Francis wants to ensure that the direction he has set for the Church remains unchanged by his successor because “there is no going back.”

    Is it then right to believe that Pope Francis’ recent choices express a radical rupture with the pontificates that came before him? …
    For the historian, the reality is more complex. There have been multiple moments of departure from the Church’s tradition in the last sixty years, but the first and most significant change of perspective dates back to Pope John XXIII’s speech, Gaudet Mater Ecclesia, which opened the Second Vatican Council on October 11, 1962.

    The tone of Pope Francis’ letter to the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith bears notable similarities in language and content to that document. In the central passage of Gaudet Mater Ecclesia, Pope John XXIII explained that the Vatican II was not called to condemn errors or formulate new dogmas but to present the traditional teaching of the Church in a language suitable for the modern times. He stated that “in the present time, the Bride of Christ prefers to use the medicine of mercy rather than to take up the arms of rigor; she thinks that it is necessary to meet the needs of the present day by explaining the validity of her teaching rather than by condemning (…). The deposit of Faith, that is, the truths contained in our venerable doctrine, is distinct from the way in which they are presented, always in the same sense and the same meaning. Great importance must be given to this method and, if necessary, applied with patience; that is, one must adopt the form of exposition that corresponds most to the Magisterium, whose nature is predominantly pastoral.”

    Pope John XXIII attributed to the Council, which had just begun, a specific characteristic: its pastoral nature. Historians from the Bologna school defined the pastoral dimension of Vatican II as “constitutive.” The pastoral form became the form of Magisterium par excellence. At first, it was not evident to everyone, but in the following months and years, it became clear that Pope John XXIII’s speech was the manifesto of a new ecclesiology. According to progressive theologians, this ecclesiology should become the foundation of a new Church, opposed to the “Constantinian” Church of Pius XII. A Church no longer militant, definitive, and assertive, but itinerant and dialoguing: a synodal church.

    In this new perspective, the Holy Office, which had been the Church’s bulwark against attacking errors for centuries, no longer had a reason to exist or had to change its mission. It is in this perspective that we find what happened on November 8, 1963, in the conciliar hall.
    That day, Cardinal Archbishop of Cologne, Josef Frings (1887-1978), requested to speak and, to everyone’s surprise, launched a violent attack against the Holy Office, directed by Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani (1890-1979). Frings publicly denounced the “immoral methods” of the Holy Office, stating that its procedure “no longer suits our times, harms the Church, and scandalizes many.”

    Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani responded with a spirited intervention defending the mission of the Holy Office. “I feel obliged to raise a strong protest against what has been said against the Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office, whose Prefect is the Supreme Pontiff. The words spoken demonstrate a serious ignorance – I refrain, out of reverence, from using another term – of the procedure of the Holy Office.”

    According to historian Monsignor Hubert Jedin, the clash between Frings and Ottaviani was “one of the most emotional scenes of the entire Council” (Chiesa della fede, Chiesa della storia, Morcelliana, Brescia 1972, p. 314). Josef Frings was not only the Archbishop of Cologne: he was the president of the German Episcopal Conference and one of the most authoritative representatives of the Central-European alliance of bishops opposing the conservative camp. Cardinal Ottaviani was the most eminent member of the Curia, heading a congregation described, for its primary importance, as “the Supreme,” of which the Pope and not Ottaviani was the Prefect. Nevertheless, Pope Paul VI did not publicly defend the Holy Office and effectively supported Frings’ position.

    Three years later, in 1968, Cardinal Frings led the opposition of Central-European bishops against Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae. Professor Don Josef Ratzinger, who had been the inspirer and ghost-writer of Cardinal Frings during the Council, just as Monsignor Victor Fernández was for Pope Francis, began to distance himself from the more progressive wing of the Church, founding in 1972 the journal “Communio” with Hans von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, and Walter Kasper. After being appointed Archbishop of Munich and Cardinal, he was named Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith by Pope John Paul II in 1981, a position he held for 24 years. The theologian of Cardinal Frings became the head of the congregation that Frings had publicly attacked during the Council.

    Pope Paul VI closed the Second Vatican Council on December 8, 1965. The “reform” of the Curia was the first initiative of Pope Paul VI to implement the conciliar revolution initiated by Pope John XXIII. The curial edifice built over the centuries by previous Pontiffs was systematically demolished by Pope Paul VI. To begin, a symbolic event was required, and this was the transformation of the Congregation of the Holy Office, which was even renewed in name, on the eve of the Council’s closure, through the motu proprio Integrae Servandae. On the afternoon of December 6, 1965, L’Osservatore Romano published the decree that abolished the Index of Forbidden Books and transformed the Holy Office into the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, stating that “it seems better now that the defense of faith takes place through the commitment to promote doctrine.”

    Pope Paul VI appointed the Belgian theologian Charles Moeller (1912-1986), a champion of ecumenical progressivism, as the Undersecretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, pending the early resignation of Cardinal Ottaviani, which occurred on December 30, 1967.
    “Moeller – wrote Father Yves-Marie Congar in his Diary – is ecumenism at 100%, openness to humanity, an interest in its research, culture, and dialogue (Diary of the Council (1960-1966), Cinisello Balsamo, 2005, vol. II, pp. 434-435).

    The same Congar, on two occasions, in 1946 and 1954, urinated on the door of the Holy Office as a sign of contempt towards the supreme institution of the Church (Journal of a Theologian (1946-1954), Editions du Cerf, Paris 2000, pp. 88, 293). He was later made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II on November 26, 1994. This demonstrates how complex and sometimes paradoxical history can be, rich in events with symbolic significance, no less memorable than the appointment of Monsignor Fernández by Pope Francis.”

    • Is your entire post the writing of the Italian historian? Can you give the source?

      Is this an exact translation? I question some of the characterizations. For example: VCII is referred to as a “revolution” which Pope John XXIII initiated. The pope himself certainly never referred to the council as a revolution, and I doubt many of the Church Fathers believed their purpose was to begin work on the implementation of such a process.

      The Italian historian’s writing, in any event, is not germane.

      The point is that Fernandez’ words are not clear. Because of their lack of clarity, and the ambiguous nature and problem with certain writing within AL, the faithful now question his faithfulness to Church doctrine.

      To date, Church doctrine has reflected the authoritative truth of Christ and His teaching, taught by the authority of the Church, and necessary for the faithful to accept.

      One who would change doctrine disavows his authority to truthfully speak of Christ. The faithful are not obliged to accept new or changed doctrinal teaching which contradicts what we believe (and the Church has promulgated and asserted for belief) as God’s true and authoritative teaching. The problem is clear, no?

      • The historian from whom I got entirely the piece is Roberto de Mattei. This is his official site: I received the article from his newsletter on Substack (the same platform is also mine, obviously far more irrelevant and available by CWR’s staff.)
        Here are some hints: He was a student and assistant of philosopher Augusto del Noce. Above all, he considers himself, a disciple of Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, with whom he had a personal friendship extending over a period of twenty years (1976-1995), and to whom he dedicated a biography.
        Since 2005, as Associate Professor in the European University of Rome, where he is coordinator of the degree course in Historical Sciences, he has taught Modern History and the History of Christianity.

        He is President of the Lepanto Foundation, as well as Founder and Director of the Lepanto Cultural Centre (1986-2006)

        He directs the magazine “Radici Cristiane” and the “Corrispondenza Romana” News Agency, and was Director of the “Nova Historica” international journal from 2002 until 2013.
        Between 2003-2011 he was Vice President of the Italian National Research Council (CNR) with responsibility for the sector of Human sciences between 2002-2006, as well as serving as the International Affairs Counsel for the Italian government during the same period.

        He was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Italian Historical Institute for the Modern and Contemporary Era, of the Board of Directors of the Italian Geographical Institute, and member of the Board of Guarantors of the Italian Academy at Columbia University in New York (2005-2011).

        He is the author of many books, that have been translated into several languages, and earned him an international reputation. So the Author is quite germane.
        The sentence I translated with the word “revolution” is found in this one: “Paolo VI chiuse i lavori del Concilio Vaticano II l’8 dicembre 1965. La “riforma” della Curia, fu la prima iniziativa di Paolo VI per attuare la rivoluzione conciliare avviata da Giovanni XXIII.”
        My opinion regarding Pope Francis is not the same as the Author’s, whom I have censored on one point, but that’s another matter.
        Thank you very much for the attention.

    • What you manage to illustrate is how easily many allow themselves to be manipulated to believe that prelates attacking strawmen that don’t exist serves no purpose other than to reward the vanity of those who want to assume their moral superiority is proved by their dissimilarity to those caricatures. It has never been the case that the Church advocated promoting morality without charity as Francis is so fond of claiming in his many falsifications of the past to justify a trivialization of the moral doctrines he simultaneously denies trivializing, so his more derisive remarks about attitudes that don’t exist can seem real and logically coherent, “museum pieces for the mentally ill.”

      Catholics who are Catholic have always known, in spite of what dishonest theologians rewriting history like to say, that moral absolutes, “rigidly coherent,” are never a burden, hurtful, or contrary to mercy and never have been. They are gifts from God and always have. The truth sets us free and always has. The immutable moral order, that Francis flatly denies but Catholics believe, is what it is because it is the divinely endowed essence of our changeless human nature and the condition of our existence. There is no such thing as an infantile word like “backwardness” would imply. Truth never changes.

  19. “When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful.” – G.K. Chesterton

    If I may add ever so little to the above another observation – the Reformation was a strike from withOUT; the Second Vatican Council was a strike from withIN. Therefore, when the church was shattered in the 1960’s council (as it certainly was) it wasn’t a “loosening” of the virtues earned by Trent as much as it was an INVERSION of the virtues. The transcendent became by force of internal pressure the imminent. The spiritual became by force of internal pressure the natural, and so on. Fast forward to today and the church herself, having willfully discarded her proper propriety has lost her identity and place in the world. She’s become an enemy to herself in many ways. She can no longer properly shepherd men like she could prior to the Council. She no longer speaks with the authority of eternity. She wanders now about the mundane, the climate, the border, the advance of “diversity, fraternity, inclusivity and equity”. She hasn’t just fallen from her proper and lofty place, she has thrown herself to the ground and seems content to stay there. Seek out those places within the church that still offer sanity, sanctity and proper propriety. Get to a Latin Mass! Reclaim your rightful Catholic inheritance. IT.MATTERS!

  20. Unfortunately, Fr. These days, James Martin is visiting my beautiful country, Croatia, at the invitation of a bishop, and Timothy Radcliffe and the like are also participating in the theological meeting.

5 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  2. Cardinal Fernandez not ambiguous about kissing - California Catholic Daily
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  4. La necesidad de claridad en tiempos de ambigüedad moral y doctrinal – Oraciones y Pruebas de Dios
  5. La necesidad de claridad en tiempos de ambigüedad moral y doctrinal | H I R A N I A /3/15p/93

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