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Snake Oil

The year Anno Domini 2015 has gotten off to a good start, especially over at the Rorate Caeli blog. Over the span of the last week, three separate “must read” posts appeared, yet they were all actually interrelated. Allow me to explain.

The first post is titled Doctrine can never be bartered (and the indelible influence of Michael Davies). (see here) The title refers to an editorial that appeared in the Radicati nella fede, January 2015, a newsletter of the Catholic community of Vocogno, Diocese of Novara, Italy. This editorial was prompted by the arrival of the Italian version of the book “The Liturgical Revolution – Cranmer’s Godly Order”* by Michael Davies. The passage that caught my eye is the following:

Since our encounter with Davies’ writings was fundamental, we urge this in a warm way. We cannot say that they were the only motive for our passing to the Old Rite, but undoubtedly they contributed in clarifying the reasons for it definitively.

It was actually the “clarifying the reasons” for the “definitiveness” of returning to the Old Rite phrase that caught my eye. The reason it caught my eye was due to another excellent post that I happened to read at the Rorate Caeli blog a day earlier, (see here) titled Attacks on Thomism, a special essay for Rorate Caeli by John Lamont.

The reason that I read the Lamont essay with such interest is due to its subject matter, which addresses a rather large problem that exists not only in the Catholic Church at present, but also in other spheres of human endeavor, such as the financial markets and the media industry. The underlying problem that these segments of society are presently having, is what can be termed as a problem with“objective truth”. And as it just so happens, the last two post that I wrote dealt exactly with this subject matter. (see here and here)

Furthermore, since the stated mission of this blog is defined as “restoring all things to Christ”, it is only natural that any evidence that presents itself as to the causes and effects of that FAILED experiment of the second half of the 20th Century commonly referred to as the “new springtime of the spirit of VII” (“NSOTSOVII”), would naturally pique my interest. Well my interest was piqued, and the result is the below.

Introduction

St. Pius X rightly termed the Modernist heresy as the synthesis of all heresies. This brilliant definition not only captured the essence of Modernism, but also provided for an effective recognition and anathematizing process. However, and as we are all to painfully aware of, a mutant strain of this heresy evolved, i.e. neo-modernism and attacked the Bride of Christ at the Second Vatican Council. And at this point John Lamont picks up the story:

The success of the neo-modernists in seizing power in the Church was partly due to their tactical adroitness and to the favourable conditions that existed for them in the Church. They had learned from the first modernist crisis how to deal with magisterial opposition; there was not the will at the top of the Church to take drastic steps against them of the sort that had been successfully used by St Pius X, and there was no understanding of the necessity for such steps – Pius XII seems to have believed that his now forgotten encyclical Humani Generis had dealt with the situation adequately; for reasons that are not fully understood, the clergy and bishops were much more receptive to their message than was the case 40 years earlier.

That is the bad news that we are all too familiar with.

However, there is good news and that is this. Since we are using an epidemiological metaphor, we know that a virus has an anti-virus and a poison has an anti-dote. And John Lamont’s post sets out the anti-dote for the neo-modernist virus heresy.

Neo-modernist’s Achilles Heel

The Achillies heel of the neo-modernist heresy is best described as follows:

Neomodernism, however, on a religious level is a purely negative thesis. As a result it has no attractive force of its own, and ecclesiastical structures that fall into its grip eventually die away – a process now visible all over the world.

Yes indeed! A sight we are all too familiar with.

So let’s drill down into the above and see specifically where we need to aim our arrows.

This thesis requires a revision of the notion of truth. The traditional understanding of truth is that of Aristotle, who described truth as saying of what is, that it is.

To be more specific:

They (neo-modernists) accordingly held that dogma was true, but that its truth could not be understood in Aristotle’s sense. Garrigou-Lagrange saw them as reviving the philosopher Maurice Blondel’s rejection of the traditional definition of truth as bringing the mind into conformity with reality (‘adaequatio rei et intellectus’) in favour of an account of truth as bringing thought into line with life (‘adaequatio realis mentis et vitae’).

Yet this revised notion of “objective truth” created an unintended consequence, namely:

In addition, no great philosophical expertise is needed to see that the historical perspectivism of the neomodernists is self-refuting. Historical perspectivism is a universal philosophical claim about the nature of human concepts and human knowledge, a claim that is presented as being true for all people at all times, and as being known to be true by the neomodernists. But such a claim contradicts historical perspectivism itself, which denies the possibility of knowledge of this sort. The success of neomodernism thus seems mystifying, and requires explanation.

“Mystifying and requiring explanation” indeed!

But if one is a neo-modernists and just because one has a theology based on a “self-refuting” philosophical claim, it should not necessarily follow that one shouldn’t foist this fallacious theology on the entire Catholic Church.Yes?

So what is a good leftist neo-modernist to do in a situation like this? Why, he needs a good strategy Pastoral call. And here is how it played out:

With this papal endorsement (John XXIII), the Thomist opponents of neomodernism were left with nothing but truth and logic as weapons to defend their thought and to uphold the faith. As their opponents well understood, these weapons are powerless if the men who wield them can be denied a hearing. Papal and episcopal support enabled the neomodernists to ruthlessly and effectively silence the Thomist position within the Church, and to ensure that Thomism was only mentioned in order to reiterate the neomodernist line of propaganda.

What the neo-modernist’s did is that they eliminated the competition and it was: Game, Set, Match!

So how does one return to a logically sound and coherent, and above all, “truthful” theology?

The success of this silencing makes it imperative to revive the arguments of the most effective opponent of neomodernism; Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange.

In other words, Thomis is the anti-dote to the neo-modernist’s poison.

Here is how Lamont summarizes this “great debate that never was”:

Stated thus plainly, the neomodernist position is rightly seen as absurd by most people; but it was not stated plainly – for obvious reasons – in neomodernist polemics. Garrigou-Lagrange’s contribution was to see and to prove that this was what the neomodernists believed, and to disprove the philosophical basis for their position. He pointed out that their understanding of truth leads to the denial of the principle of non-contradiction, which means intellectual suicide. The idea that we can keep the same assertion while changing the concepts that make it up is senseless; an assertion just is a meaningful subject and a meaningful predicate joined together to make a claim about reality. If you change the meanings of subject or predicate, you change the assertion being made. In response to the philosophical component of historical perspectivism, Garrigou-Lagrange defended the Aristotelian realism that holds that our concepts can grasp things as they are, because the content of these concepts is provided by extra-mental realities.

Yes, the neo-modernist position is rightly seen as absurd by most people. Just not the participants of the Second Vatican Council unfortunately.

Real World Effects of the Neo-modernist’s “Polemics”

Now that we have a basic understanding of the issues inherent in the “NSOTSOVII” theology, i.e. that the neo-modernist theology is built on self-refuting philosophical fallacies, we can understand why the Catholic Church is disintegrating before our very eyes. And here is how it has played out in the real world.

Here is how the editor describes the situation on the ground in the Catholic community of Vocogno, Diocese of Novara, Italy:

In fact, it is all about reasons. In Catholicism we move for reasons; we decide, we choose and we work in one way or another for reasons, which the intelligence illuminated by Grace acknowledges. It is reason that determines action, not sentiment or personal taste. This is why Doctrine is never sacrificed in the Church. There is no gap between Doctrine and Holiness, between Doctrine and Charity, between Doctrine and Prayer and between Doctrine and Faith.

In other words, at the foundation of Catholicism is a philosophy that allows for reason to overcome emotion.

So after 50 YEARS of the FAILED experiment that was the “NSOTSOVII”, the locals on the ground have come to realize the following:

The popular neo-modernism of today (of a very low level) has introduced this gap, and for this many say that it is important [just] to live well; it doesn’t matter how or what you believe and doctrine isn’t so important. In the life of the Church today, there is a disdain for Doctrine, which favors [personal] experience of faith: but how can you have a real experience of God, if, disdaining Doctrine it is reduced to living “religious things” unmoored from God’s Revelation?

What this means is that 50 YEARS on, the neo-modernist’s aren’t even trying to provide philosophical cover for their FAILED new theology that is at the root of the disintegration of the Catholic Church. In fact here is how the editor of the newsletter describes the this process :

At first they (neo-modernists) were simply Catholics, after they will become vaguely religious, regressing even to a natural religion – to naturalism; hoping that they don’t lose faith in God completely.

And there you have it! The Fruits of the Harvest of Vatican II in all of their full splendor.

Notice that the editor of the newsletter is describing the 50 YEARS of FAILURE as a continuum. And what he is saying is that the neo-modernists are traveling regressing from Catholicism to a primitive form of paganism at best, but ultimately to agnosticism.

On an aside, if you put a gun to my head and made me guess as to where they are today, I would say that they are very close to naturalism. How else can one explain a concept like a “god of surprises” or “there is no Catholic God”… not to mention that cats will be in heaven?

Foundation of the Neo-modernist Theology

Now that we have identified the non existence of a philosophical basis for the neo-modernist theology, and have seen this new theology as it is playing out in a real world environment, we are still left with one unanswered question. And this question is:

Since the underpinnings of this neo-modernist theology are evidently philosophically and logically self- refuting, what is it that serves as the basis for this new theology?

And here we will turn to the third post from the Rorate Caeli blog, and a reproduced letter that has rattled some cages within the post conciliar Roman circles, authored by Vittorio Messori. (see here)

Mr. Messori wrote an article for the Italian paper of record, the Corriere della Sera. And in this article that was published on Christmas Eve, Mr. Messori identified the exact underpinnings of this neo-modernist theology when he wrote the following:

And so, certain pastoral choices made by the “Bishop of Rome”, as he prefers to call himself, persuade me; but others seem to leave me perplexed, they seem to me to be opportunistic, even seeming to be of a brand of populism that generates an interest that is as vast as it is superficial and ephemeral. (emphasis added)

And there you have it!

It’s all about emotions!

Summa Summarum

Closing I allow myself to quote from the John Lamont essay.

The key to the neomodernist capture of power is however also the reason for their failure to sustain a religious culture. Neomodernism is not like Protestantism, which contains ideas with a positive content as well as being a rejection of Catholicism. These ideas – justification by faith, and the like – are not correct, but they say something substantial, and have an appeal that can give rise to an important movement. Neomodernism, however, on a religious level is a purely negative thesis. (emphasis added) As a result it has no attractive force of its own, and ecclesiastical structures that fall into its grip eventually die away – a process now visible all over the world.

And it is this paragraph that provides the Faithful with confirmation as to the anti-dote to the neo-modernist theology.

The anti-dote to the neo-modernist theology is a return to Thomism.

The above paragraph clearly demonstrates that the neo-modernist theology is a negative theology, or what can be termed as a “reactionary movement” in the political world. Furthermore, the neo-modernist theology itself is self- contradictory and self-refuting at it’s core. Due to this nature, this religion has no attractive forces what so ever. It is destined to “eventually die away”. The manner in which it is trying to sustain itself is through emotionalism which is “opportunistic, even seeming to be of a brand of populism that generates an interest that is as vast as it is superficial and ephemeral.”

I could not find more fitting words to describe the magisterium of Francis, along with the associated puppet masses and the tango masses than those of Mr. Messori above.

Actually, I take back the last sentence. There are words that can very fittingly describe the magisterium of Francis, and they are as follows:

Gibberish or gobbledygook refer to speech or other use of language that is nonsense, or that appears to be nonsense. It may include speech sounds that are not actual words, or forms such as language games or highly specialized jargon that seems non-sensical to outsiders. Gibberish should not be confused with literary nonsense such as that used in the poem “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll.

The word gibberish is more commonly applied to speech, while gobbledygook (sometimes gobbledegook, gobbledigook or gobbledegoo) is more often applied to writing. “Officialese”, “legalese”, or “bureaucratese” are forms of gobbledygook. The related word jibber-jabber refers to rapid talk that is difficult to understand.

Mister Lamont will not say it, but the Deus Ex Machina blog will.

And it is this above message that all Faithful Catholics need to not only understand, but spread far and wide in 2015.

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