Any Plowman Can Interpret Pascendi: The Remnant’s Call for Schism

Any Plowman Can Interpret Pascendi: The Remnant’s Call for Schism

[Hat-tip to Pew Sitter: “Ethika Politika: Remnant’s call for Francis to step down is schism!” To paraphrase Patrick Henry: If this be schism, make the most of it!]

By John Médaille | March 29, 2016 |

In a “featured” article on the newspaper’s website, The Remnant has proclaimed that “Satan has made his move. He has the See of Peter,” and Bergoglio is “his tool.” And to make the point abundantly clear, Ann Barnhardt tells us that the pope is a “Diabolical Narcissist Peronist-Fascist”; he has committed a “massive crime against humanity,” one that places him above such evil-doers that he ends up “personally responsible for the most loss of human souls to eternal damnation, above Luther, above [M]ohammed, above Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), above Paul VI Montini.”

And of course there can only be one response to such evil: Pope Francis must be “deposed and anathematized for being a heretic.” And who is to carry out this sentence? It must be “those bishops remaining who still hold the Catholic faith” called together in an “Imperfect Ecumenical Council.”

One would hope that a publication that claims to be a bastion of orthodoxy would not be a place to find a call for schism. But I can see no other way to interpret an open call for a rump group of bishops to depose the pope.

And like all calls for schism, it is placed in such vile language as violates every standard of charity and fidelity. All schismatics share a common vile vocabulary and a common low rhetoric. This is not surprising, since as Thomas Aquinas tells us, schism itself is an offense against charity (ST, IIa IIæ, 39, 1, ad 3).

The Limits of Propriety

Now, I am the last person with a right to lecture anybody on charity, but I think I can say something about propriety. And what I can say is this: I am a man living under authority, the authority of those upon whom hands have been imposed, beginning with the hands of the Apostles. I am not such a fool as to think they are anything but what they are. I suppose that half are fools and few are saints.

But for all that, they possess the authority of the Apostles. This is not to say they cannot be opposed on this or that; it is to say they cannot be deposed, save on competent authority, and I can’t think what that authority might be when it comes to the Vicar of Christ. But I am pretty sure that authority is not an “Imperfect Ecumenical Council,” which can only mean, not the College of Bishops acting in unity, but a rump group of bishops acting in rebellion.

It is similar to the situation in Vietnam: I did not follow the lieutenant because I thought he was the best man in the platoon; I followed him because I thought he was the lieutenant; he had those butter-bars on his collar. And it was not a good time for Proof-Texting the Field Manuals and Making Up Your Own Mind.

Likewise, I do not follow the bishops because I think they are the best, I follow them because I think they are the bishops; they have those funny hats. Oppose them on this or that issue I must, because I happen to have the training to do so. But there are lines that must not be crossed. And after all, I could be wrong; they could be right. It must be admitted: they might be better men than me.

In the last analysis, we owe the bishop, and the Bishop of Rome, charity, obedience, and even docility. This docility is not of course servility, because even the worst order—or especially the worst order—needs to be carried out with intelligence and creativity. But in the end, it needs to be carried out.

There is a reason it is called The Church Militant.

Comic-Opera Buffoonery

What I see most of all in all this is the evil of Private Interpretation once again rearing its brutal visage. It is as if they are saying that Any Plowman Can Interpret Pascendi, and pass his infallible judgment on bishop and pope after supplying the appropriate proof-texts. We have been here before. In fact, we never left it. The same errors always occur in monotonous succession and lead to the same place.

What really impresses is the comic-opera buffoonery of the whole thing. Of course, no serious person will take them seriously, and it will come to naught, will end in the absurdity in which it begins. But in the meantime, it will lead many souls astray; teach the weak that this is an appropriate mode of discourse and an appropriate line to cross. It will not build up the Church, but work to tear it down.

And what is the point of leading these poor souls astray? Does Michael Matt, The Remnant’s editor, really suppose that the “orthodox” cardinals were just waiting for the clarion call from an American weekly newspaper to overturn the Pope and re-impose the Latin Mass? Suppose they do get their wish and Bergoglio is deposed, resigns, or (as he must do at some point) dies. What will change then?

Nothing! The same college that elected him by two-thirds vote will elect him again, or someone very like him. I see no evidence that the cardinals are in revolt, just waiting for The Remnant to raise a banner to take up their positions on the barricades of the Via Appia.

And who are these bishops who will participate in this “imperfect ecumenical council”? The ones judged by The Remnant to be “orthodox.” And what is the test of this “orthodoxy”? Why, that they would vote to depose Francis, of course. But Michael Matt knows as well as I that there are no such bishops, or not so many that you would need the fingers of one hand to count them. This “ecumenical council” would be “imperfect” enough to be held in a phone booth.

The Absurd Call

So why issue such an absurd call? This does not arise from Catholic culture, but from clickbait culture, the need to drive readership by whatever means necessary. It is to build up the circulation of The Remnant by tearing down the unity of the Church. Michael Matt is trying to become the Donald Trump of Traditionalism by appealing to the worst passions of his audience and saying the most outrageous things.

Vile memes may be bad for the soul, but they are really good for circulation. Perhaps the new motto of The Remnant ought to be, “Schism: It’s not just for sedevacantists anymore.”

The biggest tragedy is that there is much to work with, with this Pope. Almost every page of Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si’ fairly drips with contempt for individualism, subjectivism, relativism, capitalism, and all the other evils of modernism.

R. R. Reno was correct when he said Laudato Si’ “is perhaps the most anti-modern encyclical since the Syllabus of Errors, Pius IX’s haughty 1864 dismissal of the conceits of the modern era.” But rather than give the Holy Father a charitable reading, and working with him where their concerns coincide, they have elected to advance the cause of our enemies and to make with them a common enemy of our pope.

The Traditionalist Ism

Now, I fully understand and indeed sympathize with the traditionalists. Like them, I hold in great reverence the traditional forms and beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church, particularly the Mass, whether the Latin Mass or (my preferred rite) the Byzantine. And I am firmly repulsed by the casualness and, too frequently, the liturgical abuses of the “New Mass,” not to mention the studied ugliness of modern church architecture. And like them, I have devoted my life to fighting the evils of modernism.

Yet I have never been able to call myself a “traditionalist.” The problem I see is that the “ism” turns too quickly into an ideology and acquires its own agenda, an agenda that ends up doubling back to cancel out the original concerns.

G. K. Chesterton put it this way, “Men who begin to fight the Church for the sake of freedom and humanity end by flinging away freedom and humanity if only they may fight the Church.” Changing this slightly, we can say, “Men who begin to fight Pope Francis in the name of anti-modernism will fling away anti-modernism if only they may fight Francis.” And that seems to have happened when they cannot even join with the pope to fight what in Laudato Si’ he calls the myths “of a modernity grounded in a utilitarian mindset (individualism, unlimited progress, competition, consumerism, the unregulated market).”

And who can fail to note the irony that on the eve of the five-hundredth anniversary of Luther’s famous 95 Theses that split the Church apart, some Traditionalists, with their own theses, want to do the same? And to make the irony complete, they seem to want a council to overrule the pope, which sounds a lot like the conciliarism they pretend to oppose.

There are many issues in the Church that need to be debated, and indeed, since the days of Saints Paul and James, the Church has always been something of a debating society. But there are lines that must not be crossed, if one is to remain a faithful Catholic. Debate, dialogue, discuss, argue, or even shout, as your personal taste in such matters dictates. But schism is never the answer.

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17 comments on “Any Plowman Can Interpret Pascendi: The Remnant’s Call for Schism

  1. [A comment by Chris Ferrara in the comments section of the above. See for more exchanges between Chris Ferrara and John Médaille]

    “And who can fail to note the irony that on the eve of the five-hundredth anniversary of Luther’s famous 95 Theses that split the Church apart, some Traditionalists, with their own theses, want to do the same?”

    And who can fail to note the irony that Francis is going to Sweden next year to commemorate the 500th anniversary of that same “Reformation,” including participation in a joint liturgy with faux Lutheran “bishops” who condone abortion, contraception, divorce, the “ordination” of women and practicing homosexuals, and who would be viewed a worthy of the flames by Luther himself? Surely we Catholics have not lost the capacity to recognize this kind of thing as simply insane.

    There is more to the Remnant’s position than the rhetoric and tone of one column. This entire critique is an appeal to emotion, designed to elicit booing and hissing from the reader.

    Meanwhile, serious observers of the Catholic scene, in the United States and Europe, both traditionalist and non-traditionalist, recognize the crisis this papacy represents: the first Pope in Church history beloved by the worldly powers, including Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi. A Pope who, as Antonio Socci so rightly declares in his book-length open letter to the Pope, has set about “attacking the Church” instead of her enemies.

    And Francis responded with a personal note to Socci, thanking him for the book and the criticisms, which are as harsh as anything the Remnant has written.

    There is more to this situation than meets Médaille’s eye.

    • [Ferrara] There is more to The Remnant’s position than the rhetoric and tone of one column. This entire critique is an appeal to emotion, designed to elicit booing and hissing from the reader.

      Meanwhile, serious observers of the Catholic scene …

      I’m sorry, but I have to say that John Médaille has the better part of the argument. The Remnant made a huge mistake running Ann Barnhardt’s childish diatribe as a “Featured” article, with no caveat whatsoever — or to run Ann at all after this. And it is a childish diatribe, not for the examples of Francis’ egregious words and actions, but calling for him to be deposed. Ann for pope is the only answer. Does Matt concur? Would he run for pope, too?

      There are only four persons who have the authority to remove the pope. Three are Divine, and the fourth is the pope himself. The rest of us are under strict orders to be his subject, under penalty of eternal damnation.

      Hence, to remove the pope, there are only four persons to Whom you may appeal. That includes the pope, and an example of this was Abbe de Nantes written, hand-delivered, accusations respectfully requesting the pope to act as judge of himself.

      Back to John Médaille, I’d suspect that he wouldn’t approve of the Abbe’s method, either. I don’t think that John will admit that things are all that bad, judging from his cherry-picking of Laudato Si. But The Remnant has made its bed and must lie in it and argue uphill should it choose to defend Ann. (Maybe next they could feature an article from Glenn Beck — but now I’m getting cynical.)

      • Unless I am mistaken (a real possibility, for I don’t quite understand his overall strategy), apparently Fr. de Nantes did not hesitate to share his opinions with his readers. In July, 1975, he wrote an editorial entitled: “ Let him be for you as an excommunicate ”.
        Here is an excerpt: “The Pope will soon be shaking the bloody hand of Gromyko the Executioner for the fourth time  ! I ask  : is not Paul VI excommunicated by virtue of the decree of July 8, 1949 which excommunicates those who lend support to communism, a decree that was renewed on April 4, 1959 and again on April 13, 1966  ? I am not competent to decide on this. But the nausea I experience is sufficient to tell me that, if for him and his party we are the excommunicates, we the last defenders of the poor who are persecuted for the Name of Jesus Christ, then this Pope is outside of our communion and is an object of horror to the Angels and Saints. I say it to his face. And I wait in prayer and indignation for one bishop, just one, to break his communion with this communist Pope, this freemason Pope, this modernist Pope, thereby forcing him at last to open the trial for his own infamy. ”
        It does seem evident that Archbishop Lefebvre did not want to be associated in any way with Fr. de Nantes’ approach to the crisis in the papacy. Archbishop Lefebvre would have rather regarded Paul VI as a misguided liberal than to have directly broken communion with the pope.

        • de Nantes was clear that it yet fell to the pope to judge it:
          “And I wait in prayer and indignation for one bishop, just one, to break his communion with this communist Pope, this freemason Pope, this modernist Pope, thereby forcing him at last to open the trial for his own infamy.”

          Another reason that Abp. Lefebvre avoided the Abbe was that the Abbe strongly disagreed with the Abp continuing to run the seminary (if I recall). There was a newsletter from de Nantes “Against the schismatic drift,” or something like that.

          Abp. Lefebvre eventually did say that Rome had lost the faith, in particular JPII, sometime after Assisi. That’s on the same level as de Nantes.

          Could the pope commit an offense that attaches latae sententiae excommunication? I think he has, from John XXIII onward. But, since the removal may be reserved to the pope, how do we have a pope removing his own excommunication? I don’t know if we’ll get an answer to that on this side of eternity!

          • Would you agree that Fr. de Nantes undervalued the importance of the liturgy in preserving the integrity of the Catholic Religion?

            On the other hand, Archbishop Lefebvre was convinced that the Mass of Pius V expressed and fulfilled the command of Christ Himself to go forth and teach all nations… No earthly authority could legitimately contravene the will of Christ in this regard as codified at the Council of Trent and canonized by Pope Pius V in the Quo Primum. Therefore, by upholding the Tridentine Mass and the Catholic priesthood against the direct commands of Popes Paul VI & John Paul II, Archbishop Lefebvre was only indirectly separating himself from the Pope, but more importantly he was remaining faithful to Christ.

            • You’re probably right about the Abbe. I recall one time he “obeyed” the orders of his bishop and went to some monastery for awhile — returning after it became clear the bishop was trying to dissolve his group. The strange thing is de Nantes seemed to be OK with a “reverent” novus ordo environment. The Abbe was an eccentric sort, to be sure.

              As for Abp. L “indirectly separating himself from the pope,” I wouldn’t put it that way. — While it’s now a moot point since the SSPX has been de facto regularized, I might yet get zotted for the dissent I’m about to present here (If I recall, one of Serv’s early rules was no dissent on this subject). I’ve been staring at the consecrations for almost 25 years now, and I still can’t justify it. There. I said it. I’m not going to say any more about it, but you are free to give me your appraisal.

              • I just finished reading the Biography of Marcel Lefebvre by B. T. de Mallerais. My impression is that the consecrations were the logical continuation of the prior work of ABL. In other words, although the events leading up to the consecrations were personally tumultuous for him and although he worked earnestly and concertedly to avoid consecrating bishops without Rome’s approval, in the end he seemed to be at peace with his decision in the same way he was at peace with continuing to celebrate Mass, ordain priests and confirm in open contradiction to his suspension a divinis.
                I also got the impression that, in addition to his excellent Thomistic formation, Msgr. Lefebvre was an experienced churchman who saw the basic goodness of fellow members of the clergy and hierarchy, but who also had his share of being manipulated and out-maneuvered by liberal factions and bureaucracies in the Church.
                For ABL, the Catholic Faith had to be preserved intact, at all costs.
                I admire his courage, fortitude, faith, and charity. I cannot condemn the consecrations. But I also don’t know if I could have done the same.

              • We may not be able to justify the Archbishop’s actions but that doesn’t mean he was wrong in doing what he did. We’ll never know what Our Lord thought of his actions until we reach Heaven, God-willing.

  2. IMO this article is a tragic case of: If you don’t like the message, shoot the messenger (i.e., the Remnant Newspaper). I also served in Vietnam and followed the legal orders of my superior officers and their civilian counterparts in the highest echelons of power. As I think back on it, I’ve come to the conclusion that they were wrong, tragically so. Not because they fought an enemy out to subjugate South Vietnam but because they failed to use the weapons that were at their disposal and target the real perpetrators. And what happened? Hundreds of thousands died and were wounded because Evil human beings, the Communist Dictators of the North, were given sanctuary. The question that should be asked now is: Are the Evil Men in Rome, posing as members of the Hierarchy, going to receive that same sanctuary? You see, folks, it is the old story of Good vs Evil being played out in our midst. And, most importantly, the loss this time may be in terms of immortal souls, not human bodies.

  3. “In a “featured” article on the newspaper’s website, The Remnant has proclaimed that “Satan has made his move. He has the See of Peter,” and Bergoglio is “his tool.” And to make the point abundantly clear, Ann Barnhardt tells us that the pope is a “Diabolical Narcissist Peronist-Fascist”; he has committed a “massive crime against humanity,” one that places him above such evil-doers that he ends up “personally responsible for the most loss of human souls to eternal damnation, above Luther, above [M]ohammed, above Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), above Paul VI Montini.”

    That’s been my opinion of the creature currently occupying the Chair of Peter.
    Well said!

  4. John Médaille wrote articles in the Remnant before. So did he have a “falling out”? When I read Ann Barnhardt’s article about the Pope, I read it as a humorous hyperbole. I think John needs to get a bit more relaxed. Even I don’t agree with everything that Ann Barnhardt says, or the Remnant says, for that matter, especially about “Peronist-Fascist”. I met many Argentine Peronists and Italian Fascists that were very nice and intelligent and traditionalists and pious.[not to be confused with the horror of NAZISM, and Race Theory which is intrinsically evil !]. But a little teasing and name-calling adds a bit of lightness to life.

  5. Pope Francis Sells Vatican to the Illuminati, All Staff Must Vacate Immediately

    April 1, 2016

    National Catholic Distorter

    Vatican City – In a surprise move that shocked even neo-Catholic modernist journalists who read Commonweal regularly and ride electric scooters, Pope Francis announced that he had completed negotiations with representatives of the Order of the Illuminati for the sale of the Vatican. All members of the Vatican staff were given twenty-four hours to collect their personal belongings and vacate their lodgings and offices within Vatican City. Dr. Hans Jürgen von Merkwürdigliebe, media spokesman for the Order of the Illuminati in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, said that as part of the deal the Holy Father has been offered a starring role in his own Muppet movie sequel. Back at the Vatican, Monsignor Pietro Borgia Pizzaronio, S.T.D., a systematic theologian with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, reported that it has not yet been decided which Muppet the Holy Father would play in the new film but that Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Kermit the Frog, and Bert and Ernie are in the mix.

    Pope Francis shaking hands on the deal with a representative of the esoteric occult secret society

    When asked what the Church would do with the funds from the sale, the Holy Father said that it would be used for climate change research and donated to non-Christian migrants throughout Europe. Father Ryan O’Quackley, S.J., assistant editor with America magazine, was asked if conservative and traditionalist Catholics would be concerned about the Pope’s decision to sell the Vatican to an anti-Catholic occult secret society. “Naturally, this will give rise to the usual conspiracy theories, but in the Spirit of Vatican II, this Pope has been dedicated to bringing about fundamental change to the Church. We all have to move with that change and Europe, obviously, is in transition right now. On the bright side, there are plans to move the Pietà to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and there will be an official papal Mood Ring to commemorate the transfer of Vatican art treasures.”

    • [“Truth is stranger than fiction”; or in this case, satire, although it was not produced on an April Fool’s Day!]

      Controversial Pope Francis Promotional Poster Includes No Occult Symbols Says Vatican

      Thursday, 22 January 2015


      This official Pope Francis ‘Mercy and Compassion’ Poster has some conspiracy theorists talking…

      The Vatican has issued an official statement on a controversial poster for Pope Francis’s visit to the Philippines denying that the poster includes any occult symbolism.

      In a short statement, the Vatican confirms…

      ‘Recent articles and images on the internet have surfaced with regard to some promotional material and hand-signals given by Pope Francis and other Cardinals present at His Holiness’s visit to the Philippines. While these continuing conspiracy theories may provide curiosity and excitement for Christ’s Faithful and others, they are damaging to the reputation of the Pope and therefore must be condemned as preposterous. The poster [pictured above] promoting Pope Francis’s visit to the Philippines contains no occult symbolism whatsoever and we would like to stress that anybody seeing occult imagery in this poster is reading too much into simple logos and symbols that are perfectly innocent and Christian in origin.’

      The statement, however, has not impressed the Third Eagle of the Apocalypse and Co-Prophet of These End Times, your host, William Tapley who remains convinced that the poster does include deliberate occult imagery. Here he is, your host, William Tapley, for your entertainment…

  6. In the most advanced stages of the spiritual life the climb grows steeper and the way more painful, unto a constant agony that does not kill but only deepens and worsens as the soul actually experiences the full gravity of its own sins and its failure to correspond to grace.

    The tiny, tiny number of souls chosen for this greatest of honors God can bestow (known as actual saints and not merely “saintly” caricatures predicated on sentiment and popularity) have actually stopped ALL sinning, even venially in the willful sense. They live in a constant state of awareness of God’s actual presence, within and all about them.

    It is the teaching of St Thomas Aquinas and other great doctors, especially St Teresa of Avila and St john of the Cross, that every soul will be given sufficient grace to achieve this level of spiritual perfection IF ONLY he will correspond with the inspirations of the Holy Ghost to the degree adjudged by God to be necessary for his individual sanctification in this life.

    St. Mary Alacoque achieved this state by age 24.

    I’m quite certain that Bl’s Jacinta and Francesco Marto of Fatima had attained it even though each died before either had reached adolescence. It was probably the case with St Pius of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio) and Giuseppe Sarto (St Pius X), as youths, as well. The future pope worked miraculous healings and other signs long before his coronation.

    It is of this which sermons ought to be filled, synods conducted, encyclicals written, etc.

    Nevertheless, the pride of both progressives and many “traditionalists” (a term I’ve grown to loathe since it is impossible to be ANY sort of Catholic unless one adheres to Sacred Tradition) has produced such a din that these most important of all possible things to be taught the faithful have been made deaf by the endless prattle and firework displays.


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