Written by Michael Matt | Editor
Editor’s Note: I wrote this last year, and it appeared in the Print/E-edition of The Remnant only. Given recent developments involving an increasingly aggressive Pope Francis, it seems appropriate to post it here on our site. MJM
The Church’s constant teaching regarding the duty of faithful Catholics to resist legitimate authority in times of crisis is rooted in Scripture. “But when Cephas was come to Antioch,” writes St. Paul in Galatians 2:11, “I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.”
Scripture’s most adamant exhortation in this regard also comes from Galatians: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema.”
As a Catholic who came of age during the turbulent post-concilar era, it was clear to me even as a child that popes can fail and cause great harm to the Church. But I always considered this potential to be a matter of human ignorance or weakness, rather than outright malice.
Peter himself sets the precedent. Before laying down his life for Christ, our first pope would deny Him three times and go well above and beyond the call of duty in proving that popes are indeed subject to human weakness. But did Peter wish to destroy the Church? Most definitely he did not. Did Liberius? Honorius? Alexander VI? Again, it would seem not.
Proactive papal attempts to destroy the Church are rare indeed, and in fact seem to be confined almost exclusively to the pontificates of the most recent occupants of Peter’s chair. But even these attempts do not seem to disqualify the guilty pontiffs as legitimate vicars of Christ on earth. Just as Peter denied Christ and thus joined himself momentarily to those who sought His blood, so too Peter’s successors will evidently not be prohibited from playing a part in the mystery of iniquity—something which comes as little surprise to those who recall Pope Leo’s vision of Christ allowing Satan himself one hundred years to test His Church.
But inasmuch as Peter’s successors can—out of fear, weakness or diabolical disorientation—actively work to destroy the Church, this does not mean they are above reproach or should not to be vigorously resisted.
“Just as it is lawful to resist the pope that attacks the body,” argues St. Robert Bellarmine (De Romano Pontifice, Lib. II, Ch. 29), “it is also lawful to resist the one who attacks souls or who disturbs civil order, or, above all, who attempts to destroy the Church. I say that it is lawful to resist him by not doing what he orders and preventing his will from being executed.”
Fifty years ago, on the evening of November 16, 1965, some forty Catholic bishops gathered together in the Catacombs of Saint Domitilla to have Mass and in effect to swear an oath of ecclesial surrender where the dogma that the Catholic Church is the sole means of salvation is concerned.
Under the guise of what they would have history believe was the Church’s newfound concern for the human condition, this cadre of Modernists vowed to change the Catholic Church forever by transforming her into a “church of the poor” that would raise the white flag when it came to hard doctrine and the Church’s commitment to guard against evil, foster holiness and work out the salvation of souls.
According to the Washington Post’s favorable report on this event, the Catacombs Pact—the description of which reads like something lifted from the pages of a Malachi Martin novel—played out in dramatic fashion:
The Mass was celebrated shortly before the end of the Second Vatican Council, the historic gathering of all the world’s bishops that over three years set the church on the path of reform and an unprecedented engagement with the modern world — launching dialogue with other Christians and other religions, endorsing religious freedom and moving the Mass from Latin to the vernacular, among other things…
So as the liturgy concluded in the dim light of the vaulted fourth-century chamber, each of the prelates came up to the altar and affixed his name to a brief but passionate manifesto that pledged them all to ‘try to live according to the ordinary manner of our people in all that concerns housing, food, means of transport, and related matters.’
The signatories vowed to renounce personal possessions, fancy vestments and “names and titles that express prominence and power,” [i.e., ‘pope’, ‘monsignor’ etc.] and they said they would make advocating for the poor and powerless the focus of their ministry. In all this, they said, “we will seek collaborators in ministry so that we can be animators according to the Spirit rather than dominators according to the world; we will try to make ourselves as humanly present and welcoming as possible; and we will show ourselves to be open to all, no matter what their beliefs.”
The document would become known as the Pact of the Catacombs, and the signers hoped it would mark a turning point in church history. Instead, the Pact of the Catacombs disappeared, for all intents and purposes. It is barely mentioned in the extensive histories of Vatican II, and while copies of the text are in circulation, no one knows what happened to the original document. In addition, the exact number and names of the original signers is in dispute, though it is believed that only one still survives: Luigi Bettazzi, nearly 92 years old now, bishop emeritus of the Italian diocese of Ivrea.
While never making mention of the Catacombs Pact, it is not difficult to see that Pope Francis is well aware of it. And according to the Washington Post, Cardinal Kasper agrees, admitting that Pope Francis’ “program is to a high degree what the Catacomb Pact was. The Catacomb Pact is everywhere now in discussion.” Kasper even mentions it in his book, Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life.
The Post reports that a daylong seminar in Rome is now scheduled to take place this month, marking the anniversary of the event:
[I]n the last few years, as the 50th anniversary of both the Catacombs Pact and Vatican II approached, this remarkable episode has finally begun to emerge from the shadows. That’s thanks in part to a circle of theologians and historians, especially in Germany, who began talking and writing more publicly about the pact — an effort that will take a major step forward later this month when the Pontifical Urban University, overlooking the Vatican, hosts a daylong seminar on the document’s legacy.
A well-known [liberal Catholic] historian here at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Massimo Faggioli, told the Post that the Catacombs Pact is key to understanding Francis: “With Pope Francis, you cannot ignore the Catacomb Pact. It’s a key to understanding him, so it’s no mystery that it has come back to us today.”
“It had the odor of communism,” says Brother Uwe Heisterhoff, a member of the Society of the Divine Word, the missionary community that is in charge of the Domitilla Catacombs: “What the catacombs really represented,” Heisterhoff said, “was ‘a church without power,’ a church that featured what Francis has praised as a ‘convincing witness’ — a radical vision of simplicity and service that the pope says is needed for today’s church.”
In other words, a Church that will be neutralized, marginalized and eventually crushed beneath the jackboots of the modern world, since she is essentially agreeing to swap her divine mandate to baptize all nations in exchange for a mess of pottage called the brotherhood of man.
Make no mistake about it: Pope Francis is trying to destroy the Church as it existed for two millennia. Why? Because of his personal commitment to enlist the Church in the world’s war to establish a new social order, exactly as paragraph 10 of the Catacombs Pact vowed to do:
We will do our utmost so that those responsible for our government and for our public services make, and put into practice, laws, structures and social institutions required by justice and charity, equality and the harmonic and holistic development of all men and women, and by this means bring about the advent of another social order, worthy of the sons and daughters of mankind and of God.
Otherwise known as a new world order based on the brotherhood of man and the rejection of the Kingship of Christ.
I have just returned from the Synod on the Family in Rome, which, it must be said, was all about the rise of the new church of the brotherhood of man envisioned fifty years ago in that Roman catacomb. I have returned from the Eternal City convinced beyond any shadow of doubt that we’ve entered the next phase of Paul VI’s autodemolition of the Church.
As members of the press we gathered in the Vatican’s press hall to hear the Pope and his hand-picked Synod fathers explain why the words of Our Lord and the traditional and infallible teachings of the Church are no longer up to the challenge of dealing with the problems of an enlightened and modern society such as ours.
We were schooled on the lessons of mercy (as though the Church of the past knew nothing of it) and the importance of listening, because you see this new Church is all about accommodating those who for the past half century were given stones rather than bread, were never catechized, and are now in shipwrecked families that have been drinking deeply from the poisonous wells of Vatican II and the New Mass. Since Catholics are now divorcing and contracepting at about the same rate as the rest of the world, it is time for bishops and popes to listen to them, to learn from them and to base future pastoral policy on the failed policies that capsized them in the first place.
Yes, it’s just exactly that stupid!
This entire synodal nightmare is like some bizarre Soviet-era experiment that would first brainwash the people and then ask them to parrot back what Big Brother needs to hear in order to justify the revolution he would have the world believe is the will of the people.
Incredibly, the post-conciliar Church that can’t even fill its own pews anymore, nevertheless hosted an elaborate Synod whose purpose was to point accusing fingers back at the Church of 2000 years which built mighty Christendom and baptized half the world.
At one of the Synod’s press conferences, I watched in dejected disbelief as Belgium’s Archbishop Leonard assured the press that this Synod makes it official: “We are not a Church of judgment. We are a welcoming Church, listening to the people and speaking in clear terms. Tenderness is the word of this Synod. This is the beginning of a new Church.”
As opposed to the old Church, presumably, which was all about judging people and making them feel unwelcome. God help us, what blasphemy!
But Ghana’s Cardinal Peter Turkson enthusiastically agreed: “Yes, this Synod is an emblem of the New Church.”
In this, at least, they are telling us the truth: they have left that catacomb and are publicly admitting what they’re up to. The Synod on the Family was all about Francis’s pledge to change the Church in such a way that no future pope will be able to change it back…at least that’s the hope.
The Synod reflects the spirit of the new age, of the Council and of what happened 50 years ago in that catacomb beneath the streets of Rome, where churchmen surrendered to the world at the mouth of a 10-mile catacomb of the tombs of 100,000 Christians made into dumb witnesses of Peter’s second betrayal—this time of the Mystical Body of Christ.
Can a pope destroy the Church? No! Can the Pope try to destroy the Church? Well, that’s exactly what he’s doing. Peter is again in the courtyard of the high priest, and the Mystical Body of Christ stands before Pilate, scourged and crowned with thorns. The question is, when will Peter begin to weep?