Rorate Caeli

Traditionalist Remedies for the Autoimmune Disease Gripping the Church on Earth

On December 14, 2023, the New York publisher Angelico Press announced the release of my latest book, Bound by Truth: Authority, Obedience, Tradition, and the Common Good. Four days later, Cardinal Fernández dropped his fiduciary supplication, and the Catholic world went berserk (rightly so). In that sense, the end of 2023 might not have seemed like an auspicious time for rolling out a new book! 

Nor has the start of 2024 been much better: a press release on January 4 followed by the publication of a salacious text by the same author on January 8. You know: life in the Third Pornocracy!

And yet, God’s timing is perfect. It is precisely because of outrages like Fiducia Supplicans that the traditionalist movement exists, and that it holds fast to the Faith handed down from the saints, including its supreme liturgical expressions. Against the slanders of our opponents, we are not aesthetes, fetishists, nostalgics, misfits, or rebels. We are Catholics who care seriously and passionately about Creed, Commandments, and Cult—as all Catholics have done for 2,000 years, and indeed as any adherent of religion has done throughout the whole of human history.

For that reason, Bound by Truth, which emphasizes anew the inseparable bonds between the life of prayer, the profession of faith, and the moral life—lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi—is well-suited to the ever-intensifying meltdown of institutional bureaucratic Catholicism (that is, not the religion as such, but the various cliques, special interest groups, and mafias living off of the resources of the Church and making bold to “rule” it or speak on its behalf). The difference between historic, confessional, traditional Catholicism and its modern simulacrum becomes more obvious each day.

Bound by Truth directly addresses this apocalyptic situation, from the vantage of the sacred liturgy: the permanent and perennial value, necessity, and legal immunity of the authentic Roman Rite; the God-bestowed right of the faithful and the clergy to it; and the need for principled, public, and fearless resistance to the progressivist (really, iconoclastic) juggernaut that purposes to annihilate any and all opposition to its “rebranding” of Catholicism.

I wrote Bound by Truth as my own small contribution to the immense wave of righteous resistance that rises day by day against Bergoglianity and all its pomps and works. As a Rorate exclusive, here follows the main part of the Preface of the book. I hope readers for whom it is well-suited will consider picking up a copy for themselves. —PAK

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ONE DOES NOT have to be paying particularly close attention to the Catholic Church to see that it is laden with difficulties and riven with disputes. Thanks above all to the erratic and contradictory receptions of Vatican II and the tumultuous pontificate of Pope Francis, authority and obedience are among the topics most hotly debated, together with their context and defining elements: the common good, truth, revelation, tradition, justice, charity, the complex network of duties and rights within a hierarchically structured society.

In close association are numerous questions about the office of the papacy and how it relates to the episcopacy, the lower clergy, religious communities, and the laity. In our times we see the rise and spread of problems for which one can find few, if any, precedents in Church history; and even matters that might have seemed thoroughly settled by theologians and spiritual writers in past centuries now take on a very different look in the enormous crisis of faith and pastoral life through which we are passing.

In 2021, I published True Obedience in the Church: A Guide to Discernment in Challenging Times, a little book that has turned out to be extremely popular, especially with clergy. To date, editions have appeared in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French, German, and Polish, and reviews have been published in newspapers, magazines, and journals. Its worldwide reception proved, if any proof were needed, just how relevant and urgent this topic is for everyone in the modern Church as well as in the modern secular world; indeed, an unprecedented “shutdown synergy” between Church and State during the Coronavirus pandemic alerted everyone to the dangers of authority run amok and obedience gone awry.

Still more alarming has been Pope Francis’s ongoing frontal attack on Catholic tradition and lovers of tradition, codified in the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes of July 16, 2021. This costly campaign, aimed at some of the most faithful Catholics in the Church, has brought worldwide attention to the “liturgy wars” and reaffirmed the need for a sound, thorough, and honest presentation of the multiple issues at stake, which certainly go far beyond the liturgical sphere (even if that will always be of capital importance).

Although True Obedience made a good start, there was more work to be done. That is my motive for publishing the present book. As one can see from glancing at the titles of the chapters, there is no “beating around the bush” here.

Part I, “Papacy, Patrimony, and Piety,” addresses the teaching of Vatican I on the pope’s universal jurisdiction; the limits of his authority, in light of other authoritative principles such as liturgical tradition; the properly Catholic way to interpret and follow the Magisterium; and the virtue of intelligent, God-fearing, and communally perfective obedience versus its vicious distortions: wilful rebelliousness on the one hand, and a blind, thoughtless, self-destructive submissiveness on the other.

Part II, “Faithful Resistance,” looks at several examples of prelates who legitimately pushed back against papal overreach; discusses how clergy should navigate unjust episcopal decrees on private Masses, the use of the Rituale Romanum, concelebration, the manner of distributing Communion, church closures, and so forth; shares advice and strategies for laity who seek to promote and defend tradition in their dioceses, including the construction of home oratories and the restoration of shuttered buildings; and draws inspiration from persecuted religious sisters, whether their tormentors were Soviet Communists or apparatchiks of the postconciliar ecclesiastical bureucracy.

The book concludes with the text of a 1976 letter—though it might as well have been written in 2023, with a slight shift in addressee—sent by the great Michael Davies to the Most Reverend Hugh A. Donohoe, bishop of Fresno, California. Since the motto of our current leadership seems to be “Back to the ’70s!,” readers will find the candor of this Welsh convert and Latin Mass apologist a refreshing tonic. Essentially, our struggle has remained the same; but, whereas in 1976 the “new and improved” religion had just gotten under way and enjoyed unequivocal institutional support, today it looks dated and dull, and sparks no enthusiasm beyond aging Vatican II hippies, a gaggle of negligible specialists, and a coterie of official cheerleaders. In spite of our present hardships, the future looks far brighter than it would have looked to Michael Davies at the end of his career (and, of course, he is one of many to be thanked for the progress tradition has made, if one may use a paradoxical turn of phrase).

One general point deserves emphasis. The following pages speak predominantly about the traditional Latin Mass (which will, occasionally, be abbreviated “TLM”), and no wonder: the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the font and apex of the Christian life, the highest and most solemn act of prayer offered to the Most Holy Trinity by the Catholic Church and by each individual believer in union with Christ our Eternal High Priest; moreover, Catholics practice their religion above all at the Sunday Mass, the axis of the week, the little Easter, the Dies Domini. For that reason, negligent or malicious church governance is nowhere more keenly felt than in the inconvenient, inconsistent, or non-existent provision of the traditional Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation. That is why the traditionalist movement is found to be speaking so often of the Mass.

Yet we are concerned about far more than this central act of divine worship. The same great goods are at stake with regard to all of the traditional liturgical rites of the Church—baptism, confirmation, marriage, holy orders, penance, extreme unction, the Divine Office, blessings, exorcisms, the dedication of a church, the consecration of virgins, and so forth. The arguments presented here on behalf of the continuation of the classical Roman Mass apply analogously to every part of our Roman Catholic birthright. Tradition is an inheritance whole and entire; it is to be handed down and received whole and entire.

Although Pope Francis is discussed a good deal throughout, the issues with which we are grappling go far beyond his pontificate and his peculiar way of exercising the papacy. The arguments and advice presented here would have been true (if less urgent) prior to 2013, and they will certainly remain true and relevant long after the Argentinian Jesuit has vacated the chair of Peter and new bishops occupy it.

The crisis we are living through stretches back many decades and, sadly, is likely to last several more. Indeed, there may be more evils yet to come, more abuses of papal or episcopal power; but this book, by going to the roots of authority, obedience, tradition, and the common good, equips the reader with the perennial principles needed to evaluate them.

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The table of contents, preface, and endorsements may be previewed here.

The book is available from:

any Amazon site around the world