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The Wanderer Steps Up

by Christopher A. Ferrara
January 13, 2017

That Francis will not be able to bludgeon the Church into accepting the drastic erosion of the moral order that the Four Cardinals’ Letter addresses should be apparent from the opposition to Amoris Laetitia that is rising everywhere in the Catholic world, extending into circles that can hardly be dismissed as “radical traditionalist” (whatever that means).

Witness an article just published in The Wanderer, a publication that has a long history of opposing traditionalist objections to the post-Vatican II innovation of the Church.  In a front page, above-the-fold article by Joseph Matt entitled “It’s Not Just the Four Cardinals Who Need An Answer,” Matt pulls no punches.  Just as this column has done, Matt not only defends the four cardinals but also levels serious criticism of Cardinal Müller’s sudden retreat from his own serious reservations concerning Amoris —  including some 20 pages of proposed corrections to the document he submitted as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, none of which were accepted.  Matt also takes exception to Müller’s shameful attempt to throw the four cardinals under the bus.

“It seems another prelate has abandoned his post,” Matt writes, referring to Müller. Consider the implications of that one sentence alone: i.e., that Müller should be defending the integrity of Catholic doctrine against a document promulgated by the Pope; that there’s a veritable war going on and that Müller has shown cowardice in the face of the enemy by abandoning his post.

Müller’s flight into the tall grass is, Matt continues, “a critical blow to the current dubia situation. What is the relevance of such a congregation if it cannot offer an answer in a matter that requires a clarification regarding the Catholic faith? Mueller’s snub adds to the relentless and uncharitable campaign from within to marginalize these four courageous cardinals. Their treatment by their peers is nothing short of scandalous and constitutes a grave injustice to them and our Church. These good men who are simply looking for clarity and answers to basic questions concerning the Catholic faith do not deserve the kind of disrespect they are getting from their fellow clergymen.”

Taking it up several more notches, Matt rightly observes: “The time for silence on this issue among fellow cardinals, bishops, and priests has passed. Make no mistake about this; it is an event that has drawn a line in the sand, which will have consequences in the immediate future of the Catholic Church. Those who remain silent about this matter will be complicit in its consequences. Sadly, the Vatican, through intimidation and in an almost dictatorial fashion, has tried to portray the four cardinals, and those supporting them, as undermining the Pope, or dismissed them out of hand because of alleged ulterior motives.”

But what about the role of the Pope himself? No longer, it seems, is The Wanderer chary of identifying the problem at the top that ramifies into huge problems at the bottom. Matt’s article ends as a sort of open letter to Francis, respectfully demanding that he put an end to the crisis that he alone has created with his own words:

“Anybody instilled with basic Catholic teaching knows that someone in a state of objective mortal sin cannot receive the sacrament…. If this exception is allowed, logically our Catholic faith quickly unravels. It would lose its basis and its substance, plain and simple. Every catechized Catholic knows that.

“With all due respect, the Pope’s silence on this matter and the relentless attack on the four cardinals widen the growing division in the Church. Serious Catholics are becoming concerned and even angry that the faith passed on to them — with a historical basis of 2,000 years of magisterial teaching and tradition — is being undermined and threatened.

“Some issues only the Pope can resolve, and this is one of them. Not his spokesman, not his representatives, but the Shepherd of Shepherds, the Pope, the representative of Christ on Earth, must answer and guide the flock when questions of this magnitude arise. And, after all, the Pope’s own words created this controversy….

“Your Holiness, the cardinals deserve an answer; the Catholic faithful deserve an answer. The Catholic faithful are growing wary and angry. The significance of this passing Year of Mercy rings hollow when one looks at the unjust treatment of four sincere cardinals in good standing, berated and undermined for doing what God called them to do. The heavens cry out for simple justice on this matter.

“Intimidation and threats did not stop the martyrs, disciples, and Catholic faithful throughout the ages from proclaiming the teachings of Christ. Let’s not let it stop us. Stand up for these cardinals, stand up for the faith. Let your voices be heard.”

Never in its long history has The Wanderer published such criticism of a sitting Pope. But then never in the history of the Church have we had a Pope like Francis. 

The Wanderer is to be commended for taking a public stand against a manifestly wayward Roman Pontiff instead of doing what other Catholic commentators have done: twisting themselves into pretzels in a desperate attempt to explain how a Pope could countenance the idea that people living in a continuing state of public adultery could be admitted to Holy Communion while continuing sexual relations outside of marriage.  Like the Pharisees, they contrive elaborate “difficult cases” to make “exceptions” seem reasonable, ignoring the intrinsic impossibility of this sacrilege.

Cardinal Walter Brandmuller, one of the four cardinals that Cardinal Müller has in essence betrayed, put the matter this way: “Whoever thinks that persistent adultery and the reception of Holy Communion are compatible is a heretic and promotes schism.”  The astonishing problem that confronts us today is that we have a Pope who seems to think precisely that, and thus remains stonily silent in the face of the four cardinals’ dubia.

But as The Wanderer joins faithful Catholics the world over in standing up against this unprecedented abuse of papal authority, it becomes clearer by the day that Francis will not be able to impose his will on the universal Church. This controversy will not end until a Pope resoundingly reaffirms orthodoxy, whether it be Francis or his successor.  God, not Francis, is ultimately in charge of the Church; and in God’s good time the Holy Ghost will undo what Francis has done.