Remaking the Papacy to fit Bergoglio into it…

Against the ‘New Papacy’ of Peter Kwasniewski

[This post is a follow-up to Rethinking Peter Kwasniewski: A Sedevacantist Critique of his Anti-Papal Traditionalism.]

On Jan. 4, 2023, the American philosopher Dr. Peter Kwasniewski published an article on One Peter Five entitled “Abandoning the Church Has No Appeal for Traditionalists”, and in this post we will respond to it. By “Traditionalists” he means the people in the Vatican II Church who recognize Francis as the legitimate Pope but resist him in whatever they personally decide is “not in accordance with Tradition”.

We prefer to call such souls — many of whom are genuinely devout and good people who love our Lord beyond measure — “semi-traditionalists”, because, whether intended or not, their adherence to Catholic Tradition is partial only: For one thing, they do not admit the traditional teaching regarding the Papacy and the Church, which is irreconcilable with the idea that the public apostate Jorge Bergoglio (“Pope Francis”) could be the successor of St. Peter.

In fact, Bergoglio constantly does things a true Pope would be divinely prevented from doing, such as teaching as part of his official magisterium that Holy Communion may be given to unrepentant adulterers if they “discern” that it is “God’s will” for them to remain in adultery; such as declaring that God positively wills a variety of different religions as an expression of His will and “enrichment” for humanity; and such as canonizing the monstrous public sinner Giovanni Battista Montini (“Pope Paul VI”) as a Saint worthy of veneration and imitation.

Although clearly teaching, governing, and “sanctifying” his followers into eternal misery (objectively speaking), Francis is nevertheless a valid Pope for Prof. Kwasniewski, and the institution he leads is nonetheless the Roman Catholic Church, he insists. To flee from the public heretic Bergoglio, and to exit that entity of which he is in charge, would be the only reasonable thing to do for anyone wishing to be a Catholic, but for “the Kwas”, as some of his former students affectionately call him, that would be “abandoning the Church”.

Thus he has been writing article after article for years now to convince people to remain attached to Francis (by recognizing him as Pope) while rejecting and fighting his heresies, false teachings, false saints, and evil laws. Not too long ago, a compilation of many of his articles on the subject was published in hardcopy as The Road from Hyperpapalism to Catholicism. Since then, Kwasniewski has been working hard to persuade people that it is necessary to “rethink the Papacy” in light of the last 10 years of ‘Chaos Frank’ in the Vatican.

Lest this dangerous new narrative gain even more traction than it already has among semi-trads, we have been issuing forceful rebuttals to Kwasniewski’s errors. Here are some of them:

Let us now begin our critique of Dr. K’s article “Abandoning the Church Has No Appeal for Traditionalists.”

First, notice that the title is “loaded” with assumptions. Assumptions are not necessarily a problem, as long as they are true and justified. For the sake of clarity, we will at least point them out. The title assumes the following:

  • that the church of which Francis is the head is the Roman Catholic Church
  • that the semi-traditionalists are part of that church
  • that rejecting Francis’ claim to the Papacy would constitute an abandonment of the Roman Catholic Church

For the time being, we will just leave those assumptions alone and focus on the body of the article. Spoiler alert: Kwasniewski’s write-up is another theology-less attempt to “defend the Faith” by forcing Bergoglio into the Papacy and assuring disheartened Novus Ordo souls that the reason they are tempted to lose the Faith is because they just don’t understand the Papacy as well as he does, wherefore he has now come to disabuse them of their gullible belief that the Pope actually has to be a Catholic and teach the true Faith.

The Kwas opens as follows:

During the Bergoglian captivity, one hears of Catholics losing or questioning their faith because they think: “If a pope can be so wrong, then the Catholic religion mustn’t be true.”

Surely we ought to be made of sterner stuff than that. Why is it required to see the pope as the be-all and end-all of Catholicism? As the one and only measure of what the Church believes and how we are to live and worship? This view should strike us as frankly bizarre. We are heirs to 2,000 years of ecclesiastical tradition. We have Scripture, which, in spite of its obscurities and subtleties, does teach important fundamentals very clearly. We have the sacred liturgy, the lex orandi, which from apostolic seeds grew organically into the great rites of East and West, bearing notable witness to the lex credendi. We have the writings and the witness of a host of saints, including Church Fathers, Doctors, and mystics (just think, e.g., of Catherine of Siena’s Dialogue!); we have hundreds of mutually consistent catechisms from before the conciliar meltdown. Nearly every pope we’ve ever had venerated these sources and drew his own teaching from them.

(Peter A. Kwasniewski, “Abandoning the Church Has No Appeal for Traditionalists”, One Peter Five, Jan. 4, 2023; italics given; hyperlinks removed.)

Kwasniewski can only speak thus because he ignores, does not take seriously, or simply does not believe what that 2,000-year-old ecclesiastical Tradition has to say about the Papacy. In fact, that Tradition would not have made it down to our day unless the Popes — real Popes — had carefully watched over, passed on, and spread every iota of our holy Faith. Dr. K himself admits as much in the lines quoted above, and that alone shows the immensely important function of the Pope.

The Pope is the guarantee of it all — that the saints are saints, that Tradition is Tradition, that Scripture is truly divine Scripture, that we understand the Church Fathers correctly, that the catechisms are orthodox and consistent, that our bishops are lawful shepherds, that the Church remains in unity, and that the Sacred Liturgy is authentically Catholic and not an incentive to impiety, heresy, or sacrilege. Take the Papacy out of the picture, and you are left with a lot of opinions and probabilities perhaps, but with no guarantees.

In the first encyclical of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XV (r. 1914-1922) taught clearly:

…[W]henever legitimate authority has once given a clear command, let no one transgress that command, because it does not happen to commend itself to him; but let each one subject his own opinion to the authority of him who is his superior, and obey him as a matter of conscience. Again, let no private individual, whether in books or in the press, or in public speeches, take upon himself the position of an authoritative teacher in the Church. All know to whom the teaching authority of the Church has been given by God: he, then, possesses a perfect right to speak as he wishes and when he thinks it opportune. The duty of others is to hearken to him reverently when he speaks and to carry out what he says.

(Pope Benedict XV, Encyclical Ad Beatissimi, n. 22)

These are fighting words to Peter Kwasniewski, because they condemn him, who presumes to overrule the ‘Pope’ on matters of doctrine, liturgy, and declared sainthood. Not bad for someone who has not been appointed to any role in the church and who doesn’t even have a degree in theology! (In our prior post, we showed that he even had the gall to accuse Pope St. Pius X of Modernism!)

Furthermore, it is clear that Kwasniewski has to minimize papal authority as much as possible, not simply because it condemns him but also because otherwise he cannot squeeze the public apostate Bergoglio into the role of Pope — and even then, of course, he cannot really, but he can give the appearance of having done so successfully.

Unfortunately, he picked the wrong one…

We must take issue, by the way, with how the Kwas frames the issue under discussion, right at the start. He says that people lament, “If a pope can be so wrong, then the Catholic religion mustn’t be true.” Is the problem really one of an alleged Pope simply being wrong? Is it not, rather, that this “mistaken Pope” teaches his errors not merely in a private capacity to those around him but to the entire church? Does he not pollute the catechisms, close flourishing religious orders, suppress the ancient Roman rite of Mass, mislead the world through his public addresses, canonize fake saints, and cause scandal everywhere by means of his official acts?

The problem under discussion is a lot worse than simply that of a Pope being wrong.

Kwasniewski continues:

If, therefore, we’ve had several less-than-stellar popes who have refused to take their bearings from the sources and monuments to which Catholics have always looked, wouldn’t this mean that they are simply royally abusing their authority in all the areas in which popes can be imprudent and fallible? I do not see how this changes the Catholic religion, unless that religion is equated with a mindless adoption of every opinion, statement, whim, and pet peeve of a reigning pontiff.

(italics given)

Here, again, the author unduly frames the issues in a way that favors his position. The “Popes” after Pius XII haven’t been “less than stellar” — that would be like saying that abortionists are less-than-stellar pediatricians. It simply doesn’t do justice to the reality.

Likewise, it is wrong to frame the matter purely in terms of (in)fallibility. The Popes enjoy the divine assistance even in matters that are, strictly speaking, not infallible. Pope Pius XI said so precisely with regard to the ban on contraception, which apparently some were claiming they did not have to abide by since it was not an infallible definition:

Wherefore, let the faithful also be on their guard against the overrated independence of private judgment and that false autonomy of human reason. For it is quite foreign to everyone bearing the name of a Christian to trust his own mental powers with such pride as to agree only with those things which he can examine from their inner nature, and to imagine that the Church, sent by God to teach and guide all nations, is not conversant with present affairs and circumstances; or even that they must obey only in those matters which she has decreed by solemn definition as though her other decisions might be presumed to be false or putting forward insufficient motive for truth and honesty. Quite to the contrary, a characteristic of all true followers of Christ, lettered or unlettered, is to suffer themselves to be guided and led in all things that touch upon faith or morals by the Holy Church of God through its Supreme Pastor the Roman Pontiff, who is himself guided by Jesus Christ Our Lord.

(Pope Pius XI, Encyclical Casti Connubii, n. 104; underlining added.)

Pope Pius XII, too, shot down the argument that non-infallible teachings are not binding:

Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: “He who heareth you, heareth me” [Lk 10:16]; and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine.

(Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Humani Generis, n. 20)

Also, just because a given teaching is not infallible, does not imply that it could be heretical, that is, that it could contradict the known Faith. Too many people make this mistake in reasoning. They think that if something is not guaranteed to be free from all error, it is therefore not guaranteed to be free from any error. But that is clearly false.

If we were to hold, as Prof. K does, that Popes are capable of teaching the foulest heresies and damnable errors except once in a blue moon when rendering an infallible definition or when all the world’s bishops are already teaching the same doctrine, then the Papacy would not be a safe guide to Heaven at all, for it would mean that we can have no assurance whatsoever, outside of those extremely rare ex cathedra pronouncements, that what is being taught by the Pope alone is true or at least in harmony with the orthodox Faith and therefore safe to assent to.

Then the daily ordinary magisterium of the Roman Pontiff would serve no purpose, other than to keep the faithful busy researching and verifying to make sure the Vicar of Christ hasn’t slipped into the role of Vicar of Satan. It would make a complete mockery of the teaching authority of the successor of St. Peter! As Pope St. Pius X taught, it “is of highest importance to the safeguarding of Catholic truth, to follow and obey the Successor of St. Peter with the greatest faith” (Apostolic Letter Tuum Illud). Kwasniewski, then, has it backwards: It is adherence to the teaching of the Pope that guarantees everyone’s orthodoxy; it is not the Pope’s conformity to everyone else that does.

The Pope is not the only measure of Catholicism, it is true; however, he is the ultimate measure and guarantee thereof: “…this sacred Office of Teacher in matters of faith and morals must be the proximate and universal criterion of truth for all theologians, since to it has been entrusted by Christ Our Lord the whole deposit of faith — Sacred Scripture and divine Tradition — to be preserved, guarded and interpreted…” (Pius XII, Humani Generis, n. 18).

That said, it is simply not true that the “Popes” after Pius XII have never violated the strict limits of infallibility, as the Kwas insinuates.

For example, Bergoglio’s heresy on the death penalty, which is now being taught throughout his church by virtually all of his “bishops”, on a matter of Faith and morals and as divinely revealed, contradicts the infallibility of the universal ordinary Magisterium (see Denz. 1792). In other words, if Bergoglio were a true Pope, God would have prevented him from changing the Catechism in this manner.

Another example would be the evil discipline found in the 1983 Code of Canon Law and the 1990 Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches, both promulgated solemnly by the “apostolic authority” of “Saint” John Paul II, according to which baptized non-Catholics can receive Holy Communion under certain conditions, even outside danger of death and without repenting or converting to Catholicism even implicitly:

According to Catholic teaching, universal disciplinary laws promulgated by the Pope are infallible, that is, they cannot contain anything heretical, erroneous, evil, sacrilegious, harmful, etc.:

Certainly the loving Mother [the Church] is spotless in the Sacraments, by which she gives birth to and nourishes her children; in the faith which she has always preserved inviolate; in her sacred laws imposed on all; in the evangelical counsels which she recommends; in those heavenly gifts and extraordinary graces through which, with inexhaustible fecundity, she generates hosts of martyrs, virgins and confessors.

(Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis, n. 66; underlining added.)

Now, the question is: Does Dr. Kwasniewski not know these things, or is he ignoring them on purpose? If he does not know them — and these are not hard to look up — what is he doing lecturing others about how they “misunderstand” the Papacy?

But let us return now to the professor’s essay:

I continue to be amazed that there are people who treat the distinction between fallible and infallible teaching as merely academic. Distinctions between levels of authority are in fact intuitive and have only ceased to be intuitive because we have mystified the magisterium. Our doctrinal situation with Pope Francis is like when you were a kid and your father yelled a lot and got mad when you didn’t do what he liked but rarely gave a clear order or put the whole weight of his authority on the line, binding or forbidding unequivocally. It’s a messy situation, but it isn’t really unfamiliar from other areas of human life in which authority and subordination are involved.

No, Dr. K, there is no “mystification” of the magisterium going on. The error lies in you framing the issue as one of infallibility rather than one of authority. As is clear from the papal teaching already quoted and linked, the difference between what is fallible and what is infallible is not really relevant in practice because in either case the Catholic faithful must assent: “…even though to someone, certain declarations of the Church may not seem proved by the arguments put forward, his obligation to obey still remains” (Pius XII, Allocution Magnificate Dominum).

Notice how so far Kwasniewski has not given any magisterial evidence for his many pontifications. And now, to add insult to injury, he uses a contrived analogy based on how your father probably acted when you were little. It’s pathetic, really. Theologically, this man shoots from the hip, and sometimes it’s just a squib load.

The Kwas continues:

I’m aware that one can find over-the-top statements by some post-Vatican I popes (e.g., Pius X) that virtually amount to “L’Eglise c’est moi” [“I am the Church”]. But since this position itself is not something authoritatively taught or binding on us, it belongs to the category of “official theology,” not settled Catholic doctrine, much less dogma—and official theology may certainly contain errors or omissions, as Thomas Pink explains so well.

Ah, finally the author admits, however disdainfully, that the magisterial evidence is against him! And what does he do with it? Does he admit the error of his ways and abandon his project of “rethinking” the Papacy? Of course not!

Instead, he denounces the doctrinal pronouncements of the Popes after Vatican I — even mentioning Saint Pius X by name! — as “over-the-top” and “not binding”! He refers to Dr. Thomas Pink, whose own research is apparently more authoritative and binding than the teachings of Popes! The hubris of the man is staggering! Who needs Popes when you’ve got the Kwas? (We’ll take care of Dr. Pink’s thesis in a subsequent post, by the way.) We might add that for the excommunicated Modernist George Tyrrell, too, it was Pius X who was wrong — not himself, naturally! Every dissenter and heretic is convinced that he is right and the Pope is wrong.

Little by little, Kwasniewski is “defending Tradition” by chipping away at the traditional (pre-Vatican II) Catholic doctrine. Don’t be surprised if he eventually agrees with the so-called Eastern Orthodox and Joseph Ratzinger, who wrote that a papal primacy of honor rather than of jurisdiction might be the truth — which is heresy against Vatican I (see Denz. 1831)! Dr. K actually brings up Orthodoxy a little later on, and we will have more to say about it then.

Returning to the essay:

The publication of my writings on hyperpapalism has occasioned many disclosures of the extent to which certain people—especially those who are questioning the Faith or have already left the Church—have simply identified Catholicism with the mind of the pope, as if the very substance of it is not knowable in any way apart from what the current pope says it is. I continue to find this astonishing.

(italics given)

This too is misleading. Nobody claims that Catholicism has no objective content and is re-created from scratch, so to speak, every time the Pope speaks. Rather, the objectively knowable content of Catholicism is necessarily ratified and reaffirmed by each Pope, and that is manifestly not the case with Jorge Bergoglio. That is precisely what creates the cognitive dissonance in people, which must be resolved because the Catholic Faith does not demand, or permit, a suspension of reason.

The author continues:

What if a pope in his “ordinary Magisterium” contradicted the Nicene Creed? Would we chuck out the Creed, or would we condemn the pope for contradicting it? What if he contradicted a clear teaching of Scripture, one on which there had always been unanimity? What if he rejected one of the Church’s venerable and immemorial liturgical rites, whether Latin or Greek? It seems to me that there should not be even a moment’s hesitation about what we ought to hold fast to. The moment you say that a pope is allowed to depart from the authoritative witness of tradition (in which is comprised everything that Holy Mother Church possesses, including Scripture) or that his mind and will overpower that witness to such an extent that it becomes totally malleable in his hands, you have already undermined the claim of Catholicism to be always and forever true. It’s done for.

Apparently it does not occur to Dr. Kwasniewski that the scenarios he describes are not possible. If they were possible, we may surmise they would have happened already a long time ago. The whole point of Christ giving to His Church the Papacy is so that the Faith would be unconquerably safeguarded, not undermined: “…religion itself can never totter and fall while this Chair [of Peter] remains intact, the Chair which rests on the rock which the proud gates of hell cannot overthrow and in which there is the whole and perfect solidity of the Christian religion” (Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Inter Multiplices, n. 7). But there we go again, quoting one of those over-the-top hyperpapalists who didn’t read Thomas Pink!

By the way: No one is saying that the Pope is “allowed” to depart from the Faith — rather, he cannot, and by that we mean it is not possible that he should, not that he merely isn’t supposed to and must be resisted when he does.

Next, Dr. K considers an objection: “Then why not become Orthodox?”

The answer he gives is frightfully revealing. He lists the following reasons for not becoming Orthodox (summarized by us):

  • he loves the traditional Roman rite of Mass (which the Orthodox don’t have)
  • he is a disciple of St. Thomas Aquinas
  • he loves the sacred music of the West
  • he wouldn’t know which of the self-governing Orthodox patriarchs to put himself under
  • the Roman Catholic Church is his home

What an utter intellectual disaster! None of the reasons he gives have anything to do with the objective truth of Roman Catholicism. That is, nothing he mentions is tied to the fact that Catholicism is the one true religion established by God, and the Catholic Church alone is His Church, and that this can be discerned from a study of what are called the “motives of credibility”. Kwasniewski does not even attempt to provide an objective vindication of Catholicism. Instead, he makes it about his personal tastes!

To be fair, just before bringing up the objection about Orthodoxy, Kwasniewski had written: “The only way the Faith can be seen to be true, for those who are approaching it rationally, is if it is consistent and coherent across the ages” (italics given). However, this does not demonstrate the Faith to be true: It may show consistency and coherence regarding what is taught, but it says nothing about its truth. This truth could not be proved anyway, since Faith rests on the authority of God and not on our own lights rendering what we believe evident to our minds: “Faith, therefore, must exclude not only all doubt, but all desire for demonstration”, as the Roman Catechism says (p. 15; underlining added).

Even if we want to take coherence and consistency as a motive of credibility, however, Kwasniewski himself torpedoes that in the same paragraph: “It is precisely this consistency and coherence that has too often been lacking in the non-infallible teaching and pastoral practice of recent popes” (italics given). Bingo! The Vatican II Church, in other words, lacks basic consistency and coherence and therefore credibility. No wonder Dr. K decided to make it all about his personal tastes instead!

Looking at the reasons given by Kwasniewski for “remaining Catholic”, an Orthodox apologist could easily demolish them one by one, as follows:

  • So what? If the Roman Catholic religion is false, your liturgical preference doesn’t matter
  • So what? If the Roman Catholic religion is false, you’d better stop being a disciple of St. Thomas
  • So what? You can still listen to the music of the West; but either way, you have to love God and His Truth more than your musical preferences
  • So what? That doesn’t justify staying in a false religion
  • So what? If it’s a false religion, then it shouldn’t be your home any longer! What would you say to a Protestant who says he won’t convert because the Lutheran church is his home?!

It is utterly amazing how someone of the intellectual caliber of Peter Kwasniewski — the man has a doctorate in philosophy and has styled himself a Thomistic theologian in the past — could give such foolish answers.

Perhaps anticipating such criticism, he writes: “I give these various examples not to reduce the Faith to culture, but to speak about the whole ‘phenomenon’ of the Roman Church. It is a totality of life, culture, literature, theology, worship, hagiography.” That’s nice, but the fact remains that none of the reasons given — whether individually or taken together — amount to a single objective reason that could justify being Catholic.

By giving these answers, Kwasniewski has admitted that his reasons for (supposedly) being Catholic are subjective and based on various personal preferences and experiences. This reminds one of Dr. Taylor Marshall‘s scandalous “rebuttal” of atheism in his celebrated book Infiltration, which we have dismantled in a long article here and also in TRADCAST 027 and TRADCAST 028. Although Marshall has a Ph.D. in Thomistic philosophy from the University of Dallas, it did not occur to him to refute atheism by pointing his readers to the powerful arguments of St. Thomas Aquinas, found especially in the Summa contra Gentiles and the Summa Theologica. Instead, Marshall appealed to his personal experience of God as his reason for not being an atheist! It does not get any more non-Thomistic than that! Frankly, Marshall’s personal experience is irrelevant and cannot refute atheism, any more than the personal experience of an atheist could vindicate atheism.

Kwasniewski seems to be taking a very similar route to Marshall here, for he too gives all sorts of irrelevant subjective reasons for what should be a very objective matter: One must be Catholic not because because of Mozart or a liturgical experience or because one wouldn’t know how to enter another religion, but because the Catholic religion alone is true.

To defend Catholicism as the only true religion to a non-believer, a Catholic apologist presents the motives of credibility that render the Catholic Church recognizable as the true Church, and Catholicism as the religion founded by Jesus Christ.

The Oath against Modernism, prescribed by Pope St. Pius X (him again!) for Catholic clerics, seminary professors, and presumably also for self-appointed papal correctors, says:

…I accept and acknowledge the external proofs of revelation, that is, divine acts and especially miracles and prophecies as the surest signs of the divine origin of the Christian religion and I hold that these same proofs are well adapted to the understanding of all eras and all men, even of this time.

(“Oath against Modernism”, 1910)

There’s nothing there about the beauty of the Traditional Mass, or Gregorian chant, or discipleship with St. Thomas as valid criteria for determining the true religion.

For a rational defense of the credibility of Catholicism as the only true religion, numerous apologetical works are available. Among them we can name Mgr. Joseph C. Fenton’s Laying the Foundation (formerly entitled We Stand with Christ), Fr. Sylvester Berry’s The Church of Christ, Cardinal James Gibbons’ The Faith of Our Fathers, St. Francis de Sales’ The Catholic Controversy, Fr. John O’Brien’s The Faith of Millions (only the pre-Vatican II editions, of course), Fr. Francis Doyle’s Defense of the Catholic Church, Canon John Bagshawe’s Credentials of the Catholic Church, David Goldstein’s What Say You?, and the excellent Radio Replies series of Fathers Leslie Rumble and Charles Carty (disregard vol. 5, called Questions People Ask, which was published in 1972), among so many others. (Full disclosure: Novus Ordo Watch benefits from purchases made through these Amazon links.)

Alas, Kwasniewski isn’t done yet and doubles down on his doomed approach a few paragraphs later:

Let me offer a comparison. We all know that the USA is deeply corrupt in its government and its culture. Authentic Christianity here is under relentless attack by liberal Protestantism, free-market capitalism, and woke ideology, to name only a few of its adversaries. Now, let’s say there was a place in the world that was free of such evils; where life was, on the whole, better. A friend might say to me: “You’re always pointing out how corrupt your country is. Why don’t you just leave and move to [name of place], and be done with it? You’d be a lot happier there.” What would my response be? “I don’t mind visiting [name of place], and I admire it from a distance, but America is my land, my country, my people. It’s where I’m from and where I feel at home. It’s part of who I am deep down. I am devoted to this country with a Christian patriotism. I want to stay here and do what I can to help it. Becoming an expat, whatever appeal it may have, is not for me. Indeed, I believe I have a God-given obligation to hold my ground and to fight the enemies.”

So there he goes again. No theology, no philosophy, no arguing from objective truth. Instead, he draws an analogy — he calls it a “comparison” but it’s actually an analogy, and he should know the difference — from secular life. He boils his reason for being Catholic down to: “It’s just who I am.” Any Anglican could say the same thing about his religion; any Orthodox about his; any Jew or Muslism about his.

Kwasniewski’s apologia for being Catholic is so incredibly anti-Thomistic and obviously fallacious that one begins to wonder if he is not perhaps purposefully offering such a weak “defense” precisely so that people’s Faith will be damaged by it, even if only subconsciously, and eventually abandon all desire to even be Catholic. This may seem a bit harsh, and it is only a suspicion, not an accusation; but it is hard to understand why someone with a Ph.D. in Thomistic philosophy — who presumes to correct even canonized Popes! — would blunder so badly on such a rudimentary black-and-white matter, especially while claiming to defend Catholic Tradition!

The bottom line is this: If Kwasniewski’s reasons for accepting Catholicism as the true religion are simply matters of personal taste and inclination, then he has opened wide the door to Modernism and has shown that his edifice is clearly built on sand (cf. Mt 7:26-27). In fact, we may say that by offering such an exceptionally weak defense of his religion, he has declared open season on Catholicism.

Of course this does not keep the Kwas from denouncing “dreadfully bad apologists” who “vastly overemphasize the pope and the papacy’s role” and “end up virtually equating Catholicism with the papacy”. He adds:

This is an unhealthy exaggeration. The papacy is a key component of the Catholic Faith but it is only one of many. The pope is an instrument in the hands of God; but so are the liturgy, the saints, devotions, catechisms, Church Fathers and Doctors, and the communities of believing Catholics of which we are a part, from the family to the parish to the diocese.

There he goes again with his minimization of the Papacy — as if certain non-Catholics, such as the Orthodox, didn’t also have “the liturgy, the saints, devotions, catechisms, Church Fathers and Doctors”, and its own communities of “believers”.

Kwasniewski refuses to accept that Catholicism hinges on the Papacy, for “the strong and effective instrument of salvation is none other than the Roman Pontificate”, as Pope Leo XIII taught (Allocution of Feb. 20, 1903; excerpted in Papal Teachings: The Church, n. 653). For that reason, St. Augustine could say: “You are not to be looked upon as holding the true Catholic faith if you do not teach that the faith of Rome is to be held” (qtd. by Leo XIII, Encyclical Satis Cognitum, n. 13).

The Pope isn’t just one bishop among many, who can fail like all the other bishops can, and when he does, we simply tune him out and focus on the other things Catholicism has to offer. “The Pope”, says Pope Pius XII, “has the divine promises; even in his human weaknesses, he is invincible and unshakable; he is the messenger of truth and justice, the principle of the unity of the Church; his voice denounces errors, idolatries, superstitions; he condemns iniquities; he makes charity and virtue loved” (Address Ancora Una Volta, Feb. 20, 1949). If this doesn’t sound like it fits Jorge Bergoglio, it’s not because the Papacy is false but because Bergoglio is.

Prof. K then quotes St. Vincent of Lerins, who exhorts us to be steadfast in the ancient Faith. In so doing, Kwasniewski thinks he has found a prooftext against those “papal maximalists”. But this is nonsense for several reasons.

First, it makes no sense to say that we can and should dismiss what Popes Pius IX, Leo XIII, St. Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XI, and Pius XII have taught in their official magisterium many decades ago, but then somehow we are bound by what St. Vincent of Lerins or other Church Fathers wrote in the 5th century.

Second, St. Vincent was not offering his rule of Faith as an alternative to the teaching of the Holy See, much less one that could overrule it. We have addressed this at some length in a prior post:

After some philosophical musings about “holism” and “mechanistic assumptions” we can happily ignore because irrelevant, Kwasniewski sinks to a new low. He claims:

If there’s something extremely unhealthy about hyperpapalism, would it not be entirely in keeping with the known ways of Divine Providence to orchestrate history in such a way as to wean Latin-rite Catholics off of it, even if that meant a lot of pain and difficulty? Addictions of any kind are harmful, so we should want to get rid of them; yet it’s painful to be freed from the addictive substance. It felt good, after all, to cheer for the pope (“John Paul II, We Love You!”) and it was comfortingly easy to slap an equal sign between him and the Faith.

That’s it: God Himself is, through the events of history, correcting the false magisterium of his Vicars! How’s that for a “god of surprises”! With such a blasphemous thesis, Kwasniewski can join the Modernist theologians of the Nouvelle Théologie (New Theology) and their belief in historical events — the “signs of the times” — as a source for doctrine. Welcome to the theology of Marie-Dominique Chenu, Dr. K!

Kwasniewski ends his train wreck of an article by exhorting readers to hold their ground “against the jailers of tradition”. Yet he has shown himself to be one of its busier wardens, suppressing or deriding the doctrine found in the official papal magisterium and in the theological works before Vatican II as “over-the-top statements” the unenlightened Catholics of those days naively swallowed.

And so the American philosopher is currently developing his very own version of traditional Catholicism, his very own “reality”, so to speak, in which not only Vatican II and the post-conciliar magisterium must be resisted and corrected, but even that before Vatican II. Hey, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right?

Prof. Kwasniewski had set out to explain why “abandoning the Church” is of no appeal to semi-trads. But abandoning the Church can be done in various ways, and one of them is by abandoning Catholicism: “For not every sin, however grave it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy” (Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis, n. 23).

By “rethinking” the Papacy, Peter Kwasniewski is really denying it; and by denying it, he is abandoning it. And by abandoning the Papacy, he is abandoning the Catholic Church.

All because he refused to abandon Bergoglio.

Image source: YouTube (screenshot)
License: fair use

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