The Trojan Horse of the SSPX-Vatican Negotiations
How Bp. Williamson Puts Souls at Risk
by Gutting All Meaning from a Well-Known Expression
image: Wikimedia Commons (Deepika Ravishankar) / CC BY-SA 4.0
Of the various reasons the Catholic Church down through the ages has insisted on Latin as the language of her Roman rite liturgy has been the variability of vernacular languages, and hence the reliability of them to consistently preserve word meanings. When one is dealing with unchangeable eternal truths, it is crucial to be certain that the way those truths are expressed cannot deviate in meaning, which is all too easy to do when a living language is being used as witnessed in the “New Mass”.
Society of St. Pius X Bishop Richard Williamson is as familiar with the concept as anyone, and has no doubt alluded to it numerous times in sermons, addresses, and writings down through the years. He of all people, then, should understand the importance of preserving the form and essence of our communications with one another.
Given this background, it may surprise some readers to discover that Bp. Williamson has taken huge liberties in this regard when commenting on the upcoming talks between the SSPX and Modernist Rome. His remarks appear in his Eleison Comments CCXIV (“Greek Gifts I”) and CCXV (“Greek Gifts II”) for August 20 and 27, 2011, respectively.
“Forewarned is forearmed”
The first part of “Greek Gifts” begins without any surprises. Bp. Williamson rightly remarks about the discussions that “Catholics who appreciate all that Archbishop Lefebvre and his Society have been given to do over the last 40 years in defense of the Faith need to be forewarned, because that Faith is ever more in danger….”
He then goes into how the positions of the two sides are irreconcilable:
Now by all accounts the Discussions made clear that no doctrinal agreement is possible between the SSPX as cleaving to the age-old Church doctrine, and today’s Rome as set upon the Conciliar teaching of the Newchurch, and moreover persevering in this disorientation, as is clear from the Newbeatification of John-Paul II in May and from Assisi III due to happen this coming October. So the situation coming out of the Discussions remains exactly where it was two years ago, going into the Discussions: on the one hand, for the glory of God and for the salvation of souls, the SSPX strives to help Rome back to the true Catholic Faith, whilst for the glory of modern man and for the satisfaction of his ignoble media (as in January and February of 2009), Conciliar Rome is doing all within its power to induce the SSPX to blend into the mind- and soul-rotting ecumenism of the Newfaith.
(Bp. Richard Williamson, SSPX, “Greek Gifts – I”, Eleison Comments, Aug. 20, 2011)
All of this begs the question: Why, if you’re the SSPX, “negotiate” in the first place with “Newchurch”, which seeks to impose its “soul-rotting” teaching upon you? The madness of getting involved with Modernists is a topic to explore on another occasion, but for now let’s just say this is the theological equivalent of voluntarily entering a pit full of poisonous snakes with the expectation of domesticating them and/or “coexisting” with them.
Then, after speculating whether Modernist Rome will threaten the Society with another “excommunication” if it doesn’t comply with demands, or offer them “full communion” (he calls this the Vatican’s “cleverest carrot”) if it does comply, Bp. Williamson equates the latter scenario with the ancient legend of the Trojan Horse:
Clear minds recall the saying of the wise — but scorned — Trojan who did not want the Greeks’ Horse to be brought into Troy: “Howsoever it be, I fear the Greeks, even when they bear gifts.” But the Trojan Horse was brought in. We all know what happened to Troy.
In that famous ruse, the Greek army after failing at a lengthy siege of the fortified city of Troy, pretended to retreat and left a huge wooden equine effigy outside the gates of the fortified city as the “gift” of an unsuccessful foe. Against the protestations of a skeptical wise man, a spy convinced the Trojans to bring the horse into the city, after which Greek soldiers, who had been hiding inside the hollowed-out horse, emerged under the cover of night and easily conquered the unsuspecting city from within.
A time-tested expression with a consistent meaning through the ages
This is such an striking example of clever artifice being used to vanquish that the term Trojan Horse has been used through the years in numerous contexts. In the middle part of the 20th century it often pertained to espionage rings, particularly those of the Nazis and Communists. U.S. Congressman Martin Dies, who served for six years as Chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee, was author of a 1941 book on such spying entitled The Trojan Horse in America.
Similarly-titled books have more recently sought to expose other threats to American society, including Samuel L. Blumenfeld’s N.E.A.: Trojan Horse in American Education (1984), Alvin J. Schmidt’s The Menace of Multiculturalism: Trojan Horse in America (1997) and Rodney Stich’s Drugging America: A Trojan Horse and Subverting America – A Trojan Horse Legacy (both 2005). In general, the entire “culture war” we see ravaging our nation (and every other one free nation) constitutes a Marxist Trojan Horse operation masquerading as a “progressive” political movement.
Further uses can be found in the computer and business fields. In the former, a trojan horse is a program containing a malicious code designed to look harmless to unsuspecting users. In one well-known case, a program supposedly found and destroy viruses, but in reality introduced viruses into the computer, while another, posing innocently as a bank page, captured customers’ passwords and usernames in an effort to access their accounts and steal their money when they attempted to log into their accounts. The term “phishing” pertains to a certain trojan horse tactic used in identity theft schemes.
In business, “trojan horse” is used to describe a marketing scam similar to “bait and switch”, wherein the customer/victim is offered cash or something else of value as an enticement to spend a much larger amount of money through regular withdrawals from the victim’s bank account, or through charges to a debit or credit card, usually hidden, say, in a contract’s fine print.
Lastly, but most germane to present discussion among the (by no means exhaustive) examples cited here, “trojan horse” is an apt metaphor for the infiltration of the Church by enemies bent on her corruption and ultimate destruction through internal subversion. This sense of the term can be found long before Bp. Williamson’s similar usage. While a number of Catholic commentators on the destruction since Vatican II have used the term, one of the earliest was the German philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand in Trojan Horse in the City of God: The Catholic Crisis Explained, which originally appeared in 1970.
When von Hildebrand used the term, there was no mistaking his point. In The Devastated Vineyard, written three years later, he used a synonymous term when surveying the crisis:
An unprejudiced look at the present devastation of the vineyard of the Lord cannot fail to notice the fact that a “fifth column” has formed within the Church, a group which aims at systematically destroying her.…
Their systematic and artful undermining of the holy Church testifies clearly enough to the fact that this is a conscious conspiracy, involving Freemasons and Communists who, in spite of their differences and usual enmity on other matters, are working toward this goal.…
The inconceivable thing is that this conspiracy exists within the Church, that there are bishops and even cardinals, and many priests and religious, who play the role of Judas. That such a “fifth column” exists is not merely my unauthoritative private opinion; on the contrary, a number of cardinals, bishops, and prelates have declared in private conversations that no one who is not blind can overlook this incredibly tightly organized “fifth column” within the Church. Of course the number of religious who belong to this “fifth column” may be comparatively small, but they have a clear aim, coupled with the kind of intelligence that one finds in all Soviet and Chinese embassies, which should b more precisely characterized as slyness and cunning, to distinguish it from true intelligence.
(Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Devastated Vineyard, translated by John Crosby and Fred Teichert [Harrison, NY: Roman Catholic Books, 1985], pp. xi-xii)
Of particular note, in his later book von Hildebrand explains why in just three short years he’s changed his rhetoric a bit (from the clandestine “Trojan Horse” to a somewhat more-in-the-open concept like “fifth column”).
Today we can no longer call the situation in the holy Church “The Trojan Horse in the City of God.” The enemies who were hidden in the Trojan Horse have stepped out of their encasement and the active work of destruction is in high gear. The epidemic has advanced from scarcely recognizable errors and falsifications of the spirit of Christ and the holy Church, up to the most flagrant heresies and blasphemies.
…The situation today has become even more clearly one of open battle between Satan and Christ, between the Spirit of the World and the Spirit of the holy Church.
(von Hildebrand, The Devastated Vineyard, pp. ix-x)
As von Hildebrand accurately remarked, any perceptive onlooker could, like the wise man of Troy, see that there was a malevolent force behind the destruction, a conspiracy consciously seeking the systematic destruction of its enemy. And this understanding of term has not changed from the first mention of the Trojan Horse five centuries before the birth of Christ up until the present.
No change, that is, until Bishop Richard Williamson decided to play fast and loose with the English language.
Deceivers with “sincerity and good will”
In the second part of “Greek Gifts”, Bp. Williamson takes this pointed comparison he’d previously made, wads it up in his hand and tosses it in the waste paper basket. He does so by citing a response from a real or hypothetical reader:
But, your Excellency, how could you in last week’s “Eleison Comments” (214) call in question, as you did, the sincerity and good will of the Roman officials who are only seeking to put an end to the alienation of the Society of St Pius X from the mainstream Church? You compared them to the Greeks deliberately deceiving the Trojans by means of the Trojan Horse. But all they want is to overcome the long and hurtful division between Catholics of Tradition and Church Authority!
(Bp. Richard Williamson, SSPX, “Greek Gifts – II”, Eleison Comments, Aug. 27, 2011; underlining added.)
Now, it is quite ludicrous to ascribe “sincerity and good will” to men who by all reasonable observation have repeatedly shown themselves to operating in a manner diametrically opposed to those worthy traits; after all, Benedict XVI was suspected of Modernism as early as his seminary days and has done absolutely nothing in 60 years to change that perception, all the while the man handling Modernist Rome’s talks with the SSPX, “Cardinal” William Levada, is cut from the same moth-eaten theological cloth. Yet, incredibly, this is precisely what Bp. Williamson does:
…one need not at all call in question these Romans’ sincerity and good will. There, in fact, is the problem! After nearly 500 years of Protestantism and Liberalism our age is so confused and perverse that the world is now full of people doing wrong even while being convinced that they are doing right. And the more convinced such people are that they are doing right, the more dangerous they can be, because with all the more force of subjective sincerity and good intentions they push towards doing objective wrong, and they pull others with them. The more sincerely today’s Romans are convinced of the rightness of their Newchurch, the more efficaciously they will destroy the true Church.
Wait a second! Yes, indeed we do need to call their sincerity and good will into question if they’re part of an underhanded Trojan Horse operation. As long as the law of non-contradiction is still in effect, deviously plotting enemies bent on destruction definitely are not simultaneously men of good will.
Yet despite this inherent contradiction so evident that one need not be a logician to see it, suddenly, Bp. Williamson has changed his tune: In the matter of a week, he’s gone from equating the Novus Ordo (“Newchurch”) negotiators with conspirators to saying they’re simply so “confused” by the modern world that they are “doing wrong even while being convinced that they are doing right”. Further, they “efficaciously … destroy the true Church”, all the while meaning to do it well.
Well, no, Modernists most assuredly are not sincere men of good will, and when he suggests this he sows confusion, all the more so when he contradicts his proper previous comparison with those who plotted the overthrow of Troy by guile. For the men under discussion here have shown in myriad ways their contempt for Catholic Tradition. And let us remember that the Church has always viewed Modernists not as confused do-gooders, as Bp. Williamson maintains in the second part of his comments, but as conspirators no less bent on the destruction of the Church than their Masonic and Communist colleagues.
How can we make such an assertion? Easily, because it isn’t our assertion, but that of Pope St. Pius X. In his 1907 landmark encyclical against Modernism, His Holiness declares that
…these latter days have witnessed a notable increase in the number of the enemies of the Cross of Christ, who, by arts entirely new and full of deceit, are striving to destroy the vital energy of the Church, and, as far as in them lies, utterly to subvert the very Kingdom of Christ…
That We should act without delay in this matter is made imperative especially by the fact that the partisans of error are to be sought not only among the Church’s open enemies; but, what is to be most dreaded and deplored, in her very bosom, and are the more mischievous the less they keep in the open…
Although they express their astonishment that We should number them amongst the enemies of the Church, no one will be reasonably surprised that We should do so, if, leaving out of account the internal disposition of the soul, of which God alone is the Judge, he considers their tenets, their manner of speech, and their action. Nor indeed would he be wrong in regarding them as the most pernicious of all the adversaries of the Church…
(Pope St. Pius X, Encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis, nn. 1-3)
So, clearly, the saintly pontiff would not us have us view these people as misguided crusaders, who are simply off a bit in terms of their orientation, but are the “most pernicious of all the adversaries” of Christ and His Church, “full of deceit” who knowingly seek to “utterly subvert the very Kingdom of Christ”, and who must be immediately defeated because they remain hidden in the Church’s “very bosom”, where they do more harm than if they were open in their apostasy.
Bp. Williamson’s Maddening Inconsistencies
The contradictory positions espoused by Bp. Williamson in his comments can be summed up in this paraphrase of the Wizard of Oz: After first warning of the Trojan Horse and of how we ought not trust those who bring such a gift, he turns around and does violence to the phrase, declaring: Pay no mind to those men exiting the horse, they mean you no harm! Fear not, as they’re merely disoriented, confused and mistaken by the age in which they live, so any attacks coming from them are purely coincidental and unintended.
Yet anyone familiar with his thinking will see this as textbook Williamson. First, he makes various statements suggesting that the Conciliar Church isn’t the Catholic Church. In the present instance, he uses such neologisms as “Newfaith”, “Newchurch” and “Newbeatification”. (Anyone for a “Newpope”? We borrow here from him, but it’s very much in the same vein.) Any right reading of such phrases would rightly lead one to conclude that he doesn’t view it as the true Church — which would be true if he possessed one of the “clear minds” he speaks of in his remarks.
Unfortunately, his argumentation is — to be charitable — murky when it comes to sorting out what’s going on. He writes of “disorientation”, but that’s as much a description of his view of the Church crisis as it is anything else. And the essence of his confusion comes from his refusal to acknowledge that John Paul II, Benedict XVI and other leaders of the Novus Ordo Church have one shred of responsibility for their actions. His is a fantasy world in which Catholics who once took the Oath Against Modernism have no culpability whatsoever in violating that oath due to many a fanciful reason beyond their control and therefore it is one in which no one need fear being ipso facto excommunicated for holding Modernist heresies, since there is no fault in holding them, so long as they’re Newchurch heresies, for which the Williamson “Get Out of Jail” card is played. This has been his stock-and-trade for years and years.
To cite just a couple of examples of his alibis du jour: John Paul II may have held heresies, but it wasn’t really his fault because he was in a “liberal dream” (Bp. Williamson’s phrase), while Benedict XVI hasn’t been culpable either, because he was seduced by modern German philosophers (fascinated with old German heretics like Luther is more like it!). In all sincerity, we ask Bp. Williamson to show us in St. Pius X’s decrees against the Modernists anywhere that he mitigates culpability based on such specious grounds as “liberal dreams”, seductions by German philosophy and the like; anywhere that a cleric can get off scot-free from an excommunication or loss of Church membership on such grounds. (Just one such instance would be fine, Your Excellency.) Certainly Benedict and Levada have no room for excuse, since they both were ordained prior to Vatican II, and so, in addition to having taken the Oath Against Modernism, they both were academic theologians quite familiar with the Church’s attitude towards heresy as well as the punishments she imposes on heretics. Again, zero room for excuses.
Likewise, in the present case, he uses the fact that “our age is so confused and perverse” as an excuse. Curiously, a little later, Bp. Williamson straddles his two conflicting positions, conceding the possibility that “the Romans” scheduled to meet the SSPX’s leaders may “know that they are trying to destroy the true Faith”, but then again, maybe not. (Now you see a Trojan Horse, now you don’t?) Then he flip-flops again, asserting that the Romans set to meet with the SSPX “may be chosen for their personal charm, to help draw the SSPX towards official Rome.” They “may be chosen”, but then again maybe not. (It’s worth noting that since the talks with the Vatican have heated up, he’s toned down his rhetoric substantially; where he used to use the forceful, unambiguous term “Modernist Rome”, he’s now softened it to “today’s Rome”, “Conciliar Rome” or “official Rome”.) Or maybe they will be hiding in a Trojan Horse with good intentions (sic)!
While it’s certainly true in a sense that in terms of the results it may be of little importance whether the destruction is being wrought by one with evil intent or by someone who does so unwittingly, it’s nevertheless crucial to know whether the intent was deliberate, so that future actions may be accurately predicted and (if need be) prevented.
It turns out there’s a method to his madness (or vice versa), for Bp. Williamson then explains:
When likeable men are peddling horrible errors, it is all too easy either to say that the errors are as likeable as the men, in which case the men incline us to liberalism, or to say that the men are as horrible as their errors, in which case the errors of the Conciliar Popes incline us to sedevacantism. But the reality today is that it has never been easier in all the history of mankind for men to be likeable at the same time as their errors are horrible. Such is our age. This situation could get worse only under the Antichrist, but it is his forerunners that are already driving the world to its ruin.
(Williamson, “Greek Gifts – II”)
This is the gist of his invention of “liberal dreams” and other nonsensical explanations: The attempt to deflate sedevacantist arguments by minimizing the individual responsibility of the “Conciliar Popes” (they commit sugarcoated “errors”, not heresies) and that sedevacantists base their conclusions on the likeability (or lack thereof) of these papal claimants (in reality, sedevacantists tend rather to base the claimant’s likeability on his orthodoxy more than on their personality).
Another question for Bp. Williamson is how forerunners of Antichrist could be anything but conscious destroyers. Later, he says in equally ludicrous fashion that the leaders of Modernist Rome “are sliding into apostasy”, as though they haven’t already arrived (it will be sadly amusing to read his remarks on the upcoming Assisi IV and see how he minimizes that apostasy as something less significant).
What we’ve noticed again and again in his writings for three decades now is his avoidance of any effort to buttress his arguments with the teachings of credentialed Catholic theologians. This isn’t surprising when one reflects, because nowhere can one find any theological backing for his make-it-up-as-you-go-along arguments. (Compare his refusal to view any culpability/pertinacity in the “Conciliar Popes” with the texts cited in well-documented articles such as “Sedevacantism and Mr. Ferrara’s Cardboard Pope”, which clearly shows that Catholics are obligated to see such traits in clerics who have gone wrong.
Bp. Williamson refuses to look at the facts objectively in the light of the teaching of the Church and her theologians, but rather molds his arguments in the way that best fit his preconceived notions. Hence, there can be unmistakable manifestations of heresy and even apostasy by the pretended successors of St. Peter that he will excuse away, because the alternative is to acknowledge the correctness of the sedevacantist position. Unlike him, however, we won’t excuse away this wrong-headedness by arguing that as an ex-Anglican he may be suffering from High Church dreams or has been unduly influenced by the Branch Theory, nor will we let him off the hook by saying that as a longtime member of the SSPX he’s too much under the sway of the opinions and influence of the late founder of the Society, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, to be able to spot absurdities or draw logical conclusions on his own.The painful fact of the matter is that there are former SSPX priests of equal or greater intellect and learning than him who can defend sedevacantism as a legitimate theological opinion with far greater cogency than he has shown himself able to refute the position. Of course he isn’t alone among the Society’s leaders in attempting such a refutation, he’s just been more colorful and inventive in coming up with excuses for the Modernist “Popes” than the others.
But like the others, Bp. Williamson’s equivocal position on the matter proves him to be an unreliable guide for Catholics, because like them, he would have us believe that “the SSPX strives to help Rome return to the true Catholic Faith”. Now, such a statement in and of itself is un-Catholic, for one either has the Faith or one doesn’t — this isn’t a matter of degree.
As the Popes have taught:
There can be nothing more dangerous than those heretics who admit nearly the whole cycle of doctrine, and yet by one word, as with a drop of poison, infect the real and simple faith taught by our Lord and handed down by Apostolic tradition.
(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Satis Cognitum, n. 9, quoting an unnamed author.)
Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: “This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved” (Athanas. Creed).
(Pope Benedict XV, Encyclical Ad Beatissimi, n. 24)
Anyone who professes all the tenets of the Faith in the sense that the Church understands them, is a Catholic; anyone who rejects even one dogma is not a Catholic at all. One can no more be partly Catholic than be partially pregnant or in a partial state of grace — one either is or isn’t. To say otherwise is either to be totally out of touch with essential Catholic truths or to be dealing in sophistry.
So, it is sheer drivel for Bp. Williamson to maintain that the men he perceives to be the highest authorities of the Catholic Church, including Popes, do not possess the true Catholic Faith, yet remain Catholics in good standing. Of course, this is the crux of his “liberal dream” nonsense, because the only way he can defend the idea that these men are Catholics with rightful authority in the Church, is to invent a cockamamie excuse for how they can simultaneously not have (much less profess) the Faith and yet still be members of the Church somehow.
In the end, the Society of St. Pius X is teaching its followers that the counterfeit church is the true Church that just needs some tweaking, and that false Popes are true Popes who are “disoriented”. As long as it maintains such a position it puts the souls of its adherents in mortal danger and opens itself up to being eventually absorbed into the Vatican II Sect. In fact, aren’t those “negotiations” the prelude to precisely that?
Bp. Williamson is right to question the prudence of these SSPX-Vatican meetings, but he does so for the wrong reasons, for there can be no compromises with Modernists, much less a meeting of the minds with them. One cannot sit across the table from them as though they were Catholics. It’s time that he start calling a spade a spade a quit acting with cowardice in writing about these men. His Trojan Horse metaphor is a strong one that pointedly gets to the heart of the problem — would that he have the courage to cast aside his cutesy word games and use it in all its forcefulness to expose the enemies of Jesus Christ and His Church, the very enemies who, in the words of Pope Pius X, seek “utterly to subvert the very Kingdom of Christ” by “systematic and artful undermining of the holy Church”, as put by Dietrich von Hildebrand. For only when these men are shown for what they are — heretical, nay apostate anti-popes — and are not misrepresented as simply “bad Popes”, will this veil of deceit finally be lifted and the restoration of the Church take a decisive step forward.