These are hard times for conservative Catholics. For the past 60 years, they have had to watch their church gradually but steadily abandon many of its bedrock principles in what was at first an attempt to stay "relevant" but now looks very much a hostile takeover by the forces of relativistic "progressivism." Under a series of weak and/or malicious popes, beginning with the unaccountably sainted John XXIII and continuing to the present day in the reign of the regrettable Pope Francis, the Church has abandoned its liturgy, its core beliefs, its traditions, its probity, and its sexual morality. Can things get worse? Of course they can.
Still, let us count the ways they already have hit bottom: During the Second Vatican Council between 1962 and 1965, much of the liturgy was "modernized," starting with the traditional Latin Mass, called the Tridentine rite. No longer did the mass have to be universally celebrated in Latin, one of the faith's two historic languages (the other is Greek); now it could be said in the local languages -- a deliberate, disruptive balkanization of the faith that was in retrospect one of the first manifestations of the divisive "diversity" fetish that has taken hold in the West.
The priest, who formerly led his congregation by facing the elevated altar, now addressed the parishioners, thus making instant nonsense of his opening words, Introibo ad altare Dei -- "I will go unto the altar of the Lord." In the name of "ecumenicism," distinctions between and among other faiths, including Judaism and rival Protestantism, were deliberately obscured. And the enormous library of sacred music, written over the centuries by some of the greatest composers, went onto the ash heap, to be replaced by mock-folk hymns sung by Peter, Paul and Mary imitators in order to get in synch with the folk-music revival of that period. It was all very current, now, hip, happening, and utterly awful.
Malachy saw it coming.
As usual when a great change is introduced, its apologists swore that the effects would be minimal when they were not in fact beneficial. One thinks immediately of Ted Kennedy's promises regarding the Hart-Celler immigration act of 1965, which destroyed the traditional ethnic makeup of America (an early "diversity" push) and set us on a course that last week saw "Palestinian" demonstrators ripping down American flags on Lexington Avenue and vandalizing Grand Central Station in Manhattan. Herewith, the words of the Lion of the Senate at the time:
Our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually. Under the proposed bill, the present level of immigration remains substantially the same... Secondly, the ethnic mix of this country will not be upset... Contrary to the charges in some quarters, [the bill] will not inundate America with immigrants from any one country or area, or the most populated and deprived nations of Africa and Asia... In the final analysis, the ethnic pattern of immigration under the proposed measure is not expected to change as sharply as the critics seem to think. The bill will not flood our cities with immigrants. It will not upset the ethnic mix of our society. It will not relax the standards of admission. It will not cause American workers to lose their jobs.
Over the past couple of years, the first Jesuit pontiff, Jorge Bergoglio (an Argentine-born "progressive" Italian) has taken the strongest steps yet to outlaw the Latin Mass --
Pope Francis on Friday directly reversed a signature liturgical decision of Pope Benedict XVI, moving to strongly limit use of the old Latin Mass and spurring anger from church traditionalists. The pope, whose tenure has been characterized by deep church divisions and conservative opposition, said in a letter that his new ruling was a step “in defense of the unity of the Body of Christ.” He suggested that those who favored the old Latin Mass had been exploiting the rite as a way to “reinforce the divergences, and encourage disagreements that injure the Church.”
Francis’s decision was remarkable, if only because he was taking a major step into the church’s liturgical wars and essentially erasing the decision of his conservative predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
Last week the punitive primate fired a restive, rebellious American bishop for daring to challenge papal authority: "A statement from the Vatican posted online says 'The Holy Father has removed Bishop Joseph E. Strickland from the pastoral care of the diocese of Tyler, United States of America.' Replacing Strickland will be Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, according to the statement."
Strickland, 65, has been publicly critical of Francis and the Vatican. He wrote an open letter in August suggesting the church's "basic truths" would be challenged at a synod in September, and wrote that he belived an "evil and false message" had "invaded the church." In another open letter the next month, Strickland addressed members of the LGBT community, particularly taking aim at trans people. “The transgender movement is another face of the LGBTQ agenda, and it is also at odds with the Catholic understanding of the human being,” he wrote in the letter.
It doesn't help that Bergoglio is a Jesuit -- a foundationally radical order that, according to Catholic insiders, has become a hotbed of homosexuality, which may account for this pope's gay-adjacent theological preferences. Indeed, the Jesuits have distinguished themselves by their rampant apostasy during this parlous period for the Church. Their universities -- Georgetown, Boston College, Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, even Fordham -- are among the most "progressive" in the nation, having largely abandoned their religious functions in favor of "diverse" secularism. Like Bergoglio, they've lost faith in their own faith -- the end stage of any liberal enterprise.
Templars, up in smoke.
None of this would come as a surprise to Malachy, the 12th-century bishop of Armagh and close confidant of Bernard of Clairvaux, the influential Benedictine abbot and one of the founders of the Knights Templar. (Note: I made the Malachy prophecies a plot element in my "Devlin" series of thrillers.) While the canonicity of Malachy's famous prophecies of the popes is roundly disputed (and I generally discount "prophecy" across the board), perhaps we should heed his words. The loss of faith at the top levels of the Church, the diminution of its adherents in the West -- not to mention the weird rush to canonize the line of largely failed popes from John XXIII to John Paul II (strong on politics, weak on dogma), including the cipher, Paul VI -- indicates an institution in serious trouble.
We might start with treating the Jesuits the way Pope Clement V did the Templars, dissolving the order and leaving them to the mercies of the French king, Philip IV, who executed their leaders in a grand auto-da-fe in 1314. Failing that, consider this Malachian prophecy regarding the last in his line of 112 popes, the one corresponding to Francis:
In persecutione extrema S.R.E. sedebit. Petrus Romanus, qui pascet oves in multis tribulationibus, quibus transactis civitas septicollis diruetur, & judex tremendus judicabit populum suum. Finis.
In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit Peter the Roman, who will pasture his sheep in many tribulations, and when these things are finished, the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the dreadful judge will judge his people. The End.
Rome has been sacked before, by Visigoths, Muslims, and Protestants alike, and somehow the Eternal City and its principal faith have survived since the time of St. Peter. Francis may be the first Jesuit pope, but let's hope he is the last. If he's not for the actual final pope before the destruction of the Church, it's not for lack of trying.