Item description for More Catholic Than The Pope: An Inside Look At Extreme Traditionalism by Patrick Madrid & Pete Vere...
Overview The authors examine and critique the claims of seven aggressive, aberrant Traditionalist groups that have proven so effective in luring Catholics from the Church.
Publishers Description It can be difficult to distinguish defenders from defectors. Many traditionalist schisms that have sprung up since the Second Vatican Council are filled with devotion to the Blessed Mother; they remain extremely conservative with regard to most moral issues afflicting the western world today; and they practice a strict reverence before the Blessed Sacrament during their traditional Latin liturgies. It can be easy to sympathize with such seemingly devout but truly disaffected Catholics. Now More Catholic Than the Pope examines one such group - the Society of St. Pius X - and explains how its prime architect and figurehead, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, and his followers chose to cut themselves off from the Church. Here is the history of the Society, from its beginning in France, to its rise and fall within the Catholic Church, to Pope John Paul II's fraternal but ultimately fruitless efforts at reconciliation. Here, too, carefully laid out, are the clear, concise, canonical answers to the issues the Society's members continue to raise and the arguments they still offer.
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Patrick Madrid is a life-long Catholic. He has authored or edited 16 Catholic books including Search and Rescue, Where is That in the Bible, and the acclaimed Surprised by Truth series. Patrick serves as the Director of the Envoy Institute, which is dedicated to teaching Catholics how to explain their Faith more intelligently, defend it more charitably, and share it more effectively.
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The Best Review I've Read on This Book Jun 16, 2008
BOOK REVIEW TITLE: More Catholic Than the Pope: An Inside Look at Extreme Traditionalism AUTHORS: Patrick Madrid and Pete Vere PUBLISHER: OSV Publishing Division REVIEWER: Fr. Stephen Somerville, S.T.L. (Licentiate in Sacred Theology)
"He certainly does go to church! Why, he is more Catholic than the Pope!" This colloquial Catholic humorism was well-known in the past, but is less so nowadays. It has been chosen as the title of a recently published criticism or attack on the international Priestly Society of St. Pius X. Once popularly intended as a compliment, it is here a critical epithet leveled by the authors at the traditional Catholic Society of priests founded in 1970 by French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre to train future priests for the old Catholic Latin Mass and teaching, in the turbulent wake of the modernizing, indeed revolutionizing, Second Vatican Council (1962-65).
The book More Catholic Than the Pope has for subtitle An Inside Look at Extreme Traditionalism. Although a somewhat serious work, it is hardly an "inside" look, since it invites little or no comment from the inside leadership of the Society of Saint Pius X. It repeatedly describes the Society as "extreme," doubtless to forestall the notion that its authors are not traditional at all, or the idea that traditional Catholics are the only ones who preserve and care about Catholic Tradition. To constantly add "-ism" to "traditional," as the book does, is another subtle slur that puts the Vatican II Church in a less awkward stance.
Words are risky, as politicians of "left' and "right" know so well. It is a growing fact that the Catholic Church today is seen as either "progressive," "conservative," or "traditional." The Progressives look for ongoing change and adaptation to "society" and "today's needs." The Conservatives want caution, a return to supposed majority views of the bishops at the Second Vatican Council, and to selected Catholic positions, including "a reform of the reform" in Liturgy. The Traditionalists want a whole-hearted return to the Latin liturgy and Catholic teaching and practice obtaining up to Pope Pius XII (d. 1958) before the Second Vatican Council.
Authors Madrid and Vere, in this view, seem to be conservative and traditional respectively. Here one need not insist. What is clear, nevertheless, is the hostility of the authors for the Society of Saint Pius X. This is not unusual, for the present writer, on friendly terms with the Society for a couple of years, often meets this suspicion or rejection in many quarters. The Vatican, though cautious, has certainly fostered the negative view, not without the help of Canon Law. But one does challenge the epithet "extreme." In Catholic moral tradition, one discerns two extremes, based on excess or defect on opposite sides of a moderate position. Thus, for example, we have presumption (by excess), despair (by defect) and hope (moderate). Surely the excessive (or extreme) traditionalists are those who reject every pope since Pope John XXIII (1958-63) as illegitimate, in so-called "sedevacantism" (i.e., vacant seat). To reject the Pope is an extremely drastic move, even though grave reasons may seem to support it. Some of these extremists go so far as to create their own Pope (five in the US alone, recently), while others simply ignore him.
Now we come to the moderate traditionalists. Surely these are they who neither reject the Pope nor follow the Vatican II changes. Putting it positively, they recognize and respect the Pope (although criticizing his teaching and policy), and they reclaim all, not just some, of the old Catholic liturgy and doctrine. There was still some hope in 1970 that this might be possible when the Society of Saint Pius X was enjoying cautious Vatican approval. It may even be that Pope John Paul II in his more "liberal" moments would have approved freedom for this living concept of Catholic tradition in a sort of bi-ritual Church, one part "traditional" and one "modern." But we must return to the book More Catholic Than the Pope.
The reader will perceive that I simply do not see Catholic Tradition surviving with all the Vatican II changes, and especially the new Mass (i.e., the Novus Ordo Mass). Messrs. Madrid and Vere obviously think otherwise, and seem to remain curiously blind to the full extent of the destruction of Catholic faith and piety in what other writers call "the Neo-Catholic Church" of Vatican II. Nonetheless, their Chapter 1, "What Led to the Founding of the SSPX," has a welcome frankness about the growing disorder in the Church, painfully perceived by Archbishop Lefebvre. The Society soon sailed into rough waters. In 1975, the new bishop of the territory in which the Society had been erected (Fribourg) saw fit, under Vatican pressure, to disqualify and suppress the Society. Rome evidently was alarmed at the growing power and attractiveness of this anti-Vatican II movement. It moved quickly to attempt to undo it. Here begins the canonical struggle between the Society and the Vatican. Author Vere has his licentiate in Canon Law, and I would not enter a canonical debate with him. Canonists of the Society of St. Pius can and do mount a strong defense of their Fraternity. But my lament against More Catholic Than the Pope is its heavy emphasis on legality. It makes me think of the Scribes and Pharisees who attacked Jesus relentlessly with "the law, the law, the law" without concern for faith in the new Messiah who stood before their unbelieving eyes. From a legal point of view, they certainly had an advantage. The Mosaic Law protected their very system and high position. Jesus was indeed able to defend Himself by legal appeals here and there, but His main strength was Old Testament prophecy and His own signs (miracles) and witness to God, His Father. Those Pharisees would "strain at a gnat and swallow a camel." Well, conciliar Catholics will echo cries of "schism" and "suspension" and "lost faculties" against the Society, but will blandly swallow the outrageous irreverence in many modern Catholic churches, disdain for the Real Presence, for the true Sacrifice, disregard for steeply falling attendance, for dying seminaries and convents, and so much more.
Canon Law itself tells us that the supreme law is the salvation of souls. When Church abuses undermine this salvation seriously, as the post-Vatican II history shows, then this higher law kicks in, and some disobedience to lower authority is warranted. As St. Peter declared to the Jews, it is better to obey God rather than men. More Catholic Than the Pope fails to give due place to this salvation crisis and state of grave necessity in today's Church. "Necessity knows no law," and the fruitfulness of so much traditional Catholic ministry today, including that of Society priests, is surely a clear sign of God's grace supporting Tradition. Canon 1323, §4 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law permits disobedience based on necessity and disallows punishment in such cases. Chapter 3 of More Catholic Than the Pope takes pains to show that the Lefebvre ordinations of deacons and priests were illegal. Here again, law would triumph over faith, but More Catholic Than the Pope sees only the canonics manipulated by Vatican Churchmen presiding over a Church that shows less and less of the ancient Catholic Faith.
On page 54, Archbishop Lefebvre addresses a fearful warning to Pope Paul VI (which I abridge):
Your Holiness, abandon the ill-omened program of compromising with the ideas of modern man, drawn from a secret pact between Cardinals and high Freemasons dating from before Vatican II. This will destroy the Catholic Church. You will see that we in the Society cannot collaborate in such a calamity, and this we would do if we closed our seminaries as you are insisting. (Cf. letter of Marcel Lefebvre to Pope Paul VI, June 17, 1976)
This statement shows that the Church's troubles are not the result of innocent errors by some theologians, but the result of traitorous Catholic collusion with Masonry, whose object has always been, along with Communism and Zionism, to destroy the Catholic Church.
The presence of evil conspiracy in the upper Church levels, before, during, and since Vatican II is the developed theme of many studies. Some knowledge of this conspiracy is necessary in appreciating the Society of Saint Pius X. Its founder's writings are also abundant and profound. More Catholic Than the Pope fails to balance these in its adverse judgment on the Society.
Chapters 6, 7, and 8 of More Catholic Than the Pope treat of some major questions of Faith and doctrine. Chapter 6 is a lengthy but confusing aside on Vatican II as "pastoral" and not "doctrinal" or "dogmatic." Obviously "pastoral" means of or pertaining to a pastor of souls or his duties (Webster). This is a permanent dimension of Church teaching and practice, from Biblical times onward. But More Catholic Than the Pope quotes Pope John XXIII saying that we must teach in "reply to the demands of our time," as if unfriendly society or the world should dictate how the Church should express the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. After eight pages of "pastorality," one remains confused. Is "pastoral" just a catchword that vaguely means "modern" or "practical," "flexible" or "non-dogmatic"? Is it a smokescreen for the subtle doctrinal changes that Vatican II architects slyly intended? Lefebvre wrote and spoke with unusual clarity, lucidity, and Catholic sense. His Society strives to do the same in its many publications. It is probably nowadays a good rule to avoid the use of the word "pastoral."
Chapter 7 of More Catholic Than the Pope is on the "Eucharist" (i.e., referring to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass). I could cite many instances of faulty expression or content in the authors' theology. More serious is the prevailing vagueness and even confusion of the text. The authors are attempting to explain away the obvious harm done to the Mass in post-Conciliar liturgy, for indeed the central thrust of traditional Catholics is to simply restore the old Mass and discontinue the changes. In order to excuse the Council More Catholic Than the Pope speaks repeatedly of the "intention" of the Second Vatican Council, or of the bishops, as originally being sound and good but later perverted. It is naive to suppose that total adherence to the texts of Vatican II would have saved the modern Church. That Council was clearly infected from the beginning with modernist attitudes. Its very "letter" and not just its so-called "spirit" could be manipulated to advance modernist changes.
Interestingly, the authors rather praise Pope Paul VI for Mysterium Fidei, his encyclical on the Real Presence and Sacrifice (September, 1965), published just before the end of the Second Vatican Council and without the collaboration of the Council. It seems that the ecumenical thrust of Vatican II was incompatible with such an emphasis on the Real Presence, but salvaging this Catholic dogma was judged necessary to protect the Vatican from losing face. In the same way, Humanae Vitae (1968) had to be published to save Catholic morality, but would never have been decreed by a commission or Council of modernist bent. It has even been ventured that some hand other than Pope Paul's wrote them-a more traditional hand. These documents are truly pastoral, the shepherd pastor addressing the faithful sheep.
Chapter 8 treats of "Ecumenism." For Webster, this is a promotion or fostering of Christian unity throughout the world. For More Catholic Than the Pope it is another wading in a swamp of confusion and vagueness. More Catholic Than the Pope begins by citing Vatican II: "The restoration of unity among all Christians is... [a] concern of [Vatican II]." Restoration? When did we ever have full Christian unity? Perhaps for a few intoxicated days after Pentecost? Jesus prayed ardently for unity at the Last Supper, as if He saw it would not be realized fully or easily. Vatican II goes onto say "division [of Christian communion] scandalizes the world...." Certainly not! The world does not care, and is even more divided than the churches. More Catholic Than the Pope (p. 113) denies the allegation that ecumenism undermines Catholic faith in the Real Presence and the True Sacrifice. Yet the Vatican II Novus Ordo Mass is accepted by several Protestant leaders as a suitable formula, the same leaders who disbelieve both the Real Presence and the Sacrifice of the Mass! It is fruitless for the Vatican to reaffirm Catholic truth in various damage-control statements (cited by More Catholic Than the Pope) when a grassfire of Catholic disbelief is already raging through a protestantized Liturgy. In all this treatment of ecumenism, More Catholic Than the Pope continues casting the slurs of "schismatic" and "extreme" at traditional Catholics. The bishops of the Society of St. Pius X should demand a retraction from authors Madrid and Vere, or else request a canonical enquiry of the Vatican to investigate their charges.
In Part 3A (Chaps. 9-13) More Catholic Than the Pope answers some particular arguments of Catholics defending Tradition. In Chapter 9, Madrid and Vere attack the use of the papal bull Quo Primum of Pope St. Pius V when used to defend the celebration of the Tridentine Mass. All that More Catholic Than the Pope manages to do is to confuse the reader. On page 124, the authors say a "declared" (I believe they rather mean "defined.") dogma can be later "clarified." But I remind them that to define a dogma is precisely to clarify it. Perhaps More Catholic Than the Pope meant that preachers or thinkers can help us to deepen our understanding of a dogma. One hopes so, and wishes that More Catholic Than the Pope would write with more clarity. Quo Primum is said to be a "merely disciplinary" document of St. Pius V (introducing the 1570 Roman Missal). This use of "merely" is an enormity. It implies "not doctrinal nor dogmatic." This is to belittle the marvelous stability that the Missale Romanum of St. Pius V brought to the Faith of Catholics because of the holy, meticulous, disciplined manner of celebrating the Mass that it imposed on the priest and his fellow ministers. Moreover, it marshaled or preserved a magnificent assemblage of texts, duly expressing the Real Presence, the True Sacrifice, and many other Catholic doctrines. All of this is the lex orandi-the law of praying-which, as theology tells us, establishes the lex credendi-the law of believing. To call this "merely" changeable discipline is grossly misleading, especially in view of the catastrophic degradation of the Catholic Church since around 1969, the year of Pope Paul VI's revised Missale Romanum. Truly, modernist rot was at work among many theologians, especially since the late 19th century, but the solidity of the old Missale Romanum and Quo Primum deserve great credit for preserving the faith of ordinary Catholics. The Novus Ordo surely deserves primary blame for the present Catholic debacle. Some observers do not hesitate to call it the prophesied Abomination of Desolation (II Thess. 2).
This train of thought leads into Chapter 10 where the authors take up the allegation that the New Mass is "evil." More Catholic Than the Pope continues here its muddling of language by insisting that only "the liturgy" has changed, not "the Mass," (p. 127) and that "the soul and divinity of Jesus are transubstantiated into the Eucharist," a theological howler (p.128). But in regard to the question, "Do the new liturgical rites incite to impiety?" all we can say to More Catholic Than the Pope is, "By their fruits you shall know them."
Is the Society of Saint Pius X in "schism" by virtue of its consecration of four bishops in 1988 without papal permission? This very important question receives only one page of treatment in Chapter 11. I have read many reputable authors on this topic strongly arguing that the Society of St. Pius X is not "schismatic" but none are cited here. Beside this, the discomfiting evidence that the Vatican of the last four popes has cut itself off from its own Catholic tradition is not mentioned. The signs that a "silent apostasy" (Pope John Paul II's words) is spread within the Catholic Church are not addressed. The simple notion that the Catholic Church is being reduced to a faithful remnant, principally among traditional Catholic groups, is unthinkable to More Catholic Than the Pope, for whom the Vatican can do no wrong. All the bishops and priests of the Society of Saint Pius X pray at every Mass expressly "for peace, protection, unity, and guidance for the Catholic Church, together with the Pope (John Paul) and the local bishops and all right-believing Catholics." Do men in "schism" employ such language?
Archbishop Lefebvre made a practical distinction in his famous statement in 1988 when he declared his loyalty to "traditional Rome" while rejecting "modernist Rome." In Chapter 13 (only two pages) More Catholic Than the Pope declares that these two notions are practically the same. In attacking Archbishop Lefebvre, it further confuses the reader by various woolly and senseless comparisons, saying this is to "divide the Church into a mere communion," to "separate the Church into a mere human institution," that "Christ founded His mystical body upon the rock," and "tradition is passed down by Christ." (Actually, the authors are wrong here. The apostles handed on or passed down [tradere"] the Gospel as must their successors; the action of Our Lord Jesus Christ is to reveal, bestow, or proclaim it). More Catholic Than the Pope astounds the reader by its blindness to the novelties in post-Conciliar teaching.
The eight pages of Chapter 14 present five significant traditional Catholic agencies other than the Society of Saint Pius X which are "recognized by the Church." They are all much smaller than the Society, which the media says enfolds a million Catholics worldwide. It remains to be seem how well they will survive and grow. They are surely obliged to bite their tongue when Vatican deviations in doctrine or practice are exposed. But they are further evidence of the beauty and attraction of Catholic Tradition. May their peaceful co-existence help restore the Church eventually, according to the mind of God.
So ends the book. There follows Pope John Paul II's letter Ecclesia Dei published promptly after the unauthorized consecrations of four bishops for the Society of St. Pius X performed by Archbishop Lefebvre and his co-consecrating bishop, Antonio de Castro Mayer (1988). It is, of course, an act of damage control, politely but firmly adversarial to the Society, which invokes the new notion of a "living character of Tradition" to explain the division. "Living" would indicate that there is growth (a sign of life) in insight into Tradition (§4; p.150). But this insight, I observe, is in the thinkers, not in Tradition itself. The Pope says it comes partly from bishop preachers who have received "the sure charism of truth." May it be so. He adds that a notion of Tradition which opposes, the universal teaching office in the Pope and Body of Bishops is "contradictory." I ask, "Does any genuine `notion of Tradition' oppose the pope and bishops?" -Certainly not! "Tradition" is that which all the popes and bishops handed on down to Pope Pius XII. Traditional Catholics have precisely this notion. It is they themselves, especially their trained theologians, who oppose the deviant teachings of the four recent popes and many bishops, who have precisely deviated from the true, immemorial Catholic teaching or Tradition. In §5a of Ecclesia Dei, the Pope invites all to "reflect on their fidelity to Tradition, authentically interpreted...in the Ecumenical Councils from Nicaea to Vatican II (325 to 1965)... [thereby] rejecting erroneous interpretations...." Indeed, may it be so! In §5b, he calls for "deeper study to reveal clearly the Council's continuity (?!) with Tradition." Very well: It will reveal also dis-continuity and novelty, as many writers have already shown.
Pope John Paul II goes on to express sympathy for Catholic faithful who "feel attached to," have "rightful aspirations" for, and whose "feelings... are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition." This is well and good, but surely he knows that these Catholics are Tradition-oriented not by sentiment, but by conviction and love of the Truth which they know.
After three more worthwhile appended articles and endnotes, there is a Glossary of Ecclesiastical Terms (seven pages). Although helpful, it contains rather many imprecisions, ungrammatical expressions, confusions, and minor errors.
Fr. Stephen Somerville is a collaborator with the Society of St. Pius X though not one of its member-priests. He was born in England (1931) and soon after moved with his family to Toronto, Canada. He was ordained in 1956. He earned several music degrees and various appointments to liturgy and music commissions in addition to his parish assignments. He was a member of the Advisory Board of the ICEL, the committee responsible for the English version of the Novus Ordo Missae, a service which he repudiated in an "Open Letter to the Church" published in The Angelus (Oct. 2002) after his return to Tradition in 2001. His chaplaincy to Mel Gibson's film crew for The Passion of the Christ, for whom he offered the traditional Mass, and his subsequent collaboration with the Society of Saint Pius X in Canada earned him the Cardinal Archbishop of Toronto's disapprobation and ultimately his suspension on July 15, 2004. He currently is chaplain of the Regina Mundi Retreat Center (Queensville, Ontario, Canada).
Laughably Inadequate Jan 13, 2008
The idea that the Society of St. Pius X is "extreme" is laughable. That is like calling all Catholics prior to 1969 "extreme". If you want an honest critique of the SSPX, Jacob Michael's "From Ecône to Rome: Leaving the SSPX Without Saying 'Schism'" is a better choice.
A Pathetic Attempt at Defending the Indefensible Authority of the Vatican II Sect Dec 16, 2007
This book presents an attempt to refute the arguments made by so-called `extreme traditionalists', most significantly the Society of St. Pius X. What exactly `extreme traditionalism' constitutes is not quite explained, although the usual neo-Catholic tripe about the Pope being unable to err is mis-presented as a standard of 'mainstream' Catholicism. Thus, the title sardonically claims that `extreme traditionalists' are those who consider themselves `more Catholic than the Pope'. Of course, taking into consideration that this was published during the reign of John Paul II, the authors fail to explain how a man can hold inter-faith prayer meetings, kiss anti-Catholic books, celebrate phoney sacraments and scrap almost every Catholic doctrine without losing his Catholicity.
Most of the book does not attempt to refute the reasoning of `extreme traditionalists' or their motives for `schismatic acts', such as the consecration of four Bishops in 1988 by Archbishop Lefebvre. Rather, the first part of the book simply presents a derogatory biography of the late Archbishop, constantly describing him as a rebellious schismatic. The second half offers a short `rebuttal' to various `extreme traditionalist' grievances. Their rebuttal to each consistently boils down to a false understanding the Papacy and an implicit insistence that he is always right. Basically, shut up and know your place.
This is clearly seen in the one and a half pages which discuss the Novus Ordo `Mass' which concludes by saying that since it was promulgated by Paul VI (and a Freemason with six Protestant helpers), it must be valid. No offer to answer various theological points, such as whether a `Mass' with false intention and false form (and often false matter) can be considered valid. No thought is given to whether Paul VI may have been wrong in contradicting infallible Quo Primum (which despite exhibiting all the marks of ex cathedra, is dismissed is irrelevant to today). No thought is given to the teachings of St. Robert Bellarmine who taught Papal espousals of heresy instantly render that particular Pontificate null and void. We are simply told to swallow our damnation as Paul VI destroyed the Mass. This facile understanding of hierarchical authority leads me to have great difficulty in accepting that one of the authors, Pete Vere, is a Canon lawyer as his credulity of the Vatican II religion, no matter how obvious the heresies they espouse, is phenomenal as is his selective quotations from canon-law and various Vatican II leaders in an attempt to smoke-screen their departure from the Faith.
It should be obvious to anyone, and was obvious to many saints throughout history, that while the Church cannot err, individuals within it, including the Pope, can err and instruct Catholics to deviate from the Faith. It is an instructed duty, testified by Scripture, Papal quotations and Canon law, for Catholics to resist any teaching or innovation that contradicts the Catholic Faith. Therefore, men like Archbishop Lefebvre, who took it upon themselves to pass down Catholic Tradition, were not only permitted by Canon Law but commanded. The Faith must be preseved at all costs.
There is nothing contained within this book which will convince a Catholic who knows his faith. There is no real attempt to justify the heresy of the hierarchy. There is no attempt to explain how Christ's religion could be changed beyond recognition in a decade. There is only a desperate, ill-informed rally for Catholics to abandon their religion at the whim of perjured apostates.
Catholic Doctrine Jul 26, 2007
This book presents the doctrines of the Catholic Church and how they can be over-worked by some believers. It is an easy read and very informative.
a good balance Jun 9, 2007
I think this book gives a good balanced and simple explanation of the subject. I grew up in traditional movement going to sspx churches most of my life, so for most of my life I only had half the story. I feel like the sspx lied to me trying always to present the church in a extremely negative and corrupt way to justify their going around authority. The sspx seems to think that since there is coruption in the church that they can do anything they want without authority. Only until I started to see problems in it and seeing the good that EWTN is doing did I see a need to find the whole story. This book does a good job.