Orwellian Religion

I am astounded by this article Still Lost in Blunderland (PART ONE): Refuting Peter Kwasniewski’s Latest Attack on Ultramontanism and Still Lost in Blunderland (PART TWO): Refuting Peter Kwasniewski’s Latest Attack on Ultramontanism from the sedevacantist site Novus Ordo Watch. They have castigated an author who participates in the New Liturgical Movement and Rorate Coeli by the name of Dr. Peter Kwasniewski. I have read a number of his articles and I find them impressive by their critical and “out of the box” thinking.

I advise readers to go straight to these two parts of the article and then come back to my terse reflections. (…) That was quite a dense reading and an eye-opener into the drama of sedevacantism, essentially that a Pope is not Pope when he is not infallible. Otherwise said, how do we maintain the infallibilist notion of the Papacy when it is evident that it has made Catholicism complete nonsense? Sedevacantism “saves” infallibility by demonstrating that the fallible Pope is in fact a false pope. Of course, there is a notion, largely thanks to Cardinal Newman who was an “inopportunist” at Vatican I, according to which the Pope is only infallible when he “engages” his infallibility by solemnly defining a dogma of faith or moral teaching. However, the implication is to present the precedent of the notorious ideological slogans of the twentieth century – Der Führer hat immer Recht and Il Duce ha sempre raggione. Likewise, the main characteristic of Big Brother in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is always right and it is a thought crime to deny it. The anachronistic extension of the idea is to postulate an Orwellian Church, a hypocritical dystopia.

Dr Kwasniewski needs to be read attentively, and I haven’t yet had the time to go through all his work on this subject. I am likely to find his ideas more credible than those of the sedevacantists.

As far as I see it, with my own experience of right-wing conservatives and sedevacantist totalitarians, taking a retroactive position with the Old Catholics and Bishop Strossmayer of 1870 is an attempt to “save” the Church against the papalist ideology. Strossmayer was alleged to have made a highly polemical speech to the first Vatican Council, but one that is considered by serious historians to be spurious. It was promoted for a long time by anti-Catholic Protestant polemicists.  Hans August Hasler wrote How the pope became infallible in 1981 and mentions this text. It is a text of which we must be wary. Who really did write it? Ian Paisley’s grandfather? The Catholic Encyclopedia mentions the speech, said to have been forged by a former Augustinian Mexican, Dr José Agustin Escudero. At the same time, some had highly cogent reasons for such nonsense to be defined as Church dogma. Strossmeyer was indeed an opponent of Papal infallibility and did make a speech to that effect at the Vatican Council. The text should be available in the Acta of the Council should someone have the heart to find it in a library. Strossmayer and Newman played the card of diplomacy whilst the German opponent of infallibility Ignaz Döllinger got himself excommunicated bell, book and candle.

In a certain way, the sedes are more coherent than many of the “mainstream” traditionalists and conservatives. The result is exactly the same as the Old Catholics: they set up separate organisations and run them with the same authority as the Vatican and diocesan bishops in the grand old Piuspäpst days. In their minds, they are the Church, unless the Church can exist as a Platonic Universal Idea. However, that would seem to deny the Orwellian ideology they uphold. War is peace, black is white, something like Covid politics!

I have the impression that we Anglicans come out of all this smelling of roses!

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2 Responses to Orwellian Religion

  1. Stephen K says:

    Well, I have read the Blunderland links. It was like wading through molasses trying to do so through quicksand.

    It’s all so circular. In a nutshell, Dr Kwasniewski is castigated because he dares to use sources that do not come from people who agree with his critics!

    It’s pathetic really. The thesis of the criticism is that the pope is infallible because he is the pope and all true Catholics are only those who believe the pope is infallible. Human nature and human history have nothing to do with it.

    If anything has convinced me that sedevacantism in any form has no coherence when considered against experience, history and logic, these articles have done so.

    Please note that I am not saying I share Dr Kwasniewski’s own particular beliefs as such, only that, to put it most politely, his critics have no persuasive case against him, and indeed I think their diatribes should embarrass them.

    • To resume a few comments on Facebook on this subject, Fr Hunwicke is reputed to have said that “sedevacantism is a reductio ad absurdum of hyperuberpapalism”. Sedevacantism is perfectly coherent if we have to accept the infallibilism of Vatican I. If a Pope in fact contradicts his infallibility, it means that he has ceased to be Pope latae sententiae, without need for a canonical judgement. Indeed, sedevacantism is the reductio ad absurdam of an absurd dogma and ideology from Pius IX and Vatican I.

      To reject the Hyperüberpapalism frees us from cognitive dissonance, or simply the abolition of reason. This caricature from a sect in Spain was based on Pius IX’s ideology – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGUQqNgffUM

      Bernard Brandt wrote:

      Sigh. I find that waging a logomachy is all too often not worth the effort. I’ve had my agreements and disagreements with Dr. K., which are not worth repeating here. I tried reading the overwrought and crapulent contentions of the Novus Ordo Watch, and would like the ten or so minutes I wasted thereon back again.

      For me, I appreciate the teachings of His Holiness, Pope Francis, when they are supported by Scripture, Tradition, Magisterium, and human reason. I find the arguments which He has raised lately in His writings to be regrettable, when they are not. Argumentum ad auctoritatem has never been very appealing to me.

      Sarah Ann Wagner-Wassen said:

      I think TC really put stress on notions of “papal infallibility” and what it means, what it can do. Peter K has, since TC came out, started sounding like an Old Catholic to me. So I’m not surprised that people who have issue with classic Old Catholicism would start to take issue with him.

      What is classical Old Catholicism? Is it something that refers to the Council of Constance (Ecumenical Council being a higher authority than the Pope – the solution to the Avignon papacy), mainstream Catholicism up to 1870 or German liberalism and “secular Christianity”? We need to remember that Dutch Old Catholicism originated in the refusal of the clergy of the Archdiocese of Utrecht to submit to Jesuit pressure against Jansenism. They found an alternative way to get a new Archbishop consecrated in 1725 by Bishop Dominique Varlet. The 1870 version of Old Catholicism was directly against the infallibility definition. Unfortunately, the German and Swiss Old Catholics were theological liberals close to liberal Protestantism. There have been attempts to revive Gallicanism here in France, but it remains quite marginal and extremely diverse in its interpretations.

      The Novus Ordo Watch people complain about historicism, but I understood very easily as a student at Fribourg the value of historical criticism as well as the use of reason in epistemology. Mysteries of faith are above reason, not against reason. Papal infallibility is not a mystery of faith but an absurd ideology that led to the same claims being made by the dictators of the twentieth century.

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