Flawed History of the Papacy…

Flawed History of the Papacy…

One of our regular bloggers has an excellent letter published in this week’s Scottish Catholic Observer (SCO). Now, I know anyone can go into town and take a peek at the letters page of that august, or should that be awful, newspaper and find out precisely which of our regulars has made it into print there, but it’s much more fun if you don’t do that and participate instead in the CTNTBC – Catholic Truth Name That Blogger Competition. Prize for Winner: moving two points up the pay scale with a guaranteed Christmas bonus.

As well as guessing the letter author’s name (is it Petrus? Athanasius? Josephine? Gabriel Syme, semperfidelis?) we might as well engage in the issues raised in the letter. Why not? Could be interesting, eh?

Over to all of thee… The Letter – which (amazingly) appears to have been printed in full in the SCO, follows…


I have been following Dr. Harry Schnitker’s ‘History of the Papacy’ series of articles in the SCO these past weeks and I have to say that on Leo XIII and St. Pius X I have been somewhat disappointed with his interpretation of events, as well as with certain glaring omissions that are most certainly applicable to our times.

For example, he writes that the future Leo XIII (Giocchino Pecci) gave only lukewarm support to Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors. This is quite false since it was as Archbishop of Perugia that the future Leo had himself instigated the Syllabus at the Provincial council of Spoleto in 1846, which he later complemented in the Leonine Encyclicals.

This myth of antagonism between the two is further dispelled by the fact that Pius IX raised Archbishop Pecci to the Cardinalate in 1853 and later appointed him to the important post of Camerlengo in 1877. It is also recorded that Pius had previously offered various suburbicarian sees to Cardinal Pecci with a view to bringing him geographically closer to the Pope.

That the Cardinal declined these generous offers is said to have been principally due to his dedication to Perugia, although there is speculation that he was not always in accord with Pius’ Secretary of State, Cardinal Antonelli.

Further suggestions by Dr. Schnitker that there were respective “murmurs of Socialism” and “Murmurs of Protestantism” over Leo XIII’s teaching on Social Justice and the importance of Sacred Scripture to Catholicism are likewise unfounded.

Concerning this latter assertion, it seems odd to me that Dr. Schnitker omitted to mention Leo’s Encyclical Apostolicae Curae, in which Anglican orders are formally declared to be null and void. But then, a reminder of that Encyclical would not sit well with today’s ecumenists.

Nor would St. Pius X’s Apostolic Letter of 1910, called ‘Our Apostolic Mandate,’ condemning the liberal Catholic French lay movement, Le Sillon, sit well with the modern movements Focolare and Sant’Egidio. This may explain why Dr. Schnitker failed to mention that important document in his short biography of Pope Leo’s successor.

Mention was made of St. Pius X’s Anti-Modernist Encyclicals, Lamentabili Sane and Pascendi Dominici Gregis, but only to undermine their value with a retrospective conclusion that they were products of a “Muddled affair” based on a threat to the Church “as he saw it.

In fact, these Encyclicals were works of incredible intellectual foresight and holy wisdom which exposed and suppressed as “the synthesis of all heresies” the “New Theology” of Modernist exegetes, then threatening to poison the Catholic Faith from within by means of a false notion of “Living Tradition” that Pius X declared in Pascendi to be a ruse to justify doctrinal evolution and innovation.

Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pius XII) confirmed the continued presence of this threat to the faith some 25 years later when he spoke of innovators all around him who wished “to dismantle the sacred chapel and alter the Church in her theology, her liturgy and her soul.”

That these Modernist innovators finally triumphed at the Second Vatican Council is clear from Fr. Ralph Wiltgen’s excellent and impartial book ‘The Rhine flows into the Tiber,’ as well as from the 1967 abolition of St. Pius X’s mandatory anti-Modernist Oath for priests.

And if that is not evidence enough, then we need only consider the unprecedented crisis of faith in the Church today and remind ourselves of the prophetic lament of Pope Paul VI in 1972: “Through some fissure in the walls, the smoke of Satan has entered the Church and set her on a path of auto-destruction.END.

Comments (66)

  • spiritustempore

    Harsh but fair, editor 🙂 (if I knew how to do a guffawing smiley, I would….)

    July 1, 2013 at 7:08 pm
  • spiritustempore

    I do find it frustrating that the LMS, of all organisations, should be sniffy about the SSPX. Perhaps it’s the Williamson connection again, but they really should know better – it’s a traditional Catholic fraternity….not Millwall FC, for heaven’s sake.

    Had it not been for Archbishop Lefebvre, I doubt that they’d be as well established as they are today.

    July 1, 2013 at 7:11 pm
    • Christina


      Had it not been for Archbishop Lefebvre, I doubt that they’d be as well established as they are today.

      That’s certainly true. Wherever an SSPX Chapel was opened in England, the local ordinary was immediately galvanised into establishing an ‘indult Mass’ to keep the reactionary traditionalist nuisances away from those schismatics!

      I’ve been saddened to read about Joseph Shaw’s expressed attitude to the SSPX. However, LMS members were always a heterogeneous lot. Some remained firmly attached to their own parishes, attending the new Mass weekly or daily, and going to the old Mass for nostalgic reasons whenever the Society’s local rep managed to organise one. Some were implacably opposed to the new Mass and attended only old rite Masses organised by the LMS, swallowing the whole ‘schismatic’ myth. Some went to both SSPX and LMS Masses depending on convenience. As far as I know, this remains the general picture, although certainly far more members now are aware that Tradition encompasses more than a rite, and ‘sniffiness’ about the SSPX is harder to find. So Dr. Shaw can hardly speak for the membership as a whole, and would do well to remember this.

      July 1, 2013 at 10:32 pm
      • editor

        I think we’re someway off topic, but what the heck. I think we’ve exhausted the letter contents anyway – so we’ll wrap up that discussion with a round of applause for Athanasius. OK, OK, not so loud…

        Christina, the fluid attitude towards the TLM within the LMS is shared by their sister organisation up here, Una Voce Scotland. It’s well known that the Chairman of Una Voce Scotland fulfils his Sunday obligation at the novus ordo Mass in St Aloysius church in Garnethill – the Jesuit House of Heresy. Why on earth would he do that? Because he likes the singing and accepted an invitation to join the choir, an invitation issued by a now retired (I think I’m right in saying) Deputy Head of the school, who, on one occasion, told a couple of us (Catholic Truth) who’d attended one of the infamous Gonzaga lectures not to return (I’d had the temerity to ask a polite but to the point question of the guest speaker, at the Q & A session) Showing us the door while he adjusted his ostentatious bow tie, this busy-body called out: “Report me to Rome if you like!” So, his contempt for Catholic Truth stretched to contempt for the Vatican authorities.

        If, as the saying goes, therefore, one can tell a lot about someone by the friends they keep, let’s all pray for the Chairman of Una Voce Scotland!

        July 1, 2013 at 11:48 pm
      • Benedict

        Eh Editor,

        I count myself as one the Chairman’s friends. So not too sure if I go along with your statement at the beginning of that sentence, BUT, I shall definitely pray for you as you do him.

        July 2, 2013 at 5:00 pm
  • 3littleshepherds

    So was the LMS favorable to the SSPX in the past? When it was thought that the Bishops were excommunicated? But not now?

    I would think that leaders of these organisations change because they are taking priestly advice. That advice has probably changed.

    It’s strange what people do to keep themselves balanced. I was looking over on Mundabor today and he said he attends the NO because he has a rather militant temperament and needs to keep himself out of sedevacantism. He loves the SSPX, he loves the Traditional Mass, he does not like the NO but tries to cling to the visible Church.

    July 2, 2013 at 5:21 am
    • 3littleshepherds

      I should add Mundabor has no problem with the SSPX and certainly doesn’t believe they’re in schism.

      July 2, 2013 at 6:58 am
    • Athanasius


      I do not believe there was ever a relationship between the SSPX and LMS. My understanding is that the LMS never accepted the position of the SSPX, and vice versa.

      As for mundabor, while I appreciate his desire to avoid at all costs the evil of sedevacantism, I cannot help but marvel at his method. It kind of reminds me of the error “let us do evil that good may come of it.” The New Mass is every bit as dangerous to his soul as sedevacantism, so he should just make the firm resolution to avoid both dangerous extremes. I can’t understand why anyone would be inclined to sedevacantism, it’s so opposed to the spirit of Our Lord and His Church that one naturally flies from it.

      July 2, 2013 at 11:37 am
      • 3littleshepherds


        Thanks. Spiritustempore said she had noticed the LMS no longer published SSPX Mass listings. I thought they must have been somewhat favorable to the Society if they had previously published them.

        Yes I don’t understand Mundabor’s reasoning.

        July 2, 2013 at 3:21 pm
  • Leo


    Before the well-deserved applause dies down, I have to add my congratulations.

    I think it hardly possible to squeeze more useful reminders and signposts into a short letter. There is much there to direct any orthodox Catholic with a reasonable, open mind and a genuine desire to know the Catholic faith, the faith that has, in the words of Saint Vincent Lerins been believed “everywhere, always, and by everyone”.

    Tying in with the “Guilty by Association” thread, there appears to be a very determined reluctance, or refusal, on the part of many neo-cons to open their minds and inform themselves about traditional Catholic teaching. Between them and the modernist destroyers, Catholics who believe and worship as all Catholics did up to the Council, now appear to be faced with the challenge of stating the obvious to the oblivious.

    I think it’s worth making the point also that when it comes to Church history and biographies of Popes, any works that appear in high street bookshops need to be treated with extreme caution by Catholics. In fact, it’s probably best to start with the assumption that they are positively hazardous. The epic, tendentious slandering of Pope Pius XII is an obvious example.

    Hopefully those who have read your letter, Athanasius will be encouraged to avail of the great treasures contained in the writings of those two great Popes, Saint Pius X and Leo XIII. Just in passing, here are two rhetorical questions for everyone. Over the last ten years have there been any centenary celebrations emanating from the Vatican concerning anything to do with the great saint’s papacy? Would the term deafening silence not be accurate? Likewise, in these days on headlong rush to canonise Popes, has anybody heard of any talk on the subject of a canonisation of Pope Leo XIII? No need to call Inspector Poirot.

    There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind, that in these times of unprecedented crisis and frightening disorientation, Catholics who are looking for an unfailing compass and reliable landmarks must read and re-read the encyclicals of the pre-Conciliar Popes. Time has in no way lessened their relevance. On the contrary, in fact, they are as important as ever. Saint Pius X’s encyclicals are, quite rightly, mentioned regularly on this blog. Can I therefore put in a mention for the magnificent writings of his predecessor. The encyclicals Humanum Genus, Immortale Dei, Libertas Praestantissimum, Sapientiae Christianae and Satis Cognitum, to mention but a sample, should never be allowed to fade from the Catholic memory. Tan books have published a very useful collection of the Pope Leo XIII’s encyclicals entitled, A Light in the Heavens.

    That said, when on his deathbed Pope Leo was asked the most important act of his papacy; without pause he immediately replied: “The Consecration of the World to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

    July 2, 2013 at 10:46 am
    • Athanasius


      Thank you for your kind words, but more importantly for your advice to others that they should read the consistent teaching of the Popes up to Vatican II, as presented in the various magnificient encyclicals you name.

      I have all these encyclicals at hand in book form, but they can also be read online at the Vatican website. A simple Google search of the particular encyclical with “Vatican” at the end of the search string brings up the desired web link.

      There is no price that can be put on these treasures of Magisterial wisdom, great aids to faith in this time of crisis. They destroy the personal opinion of Modernists and reduce them to silence. Every Catholic should study them.

      July 2, 2013 at 11:30 am
  • spiritustempore


    Not having been around at the time, I’m going by what I read of the early days of the Society in thinking that there was some degree of co-operation between the Latin Mass Society and the SSPX, as each shared the same support base.

    As I understand it, Abp Lefebvre sent the Society’s first priest to the UK in Summer 1971, Fr Peter Morgan, who worked with the LMS and others in lobbying Cardinal Heenan, who granted the Indult in November the same year.

    Archbishop Lefebvre also had encouraging early discussions with Mgr Cowderoy, the then Archbishop of Southwark and apparently gave serious consideration to founding a house in London….until Mgr Cowderoy’s confreres persuaded him otherwise.

    I’m not sure how things developed from there – Christina will know better than me – but I do seem to remember that the LMS once had SSPX Mass Listings in its newsletters….no longer, alas.

    July 2, 2013 at 3:59 pm
    • Athanasius

      So, I have learned something new. I didn’t know that, spiritustempore. Thanks for that welcome history lesson.

      July 2, 2013 at 5:48 pm
  • spiritustempore

    There’s a fair few gaps in my knowledge, Athanasius…Christina will definitely know more.

    July 2, 2013 at 6:37 pm
    • editor


      Christina will definitely know more than anyone else here – she’s around 200 years old, for goodness sake!

      July 2, 2013 at 10:47 pm
  • 3littleshepherds

    My parents subscribed to many periodicals and journals, etc. during the 70’s and beyond. They came from all over the world, such as World Trends, Approaches, Christian Order, The Maryfaithful and many others. Interesting reading now and I do think Traditional Catholics were more supportive of Archbishop Lefebvre in general before the consecration of the four Bishops.

    It’s interesting to read the letters that were sent in at this time

    July 2, 2013 at 10:19 pm
    • editor


      Is there one from Christina? Surname Methuselah…

      Can’t remember her full address but I think the house was called “The Ark” and it was on Exodus Road…

      July 2, 2013 at 10:48 pm
      • Christina

        Cruel, cruel Editor (sob). Glad you put this in while my aged fingers were arthritically pecking at the keyboard and my poor purblind old eyes were skenning like a basket of whelks at the screen, and so I didn’t read it first. Now I’m going off to sulk.

        July 2, 2013 at 11:40 pm
      • editor

        Well, I was SO jealous that spiritustempore said “Christina will definitely know more” instead of “editor will definitely know more…”

        A gal’s gotta take her spite out on SOMEONE!

        July 2, 2013 at 11:55 pm
  • Christina


    Thank you for the vote of confidence which I don’t at all deserve. And thank you for adding to my knowledge, for I didn’t know the bit about Father Peter Morgan, and that early association. I wasn’t a founder-member of the LMS, although a great friend of mine was, and she exemplifies the change in the relationship which came about when Archbishop Lefebvre performed the episcopal consecrations. Until then, she spoke highly of the SSPX, as I’m sure most of the members did – no reason not to – but afterwards she was extremely hostile. In the LMS membership at large there were very mixed attitudes depending, I suppose, upon whether one accepted without question what one was told in the ‘mainstream’ about ‘schismatics’, or one delved a little more deeply into Archbishop Lefebvre’s reasons.

    The SSPX was founded in 1970, by which time the LMS (founded 1965) had been beavering away for five years to preserve, unchanged, the Mass of Ages. The architects of the Novus Ordo began to soften up the faithful by a series of changes, starting with a more or less faithful translation of the entire old rite from Latin into the vernacular in 1965. Many could see no harm in this, and indeed some thought it a great improvement. Others, however, including Cardinal Heenan, some bishops and a goodly number of priests, saw a very great deal of harm in it, and the LMS was founded at this stage in order to fight the change to the vernacular and to preserve the use of the Latin language in the Roman rite. The first LMS rep. for the Diocese of Salford was greatly helped and encouraged by Bishop Holland of Salford. He called her ‘My little Swordswoman of the Lord’ in a greetings card and other quite beautiful correspondence that was left in her papers.

    To those early members of the LMS, who were soon opposing far more than a change from Latin to English, the foundation of the SSPX was more than welcome, and the relationship, born of a common cause, could only be positive, until, as I say, the consecrations of June 30th 1988 resulted in a change of attitude among some LMS members, and possibly (though I don’t know for sure) it was at this time that the LMS stopped listing the SSPX Masses. Remember that from the time of the ‘Agatha Christie Indult’ (1971) until Summorum Pontificum LMS diocesan reps. had to rely on the goodwill of the bishops in order to have Masses celebrated and, whatever one thinks about this, it is a fact that many hundreds of people were enabled to attend the Mass they loved, keep their faith and have their Requiem Masses celebrated in the ancient rite.

    July 2, 2013 at 11:34 pm
  • spiritustempore

    Thanks Christina…a lot there that I didn’t know.

    The personal knowledge of CT’s contributors is really quite something…..I hope that Editor gives you that well-deserved pay-rise I heard she’s ear-marked for you 🙂

    July 3, 2013 at 12:09 am
    • Christina

      Nah. That very young lady is geting very ageist. She’ll keep me in my place.
      Now I’ll annoy her a bit more – 3littleshepherds I actually knew Michael Davies!!!

      July 3, 2013 at 1:41 am
  • 3littleshepherds

    So how many bloggers here actually knew Michael Davies?

    Also I have a record from my mother’s things, The Mass at Downham Market. It says it is celebrated by Fr. Oswald Baker in the parish of St. Dominic’s. Michael
    Davies writes on the back cover of the record, ” But this record is far more than just an exercise in nostalgia. When the Traditional Mass was forbidden by the Protestant Reformers, young men went to Europe to train for the priesthood and bring back this Mass to a faithful remnant, often at the cost of their lives. Young men are once again going to Europe to train for the priesthood. They are training at a seminary in Switzerland founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, and they will return to Britain bringing back the identical Mass that was brought by our martyr priests. A proportion of the price of this record will go towards the cost of their training so that it will not simply preserve the sound of the Tridentine Mass for future generations but help to preserve the Mass itself.”

    July 3, 2013 at 1:03 am

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