Athanasius of The Antipodes

He saw the new Arians uncouple the Son from the Father in the name of a spurious compassion

BEFORE the Vatican began posting official documents online, I always purchased the newest papal encyclicals and apostolic exhortations at my local Catholic bookstore. Some of these were culturally momentous or ‘controversial’ enough to make the news. Others were obscure except to experts and the devout. A classic example of the former was Ordinatio Sacerdotalis by St John Paul II (1994) which pointed out (infallibly) that women cannot be ordained to the priesthood and never will be. Humanae Vitae by St Paul VI has been dismantled and debated for more than 50 years – not least by liberal alchemists eager to transform their own egotism into a universal writ. They haven’t aged as well as the document. The pontificates of John Paul and Benedict XVI constitute a belle époque. Both men were more intellectually blessed than any of their most recent predecessors (for, say, two or three centuries) and rank with the most brilliant minds – religious or not – in the contemporary West. Their successor, however, is a Bizarro polymath whose oafishness dazzles in multiple arenas. If Francis has a function, it is to mark a terminus: scolding the holy, fraternising with iniquity and idolatrising Vatican II went this far but could no go no further.

That was certainly the hope of George Pell. In his posthumously unleashed assessment of the Bergoglio interregnum, the late cardinal described it as a “catastrophe.” He decried the indifference to heresy, “active persecution” of traditionalists, the “systematic attack” on the Deposit of Faith and dolorous mediocrity. In ecclesiastical history, such evils are normally associated with Diocletian, Caligula or Trudeau. “Intellectually, papal writings demonstrate a decline from the standard of St John Paul II and Pope Benedict,” Cardinal Pell lamented. Despite the fraternal correction and his alleged humility, the vindictive nastiness and theological incompetence of Francis haven’t let up. This comes as no great surprise given that he was said to be “boiling with rage” after four cardinals (backed by Pell) wrote to him in 2016 requesting that he clarify peculiar novelties espoused in the disastrous Amoris Laetitia. Francis has never bothered to reply.

Known to loathe the United States, last week the 1970s revivalist decided to attack those American Catholics whose “backwardness” and “ideologies” prevent them from accepting illicit alterations of doctrine. Apropos of papal writings, 2023 – being the 60th anniversary of St John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris, the 30th of Veritatis Splendor and the 25th of Fides et Ratio – is a tough year to stand out from the magisterial big guns. The best Pope Francis could do was announce last month a not-awaited sequel to Laudato Si’. His paean to pantheism was applauded by the world and is regarded by socialists as inspired. He told a general audience that a “terrible world war” being waged against the earth is afflicting millions with “climate injustice.” There is, in fact, no such war. Nor will global control of people and economies do anything beneficial for either nature or the poor. A hallmark of the Francisian oeuvre is gaudy inversion: the pope likes to ennoble profane shibboleths as dogmas and deprecate sacred dogmas as shibboleths. He seems to think the gimcrack simpatico with anti-Christians he thereby purchases is bridge-building.

Ergo: this pontificate can no longer be interpreted as merely eccentric or as history’s seasonal ebb to the Wojtyla-Ratzinger flow. Nor is it redeemed by an overarching – albeit attenuated – Catholicity that offsets the dereliction. There is something disturbing going on in the Vatican that is a cause of real scandal and confusion throughout the world. It will be studied in that light for decades or even centuries to come. American philosopher Edward Feser has already started that work and his exegesis is compelling. He rejects out of hand the sedevacantism that predictably arose from the shock, once-in-a-millennium resignation of Benedict XVI in 2013. If the startling imitation of Pope Celestine’s abdication in 1294 wasn’t enough to seed suspicions that the new pope wasn’t a pope at all, the Vati-Leaks affair the previous year and the emerging heterodoxy of the Argentinian replacement probably were. Feser points out that the star witness against the theory that Benedict was pushed out by coupists for an anti-pope was Benedict himself.

If Francis legitimately reigns and isn’t just one pastoral half of a ministry whose supreme authority continued to reside in Benedict until his death (another theory), that leaves only the question of his abject unwillingness to defend the immutable doctrines of the Church. For the answer, Feser turns to St John Henry Newman’s explanation for the failure of popes, patriarchs and councils to put an end to the Arian Controversy in the fourth century. They gave no “unvarying, consistent testimony for nearly sixty years,” Newman wrote. In their stead, it was “the body of the laity” giving strength to “great solitary confessors” like Athanasius, Hilary and Eusebius that saved the Christian faith. It was a close-run thing. Feser applies this “suspended Magisterium” thesis to the many silences and flaky statements of Francis and the analogy rings true. What else was St Peter’s trio of denials but the suspension of his own authority for an ignoble intent? From the start, this pope has treated the Office of the Keys as beneath him in a uniquely vain way: in his view, not using it makes him one of the greatest humble men of all time. We Australian Catholics should always remember that Pell the Athanasius told the pope not to pull his head in but to stick it out.

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15 Responses to Athanasius of The Antipodes

  1. NFA says:

    A great article C.L.


    The Devils Advocates are hitting their straps.

    Saint Peter Claver would be astounded with their pope.

    I’ve often wondered how much of the crap thrown at Cardinal Pell was motivated by making sure he could never be The Catholic Pope.

  2. Rosie says:

    Thankyou CL.
    Can only pray for better next time.

  3. and says:

    Profound meeting. Rockius of Philadelphia.

  4. and says:

    Another profound meeting (6 years back). Arnie reminds Frankie of “climate change” and presents him with a book on Californication.

  5. Boxcar says:

    There is something disturbing going on in the Vatican that is a cause of real scandal and confusion throughout the world

    I have friends who are fully formed traditional catholics, although one speaks in tongues, but I have been unable to have any sort of dialogue with them about Pell or the communist pope.
    Why? Are they just “believers” in the Covid sense, or are they part of a “conspiracy” that eludes me?

  6. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    Poor old Athanasius kept on being exiled and arrested and persecuted. Very Pell-ish.

    The thing is lefties never get that sort of treatment, and Francis is in the in-crowd in that respect. On the other hand justice comes from God and it is to Him we must give an account. I hope Francis understands that. Sometimes it seems like he doesn’t.

  7. C.L. says:

    I’d need to know what views you’re putting to them re Pell and the pope before I could speculate on their reticence, Boxcar.

    I dislike the phrase “traditional Catholic” because it implies (like the execrable “biological man”) that there is some other kind. Those who don’t believe “all the sacred truths the Catholic Church believes and teaches” (from the Act of Faith) are deficient Catholics; they are the outliers.

  8. cuckoo says:

    Thanks for this C.L., it took me two readings to really get my head around it. Whatever one thinks of Francis, I was disgusted to see Stallone shaking hands with the Pope while keeping the other hand buried in his pocket.

  9. C.L. says:

    I’m very grateful to Feser for his examination of this problem; to wit, the failure of this pope to be pope. The discussion about whether he is the pope is a red herring.

    I’ve come to believe that Francis regards his Petrine disengagement as some sort of humility that is efficacious to the Church. Now, that may end up being so – but only in the accidental sense of highlighting how damaging moral subjectivism and quiescence really are. He didn’t come up with this approach himself; it is a distinguishing error of Vatican II as ideology.

  10. Franx says:

    Yet I wonder whether it’s Vatican II as ideology which is at fault or the Council being corrupted in its praxis – as for example Pope Francis suggesting adherence to doctrine and as ideology. I note, though, that in these seemingly meaningful and caring statements, Pope Francis has, from what I read, avoided not only the word but the concept itself of dogma.

  11. Franx says:


  12. Old Lefty says:

    Many of our ‘progressive’Catholics and Plenary Council/Synod ‘reformers’ would be horrified if they ever bothered to read the documents of Vatican II and realised how conservative they are.

    As an aside, I was amused to see this…

    Temptation is everywhere we look. Here’s how we can stop returning to self-destructive habits.

    …on the ABC. All very good sense for once, and nothing that would surprise anyone familiar with Aristotle or Aquinas. If anyone points that out to the ABC, they will probably pull it.

  13. C.L. says:

    I should clarify what I meant by “He saw the new Arians uncouple the Son from the Father in the name of a spurious compassion…”

    I would argue that the liberal ‘Catholic’ preoccupation par excellence is to falsely differentiate Jesus’ ministry to people on earth from the law of the Father in the Decalogue. In that sense, it is a type of the Christological nature and person controversies of late antiquity – only cloaked in a pastoral disguise.

    “There are no new lies, no new heresies. Man is simply not that creative.”
    — G. K. Chesterton

  14. Old Lefty says:

    Moreover, CL, there is a tendency to appeal to ‘the Spirit’ (usually without ‘Holy’ in front of it) to set aside the teaching of the Father and the Son. Cf the Plenary Council’s ‘listen to what the Spirit is saying’, which seems to include that outdated patriarchal dimwit Jesus of Nazareth having got sex and marriage all wrong.

  15. C.L. says:

    Oh yes, O.L. The Vatican II idolaters love raving on about “the spirit.”

    I think you’re very right to suggest this should be differentiated from the Holy Spirit. In fact, what they’re really talking is their own ‘spirit’ – which is to say, their own inclinations and preferences.

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