“Sometimes true principles can be used falsely.”
“Weaponized ambiguity” has become a common term in recent discussions about the crisis in the Church. It refers to ambiguous terms that were supposedly inserted into Vatican II as preparation for the chaos we now see around us. Leaving aside the question of whether ambiguity is the main problem of Vatican II (as opposed to contradiction of Church teaching), let us look at another concept, “weaponized orthodoxy,” which has been used against sincere Catholics for decades.
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At time of writing, Francis had recently said:
“[Vatican II] is the Magisterium of the Church. Either you are with the Church and therefore you follow the Council or you interpret it in your own way, as you desire, you do not stand with the Church. [There can be] no concessions to those who seek to present a catechesis that does not agree with the Magisterium of the Church.”
Rather than wrangling over the content of Vatican II, or putting some fanciful interpretation on what Francis says (such as that he is defending a “hermeneutic of continuity”), let’s be real and consider what this statement is intended to do.
It is intended to browbeat conservative Catholics into accepting Vatican II and its “Spirit,” to frighten them away from traditionalist positions that reject or question these things, and to ostracise traditionalists as somehow “outside the Church.” And left unsaid but lurking in the background is the great and fearsome dogma (that only conservatives and traditionalists really believe) that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church.
How do we know that this is Francis’s intention? We can ask ourselves the simple questions: since when does he care about people being subject to the Magisterium? Since when does he care about people being outside the Church?
His indifferentism is well documented and doesn’t need to be repeated here.
We all know that resolved traditionalists will ignore these condemnations from the “Pope of Mercy” and these excommunications from the “Pope of Openness.” Resolved traditionalists know what they are about; they know that they are members of the Catholic Church and will not be threatened into accepting contradictions and dangerous errors. As St. Paul said: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema” (Gal. 1:8).
Further, threats like these don’t mean anything to modernists, who care little for the necessity of the Catholic Church for salvation and care little for the need to be subject to the Roman Pontiff. They also know they can go beyond Vatican II with impunity: Francis isn’t speaking to them.
The real targets are the “conservatives” — those who think of themselves as “orthodox,” who try to accept everything from Francis and the Vatican, and who strive to live pious and virtuous lives in the bosom of the “official Catholic Church.” For whatever reason, they don’t see the contradictions and dangers of Vatican II. They know that there are problems around, but perhaps they dare not dig too deep or make too clear a claim lest they fall into some sort of schism.
What is weaponized orthodoxy?
While it has been long said that “Satan’s masterstroke is to have succeeded in sowing disobedience to Tradition through ‘obedience,’” this use of weaponized orthodoxy is less often discussed.
The tell-tale sign is the selective use of a principle that only a conservative or traditional Catholic would accept — and as with Francis above, these principles are often not even accepted by the person citing them.
In 2017, Francis said that “we can state with confidence and magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible.” Certainly, very few things have seemed to be irreversible under the reign of Francis. But if he has such confidence and such magisterial authority, why does he use it for things like this, and not to speak against things like the legalization of abortion in Argentina and Ireland? Why not use it to galvanize the Catholics of these countries?
It’s because his “magisterial authority” is to be used against those who believe in it, not for them or for the Faith. It is to be used to keep them collaborating.
Try to name everyone decreed by Rome to have been excommunicated from 1969 to 2000. Most people will be able to name only the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and perhaps the other bishops from the 1988 consecrations. Why were they declared excommunicated, and not the most egregious of the modernists following Vatican II? Why can we name them, but none of the Chinese communist bishops, also excommunicated?
Because of weaponized orthodoxy: it makes an example of traditionalists, to put the fear in conservatives. It is a system of divide and rule.
It is the same on the local and online levels. A conservative friend of mine was apparently advised that Masses offered by priests of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) are invalid (an unusual claim) and are comparable to attending Anglican services. All very frightening — who wants to tumble into heresy and schism by being involved with an invalid Anglican service? Then one realizes that his parish had actual ecumenical services with Anglicans at the same time.
Incidentally, when do we think Anglicans themselves are told that they should not be attending their invalid Anglican services — before, during, or after ecumenical activities?
How about the old situation where people were frightened away from traditionalist groups by fears of other “invalid sacraments,” be they marriages or confessions? Let’s ask ourselves: how many cohabiting or adulterous couples are given this sort of treatment?
On the contrary, Amoris Laetitia says that under some circumstances, they are to be admitted to Holy Communion, and according to Francis, “there are no other interpretations” of this doctrine.
On that note — if the validity of marriage is so unimportant to these people, why do they care if these “rad trad” marriages are invalid? Which group of people typically will care about such issues? Conservative Catholics. Which group of people might be tempted by what traditionalists in general have to offer, if they were not frightened away by this selective use of apparent orthodoxy? It is a system of divide and rule.
Further, how many other teachings has Francis clarified like this? Why are we being compelled to accept this particular teaching of Amoris Laetitia, but established Catholic dogmas are all up for grabs?
Because it’s to frighten conservatives into continuing collaboration.
So what should be done?
Don’t waste your time complaining about hypocrisy, because nobody cares.
Instead, watch and pray, and take notice when someone is selectively using orthodox principles to influence you. Instead of allowing yourself to be frightened into obedience, ask yourself if the principle is really being applied correctly. We must all use Catholic principles to make our way through the crisis, but sometimes true principles can be used falsely. Those sabotaging the Church can use selective orthodoxy to keep hesitant conservative Catholics under control.
We help no one by collaborating with saboteurs. For example, if you are against Eucharistic ministers and Communion in the hand, do you really think you will edify anyone or change anything by being a Eucharistic minister yourself? Staying in these situations does not build up the Church; in fact, the more pious and virtuous someone might be, the more scandal he causes by collaborating.
No circumstances whatsoever could ever justify leaving the Catholic Church — but rather than collaborating, or fighting with a parish, why not find the Catholic Mass that has no Communion in the hand, for example? The most dangerous thing that could happen to the decaying edifice of sabotaged Catholicism is for Catholics to vote with their feet. Lockdowns have already done part of the job: even today some parishes are still closed, and those who made little effort to provide the sacraments and the Faith may well find that their parishioners will make little effort to provide financial support.
But to our dear conservative friends: do not put up with being browbeaten by modernists with their weaponized orthodoxy. Rather, laugh in their faces and double down on what is good, true, and beautiful. And consider the old Second World War phrase: “When you’re catching flak” — or here, mere rhetorical pressure to keep you from tradition — “you might well be over the target.”
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