“The topic of my talk today is how traditional Catholics can be both modernist and liberal.”
In 2018, Bishop Sanborn opened his conference in Budapest with this curious statement. How is it that despite traditional Catholic piety, a traditionalist can still be essentially modern?
Today, there is an untold number of commentators claiming to diagnose the problem with our age. None of these have the substance of Bishop Sanborn’s superb analysis of the modern world, as contained in many sermons and conferences. This talk gives us a core summary.
His Lordship explains that if human beings naturally tend to assimilate with the culture around them, it is inevitable for the modern culture, so universal and comprehensive, to have a tremendous pull on Catholics. It takes great supernatural effort to reject it.
We are shocked at the cost of compromise today.
“In my experience, those families who have followed the advice of a (good) priest, have families that are completely intact and Catholic. Conversely, those who have repudiated the advice for modern ideas have families that are completely disintegrated.”
If we do not counteract even the smaller or more subtle attacks of the modern culture with appropriate violence, we are in danger of eventually being overrun.
“It must be first understood that we live in a culture that is subjectivist, liberal, and modernist.”
His Lordship defines these for us: subjectivism is the philosophical denial of objective truth;
liberalism the exaltation of human freedom as the highest quality of human beings, no matter whether it is directed to good or evil; and Modernism is the idea that religion is essentially interior or founded in personal religious sentiment, having no objectivity.
Our Catholicism stands for the exact opposite of these, but we should understand that these ‘key ingredients’ of the modern culture form the most basic assumptions in the minds of most people today.
Under five headings, Bishop Sanborn discusses how these concepts have made deadly inroads into the lives of Catholics and the traditional movement.
First, Catholics can be modernist in their choice of tradition. Bishop Sanborn refers to the subjectivist or ‘pro-choice’ attitude that effectively turns the liturgy into a matter of ‘taste’ in religious piety.
“The proper attitude of a Catholic is to submit to the authority of the Church in all matters that pertain directly or indirectly to religion, whether we like it or not.”
A Modernist would instruct people to go to a particular liturgy “because they like it, because it conforms to their interior religious experience, and not because it is objectively the Catholic liturgy ordered by the Catholic Church.”
In every matter of religion, he obeys only his interior ‘religious sentiment,’ and this leads him to the liturgy he prefers (rather than submits to exclusively, as informed by doctrine). This is the same principle of many traditionalists in deciding which Mass to attend. It also logically determines which church with which they will maintain communion.
Obviously, this false love of the traditional liturgy demands a sacrifice of doctrinal integrity, and this is unacceptable for a Catholic.
Next, his Lordship explains how the modernist doctrine of Church indefectibility has become widespread among traditionalists.
Many hold that Church indefectibility allows for at least an intermittent period of defection, things being ‘straightened out’ in the long run. In the meantime, it is their responsibility to resist whatever they find to not be in conformity with Catholicism.
“This is exactly the position of Hans Kung,” says Bishop Sanborn, “who says that when the hierarchy teaches something wrong, the people will resist.”
Why is this error so fatal?
“If you take away this indefectibility, you ruin the whole Catholic religion, because what makes the Catholic religion the true religion is the assistance of Christ throughout all the ages to those who rule the Church. If that assistance is not there, then it is a false Church.”
The least defection would be enough to falsify the Divine guarantees. The traditionalist who admits that the teaching authority of the Church could give error, must become their own rule of faith or ‘their own pope,’ having to determine for themselves the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’ magisterium, just as any Modernist would!
It is tragic that a traditionalist would adopt this heresy of the Modernists in order to justify communion with the Novus Ordo.
His Lordship moves on to describe the three main influences of liberalism on Catholics, which are political, economic, and social.
He first describes the liberal mindset, which is a spirit of compromise. Modern culture, entertainments, immorality, music, art, errors, etc., all these have to be accommodated in at least some small way, thinks the liberal Catholic.
But this attitude gradually transforms a person into a Modernist (otherwise known as a non-Catholic). Bishop Sanborn reminds us that “it is not the modern culture that dictates to Catholicism, it is Catholicism that dictates to the culture.”
He proves it historically.
“The reason why Europe is the centre of culture in the whole world is because of its Catholicism; and since Europe has embraced liberalism as its culture, it has ceased to be the centre of the world’s culture.”
At the bottom of this contrast is the difference between the Catholic and liberal ideas of freewill. According to the Catholic Church, free will is the faculty of the soul whereby we elect to do what is good. We cannot choose to do the wrong thing. We have no right to error.
Liberalism claims the opposite, saying that human freedom itself is the highest good. It does not matter whether it is directed to do good or evil, only that the freedom to do what one pleases be not impeded. This is the foundation of the political liberalism that is so often taken for granted by Catholics. What of the popular idea that power comes from the people?
“This is something totally alien to Roman Catholicism,” says Bishop Sanborn.
“What resides in the people in Catholic teaching is the ability to constitute a government and to choose who will govern and how they will be governed. But the authority over the state comes from God, and that a people of a nation are subject to their rulers, in as much as they are representatives of God.”
For Catholics, society and government are in themselves good things; for liberals, they are evils to be tolerated… until a revolution is staged, which will permanently undermine legitimate authority.
Further, if Catholics favour the modern laissez-faire economic theory, forbidding government from having any control over a country’s economy, they are economic liberals.
His Lordship reminds us that the historical reaction to this imprudent idea was socialism. Both were condemned by the Catholic Church, which instead affirms that all things need to be governed according to their proper end.
Lastly, and worst of all, Catholics might accept the changes brought by the 1960s revolution in the family.
The destruction of authority in the family, of the roles proper to men and women, the rise of feminism and the working mother, of divorce and remarriage, of concubinage between unmarried people, the rampant use of birth control; these, according to Bishop Sanborn, have struck a worse blow to Western society than any previous revolution, no matter how bloody.
The broken family will be the death of Europe. Those who do have children, and who do not share our culture or religion, will come to settle in our countries so that “what Europe defended by arms many times in her past, will now happen to her in absolute silence and without any resistance, and this is all because of the revolution of the 1960s.”
So, what are our resolutions? The bishop calls us to adopt St, Pius X’s motto To restore all things in Christ. The Pope-saint adopted this motto in view of the approaching ‘tsunami’ that was the modern assault against Christian Europe. It is meant for our times.
“Let us not be pious liberals,” says his Lordship, but let us live so that everything we think and do is “according to the teaching and law of Christ the King and of His infallible and indefectible Church.”
It cannot be any other way.