Book Review: The Mouth of the Lion


Title: The Mouth of the Lion: Bishop de Castro Mayer and the Last Catholic Diocese
Author: David Allen White
Publisher: Angelus Press
Excellence: 4 stars
Why: Another Dr. White story of a hero
Summary in a sentence: Proof that in "Portugal" (Brazil) the dogma of the faith was always kept. ­čÖé

I only recently finished Dr. White's book on the Archbishop, and I have to admit, this one had been sitting on my bookshelf for a couple years. Why? It's one of those books you tell yourself you "have to read" but there is no urgency behind it. I found my urgency after reading Dr. White's Horn of the Unicorn.  I called him recently, and I thanked him for another excellent book, but further discussed with him the fact that due to the defection of Campos, the book now had an "unhappy" ending. He agreed and noted that future publications of the book would have something like his open letter to the priests of Campos in the front of it. I called Angelus Press and they told me that they have less than 150 copies left in print. My advice? Get them while they are still left!

The book is simply, a tour de force. It's really in two principal parts - Bishop de Castro Mayer's formation and resistance, and then how the Novus Ordo Church systematically expelled and defamed priests and faithful attached to the Catholic Faith.

The book's first part confirms something that I have often said, which is that 1789 in the Church didn't happen overnight. It was something long in the planning. And even as a young bishop, many years before the Council, Bishop de Castro Mayer, like Archbishop Lefebvre, was singled out as one of those "integrists."lion2

In the early years His Excellency worked closely with Plinio Correa de Oliveira, the eventual founder of TFP. Archbishop Lefebvre would say that "TFP saved Brazil from Communism" but as time went on Bishop de Castro Mayer had to distance himself from the organization due to strange tendencies and stories which he had investigated to his satisfaction. He even advised Catholics to steer clear of the organization. Dr. White speaks about some of these tendencies in Part III, Chapter 7 of the book. To simply name a few of them without context here seems out of place, and I would simply say that Bishop de Castro Mayer worked too closely with Plinio for too many years and was too just a man to arbitrarily dismiss a former colleague and his organization. If the Bishop warned Catholics away from TFP, it was not with an idle tongue.

Active in Catholic Action, Dom Antonio (as they refer to their bishops in Brazil) lived a simple life as a bishop and was never idle. This was exemplified in his pastoral letters, one of which bears, in text and commentary, extended treatment:

"...It is important, then, in the highest degree, to launch in unity and with discipline all the Catholic forces, all the peaceful army of Christ the King to win over all the people who groan in the shadows of death, who are deceived by heresy or by schism, by the superstitions of old Gentility, or by the many idols of modern neo-paganism." (from a pastoral letter)

He goes on to describe the state of too many modern Catholics who describe themselves as devoted children of the church, attend Mass, know their catechisms and say their prayers, but whose entire lives are saturated with false liberal ideas, such as separation of Church and State, or liberty, equality and religious freedom, all the heresies in which history and government and schools and media have steeped us...The spirit that animates their behavior is not Catholic; their Catholic behavior is simple habit, like the brushing of their teeth...On one side, they acquiesce to the seductions of the liberal world that surrounds them; on the other side they maintain enough Catholic habits to convince themselves that they still guard and uphold the "pure, invariable, inextinguishable brilliance of Catholic doctrine"... (Dr White)

These sorts of words, combined with the solid formation he had already received, made for an implacable opponent of Modernism. In another place, he says: "The devil instills then, to arrive at his end, a spirit of confusion which seduces the souls to profess error cleverly hidden in the appearances of Truth. We cannot look for, in this fight, that the adversary will give out statements clearly contrary to Truths already defined" (69).

The book also recalls an ally of Tradition, Bishop Sigaud, who also played a great role at the Council with the Coetus Fathers. Bishop Tissier de Mallerais' Marcel Lefebvre (which we hope to review here in good time) provides in its middle section, a good companion to Dr. White's treatment of the Council through Bishop de Castro Mayer's eyes. And for those of us, who have come to rely on accounts like Fr. Ralph Wiltgen's Rhine flows into the Tiber as reference books, it is particularly telling to see narrative accounts, like those in the now dual biographies of the Archbishop as well as this work. These narrative accounts are often studies in an enormous impending disaster - at first slowly in the Preparatory Commissions, most notably in the Bea/Ottaviani confrontation - all the way to the utter treachery perpetrated in the pidgeonholing of a schema condemning communism - a cowardice that in no way paid tribute to names like Mindszenty, Stepinac, Slipyi, and the countless other Catholics struggling to be faithful under an iron fist and curtain.

The Council finished, the doors to the world open, and Tradition thrown out those open doors on her ear, Dr. White remarks:

As most of the fathers of the modern-day Church were engaging in an exuberant fling of hyper-delight over the possibility of "renewal," leaping and spinning and reeling with the intoxication of the heady fumes of release that always follow the easing of the bonds and restraints of order, this bishop sat on the sidelines, soberly observing, his head full of worry, his heart full of sorrow...

He wrote to Rome and stated openly and unequivocally that he would "not accept" the new Mass..."The pope allows the new Mass; I will not forbid you to say it; follow your conscience."

Then Dr. White puts in words one of the attitudes that made the precipitous post Vatican II collapse possible:

An intellectual laziness that led to a blind priest-dependence and persisted for too long made the devastation of recent years possible...This submission without thought, without reason, without sense, may have worked during the years the Church had her reason and sense, but when the zanies took over and ran rampant, everything went haywire.

It is not within the scope of this review to reprint the highly edifying (and hard-hitting) words of Bishop de Castro Mayer, but here is an excerpt of a response to a question from Paul VI posed through the nuncio, viz. "What problems do you have with my pontificate? If you have difficulties, tell me frankly and directly."

Frankly and directly, His Excellency stated, among other things:

The length of the years has formed in my spirit the conviction that official acts of Your Holiness do not conform with those of the Pontiffs that went before, though with all my soul I wanted to see them as the same.
101 (emphasis in original)

In typical fashion of the usurpers of the Vatican that have ruled since the Council, the letter was only acknowledged as received. No response was given.

The response was even less to a letter authored to John Paul II (of supremely infelicitous memory). An excerpt contained:

With all respect, I dare to say to Your Holiness that this sickness can be ended at once through pontifical pronouncements relating to the above matters, and, in general, on the various matters of Doctrines and Morals which emphasize, in an unequivocal manner, their uniformity with the teachings of the two-thousand-year-old Church of Christ.

Not even an acknowledgement of receipt was obtained.

Dr. White also discusses His Excellency's heroic steadfastness with the Archbishop at the 1988 consecrations. Dr. White casts their stance thus:

...the presence and actions of Bishop de Castro Mayer gave these consecrations greater grave significance in the history of the Church in our time...The missionary bishop and the partriarchal bishop, the archbishop who traveled the globe to foster the Faith world-wide and the prelate who remained at home to preserve the Faith in the one diocese assigned to his care, these two "faithful witnesses" joined together at this moment to present to the world two faces of the Faith - the apostolic and the pastoral.

The book then turns to the expulsions of the priests and faithful from the churches which in many cases they had built with their own hands. Truly, the Church had gone "into the cocoon of Vatican II a bright butterfly and transformed itself into a peculiarly ungainly hairy caterpillar" (162).

The pattern was the same everywhere, Bishop Navarro, the hired gun of the false Church, a man who allowed "obedience" to trump Faith and Doctrine, systematically ejected every single priest in the Diocese who refused to say the Novus Ordo. The faithful, unlike many faithful in this country, were properly catechized and followed their priest into "exile." They opened their homes, their garages, their lay-owned wayside chapels, and began the work of restoring. Again. Not with much wealth, for Campos is poor, but with joyful hearts and a steadfast faith.

Alas, the book in its present form has a happy ending. Bishop Bernard Tissier de Mallerais performed an episcopal consecration for a selected priest (Bishop Licinio Rangel, RIP) of the Campos "Priestly Association of St. John Vianney" as the exiled priests had incorporated themselves. It even tells of the articulate and firm nature of one of the most prominent priests, a Padre Rifan - which we have come to know as the great accuser of Traditionalists (see here for our "seven deadly sins") and a man, who given the depth of research in Dr. White's book, is found to be an even bigger traitor to the cause of Tradition. Yet we know that there is not a happy ending in Campos now.

Campos was an example of a faith that never hesitated. We hesitate to write more, as the alliance with the neo-Vatican authorities is still new. But as we can see in the text below a man most unworthy of Bishop de Castro Mayer utters (through a spokesman):

Now, to refuse continually and explicitly to participate in every and any Mass in the rite celebrated by the Pope and by all the bishops of the Church while judging this rite, in itself, incompatible with the Faith, or sinful, represents a formal refusal of communion with the Pope and with the Catholic episcopate.

The objective fact cannot be denied that the rite of Paul VI is the official rite of the Latin Church, celebrated by the Pope and by all the Catholic episcopate.

That sorrowful gaze on the face of Bishop de Castro Mayer that Dr. White alluded to earlier in the book upon the conclusion of the Council must now, absent of the beatitude he certainly enjoys, in a certain way, countenance the face of the man who gave his priesthood to such a betrayer (Bishop Rifan) of the very essence of the Catholic priesthood. He has abandoned support for the Mass of all Time for the support of the Novus Ordo Missae - a ceremony which in its spirit departs from the Catholic theology of the Mass as formulated at Trent.

A more fitting epitaph for this lion of the faith would not come from a man who received the priesthood from him, but from an enemy:

"Dom Antonio is a symbol of a solid man who knew how to fight. We did not agree with him, but we admired him."

And from the Acknowledgements to The Horn of the Unicorn:

"Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer are the two great saints of the modern Church. Once this catastrophe ends they will be instantly canonized."

Requiescat in pace, Dom Antonio.

Don't, as I did, wait to read this book. It will reaffirm your faith and your belief in our present struggle just as much as reading a book on doctrine or the life of a saint. Indeed, it is, in a way, a life of a saint.

Note: There is a very young Fr. Williamson in the background of the picture at the top...

Stephen Heiner

Stephen lives in Paris, France. He founded True Restoration in 2006.

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