True Evangelization Alive and Well
at Catholic Identity Conference, 2014
Report from the Event
The third annual Catholic Identity Conference was held in Weirton, West Virginia, the weekend of September 12-14, 2014.
The conference theme this year was “The Old Evangelization: Restoring Liturgy, Mission and Catholic Tradition”.
Conference organizers Eric Frankovitch, Todd Wilson and fellow workers deserve high praise for once again running this successful event.
The conference consisted of three Tridentine Masses (Friday, Saturday & Sunday), nine speeches and terrific Catholic camaraderie throughout the weekend.
Now, for a summary of each talk.
Dr. John Rao, Professor of Church History, gave the first lecture, titled “Giving the Devil His Due — The Problems of the Old Evangelization”.
Various anomalies in the “good old days” of pre-Vatican II evangelization opened the door to the Vatican II catastrophe and its tragic aftermath. “Bad aspects of [today’s] ‘New Evangelization’ are all rooted in various problems in the ‘old’ evangelization.”
Dr. Rao spoke according to an outline that comprised: the state of evangelization within the pre-Vatican II regime; various perennial problems in evangelization; the various demons that were very active that would construct our present house of horrors with regard to evangelization; and that the New Evangelization is to a large degree manipulated by enemies of the Faith, who work together with well-meaning but naïve people who end up to be a species of walking dead.
A widespread and dangerous approach active in the pre-Vatican II Church was that of “personalists” who claimed that the Holy Ghost was present in any human activity that had vitality and energy, and that we should use this vitality and energy in the cause of the Catholicism; including – at the close of World War II – the vital energy found in both Marxism and American pluralism.
Dr. Rao’s fascinating presentation powerfully set the stage for all the talks to follow.
Michael Matt, Editor of The Remnant, spoke on “Mass Hypocrisy: Redefining ‘Traditionalist’ in the Image and Likeness of the Neo-Catholic".
Mr. Matt opens by defining what is a traditional Catholic: A Catholic confronted with the decline of every single indicator of the health of the Church, joins himself to (what used to be called) the loyal opposition, and makes no bones about the fact that the diabolic disorientation is affecting every one of us, and this diabolic disorientation is affecting priests, bishops and even Popes. Traditionialists admit that something went terribly wrong at Vatican II, that the New Mass was an unmitigated disaster, and they oppose this revolution. The Traditionalist does not attempt to alter the Faith in any way, but adheres to what the Church always taught and practiced.
Such loyal Catholics are now derided by many “conservative” Catholics (neo-Catholics) as “radical traditionalists”. Mr. Matt shows the injustice and falsehood of this accusation, primarily by quoting the great pioneers of the traditional movement such as Michael Davies, Walter Matt, Dr. Dietrich von Hildebrand and Hamish Fraser.
These outstanding pioneers and their progeny are not “radicals” but loyal Catholics upholding the Faith of all time in the face of colossal crisis of Faith in the Church worldwide.
Catholic Family News Editor John Vennari spoke on “Modernism, the Synods and the New Evangelization”.
Mr. Vennari opened by spotlighting the primary error of our age: the false belief that Catholic truth can change over time. This error kept recurring in the first half of the 20th Century and was fought by St. Pius X, Pius XI and Pius XII, all of whom pointedly denounced this Modernist error. Yet when we get to the time of the Council, the Popes suddenly stop condemning this falsehood, and Vatican II – in which the Modernist New Theology triumphed – then gave us a steady barrage of “change”.
As part of this revolution of change, Mr. Vennari explained the ecumenical “New Evangelization”, its development, as well as its flawed method. He explains that the new approach actually changes the meaning of Evangelization in the direction of Modernism while retaining the same term.
The upcoming Synod on the Family, now on the worried minds of countless Catholics, has at root this same New Evangelization, the Council’s “Collegiality,” and the error that truth can change over time. Vennari points to the danger of a possible undermining of marriage and of natural law, the dreadful consequences of this attack, and the fact that Pope Francis – a man thoroughly of Vatican II – appears to be on the wrong side in this controversy.
Vennari closes by utilizing Scripture, Tradition and Reason to demonstrate that Catholic truth cannot change. In other words, the Modernists do not have a leg on which to stand. He explains why the great Thomist, Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, warned as early as 1946 that the present crisis in the Church is not so much a crisis of Faith, but of “a very grave malady of intellect.”
Louie Verrecchio, noted Catholic author, chose as his topic, “The Mission of the Church vis-à-vis the Kingship of Christ as Illuminated by Pius XI in Quas Primas”
In order to explain in greater detail the reality of the Social Kingship of Jesus Christ, Mr. Verrecchio provided a comprehensive commentary on Matthew 28: 16-20.
This passage reads, “But the eleven disciples went into Galilee to the mountain where Jesus had directed them to go. And when they saw Him they worshipped; but some doubted. And Jesus drew near and spoke to them saying, ‘All power in Heaven and earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world’.”
Mr. Verrecchio focused on individual words that, taken alone and collectively, drive home the truth about Christ’s Kingship over the nations. He explained the significance of Our Lord giving this Divine Commission from a mountain, the importance of Our Lord’s words that all authority (power) has been given to Christ, the fact that Our Lord commanded the disciples to make disciples of all nations. A key point is to recognize the word “disciple” as “one who is taught”. This makes clear that entire nations must sit at the feet of Christ, to become ‘students’ of Christ who must learn and live His Gospel.
And if the nations are to be taught, then the Christ’s true Church must be a teaching Church with the authority to command the faith and obedience of both individuals and entire nations.
To answer the modern mis-reading of John 17:12, when Christ told Pilate “My Kingdom is not of this world,” Mr. Verrecchio explains that Our Lord never said that He is not King of this world, but that his Kingship, His power, His authority, does not come from this world, or from any of the world’s rulers. This is important to understand, since modern Churchmen misuse this verse to justify the so-called “separation of Church and State,” propounding an apostate notion that nations have the “right” to be indifferent to the reality and rule of Christ.
Returning to Matthew 28. when Our Lord says, “Therefore, make disciples of all nations,” the “therefore” in this verse indicates that the Apostles need no permission of any civil authority to go out and make disciples.
This and much more was explained in Mr. Verreccio’s fascinating presentation.
Popular author and attorney Christopher Ferrara spoke on “Vatican II-ism: How an Ideology has Eclipsed the Faith”.
Mr. Ferrara opened by pointing out the “traditionalist” position, which recognizes a grave crisis in the Church, is admitted by post-Conciliar Popes and various Curia leaders (even if these Pontiffs and leaders still try to somehow excuse the Council and the actions of the hierarchy that plunged us into the present malaise).
For example, Pope Benedict’s call for the necessity of a “hermeneutic of continuity” regarding the documents of Vatican II is an indirect admission of the problem contained in Vatican II itself; the Council is not clear in its teaching, and opens itself to rupture with the past.
Basing himself on a 2010 speech by Msgr. Guido Pozzo, Secretary of the Pontifical Council Ecclesia Dei, Mr. Ferrara goes on to argue that Vatican II is not necessarily a “doctrine” but a new ideology that has overcome the Church; a kind of socio-political program based on vapid “visionary theorizing”. It is an ideology that constitutes a rupture with Tradition, and manifests itself, among other ways, in the new enthusiasm for ecumenism and dialogue, which are the praxis of this new ideology.
We see this new ideology at work in the renunciation of anathemas (the abandonment of condemnation of error), in the translation of Catholic thought into the categories of Modernity, and in other anomalies.
Mr. Ferrara then moved to a discussion of Pope Francis, where we see the process unleashed at the Council driven to its logical consequences. Francis’ pontificate is driven by the new ideology that he strives to further impose on the Church, particularly by the praxis of “dialogue” and “ecumenism”.
Mr. Ferrara quotes Evangelii Gaudium in which Francis deprecates Catholics who “long for a monolithic body of doctrine guarded by all and leaving no room for nuance” (in other words, those who yearn for immutable doctrinal purity). Francis goes on to deplore “a supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline [that] leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism.” These and other remarks are dead aimed against Traditional Catholics.
After offering various other observations, Ferrara closes with a call to recover the Catholic Faith and Christian civilization as advanced by the one true Church of all time. He further reminds the audience of the importance of Our Lady’s Fatima Message, and the need for the Pope to enact the Consecration of Russia requested by Her, which will ultimately bring an end to the present diabolic disorientation of the upper hierarchy.
James Vogel, Editor of Angelus Press, chose as his topic, “A Cause for Hope: The Experiment of Tradition Around the World”.
Mr. Vogel opened, “If we are right that the crisis in the Church has led to a loss of the Faith, a lack of vocations, and a decline in Catholic education, shouldn’t we be able to demonstrate by now that Tradition, where it is believed and lived out, produces the opposite results.”
Mr. Vogel goes on to present in detail the history, life and growth of the Society of St. Pius X, the worldwide society founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre that adheres to the Mass of all time, the traditional formation of priests, the Catholic Faith as always taught, and to the anti-Modernist principles laid out by Pope St. Pius X. The Society’s fidelity to this tradition is what has produced tremendous fruits in so short a time.
As for the SSPX: “The fruits of tradition,” says Mr. Vogel, “are seen today throughout the world. And while the world grows darker, the Church (humanly speaking) seems to be getting worse, the Mass continues to live, babies are baptized, young families are growing,” the SSPX seminary in the United State, a sizable structure built as a Dominican House of Formation in the 1950s, “is too small to harbor the vocations.”
The reason for the SSPX growth is its fidelity to the Catholic Faith of all time. “Let this be a cause of hope not only for ourselves,” concludes Mr. Vogel, “but for the Mystical Body of Christ as a whole.”
As has been the case for all three CIC events, the Saturday after-dinner address was given by Father Gregory Pendergraft, FSSP.
In his brief presentation, Father Pendergraft emphasized that we are called to distance ourselves from the prevailing trends that de-Catholicize ourselves and our families. He also spoke of the fact that what we see coming from the official structures, there is very little true evangelization happening.
He remembers while he was at the seminary, there was a group of missionary Sisters nearby who invited the seminarians to receive some of the old traditional vestments and sacristy items, as the convent was closing down.
While there, the seminarians saw a huge complex down the hill that had been seminary for the Maryknoll Fathers. The sisters told the seminarians, “We [sisters] started here, and were founded here, and we loved our position, because we could pray for all those young men who were going to be sent out into any number of countries, and many of them would die as martyrs. But they were our sons. We prayed for their faith and their virtue. But they’re gone.” The old Maryknoll seminary is now a Protestant establishment.
Father Pendergraft gave various counsels for living the Catholic life, and safeguards for the Catholic family, and closed telling the story of a newly ordained Fraternity priest who was just sent to Columbia.
The priest always wanted to be a missionary and was overjoyed at the assignment. But when he arrived at Columbia, he wrote to his family saying he was now in a Catholic country, and while there is poverty and much teaching to do, it is the United States that actually needs more missionaries.
Our nation is mission territory. “That means that when we step outside this room,” said Father Pendergraft, “those with whom we come in contact should want to become a Catholic” due to our words and the example of our lives.
Kenneth J. Wolfe, contributor to Rorate Caeli, spoke on “Promoting the Old Evangelization While Using a New Computer”.
It is a cold fact that youngsters, young adults and even those who much older spend vast amount of time on their computers. Facebook and Social Networking has become the main venue by which they communicate. While this technology is available to us, Mr. Wolfe calls on Catholics to use these modern means of communication for the good of the Traditional Catholic Faith; to promote the Old Evangelization by use of a new computer.
Mr. Wolfe, a cradle Catholic, says he first learned about the Tridentine Mass while on the Internet.
It goes without saying that using modern technology does not in any way demand we modernize the Faith, the Mass or the Sacraments. Rather, Mr. Wolfe gave pointers on using the resources of the web and social networking for the promotion of the traditional Catholic Faith of all time.
For example, he recommends that every Latin Mass center should incorporate social media to publicize upcoming events: High Masses, Traditional Vespers, lectures, retreats. This gets the message of your event beyond the boundaries of those in your chapel, and invites others to learn the beauty and truth of the true Faith. He reminds us “the young, the lapsed and others are most in need of this message.”
Mr. Wolfe is clear that the Faith we promote should not be hybrid in any way, but a method to bring as many as possible to the traditional Mass and Sacraments. Any other way falls short of what Catholicism demands, and falls short of success anyway. “This can be illustrated,” he noted, “by the utter failure of the ‘Reform of the Reform’,” that sought to “traditionize” the Novus Ordo Mass – an unrealistic enterprise that was of no interest to any serious Catholic.
Indeed, Mr. Wolfe points out, there are growing numbers of young priests and young adults who now attend the Latin Mass and traditional gatherings at various locations, and much of the organizing of these events is by way of Social Media.
Dr. John Rao closed the conference with his lecture, “True Catholic Evangelization: Ever Ancient and Ever New".
Dr. Rao notes that the great counter-revolutionary era that started as a response to the French Revolution and lasted more or less into the 1950s has been destroyed. We now live in the rubble of this destruction, yet there are countless so-called “conservative” Catholics who look at this rubble, and because it is “Vatican approved,” dive into it with glee, and try to tell us that countless modern novelties were always part of the Tradition of the Church.
These are the men who are the walking dead, who serve us stones instead of bread, who celebrate their own “energetic milieu”, and who work to understand Christianity through the lens of contemporary culture, rather than the other way around.
Dr. Rao reminds us that we must distance ourselves from this faulty mindset, especially from the prevailing superstition that “we are freerer than we have ever been before,” forgetting that this “freedom” demands we make our Catholicism a kind of private parlor sport that we leave aside once we go out to mix with the external world.
Our most important occupation, then, is to return to our roots: to Jesus Christ Himself, to the full teaching of the Catholic Church, to Eucharistic devotion, to the full battery of doctrines, dogmas and saintly models from the centuries.
We cultivate these roots, we grow in the true Faith itself, and we let people know that the present system is not the way the Church and the world ought to be.
We know that the present disorientation will come to an end, and a new Christian era will be born, though it may first require living through a great disaster before the Church once again becomes fully alive.
Yet only by divorcing ourselves from today’s twisted and distorted aspect of Catholicism, and embracing the Faith in its dogmatic and historic entirety, will we show ourselves to be of the living, rather than of the walking dead.
Audio CDs from conference are available from the Catholic Identity Conference webpage - click here.
At a barbecue afterwards hosted by conference organizers for speakers and friends. From left to right: Ken Wolfe, Father Pendergraft, Eric Frankovitch, John Vennari, James Vogel, Chris Ferrara, Michael Matt
- compiled by cfn