The pontificate of Pope Francis has seen the number of “conservatives” increase steadily.
It should be understood that “conservatives” are defined here as Catholics who are not ready to sell off the Catholic faith, who hope for a renewal or a blossoming of the Church in this secularized world, and who are sincerely anxious to see the mystical body come to fruition, to expand through new conversions. In other words, those who have kept the Catholic spirit.
But, at the same time, these conservatives want to follow all the reforms put in place by the Second Vatican Council. Which seemed possible to them, with a few contortions, until Pope Francis.
However, since the beginning of this last pontificate, and particularly on certain occasions - such as the two synods on the family, the post-synodal exhortation Amoris laetitia, the Synod on the Amazon and especially its instrumentum laboris, or yet the document on the Human Fraternity - the Conservatives have felt more and more uncomfortable.
This was manifested by increasingly frequent protests, the origin of which was situated higher and higher in the ecclesiastical hierarchy: protest against Amoris laetitia by various petitions, including the famous correctio filialis, as well as by the dubia-letter from four cardinals; regular attacks against Roman documents or acts by Eminences such as Cardinals Müller, Brandmüller, Burke or Zen, as well as by bishops.
This challenge is new. There was hardly any trace of it until 2013 and the arrival of the current Sovereign Pontiff on the throne of Peter. There is thus a clear link between the two. And it should be added that this contradiction sometimes takes on severe forms with several cardinals and bishops.
All of this is a sign of growing unease among the “conservatives” as defined above. A possible illustration to describe the situation: a man whose two feet are located on two different rocks above the void. Due to ground movements, the two rocks are beginning to move apart. The situation has almost come to the point where the gap is too great.
There are only three solutions left: fall and lose support; take refuge on the rock on the right; or join the one on the left. Nothing is more uncomfortable than this kind of position.
Sadly, diehard Conservatives still want to believe that the rocks are going to come together eventually, and that they will not have to choose. Of course, this is a possibility, if we look at the physical realm. A contrary force can bring the two rocks together.
But in the realm of ideas, and especially in the realm of theology, it is a whole different story. There is no chance that error will come close to the truth, or vice versa. Wanting to hold both at the same time is a distortion of intelligence. And if one has a minimum of intellectual integrity, the violence of splitting will seem more and more intolerable.
Indeed, since the Council, the gap has only widened between modern errors and the Tradition of the Church, with more or less intensity according to the personality of the popes who succeeded one another to the pulpit of Peter. And, of course, it must be recognized that this gap has widened considerably since 2013.
The benefit of this situation has been to show more clearly that the “traditionalist” positions, which have challenged the Council since it was held, rest on solid foundations. And, whether they like it or not, the conservative line is beginning to have to recognize.
Moreover, and perhaps even more distasteful to admit, without this doctrinal steadfastness, the conservatives would have long been without support under one of their feet, and forced to fall into line. Because if certain pillars are still standing - if, for example, the traditional Mass can be celebrated today with a certain freedom - it is due to the tenacity of those who have refused any compromise with error.
It is therefore profoundly inconsistent to declare and repeat that this tenacity is akin to unreasonable obstinacy or stubborn disobedience.
It is just as inconsistent, as is done by many conservatives who fear being taken for extremists, to relegate as “outside the Church,” with a wave of the hand or a snap of the finger, those who guard Tradition without compromise.
There is only one truly effective and intellectually satisfying way to step out of such an awkward and disappointing position: to honestly take a side and unconditionally declare yourself for Jesus Christ. In this way they can render a great service to the Church, and this is what matters.
It is not petitions and requests for explanations that will move things forward, but the profession of public faith, accompanied by the acts which must flow from it.
With the German schism in the process of consummation, and the growing questioning of the very foundations of moral life, the integral defense of the faith is always more urgent. Soon there will not even be room to set foot on the Council’s rock.