Many Catholics who label themselves ‘conservative’ seem to have become enamoured with the talks and writings of US apologist, Taylor R. Marshall, suggesting that the present pope, Francis, is not really Catholic at all, and that the Church has been infiltrated in recent decades. Hence Marshall’s very popular book:
One of these conservatives has just written to me (Damien Mackey) as follows:
It seems that you are of the view, that those who point out where Pope Francis is contradicting the teachings of the Church by his words and actions, should not be doing so. Or, is it simply, you do not [like] the way they do it?
I question the tone of people like Michael Voris. The tone of Taylor Marshall is more acceptable.
But, what is wrong with the substance of what they are doing?
Catholics need to know the teachings and the good practices of our religion. In several areas, in my opinion, they are not getting this from Pope Francis. ….
My answer to this whole situation is perfectly summed up in an article by Dr Jeff Mirus, Founder and President of CatholicCulture.org in which Dr. Mirus severely criticises the book, Infiltration. Here is a sample of it:
Infiltration, as I have indicated, displays an understanding of human history typical of your mad relative. What else can we expect from a book which makes wild assertions about plots, conspiracies and complex theological or institutional problems, each of which the author claims to treat decisively and beyond doubt in roughly three to five pages! Moreover, Marshall seems not even to realize that culture cannot be explained by conspiracy, and conspiracy cannot be proved by correlation.
The larger cultural truth about modern history is that the Catholic Church is going through a long transition from being one of the pre-eminent institutions of Western culture—with all the attendant personal complacency, ossification, and worldly complicity—to re-engaging the world in terms of Christian mission. It was just this problem that Pope Saint John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council to consider under the heading of “renewal”, and just this transition which Pope Saint Paul VI and Pope Saint John Paul II tried to effect against all odds of quick success.
For this purpose, it was necessary to streamline or even jettison many things, but above all to explore the important roles of bishops, priests and, yes, laity in the Church’s mission, which must not be understood as an institutional task administered exclusively from Rome, with the Pope as a kind of corporate head issuing memos to his branch offices. One of the greatest fruits of the Council, hastened immeasurably for a time by the default of so many clergy, is the growing sense of dynamic Catholic mission among the laity, nourished by the sacraments and guided as needed now by spiritual direction from growing numbers of outstanding priests.
But because the Church was such an institutional presence in our society for so long, she is still filled in the West with millions who are Catholic only in an attenuated secular way.
Nobody said the transition would be easy, especially when so many of the Church’s members would rather baptize their cultural values than engage in Catholic mission to that culture.
In the midst of this inescapable jumble, Taylor Marshall has offered readers a rehash of the same tired Traditionalist narrative which instantly—but deceptively—puts him and his allies in the right. He even has all the same tired old heroes, like Cardinal Ottaviani (who famously opposed Paul VI on the matter of liturgical reform, after having caused John XXIII to retreat from Rome occasionally just to escape the constant neo-scholastic nitpicking) and Archbishop Lefebvre (who famously launched an allegedly superior Catholic movement rooted in disobedience to the Vicar of Christ). I have been told that many people encouraged Sophia Institute Press to publish this book, with only a few dissenting voices (mine, for one), but this can only mean that Sophia is far more firmly rooted in Traditionalism than its previous offerings had led us to believe, and that most of those invited to give an opinion were from that single camp.
At the very end, the book includes a list of the alleged members of the “Infiltration Launch Team” who are said to have read the book prior to publication and to be helping in promotion. It may be an unprecedented step in publishing, since I estimate the number of names at over 2,000. But again, from what pool of desperate predisposition were these people drawn? When a book this obviously bad is touted as sure to become an all-time classic, something is terribly wrong with the whole process.
In the spirit of Catholicism, then—and I hope in the spirit of CatholicCulture.org—I will simply propose four key rules for authors who wish to be taken seriously as Catholic thinkers, rules that readers should also learn in order to know which authors deserve attention, and rules consistently broken throughout Taylor Marshall’s Infiltration: (1) In making serious judgments, suspend personal preferences; (2) Sentire cum ecclesia (think with the Church); (3) Learn the rules of evidence before making claims of wrongdoing; and (4) Never explain as a conspiracy or a plot what is out in the open, especially when it is endemic to the dominant culture. ….