Critics of Pope Francis on social media use many terms to describe his defenders, including “papolator,” “ultramontanist,” “pope-worshipper,” and “bergoglian.” A more clever but less-frequently used name is “Mottramist.” Mottramism is a reference to Rex Mottram, an extremely unsympathetic character from Evelyn Waugh’s classic novel Brideshead Revisited. It’s an intriguing allusion; however, the way the term is used betrays a serious misunderstanding of the point of the character and of Waugh’s novel as a whole.

For the unfamiliar, Brideshead Revisited is a beautifully written (but at points melancholy) novel about the relationship between its narrator, an upper-middle-class British artist named Charles Ryder, and the aristocratic Catholic Flyte family. Charles becomes close with the Flyte family after forming an intense friendship at Oxford with the youngest son, Sebastian. As the novel goes on he transfers his emotional intimacy from Sebastian to his sister, Julia. Charles and Julia begin a sexual affair despite being married to other people. The novel ends [spoiler alert] with Charles and Julia breaking off their affair due to its sinfulness even in the context of obviously failed previous marriages. Both end up divorced, single, and unhappy, but not without God’s grace.

The novel is in many ways a work of Catholic apologetics, and Waugh wrote in a 1947 letter to the American film studio MGM that it “deals with what is theologically termed ‘the operation of Grace,’ that is to say, the unmerited and unilateral act of love by which God continually calls souls to Himself.” However, it comes across to many secular readers as anti-Catholic given its unflinching portrayal of its Catholic characters’ messy and unpleasant emotional lives, which their faith doesn’t seem to improve in any obvious way. Nevertheless, the novel’s ending vindicates Catholicism on several issues, such as the indissolubility of marriage and the necessity of avoiding sin even at great personal cost.

Rex Mottram, the man who marries Julia, is portrayed as an unsympathetic character in the novel. A social-climbing parvenu who has relocated from Canada to Britain after making his fortune in the business world, he seeks to marry Julia as a way of forming an alliance with a British noble family to ingratiate himself into British political life. Before they marry he agrees to convert to Catholicism, only to end up marrying her in a non-Catholic ceremony after all because it turns out that he has a living ex-wife in Canada. He then becomes a Member of Parliament who starts out as a Tory, then “flirt[s] with communists and fascists,” before finally becoming something of a center-left icon of anti-fascism during World War II.

Rex’s significance in the anti-Francis imagination does not come primarily (as one might expect) from his casual refusal to understand the significance of his first marriage in the eyes of the Church, but from this bit of dialogue with a priest during his catechetical instruction:

“Yesterday I asked him whether Our Lord had more than one nature. He said: ‘Just as many as you say, Father.’ Then again I asked him: ‘Supposing the Pope looked up and saw a cloud and said ‘It’s going to rain’, would that be bound to happen?’ ‘Oh, yes, Father.’ ‘But supposing it didn’t?’ He thought a moment and said, “I suppose it would be sort of raining spiritually, only we were too sinful to see it.’”

In this paragraph, to say nothing of countless others in the book that make clear Rex’s philistinism and inability to conceive of a reality outside the sphere of his own interests, I count three different types of mangling of Catholic belief. The first is his willingness to blindly accept anything asserted by a Church authority, regardless of whether it’s true. The second is his inability or unwillingness to understand what it is he is accepting; he does not say, for example, that Jesus must have two natures because it is what the Church teaches, but that Jesus must have however many natures the priest thinks He has. The third is his willingness to deny not only theological truths (many of which are revealed and thus by definition non-obvious) but manifest empirical reality in the interest of believing whatever he thinks he is being told to believe.

“Mottramism” in the sense that Pope Francis’s critics use the word is for the most part limited to the first of these problems. For this reason it is a limited and unhelpful characterization at best. As many papal critics would agree, it is increasingly difficult to maintain that Pope Francis’s supporters don’t understand what it is they are supporting; the absurd “spiritual rain” line implies a blind and unthinking acceptance, not a genuine attempt to hear and understand. Nobody who thinks seriously about (for example) Amoris Laetitia or the Catechism revision on the death penalty is thinking like Rex Mottram, regardless of what conclusions they come to, because Rex Mottram would be completely incapable of reflection on these subjects.

Where Peter Is has posted numerous articles arguing from theological principles that these developments of doctrine are orthodox and are in continuity with the unchangeable aspects of Catholic belief, as have other websites, to say nothing of academic journals and the bishops themselves. If anyone was to write an extended argument that it will rain if the Pope says it will (which is unimaginable), they would be wrong. However, it would at least be a considered, reflective wrongness, and in any case all serious defenders of Pope Francis, including Where Peter Is, would reject this position.

Rex’s answer, with its lack of connection not only to theological truth but to the observable physical world, could conceivably have come out of the mouth of somebody defending Pope Francis, since there are figures who are willing to say almost anything in defense of Francis’s statements and decisions, just as there are figures who will use any possible excuse to attack him. However, this disconnection from obvious realities can be turned around and applied to Francis’s critics as well. Many Traditionalists seem to be unwilling to consider that the Mass of St. Paul VI is here to stay, or that Amoris Laetitia was written to address a severe crisis in marriage and the family, rather than to create one. Even though these refusals could also be taken as norms rather than descriptions—that is, refusal to accept that these things are okay, rather than refusal to accept that they are happening—they still constitute failures to face reality as-is as a key point in theological reasoning.

In the end, the problem with Mottram is his lack of intellectual curiosity and refusal to consider any possible truths beyond shopworn conventional wisdom, received decrees from authority figures, and thought-terminating clichés. To describe defenders of Pope Francis as adherents of Mottramism is to badly misunderstand both the loathsome qualities of Rex and the nuanced positions of serious Catholics who support and defend the Holy Father.

Image: Rex Mottram with Father Mowbray in the 1981 Brideshead Revisited television miniseries.

Edit: This post (to my surprise and honor) caught the attention of the Evelyn Waugh Society, which linked to it on its own website together with the observation that I failed to produce any specific examples of the Mottramism charge in actual use against real individuals. In response to this, I did some digging and found out that the term goes back much further than I thought and didn’t always have factional or ideological connotations. It appears to date from late in the papacy of St. John Paul II; however, I personally never saw it before about 2015. Here is a Twitter personality using the word as a hashtag to describe people who believe Pope Francis’s account of his actions on the abuse crisis over Archbishop Viganò’s. Here, a blogger describes Mottramism as a “Fake Catholicism” along with Ancient Faith Radio (which doesn’t even claim to be Catholic; it’s an Eastern Orthodox media outlet). Here, somebody going by the username Dante Alighieri compares Rex’s “spiritual rain” to readers of Laudato Si’ accepting Pope Francis’s acceptance of scientific consensus on the existence of anthropogenic climate change. On the other hand, here is Rod Dreher using the term to describe a tweet by Father Antonio Spadaro that, in all honesty, raised red flags for me too. Dreher has also used the term to describe uncritical confidence in US President Donald Trump.

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  1. Avatar Marie says:

    Excellent article Nathan, thank you! It surprises me how those who simply follow all the Church teachings, are referred to as papolators, while those who ignore Catholic teaching concerning how we are to respond to papal authority call themselves Faithful Catholics. Usually, when making an argument, especially if purporting to be a faithful Catholic, you would back it up with Catholic teaching.

    In this case, if you refer to someone as a papolator, you would then show what the teaching of the Church is concerning the pope and then show how this person (or persons) responses are not correct. The teachings (CCC 85, 86, 87, 892 and Canon law 752.) in particular would be a good gauge. But instead, no gauge is used as a measure. Why is that? Would intellectual honesty not demand this ? Yet silence remains.

  2. Avatar jong says:

    Year 2013 the only known attack to Pope Francis was the legitimacy of his Papacy. There were only few Rad Trads channel around. Then Pope Francis begins to reform the Curia. This is my conviction, a pious Pope like the pious priest St.Vianney & St.Padre Pio was gifted with a vision of their evil enemies, I think both Pope Francis & Pope Emeritus BXVI when they described the wolves & packed of wild dogs it is really literal. The Cardinals & Bishops appears to them like wolves because they lived a pious life & have a strong discernment. I think the Rad Trads started to make a noise when Cardinal Burke was demoted as he was seen opposing the Family Synod in 2014 and the Amoris Laetetia was conceived & developed in this Synod and followed by Ab.Vigano removed as US Nuncio in 2016. Plus the visit of Pope Francis to the US in 2016 exposes who are the Rad Trads. But the peak or the birth of numerous Rad Trads channel like Dr.Marshall was on August 2018 when Ab.Vigano published his original testimony, also I think this also the time around where Cardinal Muller was also removed from his post as Prefect of CDF. The latest addition to Pope Francis critics was the removed theologians & professors in St.JP2 institute.
    When Pope Francis issue the Apostolic Exhortations on Amoris Laetetia, the Akita prophecy begin to unfold “Cardinal vs. cardinal” and “Bishop vs. bishop” was seen. St.John Paul II the Great described the coming war, the Final Confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church and between the gospel vs. the anti-gospel. And Blessed Ab. Fulton Sheen described the anti-church.
    Amoris Laetetia is purposely “ambiguous” because if it’s not ambiguous the Akita prophecy will not unfold. How about the anti-gospel, Pope Francis now make developmental changes in CCC267, why? To point out to us that both Amoris Laetetia & CCC2267 was inspired to conform this non-definitive teaching to the heart of the gospel which is Divine Mercy. Now, we can see the gospel vs. anti-gospel unfolding. Cardinal Burke et,al calling Pope Francis teachings as “false mercy”.
    CCC675 to CCC677 was a self-proclaimed destiny or prophecy the Church had made to itself, and it seems the Rad Trads were following the three recipe written in that article of faith. St.John described a group of pastors or bishops & cardinals that will leave the church in the last hour and will form a schism. (1John2:18-19).
    We have now a visible “real schism and apostasy of the gospel of Mercy”. The Rad Trads were now taking a new form of attack, they are developing an army and calling themselves “Crusaders”. I believe this will be the highlight of the 40 Days Prayer Crusades launched by Cardinal Burke & Bishop Schneider, they will now spread in the social media a call to join their group as “Crusaders”. This was a call by Michael Matt and Dr.Marshall two months ago on the Rad Trads clan. SSPX, Sedes, FSSP, FSSPX, CMRI etc to unite to take back the Holy Mother Church and oust Pope Francis who according to them is the destroyer of the Church Traditions and Doctrines.
    If Pope Francis during the height of Ab.Vigano controversy had excommunicated him, it is a solid ground for the Rad Trads to launch the plan “revolt” but sorry for them Pope Francis had used the powerful weapon of “prayerful silence”, and the plan revolt was destroyed.
    Now, Cardinal Burke & Bishop Schneider even Cardinal Muller and Cardinal Brandmuller had been baiting Pope Francis to impose an excommunication on them, why? This will justify their “revolt” but Pope Francis is one step ahead of their game and he just wisely ignore their bait.
    What do you think is the perfect scenario for the Rad Trads to justify their revolt? Will the outcome of Pan Amazon Synod be enough?
    The “son of perdition or the man of lawlessness” will only come out if the “grand revolt” will take place. Ab.Vigano was look upon by his siblings as “scoundrel’, and he betrays the Church when he accuses his numerous colleague of “cover-ups” up to the Vicar of Christ and ignore his oath of confidentiality as he proudly said his fidelity is to God ignoring “Apostolic Obedience” a Church Tradition for over 2000 years.
    He was proven “lying” to Pope Benedict about the condition of his brother, he was proven “lying” on his accusation on Pope Francis that cause him to immediately hide to escape the Media for exposing his lies, even his numerous accusations on his colleague was never substantiated by facts & solid evidence only empty loud noises in the social media that had cause the fall of our beloved Cardinal Wuerl.
    I have this disturbing thoughts looking at Ab.Vigano’s character and the sorrounding scandals he associated himself into, the Vatileaks, the Davis event, the cover-up of Ab. Neinstead case, and he played the role of the accuser of his colleague and the Pope,etc…
    Did Pope Francis revealed who Ab.Vigano really is during his famous homily in Santa Martha in 2018 about the Great Accuser Unchain?
    Why? because Ab.Vigano reacted immediately accusing again Pope Francis of “subtle slander”.
    As St.Athanasius said “Where there is slander there is satan.”
    Is Ab.Vigano the “son of perdition”?, the one whom the Rad Trads will raise to Papacy as their Antipope when finally the plan revolt of the Crusaders will push thru..
    If the Crusades becomes a success, we can see “another mystical body but not of Christ but of Antichrist with their own Antipope Ab.Vigano’ vs. “the true mystical body of Christ headed by Pope Francis”. This is the Final Confrontation between the Two Church.
    This has been my thoughts after discerning the new the motives behind the 40 Days Prayer Crusades. Thank you WPI for allowing me to express my thoughts, and I do hope the plan of Mike Lewis will be bless to finally have a youtube channel for the benefit of all WPI avid viewers and the True Vatican II Church.
    My Jesus mercy. S&IHMMP4us. Amen.

  3. Avatar George Palantine says:

    There is a sort of papolotry among some supporters of Pope Francis. However, this article does not address that. As helpful as an understanding of Mottram may be – in some limited cases – the point remains that some people defend pope Francis not by rational theological argument – instead, they seem to relish saying “But he’s the pope! And you must follow him no matter what!’. This seems to stem from years of them being against pope JP II and Benedict, and having been told that they must follow the pope. So now they relish throwing that accusation back at those who once used it against them.

    There is, in some quarters, a sort of idolotrous worship of Francis, as if he is Christ himself. While we should like and love our popes, some take it to an absurd level. They talk gushingly of his every word, how inspiring his smallest gesture is, how saintly he is, as if the man was superhuman and God himself. That is what they are complaining about. Sometimes justifiably. But those same conservatives often almost worship old popes from long ago as if they were the font of all real wisdom. So the use of the word papolotry is not very helpful, either way.

    So it depends on who exactly we are talking about, what they said, whether it was overboard, and whether they simply insert pope puppy love for valid theological argument.

    It is very true that a strange set of uber traditionalist like to holler about “papolotry”. But they are guilty of the same thing, just in reverse. They worship certain popes, then turn around and blast others.

    • Avatar Nathan Turowsky says:

      Hi George,

      Thank you for your comment. I think you’re right that many less-thoughtful people’s attitudes towards Pope Francis are conditioned by their experiences under the previous two popes; partisan- or sectarian-minded liberals, on having a Pope who could plausibly be described as “theirs”, have in some cases adopted a sycophantic style. Come to think of it, perhaps a sycophantic style of relating to authority is a better definition for Mottramism than anything having to do with its content as a thought process.

    • Avatar Marie says:

      George- Here’s the thing: some of us actually like and understand both his teachings and his messages. You are incorrect to suggest the reason some may really like Francis may “stem from years of them being against pope JP II and Benedict” This is false. They may like Francis for his social teaching, but they reject him for the same reasons they rejected JPII and Benedict. In order to fully embrace Francis (and therefore defend him so, as you say) this can only come from those who respected JPII and Benedict, as their teachings are also part of Francis’ teachings. Once again, this is another example of putting people in one of two camps, and ignoring the reality that true Catholicism belongs to neither.

      If You don’t agree, please share an example of “But he’s the pope!”And you must follow him no matter what!’. Saying it doesn’t make it so and I’ve yet to read or hear it once. We are, however, allowed to respect and embrace what he’s says, such as what he said today during his homily. It’s a message we all should be listening to clearly. To suggest it lacks any rational theological support lacks any support on your part.

      • Avatar Nathan Turowsky says:

        Hi Marie,

        “They may like Francis for his social teaching, but they reject him for the same reasons they rejected JPII and Benedict” is an excellent observation; to “like” the Pope (any Pope) because (and only because) one agrees with his sociopolitical positions is not to “like” him on the Church’s own terms at all.

        Thank you as always for your comments.

      • Avatar George Palantine says:

        A very great number of theologians believe that Francis has deviated very significantly from JP II and Benedict. Amoris Laetitia seems to contradict JP II’s Veritatis Spendor and JP II’s document on communion for the divorced and remarried. I remember seeing Pope Francis pretend to quote JP II, but using JP II as authority for a point JP II was specifically against. I remember seeing Francis pretend to cite JP II, but when you look at the cite, it is about an entirely different subject. In short, I see a lot of Francis pretending to be following JP II but in fact overturning him. The recent controversy over the JP II institute, where everyone was fired because they believed in a JP II interpretation of things, and were replaced by Francis supporters is another example. There are many good theologians who are very, very concerned that lots of Pope Francis’s positions actually undermine JP II and Benedict. There is a theological problem being pushed by Francis, and it is there if you understand the theology. If, on the other hand, you are just a normal Catholic and you like hearing Pope Francis say nice things, then you would not have noticed anything going off the rails.

      • Avatar Nathan Turowsky says:

        Hi George,

        You’re well within your rights to argue against the points made by other commenters, or against the points made in my article, but please try to avoid snobbery and gatekeeping about “normal Catholics who like hearing Pope Francis saying nice things”.

      • Avatar Marie says:

        George- This is an example of exactly what lacking in humility means. “There is a theological problem being pushed by Francis, and it is there if you understand the theology. If, on the other hand, you are just a normal Catholic ……”

        Despite your confidence, you continue to argue without providing any support You also appear to base your reasoning on pure speculation: “they seem to relish…” , “This seems to stem from….”, “Amoris Laetitia seems to contradict….”. No examples, no analysis, etc.

        You further your thought with claims of knowing the popes thoughts and motives, something that is not possible for another person to know. “I remember seeing Pope Francis pretend to quote JP II……” I see a lot of Francis pretending to be …….”

        If you understand theology as you claim, why are you just giving the usual talking points that lack any substance?

    • Avatar Lazarus says:

      > There is a sort of papolotry among some supporters of Pope Francis. However, this article does not address that. As helpful as an understanding of Mottram may be – in some limited cases – the point remains that some people defend pope Francis not by rational theological argument – instead, they seem to relish saying “But he’s the pope! And you must follow him no matter what!’.

      Evidence of papolatry please? I think you are misrepresenting why people say that. It is highly imprudent to consider yorself correct and the pope wrong on faith and morals because: 1) the reason the Church is indefectible is because of Christ’s promises to St Peter; 2) the Catholic Church doesn’t consider private interpetation authoratative–whether it’s Protestants with scripture or tradionalists with old documents–regardless how much people appeal to ‘plain sense’ reading; 3) Vatican I says that the pope has a never-failing fairh, so even if he were to err he would not do it to the extent of heresy; 4) He is the official teacher either allowed or decided by God at this time in history (all that happens has to be permitted by God, if not positively willed); 5) Papal supremacy and papal primacy give him full universal authority over the rest of the Church, to impose whatever discipline he finds prudent; 6) There really is no provision in canon law for deposing a heretic pope (if there is no known way for dealing wih this issue without violating a commandment of God, it’s safer to assume it can never happen than hastily make up a proesss).

      > This seems to stem from years of them being against pope JP II and Benedict, and having been told that they must follow the pope. So now they relish throwing that accusation back at those who once used it against them.

      Give an argument or evidence please. Otherwise I will state that you seem to lump is all supporters of the pope with progressive dissenters.

      > There is, in some quarters, a sort of idolotrous worship of Francis, as if he is Christ himself. While we should like and love our popes, some take it to an absurd level. They talk gushingly of his every word, how inspiring his smallest gesture is, how saintly he is, as if the man was superhuman and God himself. That is what they are complaining about. Sometimes justifiably. But those same conservatives often almost worship old popes from long ago as if they were the font of all real wisdom. So the use of the word papolotry is not very helpful, either way.

      Do you also think it’s idolatry to venerate saints? The pope’s office is a sacred office. He is not just some politician elected in a democracy by the people to cater to them. You can be sure that people say that he has characteristics like Christ. No Catholic would say he is Christ. I am reminded of Christ and the Pharisees by the events happening in the Church today. But make no mistake, the pope is not God.

      > So it depends on who exactly we are talking about, what they said, whether it was overboard, and whether they simply insert pope puppy love for valid theological argument.

      Obey the pope. Don’t be like Eve and let doubts be sowed in you. God really does mean “those who reject you reject Me”. The body of bishops who are communion with the pope are the ones who have authority, regardless how “liberal” they may seem.

      > It is very true that a strange set of uber traditionalist like to holler about “papolotry”. But they are guilty of the same thing, just in reverse. They worship certain popes, then turn around and blast others.

      I disagree. Then again I am neither left or right wing.

      • Avatar George Palantine says:

        I did not intend to write a book in the comments section. You want a book. Now, if you really want to know, just go online and look for evidence of the things that you want me to provide you evidence of. There is plenty of evidence of this stuff. So here you are, telling me to obey the pope, period, end of story. It does not matter to you what the pope has said. You just want obedience. So I say to you – IF the pope were to tell us that Jesus was not divine, what is a person to do? IF a pope tells us things that actually go against Catholic teaching as it has been understood for centuries, what do we do?

        You seem to, in your comments, elevate the pope to a God. But he is not. He is the SERVANT of doctrine. His only power is to PRESERVE the faith, not embellish it, not change it. So if the pope starts doing things that overturn doctrine, there is a very big problem. Now, rather than citing all the doctrines about papal power, which I know very well and agree with, start addressing the real problem not a made up problem that you want to exist.

        Face the real problem. What do we do with a pope who seems to be altering the Death penalty, for example, beyond what is allowable by scripture? What do we do with a pope who starts telling us to drop adherence to previous papal teaching, and instead start a new teaching, which violates the rules of development of doctrine? Understanding the role of the pope in the church is the first step. Fine, you have done that. Now start addressing the real problems that arise under this pope. People are not objecting to Francis because they merely have a wild hair. They are doing it because there are so very many odd things going on in this papacy.

      • Avatar Nathan Turowsky says:

        Hi George,

        If you have a knock-down drag-out irrefutable argument that Pope Francis’s developments on the death penalty or sacramental discipline or whatever aren’t legitimate developments, over against the insistence of the Pope, the CDF, and the lion’s share of the college of bishops that they are, I for one am perfectly willing to hear it out. Unfortunately, all various private scholars and the minority of bishops coalescing around figures like Burke and (the post-CDF incarnation of) Mueller have been able to do is to advance private interpretations that, while in some cases persuasive on their own terms, are still just that–private interpretations.

        I and the other Where Peter Is contributors have all decided, for various reasons of our own, that when in doubt we’ll err on the side of defending the Pope rather than treating him with suspicion. And this hermeneutic is a hermeneutic of humility.

      • Avatar Lazarus says:

        George, I believe that it is Catholic teaching that no pope can declare to be Jesus not divine or any other heresy. If any legitimate pope does for me it would mean that the promises of Christ have failed. God has given each true pope the gift of never-failing faith. He is still peccable, but consider in 2000 years not even the Borgias were heretics when popes.

        When people screech about papalotry they are attacking a straw man. Why do you say we elevated him to Godhood by defending the proposition that the pope cannot be a heretic? It’s different from ‘the pope cannot be a heretic, so any pope who is no longer has authority’.

        That also means that if it is truly impossible, then it calls for a faith not in your own understanding when the pope teaches difficult things. We have to trust God Himself here and not our own understanding. If it’s not impossible, can you provide an argument? A syllogism consists of 3 propositions, doesn’t have to be a book. And if you don’t understand it so lucidly as to be able to distill it small in points, are you really willing to risk damnation here by potential rebelling against the pope?

  4. Avatar Ralph says:

    The Mottramist label comes from an attitude of snobbery, which is that the average Catholic is an idiot who simply believes whatever the pope says even if it is something absurd like “the Moon is made of green cheese.” It actually reminds me of upper-class Protestant stereotypes of Catholics as simpletons who cannot think for themselves. As an American it also reminds me of some of the arguments made by Anglo-American Protestants against Catholic immigrants in the past. Catholics were supposedly unfit for citizenship and democracy because they were mindless puppets of the pope in Rome. Funny how so many papal critics sound like anti-Catholic bigots.

    Now maybe there are some people who believe that every utterance by Pope Francis represents the Truth, but overall I would say that we have the opposite problem, that people pick and choose the parts of Church teachings that fit their preconceived ideological agenda whatever side of the aisle that may be. So the problem seems to be the opposite of pope-worship. Plus, many of the same people who complain about ultramontanism and papolatry now were keen to paint themselves as papal loyalists when they perceived that previous popes were closer to their own ideological beliefs. Some defenders of Pope Francis are now returning the favor.

    That being said, I think that for your average Catholic, who is not well-versed in theology and likely never will be, they are much better served listening to the pope (not just Pope Francis but his predecessors and his successors) than otherwise. This does not mean checking your brain at the church door or believing that every single statement by the pope is official church teaching. But overall I would argue that your average Catholic is much better served listening to and obtaining guidance from the pope, surely much more so than the collection of Catholic media outlets, social media figures, YouTubers and authors who might be pushing an agenda. I would even go as far as saying that it would be better to err on the side of so-called “Mottramism” simply because your average Catholic is less likely to be deceived and in any event I have not seen any reason to believe that Pope Francis, even in his non-magisterial statements, is saying or doing anything that would lead people into error.

  5. Avatar Christopher Lake says:

    This unfortunate “Mottramism” accusation (from some Catholic critics of Pope Francis)– that Catholic *defenders* of Pope Francis will basically *deny clear, plain reality* in order to go on defending him,– this accusation, to me, simply seems like a particularly flagrant example of the “Sola Traditio” mindset, as described in this WPI article: https://wherepeteris.com/sola-traditio/

    If certain radical traditionalist Catholic assertions were correct, and the determination and identification of “Catholic orthodoxy” and “true Catholic traditionalism” were simply self-evident, to any reasonable Catholic layman, by studying historic Church documents and comparing them with recent Church documents (such as those from Vatican II and onwards)… how would these “radtrad” Catholic assertions *not* be virtually identical to the “Sola Scriptura” mindset of many Protestants? I should know. For years, I *was* that kind of Protestant.

    In those years, I would tell people that Scripture *clearly teaches* the historic Christian understanding of the Trinity, and other orthodox Christian doctrines– and in my mind, if anyone who claimed to be a Christian *disputed* these doctrines, that person was either *clearly, obviously* spiritually blinded, or somehow in denial of the reality of clear Scriptural teaching, or both. Looking back now, I see how unconsciously desperate I was to avoid the need for a Magisterium by asserting and defending the clarity of Scripture, at least on doctrines and matters which seemed clear *to me*– often due, ironically, to my grounding in Reformed Protestant *interpretation* of the Bible! 🙂

    In a similar vein, the Catholic critics who assert that Pope Francis is *clearly* heretical, not a “true Catholic” in his thinking and teaching, etc., seem to be saying that “true Catholicism” can be determined by any Catholic (and, possibly, by any open-minded Christian, period?) who is open to studying historic Church documents and honestly comparing them with Pope Francis’s writings, speeches, and interviews. The implication, then, from these Francis critics, is that Catholic *defenders* of Francis are either self-deceived or deceived by others, and, in either case, are in denial of clear, plain reality.

    However, the clear, plain reality that *I* see, as a former Protestant, is that we need a visible, living, authoritative, speaking and teaching Magisterium, including the Pope, in order to be able to continue to *have* such a concept as “Catholic orthodoxy” or “Christian orthodoxy” which we can even reliably *know*, and which can *legitimately develop*, as needs be, to speak to the challenges of the day. If one wishes to be an orthodox Catholic, and a genuine Catholic traditionalist, then one should be eager to listen to Pope Francis’s Magisterial teachings and eager to give them the religious submission of mind and will that the Catechism describes as being *proper with* such authoritative teachings.

  6. Avatar Jim the Scott says:

    >“papolator,” “ultramontanist,” “pope-worshipper,” and “bergoglian.

    I have myself been called all these things. At the end of the day the poison of politics has infected the Holy Church. You have the “Francis can do no wrong and can never be constructively or loyally criticized” vs “the Pope is evil and an anti-Pope and can never be credited with any good and we must go out of our way to attack everything he does even if we undermine confidence in the Church”.

    A pox on both yer houses.

  7. Avatar Arthur McGowan says:

    Anyone who believes that a pope can legitimately contradict his 265 predecessors on the meaning of the Fifth Commandment is a Mottramist. Francis contradicts all his predecessors on the meaning of the Fifth Commandment. Whether a person who believes Francis’s teaching rather than his predecessors’ can “argue” that Francis is right, or “understands deeply” what Francis is saying, is totally irrelevant. What makes that person is Mottramist is the fact of believing the one pope who contradicts all other popes. Rex Mottram was not a Catholic and not a thinker. But a Catholic who “thinks” more deeply than Rex can still be a Mottramist.

    • Avatar Nathan Turowsky says:

      Hi Arthur,

      Using “Mottramist” to mean “someone who denies the unchanging nature of doctrine” or “someone who prefers one pope to other popes” is certainly a new one. Unfortunately, both usages are even further removed from the concepts and themes of Waugh’s novel than using it to mean someone with a high view of papal authority.

      I understand from your comment that you’re very fixed in the conviction that Pope Francis’s teachings on something related to the sanctity of human life (I’m guessing this is about the death penalty) straightforwardly contradict previous settled doctrine. If this is a position in which you are as secure as you appear to be, I have confidence that you will be able to argue it without calling your interlocutors names.

  8. Avatar Manuel Dauvin says:

    Christopher
    “how would these “radtrad” Catholic assertions *not* be virtually identical to the “Sola Scriptura” mindset of many Protestants? I should know. For years, I *was* that kind of Protestant.”

    Exactly! I’ve been dying to coin the phrase-“sola…something or other” for this phenomenon.
    “Sola morguesterium”(contrasted to the living magisterium without which the past documents have no life)
    or maybe
    “Sola pius previous” (everything before pius xii.)

    Such a key insight … “sola Scriptura” at least has the point that the words of Scripture are unchanging…though they could mean what I want. The magisterium can boast NO such character. It’s words have changed down through the centuries…as the truth mingled with human history. The only guarantee of continuity of content in this supple expression of truth is the LIVING POPE.

  1. September 29, 2019

    […] religious website Where Peter Is has posted an article defending Pope Francis against charges of “Mottramism” by his […]

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