Francis talks about globalization of education, “new humanism”, attacks “guardians of tradition”, gets Aeneas wrong.

Above… Aeneas rescuing his family (not so much his wife) and household gods from the sack of Troy.  Leonello Spada

Who was Vincent of Lérins?  He was a Gaul and writer who died about 445.  His work Commonitorium is a defense of orthodox belief and is about how to hand it on.  Vincent is famous for the adage that true Catholic faith is that which is believed always, everywhere and by everyone.

Why bring him up?

In a talk to participants in a conference on the globalization of education – globalization being perhaps the new katholikon – Francis quoted Vincent to attack people who desire Tradition.  There is a summary article at Catholic News Agency.  It’s amusing.  Practically the whole article was about the pretty vicious (if truth be told) attack on people who desire Tradition.

Let’s have a look at the attack through the lens of the CNA piece (I don’t have the interest or time to translate the original).  My emphases and comments:

Pope Francis on Wednesday criticized people who “call themselves guardians of traditions, but of dead traditions,” saying that failing to move forward is dangerous for the Church today.  [Hmmm… I thought that the bishops were supposed to be the guardians of tradition.  Perhaps he doesn’t know the title of the document he signed?  Traditionis custodes?]

Speaking to the organizers of a conference on education on June 1, the pope said that it was vital to make progress by “drawing from the roots.”

He said that “there is the fashion [moda] — in every age, but in this age in the Church’s life I consider it dangerous — that instead of drawing from the roots in order to move forward — meaning fine traditions — we ‘step back,’ not going up or down, but backward.”

“This ‘back-stepping’ makes us a sect; it makes you ‘closed’ and cuts off your horizons. Those people call themselves guardians of traditions, but of dead traditions.”   [Here’s the deal.  This is all just blank assertions without any foundation.  “Those people”?  How is the “fashion” that, apparently, there always is, dangerous now in some particular way?  And if it is always going on, perhaps it isn’t what he thinks it is.  And… “drawing from roots to move forward”… okay, fine.  What does that mixed metaphor even mean?]

Pope Francis underlined that “the true Catholic Christian and human tradition … grows, progresses.”

“Education, for its part, is always rooted in the past, but it does not stop there: it is directed towards ‘forward-looking initiatives,’ where the old and the new converge to create a new humanism,” he said.   [Oh boy.  A “new humanism”.  What would something like that look like, I wonder.  What would constitute a “new humanism”?  I did a quick search on the phrase and found a couple of candidates, one of which (a school of lit crit) I dismissed.  The other… well… UNESCO.  Here are a couple of links about “new humanism” – HERE and HERE]

The pope underlined that true tradition is “what that fifth-century theologian described as a constant growth: throughout history, tradition grows, progresses: ut annis consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur aetate.”

The pope was referring to St. Vincent of Lerins, who wrote about the development of Church teaching, saying that it “is solidified over the years, extended with time, and refined with age.”

Pope Francis has invoked this quotation numerous times since his election in 2013, including in a letter on Amoris laetitia in 2018. [Is Communion for the divorced and remarried something that we have as a Church held everywhere, always and by everyone?]

The pope did not mention the liturgy or Catholic doctrine in his June 1 address, but focused his speech on education.   [Okay, I guess we can stop here, since this doesn’t have anything to do with liturgy or doctrine.]

He said that Virgil’s Aeneid contains an image that “can serve to illustrate the mission of educators, who are called to preserve the past … and to guide the steps of the young towards the future.”

“An eloquent example of how to confront the crisis can be found in the epic figure of Aeneas, who amid the flames of his burning city, carries on his shoulders his elderly father Anchises and takes the young son Ascanius by the hand, leading them both to safety,” Francis said.

“Aeneas saves himself, but not by himself. He brings with him his father, who represents his past, and his son, who represents the future. And so he moves forward,” he added.

Pope Francis said that this representation of tradition being respected and preserved reminded him of “what Gustav Mahler said about tradition: ‘Tradition is the guarantee of the future,’ not a museum piece.”   [He likes pull quotes.  Fine.]

The pope met at the Vatican with participants in a conference organized to evaluate the work accomplished so far by his Global Compact on Education and to plan for its development in the years to come.

“I thank you for all that you do in the service of education, which is also the specific contribution that you are offering to the Church’s synodal process. Keep moving in this direction, from the past towards the future, continuous growth,” he said.

“And be attentive to the ‘back-stepping’ so much in vogue today, which makes us think that by stepping back, we can preserve humanism,” the pope added.

Okay… there were some other bits in that talk, I guess I have to just bite the bullet with some machine help:

Starting from Troy, Aeneas does not bring with him goods, things – apart from the Penati idols – but only the father and the son. The roots and the future, the promises. … [Now wait just a cotton-pick’n minute!  “Apart from the Penati idols”?  He tries to make it sound like Aeneas brought out only his father and his son (= past and future).  No. No. No.   He also brought with him his “Aeneads”, as they would be called, trumpeter Misenus (because everyone needs his trumpeter), his friends Achates, Sergestus, and Acmon, Iapyx, and Palinurus. He left his wife to die in the flames.  BUT… and this is key… he also brought the di penati!  These are the tutelary gods of the household, like the Roman lares and the genius of the head of the household, the paterfamilias.  Di penates guarded the whole well being of the microcosm of the cosmos that was the family house, members, servants everything.  And as families had them, so too did the larger res, society. Make no mistake.  If pius Aeneas needed to rescue anything from the wreck of Troy, it was going to be the tutelary deities of his house.  Why?  Because it all comes down to proper worship to secure their blessings and protection.  You might remember: the ghost of Hector comes to tell Aeneas to get out of Dodge and take not just any penates … 

sacra suosque tibi commendat Troia penatis;
hos cape fatorum comites, his moenia quaere
magna pererrato statues quae denique ponto.’

TROY’S PENATES. In other words, Aeneas brought with him the di penates so that he could continue to worship and secure blessings in the exact same way he did in TROY … before the enemy got the horse in and held a council.  The imagery of Aeneas in this case flies directly in the face of everything Francis and those around him are doing!  The image of Aeneas leaving Troy with father, son, followers and penates is exactly about the preservation of Troy in a new place and age and worship is the key.]

Another fundamental element is to invest the best energies with creativity and responsibility. Elder Anchises represents the tradition that must be respected and preserved. I am reminded of what Gustav Mahler said about tradition: “Tradition is the guarantee of the future”, not a museum piece.  [SO?!?] Ascanius represents a tomorrow that must be guaranteed; Aeneas is the one who acts as a “bridge”, who ensures the passage and the relationship between generations.  [Because he is bearing also the penates, even more than Anchises.] Education, in fact, is always rooted in the past, but not to stop: it is aimed “at a long-term planning”, [2] where the old and the new come together in the composition of a new humanism. And against this, there is the fashion  – in all centuries, but in this century in the life of the Church I see it as dangerous – which instead of drawing from the roots to move forward – that sense of beautiful traditions – [I wonder what traditions he thinks are beautiful and which he doesn’t think are beautiful.  That’s a good question: for Francis, what constitutes a “beautiful” tradition?] takes a “retreat”, not “under and up”, but backwards. This retreat that makes us sect, that closes you, that takes away your horizons: they say they are guardians of traditions, but of dead traditions. The true Catholic, Christian and human tradition is what that theologian [Saint Vincent of Lerins] – 5th century – described as a continuous growth, that is, throughout history, tradition grows, goes on: “ut annis consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur aetate “. The true tradition is this, which is carried on with the children.

You know what?  I’ll tell you some other things that Vincent of Lérins said.

How about this one? From Commonitorium:

51. … I cannot sufficiently wonder at the madness of certain men, at the impiety of their blinded understanding, at their lust of error, such that, not content with the rule of faith delivered once for all, and received from the times of old, they are every day seeking one novelty after another, and are constantly longing to add, change, take away, in religion, as though the doctrine, let what has once for all been revealed suffice, were not a heavenly but an earthly rule — a rule which could not be complied with except by continual emendation, nay, rather by continual fault-finding; whereas the divine Oracles cry aloud, Remove not the landmarks, which your fathers have set (Proverbs 22:28)….


16. When then all men protested against the novelty, and the priesthood everywhere, each as his zeal prompted him, opposed it, Pope Stephen of blessed memory, Prelate of the Apostolic See, in conjunction indeed with his colleagues but yet himself the foremost, withstood it, thinking it right, I doubt not, that as he exceeded all others in the authority of his place, so he should also in the devotion of his faith. In fine, in an epistle sent at the time to Africa, he laid down this rule: Let there be no innovation — nothing but what has been handed down. For that holy and prudent man well knew that true piety admits no other rule than that whatsoever things have been faithfully received from our fathers the same are to be faithfully consigned to our children; and that it is our duty, not to lead religion whither we would, but rather to follow religion whither it leads; and that it is the part of Christian modesty and gravity not to hand down our own beliefs or observances to those who come after us, but to preserve and keep what we have received from those who went before us. What then was the issue of the whole matter? What but the usual and customary one? Antiquity was retained, novelty was rejected.

And… FRANCIS quoting Vincent of Lérins:

“God gives some Popes to the Church, God tolerates some Popes in the Church and God inflicts some Popes on the Church.”

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Francis, Pò sì jiù, The Coming Storm, The future and our choices, What are they REALLY saying? and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. James C says:

    Now that the pope has purged the Catholic prelates from and CDW and filled it with progressive radicals, do you think this new CDW will tolerate dissent from the 1970s pseudo-liturgies they will want to impose on us, like the CDW tolerated widespread abuses by the progressives for decades?

    Fat chance.

  2. TonyO says:

    I wonder what traditions he thinks are beautiful and which he doesn’t think are beautiful. That’s a good question: for Francis, what constitutes a “beautiful” tradition?

    The lack of specificity in Francis’s appeals to tradition and his castigation of those who love tradition is a telling point. It is, probably, because he cannot even imagine a way to distinguish the traditions he thinks are “beautiful” from those he doesn’t, which is anything other than superficial and purely subjective, and he (rightly) feels such grounds to be inadequate to actually lay out in public as his real thinking. That is, if all he has to go on are his own subjective preferences, then nobody’s preferences are superior to anyone else’s, and everyone has JUST AS MUCH RIGHT to promote THEIR beautiful traditions over his. So, he doesn’t attempt to talk about any principle or basis of distinguishing.

    Which, of course, completely guts and eviscerates the entirety of what Vincent of Lerins was saying. We elevate and venerate Tradition (with the capital T) because it houses something more foundational than mere preference. It represents a principle of discernment about the past that supercedes my own individual opinions, it stands as a measure more solid than fads and personal points of view. But because modernism has cut itself off from THAT understanding of Tradition (T), it can never, ever articulate a principle by which we could properly distinguish some traditions of men from the Tradition of the Church. And that obvious lack, that glaring hole, that pesky, irritating lacuna, is the reason Francis is always slimy and vague about WHICH traditions are worth paying attention to, and why. It is why his attacks on those who love Tradition (T) are always personal attacks, though he tries to pretend that he does it on behalf of the Church. The Church cannot attack itself, that’s crazy. And Tradition is an integral part of the Church’s constitution, not an optional extra.

  3. GregB says:

    Pope Francis might want to read what happened to King Solomon when he listened to his foreign wives. The bad kings of Israel all turned their backs on God and were faithless. God was quite willing to see two Temples destroyed and Israel sent into exile. The Amazon Synod was very much in the spirit of King Solomon. Bad leadership in the Church brought on the Protestant Revolt/Reformation where the Church was divided just like King Solomon’s kingdom was. The Church is acting like it wants a second dose of what King Solomon got.

  4. ajuv says:

    I’m glad I read until the end. That punchline cracks me up. :D

  5. InFormationDiakonia says:

    Well dissected as always Father Z. The problem will this article will be that some of the folks that wait for every word of the Pope with baited breath will take this as magisterial, as infallible, as brilliant analysis by the Pope and therefore it must be good!

    I get very tired of the logorrhea that comes from this Pope – he seems educated enough to be dangerous. But I’ve come to expect it so I’m not surprised any longer by anything he does. Although I’m sure he still has surprises for us.

    “God gives some Popes to the Church, God tolerates some Popes in the Church and God inflicts some Popes on the Church.” I think God inflicted us with him to teach us not to get complacent or comfortable when we have good Popes such as St. JPII and BXVI and that the Prince of the world still is working his diabolical nature to try to destroy the Church from within. Of course, we know that in the end we win, but it will come with pain and suffering.

  6. Sandy says:

    God bless you, Father Z, for all this effort and analysis. I’m so tired of this man who should be building up and preserving the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Please God, be patient with me and forgive me, and give me the strength to continue.

  7. Kathleen10 says:

    I want to respect your blog, Fr. Z. Various factors are inclining me to extremely straightforward expression at this point in my life.
    So —- an ——-.

  8. arga says:

    Francis’ most chilling comment was his embrace of “new humanism.” Humanism is always an enemy of religion, though Paul VI tried to Catholicize it in his concluding address to VCII on Dec. 7 1965 in which he also embraced a “new type of humanism” : “But we call upon those who term themselves modern humanists, and who have renounced the transcendent value of the highest realities, to give the council credit at least for one quality and to recognize our own new type of humanism: we, too, in fact, we more than any others, honor mankind.” That statement basically explains the disaster that was VCII, and the continuity with the disaster of the Francis pontificate.

  9. Uniaux says:

    Having read through this twice, I still don’t know what he’s specifically addressing behind his platitudes, quotes, and extended analogies. Seems like some quasi-philosophical diatribe on some abstraction of tradition, which would be to say that he effectively said many words without really saying anything. Very Jesuitical.

  10. CasaSanBruno says:

    Since man is religious by nature and made for worship, the pagan’s well intentioned efforts at worship and those that did not go against natural law we received by angels. I forget which Church Father said this. He goes on to say that the moment the pagan attempts at worship deviate from natural law, the angel departs and a demon takes over. That’s why Ps 95:5 says “All the gods of the gentiles are demons.”

  11. iamlucky13 says:

    “drawing from the roots in order to move forward — meaning fine traditions “

    This would be a lot easier to appreciate if the practice of drawing fine traditions from those roots were more easily visible, and if the Pope’s call for “decorum and fidelity to the liturgical books” were observed more diligently.

  12. Pingback: Canon212 Update: Shady StuntPope Who Hijacked The Church Says Your Tradition is Dead – The Stumbling Block

  13. Shonkin says:

    Some good points, Father, but I find it as hard to tpraise Aeneas for taking along his pagan idols as I found it to tolerate Pope Francis embracing the Pachamama idol. In both cases it is hardly praiseworthy.

    [A question for you. When was the fall of Troy?]

  14. Bob B. says:

    Teaching for some 12 years, I can say it was bad enough to have non-Catholic principals who forbade using the Baltimore Catechism, teaching Latin, and how to altar serve (etc, etc, etc) and a bishop’s education department that hated Vietnam veteran teachers, but highly favored teachers and principals who went to Jesuit colleges, that it appears that the pope is in favor of public schools. After all, we’ve been moving in this direction for years anyway.
    I do miss having students return after many years and thank me for what I did for them though.

  15. Benedict Joseph says:

    The eradication of Tradition has been the end game since the early 1960’s if not sooner. It was early accomplished in critical dioceses with the elimination of authentic catechesis. I am of that generation and observed it with wonder with my own high school eyes. Those of us — the spectrum of life experience and office — did not howl because of the respect the episcopate deserved, by our trust that we would never be deceived. Even the most learned and devout, their devotion prevented them from raising objection because of trust and due obedience.
    Now I am old and the situation deteriorates exponentially day by day. The only acknowledgement of our concerns is fraudulent academic “theology” and disingenuous paternalism rendered with a smirk, a wink and a nod. We have been handed a can of dirt labeled coffee — but the odor is not pleasant. Far from it.

  16. Suburbanbanshee says:

    It sounds like Francis saw somebody with a certain button, somewhere. The perils of running a Google search, I guess?

  17. HvonBlumenthal says:

    Who is the Aeneas of our own era? Mgr Lefebvre and his successors, refusing to be distracted by a Carthaginian red hat from their journey to the true Rome?

  18. Grant M says:

    “…whereas the divine Oracles cry aloud, Remove not the landmarks, which your fathers have set (Proverbs 22:28)…”

    I remember when I was a boy, helping my father to clear an overgrown corner of our property. We uncovered a white peg, hammered deep into the soil. “That”, said my father, “is a surveyor’s peg. It is AGAINST THE LAW to move it.” I gazed at the peg in awe and stayed well clear of it.

    Would that back in the 60’s, they had had the same attitude to the liturgy.

  19. Pingback: Look at these “dangerous” backward-steppers! They must be crushed! | Fr. Z's Blog

  20. Barnacle says:

    Popes don’t have to do anything. They don’t have to say anything. They just have to be. Stolid. Unmoving. The occasional shake of the head indicating ‘no’ is about as far as it really has to go. I long for the days (we will have then again soon, I am sure) when popes were stuck in that sedia thing, with a big heavy three-layered crown on, so heavy they couldn’t move their heads, let alone speak, with layers of heavy symbolic clothing on so heavy they could hardly move, let alone breathe.

    Oh dear, am I going backwards?

  21. Adelle Cecilia says:

    This was very interesting. Thank you, Father.

    Re Uniaux: look up narcissistic word salad.

  22. Pingback: MONDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

Comments are closed.