Thursday, February 22, 2024

“Ultramontanism and Tradition”: Seeking the Roots of the Present Anti-Liturgical Heresy in Rome

Dom Prosper Guéranger famously described the “anti-liturgical heresy” of the Protestant reformers, who betrayed authentic and continuous tradition in the name of an antiquarian reconstruction imaginatively driven by their theological views. Many traditionalist writers over the past decades have noted the disturbing accuracy with which Guéranger’s critique corresponds as well to the twentieth-century liturgical reforms in the Catholic Church. (An English translation of Guéranger’s comments may be read here.)

The question naturally arises: How in the world did we reach a point where Rome, or the papacy, has given up its historical stance of being a bulwark (remora in Newman’s term) against change—for instance, only reluctantly adding a Creed to the Mass after everyone else had already done so!—and turned into a turbo-driver of innovation? Where instead of being the final court of appeals, it has become a laboratory for doctrinal invention? This is a question that any honest researcher, reviewing the records of history, must ask. At least part of the answer, and an important part at that, is the rise of the phenomenon of ultramontanism, with its panoply of intended and unintended effects.

It gives me great joy to announce, on this feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the latest book from Os Justi Press: Ultramontanism and Tradition: The Role of Papal Authority in the Catholic Faith.

This anthology presents 50 essays by 26 prominent and respected authors: Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke • Bishop Athanasius Schneider • Phillip Campbell • Stuart Chessman • Charles A. Coulombe • Roberto de Mattei • Edward Feser • Timothy S. Flanders • Rémi Fontaine • A Friar of the Order of Preachers • Matt Gaspers • Jeremy Holmes • John P. Joy • Robert W. Keim • John Lamont • Sebastian Morello • Martin Mosebach • Clemens Victor Oldendorf • Thomas Pink • Enrico Roccagiachini • Eric Sammons • Joseph Shaw • Henry Sire • Thomas Sternberg • Darrick Taylor • José A. Ureta

Here is a short video about the book: 

It is not possible to understand the crisis in the modern Catholic Church, much less see how it might be overcome, without a critical understanding of the ecclesial current known as ultramontanism. Originating with nineteenth-century conservatives rallying to the anti-Liberalism of Pius IX, it developed over time into a hyperpapalism that weakened subsidiarity, stifled local custom, and dismantled tradition, until with Pope Francis it has morphed into a veritable engine of progressivism.

What are the historical, theological, and cultural causes of this complex phenomenon—at once a quasi-doctrine, an attitude, and a political regime? Is an ultramontanist papacy the source of our ills, or their only possible remedy—or perhaps both, since “the corruption of the best is the worst”? Might there be a “spirit of Vatican I” as harmful, in its own way, as the later (and rightly denigrated) “spirit of Vatican II”? Can a pope be a heretic, and what, if anything, may be done when such an evil confronts the Church? What is the relationship between moral authority and coercive power? Between papacy and episcopacy? Between legal positivism, blind obedience, and clerical abuse (sexual and otherwise)? In the face of pontifical monarchy, do churches sui iuris; organized communities; subordinate rulers; baptized faithful; immemorial traditions; time-honored liturgies, (still) enjoy their own inviolable rights?

These and related questions are deftly addressed by twenty-six scholars in an anthology of the best of contemporary conservative and traditional writing on these controversial topics.


It is in the nature of an anthology that it brings together previously published essays. The book does, however, include several substantial previously unpublished pieces:
  • a brilliant (and entertaining) interview with Martin Mosebach and Thomas Sternberg;
  • a major study called “What May Be Done about a Heretical Pope?” by a Friar of the Order of Preachers;
  • the essay “The Tower, and the City, of Babel: A Warning against Ultramontanism” by Robert W. Keim;
  • the masterful synthesis “Centripetal Governance and the Loss of Coherence” by Stuart Chessman.
What is more, certain chapters were revised by their authors for this edition; all of the chapters were edited for style and consistency; extensive footnotes, a comprehensive bibliography, and a detailed index were added. All in all, the book is a veritable goldmine on this topic.

Readers will especially appreciate the internal dialectic between the old-school ultramontanists (de Mattei, Ureta), their critics (Chessman, Keim, Mosebach), the mediators (Flanders, Sammons, Pink), those who bring in lots of rich historical detail that complicates the picture (Campbell, Coulombe, Taylor), etc. A very rich anthology that will become a "must-read" for those engaging it.

The Table of Contents, Preface, and a sample of the opening chapters may be found here.


510 pages, "royal size" (6.14 x 9.21 in.), in hardcover, paperback, or ebook

Where you can find it

Available directly from the publisher here, or from here (and all Amazon outlets across the world), or from Barnes & Noble here.

May this work—which is published with a dedication to many saints who, as it were, "spoke truth to power"—assist readers in the urgently necessary process of evaluating the relevant historical and theological data and recalibrating the proper God-fearing relations between hierarchical authority and sacred tradition in the Church. It goes without saying that the authors address liturgical issues along with everything else.

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