The feast day of Blessed Paul VI has been set on 26th September (his birthday). I was quite shocked when I heard this as I have always taken it to be a very important point that only the nativities of Christ, the Blessed Virgin and St John the Baptist are celebrated liturgically, because only these three were born without Original Sin. As Newman points out,

St. John was in the beginning of his existence a partaker of Adam’s curse; he lay under God’s wrath, deprived of that grace which Adam had received, and which is the life and strength of human nature. Yet, as soon as Christ, his Lord and Saviour, came to him, and Mary saluted his own mother, Elizabeth, forthwith the grace of God was given to him, and the original guilt was wiped away from his soul. And therefore it is that we celebrate the nativity of St. John; nothing unholy does the Church celebrate; not St. Peter’s birth, nor St. Paul’s, nor St. Augustine’s, nor St Gregory’s, nor St. Bernard’s, nor St Aloysius’s, nor the nativity of any other Saint, however glorious, because they were all born in sin. She celebrates their conversions, their prerogatives, their martyrdoms, their deaths, their translations, but not their birth, because in no case was it holy. Three nativities alone does she commemorate, our Lord’s, His Mother’s, and lastly, St. John’s. What a special gift was this, my brethren, separating the Baptist off, and distinguishing him from all prophets and preachers, who ever lived, however holy, except perhaps the prophet Jeremias!

Modernism is of course an extreme form of Pelagianism, and when I heard of this new feast of the Nativity of Paul VI I could not help remembering my shock when I read section 15 of Bl. Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio.

Endowed with intellect and free will, each man is responsible for his self-fulfillment even as he is for his salvation. He is helped, and sometimes hindered, by his teachers and those around him; yet whatever be the outside influences exerted on him, he is the chief architect of his own success or failure. Utilizing only his talent and willpower, each man can grow in humanity, enhance his personal worth, and perfect himself.

I assume His Holiness did not intend to teach Pelagianism by these words but (rather as with the opening words of Gaudium et Spes) one has to have wandered a very long way from St Augustine in one’s instincts to allow such sentiments to fall from one’s lips or flow from one’s pen. In his audience of 26th November 1969 commenting on the introduction of the Novus Ordo Missae Pope Paul said of the introduction into the liturgy of the vernacular “We are parting with the speech of the Christian centuries; we are becoming like profane intruders in the literary preserve of sacred utterance.” It seems it is not only in respect of the liturgy that Pope Paul and his spiritual progeny have found themselves alienated and ill at ease amidst the traditions of Latin Christendom.

It is ironic that Pope Francis so often accuses others of Pelagianism. His own struggles with this heresy are epitomized by the institution of the feast of the Nativity of Paul VI. For a long time, seduced as we have been by ultramontanism as a substitute for orthodoxy, we have yearned for a heroic Pope who would put all things right “that the spirit of St. Pius X might once again fill the hierarchy, that the great words anathema sit might once again ring out against all heretics, and especially against all the members of the ‘fifth column’ within the Church.” Of course we do need such a Pontiff and nothing will be resolved without him. But things have reached such a pass now with the unorthodoxies coming forth from beyond the Tiber, eclipsing entirely the failings of Liberius, Honorius and John XXII, that only an Ecumenical Council can now restore order to the Church and at last bestow upon Honorius a companion in his hitherto unique position among the bishops of Rome.