Indeed. If you lose faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, then you have lost the Catholic faith in its entirety. The excessive focus on the person of the pope is a symptom of the Church's decades long meltdown. When EWTN was born in the United States, it quickly became the go-to resource for the orthodox Catholic faith. Getting into debates with my fellow Catholics on the internets quickly devolves into "My document carries greater Magisterial authority than your document."A large part of so-called “conservative” Catholicism is committing a very serious error: in order to save what remains of the Catholic presence in the world, to render the mission of the Church stronger in secularized society, and faced with the moral weariness of many ecclesial sectors, it is making an effort to increase Catholic pride, by focusing totally on the Pope. Moreover, it is handling this attention on the Pope in exactly the same way as the newspapers, television and internet sites, who are extolling the humanity of the Pontiff, underlining with pride the popular interest in his person. They are behaving in the exact same way as the world devoid of faith or not concerned with faith, with their descriptions of oceanic gatherings around the Vicar of Christ, of his impressive gestures and the controversial choices that he seems to be making.
No, it is not from the Pope that we need to start in order to save our Catholic life: in fact, not from the Pope at all, but from the Holy Mass, from the Holy Eucharist.
So that we can explain ourselves, we turn to one of the most important spiritual authors of the of the last century, Dom Chautard, Abbot of Sept-Fons.
In his text, Les cisterciens Trappistes, l’ame cistercienne, where he explains the Cistercian vocation, the Benedictine Abbott, at a certain point, describes the talk he had with the French Prime Minister, Clemenceau, the famous “Tiger”. It took place during the years of the suppression of religious orders and when Dom Chautard was charged with the delicate task of saving the monastic presence in France. Consequently, he found himself in a meeting with the radical and anti-clerical “Tiger:”
We think it is of great use to translate and transcribe what the Abbot reports of their conversation:
Don Chautard to Clemenceau: “I will set about answering your questions: What is a Trappist? Why did you become a Trappist? And in order not to overdo it, I will settle for this argument: a religion which has the Eucharist at its base, must have monks devoted to adoration and penitence.
"The Eucharist is the central dogma of our religion. It is called the generating dogma of Catholic piety. It is not the papacy, as you seem to think.
"The Papacy is nothing other than the word-bearer of Christ. Thanks to the Papacy, the faithful keep the dogma and morality taught by Jesus Christ intact. It is this protection that keeps us on the right road, precisely marked out by our Divine Founder. But it is only Christ that remains, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
"Now, Christ is not a Being who disappeared someplace we do not know of, nor even the far away Being that we think of. He is alive. He lives among us. He is present in the Eucharist. And this is why the Eucharist is the base, the centre, the heart of religion. From whence comes every life. Not from anywhere else.
"You do not believe it. But we believe it. We believe firmly, resolutely, from the depth of our being, that in the tabernacle of each of our churches, God truly resides under the appearance of the Host.”
It is clear then, the central dogma of Christianity is the Holy Eucharist, everything starts from there, not elsewhere…and if faith diminishes in the central dogma, in the Holy Eucharist, everything in Christianity and in the Church will collapse.
Has it not been like this these past years?
Ultramontanism in the 19th century was born from political strife such as France's anti-clericalism or Italy's unification wars. Today's ultramontane moral relativism is rooted in the lack of leadership and the moral, theological, and liturgical anarchy that still reign in much of the Catholic world. If your pastor and your bishop are Modernists then of course you're going to focus on the person of the pope. Of course you're going to turn to resources like EWTN. When the late, great John Senior was asked why he attended an SSPX parish he replied, "If Weakland is in, then who's out?"
My heathen friends often say on Facebook that they love Pope Francis. "Really?" says I. "Which part of his encyclical do you like best? Or which of his public speaking really came out at you?" Silence. I expected as much from them. If you're going to make a big public show of how much you love a particular pope, then do try to love the pope and not your idea of him.