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What is Papal Infallibility?

Today, I will explain Papal Infallibility. I wish I could say this is directed at fundamentalists and evangelicals. Indeed, of all areas in fundamentalist apologetics, I have seen nothing more straw than what is written on Papal Infallibility. Unfortunately, many Catholics fall into the same error. For instance, Ann Barnhardt, among the first promulgators of beneplenism, states:

“So, since we have already established that assenting to Bergoglio’s heresies and apostasies and eventually entering into the Antichurch which he is constructing is to deny Christ, then it MUST logically follow that Bergoglio is not Peter, and Bergoglio is NOT the STANDARD of schism, but rather the VECTOR of schism.  Schism is the disease, and Bergoglio is the TICK that spreads it.  The True Peter cannot be the vector of schism, and the standard of schism, because Peter cannot both BE and NOT BE The Rock.  This is called the Law of Non-contradiction. Something cannot be both itself AND its negation.  It is also called ‘God’s infinite, unfailing love for His Church and mankind.’  It’s also called, ‘common sense.’”

I find it odd that she would claim that Francis cannot be Peter for denying Christ. (see Matt. 26:34) Right after Christ calls Peter “the Rock” (Matt. 16:18), by the way, He names him “the stumbling block” (Matt. 16:23). I will not call Pope Francis a heretic, as God alone can judge the Pope. Still, even if he were a formal heretic, that would not disprove the teachings of the Catholic Church nor the validity of his pontificate.

Anyway, we must understand what papal infallibility actually is. As defined by the First Vatican Council, papal infallibility occurs when “the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex Cathedra, that is, when in discharge of the office of Pastor and Teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the Universal Church, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that His Church should be endowed for defining doctrine regarding faith or morals: and that therefore such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church.” (Pastor Aeternus IV:9) This very rarely happens. In fact, most Popes go their entire pontificates without defining any dogma. I have heard, in fact, that this has only occurred with the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. This does not mean that this is all we must believe, as there is such a thing as conciliar infallibility. All Ecumenical Councils are infallible on the grounds of faith and morals. There have been twenty-two of them so far, including the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. Some would object that John 17:17 states, “Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth”, claiming that God alone is infallible. I do not think this particularly strong, seeing that they view every book in the Bible as infallible, in spite of the fact that they were written by inspired authors, not channeled by the Holy Spirit Himself. The Pope is never infallible by his own power.

Now, I should probably mention the usual objection to this produced by Catholics saying that nothing Popes say can be ambiguous or heretical. Earlier on in this chapter, Pastor Aeternus says:

“And the Roman Pontiffs, according to the exigencies of times and circumstances, sometimes assembling Ecumenical Councils, or asking for the mind of the Church scattered throughout the world, sometimes by particular Synods, sometimes using other helps which Divine Providence supplied, defined as to be held those things which, with the help of God, they had recognized as conformable with the Sacred Scriptures and Apostolic Traditions. For the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter that by His revelation they might make known new doctrine, but that by His assistance they might inviolably keep and faithfully expound the Revelation, the Deposit of Faith, delivered through the Apostles.

“And indeed, all the venerable Fathers have embraced, and the holy orthodox Doctors have venerated and followed, their Apostolic doctrine; knowing most fully that this See of holy Peter remains ever free from all blemish of error, according to the Divine promise that the Lord our Savior made to the Prince of His disciples: ‘But I have prayed for you, so that your faith may not fail, and so that you, once converted, may confirm your brothers.’ (Lk 22:32). 

“This gift, then, of truth and never-failing faith was conferred by heaven upon Peter and his successors in this Chair, that they might perform their high office for the salvation of all; that the whole flock of Christ, kept away from the poisonous food of error by them, might be nourished with the pasture of heavenly doctrine; that the occasion of schism being removed, the whole Church might be kept one, and, resting on its foundation, might stand firm against the gates of Hell.”

Pastor Aeternus IV:6-7

So some have alleged that the “gift of truth and never-failing faith” prevents the Pope from falling into any sort of heresy, apostasy, or schism which would put him outside of the Church. The main problem with this argument is that it proves more than it intends. “And indeed, all the venerable Fathers have embraced, and the holy orthodox Doctors have venerated and followed, their Apostolic doctrine; knowing most fully that this See of holy Peter remains ever free from all blemish of error.” All blemish of error includes not only formal but also material heresy. “This gift, then, of truth and never-failing faith was conferred by heaven upon Peter and his successors in this Chair, that they might perform their high office for the salvation of all.” But if the gift of never-failing faith means that he can never commit a mortal sin against the virtue of faith, then the gift of truth should mean that all the Pope’s teachings are infallible—an idea which to the best of my knowledge no theologian has ever claimed. As shown above, the Council goes on soon after to give the exact conditions for when the Pope’s teachings are “free from all blemish of error”. He is only protected by these gifts when he is speaking “in this Chair”, that is, Ex Cathedra.

Most theologians after Vatican I would agree with me. This is significant, unless one is going to argue that all these reputable theologians were heretics. For instance, Noort writes:

“All theologians admit that the pope can make a mistake in matters of faith and morals when so speaking: either by proposing a false opinion in a matter not yet defined, or by innocently differing from some doctrine already defined. Theologians disagree, however, over the question of whether the pope can become a formal heretic by stubbornly clinging to an error in a matter already defined. The more probable and respectful opinion, followed by Suárez, Bellarmine and many others, holds that just as God has not till this day ever permitted such a thing to happen, so too he never will permit a pope to become a formal and public heretic. Still, some competent theologians do concede that the pope when not speaking ex cathedra could fall into formal heresy.”

Msgr. G. Van Noort Christ’s Church. p. 294 1957

And again Coronata:

“It cannot be proven however that the Roman Pontiff, as a private teacher, cannot become a heretic — if, for example, he would contumaciously deny a previously defined dogma. Such impeccability was never promised by God.  Indeed, Pope Innocent III expressly admits such a case is possible.” (M. Coronata, Institutiones Iuris Canonici (Rome: Marietti, 1950), vol. 1, p. 316.)

And Fr. E. Sylvester Berry in 1955 says:

“The Council declared the Roman Pontiff personally infallible when speaking officially as head of the universal Church, but left untouched the question whether the Pope in his private capacity, or in his official capacity as bishop, primate or patriarch, can fall into heresy or teach heresy.Some theologians maintain that he can. Straub cites Hadrian II and Innocent III as favoring this opinion.”

The Church of Christ: An Apologetic and Dogmatic Treatise, p. 273

Horatius Mazzella, S.J. in 1915 says:

“By virtue of the gift of infallibility, the Pontiff cannot fall into heresy when he speaks ‘ex cathedra’: this was defined in the Vatican Council. But the theologians dispute whether he can, as a private person, become a true heretic, adhering publicly and pertinaciously to an error against faith.”

Praelectiones Scholastico-Dogmaticae, Vol I, Torino, 1915, p. 545.

Finally, in an article published in 1974, Cardinal Sticker said no theologian believes a Pope is unable to fall into formal heresy:

“First of all it is necessary to say that the prerogative of infallibility of office does not prevent the pope as a person from sinning and therefore from becoming personally even a heretic. In fact, no theologian today, even if he accept unconditionally the infallibility of the Roman pontiff, asserts thereby that the pope, speaking in the abstract, cannot personally become a heretic.”

The Catholic Historical Review, 1974, Vol. 60, No. 3

I honestly do not see why a Pope cannot become a manifest heretic, unless we are to assume the Faithful would follow him blindly into error. After all, examining history, many Popes have lived scandalous lives in other ways. The whole point of this is to say that whether you like him or not, even if you think he is spewing heresies every day, Pope Francis is the successor of Peter and we owe him our submission. Papal infallibility does not mean that we cannot disagree with him. Also, the fact that Popes in the past have disagreed with each other does not render Catholicism false. Fundamentalists should seriously make sure that they know what papal infallibility is before trying to prove it wrong. The Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility and the fundamentalist propaganda about it are two entirely different and completely contrary ideas.

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Against Hopeful Universalism: We Daren’t Hope

Can a Catholic be a hopeful universalist? Technically yes, as it is not strictly speaking heretical. I was once asked by a Protestant, “Can you be a good Catholic and not pray to Mary?” I believe the answer I gave went something along the lines of: technically yes, but really no since it is incredibly stupid to be Catholic and not pray to Mary, although I said it in more polite words. So why am I interfering in a debate which is probably an inter-Catholic one? First of all, to me there is very little evidence for this and loads against it. Second, I have serious prudential concerns about promoting this viewpoint, as it may lead people to be lax and not so worried about hell, making them more likely to end up their themselves. Hopeful universalism is basically the belief that everyone will happen to be saved. This differs from the truer form of universalism which is that everyone will necessarily be saved (a heretical notion). Now the Church does not teach that any specific person is in hell (there is no, what one might call, ejuration as there is a canonization). So basically their argument is that although we believe in hell and a precise way to go there, we do not have to believe anyone is actually in hell. However, just because we do not have to believe something does not mean it makes sense.

Let us begin first with Tradition. This is what Augustine has to say:

“It is in vain, then, that some, indeed very many, make moan over the eternal punishment, and perpetual, unintermitted torments of the lost, and say they do not believe it shall be so; not, indeed, that they directly oppose themselves to Holy Scripture, but, at the suggestion of their own feelings, they soften down everything that seems hard, and give a milder turn to statements which they think are rather designed to terrify than to be received as literally true.”

Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Charity 112

Thus he opposes all interpretations of the verses on hell which say God the words on hell are metaphorical. Doubtless, this includes Matthew 7:13-14, “the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Nor does Augustine even admit as a possibility that no one will actually be in hell.

Similarly, Aquinas states:

“Now everything is known the more for being compared with its contrary, because when contraries are placed beside one another they become more conspicuous. Wherefore in order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned.”

ST Supplement 94:1

If those in heaven “render more copious thanks to God” for the damned’s suffering, evidently some people are actually in hell.

Even hopeful universalist Robert Barron admits: “Both St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas believed that the majority of human beings end up in Hell.” These two are, of course, the greatest theologians in the history of the Catholic Church.

Now an objector would generally point out that there was a viewpoint in the early Church (first introduced by Origen, I think) that the punishments of hell were temporal, and that everyone, even Satan, would eventually be saved. The problem with this point is that such a belief is heresy. “He will come at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, to render to every person according to his works, both to the reprobate and to the elect. All of them will rise with their own bodies, which they now wear, so as to receive according to their deserts, whether these be good or bad; for the latter perpetual punishment with the devil, for the former eternal glory with Christ.” (Lateran IV, Const. 1) So there is perpetual damnation after the Second Coming. So it seems that as the original universalist viewpoint was condemned, they come up with a novel one in which no one previously believed. Therefore, hopeful universalism is a novel idea, leading me to be very doubtful about it.

The heaviest-weight person whom they can produce (other than Bishop Barron, of course, whom I grant to probably have a bigger brain than myself or at least greater contents) would be one Pope, that being Pope St. John Paul II. In his General Audience of Wednesday, 28 July 1999, he stated “Eternal damnation remains a real possibility, but we are not granted, without special divine revelation, the knowledge of whether or which human beings are effectively involved in it.” (Hell is the State of Those who Reject God 4) This sounds as if JP2 were open to the possibility of all being saved. However, when it was placed in Acta Apostolicae Sedis, where all of the official statements of Popes are placed in their official form, “whether or” was edited out. It simply stated, “Eternal damnation remains a real possibility, but we are not granted, without special divine revelation, the knowledge of which human beings are effectively involved in it.” So the objectionable words were amended.

At another time in 1994, St. John Paul II wrote:

“Can God, who has loved man so much, permit the man who rejects Him to be condemned to eternal torment? And yet, the words of Christ are unequivocal. In Matthew’s Gospel he speaks clearly of those who will go to eternal punishment (cf. Matt. 25:46). Who will these be? The Church has never made any pronouncement…”

Crossing the Threshold of Hope p. 185

So clearly he was not particularly convinced that it was overly reasonable to believe no one was currently in hell.

Now we should probably look into Scripture.

“When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left . . . Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’.”

Matthew 25:31-33,41

This is talking about the end of time, “when the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him”. This hardly sounds like the state of “inner loneliness” as some hopeful universalists interpret the hell verses. This is echoed by the quotation above from the Fourth Lateran Council. The Catechism of the Catholic Church agrees with my interpretation: 

“Jesus often speaks of ‘Gehenna’ of ‘the unquenchable fire’ reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. Jesus solemnly proclaims that he ‘will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,’ and that he will pronounce the condemnation: ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!’

CCC 1034 (Emphasis added)

It is true that Jesus does not say anyone in particular is among the goats, but to say this would be as ridiculous as if I were to say, “I am preparing to give copies of The Lord of the Rings to anyone in the club, except to Frodo and Sam, who took part in writing it.” This would make no sense, because I know for a fact that Frodo and Sam will not be there since they are fictional characters. The same could be said of Lateran IV’s words: “He will come at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, to render to every person according to his works, both to the reprobate and to the elect.” Why would it say this if there are no reprobates?

Note the message of Fátima next. This is a quotation from the first and part of the second secrets.

“Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent. This vision lasted but an instant. How can we ever be grateful enough to our kind heavenly Mother, who had already prepared us by promising, in the first Apparition, to take us to heaven. Otherwise, I think we would have died of fear and terror.

“We then looked up at Our Lady, who said to us so kindly and so sadly: ‘You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.’” (Emphasis added)

There are a few objections to this. First there is the point that we are not required to believe Fátima, a weak point of argument, as it is also not sinful to refuse to believe that Lincoln was President, yet Lincoln’s presidency is still a historical fact. Considering the number of devotions which came out of private revelation, including the Rosary, Divine Mercy, and the Brown Scapular, we should not reject Fátima on the grounds that it is not sinful to reject it. Furthermore, it was accompanied by a tremendous biblical-scale miracle seen by fifty thousand witnesses, not only Catholics but also skeptics and Freemasons. The second objection is that hell is probably under the earth, but Sr. Lúcia only said it seemed to be under the earth. As children on earth, it is reasonable to suppose that they saw it somewhere, such as our Lady say fit to convey the message. “You have seen hell,” our Lady said, “where the souls of poor sinners go.” As in poor sinners are currently and actively going to hell.

Finally, think about it this way. “But, whereas all mortal sins, even those of thought, render men children of wrath, and enemies of God, it is necessary to seek also for the pardon of them all from God, with an open and modest confession.” (Trent XIV:V) As the Catholic Church teaches, when we commit a mortal sin and die without repenting, we are “children of wrath, and enemies of God” and go to hell. Mortal sins include fornication, homosexuality, pornography, abortion, contraception, and so forth, all of which have become awfully pervasive in the modern world without shame. So either we are to suppose that every single person who lives as a reprobate and dies without Reconciliation ends up making a perfect act of contrition, or some people in hell. I do not know how many people are in hell, but Scripture and Tradition both seem to point most clearly to some human beings actually being there, probably most people. I do not know the percentages, but God is just.

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Benedict’s Unreasonability In the Beneplenist Worldview

What I mean by beneplenism (also known as benevacantism) is the belief that Benedict XVI is still the valid Pope who holds the keys of St. Peter, making Francis an antipope. I honestly sympathize with the beneplenist position, as I do indeed wish that Benedict XVI were still Pope rather than Francis. However, I find that unbelievable for a number of reasons. There are plenty of quite excellent theological arguments as to why beneplenism could not be true, but right now I simply want to focus on Benedict’s internal psychology and how if either of the two common theories are true, what Benedict’s own internal thought-process does not make logical sense. However, before we do this, let us discuss the etymology of these terms. Whoever coined beneplenist and benevacantist clearly does not know much Latin. The word beneplenist presumably comes from the Latin words Benedicto pleno, meaning “with Benedict being full (or plump or satisfied)”. To the best of my knowledge, the beneplenist position has nothing to do with how much Benedict has eaten (full of what exactly?). Some would consider benevacantist to be the only one to be a misnomer, suggesting that Benedict has vacated. The word was probably chosen to parallel sedevacantist. Actually, the Latin Benedicto vacante does not make anywhere near as much sense as saying that Benedict had vacated. It means rather “with Benedict being empty”. If I had to give this group a name, I would call its Benedicto Papa, “with Benedict being Pope”. However, benepapist sounds too much like the derogatory term “papist” for Catholic, wherefore perhaps it should not be used. Never mind that. Let us get to the theories.

The original thesis is the one promulgated by Ann Barnhart, which can be found here. Ms. Barnhart shows some very interesting prophecies, including one from St. Francis which states: “The devils will have unusual power, the immaculate purity of our Order, and of others, will be so much obscured that there will be very few Christians who will obey the true Sovereign Pontiff and the Roman Church with loyal hearts and perfect charity. At the time of this tribulation a man, not canonically elected, will be raised to the Pontificate, who, by his cunning, will endeavor to draw many into error and death.” This will probably happen at some point, but St. Francis never says this false pope will have his name.

So Ms. Barnhart appeals to Canon 188, which states: “A resignation made out of grave fear that is inflicted unjustly or out of malice, substantial error, or simony is invalid by the law itself.” “They key here,” says Ms. Barnhart, “is the up-until-now almost incomprehensible and ignored provision for ‘substantial error’.  What could that possibly mean?  Up until now, it was speculated that if a pope were to resign thinking erroneously, for example, that he were OBLIGED to resign at a certain age, or some such, that this was what was being referenced.  But to think that a pope could be so ignorant is ridiculous, indeed.  No.  We now know what ‘substantial error’ is.  Pope Benedict XVI Ratzinger made a ‘substantial error’ in believing that the papacy could be ‘expanded’ – in this case, bifurcated into a diarchy.  Pope Benedict XVI submitted an invalid resignation not because he was coerced, but because he mistakenly believed and continues to believe that he could at once resign, thus allowing for the election of a successor, and yet still remain a Pope – note the use not of the definite article ‘the’, but of the indefinite article ‘a’.  This is SUBSTANTIAL ERROR if ever, ever there were so, and thus, according to Canon 188, Pope Benedict XVI Ratzinger’s resignation of 28 February ARSH 2013 was ‘invalid by the law itself’, and thus, he remains the one and only Roman Pontiff, whether or not he believes it or likes it. [Emphasis in original]” What I want to point out is her words, Up until now, it was speculated that if a pope were to resign thinking erroneously, for example, that he were OBLIGED to resign at a certain age, or some such, that this was what was being referenced.  But to think that a pope could be so ignorant is ridiculous, indeed. If it is ridiculous to suppose that the Pope thought he was obliged to resign at a certain age, how is it not ridiculous to suppose him to be unaware that by Divine Law, there could only be one Pope at once? After all, Vatican I plainly states: “this power of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, which is truly episcopal, is immediate; to which all, of whatever rite and dignity, both pastors and faithful, both individually and collectively, are bound [. . .] to submit, [. . .] so that the Church of Christ may be one flock under ONE Supreme Pastor. [Emphasis added]” (Pastor Aeternus III:2) How could an Augustinian theologian who had already been a priest for sixty-two years seriously be unaware that there could be only one pope at a time? Ms. Barnhart responds in her article that “Pope Benedict XVI Ratzinger’s ontology is CLEARLY warped, and in retrospect, we should not be altogether shocked by this given his activities and associations during the mid-20th century, specifically during the failed Second Vatican Council, and his lifelong defense of that clearly failed council.  However, [. . .] I do not believe that it was his malicious, malevolent intention to schism the Church, or to consciously promulgate an antipope. I think that Joseph Ratzinger simply made one of the biggest mistakes in the history of the Church. And he will answer for it. [Emphasis in original]” Indeed, if he did make such a mistake, he will, but I have a very difficult time believing that he did. One does not need to be deep in theology to know that there can be only one Pope at once. Aside from this, in this case, Benedict lied when he said: “For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter.” (Source) Yet Ms. Barnhart views this to be an honest mistake that he believed it to be possible for there to be two popes (one active and one contemplative). As for the claim that Benedict defended Vatican II which was failed. First of all, contrary to the common view, a sedeplenist cannot reject the Second Vatican Council. Second, one does not need to be an expert theologian to know that there can only be one Pope at once. Ratzinger was in his forties when Vatican II occurred, so he probably knew that there could only be one Pope at once. There is such a thing as the so-called Hermeneutic of Continuity (I still do not know what the word hermeneutic means). My point is that I do not think Benedict could be unaware of these teachings. If Benedict believed that there could be two popes because he was already a formal heretic then that is possible, but it was no longer be an honest mistake but a mortal sin. Hence, his “substantial error” would not be a an honest error.

Second, the variant thesis promulgated by Dr. Ed Mazza is slightly different. He posted a guest post explaining it on Ms. Barnhardt’s blog. He also appeared on Dr. Taylor Marshall’s podcast, which, if I may say so was actually very informative, aside from the (from a sedeplenist perspective) fact that the point of the podcast is to question the Pontificate of Pope Francis. So Dr. Mazza’s theory is that Benedict resigned only as Bishop of Rome rather than as Pope. On Dr. Marshall’s podcast, he showed that theologians are still debating as to whether this is possible. First of all, we do not know whether such a thing is possible and the majority of theologians think that it is not. Therefore, as Benedict has no “secret knowledge” concerning the teachings of the Catholic Church which we do not have. So why does he not first make sure that what he attempted was not opposed to divine law? It would be easy. If such were the case, he could infallibly define it, but he did not. Furthermore, it still is not a closed case as to whether the Keys of Peter can even be sepparated from Rome, meaning that, if Benedict was unable to do so by Divine Law, there is no way of knowing whether he actually did that. Second, no substantial error is involved, wherefore Benedict purposely set up an antipope (the “Bergoglian Antipapacy” as Ms. Barnhardt calls it) in his place to behave as the successor of St. Peter. This would be a cancer to the Church if all the Faithful think the an antipope to be the true Pope. I suppose this is some sort of convoluted plan because he was pressured to resign by the St. Gallen Mafia—or so certain narratives go—and did not wish to give the keys to someone from the ranks of Satan—another claim I have heard—but it still sounds as if the ends justifies the means. Dr. Marshall pointed that out in his podcast and Dr. Mazza failed to respond to it. Benedict has not been acting as a shepherd to the faithful. Furthermore, as even Ms. Barnhardt points out, “Pope Benedict XVI Ratzinger has publicly acknowledged Bergoglio as Pope.” So at least in appearance he is acting as if Francis is Pope—only to reveal the whole thing to be false at the last moment? In which case he is basically promulgating the greatest schism in the history of the Catholic Church by leading the vast majority of the Faithful to submit to an antipope! Still, Benedict actually lied by saying: “I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant. [Emphasis added]” Hence he seems to view the See of Rome and the See of Peter, in his mind, one in the same.

So unless Benedict had dementia (leading him to forget core Catholic teachings) or is guilty of scandal far greater than anything Francis has ever done by leading the vast majority of Catholics into schism without even knowing it, whether you like him or not, Ratzinger resigned and Jorge Mario Bergoglio is Pope, the valid successor of St. Peter.

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Against Sedevacantism: Perpetual Succession of Popes

The quotation which I am bringing up is as follows:

“If then, any should deny that it is by the institution of Christ the Lord and by Divine right, that Blessed Peter should have a perpetual line of successors in the Primacy over the Universal Church, or that the Roman Pontiff’ is the successor of Blessed Peter in this primacy; let him be anathema.”

Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus, Ch. 2, Para. 4

Now, I am certainly not saying that this means that there must be at every moment until the end of time a pope. There have been far too many vacancies in history for that. What it is saying is that Peter’s primacy did not die with him (as the Orthodox and some Protestants claim), but is to have a line of successors in perpetuity—until the end of time.

My problem emerges in that if all the popes were false since 1958, every cardinal appointed before the election of John XXIII are dead, in which case I do not think any pope can ever be canonically elected again. Pastor Aeternus taught that the papacy would last until the end of time, but it seems that if they are correct we can probably never have a pope again, wherefore we have lost the papacy. There are four general ways a sedevacantist might respond to this:

Objection 1: Even if there is a vacancy which leaves us without any clear canonical way of getting another Pope, the Papacy still exists. Hence, if I were to convert to Eastern Orthodoxy during an interregnum, I would still be a schismatic, not in union with Rome.

To this I respond that it is true that during an interregnum if I were to leave the Church I would still be guilty of schism. However, first there are two ways to commit schism. One is to refuse to submit to the Pope and the other is to refuse to be in communion with those subject to him. (1983 Code 751; 1917 Code 1325 §2) If I were to convert to Orthodoxy, I would still be a schismatic in the second sense. Second, the Council says that the line of successors themselves will last in perpetuity. Pastor Aeternus II:1 is also quite clear: “That which the Prince of Shepherds and great Shepherd of the sheep, Jesus Christ our Lord, established in the person of the Blessed Apostle Peter to secure the perpetual welfare and lasting good of the Church, must, by the same institution, necessarily remain unceasingly in the Church; which, being founded upon the Rock, will stand firm to the end of the world.” What else would perpetuity mean but until the end of time? So it seems to conflict with Matthew 16:18, “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” to say that we can permanently lose all access to the papacy prior to the end of time.

Objection 2: The fact that the papacy must continue does not mean that Francis is, by necessity, Pope. On the contrary, perhaps there is a true Pope imprisoned or hiding in a catacomb beneath Rome.

To this I respond that the probability of that statement is incredibly low. By now, such a pope would not be the same elected as successor of Pius XII. If that is the case, there ought to be a college of cardinals with him. But would not they grow old as well or were there very young priests to begin with imprisoned with him? If no man may enter or exit the catacombs, the priests with him will undoubtedly die out relatively soon, if they have not already. It has already been sixty years after all. Furthermore, if the Pope is simply hiding in the catacombs, why can he not come out? It is not as if most people would believe him at this point if he were to introduce himself as Pope, the lawful successor of Pius XII, whose predecessors had been hiding in the catacombs for sixty years. Pope Michael in Kansas has not substantially diminished the number of sedeplenists. Why should the Vatican care if the true Pope emerges now and declares himself to be Pope in Rome? Will not most people still adhere to Francis?

Objection 3: It is possible that there will be some divine revelation to someone which will reveal who the true Pope is to be.

To this I respond that “God, who, at sundry times and in divers manners, spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all, in these days hath spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2) So we are now in the last stage of salvation history before the Second Coming. Public revelation ended at the end of the apostolic age, when “in these days hath spoken to us by his Son”. This is why our Lady of the Rosary, Lourdes, La Salette, or even Fatima were never dogmatized, nor any other private apparition. How is this relevant? According to John of St. Thomas, “Just as the pope gathers the bishops together in a Council, and yet its confirmation and the ultimate sentence in matters of faith depend upon him, so the congregation of cardinals elects the pope, and declares that he has been elected, and yet it is the Church, whose ministers they are, that by its acceptance ultimately confirms as a truth of faith the fact that this man is truly the highest rule of faith and the supreme pontiff.” (Theological Courses, 1640) This concerns the doctrine of Peaceful and Universal Acceptance which is not the main topic of this post (although it also directly concerns sedevacantism). However, I think a sedevacantist would agree that we are bound, under pain of schism, to accept the true Pope as the true Pope. Now, if St. Peter were to appear from heaven, no Catholic would be bound to believe it because there is no continuing public revelation. Therefore, no Catholic would be bound to believe such a Pope appointed by Peter’s apparition, without any canonical process, is Pope (although perhaps a heavenly apparition could set things in motion). Therefore, he cannot be Pope.

Objection 4: It is possible that, if every pope since John XXIII has been a manifest heretic, that they did not fully accept the office of Papacy, wherefore each one has lost his authority to teach and govern, yet still remains Pope Elect.

To this I respond that this is the Thesis of Cassiciacum, also known as sedeprivationism. It is not technically the same thing as sedevacantism, since sedeprivationists agree that the man in Rome is at least “materially” Pope. Some sedevacantists would consider that heresy, although, if I may be perfectly honest, I did not consider their arguments particularly convincing. It is not even dogma that a pope would lose his jurisdiction by committing heresy. However, what does it mean for a pope to lose his authority? Does he have the authority to appoint valid cardinals? After all, all the real cardinals are dead. I certainly find it doubtful that these “material” cardinals, appointed by a pope who has no authority to teach and govern, could become real cardinals who could elect a real pope. Even the question as to whether Novus Ordo sacraments are valid is heavily debated in sedevacantist circles—including Holy Orders. If it is invalid, then unless the Pope is ordained in an eastern rite, it is very doubtful that we will actually have a real Catholic Pope, for priests alone can be popes. I assume the cardinals must also be priests to elect a Pope.

Furthermore, Msgr. G. Van Noort writes:

“The present question has to do with the perpetuity of that Church which alone was founded by Christ, the visible Church. Any society can fail in either of two ways: it can simply cease to be, or it can become unfit for the carrying out of its avowed aim through a substantial corruption. The Church cannot fail in either way. Since its aim, namely, the supernatural sanctification of mankind, cannot be achieved except through the proper administration and practice of the religion of Christ, the Church would corrupt and fall apart if it either abandoned or adulterated Christ’s religion in its dogmatic or moral content. Hence indestructibility comprises two elements: (a) that the visible Church will endure until the end of the world, and (b) that, right up to the end of time, it will keep Christ’s religion incorrupt. ‘Right up to the end of time,’ for as long as there are men wandering about on earth, they will depend for their sanctification on Christ working through His Church. After that, the kingdom of glory will take the place of the Church Militant.”

Dogmatic Theology, Vol. 2, page 25

As Pope Pius VI taught: “The proposition which affirms: ‘In these last centuries a general obscurity has been spread over very important truths relating to religion and which are the basis of faith and moral doctrine of Jesus Christ’ (is) heretical.” (Constitution Auctorem Fidei 1, 1796) So either the conciliar Church is true Church or it is not. If it is not, why do we look to her to provide us with a true Pope (for indeed the Pope must have some of his jurisdiction if he can appoint “material” cardinals)? If it is indeed the true Church, then the Church has corrupted and been rendered incapable, at least for the time being, of fulfilling her aim, having obscured and abandoned Christ’s teaching. I have heard one sedevacantist theologian argue that Vatican II created a whole new religion. There are other difficulties I have with the Cassiciacum Thesis and I will not answer all of them here.

On the contrary, therefore, the Pope is to have a perpetual line of successors until the end of time. So I find it hard to believe that there can be a time in which all true cardinals would die. So Francis I, whether you like him or not, is Pope, the Vicar of Christ and the authentic successor of St. Peter. God will not allow the line of successors to fail because He promised it in Matthew 16:18, “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

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Answering More Objections to Fátima

I meant to write this earlier, but I had a few essays to write for school. Today, the topic of discussion is Fátima. I defended the miraculous origins of Fátima here, but more objections have been brought to my attention, dealing more with the content of the message than of the miracle itself. First I shall explain the background. My mother was reading some book on the message of Fátima aloud, when my father passed by, looking flustered, saying: “Hasn’t [the Catholic of Honor] heard this stuff already?” I decided to ignore it and went to bed (after all, I had school the next day), but then my father felt the need to come in my room (in spite of the fact that I was already trying to sleep) and explain why it was reasonable for a Catholic to consider Fátima unreliable. I did not want to cause dissension and therefore politely said nothing although I personally do not enjoy to hear attacks on our Lady’s messages before bed. However, he raised some interesting objections, and I do believe it behooves me to respond to them.

Objection 1: Our Lady of Fátima stated in the Second Secret, “If My requests are heeded, Russia will be converted and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions against the Church.” But references to Russia are political. When did Jesus ever talk about politics? If our Lady were to talk about politics at all, she would talk about Climate Change, as this could easily be prevented were it not for greed.

To this I respond that if the reader cannot tell, my father is a huge fan of Pope Francis, hence the comment about Climate Change. I do believe abortion is more important than Climate Change. So is there a biblical blueprint for God warning that errors of various countries are dangerous? Of course. God warns all the time of the errors of the Gentiles in the Old Testament, particularly idolatry. Now, there are certain moral problems which do originate in various countries. Our Lady does not specify what these errors are, but they are generally supposed to have something to do with communism, Marxism, or totalitarianism, or, of course, general opposition to religion. Communism has been condemned by a number of Popes. Furthermore, note our Lady’s words: “she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions against the Church.” The Soviet Union obviously persecuted the Church. So is it really outside of her business to warn us about it? Jesus warned the apostles about how they were to be persecuted. (Mat. 10:17-18) Why cannot our Lady warn us about what will happen concerning persecution of the Church if we do not repent?

Objection 2: There were numerous Marian apparitions in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It seems that there is some sort of fad apparent.

To this I respond that I am doubtful that so many children rather than adults would be influenced by fads. The Twentieth Century is often called the Century of Blood (also, the Century of Mary). It contains two of the bloodiest wars in human history. It makes sense that she would call men to repent. Aside from these, think of all the sins which have become commonplace in various places within the time between then and now—eugenics, contraception, Marxism, divorce, abortion, homosexuality, and so forth. So it is more charitable and very reasonable to suppose that our Lady made more apparitions then because she knew we would need them now more than ever, rather than to attribute dishonestly to the seers.

Objection 3: Sr. Lúcia revealed the three Secrets when the only other two witnesses of this apparition were long dead. The authenticity of Fátima must be questioned.

To this I respond that it is true that only Lúcia of the three seers of Fátima who received the three Secrets, but I could hardly call her the only witness. On the contrary, there were at least thirty thousand persons for twenty-five miles about could be called witnesses (and according to many estimates, even more). Fr. Ignacio Lorenco, eleven miles away, gave this testimony (he was nine years old at the time he saw it):

“I feel incapable of describing what I saw and felt. I looked fixedly at the sun, which seemed pale and did not hurt the eyes. Looking like a ball of snow revolving on itself, it suddenly seemed to come down in a zigzag, menacing the earth. Terrified, I ran and hid myself among the people, who were weeping and expecting the end of the world at any moment.

“Near us was an unbeliever who had spent the morning mocking at the simpletons who had gone off to Fátima just to see an ordinary girl. He now seemed to be paralyzed, his eyes fixed on the sun. Afterwards he trembled from head to foot and lifting up his arms fell on his knees in the mud, crying out to our Lady.”

Now I challenge the reader to tell me how a ten-year-old, a nine-year-old, and a seven-year-old could fake this. Note that the unbeliever whom Lorenco describes did not have his mind open to a miracle, and this was eleven miles away from the Cova where the apparition occurred. I think we can fairly say that Fátima was of miraculous origins.

Objection 4: Fátima contains an awful lot of secret information to be considered of heaven.

To this I respond that Jesus multiple times strictly charged various persons not to make things known at once (Mrk. 5:43, 8:30), including the fact that He was Christ (Mat. 16:20). If our Lady does not wish to make all her messages known to the world at once, who am I to question her judgment?

Objection 5: To be on the safe side, we should reject all alleged apparitions after the Council of Nicaea.

To this I respond that the Church declares certain apparitions worthy of belief. She would not do this unless some were actually true. Considering the various devotions which have come from private revelation, including the Rosary, Divine Mercy, and the Brown Scapular, we must never ignore a message for being a “private revelation after the Council of Nicaea” Furthermore, if our Lady makes the most spectacular miracle since biblical times occur, it is clear that she wills this one especially to be believed.

I have one more point: so you are Catholic. You believe Jesus rose from the dead. Is there historical evidence for this? Yes. There were five hundred witnesses. But this was in ancient times long ago. Fátima occurred little more than one hundred years ago and had more witnesses by two powers of ten! Is it sinful to reject Fátima? Of course it is not. But why do we accept the Resurrection of Jesus if we do not accept the miraculous origins of Fátima? My father frequently makes disparaging comments about Catholic creationists and Catholic geocentrists. He says Catholicism is “the fullness of the truth”, wherefore it is wrong to call false what science and right reason has so obviously have shown to be true. But if we accept that human beings are descended from monkeys (or that monkeys and humans have common ancestors—whatever the theory is) and that the earth orbits the sun, why do we not accept that the sun miraculously danced on October 13 in Fátima, Portugal long ago as witnessed by at least thirty thousand (although I have more often heard fifty thousand) witnesses when science has never been able to make even a coherent hypothesis (which would, of course, have to account for why three illiterate children were able to predict it)?

So these are the five objections he raised (at least I can only remember him raising five) and I have answered them as well as I was able. Accept Fátima. Miracles do not occur every day and when one so spectacular occurs, we can fairly assume that it is important. I would not ignore my earthly mother when she wishes to tell me something. Why should I ignore my Heavenly Mother?

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Is Evolution a Heretical Concept?

As a disclaimer, I could not care less whether evolution is real or not. I consider young-earth creationism and evolutionism as two views about which Catholics can reasonably disagree. I furthermore hate science. It is probably my worse favorite subject and I do not even see why I must study it to live a successful and virtuous life unless I am going to study science professionally (which I definitely do not intend). There are precisely two reasons why I think it reasonable for me to study science. The first is out of obedience because I am a Christian and the second is because I want a high school degree. So I am not at all attached to this subject. I am furthermore not saying that if the reader is a creationist that he should necessarily forego his position and I am not qualified to discuss which is better. However, what I find problematic is that some people argue that it is in some way heretical or even blasphemous to believe in evolution. It is, of course, wrong as every Catholic will probably admit to declare people to be outside of the Church when they are not. This is not to say that there are not fanatical Catholic evolutionists as well. A certain man who happened to have a Ph.D referred to Catholic creationists as “bigots against the truth”. This is also something a Catholic should not say, of course, because Catholics must practice charity. However, as this is not a charge of heresy but simply “bigotry” against science, I cannot deal with that. That would be the job of a Catholic scientist.

The first and most concise argument which I have heard some creationists make basically goes like this: “The Church teaches that Mary was the only Immaculate Conception. Therefore, if Adam and Eve were ever conceived in a womb, they could not be without sin.” I am sure those who argue this are well-meaning, but this is really a distortion of what the Church teaches. The Immaculate Conception, as defined in 1854, is the doctrine that “the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.” (Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus) Her singular grace was that she was preserved by the merits of her Son from the stain of original sin. So she is the only one who was conceived without original sin in that particular manner. It is not only false but absolutely heretical (and blasphemous) to suppose that she was the only human being conceived without original sin. On the contrary, Jesus Christ was also conceived without original sin, fully God and fully man. If Adam and Eve were conceived in the womb of a monkey, they still do not fit the doctrine immaculate conception. They were not preserved from original sin by the merits of Jesus Christ as our Lady was because they would not have inherited it from their parents. On the contrary, they were the original perpetrators of original sin and we all inherited it from them.

Other creationists argue that this depreciates the dogma of transubstantiation. The argument goes that it is the unique gift of God in the Eucharist is that the bread and wine, although they maintain their original sensible qualities, become the Body and Blood of Christ—a dogma which every Catholic is bound to maintain. The idea is that if various species evolved into others by natural means, it turns the dogma of transubstantiation into oblivion because at some point an animal must have gone through a substantial change. Hence there is nothing special about transubstantiation at all. There are a couple problems with this argument. First, in evolution, things never cease to be made out of the same basic elements. They only evolve into more complicated forms and are reshaped on account of substances that already exist. Indeed, when we look at the biology of a chimp, we will find it remarkably similar to that of a human. What differentiates us? The main thing is an immortal soul, which was undoubtedly infused directly by God into Adam and Eve. Certainly no Catholic evolutionist would deny that. If we say that evolution belittles transubstantiation, we could just as well say that nuclear reactions do that as well. In nuclear reactions, there is actually a change in the atomic structure of a thing. So the atom changes in form, but not in matter. For a more macroscopic example, someone could cut up a table and turn it into a door. A table and a door are completely different things, but they are made of the same substance, that is, wood. Indeed, even if we take Genesis creation entirely literally, it says: “The LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Gen. 2:7, RSV) Now is dust exactly of the same essence as that of a man? One might point out that God breathed into his nostrils, but I repeat that any Catholic evolutionist would agree that the soul was infused directly by God without a scientific process and any evolution was guided by Him. This is completely different from transubstantiation where the substance completely and entirely changes.

Others have charged evolution as bringing forth modernism. Modernism is basically the belief that doctrines can change or evolve over time. If species can do that, why not doctrines? Well, first of all, I do not think the comparison between doctrines and species is very good. For one thing, any theistic evolutionist would agree that God guided evolution and directly infused immortal souls into Adam and Eve. He would also have to accept that God specifically said that “heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Mat. 24:35) This basically seems to say that because some things can evolve into others, everything, including doctrines can change over time. I suppose this could be used as an excuse for modernism, but it really does not make sense to me that one thing necessarily leads to the other. The devil can use anything to bring forth evil, even religion itself. The Inquisition (although not as bad as anti-Catholic propaganda claims) still led to the execution of many heretics with the intent of bringing Christ to them. During the First Crusade, men were forcing the Jews to be baptized against their wills, which Pope Calixtus II and other popes had to condemn. So why does the theory of evolution by necessity have to be intrinsically evil?

I should probably answer charge for blasphemy. I heard a priest say something along the lines of: “This approaches blasphemy. Instead of crediting Father God for our existence, we credit Mother Ape.” It also said something about a museum which asserts the theory of evolution as a “church” or a “temple” or something along those lines. This argument reminds me of the Protestant objection to the Spiritual Maternity. “Instead of worshipping Father God,” they frequently argue, “Catholics worship Mother Mary.” This is, of course, absurd. She is our Mother because she cooperated in a singular way with her Son in bringing back supernatural life to souls. We could just as well call it blasphemous to say that we were formed directly out of dirt. Maybe some false religions will declare: Hey, the Christians believe that humans are made out of dust rather than directly by God! That’s blasphemous! If God did use evolution to create man, God still is the One who guided it. Furthermore, God would have still formed the first organism out of some acid or other—which may be what Genesis means by “the dust of the earth”. We are born of our parents, but the fact remains that God is our primary Maker. Is it blasphemous to call our earthly parents “father” and “mother”? Surely not!

So what do we have to believe? Pope Pius XII wrote quite plainly:

“For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter – for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God.

“When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.”

Humani Generis 36-37

Genesis records real history, if in a figurative fashion. Adam and Eve were real people who actually lived. As I have noted, any evolution was guided by God and the immortal soul was infused into Adam and Eve directly by Him. Pope Pius XII, John Paul II, and Francis have all agreed that evolution is permissible for a Catholic to believe. Now if it were actually heretical, why has not one pope condemned it? Now, it is correct that for many centuries the Thomist stance on our Lady’s immaculate nature was not condemned, but that was because doctrine had not sufficiently developed. If the Church does later declare Ex Cathedra that evolution is false, I will be the first to fight against it, but until then any Catholic is free to believe or not to believe it, remaining a good Catholic. So Catholics, stop calling each other heretics. Catholics can reasonably disagree on whether theistic evolution is true or not. Now Catholic creationists and evolutionists can go back to arguing. I really do not care who is correct. Just chill out, m’ dudes.

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“Mary did you know?”—Uh, no

Merry Christmas everyone. I started this blog in April and I am honestly surprised that I came this far. I received seven books for Christmas. More than half were related to theology. We went to the vigil Mass yesterday. Before Mass they sang some Christmas songs, as they usually do. I did not object to most of them and they were quite good. However, they sang one song to which I had to object (and, in my opinion, it was an absolute disgrace), that being Mary, Did You Know? It was written in the nineties and I happen to prefer more traditional music, but that is simply a personal preference. As far as I can tell, the man who wrote it seems to be Protestant (I certainly hope no Catholic would write it). The problem is that I do not think Catholics should be too quick to use any songs Protestants write about the Mother of God without checking for heresies. This is the line I found troublesome:

Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.

The entire song is addressed toward our Lady, so the reader probably knows where I am going with this. I am actually surprised that my family was not as disturbed as I was, although when I explained it my sister, she admitted that it was heretical. What is ironic is that it is not as clearly opposed to Catholic teaching as some Protestants would think. So was our Lady delivered by her Son? Of course she was, but the graces of the cross were applied to her before hand at the moment of conception. Note the words: “will soon deliver you”—as if she was not yet delivered. I suppose this could be turned to mean something orthodox, as His act of redemption had not yet occurred, but that is quite a stretch and I doubt the writer had that in mind. In fact, if I had to guess, he meant to deny the Immaculate Conception. Can we really sing songs that are so ambiguous to the point of probably being heretical at church of all places? Maybe you can, but I cannot. If you sing this at all, I think it only appropriate to sing it in the privacy of one’s own home or perhaps at a party—not right before the holy Sacrifice of the Mass. If I were forced to sing it, I would probably change the words to something along the lines of this:

Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, has yet delivered you.

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Vatican II On False Religions

“This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.

“They are fully incorporated in the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her, and are united with her as part of her visible bodily structure and through her with Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion. He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a ‘bodily’ manner and not ‘in his heart.’ ”

Lumen Gentium 14

Those who reject Vatican II generally do not quote this. I suppose this makes sense, as there would be no reason to quote it if a person already agrees with it. If I were trying to show contradictions in the Book of Mormon, I probably would not Alma 7:10, which says of our Lady: “she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.” I love this verse. It is indeed a high compliment to the Mother of God and our Mother. Still, there is a charge made by sedevacantists and Marshallists (those who follow the teachings of Taylor Marshall) that Vatican II contradicts the perennial doctrine that there is no salvation outside of the Church or at least uses far too ambiguous wording for an Ecumenical Council which could be interpreted in that light. But Vatican II says plainly that there is no salvation outside of the Church (hence Orthodox, Protestants, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Atheists are all going to hell). I would not, therefore, expect the Fathers of the Council to contradict themselves. It is still charged by some that the words on other religions are heretical. Let us begin.

“The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter. For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour. They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ. They also recognize and accept other sacraments within their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities. Many of them rejoice in the episcopate, celebrate the Holy Eucharist and cultivate devotion toward the Virgin Mother of God. They also share with us in prayer and other spiritual benefits. Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces whereby He is operative among them with His sanctifying power. Some indeed He has strengthened to the extent of the shedding of their blood. In all of Christ’s disciples the Spirit arouses the desire to be peacefully united, in the manner determined by Christ, as one flock under one shepherd, and He prompts them to pursue this end. Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work that this may come about. She exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the earth.”

Lumen Gentium 15

This is tested against the words of Pope Leo XIII, which states, in keeping with the perennial teachings of the Catholic Church: “The practice of the Church has always been the same, as is shown by the unanimous teaching of the Fathers, who were wont to hold as outside Catholic communion, and alien to the Church, whoever would recede in the least degree from any point of doctrine proposed by her authoritative Magisterium.” (Satis Cognitum 9) Well, we must remember that this section is talking mainly about invincible ignorance. The following paragraph states: “Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.” (LG 16) Invincible ignorance, of course, is not heretical. The terminology was coined by Pope Pius IX, but it was written of long before. Our Lord said in John 22:15: “If I had not come, and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.” (DRA) This sounds like invincible ignorance to me. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote: “Ignorance is ‘antecedent’ to the act of the will, when it is not voluntary, and yet is the cause of man’s willing what he would not will otherwise. Thus a man may be ignorant of some circumstance of his act, which he was not bound to know, the result being that he does that which he would not do, if he knew of that circumstance.” (ST 2:1:6:8) One common way to be in ignorance of that sort is to be an adherent of a false religion or a heretical sect. Perhaps the reader has not met any, but I do believe that there are some Protestants who would convert to Catholicism if they knew that Jesus Christ had made it necessary for salvation. They are validly baptized and therefore in an imperfect relation with the Church. The faith is an incarnational thing, not just a “spiritual” (disembodied) thing, as our Lord himself. It is, of course, possible to be bodily united to the Church yet cease to be in communion with her spiritually, such as a person who continues to receive Holy Communion yet accepts heresy or continues in the state of mortal sin. It is also possible to be in communion with Mother Church spiritually yet be outside of communion with her bodily out of ignorance. The former disunity is more serious than the latter. In that sense, we are united with Orthodox and Protestants.

Some would object to For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture. This is considered objectionable because heretics distort the Word of God. Although this is true, most Protestants, for instance, could not really be called heretics (heresy is, of course, an obstinate denial or doubt). From the moment they became Christian, some have been taught to assume that Christians go by the Bible alone. Many Protestants are actually doing their very best without knowledge of Tradition and the Magisterium. Those Protestants do, in fact, honor Sacred Scripture.

“Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God. In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh. On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues.”

Lumen Gentium 16

“As the sacred synod searches into the mystery of the Church, it remembers the bond that spiritually ties the people of the New Covenant to Abraham’s stock.

“Thus the Church of Christ acknowledges that, according to God’s saving design, the beginnings of her faith and her election are found already among the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets. She professes that all who believe in Christ—Abraham’s sons according to faith are included in the same Patriarch’s call, and likewise that the salvation of the Church is mysteriously foreshadowed by the chosen people’s exodus from the land of bondage. The Church, therefore, cannot forget that she received the revelation of the Old Testament through the people with whom God in His inexpressible mercy concluded the Ancient Covenant. Nor can she forget that she draws sustenance from the root of that well-cultivated olive tree onto which have been grafted the wild shoots, the Gentiles. Indeed, the Church believes that by His cross Christ, Our Peace, reconciled Jews and Gentiles. making both one in Himself.”

Nostra Aetate 4

This is considered objectionable because the Jews rejected our Lord and therefore ought to be called a false religion. We cannot, therefore, remember any bond with them. First of all, not all Jews are responsible for our Lord’s death. Second, we could just as well hold the Romans responsible. Do we not profess in a certain place, “He suffered under Pontius Pilate”? Surely we cannot reject the entire culture of the Greeks and Romans on that account. If Augustine or Aquinas decided that, we might have a relatively great problem now. They learned quite a bit from Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero. No Jews today are responsible for what happened two thousand years ago. Our Lord was Jewish. The apostles did not cease to be Jewish when they became Christian. Why do we esteem our Lady? If I were asked that question, I would probably answer: what is there not to love about her? To quote Vatican II, “the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all guilt of original sin, on the completion of her earthly sojourn, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen of the universe, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and the conqueror of sin and death. (. . .) In this singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior in giving back supernatural life to souls. Wherefore she is our mother in the order of grace. (. . .) Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked by the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix, and Mediatrix.” (LG 59, 61, 62) I am not quite sure what Adjutrix means, but I think all the articles concerning our Lady is good evidence that the problem in the Church today is the spirit rather than the letter of Vatican II. To quote Pope Leo XIII, “Thus as no man goeth to the Father but by the Son, so no man goeth to Christ but by His Mother.” (Octobri Mense Adventante 4) But concerning our Lady, what is the first Marian doctrine out of which others spring? What is the one dogma for which even a few Protestants honor her? I say a few, because many Protestants want to entirely depreciate that role. Protestant commentator Dave Norris writes: “Her womb was home to Jesus Christ. The infant. That is where her task ended.” If that is his idea on what it means to be a mother, that is simply depressing. But not all Protestants feel this way and we as Catholics obviously do not. We Catholics honor our Lady because she is the Mother of God. She is the one from whom God chose to be conceived and born. Now we also esteem the Jews to a lesser extent, because our Lord chose to be born a Jew. God founded Judaism prior to Christianity. He built Christianity upon Judaism. Surely, can we not esteem the Jews who are children of Abraham for what good they have?

“But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God.”

Lumen Gentium 16

“The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God.”

Nostra Aetate 3

So, the alleged heresy is that Muslims worship the same God as Christians do although they deny Trinity and the divinity of Christ. Actually, the idea that Muslims worship the same God as Christians do is not new. The Catechism of St. Pius X states as follows:

12 Q. Who are infidels?

A. Infidels are those who have not been baptized and do not believe in Jesus Christ, because they either believe in and worship false gods as idolaters do, or though admitting one true God, they do not believe in the Messiah, neither as already come in the Person of Jesus Christ, nor as to come; for instance, Mohammedans and the like.

The Catechism of St. Pius X, The Ninth Article of the Creed, Those Outside the Communion of Saints

Surely we cannot suppose that St. Pius X was a heretic, yet he said that the “Mohammedans” worship the true God. This is Pope St. Pius X, recall, the same man who was a vehement opponent of all modernism, calling it “the synthesis of all heresies”. (Pascendi Dominici Gregis 39) So, in what sense do Mohammedans (as Pius calls them) worship the true God? First of all, since apostolic times, the Church has always recognized the Jews to worship the same God. This is obvious, as God founded Judaism and Jesus was Jewish. Yet God did not explicitly reveal the Trinity until the New Testament. Surely we cannot suppose that Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, and Elijah were all idolaters. As an analogy, imagine two people watching an episode of Doctor Who from the Jon Pertwee era (before it went so downhill and the Doctor basically became a god). One sees it on a high tech flat-screen TV. (wait, does not everyone have a flat screen TV nowadays?) The other is watching it on an old, blurry thing. They are still watching the same television show and still seeing an image of the same Doctor fighting aliens with bad special effects from the seventies. This is not to say that one is not favorable to the other. Christian worship is more favorable to God than that of either the Muslims or Jews. Both Pope St. Pius X and Vatican II taught that although Muslims deny important aspects of the Christian Faith, they cannot be classified as idolaters. “Allah” (which is the Arabic word for God) cannot be justly equated with Zeus, Odin, Baal, Freya, Amon-Ra, or even, probably, the Heavenly Father professed by the Church of Latter Day Saints. Islam’s roots are in Judaism and Christianity (if sullied by the Arian heresy) and retains the basic monotheistic concept of the one true Creator God. Although Islam flatly denies the divinity of Christ and is not in itself salvific in character, the object of that defective worship—that is, the Being toward whom it is directed—is nevertheless the true God, imperfectly understood.

“…who on the last day will judge mankind.”

Lumen Gentium 16

Some object to this because they do not believe that Jesus Christ will judge mankind as God. Indeed, they deny the divinity of Christ, but as Christ is the Second Person in the Trinity and three Persons are in one God, we can still say that we both believe God will judge mankind.

“Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.”

Nostra Aetate 3

There they mention our Lady again. Actually, Muslims seem to believe she was without sin. The Quran states: “I have named her Mary, and lo! I crave Thy protection for her and for her offspring from Satan the outcast.” (Surah 3:36, Pickthall Version) I think more highly of the Muslims now that I know this.

“[A]ll those who are outside the catholic church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life . . . that only for those who abide in it do the church’s sacraments contribute to salvation and do fasts, almsgiving and other works of piety and practices of the Christian militia produce eternal rewards.” (Council of Florence, Session 11) This is sometimes taken to be in contrariety to Nostra Aetate’s praise for the Muslims for their works of piety. First of all, all Nostra Aetate says is that Islam “values” these things, which is undoubtedly true. Indeed, Pius IX expounded upon the teaching that there is no salvation outside of the Church in his (albeit fallible) words: “This hope of salvation is placed in the Catholic Church which, in preserving the true worship, is the solid home of this faith and the temple of God. Outside of the Church, nobody can hope for life or salvation unless he is excused through ignorance beyond his control.” (Singulari Quidem 7) However, if “excused through ignorance beyond his control”, a Muslim can profit from his devotions. Why is this? Because he is is a Muslim through no fault of his own.

“Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.”

Nostra Aetate 3

Some would argue that this means that we must forget a large portion of European history, including the great saints and heroes of Christendom. I do not think that is what it is saying. Isaiah 43:25, for instance, states: “I am, I am he that blot out thy iniquities for my own sake, and I will not remember thy sins.” But God knows everything and therefore remembers everything. So I think Vatican II is hardly teaching to avoid studying history but simply to not hold such past dissensions against the Muslims, but move on. We should not forget the stories of heroes in the Crusades and so forth, but we should move on rather than holding on to previous disagreements. “For if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences. But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

The second charge is that this blames the Christians as being in the wrong to some degree. But it does not say this directly, but only that “not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems”. If anything, it seems to be calling us, as Christians, to do our duty to forgive Muslims. For the most part, it was indeed the fault of radical Islam that this occurred more than Christians. But supposing it is saying which Christians were partially to blame (although I am not convinced that it is), this would not mean that the Catholic Church is to blame, but only some sinful Christians who do not live up to her teachings.

“Thus in Hinduism, men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust.”

Nostra Aetate 2

I have seen this contrasted with Leo XIII’s words: “Through his [St. Francis Xavier’s] extraordinary perseverance, he converted hundreds of thousands of Hindus from the myths and vile superstitions of the Brahmans to the true religion. In the footsteps of this holy man followed numerous priests, secular and religious, who with the authority and permission of the Holy See strove untiringly to preserve and promote the Christian mysteries and institutions introduced by Thomas and renewed by Xavier.” (Ad Extremas 1)

It appears that Vatican II is saying something good about Hindu myths and Leo is saying something evil. Vatican II’s words are sometimes taken to mean that Hindu mythology is another way by which one may find the Answer to the divine mystery. That is not exactly true. Tolkien is thought to have said: “We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour, while materialistic ‘progress’ leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.”1 He undoubtedly wrote this:

“Man, Sub-creator, the refracted Light

“through whom is splintered from a single White

“to many hues, and endlessly combined

“in living shapes that move from mind to mind.

“Though all the crannies of the world we filled

“with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build

“Gods and their houses out of dark and light,

“and sowed the seed of dragons—’twas our right

“(used or misused). That right has not decayed:

“we make still by the law in which we’re made.”

On Fairy Stories p. 9

This was, by the way, a poem in response to a friend who had called making a fairy-tale “breathing a lie through Silver.” I think that friend may have been C. S. Lewis in his atheist days, although I am not sure about this. On the occasion that the reader has been living under a rock for the past fifty years, Tolkien was a devout Catholic and he intentionally weaved Catholicism into his book. If you have been living under a rock for the past seventy years, his book is The Lord of the Rings. He is probably the greatest deal, or at least among them, of all Catholic novelists in history—although it appears that O’Brien may lately be taking his place. Yes myth can be abused, as Tolkien himself admits. Gods can be worshipped, but neither Tolkien nor Vatican II were heretical. Hindu myths cannot perfectly express the divine mystery, only the True Myth—the Myth which became history, the Myth of Jesus Christ. However, these myths are useful to contemplate it and move towards it. Otherwise, why on earth were the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid preserved by the Christians? Are they useless?

“Again, Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men, in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination.”

Nostra Aetate 2

If this means that Buddhists can be saved through Buddhism, it is heretical. Buddhism teaches a way to perfect liberation, but not the right way. Vatican II makes this very clear in the following sentences: Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing “ways,” comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.

It seems that Nostra Aetate reaffirms Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I read some sedevacantists claiming that there is not a word in Vatican II about a call to convert them. It seems to me that there is.

“Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.”

Lumen Gentium 16

The idea is that this teaches that people can be atheists through no fault of their own. This is tested against Romans 1:20:

“For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, and divinity: so that they are inexcusable.” (DRA)

My first response was that it is wrong to test the teachings of the Magisterium to the Scriptures (or personal interpretations of them) in this way. That was what Martin Luther tried and he, needless to say, fell into heresy. However, then there is also On Revelation Can. 1 of the First Vatican Council which states:

“If anyone says that the one, true God, our creator and lord, cannot be known with certainty from the things that have been made, by the natural light of human reason: let him be anathema.”

Let us use an analogy of Protestants. I do not know if the reader has met any but there are definitely some Protestants who are in invincible ignorance. Those pious Protestants who give no further thought to the Catholic Church and to whom the truth in her was not revealed can be saved, as I have already explained. Well, do they not have the Scriptures? And is not Catholic doctrine completely contained within them?

Evangelical: By faith only a man is justified.

The Bible: By works a man is justified; and not by faith only. (James 2:24)

Calvinist: Christ gave himself as a redemption for the Elect only.

The Bible: Christ gave himself a redemption for all. (1 Timothy 2:6)

Baptist: Baptism does not save you.

The Bible: Baptism now saveth you. (1 Peter 3:21)

Memorialist: For Christ’s flesh is symbolic meat and Christ’s blood is symbolic drink.

The Bible: For Christ’s flesh is meat indeed and Christ’s blood is drink indeed. (John 6:56)

For this reason, we have Catholic apologetics, based mainly around the Bible. I think we can certainly use the Bible together with reason to prove Protestantism wrong to any open-minded Protestant. So also we can use the Book of Nature and reason to prove atheism wrong to any open-minded atheist. This does not mean that it is impossible for an atheist who has not thought of such reasoning to be in invincible ignorance. I am doubtful that most staunch atheists (nor many who have examined theistic arguments) are in such a state, but concerning atheists and agnostics in general, I think there are some.

So to answer the charges, Vatican II does not teach salvation outside of the Church. Anyone who knowingly chooses to be Protestant, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Jew is damned.

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor

***

1Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, 197-198

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On Catholics

Was Vatican II Infallible?

“The magisterium of the Church did not wish to pronounce itself under the form of extraordinary dogmatic pronouncements.”

Pope Paul VI, Discourse closing Vatican II, 7 December 1965

“There are those who ask what is the authority, the theological qualification, which the Council wished to attribute to its teachings, knowing that it has avoided giving solemn dogmatic definitions, committing the infallibility of the ecclesiastical magisterium. And the answer is known to those who remember the conciliar declaration of March 6, 1964, repeated on November 16, 1964: given the pastoral character of the Council, it avoided pronouncing in an extraordinary way dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility.”

Pope Paul VI, Audience of 12 January 1966

These two quotations from Paul VI are often misunderstood to mean that the Second Vatican Council was not protected from error. It is an understandable mistake and I see why some might make it. I am rather surprised that so many priests (whose names I had better not mention) have also made that same mistake. Still, a grave mistake it is and it has caused a fair bit of trouble in the Church. I confess that I lean toward the traditionalist stance rather than with progressives within Catholicism (although I am probably pretty moderate). At any rate, I think that the plan that Vatican II would usher in a Golden Age of Catholicism to deal with modern problems failed miserably, but that, I think, is because of its spirit and has nothing directly to do with the letter of Vatican II (which was the most Marian council ever). Let us deal with these two quotations.

Even if this were what Paul VI was saying, I am fairly sure that the Pope does not have authority to, after the fact, mention offhandedly that a Council was not protected from error and therefore make it cease to be protected from error. However, both of these quotations are taken out of context. Here are the quotations again. I underline the parts omitted.

But one thing must be noted here, namely, that the teaching authority of the Church, even though not wishing to issue extraordinary dogmatic pronouncements, has made thoroughly known its authoritative teaching on a number of questions which today weigh upon man’s conscience and activity, descending, so to speak, into a dialogue with him, but ever preserving its own authority and force.

Discourse closing Vatican II, 7 December 1965

“There are those who ask what is the authority, the theological qualification, which the Council wished to attribute to its teachings, knowing that it has avoided giving solemn dogmatic definitions, committing the infallibility of the ecclesiastical magisterium. And the answer is known to those who remember the conciliar declaration of March 6, 1964, repeated on November 16, 1964: given the pastoral character of the Council, it avoided pronouncing in an extraordinary way dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility; but it nevertheless endowed its teachings with the authority of the supreme ordinary magisterium which ordinary and so clearly authentic magisterium must be accepted docilely and sincerely by all the faithful, according to the mind of the Council regarding the nature and purposes of the individual documents.

Pope Paul VI, Audience of 12 January 1966

So what this means is that Vatican II never dogmatically defined anything. It certainly does not mean that it was not protected from error. On the contrary “it nevertheless endowed its teachings with the authority of the supreme ordinary magisterium which ordinary and so clearly authentic magisterium must be accepted docilely and sincerely by all the faithful”. The fact that it did not dogmatically define anything does not make it cease to be protected from error. None of the first three Lateran Councils defined anything, yet they were still Councils. I honestly wish it had because in that case the Spiritual Maternity would be an official Marian dogma. (Lumen Gentium 61) Still, Vatican II meets the definition of a Council. It was (a) legally convened meeting of (b) members of the hierarchy, for (c) the purpose of carrying out their judicial and doctrinal functions, (d) by means of deliberation in common, (e) resulting in regulations and decrees invested with the authority of the whole assembly.

So what are we to do with the so-called difficulties in Vatican II? Well, perhaps it is possible to misinterpret the Council, but I would say the same concerning other councils. The First Council of Constantinople describes the Holy Spirit as “the holy, the lordly and life-giving one, proceeding forth from the Father.” The Orthodox claim therefore that we are heretics for believing that He proceeds also from the Son. The Council of Trent teaches: “And this translation, since the promulgation of the Gospel, cannot be effected, without the laver of regeneration, or the desire thereof, as it is written; unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” (Session VI, Chapter IV) One could argue that this is heretical because there is no direct reference to Baptism of Blood as separate from Baptism of Water. I would argue that most of the quotes from Vatican II are also taken out of context. Believe me, if you find anything in the text of the Council that does not appear to be in line with Catholic doctrine, I suggest you go back and read the entire paragraph. You will not believe how helpful that is. The hermeneutic of continuity is not as unstable as this here horse suggests (although, if I may be perfectly honest, I still have absolutely no idea what the word “hermeneutic” means).

But even if it were not, in fact, infallible, does it really make sense that it would be heretical. Most bishops signed the documents. Are we really to suppose that in the nineteen-sixties most bishops were heretics? If so, we can not truly pin the crisis in the Church which exists now to the Council itself (as those who blame only the “spirit” of Vatican II are able to do), for this is certainly a far greater problem which existed from long before.

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor

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How the Eucharistic Species Can Be Corrupted

I once saw an article, written by a Protestant, entitled: “De-substantiation? What Happens When the Eucharist is Swallowed?” I never read the article, but it was actually a question I could not answer. I only assumed that Christ could take care of His own body and did not worry. If it were a problem, the Church would have done something about it. Now I seek to answer the question.

For those who do not know, those who do not follow Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy, the doctrine of the True Presence in the Eucharist or transubstantiation basically means that Christ’s “body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the forms of bread and wine, the bread and wine having been changed in substance, by God’s power, into his body and blood, so that in order to achieve this mystery of unity we receive from God what he received from us.” (Lateran IV, Const. 1) The body and blood of Christ still, of course, maintain the sensible qualities of bread and wine. When a host is divided, as most Catholics know, each half maintains the whole of Christ’s body, blood, soul, and divinity. So, what about microscopic particles which might get on people’s hands? What happens when the host is swallowed?

As a matter of fact, St. Thomas Aquinas dealt with this long ago. The Angelic Theologian clearly taught that the Blessed Sacrament can be corrupted. This was probably not known to most people. This is what he had to say:

“But if the change be so great that the substance of the bread or wine would have been corrupted, then Christ’s body and blood do not remain under this sacrament; and this either on the part of the qualities, as when the color, savor, and other qualities of the bread and wine are so altered as to be incompatible with the nature of bread or of wine; or else on the part of the quantity, as, for instance, if the bread be reduced to fine particles, or the wine divided into such tiny drops that the species of bread or wine no longer remain.” (ST III:77:4)

So according to Thomistic eucharistology when the host is no longer bread, but tiny bread particles, the True Presence no longer remains, and the same principle holds with the blood. If so, the same principle obviously holds once the eucharist is consumed because the species would be corrupted if digested. If it is doubtful whether it is a wafer of bread or a crumb in question, the True Presence is doubtful. The Church naturally errs on the more cautious side, not wishing to profane the body and blood of Christ.

Thomas gives a few objections to this. The first is that corruption comes from the separation of form from matter, yet evidently the matter or substance of bread and wine do not remain. “Since it belongs essentially to corruption to take away the being of a thing,” says Aquinas, “in so far as the being of some form is in matter, it results that by corruption the form is separated from the matter. But if such being were not in matter, yet like such being as is in matter, it could be taken away by corruption, even where there is no matter; as takes place in this sacrament, as is evident from what was said above.”

The second is that a form can only be corrupted accidentally. Wherefore, a self-subsisting subject cannot be corrupted. Therefore, as the sacramental species are forms without a subject, they cannot be corrupted. “Although the sacramental species are forms not in matter,” says Aquinas, “yet they have the being which they had in matter.”

The third is that the host cannot be corrupted naturally as no subject can be assigned as the remaining after the corruption has taken place, nor miraculously as miracles occur in the consecration yet they keep their species. “This corruption of species is not miraculous, but natural,” says Aquinas, “nevertheless, it presupposes the miracle which is wrought in the consecration, namely, that those sacramental species retain without a subject, the same being as they had in a subject; just as a blind man, to whom sight is given miraculously, sees naturally.”

So Christ’s presence is only there so long as the species remain. So it is not a problem once one has consumed to look into his, shall we say, waste matter. It is also not a problem that there may be microscopic particles on the altar. Also, if you choose to receive on the hand (although I suggest on the tongue, if possible, for other reasons), it is not problematic in that microscopic particles of the entire body of Christ will not remain.