It is suggested of the current ecclesial crisis – and by persons that I respect and know to be sincere – that the faithful now find themselves faced with the nearly impossible task of navigating their way through a theological landscape rendered in shades of gray. As such, the best we can hope to do is to labor for clarity with respect to the Council, the sacred liturgy, and the papacy, all the while knowing full well that it’s likely to remain elusive, at least until such time as a holy pope sets things aright.
After all, they sigh in resignation, these are unprecedented times.
It is true that Catholics today are living in somewhat uncharted (even if not unexpected) territory. Furthermore, we must admit that an element of mystery pervades our present-day circumstances, wherein certain complex questions linger, and few simple answers seem to exist.
That said, the fundamental truths of the Catholic faith remain eminently simple, i.e., they are as black-and-white as ever.
He that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth. – Luke 11:23
Even so, many otherwise respectable commentators – self-proclaimed “traditionalists” at that – have presumed to allow the genuine uncertainties of the day to cloud their thinking with respect to long-held, clearly taught, doctrinal truths as well, as if even the most basic of Christian beliefs are now suddenly awash in ambiguity.
Does this apply to you, dear reader? Have you been treating immutable doctrinal truths as if current events have made them contingent and questionable? Are you reluctant to view the current crisis in the light of certain truths for fear of what you might discover, even if only subconsciously?
Before you answer, walk with me through the following exercise. Be honest with yourself as you go. In the process, you won’t find answers to every question concerning the current ecclesial crisis, but at the very least you will regain (or find) your Catholic footing.
There isn’t a “traditionalist” (aka Catholic) alive who would question, or otherwise overlook as inconvenient, the teachings that are so plainly presented for our belief in the Catechism of the Council of Trent.
OK, great. Consider the following:
This Spirit, first imparted to the Apostles, has by the infinite goodness of God always continued in the Church. And just as this one Church cannot err in faith or morals, since it is guided by the Holy Ghost; so, on the contrary, all other societies arrogating to themselves the name of church, must necessarily, because guided by the spirit of the devil, be sunk in the most pernicious errors, both doctrinal and moral. (Catechism of the Council of Trent, aka Roman Catechism)
The above stated doctrine is eminently clear, is it not?
According to the Roman Catechism, it’s not only the case that the Catholic Church does not err in faith or morals, Our Lord has seen to it that she cannot so err.
So far so good?
Unambiguous though this teaching is, let’s consider the same doctrine as stated a bit differently in the Catechism of Pope Pius X:
We are certain that the doctrine which we receive from the Holy Catholic Church is true, because Jesus Christ, the divine Author of this doctrine, committed it through His Apostles to the Church, which He founded and made the infallible teacher of all men, promising her His divine assistance until the end of time. (Catechism of Pope Pius X)
NB: The Church is an infallible teacher. This does not mean to say that only those doctrines that are infallibly defined are true, rather, it means that we can be certain that the Church, in her doctrinal teaching, never fails to teach the truth.
Before moving on, consider that Pope Pius XI made this doctrine even more plain when he stated that the Church enjoys “perfect and perpetual immunity from error and heresy” (cf Quas Primas 22).
Note very well that the Church is immune, not just from heresy properly so called, but from error more broadly, and this immunity has always been hers, and always will be.
To be perfectly clear, this protection from teaching error applies in a particular way to the Church of Rome, and it is part and parcel of her indefectibility. Should the Apostolic See ever err in matters of faith or morals, this would be the very definition of the gates of Hell prevailing against the Church. Our Lord promised that this will never happen, and that is why the First Vatican Council could state without any qualification whatsoever:
In the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been preserved unblemished. (First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ)
Please pardon the redundancy, but it is important to note the consistency and clarity with which the sacred Magisterium has taught the inerrancy of the Church in matters of faith and morals. It is an uncontestable doctrine of the faith.
So, any objections so far?
I should hope not since there is literally nothing stated above that is complicated, controversial or questionable.
Now, either one accepts the doctrine of the Church’s inerrancy as explicated above or not. Period. There are no gray areas to be found in any of it. No loopholes. No room for any but maybes.
At this, I am once again reminded of the words of Our Blessed Lord who said:
Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. (Luke 16:10)
To faithfully embrace the fundamental Catholic truth that the Church cannot err in faith or morals is a very “little” thing; it’s doctrinal milk, easily digested by even the simplest of neophytes, and it goes right to the heart of who and what the Catholic Church on earth is.
As such, most self-identified “trads” (and even most “conservatives”) would not hesitate to declare, Yes, I do embrace this truth fully!
Does this describe you?
If so, that’s wonderful.
Unfortunately, however, it appears that in saying this many are being dishonest, mainly with themselves.
You see, when faced with actually applying the doctrine of the Church’s utter reliability in matters of faith and morals to the present circumstances, viewing the current crisis through the lens of this clearly taught truth, many are simply unwilling to go there.
Be honest, is that you?
Consider, for example, your view of Vatican Council II.
It doesn’t take a doctorate in sacred theology to recognize that the teachings that are set forth in the conciliar texts contain error in matters of faith – not mere ambiguities, but actual errors. I have never met a self-proclaimed “traditionalist” worthy of the name who would even attempt to deny as much.
For the benefit of those unsure, perhaps the most obvious example we can provide is found in the Decree on Ecumenism wherein it is stated that Christ uses the communities of the heretics – the societies of those unquestionably separated from the Church – as “means of salvation.” (UR 3)
To be clear, UR 3 is not addressing the potential subjective state of individual heretics, it’s a statement about the heretical communities themselves, e.g., everything from the Southern Baptist Convention to the United Methodists to your local storefront Bible fellowship.
The Council is teaching that the tens of thousands of Protestant communities that dot the landscape, each one riddled with error, devoid of the Most Holy Eucharist, wherein the Sacrament of Confession is unavailable, where there are no Holy Orders, Our Lady is disregard and disrespected, etc., each of these communities are used by Our Lord as “means of salvation,” as communities.
Extra ecclesiam nulla salus anyone?
There is only one community that Our Lord has established as the solitary means of salvation, the Holy Catholic Church. This is Catholicism 101. As such, it is perfectly plain that the Council has erred in a gravely important matter of faith. If you’ve ever wondered why the “conciliar church” refrains from calling the heretics (or anyone else for that matter) to conversion, this is why.
Still with me?
Great, but now it’s time to answer an important question, to search your soul to consider just how honest, or dishonest, you are being with yourself.
Are you willing to face head-on the obvious and unavoidable conclusion that Vatican Council II and its erroneous teachings could not have possibly come to us from the hand of Holy Mother Church, but rather does this council come from that society described in the Roman Catechism (above) as having “arrogated to itself the name of church,” but in truth is “guided by the spirit of the devil,” and we know this because it is “sunk in the most pernicious errors, both doctrinal and moral?”
Before you answer, bear in mind the exhortation of St. Paul:
Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine. – 2 Timothy 4:2
So, are you willing to take a stand before God and your fellow man, publicly stating for the good of your own soul and that of others that the society presently in occupation of the Vatican, the Magna Carta of which is the Second Vatican Council, is not, indeed cannot be, the Holy Roman Catholic Church? Are you honest enough to openly admit that this society is but an imposter, counterfeit church?
I would dare say that many of you are not, despite having previously claimed to accept the long-held doctrine concerning the Church’s inerrancy in matters of faith and morals. If this describes you, the reality is that you have been lying to yourself, and worse, you have been lying to Our Lord, saying in the Credo that you believe in the Holy Catholic Church when in fact you do not.
Unfortunately, this dishonesty is epidemic. It infects not just individuals but also entire communities, the FSSP, the ICK, and even the SSPX, for example.
Look, this ain’t rocket science, folks.
If you cannot bring yourself to acknowledge aloud that the society presently in occupation of the Vatican is not the true Church of Christ, or stated otherwise, if you speak of that error ridden society in Rome as “the Church,” then you no longer manifest the true faith. Period.
You give every indication of having accepted the lie that the Holy Roman Catholic Church can occasionally err, even when she gathers in an ecumenical council and her decrees are approved by the pope!
In other words, you have essentially become a Protestant who feels obligated to weigh what the Church teaches in such a way as to determine for himself what is true and what is not.
Is that you, dear reader? Are you honest enough to admit it?
If so, don’t despair, the remedy is right at your fingertips. All you need to do is to choose to believe what Holy Mother Church actually teaches about herself, that she cannot err in faith and morals, and any society that does, is not the Church. Simple.
This is the place to start, not just in gaining a degree of clarity regarding the current ecclesial crisis, but in staying faithful as the crisis rages on.