We’ve all been there. You’re showered and dressed and ready to go. It’s time to hit the road. But wait! Where are the keys?
You know where they should be – the same place they always are, on that table by the door – and yet now that you really need them, they’re nowhere to be found. So, after a moment of panic, you take a deep breath and retrace your steps from the previous day:
I came in through the garage. I emptied my pockets on that table by the door, my wallet, my change, the receipt from the store… I went into the kitchen, put the grocery bag on the counter… Aha! There they are, sitting in plain sight next to the coffeemaker!
Now, consider a slightly different story.
There once was a man who, after grabbing his keys from a table by the door, rushed out to the driveway. He hopped in his car, put his coffee mug in the cupholder, buckled his seatbelt, slid the key into the ignition and… nothing! It wouldn’t even turn!
Perplexed and annnoyed, he pulled the key out, examined it closely and immediately reinserted it, only this time he realized that it didn’t slide into the ignition quite as easily as it should have. Something obviously wasn’t right and he knew it, but he gave it another go anyway.
Again, nothing. It just wouldn’t budge.
Sitting in his car, dazed and confused, he closed his eyes in frustration and prayed, Lord, please help me! What is going on?
Just then, a loud tap on the window startled him. It was his wife and dangling from her hand was a set of car keys.
“You picked up my keys,” she announced with a wry smile. “Yours were on the kitchen counter next to the coffeemaker!”
Prayer answered, problem solved!
But wait, not so fast…
“Nope, these are my keys,” he shouted as he waved them around! “They must be. I found them in the very same place where I always find them!”
Opening the door, his wife snatched the keys from his hand.
“Watch this,” she demanded as she jumped into her own vehicle.
“Look, this key starts my car,” she boasted, confident that her demonstration had put an end to the confusion once and for all.
“No way! Give them back to me now,” the man insisted. “Those are my keys. I just know it! See for yourself, they’re the same size and shape as my keys, they have all those little ridges on the sides just like my keys do, and they even have the Ford logo on them! See? See?”
And there he sits to this very day, detached from reality, clinging to his irrational belief and going nowhere fast.
So, you think that someone as hardheaded as the man in that story could never exist in real life? Are you certain that you could never come to resemble such a person?
A skeptical follower on social media recently posed the following question:
Where is the infallible, indefectible Church with four marks, outside of which there is no salvation?
His purpose in asking was to suggest that it simply must be the conciliar church in Rome under the headship of Francis, as if the query had obviously answered itself.
Despite his foolish motives, the question itself is both fair and important given that it’s a dogma of the Faith that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church, i.e., she is infallible and indefectible, and what’s more, she is visible.
So, let’s see if we can find her.
Before we can go about determining the whereabouts of the Church visible, however, we need to be clear about what her visibility entails.
The visibility of the Church can be distinguished in two ways, material and formal. The latter, formal visibility, concerns the knowability of the Church and the fact that, once observed, she can be recognized for who she is – a society of Divine origins – easily distinguishable from other religious communions as the one and only social body uniquely established by Jesus Christ for our salvation.
My interlocutor’s question touches on this by pointing to the Church’s infallibility, that is, her “perpetual immunity from error and heresy” (cf Pope Pius XI, Quas Primas), a property attributable to her Divine institution and protection, a claim that no other religious community can make.
At this, I would suggest that coming to terms with where the Church is not is a useful, if not crucial, step in our search for where the Church actually is, similar to the way in which a person looking for a set of keys must take into account the reality of where they are not lest they never be found. Think of it as a process of elimination.
With this in mind, let us ask: Is the immunity from error and heresy that belongs to the Holy Roman Catholic Church alone evident in the society presently in occupation of the Vatican under the headship of Francis, aka the conciliar church?
This too is a fair and important question. Unfortunately, however, it’s one that many are afraid to even ponder. In this case, the query really does answer itself!
Material visibility concerns the reality that the Church is a society that is perceptible to the senses, a hierarchically structured religious communion with members who manifest the true faith, in union with the Roman Pontiff and with one another.
For example, when one observes a Catholic parish where the true faith is preached and made manifest, and the true Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the sacraments are celebrated by validly ordained priests, etc., one sees (and hears!) the one true Church – not the entire Church, mind you, but a part of the whole.
Being that she is indefectible, we know that the Church visible in such a manner will exist until the end of time. That said, this is where a major mistake is often made in the effort to find her.
You see, contrary to what many seem to believe, the dogma of the faith concerning the visibility and indefectibility of the Church does not serve as a guarantee that the materially visible parts of the one true Church of Christ will forever be ubiquitous and easily found.
In fact, Sacred Scripture assures us that a time will come when only a small remnant of the faithful shall “keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Apoc. 12:17). This tells us that even though the indefectible Church will ever exist and remain visible, it may not necessarily be the case that she is easily observed.
We happen to live at just such a time.
Let me repeat: We live at a time when the Church infallible and indefectible is not easily encountered in her materially visible parts. He who fails to understand as much is unlikely to find her, indeed, such a one is far more likely to be fooled into accepting an imposter.
So, what are we to do now that the Church visible, indefectible, and infallible is encountered and observed only with great effort?
First and foremost, we must hold fast to the belief that the gates of Hell have not prevailed against her, no matter how difficult she may be to find.
In other words, we must resist like the Devil himself any temptation to pick the low hanging, rotten fruit that is the conciliar counterfeit church – the official acts of which are infested with the poisonous food of error – and insist that it’s Catholic.
Unfortunately, however, the overwhelming majority of self-described “traditionalists” (aka Catholics) – even many regular readers of this space – are doing just this.
Like that fictional man sitting in his driveway clinging to a set of keys that simply will not work no matter how much he wills it to be otherwise, many “traditionalists” are likewise in denial of reality, desperately clinging to the irrational belief that Our Blessed Lord has entrusted the Keys to the Kingdom to a raging heretic called “Francis,” insisting that the despicable society that he heads is the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
And this even though that false church does not do what the one true Church of Christ always does – preserve the Catholic religion unblemished (Vatican I), and it does things that the one true Church can never do – err in matters of faith and morals (Catechism of the Council of Trent).
Now can you see yourself in that story?