[NOTE: Several months ago, David Mills, an editor for the UK based Catholic Herald, expressed his willingness to publish my response to a slanderous piece, penned by Karl Keating, which appeared in the July 14 edition of the Herald. After a number of unforeseen delays, Mr. Mills (who is very much a gentleman) ceased serving as an editor to take up writing exclusively, and so he kindly forwarded my article, which I am posting here, to the appropriate editor. Since then, I’ve been unable to elicit any further response from the Catholic Herald.]
On July 14, the Catholic Herald published an article by Karl Keating entitled, A slippery slope: When Catholics follow their reason straight out of the Church. In it, he provided two examples of “fellow apologists” – one of them being yours truly – that he claims “ran right out of the Church.”
The heart of the matter is membership in the Church, more specifically, Church teaching concerning what is necessary in order for a Catholic to remain therein. On this note, Mr. Keating appears confused.
Recently, an American legislator, Congressman Ted Lieu, provided an excellent teaching moment when he addressed a tweet to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops saying:
I’m Catholic and I support: Contraception, a woman’s right to choose, treatments for infertility, the right for people to get a divorce, the right of same sex marriage. Next time I go to Church, I dare you to deny me Communion.
In response, Mr. Keating took to social media, writing, “Thanks for the clarity, Ted. Yes, you are a Catholic. You just happen to be a bad Catholic.”
Can it really be said that an individual who publicly and knowingly repudiates fundamental Christian doctrine is a member of the Catholic Church?
This is an important question given the spate of self-identified Catholics in our day who, in various ways, do likewise. Thankfully, the consistent teaching of the sacred Magisterium on the requirements for membership in the Church are clear. For example:
Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed (Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, 22)
Further along, the Holy Father essentially repeats this teaching, a sure sign of its importance:
Now since its Founder willed this social body of Christ to be visible, the cooperation of all its members must also be externally manifest through their profession of the same faith and their sharing the same sacred rites, through participation in the same Sacrifice, and the practical observance of the same laws. (ibid., art. 69)
In summary, membership in the Church must be sustained in an “externally manifest” way, visibly, because the Church herself is visible. We can, therefore, know who is, and who is not, a fellow Catholic, based not on one’s tone or literary style, but on their objective and observable relationship with the Church’s doctrines, rites and laws.
With this in mind, readers may draw their own conclusions about Mr. Lieu and his “unhappy act.”
More to the present point, based on this same teaching, is Mr. Keating justified in declaring that I “ran right out of the Church,” the implication being that I am no longer Catholic?
It is true that, after a great deal of prayerful contemplation, I reached the conclusion that Vatican II poses a danger to souls inasmuch as it contradicts the “true faith” in any number of ways. As such, I do reject it, bearing well in mind that this Council, by its own claims, taught exactly nothing that is binding on the faithful. (See Lumen Gentium, Appendix)
As it concerns the papacy, clerics and theologians far holier and well educated than I have observed how often the current claimant to the Chair of St. Peter routinely and publicly makes doctrinal pronouncements, even via official texts, that are incompatible with the true faith.
Men of good will may disagree as to the impact that this has on his own standing in the Catholic Church, but it may be of interest to readers to know that St. Vincent Ferrer at one time rejected the true claimant to the papal throne and was a follower of the antipope Benedict XIII.
Would any, Mr. Keating included, maintain that he had thus run right out of the Church?
As for myself:
Given that I profess the true faith as taught throughout the millennia, share in the ancient Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and observe the laws of the Church, all in a way made externally manifest, I most certainly have not “run right out of the Church.”
As to questions posed to me by Mr. Keating on social media, he states, and incorrectly so, “Verrecchio replied to me online, but he didn’t answer me.” For those interested, my detailed response is available HERE, but the crux of my answer to Keating is simply this:
The “end point” for which every human being must strive is Heaven, the purpose for which we were created. As the Baltimore Catechism states:
To gain the happiness of heaven we must know, love, and serve God in this world. We learn to know, love, and serve God from Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who teaches us through the Catholic Church.
This encapsulates, if not my precise “trajectory” at any given moment, the impulse behind it. By the grace of God, I intend to remain engaged in a lifelong effort to avail myself of that which Jesus Christ teaches us through the Catholic Church. In other words, I am ever in search of authentic Catholic answers.
In our day and age, such a search often brings us face-to-face with some very uncomfortable truths. Embracing those truths, as I know all too well, can even force us to leave popularity, income, friends and family behind. Enduring the slings and arrows is well worth the effort, however, as this is precisely how one remains in the Church.
At this point, I think it’s fair to ask Mr. Keating if he’s still seeking Catholic answers:
Specifically, does he consider the pre-conciliar Magisterium and the approved theologians who expounded upon it relevant in our own day, or does he naïvely imagine that placing one’s faith exclusively in the Council and all that followed is enough to remain Catholic?
Membership in the Church, as we have seen, absolutely requires the outward profession of the true faith (cf MysticiCorporis, 22). The obvious corollary is that publicly proclaiming errors against the faith is the real “slippery slope straight out of the Church.”
The question, therefore, is not whether I am a Catholic, but whether or not those who have adopted the condemned horrors of the Modernists remain within the Church.
[NOTE: I will continue to press the Catholic Herald – which bills itself as “one of the world’s oldest and most trusted Catholic publications” – to offer its readers a truly Catholic perspective in contrast to the baseless and libelous assertions it previously chose to publish. Doing so is not only the right thing to do from a journalistic standpoint, it is a matter of basic morality.]