Schismatic Martyrs: What says the Church?

On May 11, Pope Francis, head of the conciliar church, during an audience with Pope Tawadros, head of the Coptic Orthodox church, made an announcement that sent shockwaves throughout much of Catholic media.

I am pleased to announce today that, with Your Holiness’ [Tawadros] consent, these twenty-one [Coptic] martyrs will be included in the Roman Martyrology as a sign of the spiritual communion uniting our two Churches. (See Holy See Press Office Bulletin)

Reaction to Francis’ decision to include twenty-one schismatic heretics among the canonized saints on the conciliar church’s liturgical calendar was swift.

Christopher Altieri of Conciliar World Report (dba Catholic World Report), for example, gushed with ecumenical joy: 

Pope Francis spoke – with great power of eloquence and repeatedly – of the martyrs’ heroism, calling it expressive of the deep unity in Christ that precedes and transcends institutional divisions, giving the world a fleeting glimpse of the indivisible oneness of the mystical body that is the Church.  

A fleeting glimpse… aka now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t.

Don’t laugh. I think he’s serious. 

You see, to the conciliar mind, the unity of the Church, at its core – if it exists at all – is an  invisible reality, a glimpse of which is all that one can hope to be afforded at this moment in salvation history as we nobly strive to make the oneness of the Church manifest via our ecumenical efforts. 

According to this view, what Francis has done is magnificent; he lifted the veil, making supernatural unity concrete in the here and now, even if only for a peekaboo moment.  

Those with a Catholic mind, however, know better. We believe in the infallible truth, as taught throughout the centuries by the Universal Ordinary Magisterium of the Church, that the unity of the Church is a present, visible, enduring reality:

The Church of Christ must be visible and apparent, at least to such a degree that it appears as one body of faithful, agreeing in one and the same doctrine under one teaching authority and government. (cf Pope Pius XI, Mortalium Animos 6)

One teaching authority and government.

The Coptic Orthodox reject the primacy of the Holy Roman Pontiff.

One doctrine under one teaching authority…

The Coptic Orthodox approve of divorce, and even abortion, in certain cases. 

The justification for adding the twenty-one schismatic heretics to the Roman Martyrology, despite these obvious and dangerous errors, according to Francis, is the following:

These martyrs were baptized not only in water and the Spirit, but also in blood, with a blood that is a seed of unity for all followers of Christ.

Let’s examine the matter more closely.

  • Were these men validly baptized? 

Even though there are reports that at least one of the twenty-one men may not have been baptized, let’s, for the sake of argument, assume that the answer is yes.  

  • Did they accept a cruel death at the hands of godless men rather than renounce their faith, flawed though it may have been, in Jesus Christ?

Again, let’s assume that this is precisely what happened.

Well then, if it stands firm like a martyr, and dies like a martyr, it must be a martyr!

Not so fast, my friends. First we must ask one last crucial question:

  • Does the Catholic Church explicitly hold that such men cannot be understood as true martyrs who have received the crown of faith?  

Though it may serve as a disappointment for the emotionally driven who were rooting for the schismatic underdogs, hoping that a shadow of doubt may exist in this matter, the answer is yes, the Church has spoken in such a way as to leave no room for confusion, these men are not true martyrs.

Writing to the schismatic bishops of Istria, circa 585, on “The Necessity of Union with the Church,” Pope Pelagius II quoted the venerable third century defender of the faith, St. Cyprian, as follows: 

Does he who does not hold this unity of the Church believe that he has the faith? Does he who deserts and resists the chair of Peter, on which the Church was founded, have confidence that he is in the Church? They cannot arrive at the reward of peace, because they disrupt the peace of the Lord by the fury of discord.

St. Cyprian, and Pope Pelagius II after him, are very clear: Those who desert the Chair of Peter cannot arrive at the reward of peace. And guess what? Dying a so-called martyr’s death changes nothing, i.e., it does not constitute a Get Out of Jail Free card. 

St. Cyprian continues, as repeated by the Holy Father, Pelagius II:

Those who were not willing to be at agreement in the Church of God, cannot remain with God; although given over to flames and fires, they burn, or thrown to wild beasts, they lay down their lives, there will not be [for them] that crown of faith, but the punishment of faithlessness, not a glorious result (of religious virtue), but the ruin of despair. 

Such a one can be slain, he cannot be crowned…. For the crime of schism is worse than that which they [commit] who have offered sacrifice [to idols while under threat of death by the Roman Emperor Decius], who, nevertheless, having been disposed to penance for their sins prayed to God with the fullest satisfaction.

This teaching, no doubt, will strike many as overly harsh. How, they may protest, can we say that the one slain for his nominally Christian faith while in schism is guilty of a more serious crime than that of the one who apostatizes by offering sacrifice to idols? 

St. Cyprian explains that this is because the schismatic “deceives many by dragging (them) with himself.” Whereas the Christian who offers sacrifice to idols due to the threat of violence or death “has injured only himself,” and such a one may still seek, and attain, reconciliation with God through, with, and in His Church. 

St. Cyprian even goes on to say, as quoted by Pope Pelagius II:

Lastly, although the lapsed [the apostate once reconciled], if afterwards he acquired martyrdom, is able to secure the promises of the kingdom; if the other [the schismatic] is slain outside of the Church, he cannot attain to the rewards of the Church. (From Epistle of Pelagius II, “Dilectionis vestrae,” Denzinger 247)

Note well that neither St. Cyprian nor Pope Pelagius II refer to the slaying of a schismatic as “martyrdom.” This word is used only in reference to one united to the Church. As noted in the Catholic Encyclopedia:

By the middle of the fourth century the title was everywhere reserved to those who had actually suffered death for their faith. Heretics and schismatics put to death as Christians were denied the title of martyrs (St. Cyprian, Treatise on Unity 14; St. Augustine, Ep. 173; Euseb., Church History V.16, V.21)

Cyprian, Augustine, Eusebius, Pope Pelagius II… 

The Universal Ordinary Magisterium is clear.

So, where did Francis ever get the idea of proclaiming that twenty-one schismatic heretics have indeed attained to the rewards of the Church and the crown of glory?

First, let’s be perfectly clear, the “church” for which Francis speaks is not the Holy Roman Catholic Church. 

As for where he got the idea that the blood of the slain schismatic heretics is a seed of unity for all followers of Christ, regular readers of this space will not be surprised to discover that its roots are firmly planted in the Second Vatican Council.

In truth, Francis didn’t lift any veils, nor did he provide any fleeting glimpses of hidden realities, he simply carried on with the conciliar revolution according to terms that were set over five decades ago at Vatican II.

 “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” So wrote Tertullian in the Apologeticum, the most noteworthy of his works written in the year 197, more than a decade before he fell from the true faith. 

This reference to the blood of martyrs is footnoted and repeated at Vatican II. For instance: “For often, the blood of Christians was like a seed” (Ad Gentes 5)

In Lumen Gentium, the phrase “seed of unity” makes its first ever appearance (as far as I’ve been able to determine) in a nominally Catholic text:

For those who believe in Christ, who are reborn not from a perishable but from an imperishable seed through the word of the living God, not from the flesh but from water and the Holy Spirit, are finally established as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people” … So it is that that messianic people, although it does not actually include all men, and at times may look like a small flock, is nonetheless a lasting and sure seed of unity, hope and salvation for the whole human race. (LG 9)

As noted elsewhere in this space, the interpretive key to the Council is what I call the hermeneutic of cohesion, that is, using the conciliar text itself as a self-referential guide to defining the terms that it employs. This is crucial given the fact that the Council often invokes traditional Catholic expressions with no intention whatsoever of abiding by traditional Catholic definitions. 

This comes as no surprise inasmuch as Pius X warned in Pascendi that the modernists are wont to change the meaning of words and things.   

In the present case, “those who believe in Christ” and “a messianic people” is a reference not only to faithful Catholics but to heretics and schismatics as well. Elsewhere, the Council plainly attests that “all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ’s body and have a right to be called Christian.”

When Ad Gentes states that “the blood of Christians was like a seed,” therefore, this is Councilspeak for “heretic martyrs.”

Fast forward six decades: When Francis says of the twenty-one schismatic heretic Copts, “these martyrs were baptized not only in water and the Spirit,” he’s looking at them with conciliar eyes as “members of Christ’s body” who were killed for their faith. If this be so, then their blood may rightly be considered, according to the conciliar view, as a seed for the one Church, i.e., they are true martyrs, their blood, seeds of unity.

Outrageous? Yea, sort of, but you won’t find me running around complaining about it with my hair on fire, afterall, the twenty-one Copts aren’t the first non-Catholics to make it into the Roman Martyrology on Jorge’s watch.

In fact, I am arguably even more overjoyed than Chris Altieri, but for an entirely different reason: 

Francis has once again made it perfectly plain that the conciliar church presently in occupation of the Vatican is not the Holy Roman Catholic Church. It is an imposter and so is he.