The Church: Who do you say that she is?

Consider if you will, dear reader, the following theoretical propositions:

1. The Holy Ghost, the “soul of the Church” (cf Pope Leo XIII, Divinum Illud) of Whom it is said, “leads her into all truth” (John 16:13) such that she “cannot err in either faith or morals” (Catechism of the Council of Trent), is no longer guiding her, rendering the Church a purveyor and repository of all manner of error, openly hostile to tradition. 

2. The error-ridden humanistic society headquartered in the Vatican for some six decades running, presently under the headship of Jorge Bergoglio, the same being corrupt in its teachings on both faith and morals, as well as its disciplines and practices, is not the Catholic Church but rather an imposter.

Now, tell me, which of these two propositions, if not merely theoretical but demonstrably true, would be the more painful to acknowledge? 

Speaking for myself, and presumably for the overwhelming majority of regular readers, the first proposition is by far the more devastating as it would essentially mean that the Catholic faith has ever been but a human construct and a sham, and not even one of her teachings can be relied upon as divinely revealed and unquestionably true.

As for the second proposition – though it no doubt portends an ecclesial crisis of unprecedented scope that threatens to endanger many souls – it’s nothing more than a manifestation of a counterfeit church, the likes of which had been prophesied long ago, not only by saints and mystics, but by Revelation itself:

The prophecies of the Apocalypse show that Satan will imitate the Church of Christ to deceive mankind… (Fr. Sylvester Berry, The Church of Christ: An Apologetic and Dogmatic Treatise, 1927)      

In fact, far from disproving the Church’s claims concerning her divine origins and the rights and prerogatives that flow therefrom, the second proposition only serves to confirm them. Be that as it may, it appears that many evidently sincere persons find the first proposition far more palatable than the second, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Make no mistake, when attempting to draw a logical conclusion concerning the present state of ecclesial affairs, there really are but only two choices as represented by the above propositions, i.e., one of them is most certainly true. As the Roman Catechism teaches:      

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, Emphasis added)

Even so, there are many “tradition-minded” Catholics today (if you will pardon the redundancy) who appear determined, at all costs, to avoid entertaining even the possibility that the second proposition may in fact be true. Holding fast to their denial ultimately forces them to reject, or at the very least ignore, all or part of traditional ecclesiology, leading to fanciful claims and illogical positions that effectively amount to their acceptance of the first proposition; the Holy Ghost is no longer guiding the Church.

Case in point: 

Last week, One Peter Five published an anonymous letter from a disconsolate seminarian who reports that “after almost 10 years of discerning a call and pursuing a vocation,” he has “become disillusioned and resentful,” so much so that he has decided to call it quits.

“I was naïve enough to assume that the Catholic faith was practiced in the Catholic Church,” he explains, “but experience has taught me that the faith is no longer welcome in the Church.”

He went on say that “the substance of the faith has been drained out of the Church,” and so he “wouldn’t even recommend the Church to anyone” because all they will find among her leaders are “spiritual abusers who refuse to enter the Kingdom of God and try to prevent others from doing so.”

“I could not tell you one teaching of the Catholic faith that isn’t always changing,” he laments.

With all of this in mind, the poor seminarian addressed the “leaders of the Church” directly, asking: 

Is there any reason why I should remain Catholic?

It’s not immediately clear if this is a serious question, a public declaration of his intent to join a non-Catholic sect, or simply a cry for attention, but one thing seems rather certain, he has come to the unhappy conclusion that the first proposition stated above is true. If that were actually so, then the answer to his question is very simple, there would be no reason for any of us to remain.

Commenting on the seminarian’s letter, Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, a theology professor with whom I have shared limited, but very cordial correspondence, wrote:

He [the seminarian] is arguing with perfect logic that the modernist reinvention of Catholicism especially after the Council leads to a dead end…

I respectfully disagree with the idea that the argument put forth in the letter represents perfect logic, in fact, I’d say that it is utterly illogical. Follow the seminarian’s reasoning:

I wish to cling to and practice the substance of the true and unchanging faith, but both have been drained from the Church, and what remains is always changing. Therefore, I cannot pursue what I had discerned as my vocation in the Church.

The logical flaw in this presentation is obvious: An integral part of the substance of the faith to which the seminarian indicates that he wishes to cling concerns the Church’s description of herself and her divine attributes which, if fully embraced, make it perfectly clear that the wicked institution that he repeatedly calls “the Church” is but an imposter.

In addition to the citation from the Roman Catechism noted above, consider as well (with emphasis added) the following descriptions of the true Church of Christ:

–  Jesus Christ, hanging on the Cross, opened up to His Church the fountain of those divine gifts, which prevent her from ever teaching false doctrine. (cf Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, 31)

– Certainly the loving Mother [the Church] is spotless in the faith which she has always preserved inviolate. (cf ibid., no. 66)

– The Church is endowed with perfect and perpetual immunity from error and heresy. (cf Pope Pius XI, QuasPrimas, 22)

– The Catholic Church is the Kingdom of Christ on earth. (cf ibid, no. 12)

Were the venerable popes cited above prone to making pious exaggerations? Were they unaware of the degree to which the Church really is capable of teaching false doctrines and corrupt morals? Were they just plain wrong?

The sullen seminarian seems to thinks so and, evidently, Professor Kwasniewski tacitly agrees. He writes:    

What I see missing in this article is an awareness that there is an alternative — in fact, one and only solution: traditional Catholicism, which, like Christ, is the same yesterday, today, forever … If the past 50 years have not been able to crush traditionalists, who are more numerous, well-informed, and committed today than at any time since the Council, nothing will crush them; indeed, divine Providence would not permit it, because the true Faith must last until the end of time. The Faith is still alive — it’s just not in the mainstream parishes, chanceries, and seminaries that one will find it.

There’s much here to dissect, but before we do…

Please note, I am not picking on Dr. Kwasniewski, a man in whom I see no hint of ill-will, it’s simply the case that his thoughts seem rather representative of many others who consider themselves part of a so-called “traditionalist movement.”  (In truth, the counterfeit conciliar church is the movement – a revolt, more properly – and a diabolical one at that; tradition is nothing more or less than Catholic.) 

That said, think about what is being asserted in that final sentence:  

In the mainstream parishes, chanceries, and seminaries – noteworthy institutions and parts of the society that presently occupies the Vatican – the Faith is not to be found because, there, it is dead. 

While I have little doubt that this statement is meant to be taken as hyperbole, the point is accurate nonetheless; the Faith really is not to be found in many of the “mainstream” parts of the whole society that calls itself “the Catholic Church” today. 

With this in mind, it is a mystery to me how anyone with even a modicum of sensus Catholicus can possibly fail to conclude that this society cannot be what it claims to be.     

Even so, it seems that both Dr. Kwasniewski and the seminarian believe that the society presently headquartered in Rome under the headship of Jorge Bergoglio – as represented in the “mainstream parishes, chanceries, and seminaries” where the Faith is no longer alive – is, in fact, “the Church.” 

In light of this terrible misconception (essentially, proposition #1 as stated above), it perhaps comes as little surprise that the “solution” to the seminarian’s difficulty as envisioned by the professor in no way lends clarity to the situation; rather, it’s really little more than a mental exercise in make believe that only promises to further endanger the poor man’s faith. In essence, his advice amounts to suggesting: 

Imagine, if you will, that you are an embattled traditionalist soldier fighting the good fight from within as a minority member of a society that for more than 50 years has been laboring, and continues to labor, to crush tradition.   

Yes, I can hear the well-worn rejoinder now:

But, but… it’s not really ‘the society presently headquartered in Rome’ that is trying to crush tradition, but rather individual men, sinners, even among the leadership!

Sorry, but this is just a monumental copout. The society in question – known for good reason as the conciliar church – has as its most revered of texts the documents of the Second Vatican Council, an event that is numbered by said society to be among the most solemn exercises of the sacred magisterium. These error-ridden texts could hardly be more “official” insofar as this society is concerned, and they undeniably represent a frontal assault against tradition. 

Furthermore, the conciliar church has as the “ordinary form” of its liturgy, a man-centered rite that was crafted in a conference room with the help and approval of protestants who despise the very notion of Holy Sacrifice.

Fast forward to today: Amoris Laetitia, the “Catechism’s” condemnation of capital punishment, false canonizations… 

The list could go on and on, but presumably the point is well made; we’re not merely talking about legions of sinful men attacking tradition from within an otherwise morally and doctrinally pure society; rather, are we facing a false church that harbors a systemic loathing for tradition, engaged in a decades long assault against practically every aspect of the Holy Catholic faith.

With all that has been said in mind, it is clear to me that the first and necessary step in alleviating the anguish that is conveyed in the seminarian’s letter – a suffering shared in some form or another by many sincere persons who desire nothing more than to be Catholic – is very simple, even if the matter itself, in all of its messy detail, is not:

It is absolutely imperative for those who genuinely desire to live, and remain, in the light of the true Faith to come to grips with the fact that the faithless, corrupt society that presently occupies the Vatican and happily arrogates to itself the name “Catholic Church” is truly nothing of the kind; rather, it is precisely the sort of false church described in the Roman Catechism: 

A society guided by the spirit of the devil, sunk in the most pernicious errors, both doctrinal and moral.

Apart from this recognition, the torment of those who desire to be Catholic will only increase until, as the seminarian’s letter indicates, hope will be lost, with the abandonment of faith not far behind.

So, as it concerns “the Church,” who do you say that she is?