|CHAPTER I, Part 1
THE PROBLEM: IS IT THE SAME CHURCH?
Vatican 2 can be described as a turning point in the history of the Catholic Church. Prior to this event the Church considered herself a 'perfect society' in no need of change. Existing both now and in eternity, she called herself 'the Church of all times'. After the Council, she described herself as 'dynamic' and progressive'; a 'new Church', a 'Church of our times', claimed to be adapting herself and Christ's message to the conditions of the modern world.
But she sent out a mixed message. In the face of drastic modernization, she also claimed that 'nothing essential was changed' and that 'she was only returning to primitive practice'. While many accepted these assertions without thought, others found them self-contradictory. The net result was a confusion of loyalties which the subsequent twenty-five years has done little to alleviate.
Human reason tells us that Truth - assuming such a thing exists - cannot change. Catholics hold, by definition, that Jesus Christ is God, that He established a 'visible' Church which He promised would continue until the end of time, and that this Church is the Catholic Church They further hold - or should - that this Church preserves intact and teaches the truths and practices Christ revealed to it It is a matter of faith that only within this Church is to be found, the fullness of Christ's teaching, the Apostolic Succession, and the Sacraments or visible 'means of grace' He established. Throughout history there have been many who denied that the Catholic Church was the entity that Christ established - denied it on the grounds that she had added false doctrines invented by men; that she had distorted the original message (which amounts to the same thing), or that she failed to retain intact the original deposit. If she is guilty of such, she by definition departs from 'unity' with the original body - the 'One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.' If we are to call ourselves 'Catholic' - and our salvation depends upon it - then we must be sure that our beliefs and actions conform to what Christ and the Apostles initially taught. Putting it differently, if we would call ourselves Catholic we must be sure that we are in the Church which Christ founded, and that this Church has faithfully retained the original 'deposit of faith' given over to it by Christ and the Apostles.
No one disputes the fact that after Vatican 2, the Catholic Church was different. The fundamental question is whether the changes introduced were mere 'window dressing', or whether they involved fundamental points of doctrine and practice. If the latter is the case, one would be forced to conclude that the post-Conciliar Church (5) is no longer the same as its pre-Vatican 2 Counterpart. The problem can be posed on many levels - that of doctrine: whether she has retained intact the Revelation which Christ and the Apostles entrusted to her as a 'precious pearl'; whether or not her liturgy is valid in the same sense that it has always been considered such; whether or not her new Canon laws are consistent with those by which she governed herself throughout the ages; whether or not she has retained intact the Apostolic succession, and whether or not those who have sat in the chair of Peter since Vatican 2 speak with Peter's voice (authority). The answer to the query posed at the start of this chapter - WHETHER IT IS THE SAME CHURCH? - will by in large depend upon the answers given to these questions. In general, it can be stated that traditional Catholics claim it is not, while those who would accept and justify the changes introduced by Vatican 2 and the post-Conciliar 'popes' strongly argue that it is. This leads us to a series of secondary questions: did Christ intend that His Church should continuously adapt itself to changing circumstances? Are there certain areas where adaptation is legitimate, and others where it becomes a distortion of the original message? Are the changes introduced since Vatican 2 significant or are they just a matter of minor details? Do the Popes as Vicars of Christ on earth have the authority to make these changes? Is it possible that the Catholic Church, over the course of centuries, has deviated from the patterns established by her Founder to such a degree that it was incumbent upon her present leaders to bring her back to some original state of purity? This book will attempt to answer these questions.
Immediately we have a problem. Who is to speak for the Church?. People who claim the title of Catholic no longer constitute an intellectually coherent group of individuals. Catholics today can be roughly divided into 'traditional' and 'post-Conciliar' Catholics - though even here the lines are far from strict. And post-Conciliar or 'Novus Ordo' Catholics conform to a spectrum that ranges from 'conservative' to 'liberal' while traditional Catholics vary in how the view the recent 'popes' . The problem is that each of these groups claim to represent the 'true' Church and quote the documents of the Church in defense of their particular view. In an attempt to sort out the issues we shall quote only unequivocal sources of information. However there is this caveat: the pre-Conciliar sources are invariably unambiguous and to the point. The post-Conciliar documents are verbose, ambiguous, and can be quoted on both sides of any issue. Given this situation, selection is unavoidable. We shall attempt to be as just as possible.
The Catholic faith can be described as an interconnected series of 'facts', which taken in conjunction with one another, form a consistent body of teachings and practice. It is as hard to isolate any one aspect of 'the Faith' from the total content, as it is to determine where a spider's web originates. Yet one has to start somewhere: and so it is that we initiate this study with what is called the 'Magisterium' or the 'teaching authority' of the Church. For those who are unfamiliar with this concept, let it be stated at once that this 'teaching authority' follows as a logical consequence of Christ's establishing a 'visible' Church. In doing this, He established a hierarchical institution and intended that this entity - the 'Mystical Body of Christ' - be an extension of His presence on earth (Eph. V, 23). As such this Church, by her very nature, has the function and obligation of preserving intact and delivering to us the Message (teachings and inculcated practices) of Christ. 'Going therefore, teach ye all nations... teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you' (Matt. XXVIII,19-20). Those entrusted with this function of 'feeding His sheep... in His name' were given no authority to teach any other truth 'in His name' than that which He Himself established. Hence He also said: 'He that heareth you heareth me'(Luke X, 10). It further follows that, as the Apostle Paul put it: 'Even if an angel from heaven should teach you a gospel besides that which you have received, let him be anathema... for I give you to understand, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man; for neither did I receive it of man, nor did I learn it; but by the Revelation of Jesus Christ' (Gal. I, 6-12).
CHAPTER I, part 2
THE MAGISTERIUM OF THE CHURCH AND RELATED ISSUES
THE INFALLIBILITY OF THE MAGISTERIUM
As noted in Chapter I, the Church, by God's will, is a hierarchical institution. At its 'head' is the Pope, the vicar of Christ, the 'rock' on which the Church is founded. He is endowed with all the unique authority of Jesus Christ 'who is the shepherd and bishop of our souls' (1 Pet. 2:25), and depending upon Him, the pope is also - but vicariously - the shepherd and bishop of the whole flock, both of the other bishops and of the ordinary faithful (John 21:15-17) He is the evident and effectual sign of the presence of Christ in the world, and it is through him that Christ who is invisible in the bosom of the Father, visibly presides over all the activities of this enormous Body and brings it under His control. As Dom Grea has said, 'the pope is with Jesus Christ - a single hierarchical person - above the episcopate, one and the same head of the episcopate, one and the same head, one and the same doctor, pontiff and legislator of the universal Church.' Or more precisely, 'Jesus Christ Himself is the sole Head, rendered visible, speaking and acting in the Church through the instrument whom He provided for Himself. Christ proclaims Himself through His Vicar, He speaks through him, acts and governs through him.' When Christ speaks, acts, and governs through the pope, the pope is endowed with infallibility, a quality which derives, not from him as a private person, but from his being 'a single hierarchical person' with Christ13.
This conception is made clear by Pope St. Leo's third sermon on the anniversary of his own election where he paraphrases the words of Christ: 'I make known to thee thy excellence, for thou art Peter: that is, as I am the invulnerable rock, the cornerstone, who make both one, I the foundation beside which there can be laid no other; so thou too art a rock, in my strength made hard, and I share with thee the powers which are proper to me. And upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it...' (Office of St. Peter's Chair at Antioch, Feb. 22.)
The pope is also a private person (an ordinary human being) and a private theologian (doctor). It is however, only when he functions as 'a single hierarchical person' with Christ that he is endowed with infallibility (or partakes of the Church's, i.e., Christ's infallibility.) It is only then that Christ's Scriptural statement 'he who hears you, hears me' applies. And it follows logically that his authority is extended through those bishops who 'are in union with him' in governing the flock. The bishops have no independent authority apart from him for the simple reason that he has no independent authority apart from Christ. Thus it is that he is called the 'Bishop of bishops', and that he 'confirms' them in their doctrine - not the other way around. Thus it is that no statement of an Ecumenical Council has any authority until it receives his approbation.
The pope then has an almost limitless authority. He can however loose this authority in a variety of ways. He can lose it when he dies (physical death), if he loses his reason (madness), if he separates himself from the Church (schism), or when he loses his faith (heresy and therefore spiritual death). At such a point the pope is no longer pope because it is the very nature of this bishop's function and ministry to be the Vicar of Christ and nothing else14.
The pope's authority is almost unlimited - however, it is not absolute. He has full powers within his charge, but his powers are limited by his charge. In order fully to understand this doctrinal point, let us once again recall the nature of this charge.
The ecclesiastical hierarchy was instituted by God to teach, that is to say, to transmit the deposit of the faith. At the head of this teaching Church Christ appointed a Vicar to whom He gave full powers to 'feed the faithful and the shepherds' (John 21:11-17). Consequently, it is within the bounds of this function, the transmission of the deposit of the faith, that the Pope has 'full powers'. He has these precisely to enable him to transmit the deposit of the faith - in its entirety - 'in the same meaning and the same sense' (Denzinger 1800). 'For', as Vatican I clearly taught, 'the Holy Spirit has not been promised to Peter's successors in order that they might reveal, under His inspiration, new doctrine, but in order that, with His help, they may carefully guard and faithfully expound the revelation as it was handed down by the Apostles, that is to say, the deposit of the faith' (Pastor Aeternus, Ds. 1836).
Hence it follows that the Pope can and must make all his determinations entirely within the bounds of orthodoxy, and this is true whether they concern the reformation of the Liturgy, of Canon Law, or to use the phraseology of earlier Councils, the reformation of the clergy 'in its head or in its members.' The Pope may indeed abrogate all the decisions of his predecessors, even those deserving of special mention, but always and only within the limits of orthodoxy. As The Catholic Encyclopedia (1908) states: 'the scope of this infallibility is to preserve the deposit of faith revealed to man by Christ and His Apostles.' It goes without saying that under such circumstances, any changes introduced would affect only matters that are mutable and never the faith itself. A Pope who presumed to abrogate the smallest iota of dogma, or even attempted to change the meaning of the Church's constant teaching, would step outside the bounds of orthodoxy and outside the limits of his function of preserving the deposit of the faith. He would in doing so, teach a new doctrine and a 'new gospel', and as such would be subject to the anathema pronounced by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians (1:8-9).
It is then clear that the infallibility of the Magisterium or 'teaching authority of the Church' derives from the Pope functioning as one hierarchical person with Christ. Thus the source of this infallibility is Christ, and indeed, it could be not be otherwise. For the Church to claim infallibility on any other grounds would be absurd. And just as there is only one source, so also there is only one Magisterium. When the Pope uses his infallibility - be it by solemn proclamation or within the bounds of the ordinary magisterium, he partakes, not of some personal, but of Christ's infallibility. As the official text puts it, 'when he speaks ex cathedra... he has the same infallibility as that with which the divine Redeemer invested His Church when it is defining a doctrine concerning faith or morals; and that therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, irreformable'. (Ds. 183915)
13 Dom Grea, The Church and its Divine Constitution, quoted from Forts dans La Foi, edited by Father Noel Barbara. The term 'episcopate' refers to the body of bishops. Strictly speaking one cannot speak of a 'bad pope'. Being the instrument of Christ, a pope as such is necessarily 'good'. Such adjectives as applied to popes relate to the state of their soul and not to their function. A sinner, just like anyone else, the pope, even when he functions as Christ's minister, can be, as a human being, in a state of grace or one of mortal sin. It is a teaching of elementary theology that the state of a minister's soul has no influence or effect on his ministry, because this effect comes totally and exclusively from Christ who is its source. Thus it is that whenever a pope is functioning in his office of pope, it is Christ who speaks, who acts, and who governs through him. There is never any justification for a member of the believing Church to disobey a valid pope when it is Christ who speaks, acts and governs through him. And just as one cannot speak of a 'bad pope', so also one cannot speak of a 'heretical Pope', of one who is only 'materially' pope, or of one who is only 'juridically' a pope. Assuming a valid election, assuming that the individual is a member of the 'believing Church', either a man is, or he is not, a pope. He can never be 'half a pope'.
14 Strictly speaking one cannot speak of a 'bad pope'. Being the instrument of Christ, a pope as such is necessarily 'good'. Such adjectives as applied to popes relate to the state of their soul and not to their function. A sinner, just like anyone else, the pope, even when he functions as Christ's minister, can be, as a human being, in a state of grace or one of mortal sin. It is a teaching of elementary theology that the state of a minister's soul has no influence or effect on his ministry, because this effect comes totally and exclusively from Christ who is its source. Thus it is that whenever a pope is functioning in his office of pope, it is Christ who speaks, who acts, and who governs through him. There is never any justification for a member of the believing Church to disobey a valid pope when it is Christ who speaks, acts and governs through him. And just as one cannot speak of a 'bad pope', so also one cannot speak of a 'heretical Pope', of one who is only 'materially' pope, or of one who is only 'juridically' a pope. Assuming a valid election, assuming that the individual is a member of the 'believing Church', either a man is, or he is not, a pope. He can never be 'half a pope'.
15 Ds stands for Denzinger, op. cit.
CHAPTER II, Part 1
THE MAGISTERIUM OF THE CHURCH AND RELATED ISSUES
Before embarking on a study of the Magisterium we should pause for a moment lest the present confusion within the Catholic Church tempt us to an attitude of despair. The present confusions have their purpose, even though we with our limited outlook cannot always understand.
As St. Paul explains: 'To them that love God all things work together unto good' (Rom. 8:28) and St. Augustine adds 'etiam peccata, even sins.' In the same sense, in the Exultet, on Holy Saturday, the Church sings: Felix culpa,quae talem ac tantum meruit Redemptorem: 'O happy fault (of our fist parents), that merited so great a Redeemer.' As Augustine says: 'God in His wisdom has deemed it better that good should come out of evil than that evil should never have been.' God has the power and wisdom to turn to His own glory the evil which He permits on earth. Angels and saints can take only joy from the divine wisdom which rules the world so wonderfully(1).
Holy Mother Church, like the loving mother she is, has provided us with the necessary guidelines on how to think and behave in the present circumstances. These are provided for us in what is called her teaching Magisterium. The present essay is dedicated to an understanding of the nature and purpose of the Authentic Magisterium of the Catholic Church (2)
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The Church, which is the 'Body of Christ,' is as it were the presence of Christ in the World.(3) Now Christ combined in Himself and bestowed on His Apostles whom He 'sent forth' the three qualities of Teacher (Prophet), Ruler and Priest - symbolized in his Vicar by the triple crown or papal tiara.
With regard to this Christ told us that 'He who believed in Him would know the truth which gives true liberty (John VIII, 31-31) but he who did not would be condemned' (Matt. X.33; Mark XVI.16) He allowed Himself to be called the Master and even stressed that He was the true Master who not only taught the truth, but was the Truth.(Matt. VIII,19; John III, 17 and Matt. XXIII, 8-10). Now he communicated these truths to his Apostles and sent them forth to teach in His name, telling them that 'just as my Father sent me, so also I send you...,' telling them: 'He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects your words, rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects the Father who sent me' (Matt. X, 40 and Luke X, 16). And so we see that the Apostles were given the charge of continuing Christ's mission as infallible Master. Moreover Christ demanded an absolute obedience to this teaching function - for he who does not believe will be condemned. Of course, He also specified that it must be His teaching and not some other person's teaching - not even the teaching of an angel from heaven if it departed from His teaching. He further promised that 'the Spirit of Truth would always be with them,' provided they accepted this Spirit, and again, He left them free to reject this Spirit or accept some other spirit if they so willed - but then of course they would no longer be participating in His charisms and would loose their infallibility. As He said, 'therefore go ye into all nation and teach them to safeguard all that I have taught you. And I will be with you till the end of the world' (Matt. XII, 18-20).
Perhaps the most important error abroad today relates to the teaching authority of the Church; specifically to the idea that the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church is not infallible. Lest there be doubt about this, let us listen to Pope Leo XIII: 'Wherefore, as appears from what has been said, Christ instituted in the Church a living authoritative and permanent Magisterium, which by His own power He strengthened, by the Spirit of truth He taught, and by miracles confirmed. He willed and ordered, under the gravest penalties, that its teachings should be received as if they were His own. As often therefore, as it is declared on the authority of this teaching that this or that is contained in the deposit of divine revelation, it must be believed by everyone as true. If it could in any way be false, an evident contradiction follows: for then God Himself would be the author of error in man. The Fathers of the Vatican Council (I) laid down nothing new, but followed divine revelation and the acknowledged and invariable teaching of the Church as to the very nature of faith, when they decreed as follows: 'All those things are to be believed by divine and Catholic faith which are contained in the written or unwritten word of God, and which are proposed by the Church as divinely revealed, either by a solemn definition or in the exercise of the ordinary and universal Magisterium.' ('Satis Cognitum').
Because the Magisterium provides us with the only solid objective criteria by which we may judgewhat is true and false, it is important that we examine its nature in greater detail. 'The Catholic Dictionary' defines the Magisterium as: 'The Church's divinely appointed authority to teach the truths of religion. 'Going therefore teach ye all nations... teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you' (Matt. XXVIII, 19-20). This teaching, being Christ's, is infallible...' (4).
This Magisterium or 'teaching authority of the Church', exists in two different modes. It is termed 'SOLEMN' or 'EXTRAORDINARY' when it derives from the formal and authentic definitions of a General council, or of the Pope himself: that is to say, dogmatic definitions of the Ecumenical councils, or of the Pope's teaching ex cathedra (see below for an explanation of this term). Such truths are de fide divina et Catholica which means that every Catholic must believe them with divine and Catholic Faith.(5)
Included under the category of solemn are 'symbols or professions of the faith', such as the Apostles' Creed, the Tridentine or Pianine Profession and the Oath against Modernism required by Pius X since 1910 (and no longer required by the post-Conciliar Church)(6). Finally included in this category are 'theological censures' or those statements that qualify and condemn propositions as heretical (7).
It is termed 'ORDINARY AND UNIVERSAL' when it manifests itself as those truths which are expressedthrough the daily continuous preaching of the Church and refers to the universal practices of the Church connected with faith and morals as manifested in the 'unanimous consent of the Fathers, the decisions of the Roman Congregations concerning faith and morals, in the consensus of the faithful, in the universal custom or practice associated with dogma (which certainly includes the Roman liturgy or traditional Mass), and in the various historical documents in which the faith is declared.' Included in this category are papal Encyclicals(8). It is termed 'Pontifical' if the source is the Pope, and 'universal' if it derives from the Bishops in union with him(9)Such truths, as Vatican I teaches, are also de fide divina et Catholica. (10)
It is termed 'living' because, being true, it exists and exerts its influence, not only in the past, but in the present and future. As Vatican I explains, it is infallible: 'All those things are to be believed with divine and Catholic faith, which are contained in the word of God, written or handed down, [i.e., Scripture or Tradition], and which the Church, either by a solemn judgment, or by her ordinary and universal magisterium, proposes for belief as having been divinely revealed'(Vatican I, Session III).
This statement is important because there are many theologians who proclaim that the teachings of the Ordinary Magisterium are not binding. Some attempt to mitigate the authority of the ordinary magisterium by claiming that it can at times contain error(11). Others claim on their own authority that 'only those doctrines in the ordinary and universal Magisterium that have been taught everywhere and always are covered by the guarantee of infallibility(12). Still othersattack this teaching by limiting the contents of the Ordinary Magisterium - removing from it anything not couched in absolutist or solemn terminology. Finally there are those who claim that the magisterium can change - that it can teach differently today than in the past because doctrine and truth evolve. Before dealing with these secondary errors, it is necessary to understand why the Magisterium is infallible.