Joined: Tue May 16, 2006 2:30 pm
A Note for Confused Catholics - The Hierarchy
A Note for Confused Catholics - The Hierarchy
It seems that few want to consult the books, ponder what they say, and hold fast to sound doctrine. Instead, many appear content to think through things themselves without the guidance of the approved authors, or worse in one way, they presume that certain men who pepper their works with footnotes have read the books that they cite, and pondered what those books say, and consequently present sound doctrine. A warning to the latter class of Catholics: Don't believe charlatans; instead, get hold of the texts, read them yourselves, and recognise crooks when you see them.
This note is aimed at one particular sophism currently being promoted heavily by the latest fashionable fakes, and which seems to have taken in some considerable number of unsuspecting Catholics.
I won't cite any references at all for my claims here, I will merely state what the Church teaches and point you to where you can learn about it yourself - in the approved apologetics and dogmatic theology manuals. That way, you will be forced to do some of your own reading, and the charlatans won't be able to make their usual dishonest and abusive claims. They will have to deal with people who themselves have looked at the books, and will see what rascals they are. This will be good for the rascals as well as for their intended victims.
The external facts of the Catholic Church, such as her unity in the profession of faith, her unity in worship, her unity in social charity, and her marvelous – indeed miraculous – history, are employed in two distinct ways by theologians.
The first of these ways is to take some of these externally verifiable facts as proofs of the Church's divine origin and claims. This is an apologetic method. It relies upon reason, and concludes by leaving the reader on the cusp of faith. It also aids those who already have the faith to grow in faith and love of the Church.
The second way of employing the external facts of the Church is by way of expressing or explaining divine revelation as it relates to the Church. This is the method of dogmatic theology. This way begins not with those facts as facts, but with the data of divine revelation, which informs us infallibly of the nature and characteristics of the Church, and proceeds to demonstrate that this Church as described by revelation must necessarily always exist, and indeed does exist. It concludes - although this is not essential to its purpose - by showing that the actually existing Catholic Church today is the Church established by Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The first method, the apologetic one, is replete with arguments that can no longer be made with any cogency. The Vatican Council of 1870 declared that the Church, by reason of her manifestly miraculous propagation, unconquerable stability, and perpetual fruitfulness, is a proof of her own divine origin. (Look it up, don’t believe me.) The factual data during this present period of darkness are such that these points cannot now credibly be put forth as proofs. This approach to apologetics is therefore unavailable to Catholics for the duration of the crisis. But of course, once the crisis is over, the Church's resurrection will be a new proof of her divine origin, a great compensation! Understanding the situation also aids us to understand why the flood of conversions prior to Vatican II dried up so dramatically afterwards, and also why so many scandalised souls lost their faith and left the Church in the same period. The imposition of the New Church, eclipsing and at the same time posing as the true Church, rendered the true Church discreditable in the eyes of many.
The second method simply tells us what the Church is, and what she remains. She is a unity, objectively visible, of those who outwardly profess the same faith, remain in peaceful communion with each other by sharing in the same sacrifice and sacraments, and are subject to the hierarchy. Unlike the apologetic argument, these truths cannot and never will be lacking in force. They are matters of sacred doctrine – ultimately of divine revelation.
The relevance of this distinction to current controversies is threefold.
First, the dogmatic theology related to the Church, giving us a clear understanding of the nature of the Church, enables us to test the claims of various theorists about where she is, and where she isn't. Obviously, any theory which pretends that the Church consists of a disunited assembly (if that's not an oxymoron) of men who profess any "faith" they like, worship in entirely incompatible ways (so much so that traditionalists will not assist at New Masses, and Novus Ordoites will not assist at Tridentine Masses), and obey completely different laws (traditionalists go to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days - not, for example, only on Saturday night - don't eat meat on Fridays, and fast in Lent; Novus Ordoites obey no real laws at all - they merely bumble along) is a false theory. Those who promote this theory generally refuse to state it in clear terms, and instead spend their time attacking people who point to the facts and suggest solutions. The elephant in the living room is that the current state of the Church poses serious theological problems. Anybody who doesn’t recognize this frankly and fearlessly has no role to play. He cannot aid others, for he himself is living in a fantasy world.
Second, dogmatic theology itself constitutes what we believe about the Church, entirely separately from any question of factual observation. That is, we believe that the Church is infallible, indefectible, hierarchical, holy, visibly united, etc. Even if, because of the crisis and the darkness it has caused, many cannot at present verify these truths in the concrete, the faith remains, and we believe. We believe, for example, that the Church retains her hierarchy. It is a sign of the utter lack of clarity of thought that those who seek to disprove the sedevacantist thesis imagine that by demanding that we name the remaining members of the hierarchy they strike a blow for the claims of the Modernists. This approach only shows that they have not understood the logical landscape. We don’t believe that the Church has a hierarchy because we have read about Bishop Athanasius Schneider, for example, but rather, we think that Bishop Schneider is probably truly a member of the hierarchy that must always exist. If it turns out that actually, Bishop Schneider isn’t a Successor of the Apostles, then the situation has not changed one iota, in dogmatic and logical terms. It should not need to be added, but in this era perhaps nothing can be taken as so obvious that it can safely remain unsaid, that it is one thing to say that I believe what the Church teaches even if I cannot verify it in the concrete at present, and it is another thing entirely to deny manifest facts on the ground that they do not fit my theory. The latter is what the neo-Catholics, and all such fantasists, actually do. The sedevacantist believes in the hierarchy just all traditionalists believe in the infallibility of the Church. Most of them cannot say exactly how it’s verified, they just know – because faith tells them so – that it is indeed verified. But what nobody can believe, whilst retaining his sanity, is that Francis and the bulk of the bishops are carefully guarding the deposit of faith.
Third, the apologetic argument sheds a great deal of light on the current crisis, precisely by its inapplicability to the current facts, at least as those facts are viewed by non-sedevacantists. The great scandal of the New Church is the reason so many have lost the faith, as already stated, but it is also a confronting reality that forces one to take seriously the more profound analyses of the crisis, and to humble oneself before the permissive will of Providence. This is a tremendously healthy thing.
Archbishop Lefebvre, in his last words for publication before he died, referred to the prophecy of La Salette - the Church will be eclipsed. His true students take that notion seriously. An eclipse is the imposition of a foreign body in front of another. The New Church eclipses the true Church. This is a masterstroke of Satan, designed to scandalise souls and strip them of faith. Those who spend their time and energy in attempts to bend the doctrine of the Church so as to make it fit the New Church are aiding in this deception. The intrinsic immorality of their object would explain the thoroughly immoral means they employ in executing it.
In Christ our King.