Gate of Heaven

If the Justice of God is as easy of appeasement as Catholic Liberals make it, why was the price of man’s Redemption so high? It required the laying down of the life of the Son of God to pay for it. Jesus Christ became Man, suffered, and died, to satisfy His Father for the sin of Adam’s disobedience.

It is beyond man’s power to realize the tremendousness of the cost of his Redemption. Trillions of dollars, or all the wealth of the world, could not approximate it. The very life of God, as we have said, in the nature He took from Mary, was needed to redeem us from one sin, in which we all had a part.

How Catholics today, in the light of this almost unrealizable fact, dare to teach that practically anyone can be saved, in any way he chooses to think out for himself, apart from the stern precepts of Christ, our Redeemer, we do not know. We have had two years at St. Benedict Center in which to think over the enormity of this presumption on the part of Liberal Catholics, and it scares us more today than on the day it first officially was brought home to us, in the headlines of a newspaper, when we found ourselves interdicted for saying salvation could be found only in the one true Church of Jesus Christ.

The teaching of Liberal Catholics with regard to salvation, we have now come to see, can have but one explanation: these Catholics have, whether they realize it or not, lost their Faith. The Book of Wisdom teaches that when man has lost his Faith, he loses with it his fear of God; and a terrible presumption comes to take the place of his fear.

It is of such presumption we have become most aware in Catholic writing since the Boston Heresy Case brought out the heretical ideas which have been under the surface of Liberal Catholic thought for over a hundred and fifty years. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the end of wisdom is the end of fear of the Lord. A Catholic loses everything when he has lost his Faith. He becomes like a blind fool, rushing in where angels veil their faces. And lessons a child could see are — because of his perverse blindness — lost to him.

Surely the more than extraordinary cost of our Redemption should teach us that it is manifestly a monstrous thing for man to set his mind against the Will of his Creator. And that it is difficult, and not easy, to get into heaven.

Archbishop Cushing said recently: “I don’t like all this talk about a narrow road. Most people, as I find them, are good. If I don’t see you in heaven when I get there, I’ll know it’s because you haven’t died yet.”

This statement shocked even us, who have long grown used to the appalling lack of orthodoxy of our Archbishop. This avowal is in complete opposition to the teaching of Jesus Christ. Our Lord told us:

Matthew 7;13: Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction: and many there are who go in thereat.

14: How narrow is the gate and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it!

The remainder of this discourse of Our Lord in the seventh chapter of St. Matthew is of great significance also, since in it Jesus makes the people responsible for knowing whom to follow. He gives them rules by which they are to be guided.

Matthew 7;15: Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

I know it is hard to see a ravening wolf in an outwardly kindly face, but it is our obligation to do so, or else be swallowed up. Arius was a very kindly priest. He was handsome, and he had most pleasing manners. He wrote popular songs, and won thousands of admirers in one way or another. But he deceived three-quarters of the Catholic world, patriarchs, bishops, priests and people, and led them into the Arian heresy.

Matthew 7;18: A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit: neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit.

19: Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down and shall be cast into the fire.

20: Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them.

In our day of Red Cross propaganda, Community Chest campaigns, Red Feather drives, it is difficult not to count as good fruit the collecting of huge sums of money by our Bishops, and the building by them of hospitals and homes. These are not, however, the fruits Jesus spoke of when He called His first Bishops:

Come ye after me, and I will make you to be fishers of men.

Jesus is hungry for souls, not for hospitals. There are many hospitals, but only one Church. It does not require an Archbishop to build a hospital, but it does require an Archbishop to preserve the Church. The Church began without money; it could get along without money. The monks of the West built Christendom, after the fall of the Roman Empire, out of evangelical poverty. They gave up their money in order to do it. The only destitution that is absolutely tragic is the destitution of a world without the Faith. The good fruit by which a bishop is, in the end, known, is the quality of the Faith in his diocese.

A large turn-out of people for Church services, an intensive building program, a succession of pilgrimages, do not necessarily indicate a high quality of faith. All these things were present at the beginning of every period of decline in the Church. Godfrey Kurth writes of the Church just a few years before the catastrophe of the papal exile at Avignon:

The First Jubilee was celebrated in Rome, in 1300, whilst Boniface VIII occupied the chair of Peter. During the course of that year, the Pope, from the windows of his palace, saw the Christian world pass before him, going to the tombs of the Apostles in order to gain the indulgences of the Jubilee. The Eternal City then presented an incredible spectacle: — there were never fewer than two hundred thousand visitors, a truly astounding number if we consider the primitive modes of travel of those days. An eye witness has described for us, in immortal verse, these vast throngs crossing the bridge of St. Angelo on their way to and from the Vatican; those going held the right, those coming back the left, as is done at the present day on the bridges of the large German cities. Certainly in this year of boundless enthusiasm, when the Pope almost seemed to be more than a mere man and saw the whole of mankind at his feet, he needed an act of profound humility to resist the suggestions of such high fortune. . . .

And indeed, thus passed the glory of this world for Boniface VIII. Before his death, this old man, at the age of seventy-seven, had to assist at the catastrophe which threatened to engulf the incomparable destinies of the Papacy. Two years after the triumph of the great Jubilee, the mercenaries of the Most Christian King seized the Vicar of Christ in his own palace, and the nation which called herself the eldest daughter of the Church attempted to crush the Roman See. The Pope, when on the brink of the grave, overwhelmed with sorrow and humiliation, knew that a dreadful revolution was consummated, or at least that its principle had been triumphantly affirmed, and that, for centuries to come, the rule of human society had been wrested from the Vicar of Jesus Christ.

Pope Pius XII last year looked out upon the Jubilee of the Holy Year of 1950. Many more hundreds of thousands pilgrimaged to the feet of Pope Pius XII, because of modern modes of travel, than set out across Europe on foot to Pope Boniface VIII, in 1300.

Pope Pius XII is facing, however, just such a critical time, as did Pope Boniface VIII. In neither situation, Pope Boniface’s or Pope Pius’, was it the danger from without which brought on the catastrophe. France (the eldest daughter of the Church), under Philip the Fair, and Russia in our own day, under Stalin, both could have been overcome were the Church strong from within. But the glitter of liturgical performance is often mistaken for genuine fervor. The form has been known to remain after the matter is spent. A rosy red apple seldom warns of the worms within.

Father Feeney once in a poem said of liturgy without dogma:

And, by the way,
Speaking of how to pray,
Dogmas come first, not liturgies.

Pope Boniface VIII met his crisis with all the glorious power, the holy wrath, the uncompromising courage of St. Peter’s successor. Before they murdered his body, the sword of his spirit flashed, and the divinely guided flame of it scorched and burned the evil heresy of his time.

The weapon which Pope Boniface VIII used in order to combat the foes of the Church is the most solemn and mighty force in the world. It is a weapon we pray Pope Pius XII will see fit to make use of in our tragic crisis. This weapon, this arresting force, is the word of God. With his back to the wall, fighting for the Church and his own life, Boniface VIII hurled at his enemies and the whole world the infallible definition, the magnificent exposition, the clear and unmistakable statement of pure Catholic doctrine contained in the bull, Unam Sanctam.

“Urged by faith,” Pope Boniface stated in the Unam Sanctam, “We are obliged to believe and to hold that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and also apostolic. We firmly believe in her, and We confess absolutely that outside of her there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins. . . . “

And then, to let the world know he was defining ex cathedra and that what he was declaring had always been a part of the Deposit of Faith — that is, had been taught by Jesus through the Apostles and been part of the Tradition of the Church — the Pope went on:

Furthermore, We declare, say, define and pronounce, that it is wholly necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.

It was after the release of this definition that the enemies of the Church decided once and for all to get rid of Pope Boniface VIII. They trapped him in a little Italian town, Anagni, as he was without defense. Seeing them coming, the venerable old Pope put on all his papal vestments and awaited them, holding in his hands the keys of St. Peter.

Five days later Pope Boniface VIII was dead. But the Church was safe. Dante, in the Purgatorio, writes of Pope Boniface VIII:

I see the fleurs de 1is enter Anagni, I see Christ imprisoned in His Vicar, I see Him again given over to derision, I see Him again drenched with vinegar and gall, and crucified between new thieves.

It is a dangerous thing to say there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, nor without personal submission to the Pope, nor without devotion and love for the Mother of God, but death is a sweet price for such a cause, and the servant is not above the Master.

In the beginning of the sixteenth century, just before the Church entered upon the greatest struggle of all (against Protestantism) there was no hint that the Faith was ready to be lost in wholesale fashion. Great numbers of churches were being erected, and richly adorned with art. Thousands upon thousands of pilgrims set out for the holy places; and gorgeous processions were seen in the streets of all the great cities of Europe. The splendor of the pomp and ceremony surrounding the Cardinals and Archbishops, as they took part in these processions, or even as they travelled with their retinues from place to place, bespoke a flourishing Church, popular, destined to go on so forever. However, as in our day, all this did not bespeak a holy hierarchy.

The Princes were great collectors of relics which the people, in large numbers, journeyed to venerate. Indulgences were prized, not something sheepishly acknowledged. I have always remembered Father Feeney’s reply, at St. Benedict Center, to a Harvard student’s accusation: “But the Church sold indulgences!”

“Yes,” Father said, “indulgences were sold, but that was at a time when people believed in indulgences, and felt that spiritual benefits were more valuable than material ones; indeed, they were willing to sacrifice money for the sake of spiritual values. Before I go on to being scandalized — which I am — at indulgences being sold, I want you, first, to be scandalized at the fact that no one could sell an indulgence to anyone now, if he wanted to, because there is no longer any Faith.”

There were more books in the world than ever before, in the beginning of the sixteenth century. The printing press had then been invented but fifty years. Editions of the Bible came off the new presses, translated into the various European languages.

The people loved to listen to sermons, and there were famous preachers to be had, whose eloquence moved the crowds. It was the day, too, of famous scholars. Rich merchants spent their money in the founding of schools and libraries. As the crown of his eminence, when a prince or an archbishop became rich and influential enough, he built a university, or added a college to an already well-known university. Cardinal Wolsey had a college at Oxford; Luther was the most popular professor in Frederick the Wise’s new university, Wittenberg. Frederick was so proud of his university that he supported Luther as much out of loyalty to it as because he followed Luther’s doctrine, at least in the beginning.

In spite of all these signs and conditions, scarcely twenty-five years after the opening of the century, the same people who flocked to services, made novenas, and venerated relics, left the Church — apostatized — in droves. They joined their bishops and priests, their princes and kings, in pillaging the churches, burning relics, confiscating monasteries. They fattened and grew wealthy on the possessions of the Church, and they martyred the good priests who were left, at their altars.

It will be wondered how such a complete reversal could take place, almost over night. But actually it did not happen almost over night. It had been a long time coming, and all the pomp and circumstance, all the outward show were but the brilliant trappings on a diseased and wounded body. That which would have preserved the vitality of the body had gone. It had been fed on sweets, and denied bread. The Church was satiated with liturgy, starved for doctrine.

There had been no strong doctrinal teaching for many years, before the Protestant Reformation. Superstition and ignorance had taken the place of knowledge, such as was to be had in the days of St. Thomas Aquinas. Novenas, pilgrimages, superficial devotions can have a basis of superstition not possible when the Faith is on a good dogmatic foundation, and dogma had been scandalously neglected by the Renaissance Popes.

It is dogma which preserves the vitality of the Faith; dogma which is its staff of life. Every dogma must be kept faithfully. The loss of one means the loss of all. The Faith was all but mortally wounded, at the time of Luther. The Faith of Christendom, the Catholic Faith, was stricken, and all Europe with it, and the world is suffering now from this blight, which is still upon it.

I write in the middle of the twentieth century, over four hundred years after the Protestant revolution. It truly frightens me, as I sit here in St. Benedict Center, punished by our Archbishop for devotion to dogma, to see all around me the same conditions which prevailed before the catastrophe of Luther. There is the same outpouring of apparently devout Catholics as at that time, the same devotion without dogma, the same blind following of worldly men. And the same dying Faith.

Boston is called a “Catholic city.” Certainly, superficially viewed, it presents such a picture. Fifty thousand men march at dusk into Braves Field, a baseball stadium, in Boston, Massachusetts. They hold lighted candles in their hands, and recite the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a beautiful sight, as the darkness deepens.

Mechanics Building, on Huntington Avenue in Boston, an ugly, massive monstrosity, used in its long utilitarian history for anything and everything — a boxing match, a lumberman’s exposition, a sports meet, a flower show — becomes the setting, under ecclesiastical arrangement, for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, with special liturgical emphasis. The Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation are administered there.

Then, outgrowing even Mechanics Building, we move on, not to our great cathedral, but to the Boston Garden, of new and more fabulous proportions, and Caesar-like setting. Hollywood comes to us there, at the invitation of our Archbishop, and Broadway, too. Vast sums of money are made by him, in the Boston Garden, for charity, which we are told will be used for the care of men’s bodies. The charity which feeds men’s souls, and which can be dispensed inexpensively from a pulpit or a highway and a byway, seems not to lend itself to publicity, and, besides, would not be savored by heretics and infidels, whom we must in no way disturb, not even to give them eternal salvation.

We have had processions in the streets of Boston, too, only we called them parades. It took over nine hours for the pageantry of one such parade to pass the reviewing stands. Our Archbishop joined the marchers several times, and the newspapers were full of pictures of his colorful figure, in its beautiful robes, his subjects kneeling before him in the streets to kiss his ring and receive his blessing. His auxiliary Bishop was beside him, with a look in his eyes not unlike that of ambitious young bishops in the retinues of high churchmen in the early sixteenth century.

In the light of Pope Boniface’s experience and that of the sixteenth century world, it does not surprise us to know that it was out of all this Catholic activity, all this outward show of a flourishing Church, that there was made evident, one day, the same unmistakable symptom of the same deadly disease within the body of the Church as had caused the disaster of the Reformation. The root of the disease was exactly the same: negligence and ignorance of dogma.

The most basic doctrines of the Catholic Church on salvation were denied by the Rev. William L. Keleher, S. J., President of Boston College. He made this denial when he explained to the Boston newspapers why he had fired three members of the College faculty for holding and teaching the doctrines. Archbishop Richard J. Cushing and Bishop John J. Wright, his auxiliary, supported the denial (which immediately received world-wide publicity) by refusing to affirm the doctrines, by keeping silent on the subject of them, and by silencing Father Leonard Feeney and interdicting St. Benedict Center, the Catholics who held the doctrines and taught them.

The weak condition of the Church in Boston, in spite of the religious display which surrounds it, was revealed in the handling of the Boston Heresy Case. The defined doctrines denied in this

“controversy” (why there should be a controversy about doctrines held for centuries without question, and defined many times in the settlement of other questions, we never have been able to understand) were, as millions now know: there is no salvation outside the one true Church of Jesus Christ nor without personal submission to the Pope; nor without love and devotion to the Mother of God.

Matthew 7;17: Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; and the evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

20: Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them.

“Outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation,” is not only a dogma many times defined, as we saw in Chapter I, but it is, as we have said, one of the most basic of all doctrines. To teach the opposite would lead eventually to the denial of every single dogma of the Faith. St. Augustine says, and the history of the Church proves, that to deny one doctrine, is to deny all. And such denial on the part of a bishop can in no way be considered anything but the most evil of evil fruits.

Denial of dogma is, in fact, heresy, and one denies dogma just as much by not defending it and not affirming it when it is questioned, as by outright repudiation.

Our Lord tells us, in the seventh chapter of St. Matthew, what He will say and do to a servant whose works (or fruits) are evil. Furthermore, He places responsibility on us for recognizing such a servant. Otherwise, we will merit the same punishment. Our Lord says:

Matthew 7;21: Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.

22: Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name and cast out devils in thy name and done many miracles in thy name?

23: And then I will profess unto them: I never knew you. Depart from me, you that work iniquity.

24: Every one therefore that heareth these my words and doth them shall be likened to a wise man that built his house upon a rock.

25: And the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and they beat upon the house, and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock.

26: And every one that heareth these my words and doth them not shall be like a foolish man that built his house upon the sand.

27: And the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew: and they beat upon the house. And it fell: and great was the fall thereof.

28: And it came to pass when Jesus had fully ended these words, the people were in admiration of his doctrine.

Hospitals and homes and buildings, pomp and popularity, fall before the floods, the winds, and the rain. They can be built up again, and nothing very much has been lost or gained. Building projects have come and gone since Adam, our common father, one dark day found himself in need of shelter. Another ancestor, Noah, outlived our life-span nine times, with never, as far as we know, the benefits of hospitalization. The rock upon which the wise man built, in St. Matthew’s Gospel, foundationed no temporal abode. The wise man built for his eternal home — upon the rock of Peter, the Catholic Church.

Building achievements do not determine the stature of a bishop. One bishop, Pope St. Celestine, neither possessed anything nor built anything. He ran away from his simple apartment in the Vatican, back to his solitary cell. He was unpopular. Dante was so angry with him for running away from the Papacy, depriving the Church of a saintly Pope, that he placed him in the Inferno. (It must be said for Dante that he did not take his work half so seriously as do his admirers of our day. Pope Celestine was canonized during the lifetime of Dante, and the poet, a true Catholic, knew Pope Celestine then infallibly to be in heaven. Yet he did not turn around and put him in heaven in the Divine Comedy. He left him in hell, where he is not.)

A good or bad bishop is known, not by his building program or the amount of money he has in the bank as a “corporation sole,” with the power to command those below him to surrender funds to him under pain of canonical disobedience. He is not known even by personal popularity. A good bishop is known by whether or not he has kept the Faith, for himself and for his subjects.

And the Catholic Faith is preserved by literal adherence to its doctrines, not by compromise of them.

“Regardless of race, color, or CREED,” the popular slogan, is the exact opposite of the defined doctrine, “Outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation.” Father Feeney has carefully explained on Boston Common on many Sunday afternoons: “The priest’s greatest gift to his children is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, which he holds in his hand under the appearance of bread. Any race and any color may receive this gift, and it is the same Christ in every Communion. Once you have the Holy Eucharist in your hand as a priest you need no longer think of race and color. But if you do not think of creed when you have this Bread in your hand, it will be useless to call it the Bread of Life.”

Narrow is the gate, and strait is the way. And the people are as responsible as their leaders. They have their Faith and its Sacraments, and therefore light by which their eyes may see and their ears hear and they may know when they are being led astray, and other than the truth is being preached to them.

When Fakhri Maluf, on a long trip from St. Benedict Center, called upon His Excellency, Archbishop Cicognani, the Apostolic Delegate — after the Boston Heresy Case first appeared in the newspapers — the Archbishop’s secretary told him that matters of conscience with regard to dogma were of such major importance that any Catholic in the world was allowed the privilege of appealing directly to the Holy Father on the subject, and was not obliged to go through the ordinary channels. It is true that St. Benedict Center appealed many times, both to the Apostolic Delegate and to Rome, and received no answer, but we are consoled by the fact that our Holy Church has made it possible for us to know the truth and hold it, until the day His Holiness, the Pope, once more affirms the previous infallible pronouncements on salvation. We know, too, by that same Catholic Faith, that any new pronouncement can in no way differ from the old.

In the meantime, we did have one slight encouragement of which there can be no doubt. In the midst of his encyclical on other matters, Pope Pius XII, in the summer of 1950, took time in the Humani Generis, to make the declaration already quoted in the second chapter of this book:

Some reduce to a meaningless formula the necessity of belonging to the True Church in order to gain salvation.

With this comfort, we can go on, praying each day to the great Mediatrix of All Graces for courage to maintain our glorious Faith, no matter how alone we may seem to be, no matter how persecuted, knowing, if we do maintain it, that the voice of Jesus will never say to us that which we could not bear:

“I never knew you.”