The Church has not had a canonized saint among its popes since Pius V (1566-1572), almost four hundred years. There has not been a saint among the Popes from the sixteenth century until our own time. It seems very significant that Pope Pius X (1903-1914), who was beatified on June 3d, 1951, has been called the Pope of the Holy Eucharist and the great opponent of Modernism – which is our present-day Liberalism’s ancestor. Little children can now go to Holy Communion as soon as they reach the use of reason; and every priest, before he is given Holy orders, is obliged to take a solemn oath against Modernism.Were Pope Pius X alive today, I am certain that there would not be one priest who would be allowed to be ordained until he had taken an oath against Liberalism, which is more endangering to the Church than even Modernism was in the days of that beautiful archbishop and father, Giuseppe Sarto, Pope Pius X.
Pope Pius X is also known as the “Pope of the Poor,” an appropriate second title for the “Pope of the Blessed Sacrament.” Poverty in material possessions can make one holy, if one wishes to be poor for Jesus’ sake. But to be without spiritual food is destitution indeed. Certainly there are none so poor, none so bereft, none so abandoned, as those who have not the Bread of Life. Pope Pius X restored daily Communion once again to the Church, and so we who come after him have the privilege which the early Christians had, of receiving the Blessed Sacrament every day.
I wish that we were also given the doctrines that go with the Holy Eucharist. The early Christians held all the dogmas clear and firm, and their reception of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, together with their devotion and realization of this Gift of God, raised up men and women who converted the world. They withstood the persecutions of three hundred years, and the blood of their martyrs became the seed of the Church. It never once occurred to them to think that the Bread of Life was meant for them alone. They knew it was meant for every man and woman, and their love was not satisfied until they had given their best gift to all mankind.
For almost two hundred years, Catholic theologians, with no claim in their lives to heroic sanctity, have been tampering with the dogmas of the Church, robbing them of their substance. They have been teaching a diluted Christianity, which has finally ended up in the outright heresy of our day – Liberalism. Every doctrine suffers from this heresy, and none so blasphemously as the doctrine of the Holy Eucharist and its necessity for the salvation of every human creature.
If only the Catholic people could again have strong, orthodox teachers, they would, in this Age of Mary, burn with the Faith, and spread it. Wars would cease, and peace would come. And this is the only way in which peace can possibly come to the world again.
We have but to listen to the way in which the early Christians prayed to realize how much we, in our time, have been cheated in doctrine. The first Christians were aware of many profound realities which our mediocre and weak religious instruction has kept hidden from us. When the early Christians said, “Give us this day our daily bread,” this daily bread they understood to be the Holy Eucharist. We have been taught to think of it, in our day, as no more than the bread we eat at meals in our homes or in restaurants. Our Lord’s hallowed petition has actually found its way into economics courses in pagan colleges, and a well-known Catholic priest recently wrote, in a newspaper, two columns on its significance as the bread we earn by the sweat of our brow.
St. Matthew records for us in his Gospel the words of Jesus teaching us how to pray, in that sublime praise and petition of God known throughout Christendom as “The Our Father.”
Matt. 6;9: Thus therefore shall you pray: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
10: Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
11: Give us this day our supersubstantial bread.
There is a footnote, in the Douay Version of the Holy Scripture, which explains:
Verse 11: Supersubstantial bread. In St. Luke, the same word is rendered daily bread. It is understood of the bread of life, which we receive in the Blessed Sacrament.
I know almost no Catholic who ever was taught that “give us this day our daily bread” had reference to the Holy Eucharist. And yet the Fathers and Doctors of the Church have written at length about it.
St. Jerome – the great Doctor of the Church who translated the Holy Gospels from Greek into Latin – tells us that give us this day our daily or supersubstantial bread means that we ask, above all, for heavenly bread, the bread of the Eucharist. St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom have dwelt in their sermons and in their writings upon our daily bread, which is Jesus Christ, in the Blessed Sacrament. Catholics in our day, however, are not given these Doctors of the Church to read. In fact, comparatively few Catholics now know either that there are Fathers and Doctors of the Church or who these Fathers and Doctors are, much less that their orthodoxy has been confirmed by the Popes. We are given for instruction in our Faith merely the Baltimore Catechism – revised to suit modern Liberal interpretation – and a few present-day, popular, Liberal religious writers whose work will be discarded, along with their opinions, in a few years.
The Blessed Sacrament was the daily bread of the early Christians. St. Luke tells us this in the Acts of the Apostles (2;46). And so does St. Cyprian, a saint and martyr of the early Church:
We ask that this bread may be daily given us, lest we, who are in Christ, and daily receive the food of the Eucharist, by the intervention of some grave fault, by abstaining and not communicating, should be kept back from the heavenly Bread, and separated from the Body of Christ, when He Himself has admonished us saying, “I am the Bread of life, Who came down from Heaven. If any man shall eat of My Bread he shall live forever.”
Ah, yes, we will be told by the Liberals, but St. Cyprian wrote centuries ago. What have the modern theologians to say about it? The amazing progress of the last two hundred years, they will tell us, has changed the face of many things. We now really have the story. You cannot take the writings of the early Christians until you have read Harnack (or some other morbid devotee of Higher Criticism).
What the Liberals are saying, in other words, is that we should not avail ourselves of the pure mountain water at its source, but should wait to drink from polluted waters, where the river has been sidetracked and is about to ooze out its existence in the stagnant stink of the swamp. Priests and laity alike have acquired this evaluation in secular colleges where professors – who see nothing uncivilized and depraved in atom bombing – loftily assure them that the early Christians lived, thought, and wrote in dark and comparatively unenlightened times.
This appraisal of early Christian life, even naturally speaking, is not a true one. The Greek culture, which was still prevailing at the time of Our Lord, was the highest natural culture the world has ever known. Christendom was trying to return to it, fourteen centuries later, through the Renaissance. This was unfortunate, for the Greek was an unbaptized and un-Eucharisted culture. And politically speaking, the Roman Empire, in which the early Christians lived, was the most remarkably organized and most efficiently controlled system of government that ever has been achieved.
Vastly more important, however, than either of these considerations, is the fact that, from the standpoint of religion, it is blasphemously untrue to say that our age is more enlightened on the things of God than the age of the first Christians. The first Christians were enlightened by Our Lord Jesus Christ, Himself.
The Incarnation and Birth of Jesus Christ occurred in the ‘fullness of time.” Religiously, everything since has been but a marking of time, so to speak. A marking of time, that is, until Christ once more returns, to judge the living and the dead. We are, or should be, hanging on for dear life to the period of time when Jesus Christ was with us – for if we miss its directions, its significance, we are done for. We fall back into a state worse than before.
So momentous was the impact of the Incarnation and Birth of Jesus Christ upon the world, that time was divided in terms of it. We speak of the time before Christ (B.C.), and of the time, not which is after Christ, but which is evermore of Christ. We live today in the nineteen-hundred-and-fifty-first year of Our Lord, 1951 A.D.
The time when God – Creator of heaven and earth and all things, Whose Thought maintains the planets and seas, mountains and lands, creatures and angels – surely that time, when God became man and dwelt amongst us, is the pivotal, central time toward which all before and everything after must ever point.
God the Father had been preparing the world for the coming of His Son from the tragic moment of Adam’s and Eve’s banishment from Paradise. The story of the Jewish people is the story of the getting ready for the coming of the Holy One. Three hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the Providence of God takes very definite shape in this work of preparation.
For instance, three hundred years before the Angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary, and her conception of God’s Son through the Power of the Holy Ghost, seventy of the holiest and wisest Jewish doctors began the translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek. So wonderful was this translation when it was finished, so discernible is the work of the Holy Spirit in it, that it has been called inspired. The Old Testament itself is, of course, inspired in the first and direct meaning of the word, but so faultless and so pure was the choice of the Greek words for the Hebrew in this translation made in Alexandria in Egypt, that even it is thought to have been protectively inspired by the Holy Ghost. It is known to us as the “Septuagint,” because of the seventy doctors who labored to complete it.
With the Septuagint, God’s revelation was safe from the Jews, who would have distorted the Hebrew to fit their purposes when the Messiah they refused to acknowledge had come. The Jews eventually did distort the Old Testament, after the death of Our Lord, by the addition of the Talmud to the Pentateuch and by other ways, but the Sacred Books of the Old Law, by the Providence of God, had been made secure for the children of the Faith. They were preserved in Greek in the Septuagint and no harm could be inflicted on them by the Jews.
Even the conquest of Alexander, three hundred years before the birth of Our Lord, and the subsequent Greekizing-Hellenizing – of his vast territories, were used by God to prepare the world for His Son. Greek, as a language, lends itself to the most perfect communication.
Three hundred years, too, before the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the Jews, heretofore a despised people, suddenly found themselves liked, respected, welcomed. They travelled far and wide in trade, unconscious (and sometimes conscious) missionaries, spreading the story of the Messiah to come, of the prophecies nearing fulfillment.
There was peace everywhere in the world, when Christ was born – the only time in history that this has been so. And all the prophecies perfectly were fulfilled, in the birth, life, and death of Jesus. It was, to repeat, the fullness of time.
The fullness of time! God walked His earth. He Who had brought them into being out of nothing, trod the land, looked at the sun, gazed at the stars, beheld the silver radiance of the moon. For the first time, God saw the beauty of His own creation, with the eyes of man.
And so filled with delight was Jesus with His own and His Father’s handiwork, brooded over by the Holy Spirit, that He was always illustrating His utterances in terms of this marvelous creation :
Matt. 6;28: And for raiment why are you solicitous ? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin.
29: But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these.
30: And if the grass of the field, which is today. . . God doth so clothe: how much more you, O ye of little faith?
Religiously, there never will be a time again like to the time when God lived on earth. Those men who were alive then, or in the years immediately following, received the message of eternal life and what must be done to attain it, straight from the mouth of God. They are the ones we, almost two thousand years later, must listen to in order not to be fooled as to what is the truth and what is not the truth. If the world were many hundreds of years older than it is today, it would still have to return to the early Christians for the purity and orthodoxy of interpretation of what Jesus said and taught. The early Christians got it first-hand. They must ever be our most trusted teachers.
There is no such thing as an evolution of Christ’s doctrine, or improvement upon it. To hold there is, is heresy. It is, actually, part of the heresy of Modernism, condemned by Pope Pius X. Christ’s doctrine was perfect, as it came from Him, Who is God. It is perfect today, inasmuch as it remains untouched, exactly as He gave it, through His Apostles.
This precisely is the point for which St. Benedict Center is fighting, and for which we are willing to go on fighting, no matter what the cost.
The pagan plague of “progress” has eaten into the Catholic Church in our day. Theologians no longer quote, as backing for their theories with regard to doctrine, the Saints and Fathers and Doctors of the Church. They quote other modern theologians, bitten like themselves with the poison of false interpretation and Liberal improvement upon doctrine. That it is possible to have deeper realizations of doctrine, I agree. But these realizations must be of old, unchanging truths, given to us for all time at the foundation of the Church, by Jesus Christ. They can in no way add to or take away from the original and real meaning of the dogmas.
Revelation – that is, the body of truth divinely proclaimed by Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ through His Apostles for our belief – was complete at the death of the last Apostle. We have no choice about believing or not believing the truths of Revelation. We must believe them, in order to be saved. Private revelations of the Saints are not imposed on us for belief. Pope Benedict XIV said with regard to them:
Even though many of these revelations have been approved, we cannot and we ought not to give them the assent of divine faith, but only that of human faith, according to the dictates of prudence whenever these dictates enable us to decide that they are probable and worthy of pious credence.
The truths of Revelation, given to us by Our Lord, Jesus Christ, through His Apostles, are contained in what is called the “Deposit of Faith.” The revealed truths in the Deposit of Faith have been gathered from two sources: the Sacred Scriptures and Apostolic Tradition. And these truths make up the Catholic Faith.
They were given by Our Lord to His Apostles to be zealously preserved and guarded by them and their successors, with the guarantee of infallibility, for the guidance of the Church, that all generations – in holding them – would possess the one true Faith and the key to salvation. They have been guarded, these sacred truths, with tenacity, and have been Divinely protected, else they would not have come down to us. We, in our turn, cannot relax our vigilance for an instant with regard to them. They should be guarded militantly. If there is no one else to do it and it seems, as I write, that that is pretty close to being true – St. Benedict Center, the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, will guard them – militantly. The Boston Heresy Case has provided all the evidence we, or anyone, need in order to know how abandoned pure Catholic dogma has become in our day.
“The doctrine of faith which God revealed,” says the Vatican Council, “is proposed, not as a mere philosophical discovery to be elaborated by human minds but as the Divine Deposit delivered by Christ to his spouse, to be by her faithfully guarded and infallibly declared.”
There has been no new Revelation, may I repeat, since the death of the last Apostle, St. John, who died in the year 99 A.D. The truths, the dogmas, which we must believe in order to be Catholics were all given to us by that time. The dogmas of the Church never can suffer change. They are today precisely what they were at the beginning of the Church. There are no new doctrines, and there can be no modification of old ones.
Whenever a heretic challenged some revealed truth of the Faith, it became necessary for the Pope, either alone or together with his bishops in council, to re-express in more exact language the doctrine under attack, so that never again could there be any doubt about its meaning. This was done by definition.
We speak of the definition of a doctrine, or dogma. This does not mean that a new dogma is ever added to the Faith, or that something is added to an old dogma. It means merely that doubt or confusion has been cast on a doctrine, and it has become necessary for the Pope to remove the doubt and confusion. (When the Popes define there is no salvation outside the one true Church of Jesus Christ, it is sinful and heretical of modern theologians to make this infallible statement mean anything less than what it states so clearly. By so doing, they throw new doubt and confusion upon an unmistakable and sacred doctrine.)
When it becomes necessary, then, for a Pope to define, he first gives the matter to his theologians for study. The theologians go back and examine the sources of the dogma in Holy Scripture and Tradition. They will find the doctrine stated there either explicitly or implicitly, and it is the truth either way. A dogma is explicitly expressed when it is brought out definitely in words, openly, plainly. A dogma is implicitly expressed when it is understood, but not specifically stated.
For instance, a dogma which is stated explicitly in Holy Scripture is:
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us.
This doctrine is found in the beginning of the Holy Gospel according to St. John (1:14). A doctrine which is not specifically stated in Holy Scripture, but which is understood, and therefore implicitly contained, is:
Jesus Christ had a human soul.
This truth was explicitly stated, or defined, by the Church in answer, as is generally the case, to heretical teaching – this time of Bishop Apollinaris, who had interpreted erroneously the passage from St. John quoted above: “The Word was made flesh.” Bishop Apollinaris maintained that Jesus had a human body (flesh), but no human soul, that His soul was supplied by the Spirit of the Word. The Church answered, through its second great General Council, at Constantinople, in the year 381 (confirming the work of the previous Council of Rome), that if such were the case, Our Lord would not have been truly man. Since He was truly man, He had a human soul, like every other man. And so the Council proclaimed: “Jesus Christ is true God and true man.”
I had an illustration one day of how close in time we Catholics are because of the unchanging oneness of the truths of the Faith. 381 A. D. and 1951 A. D. were as a moment. I found myself, one afternoon, “hearing” a little girl who is very dear to me recite her catechism lesson. I read from the small book she had put in my hand:
Q. Did Jesus Christ remain God when he became man?
A. Yes; He was always God.
Q. Was Jesus Christ always man?
A. No; only from the time of His Conception and Incarnation.
Q. What means the Incarnation?
A. That God the Son, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, was made man.
Q. What do you believe Jesus Christ to be?
A. True God and True Man.
There it was. All the way from the General Council of Constantinople it had come, this doctrine, implicitly contained in the Deposit of Faith. The words into which it had been cast in 381, simple, precise, unmistakable, were still guaranteeing and safeguarding the one, true Faith for a little girl, sixteen centuries later.
One of our boys, in a Sunday talk on Boston Common, likened the doctrines of the Church to a knitted robe. The dropping of one stitch means the eventual dropping of all. The very life of the Catholic Church depends on the successful defense of her doctrine.
Every dogma of the Catholic Faith is a revealed truth. One cannot choose one, discard another. Each is held on the Divine Word of God. To say that we approve some, and disapprove others, is to presume to stand in judgment on the veracity of God.
I wish it were possible, in this small book, to trace the stages of study in the definition of a doctrine. It is an enlightening experience. I once had this privilege, under a Jesuit priest, for a year. Nothing so reveals the integrity of the mind of the Church, and nothing so illustrates how perfectly one doctrine follows from another, how dependent one is upon the other, as such a study. I got from it a love of my Faith and an awareness of the oneness of Truth for which I have ever since been deeply grateful.
The Jesuit priest who opened up these riches of the Church for me failed to support Father Feeney and St. Benedict Center in our fight against the Liberal Catholic assault on doctrine, when the opportunity was given him in the Boston Heresy Case. I have, ever since, never ceased to worry about his salvation. He taught his class that dogma can never change, and that it means precisely what it says. What I did not know was that he thought Catholic doctrine was for a few, and not for everyone, and that it does not mean what it says. His guilt is very great.
The most recently defined doctrine of the Church is the Assumption of Our Lady’s body and soul into heaven. Everyone knows that antecedent to its definition, this doctrine was firmly believed. Its feast, on the 15th of August, was a Holy Day of Obligation. This feast is so old, and so universal in the Church, that some have said it is not only an apostolic doctrine but also an apostolic institution. We do know that it was celebrated by the Church after the Council of Ephesus, in 431. Everyone knows, too, that Our Lady was intended, or at very minimum included, in the statement of the Sacred Scriptures: “. . . nor wilt thou give thy holy one to see corruption.”
Christians had long known that the Ark of the Covenant, which was made of imperishable wood, was a type of Our Blessed Lady, and she is so called in the Litany of Loretto:
Ark of the Covenant, pray for us.
St. Thomas Aquinas, in his commentary on the Hail Mary, says:
The last curse common to man and woman, lies in this, that they must return to dust; and from this Mary was free. We believe that after her death she was restored to life and carried to Heaven, according to verse 8, Psalm cxxxi, a text very often applied by early Christian writers to the two-fold resurrection of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother, she being the true Ark of the Covenant, which the Lord has sanctified.
Everyone knows, also, that Our Lady did not deserve to die – since she never was under the yoke of original sin – and having willed to die, in union with her Divine Son, it was no more fitting that she should see corruption than that He should. His Resurrection and Ascension are the complement of her Assumption into heaven, upon which glorious entrance of our Queen, there was “silence in heaven as it were for half an hour.” That is a long pause in eternity.
A doctrine or a dogma of the Church, then, is a truth which has been revealed by God, and must be believed by all Catholics. To deny a dogma whose belief is necessary for salvation is to be incapable of salvation, whether the denial is willful or not. A truth essential to salvation is not believed in, and that is the end of the matter.
A definition of a dogma is the more precise expression of the dogma. A definition is made by the Pope, or by an ecumenical or general council, acting with the Pope, and it is infallible. A definition is the last word on the subject. It never can make a doctrine more obscure, since its very purpose is to clarify. Each word in a definition is significant. There is always an economy of words in a definition, because truth is simple. We have an example of this in the doctrine: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus: Outside the (Catholic) Church there is No Salvation.
An Ecumenical or General Council is a council summoned by the Pope, or by a ruler in the name of the Pope. It is made up of bishops of the whole world – and other high ranking prelates with a right to vote, such as abbots, etc. Its decrees are not binding until approved by the Pope. The council is subject to the Pope, but the Pope is not subject to it. Its decrees, when they are confirmed by the Holy See, are infallible. There have been no more than twenty such councils in the history of the Church, from 325, when the first one occurred, to 1870, when the last one adjourned, its work incomplete.
The origin of councils is derived from the Council of the Apostles, in the year 52, when all the Apostles came together, at Jerusalem, under St. Peter, to talk over the affairs of the Church. The story of this first council of the Church is told in the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 15.
The councils are an Apostolic institution, and the Apostles, when they instituted them, acted under the commission they received from Christ; otherwise they could not, as Bishop Hefele says, have published the decisions of their council with the words, “It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us.” They must have been convinced that the Lord of the Church had promised and had granted His Spirit to the assemblies of the Church.
Later councils have acted and spoken in the same conviction, that the Holy Ghost governed the Church’s assemblies. This was the teaching of all the ancient Fathers of the Church. Pope St. Gregory the Great even compared the authority of the first four general (or ecumenical) councils with the importance of the four holy Gospels.
The Church began on Pentecost. Pentecost is the birthday of the Church of Jesus Christ, and on it was fulfilled the promise of Jesus that He would send the Spirit of Truth Who would teach the Apostles and Disciples all truth.
Ten days after Our Lord ascended into heaven, when the Jews were beginning the celebration of the Jewish feast of Pentecost – on the same day that the Old Law had been given to Moses on Mount Sinai – the Holy Ghost came down upon the Apostles and Our Lady, in the Cenacle, while they were persevering in prayer. The Holy Spirit came in the form of tongues of fire, with the sound as of a rushing of a mighty wind. The Apostles went forth, from that hour, to preach the Gospel to men of every nation, whom they found gathered in Jerusalem from all parts of the Roman Empire for the feast of Pentecost. Three thousand were converted by St. Peter that first day, and were baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
In the Acts of the Apostles, in Holy Scripture, St. Luke relates the history of the Church in the years which followed upon this first Christian Pentecost. Over and over again, St. Luke speaks of the sacred trust which was the Apostles’ of preserving the integrity of the sacred Deposit of Faith, and of guarding these Divinely revealed truths against a shadow of change. The vigilance of the Apostles for the pure teaching of the doctrines of the Faith was as great as their care that the Church be sinless. They were obliged to enact severe penalties for anyone who would either reject or corrupt any part of the Deposit of Faith. They termed such rejection or corruption “blasphemy.” We have often conjectured at St. Benedict Center on what the Apostles would say and do to the theologians of our day who so blasphemously distort the sacred and solemn doctrine: Outside the Catholic Church there is No Salvation.
Since the death of the Apostles, only the Pope has personal infallibility in the Church. While the Apostles lived, each Apostle had personal infallibility. No one but Peter, however, had primacy of jurisdiction – over the whole Church, and over them.
When the Pope defines, in union with a council of his bishops, the principle of infallibility is the whole gathering of bishops, with the Pope as their head. Apart from the bishops, the Pope can be the principle of infallibility, all by himself, as I explained in an earlier chapter. No bishop has this prerogative. The Pope, therefore, is infallible in two ways: when he is acting corporately as the head of all his bishops in assembly, or when he is acting singly, by himself, as the head of the Church – provided he makes it clear that he is speaking ex cathedra.
The Apostles were the true teachers of the pure doctrine of Jesus Christ. Their teachings were regarded as holy and unchangeable. They insisted on unity of Faith among the Christians, and on a full acceptance of every single dogma of the Faith. Anyone who refused to take all the doctrines was immediately excommunicated, was called a heretic, and was shunned by the faithful. St. john would not stay under the same roof with the heretic, Cerinthus. St. John entered the public baths one day, and in some chance conversation he learned that Cerinthus was in the building. He left at once, denouncing the heretic, and saying that he could not bear that one roof should cover them both. This was the same St. John whose message to the world was: “Little children, love one another.” By the joining of this incident and this exhortation, we begin to see what Christian love really means.
The Apostles foretold that heresies would come in the Church:
1 Cor. 11;19: For there must be also heresies: that they also, who are approved may be made manifest among you.
St. Paul meant, by this last, that heresies, instead of harming, would be of benefit to the Church, serving as a test of orthodoxy. As St. John said, the heresies would show who were, and who were not – and who had never really been – of the Fold of Christ:
1 John 2;19: They went out from us but they were not of us. For if they had been of us, they would no doubt have remained with us: but that they may be manifest, that they are not all of us.
Faith comes from hearing. Mr. Arnold Lunn – who wrote a book on how he, by reading, rationalizing, and remembering, came into the Church – might have a little difficulty admitting this, but nevertheless it is the way the Church began. Our Lord said to His Apostles: “Go forth and teach all nations,” and that is precisely what they did. That first Pentecost, and all the days thereafter, the Apostles preached the three great central truths of the Faith: the Incarnation – that is, the Conception and Birth of Jesus – H is Passion and Death; and His Resurrection and Ascension. The Apostles gave instructions on Baptism, on Penance, on the Holy Eucharist, and on justification by Faith and works.
There is, I would like to stress, a distinction between justification and salvation. Justification, strictly speaking, is so far away from salvation that when Our Lord descended into “the Limbo of the Just” at the moment of His death, this is referred to in the Apostles’ Creed as:
“He descended into hell.”
Justification is a requirement for salvation, but it is not salvation itself. Justification, while one is in this life, can be lost. Salvation, which is of the life to come, can never be lost, once one has achieved it. Man can be justified in this life. He is saved only in the next, and only when he passes from this life to the next in a state of justification.
Justification puts us in the state of sanctifying grace, that is, in a state of Divine relationship towards God wherewith we deal with Him in terms of a Justice to which we were hitherto in no wise entitled.
In the beginning of our doctrinal defense, we were amazed beyond belief in the controversy with Father Philip J. Donnelly, S. J., to discover that Father Donnelly had confused justification and salvation. This controversy with Father Donnelly grew out of his reply to Raymond Karam’s article quoting the Fathers and Doctors of the Church on salvation, which appeared in our magazine, From the Housetops.
But to go on, the Apostles, after Pentecost, gave instructions also on the doctrines relative to the forgiveness of sins, our resurrection from the dead at the end of the world, and our final judgment. All these doctrines and instructions were contained in the articles of belief embodied in what we know as “The Apostles’ Creed.”
The Gospels and the Epistles were written by the Apostles so as to give permanence to their oral instructions. Oral teaching easily can be forgotten or distorted in the re-telling. Too, the Apostles wished to have a constant reminder of their instructions in the hands of the people. We are told by Eusebius, an early historian of the Church, concerning the writing of St. Matthew’s Gospel:
Matthew, who had originally taught among the Hebrews, when he was on the point of departure to carry the truths of the Gospel also to others, composed his Gospel in the vernacular tongue of those from whom he was about to part, that thus might be supplied the want of further instruction during his absence.
St. Paul, because of the excellence, thoroughness, and clarity of his teaching, is frequently called the first theologian of the Church. He had had careful academic training as a Jew. St. Paul was born in Tarsus, in Cilicia, and when he had completed a classical education there, he was sent by his family to Jerusalem, to study under Gamaliel, the master. St. Paul was a Pharisee, and it was the Pharisees who believed that the Jews should not mix with those of other religions, if they wished to preserve the pure orthodoxy of their faith. (They were against interfaith movements!) The Pharisees were the opposite of the Sadducees, who were the free-thinkers among the Jews.
St. Paul studied Jewish theology at Jerusalem, with Gamaliel, and he was a brilliant and eager scholar. He came to appreciate dogmatic form as a protection for doctrine – as a means of preserving and safeguarding it against the inroads of time, the vagaries of language, and the whims of man. When later St. Paul came into the treasure of Christian doctrine, when he found himself teaching the revealed truths of Jesus Christ, he saw immediately the necessity for securing, by the same dogmatic form, these Divine truths against the dangers of heresy and schism, compromise and dilution, time and change.
St. Paul, by his intellectual gifts and great talents, his intense energy and strength, his deep love of Our Lord and intimate union with Him, was better fitted than any of the Apostles for the mission of theologian. It is generally admitted that St. Paul’s method of expounding Christian doctrine is superior to that of the other Apostles in clearness of arrangement and thoroughness of handling. The Doctors of the Church are constantly going back to him, constantly using him for reference. No one has been able to exhaust him. St. Thomas Aquinas built his Summa Theologica on the teachings of St. Paul. He is referred to by holy writers simply as “The Apostle.”
Now, this same St. Paul’s ever-recurring message was a plea, a warning, a demand for the preservation of the sanctity of doctrine. Do not tamper with doctrine! he beseeched. Let not the Word of God be changed to suit the tastes of men. In season and out of season he implored and pounded this necessity into the minds of his people. And he himself wrote in such a way that the Divine doctrine of Jesus Christ had all the protection of concise, comprehensive, and dogmatic composition.
The writings of the Apostolic Fathers – those Fathers who were the immediate disciples of the Apostles – show that they made every effort to preserve the method of teaching of the Apostles.
In the fifth century there lived a monk and simple priest named Vincent of Lerins. He wrote a book for the security of his own faith, so he says, by recalling and having at hand what the Apostles and Fathers had written as to how private individuals and the simple faithful should behave in the presence of prevalent heresies. This book is called the Commonitory of St. Vincent Lerins. In it St. Vincent brings out the point which I have been trying to stress in this chapter – that is, that when there is a question of what is true doctrine, a Catholic has only to go to antiquity in the Church – not to modernity – to know what is orthodox. He has only to return to those men who sat at the feet of Jesus and who taught in what is known – by reason of God’s visible presence among them – as the fullness of time.
St. Vincent Lerins’ book, since it is an exposition of doctrine, is filled with the teaching of St. Paul. St. Vincent beautifully portrays for us St. Paul’s vigilance for the preservation of the truths in the Deposit of Faith, and gives us an example of his own teaching, in the following passages:
“O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding the profane novelties of words . . .” (1 Tim. vi,20). Who at this day is Timothy, but either generally the universal Church, or especially the whole body of prelates, who ought either themselves to have a sound knowledge of Divine religion, or who ought to infuse it into others?. . . Depositum custodi. What is the depositum? It is that which has been entrusted to thee, not what has been found out by thee: what thou hast received, not what thou hast thought out; a matter not of ingenuity, but of learning; not of private adoption, but of public tradition; a thing brought to thee, not brought out by thee: wherein thou must be not an author, but a keeper, not an originator, but a pursuer: not leading, but following. Keep, he says, the deposit: preserve the talent of the Catholic faith inviolate and pure. Let what has been entrusted to thee remain with thee, be delivered by thee. Thou hast received gold, give back gold. I will not that thou offer me one thing for another, and have the face, instead of gold, to present me with lead, or cheat me with brass. I want not the appearance o£ gold, but its reality.
Keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding the profane novelties of words! Preserve the Catholic Faith, inviolate and pure!
How far away from this sacred commission the custodians of the Faith have gone in our day has been made woefully manifest in the story of the Boston Heresy Case. The Catholics of St. Benedict Center literally have been made to stand alone and be persecuted for dogma. As far as we ourselves are concerned, we rejoice that to people so personally unworthy such a sacred privilege should come. We are grateful to the dear Mother of God for such trust, and we pray that some day she may give us the further favor of shedding our blood for the truths of Jesus Christ.
But, as far as the Church is concerned, we feel that never before has the Bride of Christ fallen upon such evil days. Never before have wicked men dared to utter such profane novelties of words, to be not keepers, but originators of dogma, not followers of the Word, but leaders; offerers of the brass of heresy, in place of the gold of pure Catholic truth.
Never before have theologians so betrayed the Faith, and this at a time when the world can be saved from destroying itself in no other way than by the one true Church of Jesus Christ. These evil theologians not only are not bringing the Catholic Church to the poor people outside it, they are actually taking it away from those inside it. They are making meaningless the dogmas which protect it. They are steadily sapping its life, stealing its vitality, robbing its truth.
We have received at St. Benedict Center during this past month, four Catholic magazines and one Catholic newspaper which contain articles purporting to explain the two clear, simple doctrines: there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church nor without personal submission to our Holy Father, the Pope. One magazine was French, sent us from Paris. This turned out to be worse by far than its American counterparts. The maze of empty phrases, false distinctions, heretical statements in each of thee five writings was clearly diabolical. That was all that was clear in the articles. We had no notion, when we finished, what the writers were saying other than that they were endeavoring to prove that the dogma: “There is No Salvation Outside the Catholic Church” really means: “There is salvation outside the Catholic Church.”
With regard to the authors, themselves, however, it was very clear that each of the priests writing – French as well as American – had lost his Faith; or else was thoroughly dishonest. In either case, he is well on his way to losing his soul if he does not, before he dies, stop his diabolical reasoning and profess the pure Faith of Jesus Christ.
The United States has never had a native-born canonized saint. But France is the land of saints. France was known in the days of Faith as the “eldest daughter of the Church.” I know she has been a wayward daughter for a long time, but Our Lady came to Bernadette there in the last century, and the Little Flower of Jesus lived and died in France during the lifetime of many who may read these words. We never dreamed that the Church in France would allow an article on salvation so heretical as the one which was sent us, written by a French Dominican, to pass ecclesiastical censorship. A young seminarian forwarded it to Dr. Maluf, at the Center.
This article from France – had we not the promise of Christ that the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church – would spell the end of the Faith. It leaves no need whatsoever for the Catholic Church. It promises salvation without that Church to everyone: Hindu, Mohammedan, Buddhist, Protestant, Jew – just as they are.
For the past one hundred and fifty years, at least, what has been taught in American seminaries, and in most Catholic seminaries of the world, is that when you say “Outside the Church there is No Salvation,” you must not take those solemn words as the ancient Church, close to Christ and His Apostles, took them – and as the Church universally taught them over eighteen centuries. You must now distinguish what you mean by “the Church.”
There is, say these theorizers of the last one-hundred and fifty years, both the soul of the Church and the body of the Church, and some not belonging to the body might be said to belong to the soul. This expression: soul of the Church, first used among professional theologians, crept out and was finally given to the common people as a doctrinal phrase. Indeed, it went even further; until it was the only membership in the Church preached as necessary.
The expression “the soul of the Church” is but a metaphor. It was never intended to be used in more than a metaphorical sense, and that was the sense in which St. Augustine first used it. We could say that a martyr who had the choice between waiting for Baptism, or being martyred for professing he was going to receive it, could, by the shedding of his blood, be said to belong in some way to the Church, and the phrase “the soul of the Church” could in that instance be used. It was never intended to be a partitioning of the Church into two parts, soul and body, of which the fuller members belong to both parts, and the lesser members to just one of the parts. But that is the way it is being used by the Liberal teachers of theology in the seminaries of the United States, so as to save embarrassment from having to teach Protestants unequivocally where it is they must be saved.
Orthodox doctrine can never change. Unsound theological opinion can change. And so we find the latest Liberals now discarding the distinction and evasion: “The soul of the Church.” Typical of the Liberal theologians who have done this is Father Joseph Clifford Fenton, Editor of the American Ecclesiastical Review, who, with Father Francis Connell, C.SS.R., is supposed to be one of the conservative theologians at Catholic University.
It is well known that Pope Pius XII, in his encyclical on the Mystical Body, insists that the only true sense in which we can use the phrase, “soul of the Church,” is to apply it to the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit Who is the Soul of the Church. There is no “soul of the Church” in the sense in which it was formerly (erroneously) understood. This leaves the heretics and infidels out, since in no way can they be said to belong to the body of the Church.
And so we have Father Fenton now writing in the American Ecclesiastical Review that the phrase, “soul of the Church,” should be used no longer. Father Matthew Smith, of the Denver Register, another supposed orthodox theologian, agrees with him. But all three priests, Father Fenton, Father Connell, and Father Smith, are still determined to allow some people not in the Church to get into heaven. In the pre-war days of our generation, they used to say – may I repeat:
With regard to the doctrine “Outside the Church there is No Salvation,” that depends on what you mean by the Church.
The new version is :
With regard to the doctrine “Outside the Church there is No Salvation,” that depends on what you mean by outside. All have to belong to the body of the Church to be saved.
And so, to get around that, Father Fenton now makes the distinction between:
Explicitly belonging to the Church,
Implicitly belonging to the Church.
And this sinful and fraudulent distinction allows the same people who got out of being Catholics, by way of being part of the soul of the Church, now to get out of the challenge by being “implicitly” in the Church. Some Liberal priests have even gone so far as to say that this applies to some who would violently refuse the Church were it offered to them! These latter still belong to it, whether they know it or not, because they have some vague desire to go to heaven when they die and to lead (their own idea of) a moral life here on earth.
These are implicit members of the body of the Church, the Liberal theologians now tell us. The rest of us are explicit members.
The phraseology has changed. The heresy remains unaltered.