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Q&A  September AD 2013
Our Lady of the Rosary
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Justification ≠ Salvation

The Hierarchy above the Blessed Virgin?

Our Lady of the Rosary

    I had intended separately to review Pope Francis’ first Encyclical, Lumen fidei, and John Salza’s book The Biblical Basis for Purgatory.  But in reading the one shortly after the other, it seemed odd that they both contained a similar error.  Salza’s book is still worth reading—it is a valuable compendium of Scriptural and patristic references to Purgatory, and pokes fun at the  “many Catholic funerals, where the white vested priest assures us that the deceased is in heaven, where we all someday be reunited.”[1]  The encyclical suffers from the usual existentialist problems—virtually nothing is defined and the writer(s) attempts to make the reader feel the meaning of the various undefined terms.[2]  Hopefully I will be able to review both works at a future date.

    The error that they both contain is that of equating “justification” with “salvation.” We quote the pertinent, authoritative, statements of the Council of Trent below,[3]  but in a word, justification and salvation are two separate things and should not be confused.  Justification is the means by which God takes a soul in the state of original and/or actual sin and makes it pleasing to Himself, and capable of working towards salvation.  The justified soul is said to be in the state of sanctifying grace.  Salvation is achieved only after a lifetime oriented toward living in the justified state.

    For the adult, justification comes through grace prompting belief in what God has revealed and the reception of Baptism, or at least the desire to be baptized.  For the infant it comes through the reception of Baptism.  In the state of sanctifying grace, prayers and the Sacraments, the keeping of the Commandments, works of mercy, and self-abnegation are meritorious.

    Should one fall from sanctifying grace through serious sin, one must seek re-justification through sincere contrition and firm intent to reform and to do penance, together with (at least) the desire to receive sacramental absolution in Confession.

    Man has free will and can resist even God’s graces.  It should be obvious that in a normal lifetime there are numerous opportunities to fall from grace, and to die in the unjustified state.  Salvation, therefore requires such perseverance as to die in the state of sanctifying grace.  The notion that justification equals salvation—that one can “get saved” and then live just any sort of life is one of the errors of Protestantism:  “Be a sinner and sin mightily, but more mightily believe and rejoice in Christ.”[4]

    What do we read in the two works mentioned?   First John Salza:

    Both Catholics and Protestants agree that justification is the process whereby man moved by God’s grace, accepts God’s forgiveness and righteousness.  Being in a state of justification means we are in a right relationship with God, making us children of God and heirs of heaven.  Hence, Catholics and Protestants agree that justification and salvation are the same thing.[5]

    Pope Francis is not so explicit, but the implication is clear:

    The beginning of salvation is openness to something prior to ourselves, to a primordial gift that affirms life and sustains it in being. Only by being open to and acknowledging this gift can we be transformed, experience salvation and bear good fruit. Salvation by faith means recognizing the primacy of God’s gift.  As Saint Paul puts it: "By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God" (Eph  2:8).

    For Pope Francis, one is first transformed, then experiences salvation, and then goes on to do good works.  The implication is that one “gets saved” with perhaps years of life left to live, in which to “bear good fruit.”  The translation of Ephesians 2:8 is faulty, with the Douay version having:  “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God.”  Even the Protestant, King James, version has: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”  Both of these translations agree with the Vulgate and with the Greek.[6]  The construction indicates something going on in the present, and not something that has taken place in the past.  At most one might say that a justified person is potentially saved.

    Presumably Mr. Salza, and certainly Pope Francis, are aware that one cannot just go and “get saved” as the megachurch preachers would say—but it does point up the danger of “dialogue” with our “separated brethren” and the way it eventually makes us adopt their terminology and begin to think like them.





    In which words is given a brief description of the justification of the sinner, as being a translation from that state in which man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace and of the adoption of the sons of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Savior.

    This translation however cannot, since promulgation of the Gospel, be effected except through the laver of regeneration or its desire, as it is written:

    Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. [John 3:5]



    Similarly with regard to the gift of perseverance, of which it is written:

    He that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved, [Matt. 10:22; 24:13] which cannot be obtained from anyone except from Him who is able to make him stand who stands, [Rom. 14:4] that he may stand perseveringly, and to raise him who falls, let no one promise himself herein something as certain with an absolute certainty, though all ought to place and repose the firmest hope in God's help.

    For God, unless men themselves fail in His grace, as he has begun a good work, so will he perfect it, working to will and to accomplish. [Phil. 1:6, 2:13]

Nevertheless, let those who think themselves to stand, take heed lest they fall, [See 1 Cor. 10:12] and with fear and trembling work out their salvation, [Phil. 2:12] in labors, in watchings, in almsdeeds, in prayer, in fastings and chastity.



    Those who through sin have forfeited the received grace of justification, can again be justified when, moved by God, they exert themselves to obtain through the sacrament of penance the recovery, by the merits of Christ, of the grace lost.... [Cf. infra, can. 23 and 29]

    For on behalf of those who fall into sins after baptism, Christ Jesus instituted the sacrament of penance when He said:

    Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.[John 20:22f]

    Hence, it must be taught that the repentance of a Christian after his fall is very different from that at his baptism, and that it includes not only a determination to avoid sins and a hatred of them, or a contrite and humble heart, [Ps. 50:19] but also the sacramental confession of those sins, at least in desire, to be made in its season, and sacerdotal absolution, as well as satisfaction by fasts, alms, prayers and other devout exercises of the spiritual life, not indeed for the eternal punishment, which is, together with the guilt, remitted either by the sacrament or by the desire of the sacrament, but for the temporal punishment which, as the sacred writings teach, is not always wholly remitted, as is done in baptism, to those who, ungrateful to the grace of God which they have received, have grieved the Holy Ghost [Eph. 4:30] and have not feared to violate the temple of God.[See 1 Cor. 3:17]

    Of which repentance it is written:

    Be mindful whence thou art fallen; do penance, and do the first works; [Apoc. 2:5] and again, The sorrow that is according to God worketh penance, steadfast unto salvation; [See II Cor. 7:10] and again, Do penance, and bring forth fruits worthy of penance. [Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Luke 3:8]


    Canon 9:  If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.

    Canon 15: If anyone says that a man who is born again and justified is bound ex fide to believe that he is certainly in the number of the predestined, let him be anathema.


 Our Lady of the Rosary
The Hierarchy above the Blessed Virgin?

    Question:  On an Internet video a Catholic apologist said that: “We don't worship Mary, the only thing the Church worships is God.”  “God blesses a correct hierarchy of things: God, Jesus Christ Lord and Savior, the Hierarchy of the Church, the Blessed Virgin Mary.”  Please explain the way Catholics relate to the Blessed Virgin, and explain why the hierarchy is ranked above her.  (E.T., Boca Raton)

    Answer:  Jesus Christ is God, equal in His divinity to God the Father and God the Son.  This is clearly defined in the Athanasian Creed: “But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all One, the Glory Equal, the Majesty Co-Eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.”[7]  To put Jesus Christ below God in a hierarchy would suggest a denial of Jesus' divinity—the Arian heresy.  His humanity is below His divinity, but He is still equally God, an equal member of the Trinity.

    It is true that we only worship God—the Greek term for worship being Latria.  We venerate the saints, the Greek term being Dulia.  A special veneration is reserved to the Blessed Virgin, in Greek Hyperdulia.  She is the Mother of God!

    We neither worship nor venerate the hierarchy.  The members of the hierarchy are mortal men, quite capable of error, imprudence, and sin.  Indeed, one can be a member of the hierarchy without even being a decent Catholic—just Google Popes Benedict IX, Sergius III, John XII, or Alexander VI to see.  In modern times a large part of the hierarchy is tainted with modernism, Marxism, and perversion.  We neither venerate the hierarchy nor do we pray to them for their intercession with God, as we do with Mary and the saints.

    Yes, priests and bishops are the only one able to consecrate the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, but the body and blood of Christ come uniquely from Mary.  Priests and bishops are supposed to teach the truth (they don't always do so—most heresies originate with priests or bishops), but Mary is the Mother of Truth incarnate.  At Holy Mass, Mary is always mentioned before any of the Apostles and other bishops and martyrs.

    The apologist in question was not even recounting some modernist teaching of the Conciliar Church.  The New Catechism tells us that:

    It is in the Church that Christ fulfills and reveals His own mystery....The Church's structure is totally ordered to the holiness of Christ's members.... Mary goes before us all in the holiness that is the Church's mystery as “a bride without spot or wrinkle.”  This is why the “Marian” dimension of the Church precedes the "Petrine."

    “Peterine” of course refers to the foundation of the Church on Peter, the first of the hierarchs—but the Catechism says the dimension of Mary “precedes” that of Peter.[8]

... so they turn their eyes to Mary.  In her the Church is already the "all holy."[9]

    Mary, Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church.[10]

    Mary's role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it.[11]

    Clearly the members of the hierarchy rank below the Blessed Virgin Mary.

    While the Church’s hierarchical structure and the men who fill that structure are supremely important, in modern times, a misunderstanding of that importance has led to the twin errors of papalatry (literally: “pope worship”) and sedevacantism (“there is no Pope”).  Both assume, incorrectly, that the Pope is right in everything he does, but then go in opposite directions from this major premise:




   The Pope is right in everything he does...

   The Pope is right in everything he does...

he has done some odd things in recent years...

he has done some odd things in recent years...

so the odd things must be right.

so he must not be the true Pope.


    The problem, of course, is in the major premise.  It being wrong, no syllogism will produce the truth.  The Pope is simply not right in everything he does.  He is infallible, but only in matters of faith and morals, when he speaks as head of the Church, with the intention of requiring universal assent to what he proclaims.  As head of the Church the Pope always commands respect, but apart from the unique exercise of his infallibility he may be wise or foolish, holy or sinful, prudent or impulsive.


“Loyal to  the Magisterium”

    A related source of confusion about the hierarchy is the careless use of the word “magisterium.”  Properly used, the word denotes the power of the Church to teach the truths of the Faith authoritatively.

    MAGISTERIUM:  (Lat. magister, a master).  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 is infallible:  "And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world" (ibid.)

    The solemn magisterium is that which is exercised only rarely by formal and authentic definitions of councils or popes.  Its matter comprises dogmatic definitions of œcumenical councils or of the popes teaching ex cathedra, or of particular councils, if their decrees are universally accepted or approved in solemn form by the pope; also creeds and professions of faith put forward or approved in solemn form by the pope or œcumenical council.

    The ordinary magisterium is continually exercised by the Church especially in her universal practices connected with faith or morals, in the unanimous consent of the Fathers (q.v.) and theologians, in the decisions of the Roman Congregations concerning faith and morals, in the common sense (q.v.) of the faithful, and various historical documents in which the faith is declared.  All these are founts of teaching which as a whole is infallible.  They have to be studied separately to determine how far and in what conditions each of them is an infallible source of the truth.[12]

    Often the word “magisterium” is erroneously applied to the to the people who exercise it, and sometimes to the product they produce in exercising it.  The often heard phrase “loyal to the magisterium” is usually meant to indicate loyalty to the reigning Pope and bishops, rather than to their more abstract authority to teach the Faith.  Referring to the people as the magisterium gives a false sense of infallibility in everything they say or do.  And that is the same as the false major premise in our syllogism.

    One must distinguish the people, the power, and the product.  Otherwise one could write a silly sentence like:  “In exercising the magisterium, the magisterium produces magisterium.”


Dancing Hierarchy—World Youth Day 2013[13]



[1]   John Salza, The Biblical Basis for Purgatory  (Charlotte: Saint Benedict Press,  2009) page 10

[3]   All of the citations of the Council of Trent are from Session VI, 13 January 1547, under Pope Paul III

[5]   Salza, page 74.

[8]   CCC 772, 773

[9]   CCC 829

[10]   CCC 963

[11]   CCC 964

[12]   Donald Attwater, A Catholic Dictionary (NY: Macmillan, 1958), s.v. "Magisterium," p. 301.


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