Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Reprinted from

Our Lady of the Rosary Parish Bulletin
July AD 1985


On Catholic Unity

[The scene opens in a rarely used confessinal.]

    Penitent:  “Bless me Father, for I have sinned.  It has been about three weeks since my last confession.  Uh ... Father?  Are you there Father?”

    Confessor:  “Oh!  Sorry!  We don’t get many in confession any more.  I must have fallen off....”

    Penitent:  “Father, it has been three weeks since my last confession.  I don’t exactly know how to put this, but the main thing I have to confess is that I ... Uh. ... I have found myself getting angry with priests lately ... even muttering about them under my breath.”

    Confessor:  “You must be aware that the Catholic priest represents our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  Even if a particular priest has a certain fault, you sill must show him the respect which his high calling demands—he is another Christ.  Do you understand that?”

    Penitent:  “Well, yes, Father, I do.  And perhaps that’s the problem.  I always did believe that the priest was just about the closest thing to Christ here on earth.  But ... Well ...Now, I don’t mean you Father, but the other priests in this parish don’t seem to think of themselves as being like Christ.”

    Confessor:  “Now, what would make you say a thing like that?  And especially here in church?”

    Penitent:  Well, Father Bob doesn’t look like any kind of priest I have ever seen before—Oh.  I understand that priests have to relax too, but those white tights of his—I’ve even seen him coming into church during Mass wearing them.  And, once, he even gave out Communion wearing them.  The only thing that attracted attention away from him was the lady in jeans and a T-shirt who was also handing out Hosts.  And he doesn’t even like to be called Father—‘just call me plain Bob,’ he is always telling people.”

    Confessor:  “Well, now....”

    Penitent:  “And your other priest, Father Joe, doesn’t come across much like another Christ either.  And the outfit he wears for his children’s clown liturgy isn’t the half of it—the things he says are worse.”

    Confessor:  “We do have to get used to new ways now.  You know that in recent years the Church has decided that we should be more free—more open to dialogue.  You mustn’t criticize an individual priest if his views are not exactly like your own.”

    Penitent:  “Father, I am not a picky person, but sometimes I just can’t stand to come to church anymore.  I don’t want to go home swearing about the priest, or his banjo, or his politics—I just don’t know if I can take it much longer!”

    Confessor:  “Now, God will give you the graces you need if you will just cooperate with them.  Perhaps you need to be more careful about which Mass you attend.  You might try coming to one of the earlier Masses—the young men don’t like to have to rise too early.  If you come to my Mass, or go over to Saint Eustace’s for Father Black’s 7:00 AM Mass, I think you will be more comfortable.”

    Penitent:  “But why must I do that Father?  Isn’t there any unity in the Church anymore?  Why are things so radically different from church to church or from priest to priest?”

    Confessor:  “But, indeed, there is unity.  Each one of our priests is united with the Bishop, and the Bishop, in turn, is united with the Pope in Rome.  If it were otherwise we wouldn’t even be permitted to say Mass in a Catholic Church.  You really mustn’t let externals make you think the Church is not united.”

    Penitent:  “Oh, Father, it is so frustrating!  At least before I moved here six months ago, we could attend Mass at the Ramada Inn.  A priest would come there every Sunday and offer the old Latin Mass.  That was real unity—it was the same Mass I heard as a child, or growing up, or when I travelled to other places, even to other countries.  And there were never any surprises.  No Father Bob popping up out of a trunk at the beginning of Mass!”

    Confessor:  “Now, that’s very serious.  You know that those priests who use the old Mass are not recognized by our Bishop.  Did you mention attending their Mass in your previous confessions?”

    Penitent:  “Confess attending Mass?  You have got to be kidding!  And as for your Bishop, if he tolerates the things I have seen around here, I don’t think I want to be in union with him!

[Our scene fades out.]


The Membership Card

    This exchange between our hypothetical confessor and penitent is not particularly far-fetched.  It goes without saying that we did not quote from any particular person’s actual confession, but the dialog is built up out of the experiences of many traditional Catholics.  Of particular interest is Father Confessor’s understanding of unity in our Catholic Church.

    Almost every traditional Catholic who has had a confrontation with a modernist priest or bishop has been told by them that his opponents are in union with Rome (no matter how crazy the things they do or say), and that he is not similarly in union, and that he is therefore not really a Catholic.  Simply writing on the letterhead of a traditional Catholic organization often brings the condemnation of “not acknowledging the authority of the Pope.”  What the Modernists fail to understand, or will not admit, is that there is more to being “in union with Rome” than having escaped excommunication or not having been formally removed from office.

    What might seem to be the most obvious evidence of being “in union with Rome” is having a place on the “organization chart,” or, so to speak, being a “card carrying member.”  This is the kind of union which our Father Confessor and his associates have, and which is generally enjoyed by the Modernist clergy.

    To be accurate, we must digress and indicate that we are considering two distinct groups of men.  The “Father Confessors” are basically good priests, trying to maintain their orthodox faith, but not wishing to cause a great deal of trouble with their more “progressive” bishops.  Often they are, themselves, disturbed about the things going on around them, but they don’t want to disturb the status quo (which includes their pensions).  “Father Confessor” offers the new Mass as reverently as is possible, prays the Office, even preaches a good dose of real spirituality, but tries to stay out of trouble.  But sharing the “organization chart” with “Father Confessor,” and carrying the same “membership card” is our newer type of priest, “Father Radical.”  Father R. may simply want to admit the remarried divorced and the perverts to Holy Communion.  He may be a middle‑of‑the‑roader, denying the efficacy of the Sacraments and the Real Presence.  Or he may be more “with it,” denying altogether the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Yet, even though he fits into one of these categories, he still gets to carry the prized membership card identifying him as a Roman Catholic priest.

    Loyal Catholics—those who believe and practice the Faith as they learned it years ago—may evaluate these facts and decide that the Pope is himself a Modernist.  “After all,” they may conclude, “how else could the infallible successor of Saint Peter keep all of these heretics on the payroll?”  Some unfortunates have followed this line of thinking and become convinced that the Pope is not really the Pope!

    If we assume for the moment that the Pope is the Pope, and that he is orthodox in his beliefs, we still have the burden of explaining why he has done nothing about “Father Radical.”  Why is it that “clown priests” are recognized as Roman Catholics in good standing, while traditional priests are lucky to escape censure for offering the unequivocal Mass at the Ramada Inn?  Perhaps the Holy Father is attempting to avoid another rupture in the Church like the Protestant “Reformation.”  Five hundred years ago the Popes excommunicated the heresiarchs of the “reformed” churches, but lost half of the Catholic world.  A conscientious Pope is unlikely to do the same thing.  For good or for bad we have seen that the Holy See will continue to recognize priests and bishops as Catholics unless they are blatant in defying His Holiness.  While we certainly can understand the concern of the Holy Father, we also feel it reasonable to question the value of the Roman Catholic “membership card.”  It has ceased to have any value as a testimonial of one who holds and practices the true Catholic Faith.

    Catholic unity does not begin and end with organizational structures.  As Christians we are bound to consider two far more important notions:  “What is it that we believe?” and “How is it that we behave ourselves?”


Christian Belief

    It has long been recognized that there is an intellectual basis which determines whether an individual is a Catholic or not.  The Church has always held that in order to be saved one must accept the freely given gift of Faith.  “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16).  Indeed, we often refer to the organization Itself as “The Catholic Faith.”  What is this “Faith,” if it is not belief in the things revealed by God in Sacred Scripture and Tradition?  If a person refuses to accept the divinely revealed truth—in whole or in part—he simply cannot be a Catholic.  It is not required that all Catholics be theologians; experts in each and every item of revelation—what is requires is a humble acceptance of these truths as they are defined by the Magisterium, the teaching authority of the Church.

    In recent years, whenever an article of the Faith has come up for public discussion, the Modernist have been quick to trot out their “Catholic theologians” to explain that the Church has no particular “fixed opinion” about the belief in question.  The newspapers and the networks tend to cooperate with extensive coverage.  While there may well be room for variation among theologians on some topics, there simply cannot be diversity once the Magisterium has defined a particular matter.  A person who cannot accept such ideas as the divinity of Christ, the immorality of abortion, or the Real Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, simply cannot be a Catholic—he cannot because the unity of belief is fundamental to the Catholic Faith.

    Modernists would have us believe that divinely revealed truth is subject to change—that God is evolving, and that what is true for us today may not be true in the future.  They tend to separate the events of Faith from those of History, as though, for instance, the Resurrection might be real in the faith of a particular generation, while being unreal in history.  At the fringe of the Modernist movement we find those who not only attribute the imperfection of change to God, but who go so far as to claim that man is evolving into God!  Of course, as Catholics, we know that God is unchanging, and that we are His creatures, not His creators.  We know too that such foolish thinking is usually the result of sinful pride, or perhaps lust.

    For those who believe exclusively in the importance of the “Catholic membership card,” it is instructive to read what Saint Augustine had to say in his writing On Baptism:

    For in all points in which they think with us, they also are in communion with us, and only are severed from us in those points in which they dissent from us.  For contact and disunion are not to be measured by different laws in the case of material or spiritual affinities.  For as union of bodies arises from continuity of position, so in the agreement of wills there is a kind of contact between souls.  If, therefore, a man who has severed himself from unity wishes to do anything different from that which had been impressed on him while in the state of unity, in this point he does sever himself, and is no longer a part of the united whole; but wherever he desires to conduct himself as is customary in the state of unity, in which he himself learned and received the lessons which he seeks to follow, in these points he remains a member, and is united to the corporate whole.[1]

Augustine’s words should be a valuable lesson to those who insist upon remaining members of the local parish or diocese, no matter how deeply it may be mired in heresy, but will do nothing to help with the preservation of the traditional Faith.


Catholic Practice

    Ideas have practical consequences in the real world.  The things we believe affect the things we do.  For example, belief or dis-belief in the doctrine that our Lord actually took for Himself a human body will have an obvious effect on our attitudes toward our own bodies and out respect for the physical rights of others.  Belief that God Himself inhabited a human body cannot but help influence our moral notions of things like temperance, sexuality, and the right to life.  Similarly, dis-belief would have an opposite effect.

    The recent visit of Pope John Paul II to the Netherlands points up this relationship between belief and practice.  Among the demands of the radical Dutch “Catholics” was the call for Church acceptance of “liberation” theology, fornication, divorce, abortion, and homosexuality.  To the radical Dutch these were not simply academic concerns—the crazier ones were literally demanding the death of the Pope!  (An interesting side note: The National Catholic Register, itself a journal of the left, described one of the Dutch spokespersons, a Catherina Halkes as “taking seriously the ‘witchcraft’ and ‘mother goddess’ movements”!)

    Of course, none of this is really new.  When Christianity was just beginning, nearly two thousand years ago, Saint James told us:

    So faith also, if it have not works, is dead in itself.  But some man will say: Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without works; and I will show thee, by works, my faith.  Thou believest that there is one God.  Thou dost well: the devils also believe and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?[2]

    Not only are Faith and Good Works necessary for salvation—they really are inseparable.  Man cannot do good if he intentionally disbelieves the truth.  He cannot have a genuine belief if he acts in a way inconsistent with the faith.


Belief, Behavior, and Church Unity

    It should be obvious to Catholics of the latter part of the twentieth century that it is not always possible to have organizational unity, while still preserving Catholic Belief and Practice.  Sometimes we find that those who should be the very shepherds of the flock are. themselves, the occasion of sin against Faith and Morals.

    We must be careful to acknowledge that there is an essential difference between the Church and Her leaders.  The rather modern Jesuit, Father Karl Rahner, wrote, quite to the point:

    The promise that the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church does not promise her constant visible, "empirical" strength and immunity, but promises the power which is God's alone in the weakness and vulnerability of the men who are her members. When men feel safe and assured because "nothing can ever really happen to the Church," then they always find out sooner or later that indeed nothing can "happen" to the Church, who is in God's hand, but quite a lot can happen to the men who out of idleness or timidity do nothing and rely on this.[3]

    “Quite a lot,” it is true, can happen to those who rely completely on that “Catholic membership card” to guarantee salvation.  We can, quite literally, lose our souls if we give up our critical faculty, and along with it our Faith and Morals.  The historically minded may wish to look up the account of Saint Athanasius, to see that it has happened before:  In defending the Faith against the Arians, who denied the reality of the Incarnation, this saint of the fourth century was persecuted by most of his fellow bishops, and was even condemned by the Pope’s legates—he had his membership card cancelled, his “ticket punched,” if anyone ever did.  But we all know that it was Saint Athanasius who was proven correct, while the bishops and papal curia had to change their position.  And all Athanasius was doing was maintaining the Traditional Catholic Faith, which held that the Second Person of the Trinity, God Almighty, became truly man.

    While we have seen that the institutional bureaucracy can sometimes be at variance with the Catholic Faith, this state of affairs is by no means desirable.  Indeed, it is deplorable.  Let us be sure that we believe and practice the True Faith.  And then, let us pray for, and call upon the Pope to restore Catholic orthodoxy in the organization of the Church.  May God give him the grace to restore the true Mass, true Belief, and true Morality throughout the Catholic Church.




[2]   James ii: 17-20.

[3]   Karl Rahner, S.J. , Nature and Grace: Dilemmas in the Modern Church (NY: Sheed and Ward, 1964), p. 5.

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