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Q&A  January AD 2013
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin

Why do Catholics Burn Candles in Church?
Must Catholics Accept Vatican II?
Q&A Archives

Our Lady of the Rosary
Why Do Catholics Burn Candles in Church?

    Question: Why do Catholics employ candles in their worship? (M.B., Connecticut)

    Answer: An obvious answer, of course, is "to provide light." In the early Church, Catholics often worshipped in the underground catacombs or burial vaults where they were protected from persecution by Roman law. Even when the Church emerged "above ground" in the fourth century, architectural standards were such that the interiors of most large buildings were fairly dark. Extensive use of glass windows came only in the middle ages. With modern lighting, candles are retained as a symbolic link with earlier ages.

    The use of candles also expresses a certain degree of festivity. They give a cheery glow unmatched by electric light. At Mass, at least two beeswax candles are required on the altar. Four or six are used on festive occasions and for high Mass. A seventh is permitted in pontifical Masses. Four candles are employed at the low Mass of a bishop. An additional candle may be lit near the altar from the Sanctus to the Communion to indicate that the canon of the Mass is in progress. Additional candles are employed when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed for veneration. At solemn functions the acolytes carry candles when not otherwise occupied. Acolytes receive an unlighted candle (and an empty cruet) in the ceremony of their ordination.

    Votive candles are burned before the Blessed Sacrament or images of our Lord and the saints by the faithful. The burning candle is a sort of sacrificial gift, left to consume itself, and to serve as a reminder of the donor's prayerful intentions. They are usually enclosed in colored glasses, adding to the festive aspect of their use.

    The Paschal candle is symbolic of the risen Christ, and religious writers have suggested involved explanations of the symbolism. The wax made by virgin bees is said to represent the flesh of Christ, born of the Virgin Mary. The combination of the wick and the wax is seen as a symbol of the hypostatic union of our Lord's humanity and divinity. The flame is suggestive of our Lord's divinity, and reminds us of His presence among the Israelites in a pillar of flame.

    Although the sanctuary lamp properly burns olive oil, a large candle is often employed as a more practical alternative. Together with the tabernacle veil, it is indicative of the Presence of our Lord in the tabernacle.

Our Lady of the Rosary
Must Catholics Accept Vatican II?

    Question:  Archbishop Müller, the Prefect of the CDF told the Society of Saint Pius X (and presumably other traditional Catholics) that they must accept Vatican II in order to be Catholics.  How can this be since that Council brought such unmitigated disaster to the Church?

    Answer:  A polite answer is that the Prefect is more confused than usual.  His statement was:  “One can only be Catholic if one fully recognizes the faith of the Church. This includes the Second Vatican Council, which is a particularly important teaching.” [1]

    Ecumenical Councils are, in fact, capable of defining the belief of the Church.  This is covered in canon law, and worth having a look at the current Code (Canon 1323 of the 1917 Code, in use at the time of Vatican II, is substantially the same):

Can. 749 §1 In virtue of his office the Supreme Pontiff is infallible in his teaching when, as chief Shepherd and Teacher of all Christ's faithful, with the duty of strengthening his brethren in the faith, he proclaims by definitive act a doctrine to be held concerning faith or morals.

§2 The College of Bishops also possesses infallibility in its teaching when the Bishops, gathered together in an Ecumenical Council and exercising their magisterium as teachers and judges of faith and morals, definitively declare for the universal Church a doctrine to be held concerning faith or morals; likewise, when the Bishops, dispersed throughout the world but maintaining the bond of union among themselves and with the successor of Peter, together with the same Roman Pontiff authentically teach matters of faith or morals, and are agreed that a particular teaching is definitively to be held.

§3 No doctrine is understood to be infallibly defined unless this is manifestly demonstrated.[2]

    To begin with, infallible statements of the Faith are, to use the word of Vatican I “irreformable.”[3]  An accurate statement of the Faith is not capable of being changed because it is a statement of objective truth revealed by God.  For example, since it has been defined that “most blessed Virgin Mary was, in the first instant of her Conception, preserved ... from any stain of original sin” it would be impossible for a future Pope or council to declare that Mary was conceived with original sin.  Likewise, it would be impossible for any Pope or council to redefine the Church’s official teaching on the possibility of salvation outside of the Church—something which seems to be the chief feature of Vatican II.

    One also has to question Vatican II in the light of “§3 No doctrine is understood to be infallibly defined unless this is manifestly demonstrated.”  A statement that might be infallible is useless as a guide to the Faith.  The long documents issued by Popes and councils cannot of themselves be said to be “infallible,” as they generally contain a lot of background information that is not the subject of the pronouncement.  For example, Pope Pius IX’ definition of the Immaculate Conception alluded to earlier is but one sentence in a multipage document that explains the history of the doctrine.  It is the sentence and not the document that is infallible, and we know the sentence to be infallible because the Pope concluded it with:

... is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful."

Hence, if anyone shall dare—which God forbid!—to think otherwise than as has been defined by us, let him know and understand that he is condemned by his own judgment; that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church; and that, furthermore, by his own action he incurs the penalties established by law if he should are to express in words or writing or by any other outward means the errors he think in his heart.

    In other cases, where multiple doctrinal items are defied, the authors will produce a list of “anathemas.”  The list takes the form of correct propositions accompanied by words to the effect that “If anyone denies that ________ is true, let him be anathema” (i.e. “let him be damned”).

    One finds nothing like the words of Pius IX, and no list of propositions that must be believed in the entirety of the Vatican II documents.  Throughout the Council, we were assured that the Church was defining nothing new—merely restating the truths of the Faith in modern language.  One clearly understood that the Council Fathers thought modern man was too mature to be told what he must believe—and, indeed they left no canons or lists of things which Catholics must believe, and no lists of penalties for those who do not believe:

Successive generations give rise to varying errors, and these often vanish as quickly as they came, like mist before the sun.

The Church has always opposed these errors, and often condemned them with the utmost severity. Today, however, Christ's Bride prefers the balm of mercy to the arm of severity. She believes that, present needs are best served by explaining more fully the purport of her doctrines, rather than by publishing condemnations.[4]

    There was no threat of expulsion from the Church.  Preposterously, all sorts of non-Catholics would be welcomed as “honorary” members during and after the Council:

    I spoke of the Jews as our elder brothers in the faith.  These words were an expression both of the Council's teaching, and a profound conviction on the part of the Church.[5]

    The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day.[6]

    Thus in Hinduism men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an unspent fruitfulness of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry.... Buddhism in its multiple forms acknowledges the radical insufficiency of this shifting world. It teaches a path by which men, in a devout and confident spirit, can either reach a state of absolute freedom or attain supreme enlightenment by their own efforts or by higher assistance.[7]

    The Council was very ambiguous. The Constitution Lumen Gentium, told us that “this Church, [of Christ] constituted and organized as a society in this present, world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him...” but something can subsist in various forms and places, either simultaneously or sequentially.[8]  Given this definition, the Church of Christ might subsist in a number of bodies, and perhaps stop subsisting in the body governed by the Successor of Peter.  It is said that the term was recommended by one of the Protestant observers at the Council—perhaps one of the Protestant ministers employed to make Pope Paul’s new “Mass” more acceptable to Protestants.

    “Ecumenism” has led many Catholics to engage in false worship of the true God, as well as the worship of false “gods.”  Pouring out libations to the snake god in the forest of Togo,[9] and allowing a statue of the Buddha to be placed on top of the tabernacle on a Catholic altar,[10] may be okay by Vatican II standards—they certainly do not comport with the First Commandment of God.

    Implied ,although not explicitly written in the Council documents, the underlying error of Vatican II is the denial of objective truth—the idea that truth can change over time through a dialectical process—that by a “dialogue” of the “acting persons” we can arrive at a consensus that represents today’s “truth.”  The obvious problem is that such “truth” would be continuously changing, depending on who is a party to the “dialogue” at any given moment.  If it seems far-fetched that anyone could hold such a notion of “flexible truth,” consider that it has spilled over into other disciplines, even those concerned with the physical world.[11]

    We can agree that the truth is sometimes difficult to know, and that the human intellect is not always capable of discovering the truth about the world around it, and may go from theory to theory as it approaches objective truth—man’s scientific understanding of fire is a good case in point.[12]  But theology is not dependent on observation like the natural sciences—theology is based on God’s revelation, and the theologian doesn’t need to worry about whether or not he observed all of the relevant variables.  When God tells us that something is true we do not need to ask whether it is true at all temperatures, pressures, and levels of radioactivity!

    Yet, in 1995, in the encyclical Ut unum sint, Pope John Paul II released an incredible list of doctrines that were up for “dialogue”:

    1) the relationship between Sacred Scripture, as the highest authority in matters of faith, and Sacred Tradition, as indispensable to the interpretation of the Word of God; 2) the Eucharist, as the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, an offering of praise to the Father, the sacrificial memorial and Real Presence of Christ and the sanctifying outpouring of the Holy Spirit; 3) Ordination as a Sacrament, to the threefold ministry of the episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate; 4) the Magisterium of the Church , entrusted to the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him, understood as a responsibility and an authority exercised in the name of Christ for teaching and safeguarding the faith; 5) the Virgin Mary, as Mother of God and Icon of the Church, the spiritual mother who intercedes for Christ's disciples and all humanity."(#79)

    In #95, the Pope calls for dialog about the nature of the Papacy itself![13]

    Under normal circumstances, ecumenical councils are called only when needed to deal with some pressing matter of the current time (e.g. Nicaea to deal with the Arian heresy; Trent to deal with the Protestant heresy).  The most important heresies of the twentieth century were Marxism and Modernism.  Not only did Marxism go un-condemned, but a Vatican-Moscow agreement was made,[14] and a former Prefect of the CDF praised the conciliar document Gaudium et spes, saying that it “represents, on the part of the Church, an attempt at an official reconciliation with the new era inaugurated in 1789.” He identified 1789 with the French Revolution—the first great socialist revolution, in which may Catholic people, clergy, and religious were put to death for the Faith.[15]  The current Prefect is well known for his involvement in “liberation theology,” a futile but dangerous attempt to “baptize” the class struggle of Karl Marx.[16]

    Today, we repeatedly receive endorsements of the Godless[17] United Nations world government from Vatican and other high Church officials.[18]  From Pope Paul VI who called the U.N., “the obligatory path of modern civilization and of world peace ... the last hope of concord and peace”[19]  to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger who yearned for an armed international peacekeeping authority[20], and who as Pope demands redistribution of wealth and “a reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth.”[21]

    Shortly after Vatican II, the Oath against Modernism was eliminated by Pope Paul VI.  Required from 1910 until 1967, the Oath kept Catholic clergy and professors from teaching that religious truth is derived from the sentiment and opinion evolving over time.  The doctrinal confusion and moral relativism of our time is the direct result of this capitulation to Modernism.

Archbishop Müller remains confused. 



[3]   The First Vatican Council, Session IV, First dogmatic constitution on the Church of Christ, 18 July 1870, Ch. 4, No.9. 4. On the infallible teaching authority of the Roman pontiff

[4]   Pope John XXIII, Opening Speech to the Council

[5]   H.H. John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope (NY: Knopf, 1994) p. 99.

[8]   Lumen gentium #8.

[9]   Osservatore Romano 11 August 1985 “A Prayer in the Sacred Forest.”

[11]   David Gordon, “Hermeneutics Versus Austrian Economics”


[20]   So called Catechism of the Catholic Church #2308

[21]   Caritas in veritate 67. Italics in the original

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