Liturgical Reform: tool of both the Novus Ordo and Traditionalist sects

Liturgical Reform: tool of both the Novus Ordo and Traditionalist sects

+St. Louis, King+


I hesitate here to spend too much time on the heretical new liturgy that was introduced into the Catholic Church by the Roman usurpers beginning in 1959 because strictly speaking, we can no longer enjoy the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass owing to the lack of valid clergy. However what has happened regarding the Mass is important, because Traditionalists, of various shades and descriptions, have been so bold as to suggest that Pope Pius XII was implicated in the Mass changes and can be blamed for what later happened regarding the Latin Mass. I have already directed people to read the passion of Pope Pius XII which is under the More Recent Articles section of my Articles/Study the Faith page. So I hope that in reading that article people will have a better understanding of what actually happened, why it happened and why it may appear to some that Pius XII was indeed complicit in this, although he was not.

I don’t think that it’s stating too much to say that those who blame Pope Pius XII for changing the Holy Week liturgy and the Breviary are demonizing him in the hopes of perhaps, at one point, declaring him part of the plot to introduce usurpers into the Catholic Church and destroy the Mass. Having spent a good part of my life studying the writings of Pope Pius XII and the theology of the Church as it existed prior to his death, I do think that it is a terrible travesty for anyone to believe that he could have been complicit and I expressed this in the article just mentioned in the opening paragraph. People who are involved with Traditionalists in some way are very much the victims of these pseudo-clergy who would like nothing better than to destroy even the idea of the Catholic Church in order to supplant it themselves. And this is nothing new — I’ve been explaining these aberrations on this site for nearly 20 years. But it keeps resurfacing, particularly among the recognize and resist crowd, and other “rad-Trad” types who have been openly anti-Semitic and suspected of harboring neo-Nazi sympathies. It seems oddly coincidental to me that these individuals are the very ones who seem most devoted to this condemnation of Pius XII regarding the liturgy.

While the “conservative” media is calling out the Department of Justice and the FBI for targeting radical Traditionalists, saying that it’s totally unjustified, these media claims are entirely bogus. I’m sorry — I don’t support anything the DOJ or FBI are doing regarding the violation of our personal freedoms, but I have personally witnessed the existence of these ties to neo-Nazi groups among Traditionalists and have documented its existence. If the so-called conservative media would do their homework instead of cowering to their bosses and be honest in all this — if they would read back a couple of decades into the history of Traditionalism —they would see there were concerns long ago about these neo-Nazi tendencies. Many of them centered around the activities of the Society of St. Pius X.

Some Traditionalists most adamant in condemning Pope Pius XII for his Holy Week and Breviary changes also insinuate he was a Jewish sympathizer, siding with those among the Jews and Protestants accusing him of this for the past two decades. This would only serve to inflame any Traditionalists harboring neo-Nazi tendencies as well as fuel opposition to the liturgical changes he made. In other words, they are reacting out of an entrenched prejudice based on anti-Semitism, a prejudice condemned by the Church, even though Pope Pius XII did not do anything contrary to faith and morals in executing the changes he made to the liturgy. But is there a more fundamental link to the Nazi mentality that somehow explains how it contributed to not only liturgical reform, but to the anticipated Hegelian reaction to that reform — the Latin Mass movement? (thesis: Latin Mass; antithesis Novus Oro Missae; synthesis, splitting of the Mass entirely from it’s ancient safeguard, the papacy).

There is indeed proof there was such a connection, as explained by Fr. Albert F. Kaiser, C.P.P.S., in a two-part article written for the American Ecclesiastical Review in December-January, 1953-54 (“The Historical Backgrounds and Theology of Mediator Dei”). Perhaps those sporting secular “credentials” who are now busy bashing Pius XII and this encyclical on the liturgy should have conducted more thorough research before daring to criticize and defame a true pope, acting well within the limits of his jurisdiction. Certainly what Fr. Kaiser relates in his article is an eye-opener, for not only does he make the neo-Nazi connection; he also spells out other heresies that exist today among the Novus Ordo and Traditionalist sects. According to Fr. Kaiser in Part 1 of his article, the following tendencies and errors contributed to the clamor for liturgical reform. See my comments in blue.

  1. The heresies of Gallicanism, Jansenism and Febronianism — all promoted by the Protestants especially in Germany, where the liturgical movement had its deepest roots — limited papal jurisdiction to favor episcopal equality, which made it difficult to fight and overcome National Socialism (Naziism).

Comment: The anti-papal heresies of Gallicanism and Febronianism have been covered at length on this site. The Gallicanist theologian Jean Gerson taught: “The decision of the Pope alone, in matters which are of faith, does not as such bind (anyone) to believe; Bishops in the primitive Church were of the same power as the Pope; The Roman Church, the head of which is believed to be the Pope …may err, and deceive and be deceived, and be in schism and heresy, and fail to exist.” (Henry Cardinal Manning, The Ecumenical Council and the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff: a Letter to the Clergy, 1869). And here is recognized the very same teachings which the Anglicans and Luther used to justify their separation from Rome at the time of the Protestant Reformation.

Febronianism went even further, declaring: “The final court of appeal in the Church is the ecumenical council (cap. vi), the rights of which exclude the pretended monarchical constitution of the Church. The pope is subordinate to the general council; he has neither the exclusive authority to summon one, nor the right to preside at its sessions, and the conciliar decrees do not need his ratification. Ecumenical councils are of absolute necessity, as even the assent of a majority of bishops to a papal decree, if given by the individuals, outside a council, does not constitute a final, irrevocable decision. Appeal from the pope to a general council is justified by the superiority of the council over the pope. According to the Divine institution of the episcopate (cap. vii), all bishops have equal rights; they do not receive their power of jurisdiction from the Holy See… Febronius, while ostensibly contending for a larger independence and greater authority for the bishops, seeks only to render the Churches of the different countries less dependent on the Holy See, in order to facilitate the establishment of national Churches in these states, and reduce the bishops to a condition in which they would be merely servile creatures of the civil power.” (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911).

This of course essentially establishes the bishops as equal to the pope and does to discipline what liturgical reform accomplished in the liturgy. It successfully reduced it to its primitive forms (ignoring all development of doctrine and discipline over the ages), and opened the door to the state religion, such as was established in Germany by the Old Catholics and was also advanced by National Socialism (Aryanism). It eventually led to the “collegiality” of Vatican 2 and the rule of Traditional “bishops” lacking valid orders and jurisdiction, pretending to be able to constitute the Church without their head bishop, the Roman Pontiff. Later concessions to American belief and the heretical teachings of John Courtenay Murray were conceded at the false Vatican 2 council, granting non-Catholics in America equal status with Catholics where salvation is concerned.

  1. The constant struggle between Progressives concerning liberalism and Catholic orthodoxy was especially pronounced in the German universities, where Protestants, of course, were in the majority.

Comment: This was the direct result of the inroads made by Liberalism and Modernism.

  1. There was a growing ambition, even among some of the religious centers, to free themselves from the authority of Rome.
  2. The proponents of Gallicanism and Febronianism were the primary agitators for the free from Rome movement, and this dovetailed in a sense with the Nazi political movement. For Naziism was it’s own religion, the religion of the state, and already the Old Catholics had succeeded in making inroads as the state religion. This heightened the battle waged by Protestants to champion state over Church.

Comment: Pope St. Pius X writes in his encyclical Pascendi dominici gregis: “The Modernists try in every way to diminish and weaken… authority. They propose to remove the ecclesiastical magisterium itself by sacrilegiously falsifying its origin, character and rights and by freely repeating the calumnies of its adversaries.”

  1. Hitler lured youth away from Sunday instruction with his youth movement and the liturgical movement placed its emphasis strictly on the liturgy ridiculing and de-emphasizing catechetical instruction. This considerably weakened the authority of those of insisting upon the necessity of instructing children in Catholic dogma. Pope St. Pius X wrote on this grave error:

“How many and how grave are the consequences of ignorance in matters of religion! And on the other hand, how necessary and how beneficial is religious instruction! It is indeed vain to expect a fulfillment of the duties of a Christian by one who does not even know them… the Council of Trent, treating of the duties of pastors of souls, decreed that their first and most important work is the instruction of the faithful. It therefore prescribes that they shall teach the truths of religion on Sundays and on the more solemn feast days; moreover during the holy seasons of Advent and Lent they are to give such instruction every day or at least three times a week. This, however, was not considered enough. The Council provided for the instruction of youth by adding that the pastors, either personally or through others, must explain the truths of religion at least on Sundays and feast days to the children of the parish, and inculcate obedience to God and to their parents” (Acerbo nimis).

  1. The reform liturgists appealed to the popular will and the popular mind by use of the vernacular in the liturgy. They also favored the teachings of National Socialism and showed a tendency to nationalize and desacralize religion itself.
  2. Dr. Pius Parsch encourage the cultural and social aspects of the liturgy and the use of the vernacular in both the pew and on the altar, and this in the 1920s.
  3. Dom Odo Casel advocated for the “community cult” or community priesthood in Germany, which Kaiser says “disturbs the hierarchical order.” It ignores the Apostolic College and the Pope and Bishops in communion with him as the only real teachers in the Church.

Comment: “We must now consider upon whom rests the obligation to dissipate this most pernicious ignorance and to impart in its stead the knowledge that is wholly indispensable. There can be no doubt, Venerable Brethren, that this most important duty rests upon all who are pastors of souls. On them, by command of Christ, rest the obligations of knowing and of feeding the flocks committed to their care; and to feed implies, first of all, to teach. “I will give you pastors according to my own heart,” God promised through Jeremias, “and they shall feed you with knowledge and doctrine.”[9] Hence the Apostle Paul said: “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel,” thereby indicating that the first duty of all those who are entrusted in any way with the government of the Church is to instruct the faithful in the things of God” (Pope St. Pius X, Acerbo nimis).

It was not the championing and celebration of the Latin Mass and the Eucharist that would render the salvation of souls Traditionalists falsely profess to be so solicitous in procuring. That false theology is exactly the same basis used to justify liturgical reform, and the allowance of the Latin Mass was already built into that reform. Their primary duty was to first educate themselves, then educate the faithful in Christian doctrine. They disobeyed Pope St. Pius X’s and Our Lord’s command to educate, obeying instead the popular will and the popular mind, which demanded the Latin Mass be provided and the Sacraments be administered to them. This is also contrary to Canon Law and the Council of Trent which as noted under Can. 147 in the Canon Law Digest, Vol. 3, where the Sacred Congregation of the Council declared: “The Catholic Church is, in virtue of its institution by Christ Himself, a perfect society hierarchically established, whose full and supreme power of government and jurisdiction rests with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of the Blessed Apostle Peter in the primacy. Hence no one can presume to intrude himself or others into ecclesiastical offices or benefices without a legitimate canonical investiture or provision.

“The true rule of Canon Law in this matter is found in Rule VI…And the Council of Trent declared, “that those who undertake to exercise these offices merely at the behest of and upon the appointment by the people or the secular power and authority, and those who assume the same on their own authority, are all to be regarded not as ministers of the Church but as thieves and robbers who have entered not by the door,” (Cap. IV, Session XXIII, de reform). More, the same Sacred Synod defined as follows: “If anyone says…that those who are neither duly ordained nor sent by ecclesiastical and canonical authority, but who come from elsewhere, are legitimate ministers of the word and of the Sacraments, let him be anathema,” (Ibid. Can. VII, also the Syllabus of Pope Pius IX, no. 50).” Here related canons 2331 §2, 2334 nos. 1 and 2, 147 §1 and 147 §2, 332 §1 and 2394 are cited as already having condemned these abuses. Canons 330, 331 §1, §2, §3 also apply in this case.

It was at the request of “the people” that Traditionalists established their chapels. Traditional priests possess no offices, as required under Can. 147: “An ecclesiastical office cannot be validly obtained without canonical appointment. By canonical appointment is understood the conferring of an ecclesiastical office by the competent ecclesiastical authority in harmony with the sacred canons,” Pope Pius XII’s infallible constitution Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis (VAS) nullifies any acts performed contrary to Canon Law and papal teaching during an interregnum. Clearly in violating the teachings of the Council of Trent and VAS, any acts attempted by Traditionalists who admit they possess no offices is and was null and void.

What Traditionalists did was no different than what those promoting the changes to the liturgy did in helping to establish the Novus Ordo Missae. Both were contrary to Divine revelation and the infallible teachings of the Church.

  1. Kaiser states that regarding the use of the vernacular and the term community priesthood “…Such phrases were loaded with danger. It is possible they became handles for heresy when the time was ripe for change, as in Nazi Germany, Austria, and to a lesser extent in France. Phrases originally intended to express secondary social aspects of religion and to stimulate new and vitalized interest in Iiturgical revival were possibly twisted to become spearheads of liberals, Hegelians, mitigated Quietists and just plain religious compromisers.”
  2. The reform liturgists attempted to tie all sources of grace to the Sacraments strictly, not broadly. They tried to use the liturgy as a way to test doctrines before they were embodied in the Church by the Pope. Kaiser calls this an “…heretical attitude. This, liberals believe, is how doctrine develops,” he says, identifying this attitude as the error of pragmatism.

Comment: How many times have we heard from Traditionalists that unless one attends their masses and receives their sacraments, they cannot obtain the fullness of sanctifying grace or even be certain their sins are forgiven because they rely only on a Perfect Act of Contrition?

There is a heresy that can be traced to the Council of Basle and the heretics Wycliffe and Hus which the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia identifies as Utraquism The Encyclopedia author defines this belief as: “Man, in order to be saved, must receive Holy Communion when he wishes and where he wishes, under the forms of bread (and wine)…That this is of Divine precept, continued the Hussite, is further evident from tradition.” The article’s author, Joseph Hughes goes on to explain that reception of the Eucharist is not by necessity of means (“an imperative must”) but by necessity of precept, meaning, “an obligation imposed by a command, and for good reasons that which is prescribed may be dispensed with. The Hussites contended that the Eucharist was a necessary means to salvation, so that those who died without having received the Eucharist, (the young, the insane) could not be saved… (But) the Catholic Church denies the Eucharist is necessary as a means to salvation…(it) is a precept; from it dispensations are possible.”

Shades of the Jansenists and the Feeneyites, the Jansenists for rigoristically teaching contrary to the Council of Trent that Perfect Contrition can never procure salvation and the Feeneyites for proclaiming that no one may be saved unless they receive actual water Baptism.

  1. Referring to the disregard for catechetical instruction and dogma, Kaiser states that the liturgy edged out Christian dogma and calls this “heretical exclusivism.” He also accuses them of seeking refuge in psychological and social ideals instead of emphasizing catechetical instruction as a necessary foundation for understanding sermons and worthily participating in the liturgy.

Comment: This heretical exclusivism is precisely what was used by Traditionalists to edge out the papacy itself, and Catholics bought into that because they did not know or understand their faith. Many had never attended Catholic school or been well instructed in the Catechism. The mania for social reform and the increase in emotional and mental disturbances which came as a result of the advent of psychiatry, usurping the role of the confessor, further complicated their understanding of the faith. Pope St. Pius X writes:

“We are indeed aware that the work of teaching the Catechism is unpopular with many because as a rule it is deemed of little account and for the reason that it does not lend itself easily to the winning of public praise. But this in Our opinion is a judgment based on vanity and devoid of truth. We do not disapprove of those pulpit orators who, out of genuine zeal for the glory of God, devote themselves to defense of the faith and to its spread, or who eulogize the saints of God. But their labor presupposes labor of another kind, that of the catechist. And so if this be lacking, then the foundation is wanting; and they labor in vain who build the house. Too often it happens that ornate sermons which receive the applause of crowded congregations serve but to tickle the ears and fail utterly to touch the hearts of the hearers. Catechetical instruction, on the other hand, plain and simple though it be, is the word of which God Himself speaks through the lips of the prophet Isaias: ‘And as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return no more thither, but soak the earth and water it, and make it to spring and give seed to the sower and bread to the eater: so shall my word be, which shall go forth from my mouth. It shall not return to me void, but it shall do whatsoever I please and shall prosper in the things for which I sent it… Since it is a fact that in these days adults need instruction no less than the young, all pastors and those having the care of souls shall explain the Catechism to the people in a plain and simple style adapted to the intelligence of their hearers. This shall be carried out on all holy days of obligation, at such time as is most convenient for the people, but not during the same hour when the children are instructed, and this instruction must be in addition to the usual homily on the Gospel which is delivered at the parochial Mass on Sundays and holy days.’”

  1. In their attempt to simplify everything, bringing the liturgy back to the bare bones of the early Christian era, the liturgical reformers emphasized all the benefits of being Catholic and participating in the liturgy v. the responsibilities of being educated Catholics, ignoring the pain and suffering of Christ on the cross which led to the joys of the resurrection. As Kaiser explains, there is no way to experience properly the joy of the Resurrection except through acknowledging and participating in the pain of the Crucifixion.

Comment: This is a subject that deserves a treatment all its own, and it will be covered in a future blog. Pain and suffering in this age of easily available pharmaceuticals, illicit drugs and the belief that all pain must be alleviated and not borne leaves little room for sharing in the pain of the Crucifixion, even among those professing to be Catholic. Pope Pius XII has much to say on this topic that is so little appreciated or understood.


The principles of Liturgical Reform were exercised not only by those establishing the Novus Ordo, but eq
ually by Traditionalists, who chose liturgy over dogma, eschewed scholasticism, opted for episcopal equality over the necessity of the papacy and the community priesthood over the necessity of jurisdiction to guarantee apostolicity. It is not difficult to pin down the main heresies of the liturgical reformers, something that was done by a German bishop, as Kaiser notes below:

“In 1942, Bishop Conrad Groeber of Freiburg in a memorandum to the German hierarchy deplored:

(1) the new definition of faith as sensation, emotion or interior intuition;

(2) the penchant for criticizing contemporary forms of religious life, including developments in the liturgical cult, with the view of returning to primitive Christianity with its bare table altar, etc.;

(3) veering from Scholastic philosophy to Hegelianism. The latter was considered more vital, the former only of historic interest and value;

(4) use of oriental philosophies and Protestant terms in connection with dogma;

(5) veering away from the historic redeeming Christ and His symbol, the Crucifix in our churches, to a new concept of the so-called Triumphant Christ, whose image should replace the Crucifix on the altar;

(6) a new concept of the Eucharistic Christ outside of time and space and not connected with the historical Redeemer;

(7) a new concept of the Church as a biological organism rather than the historically and divinely established hierarchical Kingdom of Truth, and guide to salvation.”

All of the above, also the ridicule of dogma and rejection of the papal supremacy mentioned previously, point to one heresy, and that the synthesis of all heresies — Modernism. Everything Groeber details is denounced in Pope St. Pius X’s Pascendi; liturgical reform was the Modernist Trojan horse used to seduce the remaining faithful, among both the Novus Ordo sect as well as Traditionalists.

(Next week: Kaiser reviews liturgical reform in the light of Mediator Dei.)

Msgr. Fenton’s rules for discussion, Pt. 3 — how Trads revive Modernist tactics

Msgr. Fenton’s rules for discussion, Pt. 3 — how Trads revive Modernist tactics

“Hence the revered Mother of God, from all eternity joined in a hidden way with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination, immaculate in her conception, a most perfect virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendor at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages. — Pope Pius XII, MUNIFICENTISSIMUS DEUS

+St. Hyacinth+

With this blog we conclude the article from Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton and our comments on its contents.  But I would like to return for a moment to the statements made on unity by Msgr. Fenton in Part I of this blog series. There Msgr. Fenton wrote:

“The factor that unites men in their activities within God’s supernatural kingdom on earth is, of course, divine charity, the supernatural love for God which necessarily involves the love of our neighbors, and particularly of those who are closest to us as our fellow members of Our Lord’s Mystical Body. Theological discussion is meant to contribute towards unity in the line of thought by reason of its accuracy. It attains that accuracy through the faithful adherence to the teaching of the Church’s magisterium. It is meant to serve the unity of charity within the true Church of Jesus Christ by showing Catholics how and why they must consider and treat each other as brothers in Christ precisely by reason of their membership in God’s household, the Church.”

And here we also would like to include Henry Cardinal Manning’s definition of unity, so pertinent to our own times: “[The definition of infallibility]… declares that the ends for which [the charism of infallibility] is given is (1) that the whole flock of Christ on earth may never be misled and (2) that the unity of the Church may always be preserved. Unity of faith generates unity of mind, unity of heart, unity of will. Truth goes before unity. Where truth is divided unity cannot be. Unity before truth is deception. Unity without truth is indifference or unbelief. Truth before unity is the law and principle and safeguard of unity” (The True Story of the Vatican Council, 1870).

But the best explanation of why there is no unity is found in Daniel 8:12, 24, where the prophet speaks of the coming of Antichrist: “And strength was given him against the continual sacrifice,because of sins: and truth shall be cast down on the ground, and he shall do and shall prosper… And he shall destroy the mighty, and the people of the saints.” There is no unity because there is no truth, and there is no truth because Christ’s mouthpiece on earth, His Vicar, enabled by the Holy Ghost, has been taken away, along with the Holy Sacrifice.

The objector mentioned in Part 1 who criticized the use of Msgr. Fenton’s works on this site also sneered at the idea that Catholics praying at home can enjoy any kind of unity without the presence of the visible head of the Church on earth, the Roman Pontiff. But that statement is missing the entire point of how and why the Church yet exists in Her visible members today, residing as they do in the unity of Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church. And to say that this means the Church today cannot enjoy a modicum of unity in obedience to the decrees and commands of the Continual Magisterium is a concession to Traditionalism that simply will not be allowed on this site. For it is Traditionalism that has made it appear that apostolicity exists only in those purporting to possess valid orders and that without the existence of those claiming to be bishops and priests, apostolicity — which contains all the other marks —  is lacking and the Church itself cannot exist. Nothing could be further from the truth.

To begin with, the very mark of apostolicity — which the Catholic Encyclopedia states “virtually contains the other three marks” — presumes that in the preservation of this essential mark, there is no deviation from the term apostolicity itself as intended by Our Lord. The entire definition of apostolicity as explained in the Catholic Encyclopedia is that the Church ever remain the very same Church Christ established, precisely as He established it. Traditionalists are excluded from this definition as the Encyclopedia explains:

“Therefore the Church is called Apostolic because it was founded by Jesus Christ upon the Apostles. Apostolicity of doctrine and mission is necessary. Apostolicity of doctrine requires that THE DEPOSIT OF FAITH COMMITTED TO THE APOSTLES SHALL REMAIN UNCHANGED. Since the Church is infallible in its teaching, it follows that if the Church of Christ still exists it must be teaching His doctrine. Hence Apostolicity of mission is a guarantee of Apostolicity of doctrine. St. Irenæus (Adv. Haeres, IV, xxvi, n. 2) says: “Wherefore we must obey the priests of the Church who have succession from the Apostles, as we have shown, who, together with succession in the episcopate, have received the certain mark of truth according to the will of the Father; all others, however, are to be suspected, who separated themselves from the principal succession”, etc. In explaining the concept of Apostolicity, then, special attention must be given to Apostolicity of mission, or Apostolic succession… Apostolic succession must be both material and formal; the material consisting in the actual succession in the Church, through a series of persons from the Apostolic age to the present; the formal adding the element of authority in the transmission of power. It consists in the legitimate transmission of the ministerial power conferred by Christ upon His Apostles.”

So Traditionalists, in excluding the very Vicar of Christ and the only dispenser of that formal power to bishops, cannot and do not possess apostolicity of mission. And if they do not possess apostolicity of mission then they cannot possess apostolicity of doctrine or the other three marks, either. Yet in the absence of the juridic Church, apostolicity of doctrine and the recognition of the necessity of apostolicity of mission can and is retained by strict adherence to all that was taught by the popes prior to the death of Pope Pius XII, and all the teachings of those specificallyrecognized and approved by them. This includes Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton, a domestic prelate, papal chamberlain, and the recipient from Pope Pius XII of the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award for faithful service to the Church and the Roman Pontiff. This was addressed in our last blog. All the four marks yet exist, and can be demonstrated, as long as they are proclaimed and practiced by members of the Mystical Body.

This then applies also to unity. The Catholic Encyclopedia states: “Hence the Church which has Christ for its founder is not to be characterized by any merely accidental or internal spiritual union, but, over and above this, it must unite its members in unity of doctrine, EXPRESSED BY EXTERNAL, PUBLIC PROFESSION; in unity of worship, manifested chiefly in the reception of the same sacraments ; and in unity of government, by which all its members ARE SUBJECT TO AND OBEY THE SAME AUTHORITY, which was instituted by Christ Himself… it was the intention of Christ that His Church should be one, and that, not in any accidental internal way, but essentially and visibly. Unity is the fundamental mark of the Church, for without it the other marks would have no meaning, since indeed the Church itself could not exist.”

All this has been covered before in previous blog posts. Doctrine taught by the legitimate successors of the Apostles and obeyed, honored and preserved by true Catholics is a living entity. Those praying at home possess all the above marks as far as they are able and have access to the necessary Sacraments and their substitutes, according to God’s will for this time. They are visible, breathing proof the Church on earth still exists. And indeed God promised it would exist until the consummation. Biblical prophecy had to be fulfilled at some time in history, and we should thank God that it is being fulfilled both by us and in us, if we correspond with grace. But if we do not accept all the Church teaches, precisely as She teaches it, then we cannot claim to possess the marks. We can be One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic only if we accept all of Her teachings and make certain that we know what those teachings are and how the Church Herself understands them.

As one reader commented recently, all of this is really rather simple. If we wish to know what we should do and believe, we must read the encyclicals, bulls and constitutions of the popes and believe and obey whatever they say. We should read the articles here and here in order to understand that we are not alone in this; Catholics have been deprived of clergy and been forced to pray at home in ages past. The reason so much has been posted to this site over the years is because Traditionalists have confused the laity regarding the entire nature of the Church and very few indeed have informed them of their obligation to avoid unlawful pastors, which Traditionalists most certainly are. Untangling the web they have spun to entrap their followers takes time, prayer, study, and perseverance. As noted in our last blog, Traditionalists and those of the Novus Ordo sect present many teachings previously condemned by the Church as still in force and remain silent about other dogmas which may be somewhat difficult to understand but are essential to the faith. This is the very same method used by the Modernists, and it is described below by Msgr. Fenton in concluding his article.

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Pope Benedict XV and the rules for theological discussion

(Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton, American Ecclesiastical Review, July 1956)

(5) The part of the Ad bravissimo which has been perhaps most frequently mentioned in the years since its original appearance is that in which the Sovereign Pontiff asked his people to refrain from “using distinctive names by which Catholics are marked off from Catholics.” From the context there can be hardly any room for doubt that the term to which the Pope objected was “integralist.” And, for this reason, some Catholic lecturers and writers have professed to see in this a condemnation of the group to which the name “integralists” had been applied. The text of the encyclical and the actual history of Modernistic literature show us that such a claim is entirely erroneous. The Ad beatissimi definitely and clearly objects to the use of the name. In no way does it state or even imply any dissatisfaction with the persons to whom that name had been applied. And, in point of historical fact, it is quite evident that the term “integralists” was not first used by the opponents of the Modernists but by the Modernists themselves.

T. Benns: This assignment of names began in the late 19th, early 20th century, with tags such as liberal, moderate, progressive used to distinguish the tendencies of the hierarchy. These categories follow the political order, when no Catholic can rightly be described as liberal or moderate, and certainly not progressive, since these are attitudes condemned by the Church. Later it would extend to Traditionalist sects, but then these sects certainly cannot be called Catholic.

“The theologians who contradicted and exposed the original Modernists protested against their efforts to pass over or to modify some individual dogmas of the Catholic Church. They insisted that the content of Divine Revelation presented to us by the ecclesia docens must be believed, kept, and professed integra, in its entirety. In taking this stand they were merely repeating the teaching of Pope Leo XIII, who condemned the doctrine of those who “contend that it is opportune, in order to attract the wills of those who differ from us, to set aside some points of doctrine as of lighter moment or so to modify them that they no longer retain the meaning which the Church has always held.’”

T. Benns: Here and in the paragraphs that follow Msgr. Fenton explains how integralism became a “dirty word” used to shame those insisting that objective truth is one, as Pope Pius XII teaches, and is not to be deviated from or minimized, for anyone or in any situation. The detraction the Modernists resorted to and their devotion to useless questions is still very much alive among Traditionalists. In an earlier article for the American Ecclesiastical Review, Msgr. Fenton observed: “The religious proposition of the integralists is also represented as characterized by a rigidity of doctrine. All that this expression would seem to mean is a resistance to any teaching which the integralist regards as involving a change in Catholic doctrine. Certainly there can be little to stigmatize in this attitude.” And how many times have Traditionalists accused those pointing out their errors of exercising this rigidity?

“The Modernists replied to this insistence on the fides integra by dubbing their opponents “integralists.” They worked to spread abroad the notion that these “integralists” were men of inferior culture, working for dishonorable motives to discredit the efforts of their betters. They could thus pass over any evidence adduced by the “integralists” without betraying their own inability to cope with the situation. The Modernists were obviously poor theologians. But they were outstandingly able in the field of publicity. Results of the systematic work of detraction they accomplished against their opponents remain until this day. One of those results is the stigma which, in the popular mind, still is attached to the designation ‘integralists.’”

T. Benns: And publicity and the manipulation of public opinion, by those such as Fr. Felix Morlion, John Courtenay Murray and his friend Henry Luce, publisher of Time/Life magazine, also the writings of many others, is what catapulted the Modernists into the Vatican itself.

“Far from repudiating or condemning the men to whom the title “integralist” had been applied, Pope Benedict XV went out of his way, in the Ad beatissimi, to state their basic thesis. He insisted that it is the duty of all those who are devoting themselves “to the good of the Catholic cause” to work in this way: “ut summo opere contendant integram conservare fidem et incolumen ab omni erroris afflatu, sequentes eum maxime, quem Christus constituit custodem et interpretem veritatis” (from the letter Testem benevolentiae, Denz., 1967.) This, rather than inquiry into useless questions, was what the Catholic Church demanded of its theologians, according to Pope Benedict XV.

“(6) One of the false reports sedulously encouraged by the Modernists and their sympathizers was that Modernism itself was a brief and relatively unimportant movement in the Church. People were led to believe that, with the exception of Loisy and a few like him, those who had been infected by the errors condemned by St. Pius X quickly acknowledged their mistakes, and that Modernism as a movement ended with the issuance of the Pascendi dominics gregis.

“The Ad beatissimi is a blessing to the Church for many reasons. One of those reasons is the fact that it points out that more than seven years after the Pascendi dominici gregis had been published, “this so pestilential evil” had not been entirely stamped out. It warned that it was still creeping abroad, secretly but with a certain effectiveness. It was still a movement against which loyal Catholics should be on their guard, and against which they were to stand. It was something which Pope Benedict XV felt called upon to condemn again, in its teachings and in its very spirit.”

T. Benns: The fact that bishops did not work together to take all precautions to exclude those of a Modernist bent from their seminaries and refuse imprimaturs to those writing books that exhibited Modernist tendencies, as Pope St. Pius X had ordered them to do, shows that the Modernists had stealthily infiltrated the episcopal ranks long before the death of Pope Pius XII. The poison was already circulating in the veins of the hierarchy and would eventually lead to their own self-destruction, and that of the Church.

“In the light of this encyclical it is difficult to see how anyone can ever hold that the Modernist movement was dead after 1907, and that there was no real Modernism for the Association of St. Pius V to fight against after the issuance of the Pascendi dominici gregis. The great lesson of the Ad beatissimi is its insistence upon the need of serious and loyal work by Catholic theologians to keep the Catholic faith in all of its integrity and purity. This, according to the encyclical, is exactly what the Catholic Church demands of those who devote their lives to its service. The document takes cognizance of the fact that anything done in this direction will be accomplished in the face of strong opposition.The Church, according to Pope Benedict XV, insists that its priests contend with all their might to prevent the setting-aside or the changing of any dogma of the faith on the part of Catholics. The language of the Ad beatissimi obviously implies that Pope Benedict meant that work for the integrity and purity of the Catholic faith is faced with serious opposition.”

T. Benns: Clearly priests did not fulfill their duties, particularly when it came to the education of the laity as commanded in papal encyclicals, also the proper direction of liturgical renewal. Even bishops did not oppose the Modernists as they were commanded to do, something later addressed by Msgr. Fenton in a subsequent essay. And this is why priests themselves were at a loss to carry out their duties; they had no leadership from the top.

“Thus the Ad beatissimi indicates the existence of a second kind of controversy in the field of sacred theology, and shows that sometimes this second kind of controversy may be required of any theologian. The first kind of controversy with which the encyclical was concerned was that between two men who supported opposite opinions on a point which had not as yet been settled by a decision of the Holy See. This second type of controversy is one in which a theologian points to or argues against some teaching which threatens the purity or the integrity of the Catholic faith.

“This was the type of controversy into which the opponents of the Modernists were being drawn fifty years ago. The Ad beatissimi points out the immediate and necessary objectives of such controversial writings when it asserts that Catholics must avoid the teachings and the spirit of those who are contradicting the doctrines of the Church. The rules for this second type of controversy must be seen in the light of this essential objective. It is clear that the defender of the Catholic truth must write modeste, that he must avoid all intemperate language, and that he must be guided always by the standards of truth, justice, and divine charity.”

T. Benns: This second type of controversy was carried on by theologians within the Catholic Church writing when the Church was still the Church. At that time, those against whom the faithful theologians such as Msgr. Fenton were writing could be referred to the Holy See by their bishops for disciplinary action if they refused to withdraw their false teachings, although bishops derelict in their duties already in the 1940s and 1950s often did not report them to the Holy Office. Under Canons 1935 and 2223, we as laity are guaranteed the right to be heard in calling these heretics out as a danger to the faith and in the absence of the hierarchy, as Pope Pius XII teaches, we are obligated to do so.


The behavior we see today mirrored in the discussions of the many-splintered Traditionalist sects and their publicists, also other non-Catholic sects, is nothing more than a continuation of Modernism as it existed even before the death of Pope Pius XII. There can be no Catholic charity, no truly Catholic discussion when there are no true Catholics to engage in it. True Catholics follow the rules as Msgr. Fenton has laid them down. True Catholics are integralists championing papal authority, not Modernists refusing to acknowledge the necessity of the papacy, or at least obedience to all papal decrees and teaching in its absence. This is best explained by Rev. Francis J. Connell below, in an answer to John Courtney Murray’s teaching on religious liberty ( American Ecclesiastical Review, January, 1952).

“As Catholics we must regard the Church’s teaching and practice as the proximate criterion of the tenableness of any theological theory that may be proposed; and when the theory seems to be opposed to the Church’s teaching or practice, a thorough investigation should be made to see if a reconciliation is possible. This should be done, not at the end, after support for the theory has been sought from other sources, but at the very beginning. For, if no reasonable way of establishing such a reconciliation can be found, the theory should be abandoned, however convincing the arguments in its favor may seem. Now, Fr. Murray’s theory on the relation between Church and State seems in some respects to be out of harmony with the Church’s teaching and practice. If he can prove that there is no opposition, theologians will cease to object to his opinions on this ground. But if he cannot or will not prove this point, he must expect that his theory will be viewed with suspicion.

“However, since Fr. Murray prefers to attack me instead of answering my objections, the task devolves on me of defending myself against his charges. I shall try to follow as closely as possible the order in which he brings up his objections…” Fr. Connell concludes his article with the following: “…Let me add a word about the attitude which Fr. Murray manifests toward me in his article. Frequently he uses expressions indicating that I have shown a lack of intellectual ability in this controversy. He ascribes to me ‘a lack of breadth, depth, comprehension and clarity,’ ‘falsity of perspective,” and “confusions in my political thought.’ He says that I give no idea of what is the speculative problem with which I am dealing, that I have a “genius for the peripheral,” and that I am guilty of logicism. This last he defines as the achievement of a pseudo-consequence by a concatenation of propositions that represent mere conceptualizations, which, I take it, is a somewhat complicated way of saying that I am rather stupid.” So the more things change, the more they stay the same.

This is a picture-perfect example of how Traditionalists treat their opponents. They refuse to look for any conceivable way to reconcile differences, whenever possible, for the betterment of the Church and to promote unity among the faithful. And when this is not possible, they also then refuse to abandon their heretical teachings. To discredit their critics they then resort to ad hominem attacks since they cannot answer in kind the valid objections their opponents have raised. They reply in a condescending manner, reminding readers of their “seminary training” and “clerical authority,” when scholastic philosophy teaches that: ”Authority clothed with the necessary conditions is true authority. False authority makes the same claims although it lacks these conditions… Authority is not the last criterion of truth or motive of certitude.” And we have gone to great lengths to demonstrate that according to the teachings of the Continual Magisterium, these men have no authority whatsoever, and can be considered only pseudo-clergy. So much for their “seminary training,” which does not even teach them how to argue their non-existent cases in scholastic form.

This is why, repeatedly, given these ad hominem attacks, we have been forced to launch a defense against them on this site. For as Msgr. Fenton so aptly states: “The worst scandal that can be given comes from allowing a contradiction of Our Lord’s teaching to go unanswered. Of that I am absolutely sure. The people who utter the contradiction are usually so incompetent that nothing about much can be done about them.”

And all we can say to that is Amen.

Msgr. Fenton’s rules for discussion, Part 2; new article on Pope Pius XII’s last years

Msgr. Fenton’s rules for discussion, Part 2; new article on Pope Pius XII’s last years

+St. Lawrence, Martyr+

Already we have received feedback from a disgruntled critic who demeans Msgr. Fenton by pointing out that he remained in the Vatican 2 church following John 23rd’s death and for several years of Paul 6’s reign before passing away in July of 1969. Therefore, this person concludes, God denied Msgr. Fenton the grace that would have enlightened him regarding the true situation, so ergo he must be considered a heretic and should not be quoted as an authoritative source on this site. But because Pope Pius XII was the last true pope, and personally commended Msgr. Fenton for his work, we feel no compunction whatsoever in quoting him, even up to the time he was dismissed (or resigned, as some reports state) from his professorship at the Catholic University of America in 1964.

Together with his former boss, Rev. Francis J. Connell, (who resigned from the Catholic University of America in 1958), Msgr. Fenton fought the changes that bishops and others proposed at the preliminary preparations for the false Vatican 2 council prior to 1962 and during its final session in 1964-1965. His diaries are proof that he was sickened by what was being proposed and believed that if the suggested changes were implemented it would be the end of the Catholic Church. According to an online source a reader notes below:

“After a particularly heated meeting in Rome during March of 1962, one graphic clash was recorded in the diary of Fr. Congar: “After some time, Fenton is so vile, so foolishly negative, so aggressive, so entirely out of his senses, that Msgr. Philips [Gerard Philips, a theologian at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium] stands up and says, with emotion, strongly and calmly: Under these conditions, it is impossible to work, and I retire. Because (addressing Fenton) you accuse everybody of heresy.” Fr. de Lubac’s diary offers a substantially similar account. Msgr. Fenton’s recollection of this incident in his diary is very brief: “At the afternoon meeting, Philips launched a verbal attack against me, and I replied in kind.” (

Monsignor Fenton was not unaware of what was happening; he was simply outnumbered and helpless to do anything about it. One source reports: “Msgr. Fenton fought the Vatican 2 reforms until his death on July 7, 1969” (Carey, Patrick W. “Fenton, Joseph Clifford”. Biographical Dictionary of Christian Theologians, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000, p. 192). Carey is an emeritus professor of theology at Marquette University, and a biographer of “Cardinal” Avery Dulles. In a 2018 article on Fenton’s seeming revival among some Catholics, he criticized certain aspects of his writings in light of Vatican 2.

We reserve judgment on Msgr. Fenton only because he did speak out when all others were silent, and we do not know his reasons for doing what he did. He was the last of the great theologians. And as another reader has pointed out, this situation is no different than that of the ecclesiastical writer Tertullian, whose orthodox writings are found quoted frequently in approved Catholic works despite Tertullian’s later profession of the Montanist heresy. Nor may we add, of the Church’s continued citation and use of King Henry VIII’s Defense of the Sacraments, the latest edition by Benziger Bros. appearing in 1908. In the introduction to this work we read:

“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones. So let it not be with Henry.Generally he is remembered as one who ‘spared neither man in his hate, nor woman in his lust.’ But this is the roue, the non-Catholic, the Protestant, the schismatic Henry. Let us not forget that at least once he had been the beau-ideal Henry; in body, tall, straight, broad-shouldered, a master of every gentlemanly accomplishment; in mind naturally clever, an accomplished linguist, a learned theologian, a faithful son of the Church. As such he wrote his famous book, the “Defence of the Seven Sacraments.” (Editor, Rev. Louis O’Donovan, S.T.L). So let it not be with Msgr. Fenton, either. He will continue to be quoted here.

If you follow the skewed “logic” of the critic mentioned above in our opening paragraph, it will eventually lead to the conclusion that Pope Pius XII could not have been pope, for allowing liberal and Modernist bishops and cardinals to remain in the Church. This has been refuted at length before on this site, but there is another dimension to the situation of the Church in the last decade of Her existence that has not been fully considered or explored. It not only explains why Pope Pius XII behaved as he did in the final years of his pontificate, but also could explain why more conservative members of the hierarchy, Msgr. Fenton and Rev. Connell included, were at a loss regarding what was actually happening, how to proceed and what they should do.

As noted in our last blog, a massive doctrinal warfare campaign was launched against American Catholics in the early 1950s by the CIA, and this campaign successfully molded the opinions and beliefs not only of the laity but the hierarchy as well. This is best reflected in the title to David Wemhoff’s monumental work: John Courtney Murray, Time/Life and the American Proposition: How the CIA’s Doctrinal Warfare Program Changed the Catholic Church(2015). That this program reached even into the very chambers of Pope Pius XII himself is demonstrated in the article recently posted HERE. We believe this new article is essential to understanding the full import of the deception perpetrated on the entire Catholic Church, and all its consequences today.

Now we proceed to part two of Msgr. Fenton’s article on the rules for theological discourse. Comments on the passages in bold will follow the excerpt.

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Pope Benedict XV and the rules for theological discussion

(Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton, American Ecclesiastical Review, July 1956)

(2) The second lesson brought out in this section of the Ad beatissimi is that it is wrong for anyone to set aside the doctrinal decisions of competent authority within the Church because these decisions are not pleasing to him. In the AAS translation carried in this article, the sense of the Latin original in this particular part is not given with complete accuracy. According to the translation, it is wrong for anyone to disregard these commands of legitimate authority “on the pretence that he does not approve of them.” The Latin original reads: “propterea quia non probetur sibt,” which would mean merely: “because he does not approve of them.”

Actually, whenever there has been any pretense or simulation connected with the setting aside of authoritative teachings by writers in the field of sacred theology, it has never taken the form of trying to make it appear that the statements of the ecclesia docens are being passed over because the writer does not approve of them. The usual manner of acting in this way is to have some doctrinal decision which does not appeal to a particular author rejected on the pretense that the Sovereign Pontiff, in issuing this judgment, was actually referring to something quite distinct from what he said he was discussing.

Thus the text of the Ad beatissimi insists upon the need for genuine humility in all theological discussion. It tells us that the Catholic writer or lecturer must “submit his opinion to the judgment of authority, and then obey as a matter of conscience.” It is, of course, far more in accord with the dictates of pride to ignore the doctrinal decisions of ecclesiastical authority whenever these decisions are distasteful, and particularly whenever they are opposed to what the author or lecturer has hitherto been teaching. It is quite in line with the demands of worldly self-love to allege some pretext which will make the rejection of papal teachings appear as an act of virtue or as an achievement of scientific learning. But, as Pope Benedict XV pointed out in the Ad beatissimi, such is not the course of action that accords with the demands of the Catholic Church upon its theologians.

(3) Pope Benedict’s encyclical then insists that no private individual has the right to set himself up as a teacher in the Church. The translation asserts that this cannot be done “by the medium of books or of newspapers.” The Latin original makes it clear that public lectures can also be the medium for this unauthorized teaching within the Church. It likewise makes it obvious that the prohibition extends, not only to newspapers, but to all periodical literature.

Here the Ad beatissimi touches upon a point which has been much more fully developed by Pope Pius XII in the allocution Si diligis, one of his most important doctrinal pronouncements. The same section of the Si diligis, incidentally, casts important light on the previous lesson inculcated by the Ad beatissimi.

“Christ Our Lord entrusted the truth which He had brought from heaven to the Apostles, and through them to their successors. He sent His Apostles, as He had been sent by the Father, to teach all nations everything they had heard from Him. The Apostles are, therefore, by divine right the true doctors and teachers in the Church. Besides the lawful successors of the Apostles, namely the Roman Pontiff for the universal Church and Bishops for the faithful entrusted to their care, there are no other teachers divinely constituted in the Church of Christ. But both the Bishops and, first of all, the Supreme Teacher and Vicar of Christ on earth, may associate others with themselves in their work of teacher, and use their advice; they delegate to them the faculty to teach, either by special grant, or by conferring an office to which the faculty is attached. Those who are so called teach, not in their own name, nor by reason of their theological knowledge, but by reason of the mandate which they have received from the lawful Teaching Authority. Their faculty always remains subject to that Authority, nor is it ever exercised in its own right or independently. Bishops, for their part, by conferring this faculty are not deprived of the right to teach; they retain the very grave obligation of supervising the doctrine which others propose in order to help them, [and they retain the very grave obligation] of seeing to its integrity and security. Therefore the legitimate Teaching Authority of the Church is guilty of no injury or no offence to any of those to whom it has given a canonical mission, if it desires to ascertain what they, to whom it has entrusted the mission of teaching, are proposing and defending in their lectures, and in books, notes and reviews intended for the use of their students, as well as in books and other publications intended for the general public” (Si Diligus, 1954).

Occasionally, over the period of the last few years, the lesson of the Ad beatissimi has been misinterpreted. People have been led to imagine that Pope Benedict’s action in prohibiting private individuals from acting as teachers of divine revelation within the Catholic Church in some way implied a rebuke to those enemies of Modernism whom the Modernists and their sympathizers designated as “integralists.”” Nothing could be farther from the truth.

At the time Pope Benedict wrote the Ad beatissimi, and, unfortunately, even after it had been written, there were individuals who arrogated to themselves the positions of independent teachers within the Catholic Church. The Modernist leader Von Hugel was an outstanding offender along this line. He attempted to teach in the Catholic Church, not as an instrument chosen by any member of the hierarchy, but in obvious opposition to the directions of the Holy See. He disdained even seeking an imprimatur for his published works. If ever there was a private person who presumed to set himself up as a teacher in the Church outside the sphere of influence of the ecclesia docens, that person was Friedrich von Hugel. And it is interesting to note that we have never been told of any of the so-called “integralists” whoever violated this command in the Ad beatissimi in anything like the way Von Hugel violated it.

From the entire context of Pope Benedict’s encyclical letter, it is quite obvious that neither the document itself nor any particular section of it can be said to be directed particularly against these “integralists.” As a matter of fact the Ad beatissimi repudiates the errors and the spirit of the Modernists as powerfully and as bitterly as St. Pius X had ever done. It renews the condemnations issued by St. Pius X against Modernism and the Modernists. There is absolutely nothing in the document to support the contention that Pope Benedict XV meant in any way to condemn or to censure the loyal supporters of his sainted predecessor.

Certainly, when the conduct of Modernists like Von Hugel was so well known, and so completely at variance with what is inculcated in the Ad beatissimi, it would seem most probable that, if this particular teaching was directed “against” anyone, it was intended as a lesson and as a childing for the writers of the Modernist group. But, as the passage reads in Pope Benedict’s encyclical, it is simply an order from the Vicar of Christ on earth to Catholic publicists to leave the teaching of God’s revealed word where Our Lord had put it: in the hands of the apostolic collegium. It is a badly needed reminder of the fact that “Besides the lawful successors of the Apostles, namely the Roman Pontiff for the universal Church and Bishops for the faithful entrusted to their care, there are no other teachers divinely constituted in the Church of Christ.” And it is likewise a reminder that the only legitimate teaching in the Church is that of the apostolic ecclesia docens, or by some person who has been called in to aid the hierarchy in their teaching work, under their direction.

Furthermore, this section of the Ad beatissimi advises all Catholics of their duty to submit their teachings to the judgment of the authority Our Lord has established in His Church and to receive the decision of that authority reverently and obediently. The Roman Pontiff is the supreme doctrinal authority for the universal Church militant of the New Testament. When he decides to speak out on any doctrinal point (or, as the Humani generis puts it, when the Sovereign Pontiffs “in actis suis de re hactenus controversa data opera sententiam ferunt’), the others within the Church are obliged in conscience to accept this decision.

(4) The encyclical states that, where there is a question which has not as yet been decided by the Holy See, theologians may legitimately hold opposite views and may defend their own opinions. But it insists that in theological debates which are of themselves quite licit, the norms of truth, justice, and charity must always be observed.

Thus it is the teaching of the Holy See that there is a definite field within which theologians may licitly differ or debate. This field is limited to questions which have not been resolved by an act of the supreme doctrinal authority of the Catholic Church. It is quite obvious that no Catholic lecturer or writer can legitimately debate against a thesis which is taught authoritatively by the magisterium of the Church. And it is no less clearly the teaching of the magisterium that no individual theologian has any right to impose his own OPINION on others. As a matter of fact, theological debate on points which have not been decided by the Holy See can be and very frequently has been of immense value to the cause of sacred theology and to the Church itself.

The official translation reads that: “in such disputes there must be no offensive language, for this may lead to grave breaches of charity.” It does not give an exact rendering of the sense of the Latin original: “Sed in his disputationibus omnis intemperantia sermonis absit, quae graves afferre potest offensiones caritati.” What the Ad beatissimi strictly forbids is intemperate language which can be seriously uncharitable. Offensive reference to a theological opponent is always uncharitable. It is not merely something which may lead to an offense against this virtue. The point made in the encyclical is that any intemperate language in theological debate is forbidden, and may be seriously sinful. The theologian is entitled to defend any opinion of his which is not opposed to the teaching of the Holy See, but he must do this modeste, temperately. He is definitely not allowed to assert that people who oppose this opinion of his are suspect in faith or badly disposed in the line of ecclesiastical discipline because of their stand on this particular question. It is to be noted, incidentally, that the official translation takes no account of the words “hac ipsa tantum causa,” which are found here in the Latin original.

This portion of the Ad beatissimi is a clear reminder of the fact that debate or discussion in the field of sacred theology must always be conducted according to the norms of truth, justice, and charity. A theologian is not meant to debate a point in order to show that he is more intelligent or more erudite than the individual with whom he disagrees. The schola theologica is definitely not an arena for the exercise of vainglory.

The work of theology is the investigation of divinely revealed truth, so that God’s message may be ever better known and loved. Victory is achieved in theological discussion or debate only when the light of theological evidence is attained. A man wins in a theological discussion when, by means of the varying theses considered and the arguments alleged in their favor, he is able to understand what the resolution of the problem should really be. And, if a man is a loyal theologian, genuinely and sincerely loyal to the directives of the Holy See, this is the victory he seeks. It matters little, except to the cause of personal pride, whether the correct resolution of the problem turns out to have been the one originally proposed by oneself or by another.

When it insists that theologians should uphold their own opinions modeste, Pope Benedict’s encyclical takes direct cognizance of the basic reality of a theological opinion. By its very nature an opinion of the type being discussed in the Ad beatissimi is a thesis which has not been directly supported by the authoritative magisterium of the Catholic Church. If a man holds it and defends it, he does so, in the last analysis, because it appears to him to be the correct solution to a theological problem. The very fact that other men, presumably as well versed in the science as he is himself, refuse to accept it, should help him to realize that his own resolution of the problem may be objectively inaccurate or inadequate. If he is defending what is merely a free opinion, something which can be contradicted as licitly as it can be upheld, he should realize that his original position may turn out to be untenable, and he should be loyal and intelligent enough to recognize and accept the truth even if it appears in his opponent’s position.

In the history of the Catholic Church, the violation of the command set forth here in Pope Benedict’s Ad beatissimiappears as one of the most tragic factors. In very considerable measure the heresies which have ruined the spiritual lives of so many thousands, and the evil doctrinal tendencies which have harmed so many more have been due to the obstinacy of theologians who have upheld what they first considered free theological opinions long after any support of these theses was excusable. Pope Benedict XV did the cause of sacred theology a great service when he warned theologians to defend even legitimate free opinions modeste.

To use a man’s support of a free theological opinion opposed to one’s own as a reason to impugn the genuineness of his faith and loyalty to the Church is always an evil tactic. To use intemperate language towards an opponent in theological discussion is always deplorable. And, if that intemperate language is meant to bring others to dislike or to despise that opponent, it is both unjust and uncharitable. (End of Fenton article excerpt)

Comments on Msgr. Fenton’s article, (2-3) above

— “It is wrong for anyone to set aside the doctrinal decisions of competent authority within the Church because these decisions are not pleasing to himThe usual manner of acting in this way is to have some doctrinal decision which does not appeal to a particular author rejected on the pretense that the Sovereign Pontiff, in issuing this judgment, was actually referring to something quite distinct from what he said he was discussing.”

T. Benns: How often have we seen this tactic applied in argumentation presented by Traditionalists? It is practically their stock in trade. Another ruse they use is to pretend that some decision rendered in a document issuing from the ordinary magisterium does not bind in conscience, even though such a document is entered into the Acta Apostolica Sedis and has been declared authoritative and binding by actual theologians, even Holy Office officials, writing before the death of Pope Pius XII. When such subterfuge is employed, and the one asserting such things does not desist when advised that they are in error, the rules that apply in theological discussion regarding mere opinions and matters not yet decided by the Holy See do not apply. For then it becomes the duty of those defending the truth to expose and rebuke the person who is scandalizing others by refusing to obey the Roman Pontiffs.

“The Catholic writer or lecturer must “submit his opinion to the judgment of authority, and then obey as a matter of conscience… No private individual has the right to set himself up as a teacher in the Church” (be this in newspaper articles, books or private lectures).

T. Benns: But as pointed out in several articles on this site, this is true only when such Church officials unquestionably exist; physical impossibility excuses us today. Catholics are obligated to defend the faith when it comes under attack, and it is under attack everywhere. For as St. Thomas Aquinas states: “In cases of necessity where faith is in danger, everyone is bound to proclaim his faith to others, either to give good example and encouragement to the rest of the faithful or to check the attacks of unbelievers…” (II-II Q3, A2, reply 1). Pope Pius XII explains in his address, The Mission of Catholic Women, Sept. 29, 1957, entered into the AAS:

 “The initiative of the lay apostolate is perfectly justified even without a prior explicit mission from the hierarchy… Personal initiative plays a great part in protecting the faith and Catholic life especially in countries where contacts with the hierarchy are difficult or practically impossible. In such circumstances the Christians upon whom this task falls must, with God’s grace, assume all their responsibilities. Even so nothing can be undertaken against the explicit and implicit will of the Church or contrary in any way to the rules of faith or morals or ecclesiastical discipline.” While many complain that the articles on this site are too long and technical, it is precisely because we must strictly abide by what Pope Pius XII dictated here, documenting how things should proceed from the teachings of the Continual Magisterium, Canon Law and the moral theologians.

 — Besides the lawful successors of the Apostles, namely the Roman Pontiff for the universal Church and Bishops for the faithful entrusted to their care, there are no other teachers divinely constituted in the Church of Christ. But both the Bishops and, first of all, the Supreme Teacher and Vicar of Christ on earth, may associate others with themselves in their work of teacher, and use their advice; they delegate to them the faculty to teach…”

T. Benns: Si diligus, from which the above quote is taken, was written in 1954; The Mission of Catholic Women in 1957. Si diligus addresses the protocol for when there are valid bishops in communion with a canonically elected Roman Pontiff; the later address to women considers the situation where there are no hierarchy to consult. The two cannot be said to be the same, and it is the pope himself who makes this distinction.

 — “It is simply an order from the Vicar of Christ on earth to Catholic publicists to leave the teaching of God’s revealed word where Our Lord had put it: in the hands of the apostolic collegium. Besides the lawful successors of the Apostles, namely the Roman Pontiff for the universal Church and Bishops for the faithful entrusted to their care, there are no other teachers divinely constituted in the Church of Christ.” And it is likewise a reminder that the only legitimate teaching in the Church is that of the apostolic ecclesia docens, or by some person who has been called in to aid the hierarchy in their teaching work, under their direction.”

T. Benns: Here is a pointed reminder that it is the Apostolic College, with St. Peter’s successor at its head, who possess the teaching authority in the Church; not the bishops alone. As stated above, the Pope himself has called in the laity to do the work of the hierarchy when bishops and priests are unavailable.

 Comments on Msgr. Fenton’s article, (4), above

— It is quite obvious that no Catholic lecturer or writer can legitimately debate against a thesis which is taught authoritatively by the magisterium of the Church. And it is no less clearly the teaching of the magisterium that no individual theologian has any right to impose his own OPINION on others.

T. Benns: And yet Traditionalists debate theses taught authoritatively by the magisterium every day, both on the Internet and in public debate forums. Despite being presented with overwhelming evidence, they refuse to desist from their heresies and schism. This hinges mainly on the fact that they deny the necessity of the papacy for the Church’s very existence and the inability of the Church to operate as such at all during an interregnum, under Pope Pius XII’s Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis.

— “What the Ad beatissimi strictly forbids is intemperate language which can be seriously uncharitable. Offensive reference to a theological opponent is always uncharitableAny intemperate language in theological debate is forbidden and may be seriously sinful. The theologian is entitled to defend any opinion of his WHICH IS NOT OPPOSED TO THE TEACHING OF THE HOLY SEE… To use intemperate language towards an opponent in theological discussion is always deplorable. And, if that intemperate language is meant to bring others to dislike or to despise that opponent, it is both unjust and uncharitable.”

T. Benns: Once again, no theologian or anyone calling himself a Catholic writer has any right to defend error, and no one writing today is a theologian anyway. And yet Traditionalists defend error on a daily basis. Those defending even opinions proscribed by the Holy See cannot be allowed to prevail without being publicly corrected. And those defending even tolerated opinions must not accuse their opponents of heresy or other errors for holding the opposite view. Some Traditionalists defend their abuse of opponents by stating that they are allowed to point out unfavorable facts about their person, and in certain cases this is true, (if it could affect the truth of what their opponent is saying, or if they justifiably question their motives). But if they proceed to an ad hominem attack without ever answering the legitimate argument presented by an opponent, resorting to the personal attack instead — justified or not — then they are still guilty of violating charity. And this has been the case for decades.

— “In very considerable measure the heresies which have ruined the spiritual lives of so many thousands, and the evil doctrinal tendencies which have harmed so many more have been due to the obstinacy of theologians who have upheld what they first considered free theological opinions long after any support of these theses was excusable.”

T. Benns: Many examples of what Msgr. Fenton states above could be offered here, including the definition of infallibility, which includes teachings of the ordinary magisterium entered into the Acta Apostolica Sedis; the validity of episcopal consecrations during an interregnum without the papal mandate, a teaching contrary to Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis; the heretical Gallicanist proposition that bishops (who are not even bishops) have any sort of authority whatsoever without being united to a canonically elected Roman Pontiff; the heresy that jurisdiction during an interregnum is supplied by Christ Himself and many others that could be mentioned here. Yes, thanks to evil theologians and pseudo-clergy pretending to be knowledgeable in theology, thousands and thousands have been deceived. All thanks to the Modernists Msgr. Fenton so relentlessly condemned. (To be concluded next week.)

Msgr. J.C. Fenton: rules for charity to promote unity in theological discussion, Pt. I

Msgr. J.C. Fenton: rules for charity to promote unity in theological discussion, Pt. I

+St. Peter’s Chains+

Prayer Intentions for the Month of August, Dedicated to the Most Pure Heart of Mary

“O pure and Immaculate Virgin… rescue us from every necessity that presses upon us and from all the temptations of the devil; …deliver us from the fire that is not extinguished and from the outer darkness.” (Raccolta 339)

(First Friday and Saturday this week)

ATTENTION: Please see the beautiful Catechism video on our home page that has been generously contributed to this site by an anonymous donor. In a separate article coming soon, we will add our comments on this lovely work. Narrated in a voice especially appealing to children, this video will also serve as a suitable introduction to the faith for adults who are either just now converting or wish to refresh their knowledge of the faith as they first learned it from parents and teachers.


In presenting this excellent piece by Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton on the charity that must characterize theological debate, I would first like to make a few distinctions. Monsignor Fenton is speaking here of the charity that truly Catholic theologians, dedicated to defending, preserving and explaining the truth to others are to observe in the course of their written debates. His article was written not long after the Americanist and ecumenist, John Courtney Murray, wrote a scathing denouncement in the American Ecclesiastical Review of the Review’s editor, Rev. Francis Connell’s position on Church/state relations. At the time Murray was not yet publicly sanctioned by Pius XII for his views, so Fenton was holding back. But once such sanctions are no longer necessary because the pertinacity and intent of the writer is unmistakably apparent, one need not hesitate to lower the boom on heresy. This Fenton effectively did in later articles, but by then Murray was actually gaining ground.

Today those attempting to defend the Church and papal teaching rarely, if ever, enjoy the company of dedicated Catholic colleagues well educated in the faith who are also writing to champion the same unchangeable truths. Instead one is surrounded by those who are either critical of everything written or who actively challenge the Church’s teaching contained in such writings. The theologians Msgr. Fenton speaks about here were fighting in an arena that enforced rules and engaged referees but we, today, do not enjoy such a luxury. There is no one to call the final play; no court of final appeal. It’s every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost, when simple obedience to papal teaching would have settled everything.

And this is exactly what Msgr. Fenton was fighting as he explained in an October 1961 article where he exposes Murray’s misuse and deliberate misapplication and misinterpretation of papal encyclicals, something that Traditionalist pseudo-clergy are wont to do. What Murray taught was basically that all men had the inherent right to embrace error and that no country or its leaders have the moral obligation to discern the truth and promote it. Nor should the Catholic Church be allowed to actively evangelize and proclaim that it is the only possessor of the truth. And in essence, Murrays views are reflected in the attacks made by so-called Catholics on writers insisting on strict obedience to the Roman Pontiffs and Canon Law. For they are saying in so many words that all are allowed their opinion on these matters and cannot be sanctioned, when the popes declare otherwise, as Fenton notes below.

In this first part of Msgr. Fenton’s article, he explains how the “modernist spirit” as defined by Pope Benedict XV, had already permeated the clergy and infected Catholic writers. And most particularly he points out the damage done to Catholic unity, which can be achieved today ONLY by faithfully following and obeying all the teachings of the continual magisterium. Fenton writes below: “Theological discussion is meant to contribute towards unity in the line of thought by reason of its accuracy. It attains that accuracy through the faithful adherence to the teaching of the Church’s magisterium… It is meant to serve the unity of charity within the true Church of Jesus Christ by showing Catholics how and why they must consider and treat each other as brothers in Christ precisely by reason of their membership in God’s household, the Church. Obviously any theological discussion, oral or written, which treats A FELLOW-MEMBER of the Church contemptuously and which works to bring others to despise or to dislike an opponent militates against this unity of charity within the Catholic Church.”

And this is especially true when one opponent insists on obedience to papal pronouncements and Canon Law, and the others insist on ignoring these laws and teachings or misinterpreting them, as in Murray’s case. Notice above that I have capitalized Fenton’s term, FELLOW-MEMBER.  I do not consider the opponents usually addressed here as true Catholics, (with a few exceptions), particularly Traditionalists openly defying papal authority and those who pretend to be pray-at-home-Catholics while embracing the Feeneyite heresy, Liberalism, or some other error condemned by the Church as heretical. Under Can. 2200, in our present situation, such people must be considered material heretics, hence non-members of the Church, especially if they have been sufficiently warned and notice of their errors has been provided to them. To protect our own faith, we have no choice  but to avoid them and leave any final decision to God Himself. Only a public retraction of their error, three years of penance and good behavior can readmit them to the Church per se, as taught by Canon Law.

That being said, we proceed to Msgr. Fenton’s article, which provides all true Catholics of good will the key to charity and unity in these times. (All emphases below is the editor’s.)

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Pope Benedict XV and the rules for theological discussion

(Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton, American Ecclesiastical Review, July, 1956)

One of the more interesting and important phenomena in the Catholic life of our time has been the emergence, here in the United States, of a rather considerable controversial literature in which Catholic writers have taken issue with theological views expressed by other Catholics. Unfortunately, along with the increase in the quantity of theological controversy, there has sometimes been more than a suggestion of quite untheological acerbity. In most instances, the men who lapsed from the standards of proper theological discussions were not the theologians themselves, but rather over-enthusiastic admirers of some real participant who succumbed to the temptation of trying to exalt their hero by trying to discredit a theologian who opposed some of his views. Nevertheless, all of those interested in the work of theological discussion should profit greatly from a consideration of what a great twentieth-century Roman Pontiff taught about the proper norms for such discussion. The Pontiff was Pope Benedict XV, and he included this material in his encyclical letter Ad beatissimi, issued Nov. 1, 1914.

The section of the document dealing with our subject is a rather long one, but it must be cited in its entirety. This knowledge of the entire section of the Ad beatissimi will give us the opportunity to see the immediate context of the various admonitions given here by Pope Benedict XV. It should prevent anyone from making or accepting any interpretation of an individual command or statement which might be incompatible with that context. The pertinent passage reads:

“The first element on which the success of any society of men depends is the concord of its members. We shall therefore make it one of Our chief cares to do away with, and to prevent, dissension and discord amongst Catholics, and thus to secure unity of plan and of action. The enemies of God and the Church clearly see that a way to victory over us is opened, whenever our defence is weakened by divided counsels; hence they are ever on the alert, when they find us united, to divide us by craftily sowing in our midst the seed of discord. Would that their scheme had not so often been successful, to the great detriment of religion.

“For this reason it is wrong that anyone should set aside the commands of lawful authority on the pretence that he does not approve of them; let each submit his opinion to the judgment of authority, and then obey as a duty of conscience. No private person is allowed, by the medium of books or of newspapers, to put himself forward as teacher in the Church. All know to whom God has given the teaching authority of the Church; to him it belongs to decide when and how he shall speak; the duty of others is to receive his words with reverence and obedience. In matters about which the Holy See has not given a decision, and in which, without injury to faith and ecclesiastical discipline, there may be differences of opinion, each may lawfully defend his own.

“But in such disputes there must be no offensive language, for this may lead to grave breaches of charity; each is free to maintain his own opinion, but with propriety, and if others do not accept his view, he must not cast suspicion on their faith or spirit of discipline. We desire that the practice, lately come into use, of using distinctive names by which Catholics are marked off from Catholics, should cease; such names must be avoided, not only as “profane novelties of words,” that are neither true nor just, but also because they lead to grave disturbance and confusion in the Catholic body. It is of the nature of the Catholic faith that nothing can be added to it, nothing taken away; it is either accepted in full or rejected in full: “This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and steadfastly, he cannot be saved.” There is no need to qualify by fresh epithets the profession of this faith; let it be enough for a man to say: “Christian is my name, Catholic my surname”; only let him take heed to be in truth what he calls himself.

“As for those who devote themselves to the good of the Catholic cause, the Church now asks of them not to be over-eager about useless questions, but, following the leadership of him whom Christ has appointed guardian and interpreter of the truth, to use all their power to preserve the faith in fullness and freedom from error. There are still men, and these not a few, who, as the Apostle says: “having itching ears, when they will not endure sound doctrine, according to their desires will heap to themselves teachers, and will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables.”

“Some there are who, puffed up and emboldened in mind by the wonderful advance of natural science — an advantage due to the gift of God — have gone so far in their rashness that, exalting their own judgment above the authority of the Church, they have not hesitated to reduce the deep things of God, and the whole revelation of God, to the measure of their own understanding, and to accommodate them to the modern spirit. Hence have arisen the monstrous errors of Modernism, which Our Predecessor justly declared to be “a synthesis of all heresies,” and which he solemnly condemned.

‘That condemnation, venerable Brethren, We now renew to the full; and since this so pestilential evil has not been altogether stamped out, but even yet secretly creeps here and there, We admonish all to be most carefully on their guard against its contagion; one can well say of it, what Job said of another plague: “It is a fire that devoureth even to destruction, and rooteth up all things that spring.” We desire that Catholics should reject, not only the errors of Modernism, but also its tendency—what is called the Modernistic spirit; a spirit that fastidiously rejects what is ancient and is ever on the search for novelties — novelties in the way of speaking of divine things, in the celebration of divine worship, in Catholic practices, and even in the exercises of private devotion. We desire, therefore, that the old rule be religiously observed: “Let nothing be introduced but what has been handed down” (a rule which, while being inviolably observed in matters of faith, must be taken as a guide also in matters liable to change; although even here the sentence holds good: “Not new things, but in a new way.”?!; AAS, VI, 19, Nov. 25, 1914).

The lessons contained in this section of the Ad beatissimi can be summarized under a comparatively few headings.

(1) The first, and perhaps the most needed, lesson inculcated in the encyclical is that of the intimate and essential purpose of theological writing and of public discussion within the field of this science. These things are meant to contribute to the advantage of the Catholic Church itself, and Pope Benedict describes the setting aside of the commands of lawful doctrinal authority as wrong because such conduct divides and thus weakens the teaching activity of the Church. Obviously there are other reasons why it is morally reprehensible to take no heed of authoritative teachings within the Church. The Ad beatissimi, however, reminds us that one reason why such an attitude is wrong is that it is definitely disadvantageous to the unity and the solidarity of the Church itself.

Here Pope Benedict XV repeats a lesson previously given by Pope Pius IX in his letter Tuas libenter. In this document, Catholics engaged in the speculative sciences were warned that they must give an assent of divine faith, not only to dogmas which had been explicitly defined by oecumenical councils and by the Roman Pontiffs, but also to those doctrines “which are taught as divinely revealed by the ordinary magisterium of the Church spread throughout the world, and which consequently are accepted with universal and constant consent by the Catholic theologians as belonging to the faith.” And the Tuas libenter insists that these Catholic scholars, and particularly the theologians with whom he is primarily concerned, must act thus “in order that, by their writings, they may bring new benefits to the Church.”*

The Ad beatissimi brings out the fact that unity among the Catholics themselves is one of the advantages or benefits which the Church has a right to expect from the theological writings of its own children. The unity Pope Benedict seeks in the Ad beatissimi is a strong and highly definite thing. This is brought out much more clearly in the Latin original of the encyclical than in the authoritative translation published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, the one quoted in this article. Where the English version describes the Holy Father as working “to secure unity of plan and of action” among Catholics, the Latin text says that he is striving “ut… ii [Catholici] iam unum idemque omnes et sentiant et agant — so that… they [Catholics] now all feel and act one and the same.” Here the language and the thought of Pope Benedict closely parallel those of Pope Leo XIII in his Immortale Dei. We can gather the full meaning of what is taught in the Ad beatissimi if we compare it with the passage in the older encyclical in which the same ideas are set forth. Pope Leo wrote:

“If, in the difficult times in which our lot is cast, Catholics will give ear to Us, as it behooves them to do, they will readily see what are the duties of each one in matters of opinion as well as action (quae sua cuiusque sint tam in opinionibus quam in factis officia). As regards opinion, whatever the Roman Pontiffs have hitherto taught, or shall hereafter teach, must be held with a firm grasp of mind, and, so often as occasion requires, must be openly professed. Especially with reference to the so-called “liberties” which are so greatly coveted in these days, all must stand by the judgment of the Apostolic See, and have the same mind.” (oportet Apostolicae Sedis stare iudicio, et quod ipsa senserit, idem sentire singulos, DZ 1880).

Thus, according to both these encyclicals, the unity of Catholics is meant to involve, in the realm of judgment, an attitude of whole-hearted acceptance of the teachings of the Roman Pontiff by all the members of the true Church. The members of God’s supernatural kingdom here on earth must actually hold what the supreme teacher whom God has set in charge of the Church as the Vicar of His Son teaches them to hold. In the Immortale Dei this is presented as the duty incumbent upon all Catholics. In the Ad beatissimi, it is described as the objective which Pope Benedict XV is working to accomplish. It is likewise an objective towards which all theological writing is expected to contribute. Any public lecture or writing by a theologian which militates against this objective is by that very fact a failure. Thus, in the realm of judgment, not only the unity of Catholics in the acceptance of Catholic dogma, but that agree- ment by which all are of the same mind with the Roman Church must stand as a valid norm of acceptability for public theological discussion.

The Ad beatissimi shows also that the union of charity must be served if public statements or writings in the field of theological discussion are to serve the Church as they are meant to do. The encyclical insists that Catholics must not only think the same way, but that they must also do the same things (“unum idemque et sentiant et agant”’). The factor that unites men in their activities within God’s supernatural kingdom on earth is, of course, divine charity, the supernatural love for God which necessarily involves the love of our neighbors, and particularly of those who are closest to us as our fellow members of Our Lord’s Mystical Body. Theological discussion is meant to contribute towards unity in the line of thought by reason of its accuracy. It attains that accuracy through the faithful adherence to the teaching of the Church’s magisterium.

It is meant to serve the unity of charity within the true Church of Jesus Christ by showing Catholics how and why they must consider and treat each other as brothers in Christ precisely by reason of their membership in God’s household, the Church. Obviously any theological discussion, oral or written, which treats A FELLOW-MEMBER of the Church contemptuously and which works to bring others to despise or to dislike an opponent militates against this unity of charity within the Catholic Church. In doing this, it not only fails to bring any new advantages to the Church, but it actually hinders Our Lord’s cause in this world.

We would be very much mistaken if we were to think that this lesson of the Ad beatissimi is merely a commonplace, something which no Catholic had ever dreamed of denying. Unfortunately, in contemporary Catholic writings there have been some men, a few of them extraordinarily influential, who have deplored “Catholic solidarity” or “group-consciousness” among Catholics. What these individuals seem to want is to have Catholics in the United States primarily and enthusiastically aware of their membership in our American civil society. They seem to imagine that special attention to and pride in their membership in the true Church of Jesus Christ, and the recognition of their fellow Catholics as brothers and sisters in Christ who must be given an eminent position in the order of divine charity, are factors which would militate against this awareness of membership in the American nation.

One of the more disturbing symptoms of the ills of our time was the quiescent acceptance by Catholic critics generally of a book which claimed that Catholics were free to like or to dislike their fellow-members of the true Church. This assertion actually constituted the most practical and absolute denial of the function of charity as a bond of union within the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ. It was a flat contradiction of Our Lord’s basic commandment to His disciples: “A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another” (John 13: 34).

It is the special glory of the Ad beatissimi that it speaks to us in our own time to remind us of the essentially practical import of this urgent command of Our Saviour, and that it brings the implication and the application of this command into the field of theological debate. The theologians of our time stood in urgent need of this lesson. (End of Pt. 1 of Fenton article)

And those calling themselves Catholics writing on the Internet today are in desperate need of this important lesson! (To be continued next week.)