Returning to the Church from Heresy and/or Schism
If you are reading this now, you are one of only a few Traditionalists, or former Novus Ordo church adherents, who have seen through the many errors of these sects and their pseudo-clerics and have left their ranks. Those who leave them, even though they do so because they are convinced they are not Catholic, at first experience the very natural process of grieving, a grieving keener because it is spiritual and not directed to creatures. The following was written to help those grieving for the Church they lost and the sins they believe they committed by following Traditionalists. It is hoped this will help them to find their way back to a semblance of sanity and normalcy, as best they can in a world seemingly gone mad.
It is clear from a psychological perspective that Catholics never dealt with the loss of their Church, because they were redirected into other channels by Traditionalists. A quick walk through the seven steps of grieving as taught by psychologists will help readers who have recently realized they must pray at home to understand the feelings that often threaten to overwhelm them when they realize they have been deceived.
Seven steps of grief
- Shock and denial — Hanging onto Traditionalism despite obvious signs it is not Catholic or moving to another sect thinking it will be the answer. This is the practice of avoidance, in order to relieve the anxiety of dealing with the real problem.
- Pain and guilt — Blaming oneself for being fooled by Traditionalists and NO clerics; pain when criticized for questioning or “abandoning” the faith and considering being “home alone;” also the pain of being subjected to shunning and ridicule.
- Anger and bargaining — Lashing out at pseudo-clerics and trying to reason with them. Going back and forth between what has been learned and understood about their errors and wanting to belong to what one thought was the true Church.
- Depression, reflection, loneliness — All this occurs after separating from these groups. Distrust of self and others, difficulty sleeping, brain fog, difficulty concentrating, panic attacks, difficulty making decisions, spiritual dryness or malaise and other disturbances may continue for a time, but eventually subside if one slowly and carefully re-evaluates the basic truths of faith.
- The upward turn — Eventually, with prayer and study, the dark clouds clear and one begins to understand.
- Reconstruction and working through — Once one has accepted the fact that the faith can be kept whole and entire only by avoiding these bogus groups then additional study can begin and one can work toward arriving at true certitude.
- Acceptance and hope — Once true certitude is obtained, then a commitment can be made to pray at home, amend one’s life and do penance. But this decision must come gradually and cannot be rushed. Any resentment, all remaining doubts, must be vanquished. This can be achieved only by progressing through steps 4-6. And for those to whom God grants this rare and special grace, we urge them to look up, not back, and use these graces to amend their lives and secure their salvation.
Why were the above steps missed? Because, as the early 1970s writer Mary Lejeune in her newsletters, The Sword of Truth and the author Craig Heimbichner later documented in Blood on the Altar, false priests (and bishops) were already in the wings in the 1950s waiting for the changes in the Church, knowing that those exiting would be disoriented and ripe for the picking. And they were. Using mind control as practiced on Cardinal Mindszenty in the 1950s, wolves in sheep’s clothing sympathized with Vatican 2 refugees, to gain their trust. They later offered their services, interrupting the natural psychological process they knew would be necessary to Catholics, a process that would logically have resulted in the election of a true Pope and the survival of the Church.
Not only were remnant Catholics in denial about the destruction of their Church, but they were also entirely incapable of comprehending that the very ones rushing to their rescue could possibly be part of the same hideous nightmare they had just escaped. They believed that this would mean that God had abandoned His Church and it no longer existed, something that simply could not be possible in doctrinal terms. And yet the ante-Nicene Fathers predicted that this is exactly what would happen with the advent of Antichrist, although this ancient teaching was never pointed out to them.
Culpability of most Traditionalist followers diminished
Does anyone really think that we would be held entirely accountable for the fraud perpetrated on us, especially when we break away from Traditionalist and Novus Ordo sects and try to do all we can to help others? That we would be given such a great grace to see the truth only to turn it into despair over “sins” committed in good faith? Such a want of confidence in God will not lead us to heaven but will only alienate us from Our Lord. We must fight it at every turn. Those who are victims of fraud cannot be held accountable for their misdeeds if they were erroneously taught and truly believed they were doing the right thing. Given the fraud clause found in Can. 104, which is discussed at length HERE, it is uncertain how the Church would view each case of material heresy given the fact that so many sincerely believed they were able to resort to Traditionalists for Mass and Sacraments.
It is interesting to note that Holy Scripture tells us that if possible, even the elect will be deceived. The way this is worded causes one to wonder if it does not hint at the possibility that at least some of the elect will be deceived initially but will later realize their mistake. While only the Church could decide these cases, Can. 104 on fraud would enter into any decision and would likewise mitigate any penalties as Canons 2218 and 2219 explain. It would seem at the very least that even if material heresy was upheld in these cases, the more serious vindicative penalty of infamy of law would not apply to the faithful as a general rule. A grave sin is only a sin if we know it to be wrong — or could and should know it to be wrong — and act despite this knowledge. Given the situation today, there is grave doubt whether the censures for heresy and schism fully apply to those leaving Traditionalism. Historians have dismissed the idea that any real schism existed among the faithful during the Western Schism, and it is most likely that if we ever miraculously see another pope in our lifetime, the large majority of the faithful would be exonerated for their participation in Traditionalism.
There is a difference between absolution from such sins and abjuration from heresy. If we make a perfect Act of Contrition and do penance for these sins, they will be forgiven. It is impossible to seek abjuration, and God will make allowances for this, provided that we earnestly desire to be abjured. Canon 2199 states: “The imputability of an offense depends on the evil will of the delinquent, or on the extent to which his ignorance of the violated law or his omission of proper diligence was culpable.” Lay Traditionalists possessed no evil will. And it can be said only of a scant minority of them that they were culpable of ignorance regarding the law and did not use proper diligence. The general uneducated state of the laity in the 1960s was such that many of them could not even properly understand those truths necessary to salvation, far less the much more complicated precepts of Canon Law and moral and dogmatic theology. Canon 2200 states: “The evil will spoken of in Canon 2199 means a deliberate will to violate a law and presupposes on the part of the mind a knowledge of the law and on the part of the will freedom of action. Given the external violation of a law the evil will is presumed in the external forum until the contrary is proved.”
It cannot be said that there was any deliberate will by Traditionalist followers to violate Church law because a true knowledge and understanding of the law was lacking, thanks to the false teachings of Traditionalist pseudo-clergy. And actual cult tactics (coercive persuasion) employed by Traditionalist leaders further complicates matters. Nevertheless, “For formal heresy to exist… it is not necessary that the individual believer realizes that the truth in jeopardy has been revealed” (Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., The Theological Virtues, Vol. I). And here we are talking formal, not material, heresy that has been expressed in belonging to a schismatic sect that founded on a heresy — a denial of the necessity of the papacy and the supreme jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff. As Can. 2200 teaches, however, the evil will of the delinquent must be presumed until the proper authorities can judge the case on its merits under Can. 2199.
Church membership by desire
We have seen in the site article “Material Heresy and Schism” that once a Catholic has defected from the faith, the only way to regain membership in the true Church is to first adjure one’s heresy in the presence of the proper authorities, then obtain absolution from a priest possessing jurisdiction to hear confessions. The adjuration must be made before a valid and licit bishop and as has been noted elsewhere, such bishops cannot be located. Without absolution, canonists and theologians commonly teach, there can be no return to the Church. This constitutes the very condition Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton describes as the deciding factor in whether such individuals are within the Church as members of her Mystical Body by desire only — it must be impossible for them to be saved in any other way.
“In the Mystici Corporis Christi, Pope Pius XII asserts true Catholic doctrine by teaching that a non-member of the Church who is within the Church only in the sense that he has an unconscious or implicit desire of entering it as a member can possess the supernatural life of sanctifying grace. The Suprema haec sacra then brings out the fact that, in the merciful designs of God’s providence, such realities as the Church itself and the sacraments of baptism and penance can, under certain circumstances, bring about the effects which they are meant to produce as means necessary for the attainment of eternal salvation when a man possesses them only in the sense that he desires or intends or wills to have or to use them.
“Obviously the text cannot be understood unless we realize what the ‘certain circumstances’ mentioned in the text really are. Basic among these circumstances is the genuine IMPOSSIBILITY of receiving the sacraments of baptism or of penance or of entering [or re-entering] the Church as a member. It is quite clear that if it is possible for a man to be baptized, to go to confession and to receive sacramental absolution, or really to become a member of the true Church, the man for whom this is possible will not attain to eternal salvation unless he actually avails himself of these means. BUT, ON THE OTHER HAND, SHOULD THE ACTUAL EMPLOYMENT OF THESE MEANS BE GENUINELY IMPOSSIBLE, THEN THE MAN CAN ATTAIN TO ETERNAL LIFE BY A WILL OR DESIRE TO EMPLOY THEM” (September 1956 issue of The American Ecclesiastical Review (“Adequate Theological Treatise De Ecclesia”).
Just as in baptism by blood and desire, then, membership in the Church by this same desire for those outside Her pale, owing to extraordinary circumstances, is assured by the Church providing the one who desires such membership a) possesses supernatural faith and animated charity; b) desires to actually belong to the visible Church of Christ; c) adheres strictly, to the best of his ability to all that the Vicars of Christ through Pope Pius XII have taught d) obeys all the laws of the Church and e) does all the Church additionally requires in such circumstances. So let’s say that a few brave souls decided to leave the various Traditional folds and join with others who had agreed to gather and profess their Faith. Will this have any positive effect on their status as material heretics/schismatics?
The practice of the Church in the case of religious who have defected from their orders suggests that it would. In this case, Rev. Woywod states under Can, 672§1, (see also Can. 2295) that the religious who has given signs of complete amendment for three years is to be readmitted to his order. But the reason for dismissal must have been grave, as stated in Can. 647§2. In the case of material heresy or schism, infamy also is incurred as a censure. After three years this censure could be ignored, but the offender would still need to seek absolution for material heresy and/or schism when it is available, and until then cannot posit any ecclesiastical acts. A time of prayer and penance, also study, must always follow any divergence from the doctrines of the Church and serves as a hiatus or sabbatical of sorts. It is a time to devote oneself to a thorough spiritual housecleaning and reorientation. Repentant heretics are always urged to study those doctrines they denied in presenting or believing their heresy. In this case Divine Faith and the necessity of true apostolicity to establish valid and licit apostolic succession is the doctrine that has most frequently been denied.
Errors to be renounced by those returning to or entering the Church:
(1) departure from and the severing of all ties with Traditionalists and other non-Catholic sects, (Can. 1325, also Can. 2248: “Absolution cannot be denied whenever the offender ceases to be obstinate, as declared in Can. 2242”);
(2) public disavowal of heresy or schism publicly stated or publicly seen to be endorsed and the willingness to be absolved from censure by a valid and licit priest or bishop, able to so absolve, should the opportunity ever arise, (Can. 2248);
(3) Profession of Faith before two Catholic witnesses, if available, with emphasis on the particular errors held, (required by the Church under the necessity of adjuration and routinely required for acceptance into the Church from heresy and schism, as many papal documents demonstrate. This is also mentioned as necessary by Revs. Woywod-Smith under Can. 2314);
(4) fraternal correction of Traditionalist faithful, clerics and other leaders, wherever prudent or possible (Canons 1935, 2223, 2259);
(5) performance of some self-assigned penance, such as recital of specified prayers, fasting, pilgrimages and other works of piety, almsgiving, or a retreat or spiritual exercises (as suggested under Canons 2312 and 2248, but these are not obligatory);
(6) complete avoidance of any groups or individuals which espouse or support such heresy or schism for at least three years (to complete the probation), and of course forever afterwards, (Can. 672 §1);
(7) strict and irrevocable adherence not only to all infallible papal and conciliar decrees, but also those decrees demanding only a firm assent; and obedience to Canon Law. Only by this strict adherence today, in the absence of a true pope, can Catholics visibly demonstrate that they believe in the primacy and obey its teachings, (Canons 1324, 2317).
(8) In addition, Catholic laity should do all in their power to end the crisis in the Church by whatever means are necessary, including speaking out publicly on this matter and, where allowed by Church teaching, in assuming the duties of the hierarchy. They also should actively continue to study the faith and edify others by good example.
God, who is all-merciful, will not fail to absolve Himself those who are truly sorry for their sins and amend their lives. This He has done wherever and whenever necessary throughout history before Christ founded His Church and even afterwards, when the hierarchy was unavailable. Whenever it is impossible to fulfill a precept for lack of true priests and bishops Catholics are excused form obeying the law which requires them to formally make their adjuration. But we are not excused from doing that which we can do by following what the law prescribes above. Please see the form for adjuration listed under the section on the articles page, If You Are New to This Site…