© Copyright 2009, T. Stanfill Benns (All emphasis within quotes is the author’s unless indicated otherwise.)
As discussed in Part I, “Neglected Aspects of Church Membership,” (https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/free-content/reference-links/2-the-church/the-laity-and-neglected-aspects-of-church-membership/) Catholics today have regrettably and in many cases unintentionally excluded themselves from membership in the Church, as the Church Herself defines and teaches in Her doctrine concerning such membership. We must irrevocably accept the Church’s definitions in these matters, as taught by the Vatican Council: “For the doctrine of faith which God revealed has not been handed down as a philosophic invention to the human mind to be perfected, but has been entrusted as a divine deposit to the Spouse of Christ, to be faithfully guarded and infallibly interpreted. Hence, also, that understanding of its sacred dogmas must be perpetually retained, which Holy Mother Church has once declared; and there must never be any recession from that meaning under the specious name of a deeper understanding,” (DZ 1800).
As explained in Part I, Traditionalists are not members of the Mystical Body in its most narrow and accepted sense, anyway. But this does not mean that they cannot save their souls. It simply means that they must work much harder to understand their situation and to rectify it in order to satisfy Church teaching in this regard. Many will complain that those during the Western Schism were not required to do anything but follow their respective antipopes. As demonstrated in several other pieces on this site, the situation during the Western Schism was far from analogous to our own, although others have pretended that the situation today and that experienced from 1378-1418 were generally the same. If Traditionalists had proceeded to follow different rival claimants to the papacy, they might have a point. But this is not what happened. Instead they follow men never created by the Church nor approved by Her, and basically have attempted to do what Msgr. Van Noort has described: “Any man, then, who boasts of apostolic succession but is not united to the Roman pontiff, may indeed actually possess the power of orders; he may even by purely physical succession occupy a chair formerly occupied by an apostle – at least he could do so, but he would not be a genuine successor of the apostles in their pastoral office. He would be a usurper.”
Msgr. Van Noort continues: “A moral body, despite the fact that it constantly undergoes change and renovation in its personnel, remains numerically the same moral body so long as it retains the same social structure and the same authority…Please note the word, ‘numerically’ the same society. A mere specific likeness would never satisfy the requirement of apostolicity. Just for the sake of argument — even though it cannot actually happen — let us conjure up some church which would bear a merely specific likeness to Christ’s Church; a church which would be like it in all respects except numerical identity. Imagine, now, that the Church planted by the apostles has perished utterly. Imagine — whether you make it the year 600, 1500, or 3000 — that all its members have deserted. Imagine, furthermore, that out of this totally crumpled society a fresh and vigorous society springs up and then, after a time, is remodeled perfectly to meet the blueprints of the ancient but now perished apostolic structure. Such a process would never yield a church that was genuinely apostolic, that is, numerically one and the same society which actually existed under the apostles’ personal rule. There would be a brand new society, studiously copied from a model long since extinct. The new church might be a decent imitation. It might be a caricature. One thing it definitely would not be is apostolic,” (“De ecclesia Christi”).
We have an obligation to study and understand these things that the Church has always taught concerning Herself, especially since it is our duty as Catholics to accept and believe all She teaches precisely as She teaches it. Msgr, Van Noort’s words are not merely his opinion; they are repeated in one way or another in every theological work on the Church written in modern times. Since Traditionalists have failed to understand the idea of apostolicity and the necessity of the papacy for the Church’s very existence, they are required to study these subjects at length to correct these false beliefs. As Peter Michaels says in This Perverse Generation, (Sheed and Ward, 1949): “Good will is not held in a vacuum and ignorance is often culpably sinful. If all Catholics have a moral duty to understand their faith at their level of secular education, few of us are going to be saved…Pope Pius XI said: ‘In our day and age, unenlightened heroism is not enough.’ How much longer are we Catholics going to pretend that if our hearts are in the right place, we can safely continue to live in an intellectual void?”
We do not live in the same world that those experiencing the Western Schism inhabited. The Catholics of that age did not have all the teachings later emanating from the Church on the possibility of a false pope reigning as a true pontiff (Pope Paul IV’s bull, Cum ex…) or St. Robert Bellarmine’s teachings on heretics, occult heretics, Church membership and an imperfect council. They were not bound by Pius II’s decree “Execrabilis,” the Church’s condemnations of Gallicanism and Freemasonry, or the infallible decrees of the Vatican Council. They did not have the very notable advantage of the 1917 Code of Canon Law and all the many excellent infallible decrees of Pope Pius IX through Pope Pius XII. As St. Luke tells us in the Gospels, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” We have the entire maturity of all the Church’s teaching for over 1900 years to guide us, especially those from the Vatican Council. We forget the warning of Pope Pius XII in 1940, who, in speaking on the papacy, ended with the following prophetic statement: “This teaching of Peter…will continue, unchanged, for all time…The Primacy of Peter will last forever… ‘Peter will live in his successors…[and] speak forever from his chair. Now here is the great warning — We have already mentioned it — which St. Peter addressed to the Christians of his own day. ‘There were also false prophets among the (chosen) people even as there shall be among you lying teachers…You, therefore, knowing these things before: take heed, lest being led aside by the error of the unwise, you fall from your own steadfastness,” (an address to newlyweds, Jan. 17, 1940).
Further testimony on Church membership
Saints and theologians through the ages have opined on exactly who is joined to the Mystical Body and how they are joined to it. It is clear from their teaching that what Rev. Fenton presents differs little from what has been taught in the past.
“Every man validly baptized is a member of Christ’s Mystical Body, is a member of the Church. Now it may well happen that adverse external circumstances may prevent a man’s character as an incorporated member of the Church being recognized, and the absence of such recognition may involve the juridical denial of all that it involves. In the eyes of men he may appear to have broken the bond uniting him to the Church, and yet, because of the supernatural faith, and the persistent loving life of grace, whereby he seeks in all things to do the will of God, his union with the Church really continues: spiritually he remains a member of the Church, he belongs to the body of the Church. He may, all the time, through error, be giving his external adhesion to a religious society which cannot be part of the Church. But at heart, by internal and implicit allegiance, he may be a faithful member of the Church. Evidently, if the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, then to be outside the Mystical Body is to be outside the Church, and since there is no salvation outside the Mystical Body, there is no salvation outside the Church. But, as we have seen, a man’s juridical situation is not necessarily his situation before God,” (“The Mystical Body of Christ.” Taken from The Teaching of the Catholic Church,” by Can. George D. Smith, D.D., Ph.D., Vol. II; 1959, first printing 1927.)
Rev. Stanislaus Grabowski, in his examination of St. Augustine’s idea of the Church, gives the term Mystical Body in its fullest definition, according to the teachings of the Saint. He summarizes that definition as follows:
“1. In the widest sense, as encompassing all who attain salvation…The body of Christ embraces… the just of the Old Testament [as well as those of the New], since…they were already united to Him who was to come.
“2. In a narrower sense, the Church of the future or the celestial body of Christ may be identified with His body here on earth, since the Church upon earth has as its aim the attainment of the heavenly Church.
“3. In the strictest sense, the body of Christ in the works of St. Augustine is coincident with the visible Catholics or juridical Church. It is only in the latter that the body of Christ is fully realized, according to all of the constituent elements,” (The Church, pp. 69-70.)
We may not satisfy the strictest and fullest realization of the Mystical Body, but we fall somewhere between 2 and 3 in satisfying Grabowski’s requirements. This is why, as so many Traditionalists keep repeating, the Church today is “eclipsed.”
“24. But if anyone unhappily falls and his obstinacy has not made him unworthy of the communion with the faithful, let him be received with great love…and eager charity…For as the Bishop of Hippo [St. Augustine] remarks. ‘As long as a member still forms part of the body there is no reason to despair of its cure; once it has been cut off, it can be neither cured nor healed.’”
Who is and is not a member of the Mystical Body was debated at length over the centuries. In his The Church (1957), Rev. Stanley Grabowski tells us: “With regard to heretics and schismatics, [St. Augustine] allows for cases in which individuals are outside the Church in good faith.” Mortal or “death-bringing” sins, “deprive the soul of its spiritual life…Through the commission of such sins, one is deprived of grace, of charity and the Holy Ghost…Venial sins, on the other hand, do not…kill the spiritual life of the soul, ” and this is in line with what Pope Pius XII says above. “Augustine views the habitation of the Holy Spirit in a two-fold way: first, as a personal inhabitation of each just individual; and, secondly, as a personal inhabitation of the corporate Church, composed of all individuals who form the Mystical Body of Christ…If this two-fold habitation of the Holy Ghost, viz., that of the individual and that of the mystical body is ignored, the sinful person who is without the individual indwelling of the Holy Ghost will be removed from the corporate indwelling of the Holy Ghost [and] detached from the mystical Body of Christ.”
However to lose either the individual OR the corporate indwelling singly results only in retaining a nominal attachment to the Mystical Body, but an attachment nevertheless. As Grabowski observes, “It is more advantageous to be attached to the body of Christ as a distorted or dead member than to be severed completely as heretics and schismatic’s are.” Grabowski notes that while St. Augustine hold as inculpable those who are outside the Church in good faith, “they must be somehow associated with the Holy Ghost and the Church.” But he also states that, “There is no explicit statement of St. Augustine to the effect that individuals outside the Church possess the Holy Ghost as an inhabiting Divine Person.” Treating of the same subject, St. Robert Bellarmine stresses the juridic Church as the best expression of the Mystical Body, yet both Msgr. Myers and Grabowski agree that this strong reaction to the errors of the Reformation unfairly obscured the idea of the mystical inner life of the Church and Her intimate relationship with Christ, the Head.
Concerning membership, St. Robert writes: “The body is the external profession of faith and the communion of Sacraments. From this it follows that some are of the soul and body of the Church, and consequently are united to Christ internally and externally; these belong most fully to the Church… Others are of the soul and not the body, as the catechumens or excommunicated, if they have faith and charity. Finally, some are of the body and not the soul, as he who has no internal virtue, and nevertheless they profess faith by hope or some temporal fear and communicate in Sacraments under the leader of [legitimate] pastors…” St. Bellarmine explains: “For although [Pope] Liberius was not a heretic, nevertheless he was considered one, on account of the peace he made with the Arians, and by that presumption the pontificate could rightly [merito] be taken from him: for men are not bound, or able to read hearts; but when they see that someone is a heretic by his external works, they judge him to be a heretic pure and simple [simpliciter], and condemn him as a heretic.” It is up to the Church to make the final decision, and until then we are not wrong in condemning them as heretics. Still, some may be guiltless. Unknown to us, Christ still may secretly consider them as members of His Mystical Body.
Being joined to the Church by desire
In expounding on the definitions found in the infallible encyclicals Mystici Corporis and Humani Generis, and also in the teachings of St. Robert Bellarmine, Msgr. J. C. Fenton continues to elaborate on the conditions under which one may obtain salvation according to the definition of Baptism of desire found in “Mystici Corporis” and in the authoritative letter to Rev. Leonard Feeney, Supreme Haec Sacra. He emphasizes that the teachings concerning the standing of those united to the Church by desire must be thoroughly examined and “accurately analyzed.” Because those who are united to the Church by desire must be in some way “‘within’ the Catholic Church in a status other than that of a member,” it was important to Rev. Fenton to demonstrate exactly how this is so, and to explain precisely the conditions required in order to determine if such conditions were met in certain cases. In studying this doctrine promulgated by Pope Pius XII, Msgr. Fenton begins by explaining the primary factor that determines Church membership:
“The true Church of Jesus Christ, which is His one supernatural kingdom and His Mystical Body in this world, is the religious organization which accepts [the true] Pope ….as its visible head in this world. The theologian who claims that every baptized person is in some way a member of the Church cannot be speaking seriously, if he has any understanding of the meaning of the term ‘member’ as it is used with reference to the Catholic Church. He should realize that the Mystical Body of Christ in this world is not a social unit made up of Catholics and members of heretical and schismatic groups.”
This of course excludes members of those groups who may possess Baptism of desire; Fenton simply means to distinguish from membership in that merely “pneumotological” Church condemned by Pope Pius XII and actual membership in the true Church.
Contrary to the contentions of the Feeneyites, water Baptism alone is not the sole determination of who will be saved. Rev. Fenton explains why: the real measure of membership in the true Church is the acceptance of the Roman Pontiff. As Fenton says, “Every baptized person should be, and would be, if the unifying force of his baptismal character were not thwarted by some personal and external but not necessarily sinful act, a member of the Catholic Church.” He emphasizes that, “It is absolutely imperative for the well being of contemporary theology that the situation of [members of the Church by desire only] be accurately analyzed.” Fenton then proceeds to provide this analysis.
“(1) The divinity of His visible Church, the Roman Catholic Church, [can be verified only] by our refusal to modify the Catholic teaching and dogma to the effect that this visible society is the one and only kingdom of God on earth according to the economy of the New Testament…The outward or bodily bond of union, joining men to Our Lord and to each other in His Church, is made up of the baptismal profession of the true faith, the communion of the sacraments, and subjection to legitimate ecclesiastical pastors, and ultimately, of course, to the one Vicar of Christ on earth, the Roman Pontiff.”
First it should be noted that here Fenton anticipates the case of those Catholics who have placed themselves outside the Church, even if only materially hence not sinfully. Then in (1), we see the how those imposters ruling for 50 years in the Novus Ordo church have stripped the Church of the Divine content of Her message and replaced it with their own secular humanist outlook. Traditionalist clerics have behaved in a similar manner by attempting to appoint themselves as the successor of the Apostles, invoking the same extraordinary mission jurisdiction claimed by the Protestants and ignoring the need for “numerical identity.” Conclavist “popes” have done the same, by either announcing that they were mystically appointed, or hoodwinking others into “appointing” them, others who lacked any ability to ever convey the prerequisites for receiving Divine jurisdiction. Rob the Church of Her Divinity and there can be no bond of unity; without lawful pastors and without a true pope there can be only a non-Catholic sect. Illicit Sacraments, and even the Sacrament of Baptism, received under the auspices of the NO or the Traditionalists, do not convey grace, so there is no bond there. Depending on the manner of its administration, baptism also received from those not possessing jurisdiction may be valid but illicit. The graces it was meant to convey cannot be “activated,” St. Augustine says, (Rev. Stanislaus Grabowski, The Church, 1957) until errors of the sect administering Baptism are renounced. Therefore we cannot comprise the Church as defined by St. Robert Bellarmine.
If there had been a true pope we would have gone to him. There was no certainly valid pope; all these men were usurpers. We went instead to what we believed were true priests and bishops. When we realized they lacked jurisdiction, which only a true pope could provide, some of us then went to or elected what we believed to be a true pope, when we became aware the Church could not exist without one. We left these men when we realized they could not be valid and/or licit either. Does this prove only material heresy? Pope Paul IV says that those leaving a false pope, no matter how long they had remained with him, would not incur any censures. And yet Pope Paul IV was speaking about one who appears to all to be a legitimately elected pope, accepted by all as such; not one who was irregularly elected. This would apply to the Vatican II antipopes. But it is not certain that those adhering to one irregularly elected would avoid these censures if they could or should have known such an election was irregular. This would need to be decided by the Church. Once the error is realized, the adhesion to a non-Catholic sect constitutes at least material heresy, since those departing recognize they have erred.
Then there are the censures incurred for belonging to false sects. Most of the laity who later became Trads started out by accepting the V2 popes. When they left the V2 popes, they did not incur censure. It was when they followed those calling themselves Traditional priests not acting under any pope that they became at least material heretics, by implicitly denying the necessity of apostolicity and the papacy, (the very things that constitute Church membership). At the very least, the more educated among the faithful should have studied the faith and realized these men could not continue the apostolic line without being in communion with and directed by a true pope. From the very definition of the Church itself, realized and understood by most Traditionalists at the time, and from the teachings laid down by the Vatican Council, it should have been abundantly clear that without a true pope these men could not function. It might have been a different story had bishops left the Church rather than sign Vatican II documents, and immediately begun some sort of effort to gather and convince their fellow bishops; or if they had possessed at least some pretension to jurisdiction. But this was not the case. They signed Vatican II documents, they had no jurisdiction and they immediately established non-Catholic sects. They therefore ipso facto expelled themselves from the true Church.
Rev. Fenton quotes St. Robert Bellarmine’s definition of the Church, adopted as the preferred definition by theologians ever since that time:
(2) “… ‘the assemblage (coetus) of men, bound together (colligatus) by the profession of the same Christian faith and by the communion of the same sacraments, under the rule of legitimate pastors, and especially of the one Vicar of Christ on earth, the Roman Pontiff.’ Certainly the Mystici Corporis Christi statement about membership in the Church is quite in line with the teaching of the De ecclesia militante. According to Pope Pius XII, four factors alone are necessary in order that a man be counted as a member of the true Church. These are (1) the reception of baptism, and thus the possession of the baptismal character, (2) the profession of the true faith, which is, of course, the faith of the Catholic Church, (3) the fact that a person has not cut himself away from the structure or the fabric of the ‘Body,’ which is, of course, the Church itself, and (4) the fact that a person has not been expelled from the membership of the Church by competent ecclesiastical authority.”
Most Traditionalists today were baptized before Pope Pius XII’s death in 1958. Infants cannot profess the true faith, but Fenton later explains that their entrance on the baptismal register constitutes evidence that they at least possess the external bonds of union with the Church. Traditionalist sacraments are most likely invalid and at best illicit. The Sacrament of Penance is certainly invalid; hence these Sacraments convey no grace. So this condition cannot exist; no one receiving invalid/illicit sacraments receive them in the manner intended by the Church in this definition. Nor are those Traditionalist pastors conveying these sacraments lawful themselves and certainly they are not in communion with a true Roman Pontiff. The most necessary and best known doctrines of the Church — the papacy and divinely instituted orders — were ignored or severely minimized by Traditional “priests” and “bishops.” They were misrepresented to accommodate remaining faithful exiting from V2. The one thing that should have been clear to pre-V2 Catholics was the absolute necessity of the papacy. It had been abundantly clear since the Vatican Council and even long before. Yet this is the very doctrine they failed to keep. And finally, expulsion from the Church by competent ecclesiastical authority is not necessary if there is an ipso facto excommunication attached to a particular law.
As Rev. Benedict Pfaller observes, Can. 646 demands that in order for a religious to be admitted to an institute, he/she must certainly be a Catholic. This is considered a conditio sine qua non. Rev. Pfaller further observes that, “A religious who ceases to be a Catholic, who bids farewell to the Catholic Church, is rightly considered as legitimately dismissed from the religious institute…A public apostate from the Catholic faith is one who publicly renounces the Catholic Church. Thus the religious would renounce the Catholic faith in passing over to a non-Christian group such as Buddhism, Mohammedanism, some well-defined cult of paganism, Judaism, etc.; or in joining a Protestant, heretical, non-Catholic Christian sect or a schismatic church; or in joining any professedly and manifestly anti-Catholic group, such as a league of Freethinkers, or, finally, in openly denying even one article of the Catholic faith…On July 30, 1934, a response of the Pontifical Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of the Code…state(d) that the declaration of fact is not necessary in order that a religious be considered as ipso facto legitimately dismissed…The religious must be considered dismissed even before the declaration of the fact takes place,” (Ipso Facto Dismissal of Religious, Catholic University of America Canon Law dissertation, 1948, Volume 34, Number 7, page 743-4, April 1934; emph. in bold is mine). Any law decided by this official Commission, according to Can. 17, and given in the form of law “has the same force as the law itself.” Can. 672 relates that a religious may return to the cloister after a three-year demonstration of amendment, unless the cloister refuses to receive him or her.
(3) “Very definitely a person would cut himself off from the structure of the ecclesiastical Body if he entered into a state of public heresy or apostasy. But that condition had already been taken care of in the naming of the second of the factors which the Mystici Corporis Christi lists as requisite for membership in the true Church. Very definitely the ‘cutting away’ mentioned in the third point of this statement might involve entrance into the state of schism.”
As for heresy, one certainly becomes a member of the Church by receiving valid if illicit baptism (as in Protestant, NO and Traditional sects), but loses membership at least materially by remaining in an NO or Traditionalist sect after the age of 14 or once any doubt sets in. We have professed at least what we believe to be the true faith, but not under the teaching authority of the Church. We have not been formally expelled (ferendae sententiae, #3 above), but expelled juridically (ipso facto, #4 above), since excommunication for heresy is a penalty attached to the law itself and is incurred automatically. Neither material or formal heretics are members of the Church. According to Rev Adolphe Tanquerey, whose textbooks were used to instruct seminarians worldwide: “All theologians teach that publicly known heretics, that is those who belong to a heterodox sect through public profession, or those who refuse the infallible teaching of the authority of the Church, are excluded from the body of the Church, even if their heresy is only material heresy,” (Manual of Dogmatic Theology, Vol. II; translated 1959).
(4) “…a person remains a part or a member of this supernatural kingdom of God on earth as long as he retains these external bonds of unity, even if he should reject, not only charity, but even faith and hope themselves…. If he possesses some of the requisites for membership, but not all of them, then a man is not a member and should not be designated as such,”(Fenton).
So even if it could be said that Traditionalists possessed some of the four factors Msgr. Fenton cites from Pope Pius XII for membership in the Church, it is immaterial; if they lack only one they cannot be members. There are items in the profession of faith some Traditionalists deny, and as stated above, none of the other bonds even exist. So if a person openly rejects faith, without the existence of these external bonds, there is no possibility they can belong to the Mystical Body. This totally discredits the various Traditional “bishops and priests” who claim that Bp. Thuc, and consequently themselves, could be material heretics and still claim Church membership and jurisdiction. As Can. 188 no. 4 teaches, clerics who are apostates, heretics and schismatics lose all jurisdiction and become the equivalent of laymen. This Canon does not distinguish between material heresy and formal heresy, and now we know why: they are treated the same in the law. As the rule of law reads, where the law itself does not distinguish, neither should we distinguish.
Earlier, Fenton commented in another article, “[Cardinal] Franzelin popularized the process of distinguishing between material and formal heresy in treating of conditions for membership in the Church. He thereby did a definite disservice to the cause of theology,” (“The Status of St. Robert Bellarmine’s Teaching About the Membership of occult heretics in the Catholic Church,” AER, March 1950). Elsewhere Fenton points out that such a teaching could scarcely be a matter of opinion among theologians, since it is taught by Rev. Adolphe Tanquerey, whose works were used in seminaries worldwide, as well a host of other theologians. As shown above, both material and formal heresy exclude Catholics from membership in the Church. Again we see that Fenton fully understood the seriousness of these errors in theology and their unfortunate consequences.
In the March 1950 article, he explains what he means in (4) above when he says: “…a person remains a part or a member of this supernatural kingdom of God on earth as long as he retains these external bonds of unity, even if he should reject, not only charity, but even faith and hope themselves…” Here he is referring to occult heresy, which, in the common opinion of theologians, does not exclude one from the Church. And yet in the 1950 article, Fenton writes, this would be true only if an occult heretic maintained the external bonds of unity, professing “the Christian faith, the communion or reception of the sacraments, under the direction of legitimate ecclesiastical pastors, and ultimately, under the leadership of the Roman Pontiff.” So today, not even occult heretics could be counted as members of the Church if they did not correspond with all these other conditions.
(5) “Now it must be understood that the Church militant of the New Testament, as a supernatural entity, is not to be judged by ordinary human standards. Concretely, a man may pertain to this society or in some way or other be ‘within’ it other than by membership in its ranks… Far more involved is the case of that person who is not a member of the Catholic Church, but who is ‘within’ the Church in such a way as to enjoy the life of sanctifying grace. It is absolutely imperative for the well being of contemporary theology that the situation of this individual be accurately analyzed. According to the mechanics of the English language, one who is not ‘outside of’ some physical or social entity must be said to be, in some way or other, “within” it. Hence it must be said that any non-member of the Catholic Church who has the remission of sins, which is to say the gift of sanctifying grace, or who dies in the state of grace so as to attain eternal salvation, must be or have died in some way ‘within’ the Catholic Church in a status other than that of a member… The man who has a sincere votum or desiderium, enlightened by faith and animated by charity, to enter the true Church of Jesus Christ is thus one who actually intends to work for the objective of the Church. And a man’s intention to work for the glory of God through the salvation of souls in according to God the supernatural service of acknowledgement due to Him because of His supreme excellence and our complete dependence on Him is an intention of worshipping God. It is a religious intention which is manifested to God Himself in the act of prayer.”
Many Catholics today sincerely desire to remain within the Church, but find themselves prevented from being able to attain this membership because they have implicitly denied the papacy and apostolicity by adhering to a Traditionalist sect. Even though they believed themselves to be within the true Church, they have become at least material heretics, providing they are truly invincibly ignorant. They may be actively attempting to spread what they sincerely believe to be the faith, to alert others to the crisis in the Church. Or, having realized their errors, they may be earnestly trying to prevent others from being deceived and to undo the damage they may have done as Traditionalists or Conclavists. This expresses their desire to amend and do penance for past errors. They may not be able to be members per se, but they can do all the Church requires them to do to return to true membership whenever this becomes possible. And they need not fear that they are able to obtain salvation if they are sincere and do not return to their errors or fall into new ones.
If we consider the barque of St. Peter as an actual ship, these “non-member members” would be those who have escaped pirate ships and are clamoring to be rescued, or who have fallen off St. Peter’s barque into enemy waters and wish to be pulled once again onto its deck. The Church has sent out the lifeboats for those escaping the enemy ships, and has lowered the ladders or cast out the lifelines for the one’s who have fallen into shark infested, heretical waters. Some of these refugees have even managed to ascend to the fantail, or ledge off the back of the ship. They may be on the outside or topside of the barque itself and have not been conducted to a berth below deck, or been entered into the ship’s rosters. But their sincere desire is to be within the barque, and the Church’s sincere desire is to take them on board. If the Church clearly states that these refugees, given the proper dispositions, can be saved, then we are to believe they can be saved; we cannot doubt it. As the Holy Office authoritatively states: “This dogma must be understood in that same sense in which the Church Herself understands it. For it was not to private judgments that Our Savior gave for explanation those things that are contained in the deposit of faith, but to the teaching authority of the Church…Therefore let them who in grave peril are ranged against the Church seriously bear in mind that after ‘Rome has spoken,’ they cannot be excused even by reasons of good faith,” (Suprema Haec Sacra, 1949, Canon Law Digest, Vol. 3).
Rev. Fenton writes: “This Holy Office letter, the Suprema haec sacra [is] one of the most important doctrinal statements which appeared during the reign of the late and beloved Sovereign Pontiff. This document set forth clearly and in detail, and as the authentic teaching of the Holy See, the explanation of the dogma on the necessity of the Catholic Church for the attainment of eternal salvation which had long been presented as common teaching in the theological teaching on the Church itself. The elements of the exposition contained in the Suprema haec sacra had, of course, long since been presented to the faithful in previous authoritative statements of the Church’s magisterium,” (and as such required an irrevocable assent). So here Fenton explains that the Church affirmed the dogma concerning outside the Church there is no salvation, while at the same time explaining that this is the ORDINARY means of salvation. But in certain cases, not in any general way, including the case of invincible ignorance where an implicit desire suffices, men can be saved in an EXTRAORDINARY way without being actual members of the Church. This can be accomplished however, only in one way.
Rev. Fenton continues from this article: “The strictly doctrinal portion of the Suprema haec sacra ends with this essential teaching: “But it must not be thought that any kind of desire of entering the Church suffices that one may be saved. It is necessary that the desire by which one is related to the Church be animated by perfect charity. Nor can an implicit desire produce its effect, unless a person has supernatural faith: ‘For he who comes to God must believe that God exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him’ (Hebrews, 11: 6). The Council of Trent declares (Session VI, chap. 8): ‘Faith is the beginning of man’s salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God and attain to the fellowship of His children,’” (DZ 801). Rev. Fenton further explains the nature of this animated charity below.
Clearly, then, Msgr. Fenton believed the Suprema Haec Sacra to be a declaration of the ordinary magisterium. And as this document itself states, no one can claim that by this letter from the Holy See Pope Pius XII was in any way prefiguring the teachings of Vatican II that all men can be saved because they have an innate inclination to believe in a divine being (whether it be God, Allah or Buddha!). These men do not believe that the God of the Catholic faith exists, and they do not possess supernatural faith. Suprema Haec Sacra reminds us that Pius XII, in Mystici Corporis, reproves those who “exclude from eternal salvation all those united to the Church only by implicit desire, and those who falsely assert that men can be saved equally well in every religion,” (DZ 1641, 1677). Pius XII does not guarantee their salvation, either, for he reminds Catholics that those in invincible ignorance “cannot be certain of their salvation,” (Mystici Corporis). This is far from the heresies taught by the false Vatican II council and its subsequent antipopes; for this council and these men maintained that even without animated charity, all infidels and others are properly disposed to and can obtain salvation. Rev. Fenton explains below the true nature of this “desire…animated by perfect charity,” and it is not something that these infidels could routinely or easily possess.
Furthermore, as Rev. Francis J. Connell points out in the November 1950 issue of AER, (“Theological Content of Humani Generis”), this false attitude, later expressed in V2 documents is consistent with the “false irenics” condemned in Humani Generis. Pope Pius XII wrote in this encyclical: “Let them not think, by indulging in false ‘irenics’ that the dissident and erring can be happily brought back to the bosom of the Church if the whole truth found in the Church is not sincerely taught to all without corruption or diminution.” Rev. Connell comments: “To express properly the necessary means of salvation, one must state that relation to the visible Catholic Church, at least by implicit desire, is a requisite condition.” This means that in not only must the person who would be saved by baptism of desire have some vague idea of a supreme being, but that person must identify this being as the God of the true Church on earth and long to be united with this Church. But how does the Church normally determine the identity of Her members?
In yet another article, Msgr. Fenton also tells us how Catholics were determined to be true members of the Church in the 1950s. In his “The Parish Census List and Membership in the True Church,” (AER, April 1950), he states the following: “St. Robert Bellarmine [held], in effect, that an accurate parish or diocesan census…list(s) all and only the real members of the true Church within the area covered by the census…The men [and women] who could be listed in a parish census are the ones whom the world, and for that matter the Catholics themselves, must recognize as the Catholic Church, the company over which the Roman Pontiff presides.” This was the manner of determination of membership then. The names of many older Traditionalists appear as baptized infants on these lists prior to the election of Angelo Roncalli. Baptism formally enrolled them as members of the Church duly recorded in these historical lists. Just as this was a way to determine membership, and to determine we were once members, there also is a way to determine membership by desire. This will be explained below.
(6) “The men and women who have a salutary votum or desiderium of entering the Church are ‘within’ it insofar as they are working and fighting within it for the attainment of the objectives of Jesus Christ. Yet they are definitely not parts or members of this society…Thus it is apparent that the man who is not a member or a part of the Church, but who has a salvific intention or desire to enter it and to remain within it, is actually praying and working along with the Church for the objectives of Jesus Christ. In this way he is truly ‘within’ the Church. And, since the work of the Church is accomplished in the face of serious and never-ending opposition, the non-member of the Church who has a salvific intention to join it is actually fighting for Our Lord ‘within’ His company. He is actually serving God with his whole mind and his whole heart, and thus he is joined to the Church even in his status as a non-member of this society.
“Although the Church is the only social unit on earth working for the objectives of Jesus Christ, there are individuals who, through the power of God’s grace, work for that same objective without being in any way members of the Church. These are the individuals who are ‘within’ the Catholic Church by a salutary votum or desiderium. This votum or desiderium is salutary only when it is enlightened by true supernatural faith and motivated by true charity, and, obviously, only when it is impossible for the individual to be ‘within’ the Church as a member. The individuals who are ‘within’ the Church only by a salutary votum or desiderium pray and work, against fierce opposition, for the accomplishment of the purposes of the Incarnation.”
For those who claim we are not allowed to defend the faith in these writings or to speak out publicly in its defense, here is the definitive answer. Not only is such defense of the Faith necessary to remain within the Church by desire, it is necessary to those wishing to make amends for past errors in this regard. Here also is the answer to those who insist that Catholic homealoners cannot be saved without receiving sacraments from the Traditionalists; or placing themselves under “obedience” to a “true pope” lacking apostolic succession. According to the opinions of seven notable theologians, in withdrawing from the “obedience” of these false popes, no schism is involved, provided that one has a serious reason and offers serious proofs for doing so. Vermeersch-Cruesen, Reiffenstuel, Schmalzgrueber, Ferraris, Vechiotti and Szal state: “There is no schism involved…if one refuses obedience [to a pope] inasmuch as one suspects the person of the Pope or the validity of his election…” (The Communication of Catholics with Schismatics, Rev. Ignatius J. Szal, A.B., J.C.L.). The reasons and proofs having been duly provided, the opinions of these approved theologians fulfills the provisions of Can. 20 and establishes certitude according to Church teaching.
These theologians agree that one need only suspect that the man claiming to be Pope is irregular in some way or invalidly elected (Can. 2200). The opinion of these men also constitutes the juridical certainty in way of evidence required by Dom Charles Augustine under Can. 430. What Szal presents, then, is a solidly probable opinion, one which establishes certitude, and according to the laws and teachings of the Church it may be followed at will. Consequently, no one may accuse those following their conscience in this matter of being in schism, since they are following a truly probable opinion. “If our conscience tells us that a certain line of action is the right one, and that it is incumbent upon us to carry it out, even though that line carries us straight from the Pope, if we do not do it we shall suffer damnation…The Catholic theory of conscience is that a man has a right before God to preserve that conscience inviolate,” (A Catholic Cabinet of Information, Rev. Peter C. Yorke, 1899; by various authors). It should be noted here, however, that he who follows an erroneous conscience is guilty if his ignorance is vincible, that is, if he has not used due diligence in gathering and presenting his proofs. Also it must be emphasized here that the use of conscience described by Szal is peculiar to our own times and should be used with discretion. No one may ever judge the doctrines of the Church or the Roman Pontiff, when it is clear that he has been validly and indisputably elected and accepted by the faithful. But neither can one ever choose to obey a mere man who is contradicting Catholic teaching over God.
If what Revs. Szal and Yorke state applies to the circumstances where there are rival claimants to the papacy, all the more reason it should apply to the so-called Traditionalist clergy not in communion with the Roman Pontiff. So why is it that those observing their faith at home should be belittled and painted as heretics, schismatics, lame Catholics (if Catholics at all) and “theological troublemakers” by these upstanding clerics and self-appointed leaders? They are only obeying the dictates of conscience, which must be followed under pain of mortal sin, and for this they are condemned.
Implicit and explicit desire
Other proofs on this board unquestionably demonstrate that Traditionalists must leave those groups administering illicit Sacraments sacrilegiously and Penance invalidly. These unlawful pastors have no right to command the faithful, or to interfere with dictates of conscience which command the individual to avoid their services and their ministrations. Without the reception of valid and licit sacraments from certainly lawful pastors, and most importantly, unless those pastors are in communion with a canonically elected Roman Pontiff, they cannot possess the four marks and they cannot claim membership in the Church. Can they be saved? Yes, but not as Church members; only as members by desire. They have the advantage, not always shared by others in the same dilemma, of at least having received valid baptism. They wish to gain readmittance, not actual admittance. There are steps they can take to gain practical if not actual readmission as members, so they are closer to membership than those lacking valid baptism. And many recognize the absolute need for a true head, even if they know that it is impossible without truly valid and licit hierarchy to elect one.
Some may object that this applies to those who are Protestant perhaps, or who, and believe in the true God and in Jesus Christ but have never been baptized. But this is not what Pope Pius XII teaches and Rev. Fenton considers. Both specifically mention those who have somehow forfeited membership in the Church as being outside her walls. They exclude as members those not united to the Roman Pontiff and those who do not follow legitimate pastors and participate in the same Sacraments. They describe our situation even though they could not have anticipated it precisely. This can be demonstrated syllogistically below:
1. Many Catholics today have separated themselves from the Church by at least material heresy or schism; they no longer are members. Nor can they return to the Church unless they are able to be validly and licitly abjured and absolved from their heresy or schism.
2. And yet they long to be members, (many) work for the glory of God to the best of their knowledge, they possess faith in God and pray to Him regularly.
3. Therefore they are members in desire because it is impossible to be absolved and abjured of their heresy, and they have fulfilled all the other conditions laid down by Pope Pius XII for such membership.
Now some will object that this is true even of certain Traditionalists who have never left their priests and bishops, but there is a problem here: they must long to be members and do all in their power to fulfill these conditions above for membership. It is very difficult for them to do this, just as many moral theologians explain that it is difficult for Protestants and others, if they a) already believe they are members of the Church and possess the four marks as, in the present case, many Traditionalists do; b) believe that they receive both valid and licit Sacraments from valid and licit priests and c) do not realize that in embracing Traditionalism, they thereby must reject the necessity of apostolicity and the papacy. You cannot desire to belong to something when you already believe that you are a member.
As Pope Pius XII said: “For even though by an unconscious desire and longing they have a certain relationship with the Mystical Body and the Redeemer, they still remain deprived of those many heavenly gifts and helps which can only be enjoyed in the Catholic Church…The Holy Ghost refuses to dwell through sanctifying grace in members wholly cut off from the Body, (Mystici Corporis). Suprema Haec Sacra also teaches that that “No one who knows that the Church has been divinely established by Christ, and nevertheless, refuses to be a subject of the Church or refuses to obey the Roman Pontiff, the vicar of Christ on earth, can be saved,” and this applies to the decrees of the Roman Pontiffs even if there is no visible head. Because so many Traditionalists are baptized and have accepted the Church as a Divine society, then, it would seem that the greater majority must profess an explicit desire to be readmitted to the Church, since an implicit desire is necessarily limited to those who either cannot know or cannot properly understand this divine truth. This is not to say that there will not be some Traditionalists who can yet have an implicit desire, but in this author’s opinion they will be in the minority. It is God alone, however, who judges the souls of men. And He alone knows who belongs to His Church by desire. Those who believe that the Church is a Divine society must decide if they wish to believe their cleric of choice or the teachings of the Church. And those wishing to claim invincible ignorance must meet certain criteria. Most important among these is the relentless search for the truth.
Criteria for invincible ignorance
Bp. Hay in his work The Sincere Christian sets down the requirements for the existence of invincible ignorance: “For one to be in invincible ignorance it is required that he be sincerely resolved to embrace the truth wherever he may find it and whatever it may cost him. For if he be not fully resolved to follow the will of God, wherever it shall appear to him, in all things necessary to salvation; if on the contrary, he be so disposed that he would rather neglect his duty and hazard his soul than correct an ill custom, or disoblige his friends, or expose himself to some temporal loss or disadvantage…Such a disposition must be highly displeasing to God and an ignorance arising from it can never excuse him before his Creator…(all emphasis in bold and quotes throughout this work is the author’s unless stated otherwise). “He must sincerely use his best endeavors to know his duty, and particularly that he recommend that matter earnestly to Almighty God, and pray for light and direction.
“For whatever desire he may pretend of knowing the truth, if he does not use the proper means for finding it, it is manifest that his ignorance is not invincible but voluntary; for ignorance is only invincible when one has a sincere desire to know the truth with a full resolution to embrace it, but either has no possible means of knowing it or, after using his best endeavors to know it, yet cannot find it.” (Nor does a formal doubt excuse, for all are expected to resolve such doubts.) “A person brought up in a false faith, which the Scripture calls sects of perdition, doctrines of devils, perverse things, lies and hypocrisy; and who has heard of the true Church of Christ, which condemns all these sects, and sees the divisions and dissensions which they constantly have among themselves, has always before his eyes the most cogent reasons to doubt of the way he is in.” And this is as true of Traditionalist sects as it is of the Protestant sects that preceded them. Notice that Bp. Hay says the only excuse for being ignorant of the truth is if it cannot be FOUND or it is impossible to LOOK for it. Neither is the case today for Traditionalists, who have access to the Internet, libraries, and Catholics books with which to educate themselves.
Although they did not intend to separate themselves from the Church, Traditionalists failed to undertake the necessary study that would have prevented them from following illicit pastors not in communion with the true Pope. In doing so they adhered to a false sect, just as Luther, Calvin and others likewise adhered. Mystici Corporis and Humani Generis were easily available as was Pope Pius IX’s teaching on the four marks. But these they passed through the filter of their “priests,” and so the true meaning of the words of these Popes were ignored. It is not surprising that brain-weary and shell-shocked Traditionalists wanted only to check their brains in with an “expert” and practice the externals of their religion after exiting the Novus Ordo. While Pope St. Pius X taught in Pascendi Dominici Gregis that it must not be said that the number of external devotions should be reduced, he also teaches that to believe the Sacraments are to be sought as the result of “inner impulses and necessities” is heretical. This describes the plea of many Traditionalists who claim they must have them because “they need the graces,” or must be permitted to receive them in order to strengthen their faith. Pope St. Pius X points out that this is contrary to the teaching of the Council of Trent which states: “If anyone says that these Sacraments are instituted solely to foster the faith, let him be anathema.” Traditionalists may not believe the Sacraments solely foster faith, but many come uncomfortably close to this heresy in practice.
What the Church says Traditionalists must do to be saved
We have seen in “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 abjure one’s heresy in the presence of the proper authorities, then obtain absolution from a priest possessing jurisdiction to hear confessions. The abjuration 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. Fenton describes as the deciding factor in whether such individuals are within the Church — it must be impossible for them to be saved in any other way. Just as in Baptism by blood and desire, 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 and d) does all the Church additionally requires in such circumstances. This includes, but is not limited to:
(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 arise, (Can. 2248);
(3) profession of faith before two certainly Catholic witnesses, with emphasis on the particular errors held, (required by the Church under the necessity of abjuration 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, (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 — afterwards one could answer questions on faith but not pray with them or frequent their services, (Can. 672 §1);
(7) strict and irrevocable adherence to all infallible papal and conciliar decrees, and a firm and sincere assent to non-infallible decrees and those demanding 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 in order to determine if there is any stone left unturned that might lead to the discovery of valid and licit bishops and priests, (Pope Pius XII’s condemnation of those who cooperated in Card. Mindszenty’s arrest and imprisonment; Pius XII’s address on “The Mission of Catholic Women,” Sept. 29, 1957, The Pope Speaks).
These points are supported by the following teaching of Pope Pius XII: “According to the principles of Catholic doctrine, conversion must be the result…of an interior adherence of the soul to the truths taught by the Catholic Church. It is for this reason that the Catholic Church does not admit to Her communion adult persons who apply either for the first time or for readmission, except on condition that they be fully aware of the meaning and consequences of the step which they wish to take,” (Can. 2314, Canon Law Digest, Vol. 3, AAS 38-391). And while some might say that (8) above is simply an option or opinion, this is not what Pope Pius XII teaches concerning those who posses only Baptism of desire. In Mystici Corporis he taught: “For even though by an unconscious desire and longing they have a certain relationship with the Mystical Body and the Redeemer, they still remain deprived of those many heavenly gifts and helps which can only be enjoyed in the Catholic Church. Therefore, may they enter into Catholic unity…May they together run with us to the one Head.”
While a material sort of unity may be possible, this is not a possibility the Church seems to have considered. Therefore, there is much that Catholics must do to compensate for the fact that they are not fully members of the Mystical Body. We have no Sacrifice or Sacraments and lack the abundant graces these bring. But we lack them because we cannot receive them from any but valid and licit clergy in communion with a true pope. And what we lack, Pope Pius XII teaches in his Mystici Corporis, Christ as Head of the Mystical Body will supply. We may be home alone, but this “position” is not a DESTINATION for those leaving Traditional clergy; it should be merely a “holding pattern” until those maintaining this position sufficiently attain to the “animated charity” required for membership in the Church by desire. Yet how is one to know that a Catholic has a true desire to be a member, and therefore can be saved?
The exercise of animated charity
Rev. Fenton, based on comments in Mystici Corporis tells us: “The man who has a sincere votum or desiderium, enlightened by faith and animated by charity, to enter the true Church of Jesus Christ is thus one who actually intends to work for the objective of the Church…[whose] intention [is] to work for the glory of God through the salvation of souls in according to God the supernatural service of acknowledgement due to Him.” In some way then, this cooperation is necessary, not only for salvation but in order to achieve a sort of “unity by desire,” insofar as we are able to do so without a Roman Pontiff. Like those during the Western Schism, we must weep and sigh, ceaselessly seeking ways to resolve the present crisis and to understand our obligations, imploring others to help us in this effort. After first engaging in an effort to develop and increase interior devotion, Catholics should then resolve to engage in the “mutual cooperation” desired by Pope Pius XII — by diligently working in the lay apostolate and in Catholic Action, in meaningful and productive ways, to restore the Church. Msgr. Fenton takes this directly from Mystici Corporis, where Pope Pius XII states:
87. “No less far from the truth is the dangerous error of those who endeavor to deduce from the mysterious union of us all with Christ a certain unhealthy quietism. They would attribute the whole spiritual life of Christians and their progress in virtue exclusively to the action of the divine Spirit, setting aside and neglecting the collaboration which is due from us. No one of course can deny that the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ is the one source of whatever supernatural power enters into the Church and its members. For ‘the Lord will give grace and glory’ as the Psalmist says. But that men should persevere constantly in their good works, that they should advance eagerly in grace and virtue, that they should strive earnestly to reach the heights of Christian perfection and at the same time to the best of their power should stimulate others to attain the same goal, — all this the heavenly Spirit does not will to effect unless they contribute their daily share of zealous activity. ‘For divine favors are conferred not on those who sleep, but on those who watch,’ as St. Ambrose says. For if in our mortal body the members are strengthened and grow through continued exercise, much more truly can this be said of the social Body of Jesus Christ in which each individual member retains his own personal freedom, responsibility, and principles of conduct. For that reason he who said: ‘I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me.’ did not at the same time hesitate to assert: “His (God’s) grace in men has not been void, but I have labored more abundantly than all they: yet not 1, but the grace of God within me.’”
At present then, those remaining in Trad sects — and even those staying at home who believe nothing more is required of them than to separate themselves — are engaging in a sort of semi-Quietism, if not in Quietism proper. Many became Traditionalists in the first place to remedy feelings of social and spiritual inadequacy; to appear normal and be seen to possess all those same things that others in the world today point to as necessary for a normal existence. This is not to say that they did not also believe entirely that the true Church existed in those remaining priests and bishops offering the Tridentine Mass and the true rite of the Sacraments. But they remained attached to the movement and reluctant to leave it for the previous reasons mentioned. It was the only way they understood to express opposition to the NO and to be recognized as that Church which existed at the death of Pope Pius XII. Eventually a younger generation remained in these movements for the sake of their parents and as a sort of comfort zone. They were even less aware of the need for study and of the problems surrounding apostolic succession and the lack of a true pope. In addition they lacked the outrage and horror of their parents who had seen the havoc created by Vatican II and the introduction of the Novus Ordo Missae.
Without this critical background and any sense of urgency or obligation, these younger Traditionalists simply fell into a well-worn groove and enjoyed their complacency. Yet if parents point the way and even re-educate their adult children, there is hope that those things presented here can be properly explained and understood. “We must submit ourselves with childlike docility to the teachings of faith…We submit our judgment not only to the truths of faith, but to the directions of the Holy See…We must study before all else not what is pleasing but what is profitable…In order to discipline the mind we must study what is most necessary, with the desire to know and love the truth and to live by it…As St. Augustine tells us, knowledge should be put to the service of love: ‘Let knowledge be used in order to erect the structure of charity,’” (Rev. Adolphe Tanquerey, The Spiritual Life.) Animated charity requires a foundation, and St. Augustine has just identified it. The laborers who came to the vineyard all received the same pay, regardless of how long they labored for the one who hired them. We must not only pray, but watch, or study, as St. Ambrose says above. It is not how late in the day one arrives to begin this arduous task; it is the arrival and the labor itself that truly matters.
With brevity and clarity this article smooths the path. Thank you….JWM