How Catholics praying at home can cooperate as members of Christ’s Body
© Copyright 2013, T. Stanfill Benns (All emphasis within quotes is the author’s unless indicated otherwise.)
Because Traditionalists and others entertain false ideas concerning the Church’s teaching on Christ’s Mystical Body, they have carried these false ideas into their peculiar theories of Christ’s constitution of the Church, resulting in a perverted idea of the Church’s true teaching concerning both her visible and mystical nature. The juridic, external nature of the Church has been overstressed to the injury of interior religion; its (invisible) mystical nature has been assigned to those who do not believe such a thing exists and grace has been attributed primarily as conveyed by Traditionalist versions of the Sacraments. Church membership in the Mystical Body has been restricted in these times to those practicing only external religion, the true efficacy of private prayer has been denied and the role of Catholics in practicing Catholic Action has been erroneously limited to its direction under the false authority of Traditionalist “priests” and “bishops,” (that is the few who even advocate that their followers engage in this papal directive).
Worse yet, the heresy of quietism condemned by the Church has been rampant among Traditionalists for decades, for it is the anesthetic used by Traditional clergy and lay leaders to lull their followers into spiritual lethargy, a state akin to the addiction states, in many cases, experienced by alcohol and drug abusers and their relatives. But sadder still, the true nature of mysticism and the interior life have been so effectively obscured and demeaned that Catholics scarcely think of their faith in any but external terms. These errors, as found in Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, will be outlined below. And the true nature of the Mystical Body as taught by this pope will be examined in full.
As noted in Part I, Traditionalists have falsely accused Catholics praying at home of denying the doctrine of indefectibility when this has never been the case, as proven in the article on this site, /articles/a-catholics-course-of-study/the-church/what-catacomb-catholics-believe-on-indefectibility/ Yet they refuse to recognize that the doctrines they teach concerning the papacy and the constitution of the Church are in direct contradiction to Mystici Corporis, which in its day was generally recognized by theologians as an infallible encyclical. Of course this is only one of many sets of papal teachings they ignore or dismiss as non-binding, as has been repeatedly demonstrated in different articles here. But to save their souls — and Traditionalists do everything they do, according to them, to make sure they have they graces necessary to save their souls — they must be members of this Body and they must at least accept and obey the teachings of the Roman Pontiffs. For when a canonically elected pontiff rules the Church, he constitutes one head of the Church with Christ, with Christ as the invisible Head and the pope as its visible, juridical head. In our case that would be the last true pontiff, Pope Pius XII, according to his own Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis. For Pius XII taught in this constitution that during an interregnum, until a true pope is elected, all the laws and teachings of the Church must be strictly obeyed and that not even the cardinals could dispense from them. It is mystifying, indeed, to understand how Traditionalists believe their Church exists despite the clear teaching of the Catechism of the Council of Trent, St. Thomas Aquinas and others, that the Church cannot exist without Her visible head.
St. Thomas wrote: “In order that the Church exist, there must be one person at the head of the whole Christian people. “ (Summa Contra Gentiles, Vol. IV, pg. 76). And from the Council of Trent Catechism: “It is the unanimous teaching of the Fathers that this visible head [the pope] is necessary to establish peace and unity in the Church…’A visible Church requires a visible head,’ (St. Ambrose; see section under “The Creed,” unity in spirit, etc,). We also read from Pope Leo: “For this reason the Church is so often called in Holy Writ a body, and even the body of Christ – ‘Now you are the body of Christ,’ (I Cor. xii., 27) – and precisely because it is a body is the Church visible…And to set forth more clearly the unity of the Church, [St. Cyprian] makes use of the illustration of a living body, the members of which cannot possibly live unless united to the head and drawing from it their vital force. Separated from the head they must of necessity die,” (Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum). But this, of course refers to voluntary, not involuntary separation, such as we have today.
Likewise in his definition of the three attributes, Rev. Thomas Kinkaid teaches in his Baltimore Catechism # 3 that the four marks can exist only if the three attributes — authority, infallibility and indefectibility — first exist, i.e., the papacy. “We know the Church must have the four marks and three attributes usually ascribed or given to it from the words of Christ given in the Holy Scripture and the teaching of the Church from its beginning. The Church cannot have the four marks without the three attributes because the three attributes necessarily come with the marks and without them the marks could not exist,” (Q. & A # 519-520). But visible canonically elected/appointed hierarchy (authority and infallibility) are no longer available to guide the Church although we presume that somewhere they exist, and that Christ will re-establish them at some point. In this regard we are no different than those living during the time of the Great Schism. They did not reject or doubt the papacy or hierarchy; they simply did not know which man, commanding which set of cardinals and bishops, was truly pope. Indefectibility will always exist in the sense that the Mystical Body will never cease to exist and the juridic Church can never reach a point at which She could no longer be restored. Dormant for now, She will rise again, even if it requires a miracle; either that or we will experience the consummation. For we know without a shadow of a doubt that Christ will always be true to His promises.
In the meantime, Holy Scripture itself tells us what Our Lord will do when the shepherd is struck. “Strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand to the little ones,” (Zach. 13:7). The first part of this prophecy is repeated again in Matt. 26:31, but in this passage Christ says, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed.” Rev. Leo Haydock comments that this passage in Zacharias means that, “Christ takes care of his little flock, and always is one with the Father.” In the Matt. 26:31 version, he notes that “I will strike” means that Christ’s death (and the vacancy of the Holy See) are trials and sufferings “directed by God.” He quotes from Luke 12:32 which reads: “Fear not little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you a kingdom.” Citing St. Bede, Haydock writes on this verse: “In order to console us in our labors, he commands us to seek only the kingdom of Heaven, and promises that the Father will bestow it as a reward upon us.”
How did the faithful Jews survive their 70-year captivity during the Babylonian exile without the Temple and the Ark? How did they keep their faith? Was their priesthood destroyed? As we read from Scripture: “You are in error because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God,” (Matt. 22:29). The Old Testament prefigured our own time. The historian Rev. Henri Daniel-Rops ably demonstrates this, relating in his Israel and the Ancient World, (1964 translation, Image Books, p. 285-86): “The Chosen People accomplished, during their exile, a remarkable effort of fidelity. The rites proper to Jahweh’s worship were strictly observed: Circumcision, rest on the Sabbath, commemoration of the Passover. The priests, who had no longer a Temple, as their cult could only be practiced on holy ground, were held in high respect. The faithful grouped themselves about them and their places of meeting became synagogues, (a principle not in opposition to the Temple. There was, however, no cult in the synagogues; they merely read the Law and the Prophets, p. 365). A veritable caste of jurists and scribes was constituted, for the purpose of tending the law — arduous upholders of the more rigorous observance…In their exile the Chosen People had recognized the punishment of their faults and resolved to expiate them. The ‘return’ so greatly desired was in the first place a return to God.”
It was under Cyrus, the Great King, that the Babylonians finally returned to Palestine from their exile and it was Cyrus whom God told to rebuild the Temple, (Isaias 44:28 and 45:1). Daniel-Rops writes: “To rebuild the Temple — what did that mean? In the religious conception that the Prophets had introduced, the real Temple of God is interior; its sanctuary is situated in the hearts of the saints…’This is the one whom I approve: the lowly and afflicted man who trembles at my word,’ (Isaias 66: 1-2).” Could Daniel-Rops say of us today what he said of the Jews — that we “Accomplished…a remarkable effort of fidelity”? That we are “arduous upholders” of the Law? That we have “recognized our faults” and expiated them? Yes, the Jews had their priests; no analogy or prefiguration is perfect. But notice what they did: They taught the people in the synagogues; they did not dare offer sacrifices. They observed the Law. And it is certain that these priests were descended from the Levitic line, so carefully documented and preserved. Those validly ordained priests who never celebrated the Novus Ordo could have done the very same — they could have offered Mass alone privately and taught and prayed with the people publicly. Instead they chose to contravene the Law; they failed to recognize the “signs of the times,” — the advent of Antichrist — and neglected to implore the faithful to expiate their sins and make reparation. While it may gall Catholics to hear it, the Israelites were more faithful to God by far in their day of trial than Traditionalists are today.
The same Christ who gave us the popes as supreme rulers on earth and the bishops as their delegates can certainly take them away from us for a time, for “the good Lord giveth and the good Lord taketh away.” It happened to His Chosen People and we are guilty of worse crimes than they were. It is for the faithful to now determine precisely how, as little ones — lambs without shepherds, captives in the desert — they reside in the Temple of the Mystical Body during the remainder of this terrible and protracted interregnum.
Excerpts from Mystici Corporis Christi
(All numbered paragraphs below are quotes from this encyclical unless noted otherwise.)
Inaccurate and false ideas about the Mystical Body
“8….“We must confess that grave errors with regard to this doctrine are being spread among those outside the true Church, and that among the faithful, also, inaccurate or thoroughly false ideas are being disseminated which turn minds aside from the straight path of truth.
“9. For while there still survives a false rationalism, which ridicules anything that transcends and defies the power of human genius, and which is accompanied by a cognate error, the so-called popular naturalism, which sees and wills to see in the Church nothing but a juridical and social union, there is on the other hand a false mysticism creeping in, which, in its attempt to eliminate the immovable frontier that separates creatures from their Creator, falsifies the Sacred Scriptures.
“10. As a result of these conflicting and mutually antagonistic schools of thought, some through vain fear, look upon so profound a doctrine as something dangerous, and so they shrink from it as from the beautiful but forbidden fruit of paradise. But this is not so. Mysteries revealed by God cannot be harmful to men, nor should they remain as treasures hidden in a field, useless. They have been given from on high precisely to help the spiritual progress of those who study them in a spirit of piety. For, as the Vatican Council teaches, “reason illumined by faith, if it seeks earnestly, piously and wisely, does attain under God, to a certain and most helpful knowledge of mysteries, by considering their analogy with what it knows naturally, and their mutual relations, and their common relations with man’s last end,” although, as the same holy Synod observes, reason, even thus illumined, “is never capable of understanding those mysteries as it does those truths which forms its proper object.”
“12….As He hung upon the Cross, Christ Jesus not only appeased the justice of the Eternal Father which had been violated, but He also won for us, His brethren, an ineffable flow of graces. It was possible for Him of Himself to impart these graces to mankind directly; but He willed to do so only through a visible Church made up of men, so that through her all might cooperate with Him in dispensing the graces of Redemption. As the Word of God willed to make use of our nature, when in excruciating agony He would redeem mankind, so in the same way throughout the centuries He makes use of the Church that the work begun might endure.
“13. If we would define and describe this true Church of Jesus Christ — which is the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church — we shall find nothing more noble, more sublime, or more divine than the expression “the Mystical Body of Christ” — an expression which springs from and is, as it were, the fair flowering of the repeated teaching of the Sacred Scriptures and the Holy Fathers.
“14. That the Church is a body is frequently asserted in the Sacred Scriptures. ‘Christ,’ says the Apostle, ‘is the Head of the Body of the Church…’ Our predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII, in his Encyclical Satis Cognitum asserts: ‘The Church is visible because she is a body.’ Hence they err in a matter of divine truth, who imagine the Church to be invisible, intangible, something merely ‘pneumatological’ as they say, by which many Christian communities, though they differ from each other in their profession of faith, are united by an invisible bond.”
Traditionalists are not members of the juridic Church
We have Traditionalists claiming two separate things: 1) that Christ Himself heads the Church in these times and in an extraordinary manner has given their “priests” the jurisdiction necessary to provide them with the Sacraments, so the juridic Church yet exists and: 2) those who say that the Traditionalist “church” possesses the four marks. But this is impossible without possessing the attributes — true canonical mission authority and infallibility, i.e. the papacy. This claim is patently ridiculous when even their own clergy admit they have no sort of office or actual jurisdiction, necessary to complete the attribute of apostolicity. Yet they pretend to represent the juridical Church on earth, when without the pope, without ALL the attributes, they have no Church. For Pope Pius IX says that even if one of the marks is missing, especially apostolicity, the Church Herself teaches that She could not exist in Her juridic capacity. So this is a false idea of how the juridical Church was established by Christ, one unknown in Pope Pius XII’s time.
Those holding the right conception of the Mystical Body, however, do what they must do and accept the Church’s teaching on Her own constitution. They are aware of the fact that it is something they don’t fully understand, even though they are members of this Body, but to be members they must accept on faith all the teachings of the Church. However unsure they may be about how such a relationship works without the hierarchical components of the juridic Church, one thing is clear from Pope Leo XIII’s Satis Cognitum and from Pius XII’s Mystici Corporis: those who reject even one article of faith lose their membership. One of those articles is clearly stated in the Vatican Council documents, quoted above by Pope Pius XII: Contrary to what Traditionalist leaders would have their followers believe, the mysteries can be understood by study and meditation; and the Mystical Body is one of these mysteries. From that understanding “the little flock” can better evaluate its present standing as dispossessed Catholics.
Pray-at-home Catholics do not claim membership in an “invisible” Church
Some have accused pray-at-home Catholics of holding to the “invisible” or “pneumatological” idea of the Mystical Body condemned above by both Pope Leo XIII and Pius XII. But we have never maintained that we as the catacomb Church are invisible, per se; rather we are visible and known to each other; we are hidden only in the sense that for the most part, Traditionalists pretend we are not members of “their” church and for that matter, act as though we don’t even exist. They condemn us for our beliefs, but we all worship the same at home and believe the same truths of faith; we observe the same Sacraments of private Baptism, the extraordinary form of Matrimony, (also Spiritual Communion and the Perfect Act of Contrition in lieu of Penance and reception of the Holy Eucharist). We all follow the same laws of the Church, as Pope Pius XII bids us to do in Mystici Corporis. And being excused from those Sacraments we cannot receive, owing to moral impossibility, we thus fulfill whatever we can of the marks of the Church, although admittedly it is not the juridic Church, because it cannot exist without all three attributes.
If de facto and de jure is able to be applied to anything it is this concept, since in fact we still possess at least some of the qualifications to satisfy the marks, yet by law we have no hierarchy to guide us. But is it possible that pray-at-home Catholics could possess the attributes in a mystical manner? For if we long for the return of true authority, obeying all the laws and teachings of the Church in the meantime; if we firmly hold and believe all the teachings of the Roman Pontiffs in their continual magisterium, and if we wholeheartedly profess the belief that Christ will always be true to His promises, then we have fulfilled all we can of the requirements necessary for the juridic Church to exist by our desire to be ruled by a true pope in the future and our intention to submit to his authority.
Reverend 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.”
This “outward legal side” of the Church is presented in the well-known definition of St. Robert Bellarmine: “The Church is a union of men who are united by the profession of the same Christian faith and by participation in the same sacraments, under the direction of their lawful pastors, especially of the one representative of Christ on earth, the Pope of Rome,” (De eccl. mil. 2.) But the best definition of the Church, encompassing all aspects of Her existence is presented by Dr. Ludwig Ott from the pen of the theologian, Reverend Johan Mohler. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. X, calls Mohler a “gifted youth,” an “ideal priest,” “deeply pious,” “…kindly intelligent,” and of a “childlike modesty.” The author of the article concerning him, Reverend Schlager, says of Mohler: “…he gave new life to the science of theology … he reawakened the religious spirit of the age,” (late 18th, early 19th century). On his tomb, Schlager reports that his epitaph reads: “Defender of the Faith, ornament of letters, consolation of the Church.”
Reverend Mohler, in his Symbolik, offers us this definition of the Church: “By the Church on earth, Catholics understand the visible community of all the faithful, founded by Christ, in which are continued the activities developed by Him, during His earthly life for the remission of sins and for the salvation of mankind, under the direction of His Spirit, until the end of the world, by means of a continuous, uninterrupted apostolate ordained by Him, and by which, in the course of time, all peoples will be brought back to God.” (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pp. 271-72.) And here we must remind readers that this apostolate is not just assigned to the hierarchy; it is committed also to the laity, for Catholic Action has long been called by the Church, “the apostolate of the laity.” Pius XII reiterates the gist of Mohler’s definition in his Mystici Corporis with these words: “This social body of Christ has been designed by its founder to be visible; this cooperation of all its members must be externally manifest….”
And these definitions do not exclude pray-at-home Catholics, except where the literal application of the attributes are concerned. Mystically, even if not in its fullest sense, stay-at-home Catholics possess all the requirements of membership in Christ’s Mystical Body. As Pius XII states above, the restriction of the Mystical Body to “popular naturalism, which sees and wills to see in the Church nothing but a juridical and social union,” is as much an error in thinking as belief in an invisible, pneumatological Church. This is expressed more clearly below by Right Rev. Msgr. Can. Edward Myers, M.A., found in The Teaching of the Catholic Church by Can. George D. Smith, D.D., Ph.D., Vol. II; 1959, as presented in Part I of this work:
“The negation of the visible character of the Church of Christ, and of its hierarchical constitution, has led to such stress being laid upon the visible, tangible aspects of the Church that those who are not Catholics have come to think of it in terms of its external organization and of its recent dogmatic definitions, and not a few Catholics, concentrating their attention upon the argumentative, apologetical, and controversial side of the doctrine concerning the Church, have been in danger of overlooking theoretically – though practically it is impossible for them to do so – the supernatural, the mysterious, the vital, the overwhelmingly important character of the Church as the divinely established and only means of grace in the world, as the Mystical Body of Christ.” The Mystical Body of Christ is the “only means of grace in the world… The stress laid by St. Paul on the edification of the body of Christ, on the benefit the whole [which] derives from the perfection of the members, has tended to be passed over where the social value of the contemplative life is not appreciated.” And whether Christ heads it in conjunction with His Vicar or in our case, rules alone, this is nonetheless true. External religion, social religion is what ruined the Church, and the neglect of the interior life is the sin of omission that allowed the faithful to become lost in the errors of ecumenism and liturgical renewal. Christ closed the door, then, so to speak on the juridic Church and led those remaining into the desert to join Him and His Blessed Mother in praying, watching and contemplation. This, as mentioned before, is what is suggested in Apocalypse, Chapter 12.
Graces and their origin: where Traditionalists err
Notice how Pope Pius XII states above that had He willed it, Christ could have imparted grace directly to us, bypassing the juridic Church. God tells us in Zach. 13:7 that when the shepherd is struck, this is exactly what He will do: turn His hand to us. He will personally be the font of all graces without the Mass and Sacraments available. Yet Traditionalists deny He could possibly act of His own accord — will such a thing — without the juridic Church, when Christ Himself is the Head of His own Church! He also is the One who has taken Mass and Sacraments away, just as Holy Scripture said He would do; and just as the ancient Fathers of the Church unanimously foretold. In Chapter 11 of Zacharias, God is portrayed as breaking His covenant with His people, for the prophet writes: “And I took my rod that was called beauty and cut it asunder to make void my covenant…And I cut off my second rod that was called a Cord, that I might break the brotherhood between Juda and Israel,” (11:10, 14.) Here then is proof positive that God can withdraw His guarantees and favors if He chooses. The footnote under “two rods” in the Douay-Rheims explains that the rods are broken “…by the obstinacy of sinners … and such sinners are given up to the reprobate sense, as the Jews were.” This same chapter of Zacharias refers to the “two shepherds,” one just and one foolish. St. Jerome tells us the foolish shepherd Zacharias describes as forsaking the flock is Antichrist, and that it is foretold by this prophet that only a remnant of the flock shall remain standing. Yet Christ remains with the remnant in His Mystical Body.
“For it was through His triumph on the Cross,’ according to the teaching of the Angelic and Common Doctor, ‘that He won power and dominion over the gentiles;’ by that same victory He increased the immense treasure of graces, which, as He reigns in glory in heaven, He lavishes continually on His mortal members; it was by His blood shed on the Cross that God’s anger was averted and that all the heavenly gifts, especially the spiritual graces of the New and Eternal Testament, could then flow from the fountains of our Savior for the salvation of men, of the faithful above all; it was on the tree of the Cross, finally, that He entered into possession of His Church, that is, of all the members of His Mystical Body; for they would not have been united to this Mystical Body through the waters of Baptism except by the salutary virtue of the Cross, by which they had been already brought under the complete sway of Christ,” (Mystici Corporis, para. 30). In the absence of the juridic Church, Christ will not fail to dispense the graces won for us by His death on the Cross. Traditionalists, who constantly preach that these graces cannot be obtained in any complete and significant manner unless received in sacraments from their hands dare to usurp the place of Christ. For these graces were meant to issue from Christ through the hands of lawful priests, validly and licitly ordained, descended from the line of bishops Christ began with His designation of the Apostles; NOT those consecrated at the hands of schismatics and worse, who have no claim to that descent.
“From Heaven Christ never ceases to look down with especial love on His spotless Spouse so sorely tried in her earthly exile; and when He sees her in danger, saves her from the tempestuous sea either Himself or through the ministry of His angels, or through her whom we invoke as Help of Christians, or through other heavenly advocates, and in calm and tranquil waters comforts her with the peace ‘which surpasseth all understanding,’” (Mystici Corporis, para. 40). Christ does carry us in these times, just as He carried the lambs in His arms as the Good Shepherd. He is as true to these promises to the faithful as He is to the promise that His Church will last as He established it “unto the consummation.”
Who belong to the unity and faith of the Body?
“22. Actually, only those are to be in included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed…As therefore in the true Christian community there is only one Body, one Spirit, one Lord and One Baptism, so there can be only one faith. And therefore if a man refuse to hear the Church, let him be considered — so the Lord commands — as a heathen and a publican…Those divided in faith and government cannot be living in the unity of such a Body, nor can they be living the life of its Divine Spirit.
“23. [But] not every sin, how grave it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism, heresy or apostasy…
“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…”
But St. Bellarmine distinguishes between those merely excommunicated for other crimes and those excommunicated for heresy, apostasy and schism in De Romano Pontifice, Bk. II, Chap. 30: “There is no basis for that which some respond to this: that these Fathers based themselves on ancient law, while nowadays, by decree of the Council of Constance, they alone lose their jurisdiction who are excommunicated by name or who assault clerics. This argument, I say, has no value at all, for those Fathers, in affirming that heretics lose jurisdiction, did not cite any human law, which furthermore perhaps did not exist in relation to the matter, but argued on the basis of the very nature of heresy. The Council of Constance only deals with the excommunicated, that is, those who have lost jurisdiction by sentence of the Church, while heretics already before being excommunicated [receiving an official sentence] are outside the Church and deprived of all jurisdiction. For they have already been condemned by their own sentence, as the Apostle teaches (Tit. 3:10-11), that is, they have been cut off from the body of the Church without excommunication, as St. Jerome affirms… All the ancient Fathers…teach that manifest heretics immediately lose all jurisdiction,” http://www.cmri.org/02-bellarmine-roman-pontiff.html (this is for attribution only; this is a Traditionalist website). And he writes in his De Romano Pontifice, (Bk. II), Chapter 40: “The Holy Fathers teach unanimously not only that heretics are outside of the Church, but also that they are ipso facto deprived of all ecclesiastical jurisdiction and dignity …Saint Nicholas I (epist. Ad Michael) repeats and confirms the same. Finally, Saint Thomas also teaches (II-II, Q39, A3) that schismatics immediately lose all jurisdiction, and that anything they try to do on the basis of any jurisdiction will be null.”
Where are Traditionalists in all this? They are not of the soul because they are not just simple excommunicates. They are not of the Body because they receive sacrilegious sacraments from the hands of those who not only are not lawful pastors, but who are not certainly valid pastors at all. While St. Augustine in the fifth century seems to anticipate the argument for material heretics as actual members of the Church, hence Christ’s Mystical Body, later Church teaching does not confirm his opinion. But a distinction needs to be made. While in the external forum we are bound to regard pertinacious individuals as heretics and schismatic’s until the Church rules otherwise. While the Church does teach that such heretics and schismatics are outside Her pale, and Canon Law says we may regard them as such and treat them accordingly, this is not to say that some may not be innocent of heresy or schism in reality. Again, St. Bellarmine explains: “For although 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.
More from Mystici Corporis on sources of grace
“41. “They, therefore, walk in the path of dangerous error who believe that they can accept Christ as the Head of the Church, while not adhering loyally to His Vicar on earth.”
We know that at present this is an impossibility. But as we have noted time and time again in other articles on this site, Traditionalists do not follow the teachings of the Roman Pontiffs throughout history; they do not practice what these popes taught or believe what they command us to believe. They pay them lip service, while their hearts are far from any obedience to them whatsoever. This despite the fact that the sole distinguishing factor of the true Church on earth, as defined by the Vatican Council, is her infallible head — supreme in his magistracy and jurisdiction. Some Traditionalists even are so perverse as to question the authority of Popes Pius IX through Pope Pius XII, without citing any credible evidence for why they consider them suspect popes. Or they criticize the popes while accepting them as pope, something they are forbidden by the Church to do. But without such obedience, which is the least one owes the Church in the absence of Her true head, one cannot be a member of the Mystical Body. And if not a member, one is not a sharer in the many graces that Christ showers on the faithful.
“44. Because Christ the Head holds such an eminent position, one must not think that he does not require the help of the Body… Moreover as our Savior does not rule the Church directly in a visible manner, He wills to be helped by the members of His Body in carrying out the work of redemption. Dying on the Cross He left to His Church the immense treasury of the Redemption, towards which she contributed nothing. But when those graces come to be distributed, not only does He share this work of sanctification with His Church, but He wills that in some way it be due to her action. This is a deep mystery, and an inexhaustible subject of meditation, that the salvation of many depends on the prayers and voluntary penances which the members of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ offer for this intention and on the cooperation of pastors of souls and of the faithful, especially of fathers and mothers of families, a cooperation which they must offer to our Divine Savior as though they were His associates.
“49. These words of the disciple whom Jesus loved lead us to the last reason why Christ our Lord should be declared in a very particular way Head of His Mystical Body. As the nerves extend from the head to all parts of the human body and give them power to feel and to move, in like manner our Savior communicates strength and power to His Church so that the things of God are understood more clearly and are more eagerly desired by the faithful. From Him streams into the body of the Church all the light with which those who believe are divinely illumined, and all the grace by which they are made holy as He is holy.
“50. It is He who imparts the light of faith to believers; it is He who enriches pastors and teachers and above all His Vicar on earth with the supernatural gifts of knowledge, understanding and wisdom, so that they may loyally preserve the treasury of faith, defend it vigorously, and explain it and confirm it with reverence and devotion. Finally, it is He who, though unseen, presides at the Councils of the Church and guides them.
“51. All these treasures of His divine goodness He is said to bestow on the members of His Mystical Body, not merely because He, as the Eucharistic Victim on earth and the glorified Victim in heaven, through His wounds and His prayers pleads our cause before the Eternal Father, but because He selects, He determines, He distributes every single grace to every single person ‘according to the measure of the giving of Christ.’… It is He who through the Church baptizes, teaches, rules, looses, binds, offers, sacrifices.”
In the strict sense, Christ needs no one to effect the work of His salvation; He chose to establish His Church in such a way that the hierarchy acted as intermediaries to dispense His graces. They are the ones who to a man, following the death of Pope Pius XII, abandoned Him (or so it appears), just as his own Apostles slept at Gesthemane and hid when He was arrested. Somewhere true members of the hierarchy, more than likely, have been preserved; but He has shut up their hiding places. He has pulled the faithful to Himself, and though they are not an invisible Church — for there are those who yet profess Him publicly — neither are they meant to know the exact number, location, and identities of all those He counts as members of His Body, either by water Baptism or desire. By insisting that only their clergy can convey graces through their mass and sacraments, Traditionalists are denying that Christ can dispense His graces when and where — and to whom — He wishes without their “assistance.” They use this hook to reel in those who fear they will lose their souls if they cannot procure these graces. They pretend to represent the juridic Church without office, jurisdiction or obedience to a true pope, or even the popes of the past. Those following them ought to know better, but they have never studied their faith. And once they choose to follow some “priest” or “bishop,” they often are discouraged from studying it.
It is as Henry Cardinal Manning says: “Whensoever the light comes within the reach of our sight, or the voice within the reach of our ear, we are bound to follow it, to inquire and to learn; for we are answerable, not only for what we can do, by absolute power now, but for what we might do if we used all the means we have; and therefore, whensoever the Church of God comes into the midst of us, it lays all men under responsibility; and woe to that man who says, ‘ I will not read; I will not hear; I will not listen; I will not learn; ‘ and woe to those teachers who shall say, ‘ Don’t listen, don’t read, don’t hear; and therefore, don’t learn.’”
In discussing the teaching of St. Augustine on the subject of illicit Baptism, Rev. Grabowski notes: “Without the Holy Ghost are such as have been baptized in heretical and schismatic factions…Baptism so administered produces in the soul of the recipient an effect which Augustine calls a form or ‘forma,’ [the indelible mark?]. However, since it is produced outside the Church, it is irregular and illicit and consequently it does not convey a life of grace, it does not bring a rebirth of the soul, it does not effect a participation in the Holy Ghost.” Grabowski says such a sacrament from heretics and schismatics “is not worthless. Because it is valid it impinges a ‘form’ on the recipient…On account of the sacramental ‘form’ impressed on the baptized one, when such a person returns from heresy and schism…to the fold of the Church,” he becomes a member of the Mystical Body, returns to grace and receives the Holy Ghost. “The sinner administering it in the Church does not hinder the Sacrament from producing that life which he himself does not have, for it is Christ who is the principal minister. The sacrament is not affected by the sinfulness of the dispenser,” and this is the entire thrust of the Donatist heresy fought by St. Augustine and mistakenly applied by Traditionalists to the situation today. Sinfulness is one thing; lack of membership in the Church quite another. “…The sacrament, however, does not produce the supernatural life it is intended to convey…[when] administered or received outside the pale of the Church of Christ. This Church is the sole legitimate possessor of the sacraments. Just as they are said to be the sacraments of Christ they are the sacraments of the Church.”
This argument is very familiar because it explains why the Church will not recognize as licit the Holy Orders and episcopal consecrations administered by heretics and schismatics, particularly during an interregnum, and why She nullifies and voids their effects. The activating force of the mark works to good effect in Baptism, also Confirmation, for it means that those who received this Sacrament at the hands of valid but illicit bishops issuing from Pope Pius XII and later converted actually received the graces of the Sacrament. But regarding Holy Orders, which Rev. Jean-Marie Herve says is to be treated more stringently than all the other Sacraments, this is not the case. Some Traditionalist clergy claim that Christ Himself supplies jurisdiction for their acts, even as heretics and schismatics, and yet St. Augustine, Grabowski, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bellarmine and many others flatly deny this could ever be the case. The dogma at stake here is apostolicity and “forma” or no, nothing could provide them the necessary apostolicity, which must be coupled with jurisdiction to assure apostolic succession.
Canon Law and Church teaching clearly demonstrate that those who receive this sacrament from the hands of heretics and schismatics, whether or not they are ordained or consecrated by a bishop issuing from Pope Pius XII, receive no sacrament or mark whatsoever. If no mark was ever received, then it cannot be reactivated; and should they function as if they have so received it, Pope Pius VI and Pope Pius XII teach that they convey nothing, (Charitas; Vacantis Apostolica Sedis; Canons 108, 109, 118, 147, 154, 453). For they are not called by the proper bishop; do not possess dimissorial letters; were never properly examined or dispensed from impediments; were only doubtfully tonsured and were never properly trained or apprenticed following “ordination,” so could never possibly have received an office, far less jurisdiction. These “priests” and “bishops,” even as laymen, incur numerous censures and vindicative penalties that make it impossible for them to ever “reactivate” any so-called graces received to carry out their duties, because these are nullified by law and the censures incurred can be lifted only by a canonically elected Roman Pontiff.
They can return to the Mystical Body, however, through prayer, study, penance, renunciation of their errors and reparation. And as laymen, they could eventually function in some capacity such as simple catechesis. Pope Pius XII, in an address to Catholic women in 1957, told the laity that they MUST pick up the duties of the hierarchy whenever, owing to impossibility or persecution they cannot perform these duties. In his Feb. 20, 1946 address to Cardinals, Pope Pius XII reminded us that under our bishops, who are in communion with the Roman Pontiff, “[We] are the Church…” However in his 1957 work he taught that, “The initiative of a lay apostolate is perfectly justified even without a prior explicit ‘mission’ from the hierarchy…In countries where contacts with the hierarchy are difficult or practically impossible,…Christians…must, with God’s grace, assume all their responsibilities,” (“Mission of the Catholic Woman,” Sept. 29, 1957, The Pope Speaks). He added, however, that, “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.” But we have his permission, even his command to take the place of the hierarchy in times of emergency. This could be delegated to us only by virtue of the shared nature of Christ’s Mystical Body, which joins all Catholics, lay or clerical into one united entity until the consummation. We may not know where the hierarchy is, but we must act on its behalf, as best we can, until that fact is known to us.
Christ hears our private prayers
“87. There are others who deny any impetratory power to our prayers, or who endeavor to insinuate into men’s minds the idea that prayers offered to God in private should be considered of little worth, whereas public prayers which are made in the Name of the Church are those which really matter, since they proceed from the Mystical Body of Christ… [for] no prayer, even the most private, is lacking in dignity or power, and all prayer is of the greatest help to the Mystical Body in which, through the Communion of Saints, no good can be done, no virtue practiced by the individual members, which does not redound also to the salvation of all.” (Mystici Corporis).
This is precisely what Traditionalists do by jeering at those who pray at home and rely on their Spiritual Communions and Perfect Acts of Contrition. Why would anyone condemn these practices, given to us by the Church Herself, when pray-at-home Catholics are only following their consciences? The answer to this question is that Traditionalists are engaging in bullying because they have no legitimate way to defend their defenseless position. If they were truly solicitous of Christ’s Mystical Body and the salvation of souls as they repeatedly boast, then they would heed the following from Mystici Corporis:
“92. For as the Apostle with good reason admonishes us: ‘Those that seem the more feeble members of the Body are more necessary; and those that we think the less honorable members of the Body, we surround with more abundant honor.’”
Obligation of Catholics to engage in Catholic Action
“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…’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.
“96. And so We desire that all who claim the Church as their mother, should seriously consider that not only the clergy and those who have consecrated themselves to God in the religious life, but the other members of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ as well have, each in his degree, the obligation of working hard and constantly for the building up and increase of this Body.”
“103. For although our Savior’s cruel passion and death merited for His Church an infinite treasure of graces, God’s inscrutable providence has decreed that these graces should not be granted to us all at once; but their greater or lesser abundance will depend in no small part on our own good works, which draw down on the souls of men a rain of heavenly gifts freely bestowed by God.”
And again from Right Rev. Msgr. Can. Edward Myers, M.A., quoted above: “All who are justified should think and act as members of the Body of Christ, having the closest possible relations as individuals with Christ their Redeemer, and through him and in him, with their fellow Christians. Relations so close that the merits of Christ become theirs in proportion to the degree of their identification with him, and the merits of all avail unto all for the achieving of Christ’s purpose, the application of his merits to the salvation of mankind. This great Mystery of the identification of Christ and the faithful in the mystical body of which he is the head and they are members dominates the mind of St. Paul. Christ is the head, the Source of its corporate unity; the indwelling of his Spirit is the source of its spiritual activity.” Pope Pius XII assigns us a task, in the absence of the hierarchy, that is truly daunting; for he says we must take upon ourselves “all their duties.” In a sense then we also become the juridic Church, although we can never possess any sort of jurisdiction. But still we must continue that which we can, the spreading of the faith, insofar as our talents and our resources allow.
And yet the Traditionalist clergy have not evangelized and catechized to create this Army for Christ; they have not encouraged and organized Catholic Action, or any other apostolate of any importance or significance that has championed the cause of Christ the King and His Church. Rather than gather they have scattered the faithful, with their constant wrangling with one another, their divergence in doctrine, scandals in their personal lives and their love of notoriety and money. Their greatest sin of omission was committed when they neglected to secure the rights and continuation of the juridic Church by not electing a pope in the early days of this crisis, when it still might have been accomplished; and this, we believe, was by design. They also have consistently refused to do the one thing most necessary to belong to Christ’s Mystical Body as members — participate in the upbuilding of His Body by study and meditation, abandoning their errors and doing penance and reparation for the scandal they have given to others and the injury done to their own souls.
Rev. Grabowski quotes St. Augustine as requiring such penance before these men can be rehabilitated and return to the Church. The sainted bishop describes these individuals as “’…ficti or simulati…’ They seem to have been those who because of the commission of certain grave sins incurred ecclesiastical penance, which they failed to do,” and Traditionalists have racked up a goodly number of these penances for heresy and other delicts they have committed. “Because of their special grievous sin they have severed themselves from the Church to the extent of losing membership in it which they have not regained…These members behave externally as all other members do…and appear to participate in the inner life of the Church. It is not so, however. The ‘ficti’ or simulati’ have not the Holy Ghost…They are in the Church but merely according to appearance. ‘They do not belong to the Church and to that society of the Spirit,’” St. Augustine says, (p. 174-75). Sadly what they have perpetrated is the degradation of Christ’s sacred Mystical Body, and this has prevented them from sharing in its many fruits and benefits.
Mystici Corporis and the true mystical nature of Christ’s Body
“62. Hence, this word [mystical], in its correct signification gives us to understand that the Church, a perfect society of its kind, is not made up of merely moral and juridical elements and principles. It is far superior to all other human societies; it surpasses them as grace surpasses nature, as things immortal are above all those that perish. Such human societies, and in the first place civil Society, are by no means to be despised or belittled; but the Church in its entirety is not found within this natural order, any more than the whole man is encompassed within the organism of our mortal body. Although the juridical principles, on which the Church rests and is established, derive from the divine constitution given to it by Christ and contribute to the attaining of its supernatural end, nevertheless that which lifts the Society of Christians far above the whole natural order is the Spirit of our Redeemer who penetrates and fills every part of the Church’s being and is active within it until the end of time as the source of every grace and every gift and every miraculous power. Just as our composite mortal body, although it is a marvelous work of the Creator, falls far short of the eminent dignity of our soul, so the social structure of the Christian community, though it proclaims the wisdom of its divine Architect, still remains something inferior when compared to the spiritual gifts which give it beauty and life, and to the divine source whence they flow.
“68. Now since its Founder willed this social body of Christ to be visible, the cooperation of all its members must also be externally manifest through their profession of the same faith and their sharing the same sacred rites, through participation in the same Sacrifice, and the practical observance of the same laws. Above all, it is absolutely necessary that the Supreme Head, that is, the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, be visible to the eyes of all, since it is He who gives effective direction to the work which all do in common in a mutually helpful way towards the attainment of the proposed end. As the Divine Redeemer sent the Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth, who in His name  should govern the Church in an invisible way, so, in the same manner, He commissioned Peter and his successors to be His personal representatives on earth and to assume the visible government of the Christian community.”
The Mystical Body is bound by Canon Law
In his Our Greatest Treasure (1942), Rev. John Kearney tells us how key our obedience to the laws of the Church truly is if we wish to retain our faith.
“A Catholic obeys all the laws of the Church because God has given Her the power to rule and govern her subjects. A Catholic honors God by believing His word, and he honors God by obeying His laws — the Ten Commandments. The laws of the Church are God’s laws also in the sense that He gave Her the power to make laws — to make laws in His name: ‘Whatsoever you (the Apostles) shall bind on earth shall be bound also in Heaven,’ (Matt. 18:18)…The Church, then, has a twofold power regarding laws; She has the power to teach and explain the Divine law and to make laws Herself. A good Catholic…is obedient to a law laid down by the Church; he is not concerned whether it be an explanation of a divine law or a law laid down by Herself…The Church was founded by Christ…Her end is to glorify God by the salvation of souls…Hence every law the Church makes has as final object to facilitate the salvation of Her children. Her children may not see clearly how this or that law is a help to salvation, but once they believe the Church is God’s representative and speaks in His name they are conscious of their obligations and are thankful that they can honor God by obedience to the laws of His representatives…Obedience is not merely doing what you are told but being cheerfully willing to be told what to do…To obey the Church, therefore, is to obey God, for She commands in His name. And to obey God, to submit to God’s Will, is to offer Him the most perfect worship…It is important to emphasize and explain the authority of the Church in teaching and ruling [because]…this power should be associated with the doctrine that She is the Mystic Body of Christ…
“The Catholic believes that the Church is a society and has power to teach and govern (including the power to make laws). This is part of the doctrine She teaches. For a Catholic to (a) refuse to believe what the Church teaches is a mortal sin which forfeits God’s friendship; (b) to refuse to submit to one of the laws of the Church in a serious matter is a mortal sin and means the loss of God’s friendship. Such a refusal is a resistance to God Himself; for the Church speaks in His name…The priceless gift of the true faith which God in His goodness has given to us can be lost, and if lost, it may perhaps never be regained. One of the first steps in this loss of the gift of faith is the imprudence (arising from pride) of questioning the wisdom of the laws of the Church.”
And we hear the following from Cardinal Manning: “The sacred Canon Law against which the rebellious wills and shallow intellects of men have ever clamoured is the noblest, highest, purest legislation that mankind has ever known. The jurisprudence of the Church is the perfection of wisdom and justice. And here the difference between the Church and the world comes out into light. The doctors and legislators of the world may be unsanctified men. The doctors and law-givers of the Church are created by the Holy Ghost,” (The Internal Mission of the Holy Ghost, 1875).
If we listen to Traditionalists we would believe that the only way of saving ours souls is to partake of the sacraments they offer and attend their masses. Never does anyone hear of the necessity under pain of mortal sin, even excommunication, of obeying Her laws, especially in a matter as serious as the lack of necessary jurisdiction and participation in communicatio in sacris. According to Rev. Kearney, those who obey God’s laws (in order to abstain from such sacrilege), offer Him a sacrifice more noble and pleasing than any Traditionalists could imagine. But this they would never concede, even though it is contained in Holy Writ: “And Samuel said: Doth the Lord desire holocausts and victims, and not rather that the voice of the Lord should be obeyed? For obedience is better than sacrifices: and to hearken rather than to offer the fat of rams. Because it is like the sin of witchcraft, to rebel: and like the crime of idolatry, to refuse to obey,” (1 Kings 15: 22-23). And, “A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Deal favourably, O Lord, in thy good will with Sion; that the walls of Jerusalem may be built up,” (Psalm 50: 19-20). Here we have in a nutshell the reason why the crisis in the Church continues, and the remedy God desires in order that the Church be restored.
Filling up what is wanting to Christ’s Passion
“77…Thus the Church becomes, as it were, the filling out and the complement of the Redeemer, while Christ in a sense attains through the Church a fullness in all things…
“78. …”This profound truth — of our union with the Divine Redeemer and in particular of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our souls — is shrouded in darkness by many a veil that impedes our power to understand and explain it, both because of the hidden nature of the doctrine itself, and of the limitations of our human intellect. But We know, too, that from well-directed and earnest study of this doctrine, and from the clash of diverse opinions and the discussion thereof, provided that these are regulated by the love of truth and by due submission to the Church, much light will be gained, which, in its turn will help to progress in kindred sacred sciences. Hence, We do not censure those who in various ways, and with diverse reasonings make every effort to understand and to clarify the mystery of this our wonderful union with Christ. But let all agree uncompromisingly on this, if they would not err from truth and from the orthodox teaching of the Church: to reject every kind of mystic union by which the faithful of Christ should in any way pass beyond the sphere of creatures and wrongly enter the divine…”
“107…She, truly the Queen of Martyrs, more than all the faithful ‘filled up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ…for His Body, which is the Church;’ and she continues to have for the Mystical Body of Christ, born of the pierced Heart of the Savior, the same motherly care and ardent love with which she cherished and fed the Infant Jesus in the crib.
“108. May she, then, the most holy Mother of all the members of Christ, to whose Immaculate Heart We have trustfully consecrated all mankind, and who now reigns in heaven with her Son, her body and soul refulgent with heavenly glory — may she never cease to beg from Him that copious streams of grace may flow from its exalted Head into all the members of the Mystical Body. May she throw about the Church today, as in times gone by, the mantle of her protection and obtain from God that now at least the Church and all mankind may enjoy more peaceful days.”
Probably one of the most beautiful accounts of Our Lady’s interaction with the Mystical Body is found in Mother Mary Potter’s Path of Mary. There Mother Potter writes:
“If Jesus Christ, the Head of men is born in her, the predestinate, who are members of that Head, ought also to be born in her by a necessary consequence. One and the same mother does not bring forth into the world the head without the necessary members, nor the members without the head: for this would be a monster of nature; so in like manner, in the order of grace, the Head and the members are born of one and the same Mother; and if a member of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is to say, one of the predestinate, was born of any other Mother than Mary, who has produced the Head, he simply would be a monster in the order of grace.
“St. Augustine confirms that all the predestinate, in order to be conformed to the image of the Son of God, are in the world hidden in the womb of the most holy Virgin, where they are guarded, nourished, brought up and made to grow by that great Mother until she has brought them forth to glory after death. God the Son wishes to form Himself, and, so to speak, to incarnate Himself every day, by His dear Mother, in His members.” Here we are reminded of two sets of imagery. First, St. John’s portrayal of Our Lady and also the Church in Apoc. 12 where she is in labor to give birth, first to her Son, then, some commentators say, to His Vicar (Rev. E. Sylvester Berry), and finally to the faithful. In his commentary on this chapter Rev. Leo Haydock writes: “By this woman [clothed with the sun] interpreters commonly understand the Church of Christ, shining with the light of faith…It may also, by allusion, be applied to Our Lady…in labor and pain whilst she brings forth her children [the faithful] and Christ in them, in the midst of afflictions and persecutions…[For] the Church, even in the time of persecution, brought forth children to Christ…” In verse 5 Haydock sees “the man child” as “a masculine race of Christians, willing to confess the name of the Lord and to fight His battles…guarded by the special favor of God.” On verse 6, describing the Church’s flight into the desert, Haydock comments: “The Church, in the times of persecutions, must be content to serve God in a private manner.” The two wings of the eagle Haydock sees as a “special protection and assistance…from the Almighty.”
Secondly, we are reminded here of the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in labor to give birth to the millions of Mexico’s people converted to the faith in the 1500s. At La Salette Our Lady announced that a “little flock” of the faithful would be hidden and unknown in the latter days, and Guadalupe means hidden. Did she not tell Juan Diego that her children were in the folds of her garments, and that she would carry them in her arms? This last phrase was repeated at La Salette. Considering the other particulars revealed to the children there, it seems that Our Lady was trying to point out that the Church would be hidden from view in those days; eclipsed. This is the teaching of some of the Church Fathers and St. Francis de Sales on the Church in the desert during the time of Antichrist. Other commentators on the Apocalypse also allude to the Church’s nourishment in the desert or wilderness at this time, (Apoc. 12:6,14). Certainly it cannot be denied today that the papacy and Christ’s juridic Church on earth have been almost entirely blotted out. Yet the Mystical Body lives on.
If we wish to suffer with Our Lady and her Beloved Son, that we too may fill up some of what is “wanting” to Christ’s Passion, Mother Potter has this advice to offer:
“The Church appears to have entered upon the time when she mystically represents the Passion of Our Lord, and her members are unusually afflicted and tried; therefore the thought cannot be too often in your mind of the priceless value of suffering, of the short time the severest suffering can last, if it lasted without intermission through your whole life which it does not. Meditate again and again, in union with the Mother of Sorrows, upon the value (we might almost say infinite value) of suffering, since it will procure an infinite reward. It will be well to remember, likewise, that suffering not only procures a closer union with God, and therefore greater happiness in Heaven, but it likewise begets a greater happiness even on earth. You will taste a joy — you who suffer till your soul seems sorrowful even unto death — not conceived by those who pass through life with but its ordinary cares. Suffering is the one thing we may glory in. Suffering borne patiently, borne as God wills, is a present we may offer in some way back to God, and be sure it will be a gift most pleasing to Him. All that we suffer we of course, in our fallen state, deserve; but if God sees that in our hearts we are willing to suffer even undeserved suffering to please Him, to save our souls, He accepts that will, and our suffering is beautified to some resemblance to Our Lady’s.”
And on this note, we conclude the comments on Pope Pius XII’s Mystici Corporis.
“If we would define and describe this true Church of Jesus Christ — which is the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Roman Church — we shall find nothing more noble, more sublime, or more divine than the expression, ‘the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ’ — an expression which springs from and is, as it were, the fair flowering of the repeated teaching of the Sacred Scriptures and the holy Fathers,” Mystici Corporis teaches. And how is this to be fulfilled by the members of Christ’s Body? “The cooperation of all its members must also be externally manifest through their profession of the same faith and their sharing the same sacred rites, through participation in the same Sacrifice, and the practical observance of the same laws.” Both pray-at-home Catholics and Traditionalists alike agree that the Church, as Christ constituted it shall last unto the consummation, as the Vatican Council infallibly teaches. It is HOW it shall last, however, on which they disagree. But let us dissect the teachings of the Church on this matter to discover how Traditionalists err in believing that the Church exists primarily in its exterior or juridic capacity, while paradoxically maintaining that a) either the juridic Church can exist without a true pope, which St. Thomas Aquinas, the Catechism of the Council of Trent. Pope Leo XIII in Satis Cognitum and Pope Pius XII above emphatically deny; or b) it exists with a (potentially) true pope because materially the Roman usurpers hold the See. The heresies inherent in both these contentions have been demonstrated numerous times on this site, most recently in the article /articles/bombshell-basis-for-the-material-pope-theory-why-traditionalists-never-left-the-novus-ordo-church/
By way of contrast, pray-at-home Catholics maintain that the juridic Church for a time has been taken out of the way by the will of God Himself, in fulfillment of Scripture prophecy. They believe the juridic Church will be restored eventually, and that the “3 ½ years” of its absence can be interpreted as merely symbolic, an opinion held by various commentators, that this verse refers to an indefinite period of time. During this time period they believe that the Mystical Body of Christ — defined by Pope Pius XII as the Church on earth — is very much alive and exists in the mystical manner described in Apoc. 12. In so maintaining, and in assuming in the meantime the duties incumbent on Catholics to preserve the faith insofar as they are able, pray-at-home Catholics follow the laws and teachings of the Church by:
• proclaiming a firm and irrevocable assent to all the teachings of the Church and observance of Canon Law;
• refusing to receive doubtful sacraments;
• administering Baptism and Matrimony to each other and utilizing the Perfect Act of Contrition and Spiritual Communion in lieu of Penance and Holy Communion;
• reading either the entire Mass or the Mass of St. John from their missals, the appropriate Gospels and Epistles for the season and the sermons and instructions found in Goffines and elsewhere, keeping Sundays and holydays of obligation with prayers at home;
• in following only lawful pastors (including the avoidance of any so-called and falsely styled “material” popes, also the conclavist imposters);
• in catechizing both children and adults;
• in professing their faith by defending it and
• by performing acts of reparation and penance as required by any censures they have incurred, according to Canon Law.
• deny many points of infallible Church teaching and attenuate, ignore, dispense from and misinterpret the laws of the Church to their own advantage, contrary to the teachings of Pope Pius XII;
• sacrilegiously assist at “mass” and receive the “sacraments” from the hands of men whose ordinations are doubtfully valid at best, who possess no jurisdiction, supplied or otherwise and who, in reality, are probably only laymen;
• commit communicatio in sacris by attending Traditionalist services held by ”clerics” who admit they are not lawful pastors and are not in communion with a true pope;
• refuse to acknowledge Canon Law, so deny the effects of excommunication for heresy and schism and any need for doing penance or making reparation for their delicts.
Traditionalists claim God would never be so cruel as to deprive them of their clergy, even though these men reign only in violation of infallible decrees and Canon Law, as demonstrated repeatedly on this site. They have no canonical and infallible proofs of their own to offer that show they are justified in what they are doing, and they routinely decline to offer such proofs. Their primary proof exists in pointing out that Christ’s Church, as He constituted it, must last until the consummation, and they are the hierarchy of that Church. They have no direct-line descent from Pius XII, no proofs they possess jurisdiction, no appointed office — in short they lack all the elements required by law for validity, (Canons 147, 153, 453). They flout the law but yet call themselves members of the Church, while pray-at-home Catholics do their best to observe the law. When reminded that it is the unanimous opinion of the Fathers that the Holy Sacrifice will cease and that all the other signs predicted for the time of Antichrist’s coming are apparent, they assign his advent to the distant future, while maintaining Montini (Paul 6) abrogated the celebration of the Latin Mass by introducing the Novus Ordo Missae. As long as this denial of the true state of affairs exists, the same faith is not professed, the valid sacramental rites are not shared, the Holy Sacrifice is yet profaned in the Novus Ordo and on Traditionalist altars and the laws and teachings of the Church are ignored, Christ will not restore His Church.
For some at least, the resolution of the entire disconnect may hinge on the interpretation of St. Paul’s prophecy concerning “he who withholdeth.” If this verse is understood to mean the papacy, than many difficulties can be resolved. First of all, it would resolve the problem of the “material papacy,” for if the pope be taken out of the way and can no longer impede the reign of Antichrist, and Antichrist indeed arrives, then the papacy could scarcely be said to exist even materially. Secondly it would apply specifically to our own times, since never in the history of the Church has a series of usurpers ruled for decades (Antichrist and his system) unopposed by a true pope. Finally, it would be understood by all that without a canonically elected pope, the juridic Church cannot exist at all, for once the shepherd is struck, the sheep will scatter, (Zach. 13:7; Matt. 26: 31). In determining what is meant by St. Paul in his withholding comment, we turn to the Latin Vulgate and the comments made in the original by its translators, as described in the Catholic Encyclopedia under the topic, “Douay Bible.”
“The original Douay Version, which is the foundation on which nearly all English Catholic versions are still based, owed its existence to the religious controversies of the sixteenth century. Many Protestant versions of the Scriptures had been issued and were used largely by the Reformers for polemical purposes. The renderings of some of the texts showed evident signs of controversial bias, and it became of the first importance for the English Catholics of the day to be furnished with a translation of their own, on the accuracy of which they could depend and to which they could appeal in the course of argument. The work of preparing such a version was undertaken by the members of the English College at Douai, in Flanders, founded by William Allen (afterwards cardinal) in 1568. The chief share of the translating was borne by Dr. Gregory Martin, formerly of St. John’s College, Oxford. His text was revised by Thomas Worthington, Richard Bristowe, John Reynolds, and Allen himself — all of them Oxford men. A series of notes was added, designed to answer the theological arguments of the Reformers; these were prepared by Allen, assisted by Bristowe and Worthington.”
The editor of this article also comments: “Although the Bibles in use at the present day by the Catholics of England and Ireland are popularly styled the Douay Version, they are most improperly so called; they are founded, with more or less alteration, on a series of revisions undertaken by Bishop Challoner in 1749-52…The changes introduced by him were so considerable that, according to Cardinal Newman, they almost amounted to a new translation. So, also, Cardinal Wiseman wrote, ‘To call it any longer the Douay or Rheimish Version is an abuse of terms. It has been altered and modified until scarcely any verse remains as it was originally published.’ In nearly every case Challoner’s changes took the form of approximating to the Authorized Version [King James]…” Overall, the editor notes, the translation made in Rheims is “scholarly and accurate.” It is the comments of these men on the Vulgate, which seem to be more reliable than certain other authorities and commentaries, (at least according to the Encyclopedia editor), to which we will refer below.
In the Rheims commentary on St. Paul’s “withholding” power, the commentators only state that St. Augustine does not know what St. Paul is referring to by his allusion. But in their commentary on 2 Thess. 2: vs. 3, they say concerning the time of Antichrist’s reign: “The external state of the Roman Church and public intercourse with the same may cease, yet the due honor and obedience of the Christians toward it and communion in heart with it, and practice in secret, and open confessing of it if occasion require, shall not cease, no more than it doth now…” No scandal or any other endeavor “could yet prevail against the See of Rome, nor is it ever like to prevail until the end of the world draws near… Heretics feign to make the Pope Antichrist…[and] a member of the Church…the great Antichrist himself…of the Church and in the Church, and should continue in the same…[But] Antichrist, if he ever were of or in the Church shall be an apostate and a renegade out of the Church. And he shall usurp upon it by tyranny, and by challenging worship, religion and government thereof, so that himself shall be adored in all the churches of the world [which he leaves standing]…And this is to sit in the Temple of God [2 Thess. 2: 4], as some interpret. If any Pope ever did this, or shall do, then let the Adversaries call him Antichrist…Heretics of these days do more properly prepare the way to Antichrist and to extreme desolation than ever before, their special heresy being against the spiritual primacy of Popes and Bishops and against the Sacrifice of the Altar, in which two the sovereignty of Christ on earth exists.” In 1582, when the Rheims New Testament was published, it had been only 23 years since the promulgation of Pope Paul IV’s Bull, Cum ex Apostolatus Officio. It was clear even then that if Antichrist ever sat in the Chair of Peter, he would sit only as a usurper, and never as a member of the Church. These commentators clearly separate out that time when Antichrist reigns as an exception to the gates of Hell prevailing against the Church. Then and only then will it prevail and not before, as they explain against the Protestants at length in their commentary.
It was Henry Cardinal Manning who would devote an entire discourse to the question of “He who witholdeth” in his work, “The Temporal Power of the Vicar of Jesus Christ.” After assaying the teachings of the ancient fathers on this question and distilling their thoughts, then adapting them to historical developments in the Church over the centuries, Manning arrives at the conclusion that “he who withholdeth and [that] which withholdeth” is “both a system and a person”; that in its broadest sense it includes the entire Church and those temporal governments professing Catholicism. Already the demise of that system was well underway in the 19th century, Manning noted. In the narrower sense, the system is the papacy and the faithful and in the narrowest sense, the hierarchy, including the papacy. Manning points out that this withholding is according to the “will of the Incarnate Son of God Himself.” In summary: “The dethronement of the Vicar of Christ is the dethronement of the hierarchy of the universal Church and the public rejection of the Presence and reign of Jesus…The Divine Power [is] first in Providence, and then in His Church and then both fused together, continuing until the time shall come…to remove the barrier in order to let in a new dispensation of his wisdom on earth…” And Manning says there is an analogy to this: “the history of the Church, and the history of Our Lord on earth, run as it were in parallel.” In other words, the Church will endure Christ’s own Passion in Her Mystical Body.
“The event may come to pass that as our Divine Lord, after His three years of public ministry were ended, delivered Himself of His own free will into the hands of men, and thereby permitted them to do that which before was impossible, so in His inscrutable wisdom He may deliver over His Vicar upon earth, as He delivered Himself, and that the providential support of the temporal power of the Holy See may be withdrawn when its work is done…when the whole number of those whom He hath chosen to eternal life is filled up. It may be that when that is done, and when the times of Antichrist are come, that He will give over His Vicar upon earth, and His Mystical Body at large, [for a time, but]…the imperishable Church will live on still through the fires of the times of Antichrist…All this will be a persecution which I will not attempt to describe…a persecution in which no man shall spare his neighbor. But there is One Person…who will break down and smite all the enemies of he Church…who will consume [them] ‘with the Spirit of His mouth’ and [finally] destroy them ‘with the brightness of His coming.’…But there is in store for the Church of God a resurrection and an ascension, a royalty and a dominion, a recompense of glory for all it has endured.”
This we hear not from the mouth of a mystic, or some obscure seer, but from a theologian of the most irreproachable reputation; that champion of the papacy who almost singlehandedly engineered the Vatican Council as Pope Pius IX’s right-hand man and saw it through to its conclusion. This also is the opinion of “The pious and learned author,” [Fr.] Edward Healy Thompson, who wrote also in the 19th century: “In respect to the great calamities which [Bd]. Anna Maria Taigi announced as impending over mankind, as well as the splendid triumph which will follow for the Pope and the Church, together with the renovation of the entire world, one may say that such is the general object and the common end of all the prophecies, whether ancient or modern, which bear upon these latter times. Each seer, it is true, has added or dwelt more at large on some special circumstances, but they all agree in two leading features: ‘First, they all point to some terrible convulsion, to a revolution springing from most deep-rooted impiety, consisting in a formal opposition to God and His truth, and resulting in the most formidable persecution to which the Church has ever been subject. ‘Secondly, they all promise for the same Church a victory more splendid and complete than she has ever achieved here below. (“The Christian Trumpet,” compiled by Pellegrino [Gaudentius Rossi], 1800s).
And Mother Mary Potter, quoted above, wrote in her little book as well that: “It is the general opinion of saintly people that after the Church has passed a time of trial and persecutions, there will be a glorious time when infidelity, schism, errors, etc., will have passed away, when ‘all will be good.’ As, unknown to one another, so many holy people concur in this prophetic view of the future, it is useful to think about it and likewise to ask ourselves, is it not probable that this happy time will be in ‘that great age of the Church which is to be the age of Mary’?…Since Mary was the instrument God used to begin His regeneration of the world, it is by the same means He will complete it.”
But are Catholics bound to accept these opinions, or may they believe as they choose, even if they believe that the end of the world proper is at our doors? Now Catholics are bound to be prudent. Rev. Dominic Prummer, in his “Handbbook of Moral Theology,” (1957) tells us: “St. Thomas and Aristotle define prudence as correct knowledge concerning things to be done. Others define prudence as the knowledge of things which ought to be desired and of those things which ought to be avoided…Acts of the virtue of prudence are three in number: to take counsel carefully, to judge correctly, to direct.” St. Thomas lists eight prerequisites which must exist in order for an act of prudence to be perfect. They can be summarized as follows: a clear knowledge of past and present, readiness to learn, quickness in comprehending the means to be used, ability to infer one thing from another, careful consideration of circumstances and future events and care in avoiding evil and obstacles.
So where does the need for prudence come in concerning the present situation? When it comes to the common opinions of saints, theologians and holy people, Catholics should take their opinions and conclusions more seriously and adjust their thinking accordingly if they wish to exercise prudence. In J. S. Daly’s translation of Fr. Sixtus Cartechini S.J.’s “On the Value of Theological Notes and the Criteria for Discerning Them,” Fr. Cartechini gives as example of a “very common” opinions, that “Antichrist will be of the tribe of Dan.” Because the above opinion on the Church’s restoration seems to be a general one, we feel this is the closest comparison to it. Cartechini notes that “[These] opinions can be mistaken and there is no obligation to follow them, though prudence inclines us to favor them as a general policy.” Why? Because our Lord instructed us to pay attention to the fig tree, to pray and watch, to gauge the signs of the times. These are just the prerequisites of prudence and if we cultivate them, then we are able to see how the past relates inevitably to the present, and to better evaluate our circumstances and future events. Only in this way can we hope to avoid evil and overcome obstacles in the path to our salvation.
It is true; the end could be just around the corner. A common opinion on a disputed subject is just that and opinions are like noses; everyone has one. As Cartechini states, it is not completely impossible for all the theological schools to err on a matter touching things proximate to faith. But unless we have serious reasons, it seems that the opinions of a vast number of saintly individuals throughout the centuries, including Fathers and Doctors of the Church, religious, clergy, theologians and pious lay people, are far more reliable than our own. And in these times, when nothing whatsoever seems certain, such opinions make a certain sort of sense. It seems unlikely that Christ would bring His Church to this pass and allow these circumstances it to continue even to the end, knowing that so many would see this as confirmation that the gates of Hell prevailed against the Church when it appears that many biblical prophecies have not yet been fulfilled. Could it happen? Of course; Gods thoughts and ways are not ours and His mind is a great deep.
But regardless of the outcome, pray-at-home Catholics have every reason to believe that the Church cannot and has not truly perished. They are intent on being part of the solution, not part of the problem. If they are scourged by the pens of Traditionalists, all the better. They have been deserted by their fellows as is it is the wont of those in schism to do. They live in the desert place prepared for them by Our Lady and Her spouse the Holy Ghost and offer up sacrifices, “better than are offered now, just as truth is better than the shadow of truth.” As Fr. Kearney wrote above, “to obey God, to submit to God’s Will, is to offer Him the most perfect worship,” and this we believe with all our heart, mind and soul. Our sheltering abode is Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church as defined by Pope Pius XII above. And this Church shall never be taken away. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but Christ’s promises — His Words — shall never pass. He has “turned His hand” to us in this His very own “secret garden”: He has “not left [us] orphans.” He will do the same for any who renounce their errors and do penance, make reparation for their sins. Many spiritual writers state that He will not punish His enemies until all the elect are gathered safely into His barn. Is He waiting for you?