6-24 Legalism: A Traditionalist ploy to hide a Protestant heresy
© Copyright 2014, T. Stanfill Benns (This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author. All emphasis within quotes is the author’s unless indicated otherwise.)
It should be noted that the term “homealone,” reportedly coined by Anthony Cekada, is itself a moniker or slogan of sorts that paints a lonely and abandoned picture of Catholics who disassociate themselves from the Traditionalist herd. This has been noted elsewhere on this site. So it is not surprising that Traditionalists would choose yet another loaded slogan or catchword to try and discredit the dogmatic and canonical proofs offered here and elsewhere to demonstrate their untenable position. The name of that catchword is “legalism,” and as the scholastic A. C. Cotter S. J., notes: “Slogans [are] the handy tools of intellectual laziness. As C. Ganss, of Princeton University, has well said: ‘Man’s indolent habits grant such phrases long life. You do not need to pursue a tantalizing line of thought farther after you have found one. Once such a phrase has kicked into the receptive mind, it is hard to dislodge it. An aphorism may be untrue but it is always labor saving. It economizes effort, for it is difficult with legitimate arguments to convince a persistent, hard-headed opponent, while it is easy, especially in a crowd, to knock him down with a slogan.’”
Slogans are resorted to, Cotter observes, to avoid the hard work required to arrive at certitude, “which is to be had only at the cost of serious effort and untiring labor,” (emph. his). “This, of course is asking too much of the indolent student. He finds it easier to repeat what others, especially his professors, have told him rather than to probe the matter for himself.” So we see that those dedicated to bashing stay-at-home-Catholics employ the very methods for doing this that scholastic philosophers and theologians detailed in their works so many years ago. What is surprising is that those calling themselves Catholic would resort to employing a term for that bashing used primarily by Protestants. It is clear from the context in which they often use this term that they have no real idea of its meaning or application in Scripture. So what is legalism, really, and how does it apply to stay-at-home Catholics?
The Catholic Encyclopedia defines legalism as: “The mere external compliance with ritual observances [which, with the Jews] gradually superseded the higher claims of conscience… the [Jewish] priesthood… remained chiefly occupied with the ever-growing sacrificial and ritualistic functions…The legalism [Christ] rejected was the ceremonial and the merely outward observance of the Pharisees, not the internal and the external observance of the moral law,” (listed under Judaism, obligation).
“Legalism is following the law for the sake of the law itself, without reference to the context of the Lawgiver,” (Catholic Answers). This is only a partial (and predictably ambiguous, Novus Ordo) answer, for Canon Law itself provides a method of determining how the Code must be interpreted. According to Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, legalism is “a strict, literal, or excessive conformity to a religious code.” Wiki defines it as: “…A usually pejorative term [pejorative meaning it is used to deprecate or demean] referring to an over-emphasis on discipline of conduct, or legal ideas, usually implying an allegation of misguided rigour, pride, superficiality, the neglect of mercy, and ignorance of the grace of God or emphasizing the letter of law at the expense of the spirit.”Christ explains it as follows: “…You have made void the commandment of God for your tradition. Hypocrites, well did Isaias prophesy of you, saying, ‘This people honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.’ But in vain they do worship me, teaching doctrines and the commandments of men,” (Matt. 15:7-9). That the Hebrews of Jesus’ time truly believed their elders’ teachings were at least equal to the Scriptures is confirmed by the later comments of Jewish rabbis on the Talmud: “The Scriptures are water; the Mishnah, wine; but the Gemara, spiced wine.”
Does legalism refer to the law itself or tradition?
Given the above, Christ ascribes it to the worship by the Jews of the traditions handed down by their elders, mere men, so reminiscent of Traditionalists today. When Christ speaks of the Pharisees cleansing the outside of the cup only, He refers to external religious practices, adding that to clean the outside they must first clean the inside. When He tells the story of the publican and the Pharisee, He emphasizes the Pharisees’ cocky assurance that they are superior to the publicans and are free from sin. And he says to them: “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you tithe mint, and anise, and cumin, and have left the weightier things of the law; judgment, and mercy, and faith. These things you ought to have done, and not to leave those undone.” Rev. Leo Haydock comments: “The Pharisees pretended the greatest exactitude even in the smallest commands of the law, when the observance of them could impress the people with a favorable idea of their sanctity; whereas they omitted the more essential precepts of the law, when it did not incur them the praise of men.” The Catholic Encyclopedia notes: “Together with the Pharisees they are represented in the Gospels as being very ambitious of honour (Matthew 23:2-7, Mark 12:38-40; Luke 11:43, 45, 46; 20:46), and as making void the weightier precepts of the Law by their perverse interpretations by means of which they had gradually laid a most heavy burden upon the people. They are also rebuked by Christ because of the undue importance ascribed by them to the ‘traditions of the elders.’”
What Traditionalist “cleric” indeed would win the praise or respect of his followers if he told them he could not provide them with Mass or Sacraments? As noted in the Wiki quote, a lack of mercy is implied and the fact that the letter of the law is sacrificed to the spirit, (meaning epikeia or equity is not used). But as demonstrated on this site, the Church Herself teaches that these laws governing Mass and Sacraments, because of their divine nature (jurisdiction is a divine teaching) cannot be used as Traditionalists say. The laws in question are exempt from epikeia, as shown in articles from approved theologians quoted on this site. And mercy must be shown instead to those who would commit communicatio in sacris and lose their souls, if not warned of the fact that the men they revere as priests were never validly ordained. It is ironic indeed that epikeia is designated for use only in strictly human law, NOT those laws wholly or even partly divine. For this means Traditionalists are equating the human law to Divine law and positive law by insisting that this principle of “mercy” also can also apply to these latter laws, just as their forefathers the Pharisees before them! Traditionalists are using the word legalism against those who uphold Canon Law in the same manner that Protestants have always leveled charges of legalism against the Catholic Church. Definitions of the term even mention that it was used often by Protestants to describe Catholics. But what Protestants and Traditionalists alike do not realize is that when Christ mentions the Law, it was the laws of the Jews He was referring to, not later Church law; the Law He came not to destroy but to fulfill. This cannot and does not transfer over to Canon Law and papal teaching as the Douay-Rheims commentary proves.
For when Christ condemns them for teaching “the commandments and doctrines of men,” the commentary on Matt. 15: 9 reads: ”…But as to the rules and ordinances of the holy church, touching fasts, festivals, etc., these are no way repugnant to but highly agreeable to God’s holy word and all Christian piety; neither are they to be counted among the doctrines and commandments of men, because they proceed not from mere human authority, but from that which Christ has established in His Church, whose [lawful] pastors He has commanded us to hear and obey, even to Himself,” (Douay-Rheims, 1899 edition, John Murphy Co.).Rev. Leo Haydock adds: “We must not here suppose that Christ censures the commands of the Church or the tradition of the Apostles because these are in nowise contrary to the divine law, but rather serve to enforce it and reduce it to practice; nor are they so much the commands of men as of God, delivered to us by His ambassadors.”
So insistence on obedience to Canon Law precisely as the Church bids is not to be censured but commended. And this means obedience to the rules governing the interpretation of Canon Law as well, which are part of the Code itself, (Canons 1-21). Traditionalists are obeying the traditions of mere men because they often rely on theologians not in agreement with the mainstream who contradict what the popes and councils teach, or quote reliable theologians who wrote before certain papal decisions were handed down without factoring these decisions into what they wrote. They do not follow the rules of interpretation for Canon Law. They ignore the decisions of the Holy Office and the Sacred Congregations. They follow their own law, their own tradition, which is the Mass and sacraments without the papacy; the people ruling the church without any real hierarchy, because they cannot exercise valid orders even if they had them). After all, did they not name themselves Traditionalists?
Traditionalists, not Catacomb Catholics, practice legalism
In reading what legalism really is, according to the Church, we are not put in mind of stay-at-home Catholics at all, but rather of Traditionalists themselves; and this is just taking the clear reading of what the official sources say, not resorting to any awkward attempt to redirect blame. For they are the ones who emphasize ceremonial and external aspects of Catholicism; who follow the teachings of minority opinion liberal theologians and self-appointed holy men — the “commandments of men” — not those infallible dictates of councils and popes. They invoke all the laws regarding the faithful’s right to the Sacraments and their need for the graces, but ignore Christ’s paramount right to be honored on their altars exactly as He and His Vicars have prescribed. Their “priests’” great concern for the salvation of souls is only an empty pretext to convince their supporters that they are truly solicitous for their spiritual welfare, when all they want is their approval and financial support. Harsh and judgmental? Not at all. Rev. J. C. Fenton, in his “Magisterium and Jurisdiction in the Catholic Church,” (AER, June, 1954) says: “The power of jurisdiction within the Church is possessed and exercised only by those to whom our Lord has given the commission and the duty to take care of the subjects of society. The men who have been given the apostolic power are bound in conscience to employ it, and to guide and direct the faithful in the way of eternal salvation…The teaching power of the Church is inherently and essentially jurisdictional. The man who is subject to the authority of the Church has a duty before God of accepting the acts of the ecclesiastical magisterium with a sincere and genuine inward assent.”
No Traditionalist bishop, far less their imaginary priests, were ever given this power to begin with; and this we know directly from infallible papal decrees. So there is no “sacred obligation” to exercise it, for any reason. Such is the very teaching of Pope Pius IX, addressing the illegitimate, episcopal “election” by schismatics of a “certain notorious apostate” — a once-Catholic priest who refused to accept the Vatican Council’s definition of infallibility: “Therefore following the custom and example of Our Predecessors and of holy legislation, by the power granted to Us from heaven, We declare the election of the said Joseph Humbert Reinkens, performed against the sanctions of the holy canons to be illicit, null, and void. We furthermore declare his consecration sacrilegious. Therefore, by the authority of Almighty God, We excommunicate and hold as anathema Joseph Humbert himself and all those who attempted to choose him, and who aided in his sacrilegious consecration. We additionally excommunicate whoever has adhered to them and belonging to their party has furnished help, favor, aid, or consent. We declare, proclaim, and command that they are separated from the communion of the Church. They are to be considered among those with whom all faithful Christians are forbidden by the Apostle to associate and have social exchange to such an extent that, as he plainly states, they may not even be greeted,” (“Etsi Multa,” On The Church In Italy, Germany, and Switzerland, Nov. 21, 1873 — allemph. mine; https://www.ewtn.com/library/encyc/p9etsimu.htm).
It will not help Traditionalists to object here that they are not excommunicated in this way, for by invoking Can. 2261§2 they freely admit that they are. Their refusal alone to observe the laws regarding the use of jurisdiction places them ipso facto outside the Church. Just because they keep the mantra going that they possess this ingredient essential to apostolicity doesn’t make it so, even though their followers are poster children for the fact that a falsehood repeated often enough becomes the truth. So much do Traditionalists “love” their supporters that they have made them the equivalent of vitandus heretics, reinforcing them in their errors by fiercely condemning and denying the proofs that any papal decree could even suggest otherwise. Thus they can be likened to the Pharisees Christ condemned, who “omitted the more essential precepts of the law, when it did not incur them the praise of men.” And when Traditionalist allegations of legalism are evaluated more thoroughly, a curious fact emerges: their teaching on this subject seems to have far more in common with Protestantism than Catholicism.
Traditionalists de-emphasize grace gained by works
For in reality, Traditionalists are hiding a dirty little secret behind their legalistic labeling of stay-at-home Catholics. They accuse stay-at-homes of ignorance concerning “the grace of God,” (Wiki), the grace Catholics’ NEED as conveyed by the sacraments, and as one Catholic Answers respondent notes, this is quite ironic. “The etymology and history of the word ‘legalism’ reveals that this term comes into our English lexicon very often in polemic accusations against the Catholic Church by Protestant traditions… History bears out that many anti-Catholics have called the Catholic Church legalistic. And therefore history also judges them hypocrites… What if I said something about being too strict in following the Ten Commandments. ‘Well, you know, I go to Mass once every month or so. I don’t want to overdo the old Keep holy the Sabbath thing, you know?’ Would that sound okay or a little looney?,” (and he gives several other examples of this kind of thinking.) He concludes, “Catholic dogmas and, ahem, ‘legalism’ in the Church are actually liberating.” In referencing the Protestants in the beginning of his comments, this Novus Ordo man is referring to the salvation by faith alone, or justification; salvation by grace and God’s mercy. In their over-stressing of the need for Mass and Sacraments as a means of grace, Traditionalists entirely ignore the role of mental prayer and good works in obtaining this grace and give no credit whatsoever to the graces received in the Sacraments left to us — Baptism and Matrimony. Many of them, like the Jansenists, deny that a Perfect Act of Contrition can completely remit all sin and fit one for salvation, contrary also to the teachings of the Council of Trent (DZ 898, 915). And they totally discredit the graces afforded those stay-at-homes making spiritual Communions. While they may not outright deny the need of good works in addition to faith and the Sacraments, they minimize it at the very least.
As one Protestant so aptly put it: “The principle of human need supersedes all ritual and ceremony.”Under the “grace principle of life, the Christian… has been delivered by Christ from bondage to a set of religious rules,” (Canon Law, which Traditionalists consistently and deliberately misrepresent and misinterpret). Another Protestant opines: “True legalism has a two-fold definition in the Word of God. Legalism is to mix works with grace for salvation, (Galatians 1),” (and this is the Protestant heresy Traditionalists favor). “This is the theme of the epistle of Galatians. Paul warns the churches against turning from the grace of Christ (Gal. 1:6) and emphasizes that salvation is not by works or law-keeping but by the grace of Christ alone… Second, legalism is to add human tradition to the Word of God,” which, as we have already noted, Traditionalists have done. This is nothing more than the Lutheran heresy of justification of the corrupt (minus true conversion and a firm purpose of amendment) with a new Modernist twist. The Modernist “need” for Mass and Sacraments removes any obligation of observing the laws regarding the ministers’ offering of the Holy Sacrifice and the Sacraments themselves. Religion is not all about God and obedience; it is all about man and his needs, also the external observance associated with religion.
While Traditionalists seem to think the actual Sacraments alone transmit grace, Pope Pius XII’s Mystici Corporis teaches that Christ is the one who a) acts through lawful pastors possessing the necessary jurisdiction and in communion with a true Pontiff; b) who have been duly approved and properly ordained and consecrated by the Church He established on earth, c) as channels to convey the grace He supplies. And here we must distinguish between the actual commandments of men and the commandments of men endowed by Christ with the assistance of the Holy Ghost who rule in His stead, i.e., the popes. For Traditionalists do not possess jurisdiction, since this must be supplied to them by the pope and we have no pope. And to be apostolic successors of the apostles, they must possess both Orders AND jurisdiction. In Mystici Corporis, Pope Pius XII refers only to those possessing true apostolic succession; not to Traditionalists. These are the valid successors of the men who Christ Himself told that what is bound on earth shall be bound in Heaven and what is loosed on earth shall be loosed in Heaven. So if the popes have taught us, as Pope Pius IX, Pius XII and their predecessors most certainly have, that Traditionalists are not endowed with the powers to transmit these graces, then they cannot convey them to Catholics and do not so convey them. This is not just “men” speaking; it is Christ’s own vicars speaking on His behalf, regardless of what Traditionalists or Protestants teach or practice. Canon law is what determines if such men are lawful pastors, which is why they are so anxious to demean it and misinterpret it. And like it or not, Traditionalists must deal with the fact that Canon Law issues primarily from the decrees of the Roman Pontiffs and is considered as indirectly infallible.
The impression that Traditionalists give their followers is that the Mass and Sacraments alone will save them, when Pope Boniface VIII’s Unam Sanctam infallibly teaches that they must also be obedient to the Roman Pontiffs, who alone can supply them with the jurisdiction necessary for the Sacraments to have their affect. For Christ, who binds in Heaven what is bound on earth, will not work through men from whom His Vicar has infallibly withdrawn the power to validly perform ecclesiastical acts, (see pope Pius XII’s papal election constitution, Vacantis Apostolic Sedis on the Free Content site). Vacantis Apostolica Sedis falls under Canon Law, as Can. 160 clearly indicates, since it governs the highest of ecclesiastical elections. So also do those canons such as Can. 147, which states that no man can validly receive an office, which comes with the conferral of jurisdiction, unless he receives it from competent ecclesiastical authority according to the Canons. This means either the pope (bishops) or a valid and licit bishop (priests) as we see from Pope Pius IX above in Etsi Multa, also from Pope Pius VI in Charitas. Pope Pius VI teaches in this constitution: “For the right of ordaining bishops belongs only to the Apostolic See, as the Council of Trent declares; it cannot be assumed by any bishop or metropolitan without obliging Us to declare schismatic both those who ordain and those who are ordained, thus invalidating their future actions…For even if these men by their rash sacrilege could confer the rank of bishop on him, they certainly could not give him a jurisdiction which they themselves do not possess in accordance with the practice of every century…However to prevent greater evils, We decree and declare by this letter and Our authority that all other elections by the electors of municipal districts… have been, are, and will be void, unlawful, sacrilegious, and utterly null, and We hereby rescind, efface, and revoke them.”
Rev. J. C. Fenton, who includes Canon Law within the scope of scholastic theology, writes: “Canon Law is formulated by the Holy Father, by the Vicar of Christ on earth and by the ecumenical council, which is subject to and in communion with him…The teacher of Canon Law is able to indicate the actual direction given by the living and infallible Church,” (Concept of Sacred Theology). And Fenton is not alone in his evaluation of the Code. “From the earliest times, the determinations of the Church received the name of Canons, that is, directory rules in matters of faith and conduct…A tendency afterwards appeared to restrict the term Canon to matters of discipline, and to give the name of Dogma to decisions bearing on faith. But the Council of Trent confirmed the ancient use of the word, calling its determinations ‘canons,’ whether they bore on points of belief or were directed to the reformation of discipline. Canon Law is the assemblage of rules or laws relating to faith, morals and discipline, prescribed or propounded by ecclesiastical authority…’Or laws’ [means] binding laws, liable to be enforced by penalties; ‘propounded’ [means] some of these rules belong to the natural or Divine law, and as such are not originally proposed by the Church but are proposed and explained by Her,” (“A Cabinet of Catholic Information,” various editors).
Rev. Nicolas Neuberger, in his Commentary on Canon 6 has cited the Church’s laws concerning discipline as negatively infallible, meaning that they cannot work to the harm of souls or the destruction of the divine principle of perpetuity and infallibility on which the Church is built. Volume V (v), of the Catholic Encyclopedia, under ‘Discipline’ states that it is the unanimous opinion of the theologians that discipline enjoys a negative, indirect infallibility, i.e., the Church can prescribe nothing that would be contrary to the natural or Divine law, nor prohibit anything that the natural or Divine law would exact.’ Pope Pius IX declared the unanimous opinion of theologians to be infallible, and hence anything determined by them unanimously must be firmly believed. (DZ 1683).
The constitutions and Decrees of the Holy Pontiffs are most especially embodied in Canon Law, according to Volume IX (iii) of the Catholic Encyclopedia. Concerning Canon Law’s constitution, Rev. Francis J. Schaeffer writes in this volume: “The ultimate source of Canon Law is God, whose will is manifested either by the very nature of things (natural Divine law) or by Revelation (positive Divine law) …To attain its sublime end, the Church, endowed by its Founder with legislative power, makes laws in conformity with natural and Divine law. The sources or authors of this positive ecclesiastical law are essentially the episcopate and its head, the pope, the successors of the Apostolic College and its divinely appointed head, St. Peter. They are, properly speaking, the active sources of Canon Law. Their activity is exercised in its most solemn form by the ecumenical councils…(these) councils, especially…Trent, holds an exceptional place in ecclesiastical law… The sovereign pontiff is the most fruitful source of Canon Law: …From the earliest ages the letters of the Roman Pontiffs constitute, with the canons of the Councils, the principal element of Canon Law; … they are everywhere relied upon and collected, and the ancient canonical compilations contain a large number of these precious decretals.”
The tendency to lean toward the grace heresy was already evident in the last century. The undue emphasis placed on the graces received from Sacraments and devotions was expounded upon by a 20th century Italian bishop, Bonomelli, who told his people and priests that they must learn well to distinguish “between the worship which they owe to God and that which they should pay to the Virgin, the angels and the saints.” He quotes the French Bishop of Rodez, who explains that the devotion to the Sacred Heart, the Holy Face, the Five Precious Wounds, etc… should not replace veneration of the crucifix and our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. “Let us make an end to this mania for new devotions,” the French bishop pleads. “Do not let us too much materialize or particularize our worship, for in doing so we diminish its value, its meaning and its efficacy…Let everything be in its right place…Before all, Jesus Christ only, by Himself.”
He goes on to warn Catholics that even in the use of those practices and devotions prescribed and approved by the Church, private or public. “It is…easy to sin through excess… Excess in exterior religious practices disperses the spiritual forces in too many directions, distracts, fatigues and oppresses the spirit and instead of elevating it and arousing all its energies, relaxes the fibers and suffocates it…Let medals, rosaries, images, sacred symbols…be used with moderation…Do not let us imagine real virtue to exist in them…What are all these devotions, rosaries and novenas, benedictions and visits to altars and famous sanctuaries, processions and pilgrimages, hymns and feast days and functions worth unless we do our duty and live a real Christian life? What are they but a pretence of virtue?…Am I condemning the use of medals, rosaries, images, sacred symbols? God forbid! They are…means to excite the faith and sustain piety — but let them be used with moderation.” As the Bishop reminds his priests, these devotional practices are subject to Church law and should never be reduced to excessive, material, unworthy or superstitious acts. He complains that the faithful are forever begging “some temporal favor,” while “…of spiritual there is hardly a trace… Let us see to it that hearts and minds are fixed on the grand mysteries of the faith and not on their remote applications; on the substance of the dogmas rather than on their outgrowths.” But no one heeded his advice.
So in conclusion, we can state that legalism must be understood as:
- “The mere external compliance with ritual observances…the ceremonial and the merely outward observance of the Pharisees concerning sacrificial and ritualistic functions, not the internal and the external observance of the moral law,” was what Christ rejected.
- Christ further said: “Hypocrites, well did Isaias prophesy of you, saying, ‘This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.’ But in vain they do worship me, teaching doctrines and the commandments of men,” (Matt. 15:7-9). Here we must distinguish between Jewish times and our own. The Pharisees had incorporated into their teachings the laws passed on by their elders, and observed them as faithfully as the Torah, even more so. They thus equated the teachings of men with those of God, inducing a primitive form of humanism amongst the people.
- Christ mentions this in Matt. 23:14 by chastising the Pharisees for taxing spices: “[You] have left the weightier things of the law; judgment, and mercy, and faith. These things you ought to have done, and not to leave those undone.” Traditionalists conveniently dismiss and dismantle the weightier things of the law — all those papal and canon laws forbidding them to function without jurisdiction — so that Traditionalists receive their “graces.” But even if these men were only illicitly ordained, not forbidden to act under pain of nullity, St. Thomas Aquinas long ago taught that those requesting the Sacraments from them would receive no graces, since they would be sacrilegiously conferred.
- Doctors of Canon Law state that epikeia is to be applied only to human law; this is contained in the rules governing interpretation of the 1917 Code. Traditionalists apply it instead to positive law and Divine law, and offer no proofs whatsoever that this matter was even disputed among theologians. In other words, they equate the laws of men with the laws of God, just as the Pharisees did. They use the opinions of mere men — theologians — (and these not unanimous or even common), and those of their own ilk to determine matters of faith, ignoring entirely the infallible laws of the Roman Pontiffs, bound in Heaven by Christ.
- Christ cannot and does not convey grace for sacrilegious Sacraments. For St. Thomas Aquinas and with him the rest of the Church teaches that such Sacraments are fruitless. The Church further teaches that good works also are productive of grace along with the reception of the Sacraments, a teaching Traditionalists minimalize. There is even evidence Traditionalists do not receive these graces precisely because they imbibe heresy as Traditonalists, for as Rev. Pietro Parente notes in his Dogmatic Dictionary, “(Physically, as an internal gift) grace is necessary (a) to know truths that are objectively supernatural, e.g. mysteries and (b) for supernatural faith (adherence of the intellect and will to the revealed word of God…(Morally) grace is necessary to know the moral-religious truths easily, certainly and without admixture of error…Internally grace is necessary to perform any salutary act whatsoever [and to] prepare for grace.” Many Traditionalists lack faith, for they cannot accept and obey the revealed truth of God as proposed to them for belief by the Church. What truths they know have a bloody entrance and even then often are not fully grasped.
- Grace cannot, then, soften or remove the necessity of observing the law when said grace does not even exist in sacrilegious sacraments, and such law is not manmade law but divine law. Nor can equity or epikeia (mercy, or leniency) serve this purpose where invalidating and inhabilitating laws are concerned, for these laws arise from either positive and divine or strictly divine laws. Epikeia can be used only for manmade law, and Canon Law itself states that jurisdiction arises from divine law.
- Stay-at-home, or catacomb Catholics, do not stress the ritualistic or ceremonial elements of Church law or practice, although they long for the return of Mass and Sacraments. Rather than stress external observance, since they do not engage any priests, they are inclined to devote themselves to building up the interior life, which is more consistent with their beliefs. They long ago left Traditionalists because these groups violate the laws of God in favor of the requests and desires of men. They apply epikeia to the internal forum as allowed, where manmade law is concerned, but not to those laws which are invalidating and incapacitating. They choose to refrain from attending Traditionalist or Orthodox “Mass” or “Sacraments” because the Popes and the Holy Office teach that such attendance is gravely offensive to God, constitutes sacrilege and results in communicatio in sacris, loss of membership in the Church.
It is therefore difficult to see how catacomb Catholics could be guilty of legalism, since none of the definitions for this term ft their practice. Certainly some Traditionalists and those involved in cultistic groups are guilty of “a strict, literal, or excessive conformity to a religious code” such as Webster envisions, concerning modesty standards, dietary norms, obedience to a human superior who is not a lawful pastor, strict obedience to husbands to whom they are not even certainly married, even when this involves real abuse or danger to the faith, failure to use epikeia in relaxing laws concerning fast and abstinence for those who are ill, elderly, pregnant, weak, or nervous, etc. This is reportedly found among Society of St. Pius X members. But it is seldom found among those struggling to observe the law on their own.
As yet a third Protestant observes, somewhat along the lines of the Novus Ordo man commenting above: “The term ‘legalist’ has been applied simply because someone was emphasizing that we ought to be doing what God says we should do, to the chagrin of someone else… So what is legalism? Is legalism a matter of being ‘too strict’ about God’s demands? If so, where… is the list of things about which we should be strict and the things we can be lax about? Who decides when someone is being too strict?… How can I measure when I have not emphasized the internal requirements of God ‘enough?’” This author states that in order for two parties to have any meaningful discussion about legalism, they would have to be able to agree first on how their particular denomination defines it. We have attempted to provide that definition here directly form the Church. But we have no illusions that Traditionalists wish to engage in any discussion about it; this has never been their practice, especially where catacomb Catholics are concerned. We are their nemesis, and try as we might, they are unable to see that they all long ago left the Catholic Church. We would welcome them back, but their pride will not allow it. This is not about who is right or wrong, but who finishes the race and wins the prize. Traditionalists cannot accept that, because like Protestants, they already believe they have won, and we have lost.