© Copyright 2023, T. Stanfill Benns (All emphasis within quotes added by the author)
I thought the controversy regarding the need for bishops to exist in order to fulfill Christ’s promises to be with His Church “unto the consummation” had been resolved, but I was mistaken. Silly me, thinking I could cite the popes and councils and that would be enough to convince anyone. Or that I could point out errors in logic and that would negate the argument. Now the objection is that I taught in my 1990 book (the one I have advised people not to read because it contains errors related to conclavism) that bishops and priests would always exist. Well then they still did exist as I understood it, because I believed then that if a true pope could be elected there could be true bishops again. WRONG! Never mind that the one who is now claiming such bishops still exist was invalidly ordained by a Traditionalist “bishop” who believed himself to be pope and was later accused of pederasty and drug abuse; but let’s just ignore those inconvenient facts. Perhaps it is time to take off the gloves and bare-knuckle this.
I wouldn’t bother to address this matter again if it weren’t for the fact that it could be linked to collusion with a frightening plan by those working behind the scenes with the Roman usurpers to make it appear they can create a new world church and fulfill Catholic prophecy. This I quoted as follows in a blog published last month. According to a Wikipedia article brought to my attention by a loyal reader, a 19th century group known as the Hieron du Val d’Or revealed the existence even then of a hidden pope and his entourage, which of course would include bishops, waiting in the wings to act either as a replacement for or an alternative to the current church in Rome:
“The Hiéron’s agenda was the creation of a new Habsburg and Catholic Holy Roman Empire with a French temporal and spiritual head in the manner of the Grand Monarch, an association of Europeans bound by common law and dedicated to advancing the mission of Christ the King.” (Here they cite sources linked to the “Catholic” secret society Marcel Lefebvre reportedly belonged to, the Priory of Sion.) “They [the Hieron] claim the existence of a secret parallel Catholic tradition called l’Eglise d’Avignon (Church of Avignon), which they trace to the medieval Papacy installed in Avignon from 1309 to 1378. The claim is that it continued in secret with a Pope who represents the esoteric aspects of the Catholic Church. L’Eglise d’Avignon is said to serve as an intermediary between the Roman Church and the Eastern Orthodox tradition.”
Does the individual insisting that bishops still exist buy into this? It is not likely we would ever know if this was the case. All the more reason to be oh so very cautious when someone makes claims which contradict papal teaching, and this claim that such bishops exist definitely does. What is described above is nothing less than the existence of an underground Gallicanist church, with ties to the very Masonic organization linked to Lefebvre. So it is no surprise that Gallicanism is the heresy that established Traditionalism. This is why we have insisted for decades that all who pretend that bishops not issuing from Pope Pius XII could ever constitute the true Church are not Catholic. It is a pretended Catholicity based on a rejection of infallibility. It would admit a pope, but only as a figurehead. It would champion the “old mass,” restore more traditional medieval-style practices and generally would appeal to all believing the Church can be restored. But it is a condemned heresy; a lie based on gnosticism.
What Christ taught regarding His commission to the Apostles
When we refer to the apostles in this post, please note that we include Peter in this group as their head. I am not going to repeat here the lengthy and authoritative sources that prove beyond doubt that that the juridic (earthly) Church cannot exist without the pope. This has been explained at length in previous blogs. Pope Pius XII in his Mystici Corporis Christi made it clear that all the bishops are subject to the pope and receive their jurisdiction from our Lord, yes, but only through His Vicar on earth. This should be enough to convince anyone that without their head bishop, there is little they can do, save elect a new pope.
Before proceeding to the Scripture quote from Matt. 28:20 and Christ’s commission to His Apostles, we wish to point out the following quote, taken from the pages of the person upholding the view that valid bishops still exist:
“According to Catholic doctrine, therefore, Holy Scripture and Tradition are only the remote rule of faith, while the proximate rule is the living magisterium of the Church, which resides in the Roman Pontiff and in the bishops, inasmuch as they are subject to and united with him. The Vatican Council (sess. 4, c. 4, DB, 1832) has sealed this truth by defining that the primacy of Peter and his successors is included in the supreme power of teaching, which is veritatis et fidei numquam deficientis charisma (“the chrism of never-failing truth and faith”).” Dictionary of Dogmatic Theology by Pietro Parente, Antonio Piolanti, and Salvatore Garofalo. Imprimatur, May 1, 1951, pages 170 and 171).
Keep the above in mind, for below we provide quotes from the commentators on the Scripture phrase in question supposedly guaranteeing that the hierarchy and Sacraments will be with us to the very end. Yet in fact, none of them specifically refer to this. And several commentators consulted do not even offer an opinion on this verse. From Matt. 28:20: “And the eleven disciples went into Galilee, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And seeing him they adored: but some doubted. And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.”
St. John Chrysostom
“…For plainly the apostles were not to remain here unto the end of the world; but he speaks to the believers as to one body.”
Theophylact, (Greek Patriarch appointed by Pope John XI)
“But since He has received authority over all, and has sanctified all human nature in Himself, it is right that He sends them to all the nations, commanding the disciples to baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit… For by saying that it is necessary to baptize in the name of the Trinity, He handed down to us theology. And by saying that it is also necessary to teach the keeping of the commandments, He guides us in the way of active virtue. Since He is sending them out among the Gentiles to face death and danger, He gives them courage by saying, “Fear not, for I will be with you until the end of the age.” … For of course the apostles would not live unto the end. He makes this promise even to us, and to those after us, not that He would be with us until the end, and then after the end He would depart from us — far from it! For it is rather from that moment on that He will be with us ever more clearly and distinctly. For the word “until,” wherever it occurs in Scripture, does not exclude the things that come after.”
St. Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea
JEROME: He then who promises that He will be with His DISCIPLES to the end of the world, shews both that they shall live forever, and that He will never depart from those that believe.
LEO, Serm., 72, 3: For by ascending into heaven He does not desert His adopted; but from above strengthens to endurance, those whom He invites upwards to glory. Of which glory may Christ make us partakers, Who is the King of glory, “God blessed forever,” AMEN.
The Original and True Rheims New Testament, 1582, Wm. G. Von Peters, editor
“Matt. 28:20:” …with you all days: Here Christ doth promise his concurrence with His apostles and their successors as well in preaching and ministering the sacraments and His protection of the Church, never to cease till The World’s End…”
The Four Gospels, Francis Patrick Kenrick, Archbishop of Philadelphia, 1849
“The perpetuity of the commission without any interruption is most fully expressed. The AUTHORITY to teach and baptize with all the functions consequent thereon remains forever. The Apostolic ministry continues to the end of the Christian dispensation which is to last till time shall merge in eternity.”
Commentary on the New Testament, Rev. Leo Haydock, 1859
“Behold I am with you all days, even to the end of the world, embraces two points necessary for the Church; viz. integrity of doctrine, and sanctity of life; for, if either of these should be wanting to the Church, it might then be justly said, that she had been left and abandoned by Christ, her Spouse. (Estius) — Jesus Christ will make good his promise: 1. by always dwelling in the hearts of the faithful; 2. by His sacramental presence in the Holy Eucharist; 3. by his providential care, and constant protection to his holy Catholic Church. These last six lines of St. Matthew’s gospel, says the bright luminary of France, Bossuet, most clearly demonstrate the infallibility and indefectibility of the one, holy, Catholic Church, which all are commanded to hear and obey.”
Catholic Scripture Manuals, Book of Matthew (commentary, Madame Cecilia, 1906)
(Commenting on Matt. 28-20): “Until the end of the world there must exist an authorized teaching body to carry on the work of the apostles… Unity of doctrine must therefore be a mark of the true Church. The doctrines taught by the successors of the apostles must be the same as those which the apostles themselves taught; hence the true faith must be Apostolic.”
The Church of Christ, Rev. E. Sylvester Berry, D.D., 1927
“If the bishops of the Church are not the successors of the Apostles, then there are no successors, for no one else has even claimed this distinction; in that case the power and authority committed to the Apostles have lapsed, and cannot be renewed, except by a direct intervention of Christ in conferring them anew and reestablishing His Church. Such an act on the part of Christ would have to be confirmed by the performance of miracles as the ONLY MEANS by which we could be assured of its REALITY” (p. 276).
And on page 57, Berry writes: “The Apostolic succession cannot fail in the Apostolic See so long as the Church Herself continues to exist. For although the see be vacant for many years, the CHURCH always retains the right to elect a legitimate successor, who then obtains supreme authority according to the institution of Christ.”
Christ’s Church, Msgr. G. Van Noort, 1959
“’I am with you at all times as long as the world will last.’ The phrase “as long as the world will last “is a clear reference to the end of the world (Matt. 13: 40; 24:3). And so until that day comes, Christ will be at the side of the apostles as they teach, sanctify and rule. He will be at the side not only of the apostles personally for they were soon to die but at the side of those who will take up the work of the apostles throughout the centuries and will thus form with them one moral person… Therefore the VISIBLE CHURCH will last forever and in an incorrupt state. It will go on forever safeguarding the doctrine of Christ, administering His sacraments and instructing all peoples in His precepts.”
The Mystical Christ, Rev. John C. Gruden, S.T.L., Prof. of Dogmatic Theology (1938)
“The immediate or proximate purpose of the priesthood and the pastorate is the sanctification of the members of the Mystical Body. The ultimate or remote purpose is the same as that of the mystical organism of which they are constituent elements and of all creation, namely, to give honor and glory to God by leading men from a life of grace here below into a life of glory in the kingdom of God in the world to come. When this purpose will have been realized, when this present order will have passed away and the destinies of men will have been forever sealed for weal or for woe, the priesthood and the pastorate of the church will also pass. The Mystical Body of Christ is not an eternal foundation; it will last only until the work which it has been fashioned to perform has been accomplished. When the created grace of Christ the Head, measured out by the hand of the heavenly Father, will, as it were, have been exhausted, when the pleroma of Christ of which the apostle speaks will have been achieved, then the kingdom of God on earth will cease to exist.
“Then will the Kingdom of God upon earth — the Mystical, visible Body of Christ, the Church, with its multiple functions and its variously articulated offices — cede to a new order: the Kingdom of God in the world to come. Multiplicity will give way to simplicity. The various visible sacramental accommodations by which men were to be brought into the pure vision of an all-holy God will disappear. Of sacraments and of the Eucharistic Sacrifice there will no longer be any need, for grace will have been brought to full verdant fruition in the light of glory. For a complicated hierarchy of jurisdiction with its twofold authority of magisterium and imperium there will likewise be no more need, for men will see the LIGHT, the heavenly magnetism of which will prevent them from ever wandering from its thrall; they will see God even as He is. Then shall the just, says Our Lord. ‘… shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.’” (End of quotes from the commentators)
Understanding the above
To better explain what is said above, we pose the following questions.
Who is Christ speaking to in Matt. 28: 20 above? He is not just speaking to His Apostles, but to all the faithful. We are obliged to believe the saintly commentators, not those pretending to reinterpret Holy Scripture. Where the word disciples is found in Holy Scripture the Catholic Encyclopedia tells us the following:
“In the Four Gospels it is most especially applied to the Apostles, sometimes styled the “twelve disciples” (Matthew 10:1; 11:1; 20:17; 26:20; 28:16… Occasionally the Evangelists give the word a broader sense and make it a synonym for believer (Matthew 10:42; 27:57; John 4:1; 9:27, 28; etc.). … In the Acts of the Apostles the name disciple is exclusively used to designate the converts, the believers, both men and women (6:1, 2, 7; 9:1, 10, 19; etc.; in reference to the latter connotation see in particular 9:36) even such as were only imperfectly instructed, like those found by St. Paul at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-5).”
So the Apostles themselves considered us disciples. And as we read in the New Testament – “…You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people God has purchased.” (I Peter 2:9.)
“He has …made us a royal race of priests, to serve God, his Father.” (Apoc. 1:5-6.)
“…they shall be priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” (Apoc. 20:6.)
St. Augustine comments on the above as follows: “Now this is not meant only of those whom the Church specifically calls bishops and priests, but as we are all called Christians because of our mystical chrism, our unction, so are we all priests in being the members of one priest.” (I St. Peter 2:9, City of God, Book 20, Chapter 10.)
We are visible members of the Mystical Body, the Church. Pope Pius XII infallibly designated the Church on earth as Christ’s Mystical Body in His encyclical Mystici Corpus Christi.
What is Christ telling the Apostles to do? To go to all nations teaching, baptizing and faithfully preserving the doctrines and Traditions they have received from Him. The emphasis here by the commentators is on the existence of the doctrines and their unity, integrity and apostolicity, not just on the physical existence of the apostles themselves. It is Christ’s TEACHINGS AND EXAMPLE as defined by the Church, the Deposit of Faith, which must be safeguarded and perpetuated.
How long is Christ telling the Apostles to do this? As we can see from the above, He assigns this mission to them personally and to all their successors, until the end of time; the consummation. Christ will be with us all to the very end, something no one who is truly Catholic has ever doubted. That does not mean that those He appointed to teach us will also be with us physically, for this seems to be precluded by other scriptural prophecy and is disputed by the commentators. The consummation is necessarily preceded by the great apostasy and coming of Antichrist, as the Catholic Encyclopedia article on eschatology explains.
Who are the successors of the Apostles? Here is where the quote cited at the beginning of this article enters in. The popes and councils are the proximate rule of faith; the Scripture verse in consideration is only a remote rule and has never been officially defined by the Church to the best of our knowledge. The Roman Pontiffs are the ones who determine who become bishops, and whether they are to be judged worthy of consecration. Only those who, according to the laws and teachings of the Church, have certainly received consecration from a validly consecrated bishop in communion with a canonically elected pope receives the necessary jurisdiction in the Church to teach and rule a diocese, and the pope alone can grant that jurisdiction (approval or papal mandate). Without this jurisdiction, they cannot be considered legitimate successors of the apostles, for this requires both orders and jurisdiction. Pope Pius XII’s Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis (VAS) is the primary governing document for Catholics today because it deals with interregnums, and we have experienced a prolonged interregnum since Pope Pius XII died in 1958. VAS bears all the marks of infallibility and is entered into the Acta Apostolica Sedis. According to this constitution, no bishops could be validly consecrated during an interregnum without the papal mandate. This would be a usurpation of papal privilege, forbidden in VAS.
- All the bishops consecrated with papal mandates by Pope Pius XII have passed away. The minimum age of consecration is 35; if consecrated in September 1958, that would make the youngest bishops over 100 years old! In order to retain apostolicity, such bishops must have been approved by Pius XII and consecrated during his reign.
- If any of those bishops consecrated under Pius XII attempted to consecrate even validly ordained priests bishops during this interregnum, their acts were null and void. No younger bishops could exist.
- Any bishops failing to come to the aid of the Church to elect a true pope in Her extreme need committed heresy as described in Canons 1325 and 2314. They lost all offices and jurisdiction and cannot regain them. (This according to Pope Paul IV’s 1559 bull Cum ex Apostolatus Officio, another infallible papal bull that is the source listed in the Fontes for Can. 2314).
- Because qualified electors no longer exist, infallibly determined by Pope Pius XII, the Church therefore has lost the ability to provide Herself with a true pontiff, (although at least de jure she always retains that right.) As Rev. Berry explains above, this can be resolved only by the miraculous intervention of Christ Himself.
GIVEN THE ABOVE, THE CHURCH, NOT THIS AUTHOR, HAS DETERMINED BY HER INFALLIBLE TEACHINGS THAT THE HIERARCHY HAS CEASED TO EXIST. “According to Catholic doctrine, therefore, Holy Scripture and Tradition are only the remote rule of faith, while the proximate rule is the living magisterium of the Church, which resides in the Roman Pontiff and in the bishops, inasmuch as they are subject to and united with him. The Vatican Council (sess. 4, c. 4, DB, 1832) has sealed this truth by defining that the primacy of Peter and his successors is included in the supreme power of teaching…” (see full quote above).
You said it first brother; time to live by it. I don’t pretend to know what you are up to but if you don’t even live by the words of your own accusations, what are they worth?
Could anyone else be counted as successors of the apostles today?
“In a wide and loose sense, when the whole Catholic Church is considered as existing in the midst of heretics, schismatics, and the heathen, even the laity may be considered as forming a portion of the hierarchy. With this agrees the expression of St. Peter, calling the general body of Christians in the countries to which he is sending his epistle “a kingly priesthood” and “a holy nation” (1Peter 2: 9). Saint Ignatius, writing to the Smyrnaeans, salutes “…the Bishop worthy of God and the most religious presbytery, my fellow servants the deacons and all of you individually and in common.” So at the Mass, the priest turning to the people bids them pray that his and their sacrifice may be acceptable to God and at the incensing before the Sanctus the acolyte, after the rite has been performed to all the orders of the clergy within the sanctuary, turns toward and bows to the laity and incenses them also.” Addis and Arnold, A Catholic Dictionary, 1884; Catholic Cabinet of Information, 1904, various authors, p. 131).
Was Christ commanding only the apostles to teach and baptize?
In Matt. 28:20, Christ is telling His apostles to preach and to baptize (and as was said by Abp. Kenrick above, this also encompassed administering the other Sacraments as necessary consequences). But it is interesting because as Abp. Kenrick also observes, he grants them the AUTHORITY to teach and baptize, which is basically what those who pray at home are doing today. Was Christ speaking to just the apostles here or in a sense to all believers? Doesn’t the Church Herself permit the laity to baptize in emergencies and to catechize, and in fact even tasks parents as the primary catechists of their own children? Would not Christ have foreseen this? Don’t we live today in an emergency situation and are we not yet commanded to catechize our own family members?
Have the popes, Christ’s voice on earth, clarified who may teach and baptize?
Beginning with the Vatican Council, there issued a general call to the laity to defend the Church against Her enemies by spreading the faith:
“ALL FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS, but those chiefly who are in a prominent position, or engaged in teaching, we entreat, by the compassion of Christ and enjoin BY THE AUTHORITY OF THE SAME GOD AND SAVIOR, that they bring aid to ward off and eliminate these errors from Holy Church, and contribute their ZEALOUS HELP in spreading abroad the light of undefiled faith,” (from Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council Constitution Dei Filius).
Sounds like a commission in keeping with Christ’s command to “teach all nations” to me. How could Christ not have known that His Vicars would command the laity to assist the hierarchy in the lay apostolate? How could He not have known that the Shepherd would be struck and the sheep scattered in our day, as He Himself foretold?!
Has the Church offered any further clarifications?
I have aways called the following my marching orders. Given just a year before his death, Pius XII, who is quoted as saying, “After me there will be a flood,” surely expressed this explicit permission knowing what was in store for us. I have quoted it unabashedly and unceasingly for over 30 years.
“The initiative of the lay apostolate is perfectly justified even without a prior explicit ‘mission’ from the hierarchy… Personal initiative plays a great part in protecting the faith and Catholic life, especially in countries where these contacts with the hierarchy are difficult or practically impossible. In such circumstances the Christians upon whom this task falls MUST, WITH GOD’S GRACE, ASSUME ALL THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES, (emph. mine). It is clear 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, morals or ecclesiastical discipline,” (Address to the 14th Congress of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations, Sept. 29, 1957; AAS 49: 906-922). Catholics are bound under pain of sin to believe that everything found in the Acta Apostolica Sedis (AAS) is the authoritative teaching of the Church and is owed at the very least a firm assent.
In another address this same pope wrote:
“The faithful, and more precisely the laity are stationed in the front ranks of the life of the Church, and through them the Church is the living principle of society. Consequently, they must have an ever-clearer consciousness, not only of belonging to the Church, but of BEING THE CHURCH… They are the Church…” (The Catholic Church in Action by Michael Williams; quoted from an address delivered by Pope Pius XII Feb. 20, 1946, to the newly made cardinals).
Christ, speaking through His Vicars, has delegated the laity as the successors of the hierarchy in their absence. Christ gave us the basics, knowing that by the time we received our commission, all that the Church had developed for nearly 2,000 years could simply be passed on without any further ado. We were to teach only what His Vicars had left us, the words of the Saints they canonized, and the approved commentaries by members of the hierarchy faithful to the popes. We were to understand that while the Church had ceased to exist in Her juridical, fully hierarchal aspects, the Mystical Body of Christ could never cease to exist since Christ is its Head and we are His members. As such we possess the material marks of the Church and retain our visibility, as Pope Pius XII explains in Mystici Corporis and Rev. Van Noort, also Rev. E. S. Berry confirm. We were to honor all of the Seven Sacraments and accept them as instituted by Him, even if we had only those necessary for salvation left and used Church-approved substitutes for the others. We were to observe Canon Law, unless it is absolutely certain such observance is physically and/or morally impossible. We were to pray, and to watch.
Given all the above, most carefully drawn out, I am going to say the following one more time:
- I refuse to allow anyone to dictate to me anything based on false reasoning, forbidden by the Church in Her insistence on following the scholastic method of St. Thomas Aquinas. The Church has always discredited such false arguments. The arguments in question have previously been proven to be false.
- I refuse to answer endless moronic questions as proof of my Catholicity when this in itself amounts to the “loaded question” fallacy — questions actually based on accusations. Those reading these questions posed to me on the Internet should be advised that the Church forbids this type of argumentation among Catholics.
- I obey only the Roman Pontiffs, the Councils and the decisions of the Roman Congregations, also the Church’s approved theologians obedient to the magisterium. I do not countenance those who cannot and will not at least try to explain why their position is opposed to papal decrees. When advised of their errors, they are required to present the necessary proofs that what they are maintaining is entirely in keeping with the teachings of the continual magisterium or retract them.
Something is wrong here; it may be a thinking disorder, a firmly entrenched prejudice or a covert attempt to disturb the peace of those who pray at home and direct them to a false church. But whatever it is, it cannot be allowed to stand.