+St. Louise de Marillac+
(This blog begins a continuing series that will be divided into several parts in order to present a condensed version of why we owe obedience only to the Roman Pontiffs and Ecumenical Councils, the Holy Office and Sacred Congregations, the unanimous opinions of the Early Church Fathers regarding Holy Scripture, Canon Law and the unanimous opinions of the theologians. Catholics struggling to sort out issues on these matters need to set their affairs in order, as our time on this earth may be short. We see the plagues that God threatened to send as punishment to a wicked and disobedient people descending upon us. “And we helping do exhort you that you receive not the grace of God in vain. For he saith: In an accepted time have I heard thee and in the day of salvation have I helped thee. Behold, now is the acceptable time: behold, now is the day of salvation,” (2 Cor. 1-2). Therefore, “Let him who reads, understand” Matt. 24:15.)
It is the solemn duty of every baptized Catholic to save their God-given souls and rightly inform their intellects regarding the necessary means they must take to accomplish this task. That is the earthly mission God has entrusted to us as members of Christ’s Mystical Body. Ordinarily, the hierarchy would assist us in this endeavor. But who today qualifies as valid and licit bishops and priests and how can we make this determination? This is the dilemma that faced Catholics exiting Vatican 2. The various bishops and priests offering their services to the faithful repeatedly emphasized that their very salvation was at stake — Catholics could not save their souls without attending a Latin Mass and receiving the sacraments. And they presented themselves as the vessels of election designated to deliver this salvation, for how often have you heard these men say they must function in order to guarantee the salvation of souls?
Unfortunately, our salvation not only depends on the reception of the Sacraments and attending Holy Mass. These are definitely precepts we must follow, in normal times, provided the necessary precautions are taken to assure their validity and liceity. But first we have a higher obligation, and that is to ensure that regardless of what we do, we obey God’s Holy Will. Rev. Aldolphe Tanquerey, that great master of the spiritual life, wrote: “Now to conform our wills to that of God is assuredly to cease to do evil, and to learn to do good. Is not this the meaning of that oft repeated text: ‘FOR OBEDIENCE IS BETTER THAN SACRIFICES’ (1 Kings XV, 22; Osee VI, 6; Matt IX, 3 also XII, 7) In the New Law, Our Lord declares from the very moment of His entry into the world that it is with obedience that He will replace the sacrifices of the Ancient Law: ‘Holocausts for sin did not please Thee. Then I said: Behold I come … that I should do Thy will, O God.’ (Hebrews X, 6-7; Phil 11, 8; Phil, IV, 3). And in truth, it is by obedience unto the immolation of self that He has redeemed us: ‘He was made obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.’ (John 4, 34) In the same way, it is through obedience and through the acceptance of God-ordained trials in union with Christ that we shall atone for our sins and cleanse our soul.” (The Spiritual Life, pages 240-241).
We must remember these words well. Christ forever gave us perfect example in these matters by fulfilling every point of His Father’s will. He enjoined our imitation of Him in this practice of perfection when he told us: “For whosoever shall do the will of My Father that is in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother … not everyone that saith to me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the Kingdom …but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter … heaven.” (Matt 12, 50; Matt 7, 21). St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church, explains further that there are TWO parts to the will of God; the will of signification and the will of good pleasure. St. Francis lists the following four parts belonging to God’s will of signification as:
- the commandments of God and of His Church,
- the evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity, obedience),
- divine inspiration, and
- those duties peculiar to our chosen vocation…,” (Holy Abandonment, Rt. Rev. Dom Vital Lehody O.C.R., p. 9).
Commenting further, St. Francis writes: “Obedience to the Commandments, both divine and ecclesiastical, is of obligation for all, because there is question here of THE ABSOLUTE WILL OF GOD WHO HAS MADE SUBMISSION TO THESE ORDINANCES A CONDITION OF SALVATION.” Notice that first of all, we must obey the commandments of God and of His Church. It might surprise some Catholics that the same Roman Pontiff who expected us, in better times, to attend Mass at least weekly and receive the Sacraments, also made subjection to him in ALL things a condition for salvation.
Unam Sanctam, Pope Boniface VIII, Nov. 18, 1302
“We declare, say, define and proclaim to every human creature that they, by necessity for salvation, are entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff,” (DZ 469).
The Vatican Council, Pope Pius IX, 1869
“…The faithful… are bound by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, not only in those things which pertain to faith and morals, BUT ALSO THOSE WHICH PERTAIN TO THE DISCIPLINE AND GOVERNMENT OF THE CHURCH, so that the Church of Christ, protected not only by the Roman Pontiff, but by the unity of communion as well as the profession of the same faith, is one flock under one highest shepherd. THIS IS THE DOCTRINE OF CATHOLIC TRUTH FROM WHICH NO ONE CAN DEVIATE AND KEEP HIS FAITH AND SALVATION.” (DZ 1827).
Immortale Dei, Pope Leo XIII, Nov. 1, 1885
“As regards opinion, whatever the Roman Pontiffs have taught or shall hereafter teach must be held with a firm grasp of mind and, as often as occasion requires, must be OPENLY PROFESSED. Especially in regards to the liberties so-called, which are sought after in these days — all must stand by the judgment of the Apostolic See AND THINK AS SHE DOES…and let the past be redeemed by a special submission of all to the Apostolic See.”
And regarding all these things in which we must be subject to the Roman Pontiff, we are told by a sainted pope:
Acerbo Nimis, Pope St. Pius X, April 15, 1905
“Pastors of souls… are certainly obliged by the precept of Christ to know and to nourish the sheep confided to them; now to nourish is first of all to teach. “I will give you,” God promises by the mouth of the Prophet Jeremias, ‘pastors according to my own heart, and they will feed you with knowledge and doctrine.’ And so the Apostle said, ‘Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel,’ indicating thus that the first office of those who are set up in any way for the government of the Church is to instruct the faithful in sacred doctrine.” After all, in conveying jurisdiction to the Apostles, Christ said “Go ye therefore and teach all nations…”: Baptizing came second. So why did those Traditional priests and bishops rounding up Catholics post-V2 fail to educate them first, and provide the Sacraments and Mass (IF they were unquestionably validly ordained and still possessed jurisdiction) only later, if at all? And when and if they did educate them regarding the higher truths (outside the basic catechism), why was it primarily those things taught by theologians, and not teaching issuing directly from the lips of the Roman Pontiffs?!
Oath Against Modernism, Pope St. Pius X, Sept. 1, 1910
And if this pontiff is not visibly with us, it is even more important to understand and obey those teachings they left us, teachings of the living or continual magisterium “the doctrine of faith transmitted from the apostles through the orthodox fathers, always in the same sense and interpretation, even to us…”
Nor are Catholics only to obey with a firm assent those teachings of the extraordinary of ordinary magisterium.
Tuas Libentur, Pope Pius IX, 1863: “It is not sufficient for learned Catholics to accept and revere the aforesaid dogmas of the Church…It is also necessary to subject themselves to the decisions pertaining to doctrine which are issued by the Pontifical Congregations, and also to those forms of doctrine which are held by the common and constant consent of Catholics as theological truths and conclusions, so certain that opinions opposed to these same forms of doctrine, although they cannot be called heretical, nevertheless deserve some other censure,” and the Pope adds that the theologians he is speaking to are bound in conscience to accept these teachings (DZ 1684).
We learn more about this from Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton in the August 1949 issue of the American Ecclesiastical Review (AER) — “The Doctrinal Authority of the Papal Encyclicals, Pt. I”: “Even when the Holy Father does not propose [doctrinal and disciplinary teachings] as part of his infallible magisterium… God has given [him] a kind of infallibility distinct from the charism of doctrinal infallibility in the strict sense. He has so constructed and ordered the Church that those who follow the directives given to the entire kingdom of God on earth will never be brought into the position of ruining themselves spiritually through this obedience. Our Lord dwells within His Church in such a way that those who obey the disciplinary and doctrinal directives of this society can never find themselves displeasing God through their adherence to the teachings and commands given to the universal Church militant. Hence there can be no valid reason to discountenance even the non-infallible teaching authority of Christ’s Vicar on earth.” In support of this, Msgr. Fenton cites the Vatican Council teaching that the faithful are to give a continuing assent to those papal documents which proscribe and forbid those errors the council determines are closely related to “heretical wickedness” (DZ 1820; Can. 1324).
Remember: There can be no visible, juridic Church, contrary to Traditionalist claims, without the Pope. It is the pope alone who can teach infallibly and command the faithful; it is he alone we are to obey regarding matters of faith, morals and discipline NOT Traditionalists.
Pope Pius IX teaches this fact from his own mouth: “May God give you the grace necessary to defend the rights of the Sovereign Pontiff and the Holy See; for without the Pope there is no Church, and there is no Catholic Society without the Holy See.”
The Vatican Council, referring to John 21:15, decreed: “To this teaching of Sacred Scripture, so manifest as it has always been understood by the Catholic Church, are opposed openly the vicious opinions of those who perversely deny that the form of government in His Church was established by Christ the Lord; that to Peter alone, before the other apostles, whether individually or all together, was confided the true and proper primacy of jurisdiction by Christ…” (DZ 1822).
Then we have Pope Leo XIII in Satis Cognitum, who taught: “Above all things the need of union between the bishops and the successors of St. Peter is clear and undeniable. This bond once broken, Christians would be separated and scattered, AND WOULD IN NO WISE FORM ONE BODY AND ONE FLOCK. ‘The safety of the Church depends on the dignity of the chief priest, to whom if an extraordinary and supreme power is not given, there are as many schisms as there are priests’ (St. Hieronymus, contra Luciferianos, n. 9). It is necessary, therefore, to bear this in mind, viz., that nothing was conferred on the apostles apart from Peter, but that several things were conferred upon Peter apart from the apostles… Hence the teaching of Cyprian that heresies and schism arise and are begotten from the fact that due obedience is refused to the supreme authority… Christ the Lord, as we have quite sufficiently shown, made Peter and his successors His vicars (emph. Leo’s). to exercise forever in the Church the power which He exercised during His mortal life. Can the Apostolic College be said to have been above its master in authority?”
Revs. Devivier and Sasia wrote the following: “As it is to the character of the foundation that a building owes its solidarity, the close union of its parts, and even its very existence, it is likewise from the authority of Peter that the Church derives Her unity, her stability, and even Her existence Herself. The Church, therefore, cannot exist without Peter.”
Pope Pius XII confirmed this truth for our times in Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis, when he wrote infallibly that:
“We declare invalid and void any power or jurisdiction pertaining to the Roman Pontiff in his lifetime, which the assembly of Cardinals might decide to exercise (while the Church is without a Pope)… If anything contrary to this prescript occurs or is by chance attempted, we declare it by Our Supreme authority to be null and void.” And if the cardinals couldn’t even exercise it, certainly questionable bishops cannot!
We could be asked to render an accounting of our lives before the Divine Judge at any moment. He will inquire whether we obeyed all those decrees of his Vicars and the laws of His Church. He will demand an accounting of the use of our time: How much of it was spent in studying our faith to learn the dogmas we are bound to believe, what time was spent in prayer to preserve our faith and to honor and adore Him. What will we say? How will we explain resorting to men who we could not even verify as lawful pastors? For not learning our faith as we ought? For not defending it to others for reasons of human respect or fear of reprisal? We owe nothing to Traditionalists but everything to our own souls. This is our entire purpose in life. Without a true pope there is no Church, so we need not worry we are erring in this matter. Most of those reading this blog know why we are to keep the faith at home in these times, just as so many other Catholics in England, Japan, Russia and other places have in times past. But reasons for this will once again be presented in a future blog revisiting the use of epikeia.