RORATE CÆLI: 7 years of RORATE CÆLI – and a special gift: An essay on Modernism by Don Pietro Leone

Heinrich Isaac (1450-1517)
Propers, Mass of the Fourth Sunday in Advent: Introit

Today is Rorate Sunday, the Fourth Sunday in Advent, and a very special day for us: it is the seventh anniversary of this web log, founded on this same Sunday, 2005, and named after its introit – recurrent words throughout Advent, from its very first liturgical moment (First vespers of the First Sunday). It is a perfect day, then, for us to present a special essay on Modernism and why its presence is so strong in our days – by Don Pietro Leone Monselice, the pen name chosen by a traditional Catholic priest, whose solid work on the Traditional Roman Rite and the Pauline Rite we happily published in 2011.
We thank Father deeply for his new contribution to our website – and we also thank you, our readers, for the faithful readership in the past seven years. And thanks also to our followers on Twitter (@RorateCaeli).


In his book “Athanasius”, Bishop Rudolf Graber, of Regensburg, explains how the Evil One in the course of the ages has attacked the Holy Catholic Church in ways increasingly refined, insidious, and intimate. He began by attacking the faithful through persecutions, but seeing that these lead rather to an increase of the Faith, he adopted another method: that of attacking the Faith itself.
With the heresies of Martin Luther he managed to detach a great number of people from the Catholic Church; with the heresies that comprise Modernism, he has even succeeded at present in contaminating the Faith of a great number of people within the Church Herself.
What is Modernism? Saint Pius X defines it in his encyclical Pascendi as “the synthesis of all heresies”. The Code of Canon Law (CIC. 751) defines heresy as: “the obstinate denial, after receiving baptism, of a truth which is to be believed by Divine and Catholic Faith, or the obstinate doubt concerning it…”
Now, what is defined by the words ‘a truth which is to be believed by Divine and Catholic Faith’ is Catholic dogma. We observe that Modernism has in fact a wider scope than Catholic dogma as here defined, in that it extends to all traditional Catholic doctrines, even if they have not yet been defined as dogmas. In other words, Modernism includes the denial not only of all dogmas, but also of all traditional Catholic doctrine.
For the purposes of this essay we shall understand ‘heresy’ in a wide sense, as the obstinate denial of any traditional Catholic doctrine (or the obstinate doubt in its regard).
First of all, we will present two particular characteristics of Modernism: 1. Ubiquity; 2. Obscurantism.

I The Characteristics of Modernism

1. Ubiquity

Ubiquity concerns the extension of the heresy.
In the past the Church always condemned heresies, and took this opportunity to formulate Her doctrines more profoundly and more clearly. Consequently, the rotten, heretical, branch of the Church was cut off from its healthy trunk; and the healthy trunk, nurtured by a new influx of the light of Truth, was able to flourish yet more gloriously than before.
For the past fifty years, by contrast, the heresies of Modernism have no longer been condemned; or if they have been condemned, they have been but seldom, feebly, and without sanctions. As a result almost the entire tree of the Church has by now been infested by error.
This infestation takes its cue from the Magisterium itself, from the teaching of the Church: of the hierarchy and the clergy. This said teaching constitutes an illegitimate use of the munus docendi entrusted to the Church by Our Lord Jesus Christ: a use illegitimate and therefore a use that also exceeds the competence of those who exercise it: a use that is extra vires.
At this point we observe that we understand the term ‘Magisterium’ as the organ or instrument of the munus docendi of the Church, and we distinguish two senses of the term: a positive sense which refers to its legitimate exercise; and a neutral sense, which is the sense in which we will understand it in this essay, which refers to its exercise simpliciter, without specifying if it is legitimate or illegitimate. That the Magisterium may be exercised in an illegitimate way, will be demonstrated by the examples given below. This is obvious, and may be denied only by an ideologist.
Modernism inside the Church is difficult to combat for various reasons:
-it is difficult to discern inasmuch as it is ubiquitous or omnipresent – Jacques Maritain speaks of ‘immanent apostasy’. This signifies that it has become part of the very fabric of the Church Herself, or, using another image, it has become too vast even to see;
-it is difficult to understand because it is obscurantist (as we shall show it in the next section);
-it is difficult to evaluate since in order to evaluate it, theological knowledge is required which is no longer taught in seminaries or in parishes, or at least not exclusively so taught;
-it is difficult to accept because it requires intellectual honesty and courage, which are necessary to face the doctrinal devastation in the Church today;
-it is difficult to criticize, above all for a priest, because he will be regarded not only as ‘hard’, but also as ‘lacking in piety’ or even ‘schismatic’ (or ‘crypto-schismatic’) towards the Church, the Pope, and the Magisterium (understood in the first sense of the term); and will have to steel himself for some mauvais quarts d’heure with his Superior or Bishop, and perhaps even the loss of his apostolate.

2. Obscurantism

Obscurantism concerns the communication of heresy. Heresy is the obstinate denial, or doubt, of a Catholic dogma. 1.
In the past, heresy was explicit. Examples are Martin Luther’s 95 Theses posted on the cathedral door at Wittenberg. Nowadays, by contrast, in the context of Modernism, the heresy is implicit: it is implied, insinuated, suggested, favoured by obscurantism.
This obscurantism operates in two principal ways: by silence or by equivocation (ambiguity). By silence a given doctrine is no longer taught; by equivocation it is expressed in a way that furthers heresy.
We shall consider each way in turn.
a) Silence
Many doctrines are passed over in silence, i.e. those that are considered “negative”, such as the existence of Hell, Mortal Sin, and sacrilegious Holy Communion.
Let us look at sacrilegious Communion. This doctrine is almost never taught or preached any more. In fact, the passage from Saint Paul that condemns it, which appears in the Old Roman Rite on the Feast of Corpus Christi and on Maundy Thursday, was suppressed in the New Rite.2.
Clearly this silence, as indeed silence on any article of doctrine, is not merely something neutral: the failure to accomplish an act; but something positive: a veritable act, an act of denial. Because if someone is entrusted with a doctrine to preach as a moral principle and does not preach it, the only explanation possible is that he does not deem it necessary for moral conduct, and therefore, for all intents and purposes, he denies it.
If a worker notifies the headmaster of a school that there is a live electric cable in a certain classroom, and cautions him to warn students not to enter for fear of electrocution, but the headmaster omits to warn them, his silence, for all intents and purposes, amounts to a denial of the fact in question.
To the Modernists’s silence on Catholic doctrines, we can apply the declaration of Pope Felix III regarding the Patriarch Acacio in the 6th century: ‘Error cui non resistitur approbatur, et veritas quae minime defensatur, opprimitur: error which is not opposed, is approved, and the truth which is defended only minimally, is oppressed’.

b) Equivocation

The second method of obscuring doctrine is equivocation. Let us put this equivocation in its context.
As for witnessing to the Faith, the Catholic assents to that which a doctrine declares and denies that which it denies: he says yes to yes and no to no, as the Lord Himself teaches us (Mt. 5.37): ‘But let your speech be yea, yea, no, no: and that which is over and above these is of the evil one.’ The heretic of the past, by contrast, says yes to no and no to yes; while the modern heretic, by means of equivocation, says yes and no to yes, and yes and no to no.
As for epistemology, it should be said that if a strength of dogma is its clarity, a strength of Modernism is its confusion. Clarity illuminates the mind to accept the truth, while confusion confounds the mind to accept falsity.
We will proceed to give three examples of equivocation.

i)The Ends of Marriage 3.

Until quite recently, the Holy Catholic Church has always taught that the primary end of Marriage is procreation, and the secondary end the reciprocal assistance, or love, between the spouses. Whereas at the Second Vatican Council, in the new code of Canon Law, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and in various recent encyclicals, love is now put in the first place and procreation in the second (without, however, explicitly defining love as “the primary end” nor procreation as “the secondary end”).
Let us ask ourselves the following questions: Was the doctrine of the past true and the doctrine of the present false? Or was the doctrine of the past false and the doctrine of the present true? Or was the doctrine of the past true then but is false now? Or was the doctrine of the past true in one sense and is the doctrine of the present true in another sense? And in this case, why does the doctrine of the present take precedence over that of the past? And answer comes there none.

ii)The Holy Mass

In the final version of Art.7 of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani (n. 27 in the 2000 typical edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal), the official introduction of the Novus Ordo Missae, the Holy Mass is presented in these terms: ‘Missa seu Cena dominica….memoriale Domini seu sacrificium eucharisticum: the Mass or The Lord’s Supper[…] the Commemoration of the Lord or the Eucharistic Sacrifice’. In other words the Holy Mass is identified with the Lord’s Supper in the first instance and with the Commemoration of the Lord in the second. This, however, is an equivocation. The Holy Mass is the Lord’s Supper and the Commemoration of the Lord (that is Calvary) in a certain sense (not essential), but presenting it thus simpliciter, suggests that it is so essentially: which is a Protestant position.4 In other words, to present Holy Mass in terms laden with a Protestant sense, is to present it in a Protestant sense.

iii)The Papacy

Professor Romano Amerio, in his contribution at the Theological Congress “Sì, si, no, no” ‘The Dislocation of the Function of the Magisterium’ cites the following initiative expressed in an official document about ecumenism: ‘to discover a form of exercise of the Papacy, which, while not renouncing anything essential to its mission, opens up to a new situation’ and he comments: “This means: it cannot be renounced, but at the same time it can be renounced. It is an absolute principle, but it is not an absolute principle. The infallibility of the Pope is an immutable rock ‘but’… and when you say the ‘but’ the move has already been made.’

c)The Nature of Obscurantism

In summary, we have given various examples in order to show how Modernism obscures Catholic doctrine: it obscures the Catholic doctrine on sacrilegious Communion; on the order of the ends of Marriage; on the sacrificial nature of Holy Mass; and on the primacy of Peter.
However, it does not only obscure these doctrines, but it obscures them in favour of heresy, since keeping silent about sacrilege is the same as denying it; the reversal in listing the ends of marriage insinuates a reversal of their valuation; presenting Holy Mass in Protestant terms, favours Protestant theology on the Eucharist; and qualifying that which is absolute relativises it.
This obscurantism can be considered as a sort of partial or total eclipse of the Faith. It is partial when it consists of an equivocation which does not amount to a formal contradiction; it is total when it passes over Catholic doctrine in silence, or when it expresses the doctrine in contradictory terms: since the denial of the principle of non-contradiction regarding a given doctrine is the denial of the very possibility of its truth. The result of such denial is a Faith without truth: a Faith determined merely by sentiments and subjective attitudes, which is no longer Faith at all.

II The Consequences of Modernism

If the heresy of the past is like ‘a dagger thrust’ in the words of the Abbé Dulac, the modernist heresy is like a slow poison, in such a way that one can go to bed at night with the Faith and wake up in the morning without it.
Modernism acts like a slow poison inasmuch as, by obscuring a dogma, it weakens the virtue of the Faith: that is to say it weakens the adherence of the will to revealed Truth. In this way Modernism disseminates doubt about all the dogmas of the Faith.
As a result, dogmas are labelled as ‘problems’: ‘the problem of the Resurrection’, ‘the problem of Original Sin’, ‘the problem of Hell’, etc. However, the dogmas of the Faith are not problems: rather they are supernatural Truths 5. They are problems only for those who deny the Faith.
The Faith becomes a problem, then, and is relegated to a place alongside other Religions, or is treated as one theme amongst a variety of others. In this way the Faith is substituted for “fables”: ‘they will refuse to listen to truth and will turn to fables’: a veritate quidem auditum avertent, ad fabulas autem convertentur’ (2. Tim.4.4).
The members of the hierarchy and clergy, then, in an illegitimate exercise of their munus docendi, lend importance to other Christian confessions or religions, or alternatively, abandon in large measure the teaching of the true Faith in favour of subjects such as anthropology, sociology, psychology, or politics. Abandoning definitions and anathemata, they make recourse in their official declarations to cascades of intellectualizing and impenetrable verbiage and in their sermons to stories and jokes
The emptiness of this teaching, once stripped of its sophistication, is manifested all too clearly in the children’s catechesis. What visions of truth and of holiness are given them in the pure days of their childhood to root them in the Faith and in the life of the sacraments and the virtues, and to summon them in the final hours of their life to the embrace of Divine Mercy?6.
Obscuring a doctrine, in particular by denying the principle of non-contradiction, has a further, and even more notable, effect, inasmuch as it not only obscures the Faith in its entirety, but also the very notion of Truth. For Catholic doctrines are Truths, objective Truths, indeed they are absolute Truths, more certain than the truths of the senses; and to claim that at the same time and in the same way they can be both true and false, is to deny the very possibility of Truth.
The further one departs from the conception of objective truth and reality, the closer one draws to that of subjective truth and reality. In so doing, however, one is on the road that leads to madness, because madness is nothing other than embracing subjective reality.
The order of the True yields to the order of the Good. Truth is no longer considered a guide to behaviour, but “love”: love, however that is no longer defined by reality. This love, inasmuch as it is rational, is manifested in humanism, a humanism lightly coloured by Christianity with a tendency towards activism; inasmuch as it is emotional, it is manifested in sentimentalism and the excessive concern for the sensibilities of others.
The objective yields to the subjective, and the river of Modernism flows back into that vast ocean of subjectivism from whence it came.
[MODERNISM: an essay by Don Pietro Leone Monselice. Translation: Contributor Francesca Romana]


1.or, in the wide sense in which we understand heresy in this essay, a Traditional Catholic doctrine.
2.This is a reference to the passage I Cor. 11,23-29 in the Old Rite, where the verses 27-29 have been omitted in the New Rite.
3The Catholic Doctrine on the ends of Marriage is not a dogma, but rather a sententia certa, but as we said above, Modernism extends to all Traditional Catholic doctrines.
4.According to Martin Luther the Holy Mass is the ‘Lord’s Supper’ and a mere commemoration of Calvary, in contrast to Catholic Doctrine which teaches the that Holy Mass is essentially the Sacrifice of Calvary.
5 A number of them are also mysteries, but that does not make them problems either: mysteries are unfathomable to the reason but defendable by it.
6. The merit of the Catechism of St. Pius X, who explains with exemplary simplicity and clarity the central doctrines of the Faith, which was learned by heart by countless Catholics up to two generations ago. In the present times, which are even more dangerous to souls than the past, children are deprived of this most precious assistance for their salvation.

THE REMNANT NEWSPAPER: A Half Century of Ecclesial Chaos


THE REMNANT NEWSPAPER: A Half Century of Ecclesial Chaos.

The eve of the 50th anniversary of Vatican II.

Where Does a Church Get its Authority?

This might be presented as the argument of authority.

There are two recognized types of authority: One IMMEDIATE and the other MEDIATE. They could be characterized in the following way:

 Immediate Authority is unquestioned and undisputed authority that rests upon their inherent right which is a product of who the person is. They do not require any authority from another. Their authority is not different from their person: it is who they are in and of themselves. Immediate authority cannot be gained and is natural to who they are. This type of authority is absolute and apparent.

Mediate Authority: Authority that is given to someone by another with immediate authority. It is entirely dependent upon a person who possesses immediate authority and cannot be self-imposed upon themselves. This type of authority, which allows them to act with authority in a particular capacity, is practiced in the name of the immediate authority who bestowed this right upon them. Mediate authority can be specific and bounded to certain areas of concern or it can be all-encompassing and unbounded requisite to the wishes of the Immediate Authority. Mediate Authority can be passed on to others when a vacancy arises due to death or sickness. For instance a King sends his ambassador and his entourage to another country to negotiate with that country on a matter of state. If the appointed ambassador becomes incapacitated or dies on the trip, he can appoint another from his entourage to carry out the mission in his absence.

In Christianity, it would seem prudent to examine by what form of authority the church or pastor teaches. If one goes outside of the immediate or mediate authority then how can they posses a valid authority. Would they not merely possess that which men might choose in allowing them this authority or revoking it on a whim? But how can those without authority bestow that which they don’t possess: it is an invalid use of authority.

Did Martin Luther or John Calvin have Immediate Authority: in other words, are they Divine? The answer is obviously no. Did they receive Mediate Authority from Christ as did Peter and the Apostles? Again, the answer is obviously no and they made no such claim. Had they made this claim, as many individuals have over the centuries, would we be required to believe them without proof? The self-evident answer would seem to be no.

Luther, Calvin and Zwingli had no authority to defy the rightful authorities of the Church who received their authority directly from Christ. They abandoned the Church over disagreements and scandals in the Church without making use of the remedies that have been used by others the last 2000 years to correct and reform those who might scandalize the Church: for these disagreements and scandals started almost immediately. It is important to see how the Church reacted to the apostle James and the Judaizers and James’s response[1]. This was a big disagreement in the Church and threatened a rift in our Christian faith. James did not leave the Church on account of his disagreement. Instead, he left it to the Council of Jerusalem where Peter with much urging from Paul decided that the Judaizers could not burden new converts with circumcision or dietary laws. James accepted their authority. Contrast that with Luther and the others who left the Church and did not even attempt to settle their disagreements within the Church. They simply walked and started their own church without recognizing any authority but their own: authority they never possessed: for self-imposed authority is no authority at all.

Christ foresaw such problems when he warned the apostles that scandals would necessarily come[2]. But He also prayed for unity[3] among His followers. In fact they deny that the Bible, which they all claim for their authority, specifically relates the power that Christ (the Immediate Authority) gave to Peter[4] to lead His Church and to the Apostles[5] (acting together in union with Peter) to rule in His absence.

Without a known valid authority, who can decide what to believe? If it is simply the Bible that is the authority, then whose interpretation should be believed? Should each individual decide by their own understanding what difficult Scripture passages might mean? If so, how does this compare to anarchy where anyone can claim his own authority? The confusion is never ending with as many sets-of-beliefs as there are people on the planet. Each of us would, if we had a desire to do it, found our own personal church that conforms to our unique interpretations, personal likes, dislikes or preferences.

Licit authority seems to be at the very heart of the present disunity of Christianity. It can readily be seen in the fruit of the first separated churches (Lutheran, Calvinist and Baptist) who have divided over the years into nearly 30,000 churches, each with their own particular nuances in their theology. Though they mostly hold to the same major convictions of the Christian faith, the details have divided the One Church established by Christ into many disparate factions, scandalous to the desire of our Lord to remain as one.

[1] Read Acts 15

[2] For it must needs be that scandals come: __ Mt. 18:7.  The following verses state that the offenders should be rooted out: not that the body of the Church be abandoned.

[3] Holy Father, keep them in thy name whom thou has given me; that they may be one, as we also are. __ Jn. 17:11

[4] And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.__ Mt. 16:18

[5] When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. __ Jn. 20:22-23

Sola Fide – Part II

In my previous article I maintained that no one in the Protestant Reformation had the authority to teach any form of Christianity that opposed the legitimate teaching of the Christian Church; for these teachings were organically taught from the time that Christ founded his Church under the leadership of Peter and the apostles. Just as the Old Testament Church had grown, under the leadership of the authorities that God had chosen to lead the Hebrew people, the New Testament Church (the Christian Church) had also blossomed under the leadership of the ambassadors given her by Christ. It was, and is, incumbent upon these churches to answer the hard questions of their times and to serve as arbiter of those questions concerning faith and morals. These matters cannot be resolved by a few scholarly people nor can they be resolved by taking a vote of the people. God does not take any chances: He created a theocracy with Christ as the head of the Church speaking to the people through his appointed ambassadors. Until Christ himself takes the authority away from these persons, they remain in charge of such matters. No man can simply decide upon his own intellectual, emotional or moral convictions to wrest this power from those whom Christ has named to lead his church.

Sola Scriptura (the Bible Alone) as discussed previously cannot be the rule of faith unless it complies with the Apostolic Tradition of the Church. Christ did not give his followers a mission to write any books[1] nor did he tell anyone to use a book as a basis for ascertaining truth.[2] He told the apostles to teach the good news throughout the world and the apostles tell us that the Church is the pillar and ground (foundation) of the truth. It was only by strict adherence to this Tradition that the Catholic Church was able to declare these books “inspired by God” and include them in those sacred texts which eventually became the Bible. As such, these writings are without a doubt the Holy Scripture but we must be careful that our interpretations of these texts adhere to the Apostolic Tradition that confirmed them in the first place. If not, these writings will not necessarily conform to the teachings of Christ as received by those who walked with Christ, his living witnesses, down to our present day. If one reads the writings of the ancient Christians, the Early Fathers of the Church, all doubt should quickly be laid to rest. The Catholic Church to my knowledge is the only church where the Biblical interpretations continue to preserve these same apostolic teachings.

Martin Luther, author of the text of Christ la...

So now we come to the second of the 5 solas[3] that fueled the reformation: sola fide, by faith alone. This dictum was preached first by Martin Luther and later picked up by others including Huldrych (or Ulrich) Zwingli. This rule declared that one is saved or justified by faith alone. It denounced the need for man to do anything to go to heaven other than believe that Christ died for our sins; we need only have faith that we are saved and that alone will be sufficient. Again this is a nice thought, it is not exactly Biblical and it certainly clashed with 1500 years of Christian teaching.

To read the arguments of the day or listen to modern defenders of Protestantism one is often struck by the accusations against the Catholic Church. Although the Catholic Church never denied the need for faith for our salvation, it was alleged that the Catholic Church taught that we were saved by works (good deeds, penance, alms, etc.). Such a thing had never been taught by the Church in such simplistic terms and these one-dimensional views only served to corrupt the Catholic position.

In an effort to give Biblical proof of the Protestant sola fide, the reformers relied heavily on the words of St. Paul and ignored passages of St. James and others and at times, Christ Himself. It is interesting to note that the passage from Romans 3:28 (“For we account a man to be justified by faith, without the works of the law.”) was rendered ‘justified by faith alone’ in the Luther Bible. But Catholics already believed that Christians were justified by faith and the certainty of that faith can only be known by how one lives their faith (the works of faith). The following is just a sample of Biblical texts that further our understanding of the issue:

  •  But according to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up to thyself wrath, against the day of wrath, and revelation of the just judgment of God. Who will render to every man according to his works. __Romans 2:5,6
  • For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of GodNot of works, that no man may glory. __ Ephesians 2:8,9
  • Charge the rich of this world not to be highminded, nor to trust in the uncertainty of riches, but in the living God, (who giveth us abundantly all things to enjoy,) To do good, to be rich in good works, to give easily, to communicate to others, To lay up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on the true life. __ 1 Timothy 6:17-19
  • All things are clean to the clean: but to them that are defiled, and to unbelievers, nothing is clean: but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess that they know God: but in their works they deny him; being abominable, and incredulous, and to every good work reprobate. __ Titus 1:15,16

There are many other texts that could be quoted and I do not here include quotes from the Book of James simply because both Luther and Calvin found this book to be unworthy of inclusion within their new canons of scripture. But notice that Catholics believed above all that faith is 1) a virtue; 2) a gift from God, undeserved and given to us by the working of the Holy Spirit (so that we may not boast); 3) that the fruits of faith are the good works of those who have been given this Grace (for we do not think that God’s Grace is given to a soul only to remain fruitless). To claim that the Catholic Church teaches that we are saved by works is not only mistaken it is manifestly deceitful. This is especially true when one considers that both Luther and Calvin (ex-Catholic priests) knew this to be false.

Again, this Catholic position might also be stated: that by God’s Love for us and by His unfathomable Mercy, God deigned to give us His Grace (an unmerited gift) that we might receive the virtue of Faith (a gift of God) so that by our freewill and cooperation with this Grace we might live according to His Gift of Faith and live a life inspired by the Holy Spirit (who gives us the will to produce Works of Faith). The highest of these works is the outward expression of the twofold commandment to love God and our neighbor. Now the willingness or unwillingness to respond to God’s Grace is similar in all respects to Christ’s parable about the sower of seeds: And he spoke to them many things in parables, saying: “Behold the sower went forth to sow. And whilst he soweth some fell by the way side, and the birds of the air came and ate them up.  And other some fell upon stony ground, where they had not much earth: and they sprung up immediately, because they had no deepness of earth.  And when the sun was up they were scorched: and because they had not root, they withered away.  And others fell among thorns: and the thorns grew up and choked them.  And others fell upon good ground: and they brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, and some thirtyfold.” __ Matthew 13:3-8    It is the same way with the Grace that God freely gives to us. Some bear fruit and some do not and it depends in great part to our will and cooperation with the Graces that God bestows upon our souls. Justification by faith alone was a novel teaching and has survived the centuries, in part, by the continuous mischaracterizations of the Catholic position.

Astoundingly, most of the wonderfully religious and pious Protestants that I have known have abounded in good works. Billy Graham quickly comes to mind as a man who has lived the gospel life while people such as Jim Jones stand in dark contrast to the goodness of Reverend Graham and his cooperation with God’s Grace. It is a fundamental principal in the Catholic Church that God has always wanted mankind to cooperate and participate in our own salvation. Christ paid the price but it is up to us to participate in His sacrifice by cooperation and thus apply his salvific Grace to our soul.

St. Paul states in Colossians 1:24   I “now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church:” It seems that St. Paul understood that his penance and suffering had merit and helped him participate in the sufferings of Christ as it applied especially to the Church which is Christ’s Mystical Body on earth. Thus we are urged to be obedient to the commandments and live a good, prayerful and penitential life: “. . . unto all the country of Judea, and to the Gentiles did I preach, that they should do penance, and turn to God, doing works worthy of penance.”[4] We are reminded in Romans 2:5,6  “But according to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up to thyself wrath, against the day of wrath, and revelation of the just judgment of God. Who will render to every man according to his works.

Now I could go on and on but it simply becomes a war of verse opposed to verse and a myriad of interpretations that any individual might choose to believe. But the same basic points that were made concerning sola scriptura diminish the impact of arguments made by individuals who would argue against the teachings held firmly by the Church Christ established; a Church that has preached the same truths uninterruptedly since his death on the Holy Cross.

Let’s recap for a moment: The Protestant leadership . . .

  • did not receive a mission from God and therefore did not have any authority to teach a new doctrine or create a new canon of scripture
  • taught new and novel interpretations of many Biblical texts
  • believed that every individual could read the Bible and decide on the meanings without recourse to an authority – leaving in their wake a type of anarchy against Church teaching – open to the possibility of countless individual doctrines and thus, new churches divided along doctrinal lines
  • fueled the coming age of enlightenment (the age of reason) which reached full swing during the 18th century, overturning structures of power that had existed for centuries
  • applied their thirst for democratic institutions, individual rights and freedom to God’s structure of the Church – a structure that was built upon the foundations of the Jewish tradition but fully realized and understood since the life and death of Christ
  • placed themselves in high levels of importance that rested solely on the desires of the people – rule from the bottom up – negating the authority that Christ had given the Church

Those who participated in the reformation did so, knowingly violating the traditional rules of faith: re-writing and eliminating writings from Holy Scripture; pretending to have more authority than the ministers who inherited their missions from the Apostles; denying the authority of the Church; ignoring the writings and witness of the ancient fathers of the Church; refuting the authority of the Church Councils; dismissing the authority of the Pope – the successor to Peter; belittling the constant trail of miracles that mark the history of the Church; while bringing disunity to Christ’s body the Church.

However, it is important to remember that those who today are raised in the tradition of the Protestant faiths are no more responsible for these violations of the faith than are we individually responsible for the original sin that we inherited from our first parents – but we do inherit it nonetheless. May unity one day reunite us all in the one body of Christ – the Church – for it is a scandal that His Church should be divided and continue to divide year after year.

The Catholic Church hopes and awaits a joyous reunion with our separated brother and sisters in Christ. “Holy Father, keep them in thy name whom thou has given me; that they may be one, as we also are.” __ John 17:11

[1] Matthew 28:18-20           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.

[2] I Timothy 3:15                 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

[3] sola scriptura (the Bible alone); sola fide (faith alone); sola gratia (by grace alone); solus Christus (Christ alone) and soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone)

[4] Acts 26:20