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Catholic FAQs:
Theological
REFERENCE ABBREVIATIONS
Dz: Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma [available from Angelus Press] ST:  Summa Theologica

Can an apostate from the Catholic Church save his soul if he dies in the state of unrepented apostasy?

An apostate is a person who once was a Catholic, and who has now abandoned all practice of religion. Having received and believed the Catholic Faith, and known at least something of the supernatural order of grace, it is not possible for such a person to be in good faith, as it might conceivably be for a Protestant who stopped the practice of his false religion. The reason for this is that good faith presupposes invincible ignorance. Invincible ignorance is only possible for those who have no possibility of knowing the truth concerning divine revelation, and whose ignorance is consequently not culpable. One who has had the theological virtue of faith infused at baptism, and has had at least some instruction in the Catholic Faith cannot possibly be in invincible ignorance. He may, certainly, be in ignorance as to the true Church and her teachings, but if he is, it is his own fault, and his ignorance is vincible. It seems that the only exceptions to this would be baptized Catholics who had never been taught anything of the Faith, nor had any Catholic examples as role models.

The Catholic Church refuses Christian burial to all public sinners, including public apostates who are unrepentant. If they give some sign of repentance before death, even if it is only a probable sign, such as the expression of sorrow for their stubbornness or the desire to see a priest, the Church can have some hope for their eternal salvation and consequently authorizes Christian burial. Needless to say, however, only God can judge the soul, so that it is still permissible to pray privately and offer Masses privately for such apostates who have given no sign of repentance.

Must we forgive injuries done to God and to others?

The obligation of forgiveness, even of our enemies, is fundamental to the new law of charity instituted by Our Divine Savior. We all have heard many times of Our Lord’s response to St. Peter’s question: "Lord, how often shall my brother offend against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Jesus saith to him: I say not to thee, till seven times; but till seventy times seven times" (Mt. 18:21-22). We constantly pray in the Our Father that God might forgive us, as we forgive those who trespass against us (Mt. 6:12). We know that regardless of the insults directed against us, we must pray for our persecutors, as Our Lord himself did on the Cross: "Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you" (Mt. 5:44).

However, it is not for us to forgive injuries done against Almighty God or against others. We are not those who have been offended, insulted, attacked, calumniated, and it is not our honor that is in question. It is consequently not for us to forgive, but for God Himself, or for the persons concerned. In such instances, of course, we have the duty to pray for the enemies of God, that they might convert and ask for pardon, that they might understand the gravity of the insults directed against God and His friends, or against the Blessed Virgin or the Church. However, it is not in our power to forgive an injury that is not directed against us. How frequent this situation is with respect to God, and how great a desire of making reparation it enkindles in our hearts! Yet only God, who is offended, can forgive, and then only when pardon is requested of Him.  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

Can the suffering souls in purgatory help people on earth by their prayers?

There are two opinions on this question. The first is founded on St. Thomas Aquinas, who explains why it is that we do not generally pray to the souls in purgatory, as we do to the saints in heaven.

Those who are in purgatory though they are above us on account of their impeccability, yet they are below us as to the pains that they suffer: and in this respect they are not in a condition to pray, but rather in a condition that requires us to pray for them. (ST, II-II, Q. 83, Art.11, ad 3)

The real problem presented by St. Thomas Aquinas is that the poor souls in purgatory have no way of knowing of our prayers, that they might be able to answer them. They cannot know them as the blessed in heaven, who see all our needs and prayers in the vision of God, nor can we personally ask for their prayers, as we can of the living on earth:

Those who are in this world or in purgatory do not yet enjoy the vision of the Word, so as to be able to know what we think or say. Wherefore we do not seek their assistance by praying to them, but ask it of the living by speaking to them. (ST, II-II, Q. 83, Art. 4, ad 3)

This being said, there is no doubt that the poor souls in purgatory are a part of the Communion of the saints given that they are members of the Church, united to Christ, the Head, by supernatural charity. Consequently, there is no reason to affirm that they cannot pray for us, provided that one understands that they cannot merit either for themselves or for us. It is for this reason that many theologians, such as Suarez and St. Robert Bellarmine, maintain that it is possible and permissible to appeal to the poor souls for their intercession. After all, there is no difficulty about God revealing to them in some way the fact of the prayers that are directed towards them, so that they can pray for people on earth.

It is, then, a pious belief, that we can pray for the poor souls in purgatory, so that certain synods in the 19th century taught that the poor souls can help us by their intercession.

Leo XIII, in 1889, ratified an indulgenced prayer in which the poor souls are appealed to in dangers to body and soul. [The prayer is not included in the authentic collections of 1937 and 1950.] (Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p.323)

It is only in appearance that this pious belief is in contradiction with the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas given above, based as it is on the fact that the poor souls cannot merit, and cannot hear our prayers in God. Although it is not a dogma, Catholics are consequently free to believe that they can pray to poor souls, nor is this belief in any way reprobated by the Church, but to the contrary recommended by some theologians.  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

Can the virtue of Charity exist alone among the theological virtues after this life, just as the virtue of Faith can exist alone on earth?

It is certainly true that the virtue of Faith can exist alone on this earth, namely without Hope and Charity. However, this is a very abnormal situation, given that generally in justification, as in baptism, the three theological virtues are infused at the same time. Furthermore, such faith without hope and charity is very imperfect and very unstable, liable to be lost all together, because it is dead, without the life of sanctifying grace. It is or this reason that the Council of Trent teaches that,

faith, unless hope and charity be added to it, neither unites one perfectly with Christ, nor makes him a living member of his body. For this reason it is most truly said that "faith without works is dead" and is of not profit.… Dz 800

However, the fact that the theological virtue of charity exists alone in heaven is neither abnormal nor imperfect. It is, to the contrary, a sign of the perfection of the state of the blessed. There is no possibility of the theological virtue of faith, for faith is the assent to that which we cannot see, on the authority of God who reveals. But in heaven the blessed see everything in God, including all the truths and dogmas of the Faith. They are self-evident, in virtue of the beatific vision, and there is no longer any possibility of faith. Likewise for hope, which is the assurance of obtaining a future difficult good, based upon the Divine Omnipotence. The blessed in heaven possess God Himself, and consequently are filled with every good. There is no further good to long for, no good to hope for. It is not possible for them to have Hope.

However, the poor souls in purgatory have all the three theological virtues and necessarily so. If they did not have the theological virtue of charity they would have been condemned to hell. Yet despite their certitude of one day doing so, they do not at the present time see or possess God. They consequently have the infused supernatural virtues of faith and hope, by which they believe what they will one day see, and hope for what they will one day possess. [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

Is the Blessed Virgin Mary "divine"?

The word "divine" is an adjective that describes one who has the divine nature, and by consequence the prerogatives, authority, and power of God Himself. Clearly the Blessed Virgin Mary is a creature, finite and limited, whose perfection and fullness of grace and predestination to be the Mother of God are received from Almighty God as gratuitous gifts, not owed to her by nature. Consequently, it would be a blasphemy to call the Blessed Virgin divine, as if to indicate that she had the uncreated and infinite nature of God Himself.

However, the greatness of the Blessed Virgin Mary consists exactly in this, that while retaining her status of a creature, she is by a special grace united to the divinity in such a special way as to be the Mother of the Son, and the perfect Spouse of the Holy Ghost. It is in this sense that St. Louis de Montfort does not hesitate to call her divine, confounding thereby the small-minded, who in their effort to reduce the mystery of the Incarnation to a human way of understanding, bring the Blessed Virgin Mary down to the level of other men. Some have, indeed, questioned St. Louis’s audacious use of the title "divine" to describe the prerogatives of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and yet as a canonized St., we know that his words are without error. We read, for example, in True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, him saying in the following prayer directed towards our Divine Savior:

Thou, Lord, art always with Mary, and Mary is always with Thee, and she cannot be without Thee, else she would cease to be what she is. She is so transformed into Thee by grace that she lives no more…: She is so intimately united with Thee, that it were easier to separate the light from the sun, the heat from the fire. I say more: it were easier to separate from Thee all the Angels and the saints than the divine Mary, because she loves Thee more ardently, and glorifies Thee more perfectly than all other creatures put together.

St. Louis de Montfort attributes to Our Lady the title "divine" to indicate that by her inseparable union with her Divine Son, a consequence of the hypostatic union and her divine maternity, she truly shares in the prerogatives, authority, and the power of God Himself. It is for this reason that her prayer is said to be all powerful (Omnipotentia supplex), although she remains but a creature. St. Louis also explains this in the True Devotion:

Mary, being altogether transformed into God by grace, and by the glory which transforms all the saints into Him, asks nothing, wishes nothing, does nothing which is contrary to the Eternal and Immutable Will of God. When we read, then, in the writings of Ss. Bernard, Bernadine, Bonaventure and others, that in heaven and on earth everything, even to God Himself, is subject to the Blessed Virgin, they mean to say that the authority which God has been well pleased to give her is so great that it seems as if she has the same power as God, and that her prayers and petitions are so powerful with God, that they always pass for commandments with His Majesty, who never resists the prayer of His dear Mother, because she is always humble and conformed to His Will.

Let us, then, not hesitate to attribute to Blessed Virgin Mary the magnificent title of "divine," which so aptly describes the greatness of this greatest of all creatures, her prerogatives, and her power. And logical with ourselves, let us then not hesitate to consecrate ourselves totally and unreservedly to her. [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]



Why is it that Catholics adore the wood of the Cross, but they do not adore Mary?

The adoration that is due to God is termed latria or divine worship. It is absolutely owed to God Himself, and hence to the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity and to Our Lord Jesus Christ. We adore Christ on the Cross as in His glorious Resurrection. Clearly, we do not adore the wood of the Cross in the same way, since it is but a creature. However, inasmuch as the wood of the Cross is directly and immediately related to our Divine Savior, whose Precious Blood sanctified it and made it the sweet wood that bears the salvation of the world, it must also be honored. Consequently, we owe the wood of the Cross a relative adoration. We adore it inasmuch as it is related to the Person of our Divine Savior, that is, inasmuch as He died for our sins on this wood. However, the worship of latria is not directed to the wood, but to our divine Lord.

The veneration that we owe to the Holy Mother of God is called hyperdulia, meaning that it is greater than the veneration owed to all the saints put together, on account of her fullness of grace and perfect holiness. She also is holy because of her relation to Our Divine Savior, and it is her divine Motherhood that is the basis of all her other prerogatives. Nevertheless, the veneration of hyperdulia that we owe to her is not a relative one, but an absolute one. We do not adore her as God, but we venerate her for who she is, whereas we adore the Cross only because it is Our Divine Savior’s Cross, by which He redeemed the world.

Hence it is perfectly true to say that we adore the wood of the Cross, but we do not adore Mary, although she is infinitely greater than the wood of the Cross considered in itself. [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

Is it not opposed to free will for our prayers to be answered?

When we pray for others we do not require of God to take away their free will or to compel them in some way against their will. We pray, to the contrary, that God’s grace might move, inspire and actualize their free will, so that no longer being slaves to their passions, they might act out of free will. We pray as God’s instruments, exerting the influence of our prayers to bring about the will of God. We pray out of docility to grace, that others might be docile also. Far from taking away free will our prayers, which are directed to God, from whose majesty all graces come, play the role in Divine Providence of obtaining for souls all the graces they need in order to be free. [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

If Adam had not sinned, would we have been born with sanctifying grace?

St. Thomas Aquinas explains that the formal element in original sin is "the privation of original justice, whereby the will was made subject to God" (ST, I-II, Q. 82, A. 3). This means that what it really and properly consists in is the loss of sanctifying grace, and not the sinful concupiscence and disorders which are the consequence of original sin. Adam sinned as head of the entire human race. Hence, if he had likewise preserved original justice, as head of the entire human race, then he would not have passed on original sin to his descendance, but instead sanctifying grace. Consequently, if Adam had not sinned, we would have been born with sanctifying grace. [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

If Eve only, and not Adam, had sinned, would we have been born with original sin?

St. Thomas Aquinas himself asks this very question (ST, Ia IIae, Q. 81, A. 5). His answer is very clear. Original sin is transferred through Adam and not through Eve, and so consequently, if Adam had not sinned we would not have inherited original sin, whereas if Adam had sinned, but not Eve, we would still have inherited it.

His answer is based upon Sacred Scripture, that states that "by one man," that is Adam, "sin entered into this world" (Rom. 5:12). Scripture does not say by one woman, nor by two parents, but by one man. Consequently, it is a part of our Faith that original sin is contracted only from Adam. St. Thomas explains this by saying that it is through the process of generation that original sin is transferred. However, the mover or the active principle of generation is the father, and not the mother. Hence it is Adam who transmits original sin to us, although Eve was the first to commit the sin. [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

Did the Father and the Holy Ghost suffer like Jesus did on the Cross?

It is impossible for God to suffer in His divine nature. For his Divinity is immutable and in the all perfect and all happy possession of Itself. The only way that God could possible suffer is by taking to himself a finite, limited, changeable created nature. God the Son did this in the mystery of the Incarnation, and from that moment on until His death upon the Cross He was able to suffer in His human nature. He cannot, however, suffer now in His human nature, since it is now glorified in heaven. However, the Father and the Holy Ghost at no time took to themselves a created, human nature. Consequently, they could not suffer, and never did suffer. Here lies the mystery of the Redemption. It was in order to be able to pay the debt of our sins with true, human suffering that the Son of God was made man.

When we speak of God suffering on account of the sins of men, we speak of the sufferings of God the Son in His human nature, paying the debt of our sins. If this is said of the Godhead, it is meant improperly to indicate how great is the offense made to the Divine Majesty by our sins, but not that God actually suffers from them. [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

Why are there different translations of Genesis 3:15, some indicating that the woman’s seed will crush the serpent’s head, and others that it is His Mother herself will do it?

After the story of the Fall and of the punishment to be inflicted on sinful mankind, Almighty God curses the serpent and promises the Redeemer, seed of the woman, that is of the Blessed Virgin Mary, saying that He will place enmities between the serpent and the woman, and between his seed and the woman’s seed: "She will crush your head and you will lie in wait for her heel."

Such is the translation of the Vulgate (ipsa), namely that she will crush the serpent’s head, as confirmed by the translator, St. Jerome, in his writings. Scripture scholars point out that the Greek text of the Septuaginta, and all the original Hebrew manuscripts except two, state that it is he, that is the seed of the woman, who will crush the serpent’s head. How can this be, you might think, since the Council of Trent guaranteed that the translation of the Vulgate is without error? How could St. Jerome have made such an obvious error?

Of course, there is no error at all, and St. Jerome deliberately translated it indicating that the Blessed Mother would crush the serpent’s head. Here his translation is guided by the Catholic Faith, and makes a little more explicit the role of the Blessed Virgin in destroying the serpent, which role is already manifestly contained in this very text. Clearly, if there is enmity between the serpent and the Blessed Virgin, and not just between the seed of one and the seed of the other, this means that the Blessed Virgin is perfectly united to Our Lord’s work of destroying the devil’s power. Together with her seed, she crushes the head of the devil. St. Jerome’s translation is consequently equally correct, and has the advantage of bringing out a little more clearly the role of Our Lady. It was made in the light of the teaching of the Fathers, without whose interpretation we cannot understand Holy Scripture. Pope Pius IX used the patristic application of this text to Our Lady to establish the Immaculate Conception (Ineffabilis Deus). [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

Is the upcoming October canonization of Msgr. Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer to be considered infallible or not?

The huge number of the present pontiff’s canonizations [of Pope John Paul II] have certainly been a great concern to us, for the traditional rules contained in Canon Law, to prevent any possibility of error or of canonization of a person whose faith and life were not perfectly exemplary, have been done away with, and replaced with much less demanding rules. However, hitherto they have been all pre-Vatican II saints, and very holy Catholics. But the projected canonization of the founder of the Opus Dei is different. For he it was who anticipated and developed 30 years before Vatican II a revolutionary, new, secular theology of the laity, and accepted the principle of pluralism, accepting into the Opus Dei men of every faith and religion.1 This indifferentism cannot be considered, according to any traditional guidelines, as an example of sanctity.

It is indeed accepted by the theologians as theologically certain that the Church is infallible in the solemn canonization of the saints, as distinct from the beatification of the blessed.2 The reason for this is that a canonization is not just a permission for the honor of a saint, as is a beatification. It is a definition, and a command, made by the Sovereign Pontiff with the use of his full authority, and consequently binding on Catholics. Consequently it is similar to a profession of faith, having as its object the glory of the saint in heaven.

However, not all canonized saints are solemnly declared by the Church as such. In the first ten centuries of the Church’s history, the popes simply gave their approval to the veneration of saints and martyrs by the faithful. These are known today as saints. However, since there was no solemn canonization process, the full authority and infallibility of the Church are not engaged for such saints. Consequently, it is not the fact that a person is called a "saint" that makes it infallible, but the solemn declaration and definition by the Sovereign Pontiff, as binding on all Catholics. It is upon this that the answer to the question concerning the infallibility of the canonization of Escriva depends. If the decree defines formally and obliges the acceptation of his sanctity, then it will be infallible, regardless of the defects in the processes for the canonization of saints that exist since Vatican II. However, if the decree of canonization were not to be solemn, and not to contain such expressions as "we define" and "we command" the veneration of this saint, then it would not be infallible, just as the approval of canonized saints in the early centuries of the Church. The same applied to Vatican II, for by not wanting to define doctrines clearly, it refused to use the infallible authority of the Extraordinary Magisterium that it could have used to condemn heresy.

The question then arises as to whether, if the canonization is duly performed with solemnity, we are bound to venerate this particular saint as a model and patron. St. Thomas states that the veneration that we display towards the saints is "that by which we believe that they share the glory of the saints."3 The object of the canonization is then the saints’ vision of God in heaven, and only indirectly the sanctity of their life and its value as a model for us. These are consequently not the object of the infallible definition, and although they would not normally be questioned in a canonized saint, in such a particular case it would seem possible to seriously doubt these, whilst still accepting that the canonized St. is in heaven. We could consequently accept that Msgr. Escriva is a saint in heaven, (hardly surprising for a priest, given his conservative mindset, genuine piety, frequent reception of the sacraments) without accepting in any way the pluralism and secularism that he taught.

1 Cf. "Opus Dei: A Strange Pastoral Phenomenon", The Angelus, Sept. 1995.
2
Cf. Zubizarreta, Theologia Dogmatico-Scholastica, Vol. I, §§487-489.
3 Quodlib. 9, a. 16 in Zubizarreta,
op. cit.

[Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]  Cf. BELOW FOR A CLARIFICATION TO THIS ANSWER:

  MORE FROM FR. PETER SCOTT ON THIS TOPIC

THE "SAINTHOOD" OF JOSEMARIA ESCRIVA

...Numerous other issues presently demonstrate the rapid progression of the "auto-destruction" foreseen even by the liberal Pope Paul VI thirty years ago. The worst is that it is becoming increasingly more obvious that this destruction is coming from the top down, from the pope himself. A typical example of this was the shameful and highly questionable canonization of Msgr. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer last October 6. For due process was not followed. Not only was there no devil’s advocate, but the former members of Opus Dei who personally knew Msgr. Escriva and who attempt to register their objections, were not allowed to express their opinion. As a last resort, last September they were forced to write an open letter to the pope, stating their position before the Truth Himself, Our Lord Jesus Christ:

...It is because we believe that the truth has been in large part hidden that we now give our testimony in order to avoid a danger for the Faith brought about by the unjustifiable reverence for the man that you have the intention of canonizing soon..." They went on to explain that they include "people who have intimately known Msgr. Escriva and who can testify to his arrogance, to his evil character, to his improper seeking of a title (Marquise of Peralta), to his dishonesty, to his indifference towards the poor, to his love of luxury and ostentation, to his lack of compassion and to his idolatrous devotion towards Opus Dei. (DICI, No. 61)

After having pointed out that the process was uncanonical and dishonest, they had this to say: "It (the canonization) will offend God. It will stain the Church forever. It will take away from the saints their special holiness. It will call into question the credibility of all the canonizations made during your papacy. It will undermine the future authority of the papacy". They were not traditionalists, and they were former members of his organization, but their supplication was not heard, and the ceremony took place as arranged on October 6. Their letter will certainly turn out to be prophetic, for in time they will be proven to be right in their assessment concerning Escriva as well as concerning Opus Dei that they so aptly compare to the liberal Sillon movement, rightly condemned by St. Pius X in 1910. This kind of last minute objection is unheard of in the history of the Church. How could Catholics possibly regard such a man as heroic in virtue, as an extraordinary model of Catholic spirituality, as a saint must be? For all the reasons that they give, we cannot possibly consider this "canonization" as a valid, infallible papal pronouncement. We trust that he is in heaven, but we cannot possibly regard as a saint this herald of Vatican II, who preached naturalism and indifferentism as early as 1928... [Obtained from the Southern Sentinel, the newsletter of Holy Cross Seminary in Goulburn, Australia, where Fr. Peter Scott is currently the rector]

Where will unbaptized children (and aborted babies) go on the day of the Last Judgment?

It is not a doctrine of Faith that children dying with original sin only on their soul go to a special place or state called the children’s Limbo. However, it is the common opinion of the theologians. This is based upon the teaching of Pope Innocent III (and the Fathers of the Church) on the effects of baptism, in which he has this to say:

The punishment of original sin is deprivation of the vision of God, but the punishment of actual sin is the torments of everlasting hell. (Maiores Ecclesiae causas, Dz 780).

The state of Limbo is consequently a suffering from the pain of loss, or separation from God, but not of the pain of the senses. As St. Thomas Aquinas teaches (De malo 5, 3), such a pain of loss is compatible with a certain natural happiness. At the last judgment, when the bodies will rise to share in the punishment or reward of heaven or hell, the bodies of those who are in Limbo will also rise. Although separated from God, in which way they share the punishment of the damned in hell, they will not be tormented by remorse nor will they suffer the pain of the sense which the damned suffer forever in hell.

The denial of this common teaching by the heretical council of Pistoia was condemned by Pope Pius VI as "false, rash, injurious to Catholic schools." Here is his description of the erroneous doctrine:

The doctrine which rejects as a Pelagian fable that place of the lower regions (which the faithful generally designate by the name of the limbo of children) in which the souls of those departing with the sole guilt of original sin, are punished with the punishment of the condemned, exclusive of the punishment of fire... (Auctorem Fidei, Dz 1526). [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

In what way was Pope John XXII’s statement concerning the soul’s possession of the Beatific Vision wrong? Surely the souls in Purgatory cannot possess the Beatific Vision.

The question did not concern the souls who are in Purgatory, but the souls separated from the body after the time of their purification in Purgatory. From 1331 until 1333 he preached and wrote that these souls could only have a vision of the human nature of Christ, and that they could not see God face to face, i.e., the divine essence. He also taught that the wicked could not go to hell nor the good to heaven before the day of the last judgment, on which day the general resurrection of the body will take place. Here precisely lay his error.

On the day before his death, December 3, 1334 he issued a Bull (Ne super his) in the presence of the College of Cardinals formally and solemnly revoking this opinion. His successor, Pope Benedict XII, published this document, along with his own Constitution, Benedictus Deus, of January 29, 1336, which declared authoritatively and perpetually concerning the matter, namely that after the purgation (for those who are in need of it) the souls of the blessed..:

...even before the resumption of their bodies and the general judgment...have been, are and will be in heaven... and have seen and see the divine essence by intuitive vision, and even face to face... (Dz, 1000).

It also defines that the damned will go immediately to hell after their death, where they are tortured by infernal punishments (Dz, 1002). [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

I do not understand how it can be affirmed that baptism in an heretical church gives the character of baptism but does not give sanctifying grace, so that person remains with original and actual sins (Cf. Fr. Laisney, "Three Errors of the Feeneyites," The Angelus, September 1998, p.35ff.)?

You are perfectly correct in affirming that the sacrament of baptism is not invalidated by the fact that it is administered by an heretical minister. This is in fact the teaching of the Council of Trent, which anathematized the contrary opinion: "If anyone shall say that the baptism, which is also given by heretics in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, with the intention of doing what the Church does, is not true baptism: let him be anathema" (Session vii, canon 4; Dz, 860). Nevertheless, it does not follow from the fact that baptism by an heretic can be valid that it is always valid. It can be invalid if the minister uses an incorrect matter or form, or if he does not have the intention of doing what the Church does.

However, this is not the essential confusion. A distinction must be made between a valid sacrament and a fruitful sacrament. A valid sacrament of baptism is one which imprints the baptismal character on the soul. However, it does not follow from the fact that it is valid, that it is necessarily fruitful, removing sin, infusing sanctifying grace, making a person a child of God, and opening the gates of heaven. There can be an obex, or impediment, to the sacrament infusing grace. In such instances the sacrament will be valid, but fruitless, for as long as the obstacle remains.

St. Thomas Aquinas makes this distinction very clearly in the Summa Theologica, IIIa, Q. 68, A. 8, where he states that "baptism produces a two-fold effect on the soul, viz. the character and grace." He continues to explain that the Catholic Faith is not necessary for the validity of the sacrament, that is, for the baptismal character:

Right faith is not necessary in the one baptized any more than in the one who baptizes; provided that the other conditions are fulfilled which are necessary for the validity of the sacrament. For the sacrament is not perfected by the righteousness of the minister or of the recipient of Baptism, but by the power of God.

However, if the true Faith is not necessary for the validity of the sacrament, the absence of the supernatural Faith of the Catholic Church will prevent the sacrament from bearing the fruit that it ought: "A thing is necessary for Baptism, as something without which grace, which is the ultimate effect of the sacrament, cannot be had. And thus right Faith is necessary for Baptism..." The knowing and willing refusal to embrace the true Faith is consequently, like the refusal to make an act of at least imperfect contrition, an obstacle to the sacrament bearing the fruit of sanctifying grace. Hence the valid sacrament does not remit sin.

St. Thomas also considers the case of insincerity, when a person remains attached to a mortal sin, which insincerity is not changed by the sacrament of baptism, which consequently remains valid but fruitless:

When God changes man’s will from evil to good, man does not approach with insincerity. But God does not always do this. Nor is this the purpose of the sacrament, that an insincere man (i.e., attached to mortal sin) be made sincere, but that he who comes in sincerity be justified (ST, IIIa, Q. 69, A. 9, ad 2).

In ST, Q. 68, A. 9, St. Thomas considers the special case of infants, who are not capable of placing obstacles to prevent the sacrament bearing fruit, just as they are not capable of having their own intention. It is for this reason that a valid sacrament is always fruitful for them: "Children before the use of reason, being as it were in the womb of their mother the Church, receive salvation not by their own act, but by the act of the Church" (ST, IIIa, Q. 68, A. 9, ad 1).  Thus it is that infants when baptized are members of the Catholic Church, even if baptized by heretical ministers in heretical churches, until such time as they embrace the heresy of their Protestant church (which is presumed at the age of 14 years), and this regardless of "the unbelief of their own parents" (ibid. ad 2), for "the child acquires a good conscience in himself, not indeed as to the act, but as to the habit, by sanctifying grace" (ad 3). In infants, therefore, the baptismal character is inseparable from the infusion of sanctifying grace and of the supernatural virtue (or habitus) of Faith, and the remission of original sin, regardless of the church in which a person is validly baptized. Cf. ST, IIIa, Q. 69, A. 6, ad 3: "So that children believe, not by their own act, but by the Faith of the Church, which is applied to them: – by the power of which faith, grace and virtues are bestowed on them."

The final case to be considered is that of an adult who is baptized validly in a Protestant church, but who is not formally attached to the errors of that church, and who does not willingly and knowingly chose to be baptized in an heretical church which refuses the true Faith. If he truly believes all that he knows that God has revealed (including at least the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Redemption and Heaven and Hell), and on the basis of the supernatural motive of the authority of God who reveals (and not for human, social or political reasons), and if he would believe everything that the Catholic Church believes and teaches if he knew about its dogmas, and if he would willingly join the Catholic Church if he knew it to be the true Church, then his faith is truly supernatural. It is the right faith (fides recta) of which St. Thomas speaks.

This falls into the case of invincible ignorance, which Pope Pius IX describes in the encyclical Quanto Conficiamur Moerore of August 10, 1863, which explains the meaning of the dogma Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. As the pope explains, such a person will not be punished for an ignorance for which he is not culpable or responsible, and which he does not have the means to overcome.

If there is no other obstacle (e.g., attachment to mortal sin), then the baptism of an adult with such supernatural faith will also infuse sanctifying grace and remove original and actual sins, even if done in a Protestant church.  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

Is it true that only Masses under Quo Primum are representative of the Catholic religion?

The reason why the New Mass fails to be truly representative of the Roman Catholic religion is not just because it is a break from Quo Primum. It is true that Quo Primum gives the guarantee that the Tridentine Mass is Catholic and that priests will have the right to celebrate it "in perpetuity." But Quo Primum does not state that a subsequent pope could not approve a different rite of Mass, and in fact there are many different Eastern and Western rites of Mass which are perfectly Catholic, all traditional, preceding the Council of Trent by 200 years. What makes the New Mass not representative of the Catholic Faith is the fact that it contains modernist ideas and omissions which are in direct contradiction with the Catholic theology of the Mass as defined by the Council of Trent (cf. Ottaviani Intervention). This is why it is a grave danger to the Faith, and why priests should not celebrate it, nor should the faithful assist at it, under pain of sin.  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

What is Ecumenism?

The description of this movement of dialogue and mutual exchange on religious questions with non-Catholics, and this on a basis of equality, is first made in a papal encyclical of Pope Pius XI, in Mortalium animos, On Fostering True Religious Unity, published in 1928.

This is the pope’s description: 

Assured that there exist few men who are entirely devoid of the religious sense, they seem to ground on this belief a hope that all nations, while differing indeed in religious matters, may yet without great difficulty be brought to fraternal agreement on certain points of doctrine which will form a common basis of the spiritual life. With this object, congresses, meetings, and addresses are arranged, attended by a large concourse of hearers, where all without distinction, unbelievers of every kind as well as Christians, even those who unhappily have rejected Christ and denied His divine nature or mission, are invited to join in the discussion. (§2)

Follows immediately afterwards the pope’s condemnation of "the pan-christians", whose "fair and alluring words cloak a most grave error, subversive of the foundations of the Catholic Faith" (§3): 

Such efforts can meet with no kind of approval among Catholics. They presuppose the erroneous view that all religions are more or less good and praiseworthy (this is the error of indifferentism), inasmuch as all give expression, under various forms, to that innate sense which leads men to God and to the obedient acknowledgment of His rule. Those who hold such a view are not only in error; they distort the true idea of religion, and thus reject it, falling gradually into naturalism and atheism. To favor this opinion, and to encourage such undertakings is tantamount to abandoning the religion revealed by God. (§2)

In his Instruction of the Ecumenical Movement (Instructio de Motione Oecumenica) in 1949, Pope Pius XII ordered that, in opposition to such "dangerous indifferentism", "Catholic doctrine must be propounded and explained in its totality and in its integrity. It is not permitted to pass over in silence or to veil in ambiguous terms what is comprised in the Catholic truth on the true nature and stages of justification, on the constitution of the Church, on the primacy of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, on the unique true union by the return of separated Christians to the one true Church of Christ".

And yet, this is precisely what has not been done since Vatican II, in attempting to follow the contrary request not to offend the sensitivities of our "separated brethren" in the Vatican II Decree "On Ecumenism" Unitatis Redintegratio. This is how that document defines Ecumenism, with none of the precautions laid out by Pope Pius XII against indifferentism: 

The term "ecumenical movement" indicates the initiatives and activities encouraged and organized …to promote Christian unity (i.e., the apparent unity, outside the truth, of different denominations or churches getting along). These are: first, every effort to avoid expressions, judgments and actions which do not represent the condition of our separated brethren with truth and fairness and so make mutual relations with them more difficult. 

The document also lists as other ecumenical activities dialogue, cooperation for the common good of humanity and common prayer (U.R. §4). These activities are all based upon the belief, already condemned in advance by Pope Pius XI, that all religions are more or less good or praiseworthy, expressed in this way in the Vatican II document on Ecumenism: 

Separated communities and churches as such …have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation (U.R. §3).

Clearly this leaves no place for the defined dogma, "Outside the Church, no salvation" (Lateran IV, Dz 802).  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

Are Catholics bound in conscience to accept all papal teachings, or just infallible teachings?

Clearly Catholics have a duty to obey all Church teachings. However, there are varying degrees of obligation according to the different degree of authority that is attached to the teaching, and to how it is presented. You will find these distinctions in any standard textbook of dogmatic theology.

  • Dogmas defined ex cathedra must be accepted under pain of losing the Faith, in such a way that a person who professes the direct contradictory of an act of the extraordinary Magisterium defining such a dogma, is correctly called a heretic.

  • Dogmas are frequently taught infallibly by the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church. Clearly we owe them the adhesion of our Faith, and a person who would knowingly deny one of these would be a formal heretic. The problem, however, is that of determining what really is a part of the Ordinary Magisterium (i.e., that which has always and everywhere been taught), and consequently that which really is infallible. This is the work of theology, but since human judgments are involved errors can enter in. It is consequently often not possible to call a person who denies such a dogma a formal heretic, until such time as his error has been condemned by an act of the Extraordinary Magisterium. This is what was done at the Council of Trent for the protestant errors, for example concerning justification and the sacraments.

  • There are other teachings of the Church which are neither a part of the Extraordinary Magisterium nor a part of the Ordinary Magisterium, but which are authentically proposed by the Church. This includes the bulk of the teachings in the papal encyclicals. Such teachings of the Authentic Magisterium are not infallible, but cannot be discarded for as much. As Pius XII stated in Humani Generis, and as John Paul II has reiterated, such teachings must be accepted with reverential respect. Allow me to quote from Humani Generis:

Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For…generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. (§20)

However, since they do not invoke the full authority of the Church and are not infallible, they can be wrong. Needless to say they can only be rejected or refused if they are in direct contradiction with infallible teachings of the Church’s Magisterium. This is the case with the teachings of Vatican II, which refused to use its charisma of infallibility. It is an act of the Authentic Magisterium, which reiterates many dogmas infallibly taught by the Extraordinary and Ordinary Magisterium, but which also includes novelties, such as religious liberty, ecumenism and collegiality which must be refused because they are in direct contradiction with the Church’s previous teachings, e.g., Pius IX in Quanta Cura & Pius XI in Mortalium animos.  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

Did Jesus have a brother named James?

James the Lesser was a cousin of Our Lord, and not at all a son of the Blessed Mother. However, the Greek work for brother, adelphos, is also used for close relatives, and as well as brother also has a meaning rather like the English word brethren. The New Testament certainly speaks about Jesus’ brethren, but by a false translation protestants pretend that his brethren were his brothers and make the sacrilegious and blasphemous heretical statement that the Blessed Mother did not always remain a virgin. It is sacrilegious because it speaks of the Blessed Virgin Mary as if she were a regular woman, not one consecrated to be the Mother of God. It is blasphemous for it treats of the Incarnation of the Son of God as if it were not a divine work, brought about by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost. It is heretical because it denies the dogma of the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, first formally defined by the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 553 (Dz 214 & 218).  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

Should the mother or the father be responsible for teaching children their catechism?

The very formulation of the question presupposes a false dichotomy, since both are responsible. Yet, both are not responsible equally and in the same way.

Since the father is the head of the family, he has the responsibility for planning, and foresight is his prerogative and duty. His is the responsibility to look to the future, and to plan out the religious formation of his children, just as it is his duty to lead the family in prayer and other religious activities. He has no right to opt out of all involvement, on the grounds that he is not home long enough, but must act towards his family as Christ, who is the invisible head of the mystical body, the Catholic Church. His paternal prudence requires that he determine how and when his children’s religious education is to take place, even if he is not able to do it himself.

Ed Willock had this to say a half century ago: 

Few fathers realize their own dignity as fathers, and few see the unique role that the Church insists that they plan in this work of revolutionary change (i.e., the formation of character in children). He should recognize that the American tradition of the last quarter century, which assigns to him the role of eternal adolescence, is a belittlement of his vocation. He is the bridge between Church and State. He is the bridge between state and family. He is the bridge between family and Church. (In Fatherhood and Family, Angelus Press, p. 81).

However, the mother is the one who is responsible for the daily implementation of her husband’s foresight. She is the one who will teach them the holy names of Jesus and Mary in her knees, and who will repeatedly go over their catechism questions with them by heart.

Nevertheless, as the children grow older the father’s role in the actual teaching of the Faith ought to increase, inasmuch as it is possible. It is he who ought to lead family discussions defending the great teachings on the Faith, and who must instruct his children on how to defend their Faith out in the world, and how also to defend the Church. By so doing, his authority and leadership will make the learning and expression of the Faith a profound reality in the lives of his children, instead of a superficial veneer.  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

What is liberalism?

The difficulty in defining liberalism lies in its continual evolving and ever changing ideas, always mutating into new, more or less radical forms. It is often very difficult to seize hold of, penetrating as it does in varying degrees, more or less well camouflaged, into every aspect of human activity and thought.

However, the principles of liberalism are very clear, and once they are understood the intellectual and moral perversion of this way of thinking and acting can be clearly seen.

Fr. Roussel, in his excellent work Liberalism & Catholicism, defines the liberal in this way:  "The liberal is a fanatic for independence, and proclaims it in every domain, even unto absurdity" (p.6). Consequently it consists not in any particular doctrine, but in a way of thinking. Liberalism is a sickness of the mind, an orientation rather than a school, a perversion of sentiment based on pride, or a state of mind rather than a sect. Liberalism appears then as "a disordered affection of man for his independent liberty, which makes him abhor any limit, bond, yoke or discipline from the law or from authority" (Ibid. p.8).

The other author whose excellent exposé of liberalism is much recommended is Fr. Sarda y Salvany, in What Is Liberalism? He outlines in this way the radical principles which are the basis of its propaganda:

  1. The absolute sovereignty of the individual in his entire independence of God and God’s authority.

  2. The absolute sovereignty of society in its entire independence of everything which does not proceed from itself.

  3. Absolute civil sovereignty in the implied right of the people to make their own laws in entire independence and utter disregard of any other criterion than the popular will expressed at the polls and in parliamentary majorities.

  4. Absolute freedom of thought in politics, moral, or in religion. The unrestrained liberty of the press (pp.18,19).

It is consequently the placing of the individual, society, the people or freedom as absolutes in themselves, over and above Almighty God. One might wonder how it is that Catholics, who of our nature profess submission to God through our holy religion, could fall into such a trap. The answer is our natural desire of independence, on account of which liberalism is in accord with our fallen depraved human nature, and our natural tendency to follow Lucifer’s rebellious refusal to serve. Consequently we are always inventing ways to compromise the absolutes of our Faith with the spirit of the world, entirely penetrated by liberalism. Hence the development of "Catholic" liberalism throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, that Archbishop Lefebvre does not hesitate to stigmatize as "the great betrayal." For an understanding of how these liberal principles became accepted by Vatican II, producing the novelty of religious liberty, the revolutionary idea that all religions should be equally free for as long as they do not impinge on others’ freedom, which is nothing short of the denial of the Social Kingship of Christ, I refer you to the magnificent exposé by Archbishop Lefebvre in They Have Uncrowned Him.

Allow me to sum up by quoting the magnificent 1888 encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, Libertas Praestantissimum, in which he describes and condemns the varying kinds and degrees of liberalism, from the radical liberalism of those who refuse the Catholic Faith and the Catholic Church to the moderate liberalism of those who promote separation of Church and State, or maintain that the Church ought to adapt itself to modern systems of government:

To deny the existence of this authority in God, or to refuse to submit to it, means to act, not as a free man, but as one who treasonably abuses his liberty; and in such a disposition of mind the chief and deadly vice of liberalism essentially consists. The form, however, of the sin is manifold: for in more ways than one can the will depart from the obedience which is due to God or to those who share the divine power (§36).  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

What is collegiality?

Collegiality is the application to the Church of the principles of democracy, founded on the freemasonic revolutionary slogan of "liberty, equality, fraternity."  It is an alternate, brought about since Vatican II, to the monarchical and hierarchical structure instituted by Christ, based upon personal responsibility of priests, bishops and popes standing in Christ’s place. In fact, at the present time two parallel authorities exist for the government of the Church. On the one hand is the divinely instituted hierarchical authority, expressed through the pope and the Roman Congregations over the entire Church, the bishops over their dioceses, and the priests in their parishes. On the other hand is the revolutionary and democratic authority, a human creation imposed since Vatican II, according to which the episcopal college also has the authority to govern the entire church, the episcopal conferences of each country also have the authority to tell the bishops how to govern their dioceses, the presbyteral council also counterbalances and limits the authority of the bishop in his diocese, and the parish council makes the important decisions in parish government. Needless to say, there is a direct contradiction between these two authorities, and any authoritative government of the Church, including condemnation of heresies, is entirely paralyzed.

The most dangerous aspect of collegiality is this theory as it applies to the supreme authority of the Church in matters of Faith and Morals. Previously it was taught that this authority was entirely in the person of the Sovereign Pontiff, Vicar of Christ, who can share this authority with the entire episcopate at the time of an Ecumenical Council. The Vatican II document on the Church, Lumen Gentium, teaches the novelty that an episcopal college exists at all times, and that the bishops throughout the whole world make up that college, which, together with the pope, has the supreme authority. The college is consequently established as an alternate authority to that of the pope alone, and this at all times, regardless of the pope’s will. The pope is consequently not able to go against the democratic majority of bishops, whose authority is equal to his, provided that these bishops are in communion with him. It is in these words that Lumen Gentium states this:

The order of bishops is the successor to the college of apostles in their role as teachers and pastors, and in it the apostolic college is perpetuated. Together with their head, the Supreme Pontiff, and never a part from him, they have supreme and full authority over the universal Church (§22).

We thank God that this denial of the primacy of the pope is contradicted by the Nota Explicativa that the more traditional Fathers at Vatican II forced Pope Paul VI to add to Lumen Gentium. However, the liberal theologians do not take this explanatory note into account, and all they retained is the new collegiality, and its paralysis of personal authority. Romano Amerio in Iota Unum has this comment to make:

There is a conflict between a process of democratization and the divinely constituted nature of the Church... The Church... did not form itself, nor did it establish its own government; in its essentials it was established in toto by Christ, who established its laws and laid down its constitution before summoning mankind to join it…. The Church is therefore a unique kind of society, in which the head exists before the members and authority exists prior to the community. Any view that sees the Church as being based upon the people of God, conceived of in a democratic sense ...is at odds with the reality of the Church. (Romano Amerio, Iota Unum, pp.522-523)

[Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

If we are to say that Mary is the Mother of God, must we not also admit that she is Mother of the Divinity?

It is a Catholic dogma that Mary is the Mother of God, as defined by the Council of Ephesus (431) against the heresy of the Nestorians. The Nestorians refused to acknowledge her title as Theotokos or Mother of God, and only wanted to designate her as Mother of Man or Mother of Christ. For they denied that the divine and human natures were united in the one person of the Son of God, and that consequently Mary is His mother according to His human nature.

This doctrine is well summarized by Dr. Ludwig Ott (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pp.196, 197), who points out that the dogma of Mary’s motherhood of God contains two truths, namely that Mary is truly a mother, by contributing to the human nature of Christ, and that she truly is the Mother of God, "that is, she conceived and bore the Second Person of the Divinity, not indeed according to the Divine Nature, but according to the assumed human nature." It was precisely the objection of Nestorius that if Mary were the Mother of God, then Christ would have had to have taken not only His human nature, but also His divine nature from her, a creature. The answer is that it is not the nature which is conceived and born, but the person.

It is true that there is a contrary heresy to that of the Nestorians, that of the Monophysites, condemned by the Council of Chalcedon 20 years later (451). It maintains that the divine and human natures in Christ are somehow merged together. Since they hold no distinction between the divine and human natures, it follows that Mary is no longer Mother of God simply according to the assumed human nature, as taught by the Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon. Ott has this to say of this theory which by mingling the divinity and humanity of Christ ends up by destroying both of them:

The Fathers also point out the intrinsic impossibility of the monophysite doctrine of unification. It contradicts the absolute immutability and the infinite perfection of God, and by abrogating the true humanity of Christ, leads to the destruction of the work of redemption (ibid. p.147).

It is consequently a doctrine of our Catholic Faith to affirm that Mary to be "Mother of God according to human nature" (Dz, 148). If anyone were to say that she were also Mother of the Divine Nature, he would imply a confusion of the two natures and he would have fallen into the Monophysite heresy, and he would certainly not be a true defender of the honor of the Blessed Mother. This is a good example of the importance of the careful scholastic definitions of such notions as "person" and "nature" to have an accurate understanding of the Catholic Faith.  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

When a "born-again" Protestant strikes up a conversation by asking "Who is Jesus?" and "Do you have a personal relationship with Him?" what is a good way to reply?

I would turn these questions around to the Catholic perspective and rephrase them in terms of the Catechism. As they stand, they are in fact Protestant questions, based upon the false assumption that religion is a matter of personal experience. In answer to the question about who Jesus is, I would explain the hypostatic union of the human and divine natures, which makes up the mystery of the Incarnation, upon which our Redemption is based. With respect to the question on the personal relationship, I would explain what sanctifying grace is, and how it transforms one’s life to be thus filled with the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity.  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

Of what evil is God speaking in Is. 45:7 when he says: "I make peace and create evil: I the Lord that do all these things"?

The difficulty is to understand in what way it can be said that God created evil, and is answered by St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica, Ia, Q.49, A.2. It is interesting to see how he overcomes the ancient dualism of the Persians, the temptation which maintained that there were two principles, one of good and one of evil.

His response presupposes the true explanation of what evil really is, namely the privation of a good which is due; that is, a defect in that which is done, either in the moral order (=sin, or moral evil) or in the physical order (e.g., sickness, suffering, death). The consequence is that evil is something negative, which cannot exist in itself, but only in something which is good. As Fr. Farrell explains:

The trouble is that evil is not something positive, something one can put a finger on; the very essence of evil demands that it eludes your finger, it is something missing, a defect. To have evil at all, there must be good capable of having holes in it, for evil is precisely a hole in the good (A Companion to the Summa, Vol. I, p.168).

Clearly, then, God, who is the Supreme Good, causes the good which evil is in. However, it cannot be by a defect of His action that the defect or hole in the good exists. It is by a defect in the action of the creature which He permits, but does not cause. God permits such defects in the action of creatures in view of the good of the order of the universe. Now the good of the order of the universe requires...that there should be some things that can, and sometimes do, fail. And thus God, by causing in things the good of the universe, consequently, and as if it were by accident, causes the corruptions of things... (ST, Ia, Q. 49, A. 2).

This applies also to moral evil or sin. He causes the good which is human life in the sinner, and He even gives the intellect and willpower without which the sinner could not sin. However, the sin itself is a defect in the activity of the sinner which comes entirely from the sinner. This gives some little idea of the gravity and perversity of mortal sin.

However, St. Thomas points out, there is another way in which He is the cause of evil, and it is referred to in Holy Scripture in passages such as this one from the prophet Isaias. For He is the cause of evils inasmuch as they are a necessary penalty or punishment to maintain the order of justice in the universe.

The order of justice belongs to the order of the universe; and this requires that penalty should be dealt out to sinners. And so, God is the author of the evil which is penalty, but not of the evil which is fault (Ibid.).  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

Before Vatican II, popes used to swear fidelity to Tradition under pain of automatic excommunication.  Does this mean that they would cease to be pope if they were to depart from Catholic Tradition?

When a pope swears his fidelity to Tradition, under pain of automatic (that is ipso facto) excommunication, he does not say that he would cease to be pope if he were not faithful.

Excommunication is a canonical punishment, separating a person from the communion of the faithful (1917 Code of Canon Law, canon 2257), equivalent to the declaration of an anathema, just as Pope Honorius was anathematized by Pope St. Leo II.

However, it does not necessarily make a person incapable of accomplishing acts of jurisdiction or government in the Church. Canon 2264 (1917 Code of Canon Law) explains that acts of jurisdiction done by an excommunicated cleric are illicit but valid, provided that the excommunication was not inflicted by condemnatory or declaratory judgment. It is only if there is such a condemnatory or declaratory judgment that the acts of jurisdiction are invalid. Consequently a pope who had been condemned or declared by official judgment as excommunicated would be incapable of exercising his jurisdiction. This does not, however, mean that he would not be pope.

But who is going to make a condemnatory or declaratory judgment of the pope? It cannot be done by a council of the Church. This is the condemned heresy of conciliarism. (cf. Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus, in Dz, 1830: "Nor is anyone permitted to pass judgment on its judgment. Therefore they stray from the straight path of truth who affirm that it is permitted to appeal from the judgments of the Roman Pontiffs to an ecumenical Council, as to an authority higher than the Roman Pontiff.") Consequently, it cannot be done at all. Hence, even if the pope is a heretic and automatically excommunicated, he retains his jurisdiction, and his acts of jurisdiction are valid, but illicit.  [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

If the correct intention is necessary for the validity of a sacrament, how could Protestant baptisms be valid, and how could Masses celebrated by modernist priests who deny the Real Presence be valid?

Catholics know from their catechism that three things are necessary for the validity of every sacrament: correct matter, form and intention. The necessity of the intentio faciendi quod facit ecclesia, or the intention of doing what the Church does, was expressly declared by the Council of Florence (Dz, 695), and was the object of a solemn definition by the Council of Trent:

If anyone shall say that in ministers, when they effect and confer the sacraments, the intention at least of doing what the Church does is not required: let him be anathema (Dz, 854).

The reason why intention is necessary is that the minister of a sacrament must perform his function as an active instrument of Christ, and not just by passively saying words or doing an action, as indicated by St. Paul: "Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God" (I Cor. 4:1). This is a real or interior intention of submitting to the sacred act of the principal agent, who is Christ. The minister must consequently have the deliberate will, at least implicitly, of acting in the place of Christ. A person who would simply go through the motions, or simulate, a sacrament, or one who would do it for a joke, would consequently not administer a sacrament at all.

St. Thomas Aquinas and the theologians explain that this does not, however, have to be an explicit intention, that is of formally accomplishing a sacrament instituted by Christ to give grace. It is sufficient for the minister to have the general intention of accomplishing the sacred act that Christ did, without necessarily knowing exactly what it is. This is in fact what is meant by the intention of doing what the Church does, in which is implicitly contained whatever the Church actually does do, although it may not be known or believed.

It follows from this that it is not necessary for the minister of a sacrament to actually know what the Church does, or even to will what the Church does, let alone to will what the Church intends (i.e., the conferring of grace). He has simply to intend what the Church does to be an agent of Christ working through the Church. It has been said that only a "minimum intentionality is required," or that the Church is content with "meager requirements for validity" (Fr. Stravinskas in The Wanderer). It would have been better to say that the object of the intention does not have to be precisely defined in the minister’s mind for him to have the intention of being a supernatural instrument. This flows simply from the nature of intention: the internal deliberate will to be an agent of Christ. It is, nevertheless, a great and extraordinary mystery that a simple creature can, by his free cooperation, participate as an instrument in God’s own work of sanctifying. Just as God the Father depended upon the Blessed Virgin’s fiat to bring about the Incarnation of the Word of God, so likewise does Our Lord depend upon the minister’s own will, his fiat, in order that the sacraments might be valid and confer character (when appropriate) and grace. This intention is not a "meager requirement" but of the utmost importance.

The question then arises as to the intention of a heretic administering the sacrament of baptism, who does not believe in the sacrament of baptism, or of a modernist priest who celebrates Mass but who refuses to believe in transubstantiation, but considers it only as a symbolic commemoration. If intention is such an important requisite for validity, can these two individuals be said to have the intention of doing what the Church does?

The validity of the baptisms done by heretics was decided by Pope St. Stephen I, resolving a conflict with St. Cyprian (cf. Dz, 46 & 47). This was confirmed by the Council of Florence and by the following definition of the Council of Trent:

If anyone shall say that the baptism, which is also given by heretics in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, with the intention of doing what the Church does, is not true baptism: let him be anathema (Dz, 860).

It is consequently de fide that the true Catholic Faith is not necessary for a sufficient intention to validly baptize. This teaching was confirmed by the Holy Office in 1872 with respect to the baptism of Methodists, who expressly teach that baptism is but a sign of belonging to the Church, and that it does not efface original sin. The answer was that the minister of baptism does not have to intend what the Church intends, but just what the Church does, and that consequently even the error that baptism would produce no effect on the soul of the baptized person does not in itself invalidate the sacrament of baptism, for the intention of doing what the Church does is not thereby excluded (cf. Dz, ad 3100s).

The question of the validity of the consecration at Mass of a heretical, but validly ordained, priest is similar, but a little more complex. St. Thomas Aquinas explains that a heretic can validly consecrate the sacred species at Mass (ST, IIIa, Q. 82, A. 7). By comparison with the case of baptism that even the heretic who denies transubstantiation does not necessarily cease to have the intention of doing what the Church does. Consequently, the Masses celebrated by modernist priests are not necessarily, and by this simple fact invalid, provided that they use valid matter and form. However, St. Thomas Aquinas makes an important and very relevant point, when he answers the objection that a person’s intention cannot be outwardly know, and that consequently the validity of the sacraments cannot depend upon it. He answers that the validity of the sacraments can and does depend upon it, and that it can be known outwardly:

Consequently, others with better reason hold that the minister of a sacrament acts in the person of the whole Church, whose minister he is; while in the words uttered by him the intention of the Church is expressed; and that this suffices for the validity of the sacrament, except that the contrary be expressed on the part either of the minister or of the recipient of the sacrament (ST, IIIa, Q. 64, A. 8, ad 2).

Here lies the crux of the present problem with modernist priests. They are not celebrating the traditional Mass, whose prayers and rites not only fully express the Faith of the Catholic Church in the mystery of transubstantiation, but also express the Church’s intention, to offer up a true and propitiatory sacrifice, renewing Calvary in an unbloody way, for the salvation of souls. Even a priest who does not have the Faith in the Real Presence, would, if he celebrated the traditional Mass, pray prayers and perform acts that express the Church’s intention of offering up a true sacrifice. He would consequently necessarily have the intention of doing what the Church does, provided that he did not express or have a hidden contrary intention, such as to simulate a Mass but not really celebrate it. Consequently, it would take real malice, and not just heresy or denial of transubstantiation, to invalidate the consecration at a traditional Mass through lack of intention. There is, therefore, moral certitude of the validity of the consecration at a traditional Mass, regardless of the personal feelings of the celebrant towards the Blessed Eucharist.

The same does not apply to the Novus Ordo Mass, "[which] represents, both as a whole and in its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as it was formulated in Session XXII of the Council of Trent" (Ottaviani Intervention, p.27), and which consequently does not adequately express the Catholic Faith, nor even the intention of renewing the Sacrifice of Calvary. The Church’s intention is not adequately expressed by ceremonies which are often much more reminiscent of a Protestant assembly or of a community gathering, or of a celebration of man and social justice. It follows that it would be very easy for a modernist celebrant’s intention of doing what the Church does to be destroyed, and for the contrary intention to develop. It could easily happen that such a priest could explicitly intend only to perform a symbolic action, the real meaning being eliminated from the other elements of the prayers and rites. He could consequently have an intention directly contrary to the intention of the Church. Even if he did not express this contrary intention, he would not be a liar or a hypocrite; he would just be acting within the boundaries of the New Mass.

It can clearly be seen, then, that at a time when 50% of modern priests question the doctrine of the Real Presence, there can be a real doubt as to whether they have the intention of doing what the Church does. This is not because they deny a doctrine, but because they use rites that no longer express the Catholic intention. They are no longer doing something they do not believe in -the traditional Mass –but which they do all the same. They are doing something ambiguous, which does not clearly indicate their intention. Many of those who refuse the Real Presence will have the correct intention simply because they do not think about it, but the more thoughtful will have a contrary intention, one which is not in contradiction with the new liturgy. In conclusion, can one be certain that the New Mass is not sometimes invalid through the lack of a correct intention?  I think not. [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

"Blessed are the poor in spirit" (Matt. 5:3): What does it mean?

Scripture scholars inform us that the Beatitudes are not merely simple statements of fact: they are, on the contrary, explanations: "O the blessedness of the poor in spirit!"  The Beatitudes are not pious hopes of what shall be, they are a confirmation of what already is: it is a happiness which exists here and now, and which cannot be taken from us.

The root meaning of the English happiness (chance from the word happen) is an inadequate translation of the Greek word makarios —a joy independent of all the vicissitudes of life. Christian joy is unassailable; it cannot be lost despite sorrow, pain, grief, or even betrayal.

In Greek also there are two words for poor: penes and ptochos. The former describes one who has nothing superfluous; the latter, the word used in the Beatitudes, refers to absolute abject poverty, the poverty which brings one to one’s knees; it embraces those who have nothing at all. So this Beatitude is really surprising –it seems to say "O the untouchable joy of the totally poverty-stricken."

It must be remembered also that the Beatitudes were not originally spoken in Greek but rather in Aramaic. The Jewish word ani or ebion (poor) came to mean "the man who because he has no earthly resources places his entire trust in God."

With this background in mind we can arrive at the meaning of the Beatitude. "Blessed is the man who knowing his own utter helplessness entrusts himself totally to God." Such at most implies detachment from possessions for they cannot bring happiness or security, and attachment to God alone Who brings help and hope and strength. The man who is poor in spirit and knows that things mean nothing and that God means everything, the poverty that is blessed therefore is poverty of spirit. To such a poverty belongs the kingdom of heaven; and even more surprisingly it exists often in the destitute, as many Catholic missionaries realized long before the days of liberation theology so foreign to the true spirit and meaning of the Gospel.  [Article by Fr. Leo Boyle]

Will all men go to heaven? Will everyone be saved?

Though the sacrifice of Jesus Christ offered once for all on Calvary and made present at each and every valid Mass is more than sufficient to save all men without exception, it does not follow that all men will consequently be saved. It is a fundamental doctrine of St. Paul that salvation can be acquired only by the grace merited by Christ, and St. Peter himself testified before the High Council "neither is there salvation in any other" (Acts 4:12).

Furthermore this is the significance of the dictum "outside the Church there is no salvation." Outside of Christ there is nothing, for the gods of the Gentiles are demons (Ps. 95:5).

Ignorance, even if invincible, is not in itself an infallible means of salvation. There is the most serious of obligations to seek the truth, incumbent upon all who are not of the household of the Catholic Faith.

The grace of Christ is always given and must not be refused, and Christ established only one Church in which God is worshipped in spirit and in truth.

It is the deliberate and studied ambiguity of recent texts which causes confusion and leads into the path of error, all religions are not equal, all religions are not good. There is no regard for truth, the truth of Christ, in much recent ecclesiastical teaching.

In a recent review of Crossing the Threshold of Hope, an English journalist writes that reports of the pope’s infallibility are somewhat exaggerated. Everything the Holy Father says is not infallibly true, especially in his remarks on other religions. I will quote Noel Malcolm at length:

He talks [the pope] in relation to other religions —as if spirituality were just an aspect of human experience as such, something which can be found among Hindus, Confucians and ancestor-worshipping aborigines. He even suggests that having the rudiments of spiritual experience connects such people with Christianity and makes them eligible for salvation —a claim which I believe teeters on the edge of heresy (Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph, London, November 6, 1994).

If such a person, who is not Catholic, can understand, why cannot our pope and bishops see the truth that they all professed at one time for most of their lives, but now seek to reinterpret in true revisionist fashion, reminiscent of a supposedly fallen regime.  [Article by Fr. Leo Boyle]

Is a sedevacantist to be considered a non-Catholic?

It is certainly of Faith that Our Lord gave the powers of the keys to the successor of Peter, and that the pope is the Church’s visible head. However, it is not of Faith that Our Lord would not leave His Church for a time without a visible head. There have been times in past history of up to three years without a pope, and times during which nobody really knew who the true pope was. Consequently the belief that this particular person is not the pope is not necessarily a denial of the Catholic Faith.

The traditional Code of Canon Law (canon 1325, §2) defines a schismatic as one who refuses to submit to the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff. However, given the present confusion of the Church and the fact that we are obliged by our Faith to refuse so many of the liberal, ecumenical statements of Pope John Paul II, it is not necessarily obvious that a sedevacantist actually refuses to submit to the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff, and that he is consequently a schismatic.

Nevertheless, it is preposterous to say, as the sedevacantists do, that there has not been any pope for more than 40 years, for this would destroy the visibility of the Church, and the very possibility of a canonical election of a future pope.

Just submission to the pope is a principle of unity in the Church, along with the Faith, the sacraments, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This is all contained in the definition of the Church contained in the catechism:

The Church is the congregation of all baptized persons united in the same true faith, the same sacrifice, and the same sacraments, under the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff and the bishops in communion with him.

However, he is not the only factor of unity. This is the misconception shared by both modernists and sedevacantists alike. They say that nothing matters but the pope and become modernist like him, or they say that nothing matters but the pope, and he is destroying the Church, so therefore there is no pope. The real problem of the present crisis in the Church is that the pope is no longer acting as principle of unity, as he ought, for he is no longer adequately promoting the unity of Faith, sacraments and the Mass that has always characterized the Catholic Church.

It is consequently true that there can be some theological discussion as to whether sedevacantists are formally schismatic or not. The answer to this depends on the degree of sedevacantism. There are radical sedevacantists that call us heretics since we are in communion with a heretic (Wotyla), so they say. These are certainly schismatic, for they clearly reject communion with true Catholics, who are in no way modernist. By making their sedevacantism a quasi-article of faith they certainly fall into the second category of persons that canon 1325, §2 declares to be schismatic: "He is a schismatic who rejects communion with members of the Church subject to him (i.e., the Sovereign Pontiff)."  It is consequently by their refusal to be a part of the Church, and effectively making the "church" as they see it consist only in sedevacantists that they are certainly schismatic.

There are other sedevacantists, who do not hold their opinion as a question of Faith, but just as a private opinion, and who do not condemn other traditional Catholics who do not share their opinion. On account of the confusion of the present crisis and the fact that they do not refuse communion with Catholics who have the true Faith, it is not unreasonable to hold that such persons are not formally schismatic.

However, the real danger with the sedevacantists, over and above the question of their being formally schismatic, is that they fail to have a Catholic attitude. Their rash and excessive condemnatory attitude, not only towards the pope and the modernists, but also towards Catholics simply trying to live their Catholic life, and other traditional Catholics, leads them to fall into rigorism, formalism and legalism, and to condemning everybody else. They easily fall into pharisaical pride. They are a real plague to the traditional movement here in the United States. Such people have no sense of obedience or submission, and often commit rash judgment. They do not feel at home in the Society’s chapels where the Church’s Faith, sacraments, doctrines and Mass are preached together with the interior life of charity and self-sacrifice as the means for restoring all things in Christ. [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

Do sedevacantists really love the Church? Do they not judge Pope John Paul II personally, as they say?

It is certainly true that many sedevacantists (i.e., those who believe that the pope has lost the office of the papacy through his heretical actions) think that they love the Church. But they do not love her as she really is, with all her faults and defects. If a man would not love his wife as she really is, but rather a mental picture of how he would like her to be, would he really love her?

Some sedevacantists might state that they do not judge the pope personally. However, to state that his heretical actions remove him from office is to make a public, official judgment. Only a higher authority in the Church can make such a judgment. However, there is no higher authority than the pope, which is why the axiom is to be held Papa a nemine judicatur —the pope is judged by no one. By stating that he has lost the papacy, sedevacantists personally judge the pope, as if they had authority over him. This is not Catholic, regardless of the gravity of his materially heretical actions. It is the Protestant principle of personal judgment which is thereby erected into a principle of Faith, thus destroying the visibility and hierarchy of the Church. [Answered by Fr. Peter R. Scott]

Does hell exist? What does it seem to mean for some theologians and teachers in the Church today?

Up until recent times no Catholic, however ill-informed or poorly instructed, was ever left in doubt or bewilderment concerning the reality of hell and everlasting punishment should he have the misfortune to die in a state of unrepentant mortal sin. hell existed. It was a place or state of eternal punishment inhabited by those rejected by God. It is a de fide teaching that hell is a reality, that the punishment of hell lasts for all eternity. That the punishment of the damned, however, is proportioned to each one’s guilt is the common view of the Church’s theologians: it is not de fide.

St. Augustine teaches "in their wretchedness the lot of some of the damned will be more tolerable than that of others" (Enchiridion III), a viewpoint illustrated poetically in the Inferno of Dante, where he places not only Alexander the Great and Attila the Hun, but also Pope Celestine V and Pope Anastasius —the latter mistakenly, for in all probability he refers to the Emperor of the same name.

Hell is peopled with damned souls —damned by their own sins and in accordance with the absolute justice and mercy of God. Yes, even hell, with all its torments, is an act of mercy.

Those who teach or give expression to a hell that exists but is surprisingly and comfortingly empty, fly in the face of the entire Tradition of the Church.

These ideas first appeared in the works of Origen and were condemned. In our time they are to be found under the pen of Hans Urs von Balthasar and the convert theologian, Sergei Bulgakov, whom the pope confuses, it seems, with the novelist Mikhail Bulgakov in his Crossing the Threshold of Hope; similar views, it would appear, are to be found in the writings of the pope himself, as if he doubted or had the greatest reservations concerning the consequences of the doctrine of hell which he upholds elsewhere. (New Catechism, 1033, where unfortunately hell is put in quotation marks). Faced with the defined doctrine of the Church in this matter, he says in his new book, faced with the mystery of the damned in hell, "the silence of the Church is therefore the only appropriate position for Christian faith." The Church was never silent, her doctrine is clear as is that of Christ Himself. Hell is for all eternity. Wretched and miserable souls go there to experience the terror of those terrible words of Christ, "Depart from me you cursed into the everlasting flames of hell." (Matt. 25:41), to experience the horror of Dante’s verse: "Abandon hope all you who enter here" (Canto III, 9).  [Answered by Fr. Leo Boyle]

 
 

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