Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma [available
ST: Summa Theologica
apostate from the Catholic Church save his soul if he dies in the
state of unrepented apostasy?
Must we forgive
injuries done to God and to others?
suffering souls in purgatory help people on earth by their prayers?
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?
Is the Blessed Virgin
Why is it that
Catholics adore the wood of the Cross, but they do not adore Mary?
Is it not opposed
to free will for our prayers to be answered?
If Adam had
not sinned, would we have been born with sanctifying grace?
If Eve only, and not Adam, had sinned,
would we have been born with original sin?
Father and the Holy Ghost suffer like Jesus did on the Cross?
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?
Is the upcoming October
canonization of Msgr. Jose Maria Escriva de Balaguer to be
considered infallible or not?
will unbaptized children (and aborted babies) go on the day of the
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.
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, Sept., 1998, p.35ff.)?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Cf. "Opus Dei: A Strange Pastoral Phenomenon", The Angelus,
2 Cf. Zubizarreta, Theologia Dogmatico-Scholastica, Vol. I,
3 Quodlib. 9, a. 16 in Zubizarreta,
[Answered by Fr. Peter
R. Scott] Cf. BELOW FOR A CLARIFICATION TO
FROM FR. PETER SCOTT ON THIS TOPIC
THE "SAINTHOOD" OF JOSEMARIA ESCRIVA
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:
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.
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:
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:
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...
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
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,
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
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
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.
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
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
of "the pan-christians", whose "fair and alluring words
cloak a most grave error, subversive of the foundations of the Catholic
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
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
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
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
Peter R. Scott]
Did Jesus have a brother named
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:
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 &
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.
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
The absolute sovereignty of the individual in his
entire independence of God and God’s authority.
The absolute sovereignty of society in its entire
independence of everything which does not proceed from itself.
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
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
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
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
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:
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
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
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]
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
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
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.
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:
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]
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
man who because he has no earthly resources places his entire trust in
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
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?
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
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]