Monday, June 29, 2015

How To Subvert A Nation: An Insider Explains

Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov
Below, I present a transcript of the first 10 minutes of a lecture delivered by one Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov, also known as Tomas D. Schuman, a KGB-trained informant who defected to the West in 1970 and brought with him his detailed understanding of the system of socio-political manipulation employed by the U.S.S.R. known as subversion. The lecture was given sometime in the early 1980's in Los Angeles, but it has lost nothing of its actuality. In fact, many of the statements made by Mr. Bezmenov border on the prophetic in light of the sweeping changes currently taking place in western nations - especially in the United States.

I strongly recommend to all my readers that they watch the complete presentation. Twice, in fact, though perhaps not in one sitting. The first time you watch it, ask yourself how the tactics of subversion are being employed to shape politics and culture in both the secular and the religious sphere today. Useful reflections are to be had on, for example, the revelations of Bella Dodd, the Second Vatican Council and its aftermath, the 2015 Synod, and the recent Supreme Court ruling on sodomite "marriage", just to name a few issues of great interest to Catholics. The second time you watch it, ask yourself how we can effectively counteract these measures without breaking the law and without resorting to violence. The social conservatives of the world have been one step behind the ultra-progressives for the last 50 years because they have failed to understand the tactics of subversion, let alone to formulate effective responses. To react with hatred and/or violence, beyond being contrary to the Gospel, actually helps the opposition, as it enables them present themselves as the oppressed victims of unfair discrimination.

If you're feeling particularly plucky, share this information with your homosexual associates, should you have any. As Mr. Bezmenov explains, homosexuals, after being openly promoted during the subversion process, are often among the first victims once the new regime takes power. These are what subverters refer to as "useful idiots". To take a page from Soviet history: While homosexuality was legalized at the start of the Soviet Revolution under Lenin, it was re-criminalized under Stalin with severe penalties, which not infrequently ended in a Siberian gulag.

I don't normally ask my readers to share content, but I'm making an exception here. Please share this video with everyone you know. Start discussions on how to counteract the tactics of subversion peacefully and legally. Call out subverters by name. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by what are strategically superficial issues. Regardless of what you think the 'Errors of Russia' are in detail - Communism, Socialism, Materialism, Evolutionism, Atheism - the method of subversion discussed below is most certainly the delivery system.


Subversion is a term - if you look in a dictionary or the criminal code, for that matter - usually explained as a part of an activity to destroy things like religion, a government system, the political or economical system of a country, and usually it's linked to espionage and such romantic things as blowing up bridges, derailing trains, cloak-and-dagger activity in Hollywood style. What I'm going to talk about now has absolutely nothing to do with the cliché of espionage, i.e. the KGB activity of collecting information.

Not subversion. Or is it? Discuss.
The greatest mistake, or misconception, I think, is that, whenever we are talking about the KGB, for some strange reason, starting from Hollywood movie makers to professors of political science and "experts" on Soviet Affairs - Kremlinologists, as they call themselves - they think that the most desirable thing for [Yuri] Andropov and the whole KGB is to steal the blueprint of some supersonic jet, bring it back to the Soviet Union and sell it to the Soviet Military Industrial Complex. This is only partly true.

If we take the whole time, money and manpower that the Soviet Union, and the KGB in particular, spends outside of the borders of the U.S.S.R., we will discover - of course, there are no official statistics, unlike with the CIA or FBI - that espionage as such occupies only 10-15% of the time, money and manpower. 15% of the activity of the KGB. The remaining 85% is always subversion. And unlike in dictionary - Oxford dictionary - English, subversion in Soviet terminology always means a destructive, aggressive activity aimed at destroying the nation, country or geographical area of your enemy. So, there's no romantics in there. Absolutely no blowing up bridges, no microfilm in Coca-Cola cans - nothing of that sort. No James Bond nonsense. Most of this activity is overt, legitimate and easily observable if you take the time and trouble to observe it. But, according to the law and law enforcement systems of the western civilizations, it's not a crime! Exactly because of misconceptions and the manipulation of terms. We think that a subverter is a person who is going to blow up our beautiful bridges. No! A subverter is an exchange student, a diplomat, an actor, an artist, a journalist like myself - as I was 10 years ago.

Now, subversion is an activity which requires two-way traffic. You cannot subvert an enemy which does not want to be subverted. If you know the history of Japan, for example, before the 20th century, Japan was a closed society. The moment a foreign boat came to the shores of Japan, the Imperial Japanese Army came to politely tell them to get lost. And if an American salesman came to the shores of Japan - say, 60 or 70 years ago - and said, "Oh, I have a very beautiful vacuum cleaner for you! And with good financing!" he was told, "Please leave, as we do not need your vacuum cleaner." If he didn't leave, they shot him, to preserve their culture, ideology, traditions and values intact. You were not able to subvert Japan.

You cannot subvert the Soviet Union, because the borders are closed, the media is censored by the government, the population is controlled by the KGB and internal police. With all the beautiful glossy pictures in Time magazine and the magazine America, which is published by the American Embassy in Moscow, you cannot subvert Soviet citizens because the magazine never reaches Soviet citizens; it's collected from the newsstands and thrown into the garbage can.

Subversion can only be successful when the initiator, the actor, the agent of subversion has a responsive target. It's two-way traffic. The United States is a receptive target of subversion. But there is no response similar to that one from the United States to the Soviet Union. It stops halfway somewhere; it never reaches its target.

ca. 534-453 B.C.
The theory of subversion goes all the way back to 2,500 years ago. The first human being who formulated the tactics of subversion was a Chinese philosopher by the name of Sun-Tzu, ca. 500 B.C. He was an adviser to several imperial courts in ancient China. And he said, after long meditation, that, to implement state policy in a war-like manner, it's the most counterproductive, barbaric and inefficient to fight on a battlefield. You know that war is a continuation of state policy, right? So if you want to successfully implement your state policy, and you start fighting, this is the most idiotic way to do it. The highest art of warfare is not to fight at all, but to subvert anything of value in the country of your enemy, until such time that the perception of reality by your enemy is screwed up to such an extent that he does not perceive you as an enemy, and that your system, your civilization and your ambitions look, to your enemy, as an alternative - if not desirable, then, at least, feasible. "Better red than dead." That is the ultimate purpose, the final stage of subversion, after which you can simply take your enemy without a single shot being fired, if the subversion is successful. This is, basically, what subversion is. As you can see, not a single mention of blowing up bridges. Of course, Sun-Tzu didn't know about blowing up bridges; maybe there were not that many bridges at that time.

The basics of subversion are being taught to every student in KGB schools in the U.S.S.R. and to the officers of military academies. I'm not sure if the same author is included in the list of reading for American officers, to say nothing about ordinary students of political science. I had difficulty to find a translation of Sun-Tzu in the library of the University of Toronto and later on here, in Los Angeles. It's a book which is not available to, but rather forced on every student in the U.S.S.R. - every student who is taught to be looking further in his future career with foreigners. [...]


For the entire presentation, which includes an incredible amount of useful information, such as a detailed explanation of the four classic stages of subversion, please watch the video below:


After watching this video, you will never look at an image such as the following, which shows Russian President and former KGB officer Vladimir Putin engaged in a Judo throw, in the same way. Why are these events always so heavily publicized? Why Judo? Mr. Bezmenov explains it all, without even having lived long enough to see it himself, as he was killed in a mysterious car crash in 1993.

A clear signal to everyone who knows what it means.

How Faith May Be Lost

Eighteenth in a Series on Catholic Morality

 Fr. John H. Stapleton

It is part of our belief that no man can lose his faith without mortal sin. The conscious rejection of all or any religious truth once embraced and forming a part of Christian belief, or the deliberate questioning of a single article thereof, is a sin, a sin against God's light and God's grace. It is a deliberate turning away from God. The moral culpability of such an act is great in the extreme, while its consequences cannot be weighed or measured by any human norm or rule.

No faith was ever wrecked in a day; it takes time to come to such a pass; it is by easy stages of infidelity, by a slow process of half-denials, a constant fostering of habits of ignorance, that one undermines, little by little, one's spiritual constitution. Taking advantage of this state of debility, the microbe of unbelief creeps in, eats its way to the soul and finally sucks out the very vitals of faith. Nor is this growth of evil an unconscious one; and there lies the malice and guilt. Ignorant pride, neglect of prayer and religious worship, disorders, etc. - these are evils the culprit knows of and wills. He cannot help feeling the ravages being wrought in his soul; he cannot help knowing that these are deadly perils to his treasure of faith. He complacently allows them to run their course; and he wakes up one fine morning to find his faith gone, lost, dead - and a chasm yawning between him and his God that only a miracle can bridge over.

We mentioned ignorance: this it is that attacks the underpinning of faith, its rational basis, by which it is made intelligent and reasonable, without which there can be no faith.

Ignorance is, of course, a relative term. There are different degrees and different kinds. An ignorant man is not an unlettered or uncultured one, but one who does not know what his religion means, what he believes or is supposed to believe, and has no reason to give for his belief. He may know a great many other things, may be chock full of worldly learning, but if he ignores these matters that pertain to the soul, we shall label him an ignoramus, for the elementary truths of human knowledge are, always have been, and always shall be, the solution of the problems of the why, the whence and the whither of life here below. Great learning frequently goes hand in hand with dense ignorance. The Sunday-school child knows better than the atheist philosopher the answer to these important questions. There is more wisdom in the first page of the Catechism than in all the learned books of skeptics and infidels.

Knowledge, of course, a thorough knowledge of all theological science, will not make faith any more than wheels will make a cart. But a certain knowledge is essential, and its absence is fatal to faith. There are the simple ignorant who have forgotten their Catechism and leave the church before the instruction, for fear they might learn something; who never read anything pertaining to religion, who would be ashamed to be detected with a religious book or paper in their hands. Then there are the learned ignorant, such as our public schools turn out in great numbers each year; who either are above mere religious knowledge-seeking and disdain all that smacks of church and faith; or, knowing little or nothing at all, imagine they possess a world of theological lore and know all that is knowable. These latter are the more to be pitied, their ignorance doubling back upon itself, as it were. When a man does not realize his own ignorance, his case is well nigh hopeless.

If learning cannot give faith, neither can it alone preserve it. Learned men, pillars of the Church, have fallen away. Pride, you will say. Yes, of course, pride is the cause of all evil. But we have all our share of it. If it works less havoc in some than in others, that is because pride is or is not kept within bounds. It is necessarily fatal to faith only when it is not controlled by prayer and the helps of practical religion. God alone can preserve our faith. He will do it only at our solicitation.

If, therefore, some have not succeeded in keeping the demon of pride under restraint, it is because they refused to consider their faith a pure gift of God that cannot be safely guarded without God's grace; or they forgot that God's grace is assured to no man who does not pray. The man who thinks he is all-sufficient unto himself in matters of religion, as in all other matters, is in danger of being brought to a sense of his own nothingness in a manner not calculated to be agreeable. No man who practiced humble prayer ever lost his faith, or ever can; for to him grace is assured.

And since faith is nothing if not practical, since it is a habit, it follows that irreligion, neglect to practice what we believe will destroy that habit. People who neglect their duty often complain that they have no taste for religion, cannot get interested, find no consolation therein. This justifies further neglect. They make a pretense to seek the cause. The cause is lack of faith; the fires of God's grace are burning low in their souls. They will soon go out unless they are furnished with fuel in the shape of good, solid, practical religion. That is their only salvation. Ignorance, supplemented by lack of prayer and practice, goes a long way in the destruction of faith in any soul, for two essentials are deficient.

Disorder, too, is responsible for the loss of much faith. Luther and Henry might have retained their faith in spite of their pride, but they were lewd and avaricious; and there is small indulgence for such within the Church. Not but that we are all human, and sinners are the objects of the Church's greatest solicitude; but within her pale no man, be he king or genius, can sit down and feast his passions and expect her to wink at it and call it by another name than its own. The law of God and of the Church is a thorn in the flesh of the vicious man. The authority of the Church is a sword of Damocles held perpetually over his head - until it is removed. Many a one denies God in a moment of sin in order to take the sting of remorse out of it. One gets tired of the importunities of religion that tell us not to sin, or to confess if we do sin.

When you meet a pervert who, with a glib tongue, protests that his conscience drove him from the Church, that his enslaved intelligence needed deliverance, search him and you will find a skeleton in his closet; and if you do not find it, it is there just the same. A renegade priest some years ago held forth before a gaping audience, at great length, on the reasons of his leaving the Church. A farmer sitting on the last bench listened patiently to his profound argumentation. When the lecturer was in the middle of his twelfth point, the other arose and shouted to him across the hall: "Cut it short, and say you wanted a wife." The heart has reasons which the reason does not understand.

Not always, but frequently, ignorance, neglect and vice come to this. The young, the weak and the proud have to guard themselves against these dangers, as they work slowly, imperceptibly, but surely. Two things increase the peril and tend to precipitate matters; reading and companionship. The ignorant are often anxious to know the other side, when they do not know their own. The consequence is that they will not understand fully the question; and if they do, will not be able to resolve the difficulty. They are handicapped by their ignorance and can only make a mess out of it. The result is that they are caught by sophistries like a fly in a web.

The company of those who believe differently, or not at all, is also pernicious to unenlightened and weak faith. The example in itself is potent for evil. The Catholic is usually not a persona grata as a Catholic but for some quality he possesses. Consequently, he must hide his religion under the bushel for fear of offending. Then a sneer, a gibe, a taunt are unpleasant things, and will be avoided even at the price of what at other times would look like being ashamed of one's faith. If ignorant, he will be silent; if he has not prayed, he will be weak; if vicious, he will be predisposed to fall.

If we would guard the precious deposit of faith secure against any possible emergency, we must enlighten it, we must strengthen it, we must live up to it.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Malice of Sin

Sixteenth Conference on the Most Sacred Heart

 Fr. Henry Brinkmeyer

In creating the world, God necessarily had an end in view. That end was His own glory. The Scriptures accordingly tell us that He made all things for Himself. He was free to create, but, having determined to create, He could not create but to manifest His glory. We exist ultimately for that. His majesty, His love, His wisdom, all require that we serve to that end, and that all our interests, spiritual and temporal, private and public, be subordinate to His honor and glory. His end as Creator is necessarily our end as creatures; hence, we are not to serve God solely with a view to our own salvation, but above all, to promote His interests, His glory. Yet, how it can be truly said that God created the world out of love, and that He made all things for man's sake, would involve long explanations and thus lead too far from our present subject. Only let it be well understood that the glory of God is the end of creation, and that all creatures exist for that end.

Now, what is sin? Sin is a violation of this supreme law of creation that all things must tend to God's greater glory. The sinner breaks through the order that divine wisdom has necessarily established; he virtually makes for himself another end; he relegates God, the supreme Good, to an inferior place, and practically substitutes for God a created thing, by living for it as his end. Sin is likewise an act of disobedience to the highest Lawgiver, an ingratitude to our greatest Benefactor, an impiety to our best Father, a folly because a surrendering of our true peace and happiness. But the quintessence of sin lies in the offense given to God, the wrong done to Him, by making a creature occupy the place that is and must be His. He must be the highest, the first and the last, He must be the end for which all creation exists, lives and moves. To deny it by substituting a creature in His place is a species of idolatry, it is casting Him from His throne, it is necessarily a wrong done Him, an insult offered Him. True, God cannot be deprived of His own infinite peace and happiness; and because supremely wise and powerful, He can draw good out of evil. He can, even in hell, force the sinner to acknowledge His justice and might and holiness. Yet it is also true that sin virtually desires the destruction, the annihilation of God. To reduce the Supreme Being to the order of a creature, to put Him after a creature, is to dethrone Him, to destroy, to annihilate Him. That is precisely what sin does. In effect - that is, in reality - it cannot destroy God, but in desire, as far as possible, it does destroy God. Here we have the very essence of sin.

At this point, the question arises: Is this offense, which constitutes every mortal sin, infinite? Every mortal sin is an insult offered to God, an injury inflicted upon Him. Is this insult, this injury, infinite? To answer this question correctly, we must carefully distinguish between what theologians now call active and passive injury.

Active injury is the act itself which inflicts injury. Sin, taken in this sense, is not infinite. Sin often requires but a moment for its commission, then it becomes a thing of the past. The act is transitory, the act of a creature, and limited and therefore finite. The so-called stain that sin leaves upon the soul is also finite, for that stain is nothing else than the deprivation of grace, and grace is something created, something finite. The turning to a creature as to its end is likewise finite, for that creature is finite. Hence, we say, the offense which constitutes mortal sin is finite in as far as it is an act.

But there is also a passive offense, a passive injury. Passive injury is the wrong which the person who is injured suffers. An illustration may reflect a stronger light upon the truth of this statement. I injure my neighbor by destroying his dwelling. My guilt may be increased or lessened by circumstances. It may have been carelessness on my part, or vindictiveness; the crime may have been committed consciously, with great deliberation, or in a fit of passion, etc., etc. Circumstances of time, place, manner, motive, all affect the measure of my active injury. But there is also the damage inflicted on my neighbor. That damage is independent of my guilt: it may be to the amount of one or five thousand dollars; its magnitude is not influenced by my personal culpability. He suffers an injury; that injury is called a passive injury.

Thus we see the offense of sin, as an act, is not infinite. But, we ask, is the offense, the wrong which God suffers from mortal sin infinite? Sound theology answers, yes. For the magnitude of an offense is measured, first, by the worth, the dignity, the greatness of the one offended. The more elevated the person offended, the greater the insult which is offered him. And since God's dignity and excellence are unlimited, since His rights to the creature's submission are boundless, since His sovereignty, His goodness, His perfections are simply infinite, the insult by which His majesty is outraged, and a creature substituted as last end, must consequently be infinite. Such is the argument of Saint Thomas: He who commits mortal sin loves the creature more than he loves God. Loving the creature more, he prefers it to God. But to prefer the less worthy to the more worthy is to offend the more worthy, and the offense is the greater, the greater the difference between the two. Consequently, mortal sin, in a sense, is an infinite offense because of the infinite majesty of God.

There is an objection urged against this conclusion, the refutation of which will throw light upon the utility of the distinction between active and passive injury. The matter may present some difficulties, but the attempt to solve them will without doubt enable us to understand a long series of practical truths. The objection is as follows: The injury inflicted grows indeed with the dignity of the person offended, but not in arithmetical proportion, that is to say, not altogether in the same degree. For otherwise we might also argue thus: the excellence of an act grows with the excellence of its object; the object of an act of divine love, God, is infinitely excellent; hence an act of divine love is an act of infinite excellence, which would be false. Therefore, it is said, the argument of Saint Thomas is illogical and false. The answer to this objection is plain. An act is not yet infinitely excellent, because its object is infinitely excellent; a great many factors may enter to make that act more or less perfect. If you say, for example, to the farmer: "The more corn you sow, the more you will reap", he will admit it. But say to him: "Sow double the amount of corn, and you will reap double the amount", he will laugh at you, for the success of his act of sowing will depend upon a great many contingent factors, on the quality of soil, weather, labor, etc. But the status of the question is different when you speak, not of an act, but the injury done by an act. When I do another an injury, that injury must not be measured by my personal culpability alone, but by the amount of damage that the other suffers. A man can throw a diamond into the ocean, or a child can do this, but in either case the diamond is lost, the loss inflicted upon the owner is equally great. In like manner, when Saint Thomas argues that the injury of sin is infinite, he speaks of passive injury, of the injury that God suffers, the wrong that is done Him, the insult that is offered Him. The sinner who commits mortal sin, may be more or less guilty. But in every case, the insult offered is infinite, because, to repeat once more, in desire at least, God is annihilated and a creature chosen as His substitute.
As by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin, death, so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.
And we have our own personal sins; how many, God only knows! Who can pay our tremendous debt? What reparation is necessary? How can we make it? That, we shall study in our next conference. May God bless our efforts that the truth make us in more than one sense free!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

St. Paul and St. Peter at Rome

Reading N°21 in the History of the Catholic Church

 Fr. Fernand Mourret, S.S.

Paul the Apostle
Rembrandt (1606-1669)
Four years after writing his Epistle to the Romans, St. Paul entered Rome as a prisoner. He had been set upon in a tumult in Jerusalem, whither he had brought the offerings collected in Achaia for the brethren of Jerusalem, and had been arrested by the Roman police and haled before the governor of Judea. Before the tribune Claudius, he demanded his rights as a Roman citizen and uttered the solemn formula of appeal to Caesar. After an imprisonment at Caesarea, he was brought to Rome, reaching there in March, 62, just when Nero's personal reign was beginning. Burrus had just died and was replaced by the infamous Tigellinus, the companion of the Emperor's debauchery; Seneca had retired from public life, and, as has been said, "Nero now had only the Furies for his advisers."

But the ruler no doubt paid little attention to this Jewish prisoner and to the religious quarrel in which he was said to be involved. Paul had to wait two years for that appearance before the Emperor which he had demanded as the right of a Roman citizen. During those two years, he lived in a condition of mitigated imprisonment in the custody of a pretorian, freely receiving those who came to visit him.

The Christian community at Rome had grown. One of the letters written by the Apostle during his imprisonment speaks of Christians belonging to Caesar's household.[1] It would seem that his words brought about many conversions, even among the soldiers. In the same letter, he says that his chains have become a preaching of Christ in the whole pretorian camp near which he was lodged.[2] There it was that he wrote several of his Epistles: probably the short note to Philemon, the letter to the Churches of Asia Minor known as the Epistle to the Ephesians, the exhortation to the brethren at Colossa, and certainly the letter to the Philippians.[3]

These so-called Epistles of the Captivity are distinguished from the others by a tone of greater tenderness and a deeper mystical doctrine. The Apostle's first letters were merely an echo of his missionary preaching; the Epistle to the Romans condensed his fundamental dogmatic teaching. In his correspondence with the Churches of Asia in general, with the Christians of Colossa and of Philippi, his soul is poured forth in more touching accents. At the close of his letter to the Philippians, he writes these exquisitely delicate lines:
I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow laborer and fellow soldier. [...] He was sick nigh unto death; but God had mercy on him; and not only on him, but on me also.[4]
To Philemon, he writes:
As Paul, an old man, and now a prisoner also of Jesus Christ, I beseech thee for my son, whom I have begotten in my bands.[5]
In these Epistles of the Captivity are to be found lofty and enlightening views upon the interior life, upon Christ considered as the foundation of all things, upon the abasement of the Son of God, upon the struggle we have to engage in against the infernal powers, upon the old man and the new man, upon the union of Christ and His Church.

There is nothing equal to the touching words with which the Apostle, on his knees, begs the Christians to strengthen the inner man within themselves:
I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ, for you Gentiles, bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ [...] that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened by His Spirit with might unto the inward man, that Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts; that, being rooted and founded in charity, you may be able [...] to know also the charity of Christ.[6]
For Christ is the foundation of all:
God, according to His good pleasure, hath purposed in Him [...] to reestablish all things in Christ, that are in heaven and on earth.[7]
And it is this Christ who, out of love for us, so greatly humbled Himself:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant. [...] He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.[8]
But alas, although on one hand Christ draws us, on the other the powers of evil seek to seduce us:
Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in high places.[9]
Of what, at bottom, does the whole Christian life consist?
To put off, according to former conversation, the old man, who is corrupted according to the desire of error, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth.[10]
Paul's words are no less tender when he speaks of the Church than when he speaks of Christ and of God; for him, Christ is the living God, and the Church and Christ are one. The Church is the body of Christ; it is Christ continuing to live, through time and space, by His ministers and His Sacraments. If God, in His Church, has bestowed diverse ministries and graces, all this was done
[...] for the edifying of the body of Christ, until we all meet into the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ, that, [...] doing the truth in charity, we may in all things grow up in Him who is the head, even Christ; from whom the whole body, being compacted and fitly joined together, by what every joint supplieth, according to the operation in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, unto the edifying of itself in charity.[11]
St. Paul's trial was finally ended. In 63, he appeared, if not before the Emperor, at least before the council having jurisdiction in the case of his appeal.[12] The imperial tribunal, unconcerned with religious disputes, provided these did not disturb public tranquillity, may have regarded Paul's case as a mere conflict of Jewish sects, and acquitted the Apostle, who, as he himself expresses it, "was delivered out of the mouth of the lion."[13]

When Paul was set at liberty, he probably went to Spain; the Christian beginnings of that country seem to be connected with his apostolate. He also revisited the Christian communities of the Aegean sea-coast. The so-called pastoral letters, written to Titus and to Timothy, give us a few details of this journey.

St. Paul's stay at Rome, though he was a prisoner, had been of advantage to the progress of the Church. The Christians, comforted by his presence and example, showed themselves more confident and courageous.

At the very time when Paul left the Eternal City, Peter reached there. There can be no doubt of this second journey of the chief of the Apostles to Rome. But the fact of Peter's residence at Rome has borne such consequences and aroused so great controversies, that it is worth while considering the evidence for it.

After the middle of the second century, a precise and universal tradition clearly existed as to St. Peter's visit to Rome. It is very remarkable that a position entailing consequences of such crucial importance never was questioned in any of the controversies between the East and Rome. But the evidence goes back farther than the end or even the middle of the second century. In his letter to the Romans,[14] St. Ignatius of Antioch alludes to their Apostolic traditions. Without speaking of the allusions to it which it has been thought possible to trace in the Apocalypse and the Epistle to the Hebrews, the last chapter of the Fourth Gospel contains an extremely clear allusion to the way in which St. Peter met his death.[15] St. Clement, in the celebrated passage on Nero's persecution,[16] connects the Apostles Peter and Paul with the Danaides, the Dirces, and other victims who suffered as a result of the burning of Rome. There is no one, even including St. Peter himself, but records his sojourn in Rome. His letter to the Christians in Asia Minor finishes with a greeting which he sends them in the name of the Church of Babylon, that is, the Church of Rome.[17]

Though the reality of St. Peter's residence in Rome is historically established, we have only vague data about his labors there. In Trastevere, in the ghetto, on the Aventine, at St. Prisca; on the Viminal, at the spot marked by St. Pudentiana; on the Via Nomentana, at the Ostrian cemetery, at the place called Ad nymphas sancti Petri, or Ubi Petrus baptizabat; in the Vatican region, where he shed his blood: at these spots a few traditional souvenirs enable us vaguely to follow the Apostle by the half-effaced traces of his footsteps.[18]


[1] Phil. 4:22.
[2] Phil. 1:13.
[3] Each of these letters alludes to an imprisonment of the Apostle. The Epistle to the Philippians certainly dates from the Roman imprisonment. It is possible that the other Epistles were written by St. Paul while he was in prison at Caesarea. Cf. Jacquier, Histoire des livres du Nouveau Testament, IV, 282.
[4] Phil. 2:25-27.
[5] Phil. 9 f.
[6] Ephes. 3:1, 14-19.
[7] Ephes. 1:9 f.
[8] Phil. 2: 6-8. Cf. Durand, "La Divinité de Jésus-Christ dans saint Paul," in the Revue biblique, 1903, pp. 550 ff.
[9] Ephes. 6:12.
[10] Ephes. 4:22-24.
[11] Ephes. 4: 11-16. We have purposely given as literal a translation as possible of this sentence, in which the most personal, the most grammatically involved, the densest and the most powerful traits of St. Paul's style are revealed.
[12] Willems, Le Droit public romain, p. 475.
[13] 2 Tim. 4:17.
[14] St. Ignatius, Romans, 4.
[15] John 21:18 f.
[16] First Epistle to the Corinthians, 5 f.
[17] Cf. Duchesne, Early History of the Christian Church, I, 45; cf. Fouard, St. Peter, pp. 407 f.; Guiraud, Questions d'histoire et d'archéologie chrétienne, la venue de saint Pierre à Rome; De Smedt, Dissertationes selectae in primam aetatem Ecclesiae, pp. 12-22; Grisar, History of Rome and the Popes in the Middle Ages, I, 284 ff. Guignebert, in a voluminous work, La Primauté de Pierre et la venue de Pierre à Rome, attempts to reopen the question and to revise the claims of the Christian tradition to historical certitude.
[18] Cf. Gondal, Au temps des apôtres, p. 239.


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Monday, June 22, 2015

The Consistent Believer

Seventeenth in a Series on Catholic Morality

 Fr. John H. Stapleton

The intolerance of the Church towards error, the natural position of One who is the custodian of truth, her only reasonable attitude, makes her forbid her children to read, or listen to, heretical controversy, or to endeavor to discover religious truth by examining both sides of the question. This places the Catholic in a position whereby he must stand aloof from all manner of doctrinal teaching other than that delivered by his Church through her accredited ministers. And whatever outsiders may think of the correctness of his belief and religious principles, they cannot have two opinions as to the logic and consistency of this stand he takes. They may hurl at him all the choice epithets they choose for being a slave to superstition and erroneous creeds; but they must give him credit for being consistent in his belief; and consistency in religious matters is too rare a commodity these days to be made light of.

The reason of this stand of his is that, for him, there can be no two sides to a question which for him is settled; for him, there is no seeking after the truth: he possesses it in its fullness, as far as God and religion are concerned. His Church gives him all there is to be had; all else is counterfeit. And if he believes, as he should and does believe, that revealed truth comes, and can come, only by way of external authority, and not by way of private judgment and investigation, he must refuse to be liberal in the sense of reading all sorts of Protestant controversial literature and listening to all kinds of heretical sermons. If he does not this, he is false to his principles; he contradicts himself by accepting and not accepting an infallible Church; he knocks his religious props from under himself and stands - nowhere. The attitude of the Catholic, therefore, is logical and necessary. Holding to Catholic principles how can he do otherwise? How can he consistently seek after truth when he is convinced that he holds it? Who else can teach him religious truth when he believes that an infallible Church gives him God's word and interprets it in the true and only sense?

A Protestant may not assume this attitude or impose it upon those under his charge. If he does so, he is out of harmony with his principles and denies the basic rule of his belief. A Protestant believes in no infallible authority; he is an authority unto himself, which authority he does not claim to be infallible, if he is sober and sane. He is after truth; and whatever he finds, and wherever he finds it, he subjects it to his own private judgment. He is free to accept or reject, as he pleases. He is not, cannot be, absolutely certain that what he holds is true; he thinks it is. He may discover to-day that yesterday's truths are not truths at all. We are not here examining the soundness of this doctrine; but it does follow therefrom, sound or unsound, that he may consistently go where he likes to hear religious doctrine exposed and explained, he may listen to whomever has religious information to impart. He not only may do it, but he is consistent only when he does. It is his duty to seek after truth, to read and listen to controversial books and sermons.

If therefore a non-Catholic sincerely believes in private judgment, how can he consistently act like a Catholic who stands on a platform diametrically opposed to his, against which platform it is the very essence of his religion to protest? How can he refuse to hear Catholic preaching and teaching, any more than Baptist, Methodist and Episcopalian doctrines? He has no right to do so, unless he knows all the Catholic Church teaches, which case may be safely put down as one in ten million. He may become a Catholic, or lose all the faith he has. That is one of the risks he has to take, being a Protestant.

If he is faithful to his own principles and understands the Catholic point of view, he must not be surprised if his Catholic friends do not imitate his so-called liberality; they have motives which he has not. If he is honest, he will not urge or even expect them to attend the services of his particular belief. And a Catholic who thinks that because a Protestant friend can accompany him to Catholic services, he too should return the compliment and accompany his friend to Protestant worship, has a faith that needs immediate toning up to the standard of Catholicity; he is in ignorance of the first principles of his religion and belief.

A Catholic philosopher resumes this whole matter briefly and clearly in two syllogisms, as follows:

He who believes in an infallible teacher of revelation cannot consistently listen to any fallible teacher with a view of getting more correct information than his infallible teacher gives him. To do so would be absurd, for it would be to believe and at the same time not believe in the infallible teacher.

The Catholic believes in an infallible teacher of revelation.

Therefore, the Catholic cannot listen to any fallible teacher with a view of getting more correct information about revealed truth than his Church gives him. To do so would be to stultify himself.

He who believes in a fallible teacher - private judgment or fallible church - is free, nay bound, to listen to any teacher who comes along professing to have information to impart, for at no time can he be certain that the findings of his own fallible judgment or church are correct. Each newcomer may be able to give him further light that may cause him to change his mind.

The Protestant believes in such fallible teacher - his private judgment or church.

Therefore, the Protestant is free to hear, and in perfect harmony with his principles, to accept the teaching of any one who approaches him for the purpose of instructing him. He is free to hear with a clear conscience, and let his children hear, Catholic teaching, for the Church claiming infallibility is at its worst as good as his private judgment is at best, namely, fallible.

Religious variations are so numerous nowadays that most people care little what another thinks or believes. All they ask is that they may be able to know at any time where he stands; and they insist, as right reason imperiously demands, that, in all things, he remain true to his principles, whatever they be. Honest men respect sincerity and consistency everywhere; they have nothing but contempt for those who stand, now on one foot, now on the other, who have one code for theory and another for practice, who shift their grounds as often as convenience suggests. The Catholic should bear this well in mind. There can be no compromise with principles of truth; to sacrifice them for the sake of convenience is as despicable before man as it is offensive to God.

Friday, June 19, 2015


Fifteenth Conference on the Most Sacred Heart

 Fr. Henry Brinkmeyer

We have seen that the devotion to the Sacred Heart is a devotion of love to love; hence, these conferences on the Sacred Heart would not be complete unless we dwelt for a brief space on the subject of reparation. For, our divine Lord, in revealing His Heart to Blessed Margaret Mary, spoke not only of His love, but of His outraged love, and desired in return not only love, but also reparation. He complained that He received from the greater part of men only ingratitude, coldness and neglect; that what pained Him most of all, was that some hearts consecrated to Him should treat Him thus: and, therefore, He bade her receive Holy Communion often in the spirit of atonement and manifested His desire that a special Feast of the Sacred Heart be instituted, in order that public acts of reparation might be offered to Him. Love is indeed the formal object of the devotion to the Sacred Heart, as already stated, but it is a love that impels to reparation.

Let us endeavor to arrive at a clear understanding of the nature of reparation; in other words, let us study what is meant precisely by reparation. The matter may be a little abstruse, yet, I think, we shall be rewarded for our effort when we discover that well defined truths are the foundations of this devotion.

We will begin by reflecting that reparation is not merely punishment; satisfaction is not satispassion. Sound philosophy tells us that punishment is medicinal, deterrent and retributive. It is medicinal when it is calculated to mend the ways of the culprit; it it deterrent when it is calculated to deter others from similar violations of law; it is retributive when it is intended simply to make the criminal suffer for what he has done.

When a wrong has been committed, it is proper that the offender suffer for it, not simply that he may be taught not to repeat the wrong - in this way we correct animals, - nor simply that others may be deterred from doing likewise - in this way we save the community, - but it is fitting that he suffer because he has disturbed the order of things, he has violated justice, he has unduly appropriated to himself pleasures not lawful for him, he has unjustly lifted himself above others. He must, then, be made to realize his usurpation, to keep his place, he must be deprived of what is not his, and, to a degree, of what is his, - the balance must be restored, the order of things must be maintained, - restitution, retribution must be made. This is done by retributive punishment.

Thus, instinctively we feel pained and indignant when an atrocious crime escapes punishment; we experience universally a sentiment of relief when a criminal has expiated his offense on the gallows. For, although there is not such a thing as vengeance for private wrong, since God has said, "Vengeance is Mine," yet the principle of retribution for wrong committed, as well as for good done, is right: upon it rests chiefly the justification of eternal punishment.

Now, observe, an offender may have suffered adequately for the injustice he has committed, and still there may not be in this suffering what is called reparation. In other words, there may be, as philosophers term it, satispassion, but there is not satisfaction. Satisfaction supposes something more. Satisfaction, or reparation, aims at undoing, destroying, repairing an offense; it desires reconciliation, it seeks to regain the good will and affection of the one who has been offended, it wishes to undo the evil committed, mainly as an act of justice, but also as an act of love. It is urged thereto by love. It knows that the one injured is rightfully displeased, that, in consequence, there is a separation, a chasm between them; love induces it to remove this obstacle, to close up this chasm, to atone for this offense by apology, by voluntary suffering, or by sacrifices which are the promptings of love. This is what is called reparation.

The first difference, therefore, between satisfaction and satispassion, or in other words, between reparation and punishment, is this: reparation is voluntary, punishment is not so. Retributive justice requires that the order disturbed be restored, and it does restore that order by the infliction of punishment. By means of punishment the offender is made to suffer because he allowed himself illegitimate pleasure; he is lowered because he unjustly elevated himself. That is satispassion. But if the offender willingly inflicts the same punishment upon himself, if he himself satisfies retributive justice, then we have reparation. In the first instance, it is the judge who decrees the amount of punishment and inflicts the same; in the second instance, it is the offender himself who satisfies justice.

The second difference between reparation and punishment is found in the end that both strive to attain. Punishment as such does not seek to remove the offense given, but rather the disorder, the unlawfulness, the self-inflation inherent in every offense. The judge inflicts punishment to restore the order violated, not precisely to restore honor, for honor cannot be recovered by simple punishment. But reparation aims at removing the offense itself, and returning every honor to the person offended. Reparation therefore accomplishes far more than punishment; reparation not only re-establishes order where there existed disorder, but moreover removes the offense itself, effects reconciliation, and restores peace and friendship between the offender and the person offended.

To impress this distinction more deeply and to show the importance of this distinction between satisfaction and satispassion, that is, between reparation and punishment, let us consider the nature of our Blessed Saviour's atonement for sin. Was that atonement a real satisfaction for sin, or was it only a satispassion for sin? According to Protestant teaching, the essence of our Lord's atonement consisted in this: that He took upon Himself all the punishment of our guilt. He satisfied for sin by suffering for sin. He made Himself the victim of the Divine wrath, He was a child pierced by the darts of His Father's vengeance. That is to say, His atonement was only a satispassion, for He did not seek to honor and glorify His Father; He did not aim to satisfy for the offense itself, by giving Him as much honor as sin had taken from Him, but He wished merely to satisfy His anger, His justice, by enduring the punishment that sin deserved. This is the Protestant theory.

But according to Catholic teaching, our Lord's atonement was a veritable satisfaction. "He was bruised for our iniquities, He was wounded for our sins," that we might be reconciled to His Father, not merely that we might not suffer. Of His own accord, He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. He assumed all our debt through love of His Father and in obedience to the Divine Will, and by that love and obedience, even unto death, He glorified His Father as much as sin had dishonored Him, nay, the homage rendered was greater than the malice of sin, because it was the oblation of the Infinite to the Infinite. Saint Thomas lucidly explains this doctrine in these words:
He truly satisfies for an offense who offers to the offended person something which the latter esteems in an equal or higher degree than he hates the offense. But Christ suffering through love and obedience offered God something more than was demanded by the malice of the offense of the entire human race: first, because of the greatness of the love with which He suffered; secondly, because of the worth of His life, it being the life of God and man; thirdly, because of the universality of His suffering and the greatness of His pains. And therefore His Passion was not only a sufficient, but a superabundant satisfaction for the sins of the human race.
This passage from Saint Thomas casts light upon the distinction that I have endeavored to point out, viz.: that satisfaction is more than satispassion; that reparation is more than mere suffering or punishment; that punishment contents justice, while reparation contents justice and love; that punishment removes the disorders consequent upon, or inherent in every offense, while reparation removes both the disorders and the offense; that punishment springs from necessity, while reparation springs from a desire of regaining the esteem and love of the person offended.

May our good Master deign to penetrate us more and more with the spirit of reparation. Let us pray that He will imprint upon our hearts the holy maxims of penance and self-denial, that He may thus find in us devoted repairers of His injured love, generous spouses and faithful apostles of His Sacred Heart!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Epistle to the Romans

Reading N°20 in the History of the Catholic Church

 Fr. Fernand Mourret, S.S.

Early manuscript of Romans 1:1-7
It is not certain that Paul went as far as Rome on his first missionary journey in Europe. But it is beyond doubt that, from the time Claudius began his persecution, Paul was ceaselessly in relation with Rome, whether by voice or by writing. In 58, while staying at Corinth, he thought the time had come to send to the Christians of Rome, in the form of a letter, the great doctrinal exposition now known as the Epistle to the Romans.

The mere enumeration of the twenty-four persons whom the Apostle greets at the close of this letter is like a roll call of the Christian community of Rome as it was in the middle of the first century. We see that, at this period, several members of the Roman Church are known to the Apostle, at least by name, and that he counts many friends among them. We also observe that, from the time of Claudius' decree, the Christian community, which at first was recruited on the spot in the Jewries and among a few strangers, chance arrivals from the Orient, has now made a daring opening in the most aristocratic families of the Empire. Besides Jewish-born Christians, such as Prisca and Aquila or people in the household of Aristobulus (grandson of Herod), we meet such of the Roman race, as Urbanus, Ampliatus, Rufus, and Julia, not to speak of those of Narcissus' household, and genuine Greeks, such as Phlegon, Hermes, Epenetus, Philologus, and Nereus.[1]

We have no indication that, in a gathering made up of such diverse elements, painful clashes occurred. Pagans and Jews, rich and poor, fraternized in the love of Christ. It is none the less true that, from the contact of the Jewish with the Hellenic or Roman element, misunderstandings may have arisen. Greeks and Romans were proud of their material civilization with its untold wonders and an intellectual culture which they highly esteemed. Naturally, they were inclined to look down upon this insignificant Jewish race, whose ceremonies seemed so odd and whose mission, in any case, appeared to be ended. On the other hand, the Jews were no less proud of their ancient law, which they had from God Himself, and of the promises given to their father Abraham. They were reluctant to see themselves placed on the same footing as the Gentiles with regard to salvation.

Paul had an idea, very dear to him, which he called his gospel, because he was convinced that God had given him the mission of spreading it and furthering its success. This idea was that paganism without the law and Judaism with the law had given proof of their impotence, and that both must give way to a higher form of religion, "so that the religion of Christ, taking the place of the law of Israel and the error of the Gentiles, would gather in the net of the Church both Jew and Gentile together."[2] This is the whole teaching of the Epistle to the Romans, "the most important and the most vigorous of Paul's epistles, the one we may regard as the summary of his theology."[3]

The Apostle says:
There is no respect of persons with God. For whosoever have sinned without the law, shall perish without the law; and whosoever have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law.  [...] But now without the law the justice of God is made manifest, being witnessed by the law and the prophets. Even the justice of God, by faith of Jesus Christ. [...] There is no distinction [between Jew and Gentile]: for all have sinned, and do need the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.[4]
In this thought of redemption by the blood of Christ, Paul wishes to reconcile Jews and Gentiles by love; at this thought his heart is thrilled, and from his soul come forth those accents, perhaps the most vehement that have ever come from a human soul:
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who is against us? He that spared not even His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how hath He not also, with Him, given us all things? [...] Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress or famine or nakedness or danger or persecution or the sword? [...] I am sure that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things to come nor might nor height nor depth nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.[5]
In the last chapters of his epistle, St. Paul deduces certain practical conclusions which are worth noting in order to see the attitude of the Church at Rome toward the Empire. Since henceforth Jews and Gentiles are fused into a single society open to all, the time has come for the Jew to abjure every thought of revolt. St. Paul speaks particularly to those Israelites whose seething nationalism would not consent to fusion in the great Roman unity:
Let every soul be subject to higher powers. [...] He that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. [...] The prince is God's minister. Wherefore be subject of necessity, not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake.[6]
When the Apostle wrote these lines, Seneca and Burrus were governing the Empire in Nero's name, and the latter had not yet given his people any reason for cursing him. But the accidental circumstances of the government at the time when the Epistle to the Romans was written are of little moment. St. Paul was proclaiming a principle that the Church was to repeat after him with the same energy, namely, that a Christian should be second to none in obedience to the just laws of his country and in respect for its magistrates. This commandment would but make more striking her uncompromising attitude when the higher rights of God and of justice were at stake. The young Roman Church and St. Paul himself were soon to give a brilliant example of this heroic resistance.


[1] Rom. 16.
[2] Le Camus, L'Œuvre des apôtres, III, 314.
[3] Ibidem, p. 315.
[4] Rom. 2:11 f.; 3:21-24.
[5] Rom. 8:31-39.
[6] Rom. 13:1-5.


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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Heretical Pope?

 Michael Davies

[Note: There has been some discussion lately regarding the opinion of St. Robert Bellarmine on the possibility of a manifestly heretical pope. Some involved in the discussion are apparently operating under the assumption that St. Robert's views are just now coming to light, and represent something of a 'silver bullet' to end all refutations of the sedevacantist position. The following article by the late Michael Davies, reproduced here without comment, should help to clear up any confusion on the matter. - RC]


Michael Davies
Claims have been made that one or more of the "conciliar popes", that is to say Pope John XXIII and his successors, were heretics and therefore forfeited the papacy. Those who include Pope John Paul II in this category claim that we have no pope and that therefore the Holy See is vacant, sedes vacante, which is why such people are referred to as "sedevacantists". They claim that this poses no theological problem as the Holy See is vacant during the interregnum between pontificates. Some of these interregna have been very long, the longest being a vacancy of two years nine months between the death of Clement IV in 1268 and the election of Gregory X in 1271. In such cases, the visibility of the Church is not impaired in any way as the Holy See is administered by the Cardinal Camerlengo until a new pope is elected. The Camerlengo, or Chamberlain of the papal court, administers the properties and revenues of the Holy See, and during a vacancy those of the entire Church. Among his responsibilities during a vacancy are those of verifying the death of the Pope and organizing and directing the conclave.

Thus, even when the Chair of Peter is not occupied, the visible, hierarchical nature of the Church is maintained.[1] Thus the situation during such an interregnum cannot be compared to the situation that the Church would be in if Pope John Paul II is not the legitimately reigning pontiff as there would be no visible source of authority capable of convoking a conclave to elect a new pope.

The theological weakness of sedevacantism is an inadequate concept of the nature of the Church. Without realizing it, they believe in a Church which can fail - and such a Church is not the Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church that He founded cannot fail, for it is indefectible (i.e. it cannot fail). It will continue to exist until the Second Coming as a visible, hierarchically governed body, teaching the truth and sanctifying its members with indubitably valid sacraments. To state that we have no pope is to claim that the Church is no longer visible and hierarchically governed, which, in effect, means that it has ceased to exist. Catholic theologians accept that a pope could lose his office through heresy, but it would have to be such notorious heresy that no doubt concerning the matter could exist in the minds of the faithful, and a statement that the Pope had deposed himself would need to come from a high level in the Church, most probably a general Council. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre warned in 1979.
The visibility of the Church is too necessary to its existence for it to be possible that God would allow that visibility to disappear for decades. The reasoning of those who deny that we have a pope puts the Church into an inextricable situation. Who will tell us who the future pope is to be? How, as there are no cardinals, is he to be chosen? The spirit is a schismatical one. [...] And so, far from refusing to pray for the Pope, we redouble our prayers and supplications that the Holy Ghost will grant him the light and strength in his affirmations and defense of the Faith.
The question of whether the Holy See is vacant must be considered from three aspects, that is: whether a pope could become an heretic and forfeit his office; what constitutes heresy; and whether any of the conciliar popes can be considered to be heretics within the context of this definition.

1. Can a pope forfeit his office through heresy?

The problem which would face the Church if a legitimately reigning pope became an heretic has been discussed in numerous standard works of reference. The solution is provided in the 1913 edition of The Catholic Encyclopedia:
The Pope himself, if notoriously guilty of heresy, would cease to be pope because he would cease to be a member of the Church.[2]
Many theologians have discussed the possibility of a pope falling into heresy, and the consensus of their opinion concurs with that of The Catholic Encyclopedia. The Pope must evidently be a Catholic, and if he ceased to be a Catholic he could hardly remain the Vicar of Christ, the head of the Mystical Body. St. Robert Bellarmine taught:
The manifestly heretical pope ceases per se to be pope and head as he ceases per se to be a Christian and member of the Church, and therefore he can be judged and punished by the Church. This is the teaching of all the early Fathers.[3]
Saint Robert was, of course, discussing a theoretical possibility, and believed that a pope could not become an heretic and thus could not be deposed, but he also acknowledged that the more common opinion was that the pope could become an heretic, and he was thus willing to discuss what would need to be done if, per impossible, this should happen:
This opinion (that the Pope could not become an heretic) is probable and easily defended. [...] Nonetheless, in view of the fact that this is not certain, and that the common opinion is the opposite one, it is useful to examine the solution to this question, within the hypothesis that the Pope can be an heretic.[4]
The great Jesuit theologian, Francisco de Suarez (1548-1617) was also sure that God’s "sweet providence" would never allow the one who could not teach error to fall into error, and that this was guaranteed by the promise Ego autem rogavi pro te ... (Luke 22: 32). But, like Bellarmine, Suarez was willing to consider the possibility of an heretical pope as an hypothesis, particularly in view of the fact, he claimed, that several "general councils had admitted the hypothesis in question."[5] Saint Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) did not believe that God would ever permit a Roman Pontiff to become a public or an occult heretic, even as a private person:
We ought rightly to presume as Cardinal Bellarmine declares, that God will never let it happen that a Roman Pontiff, even as a private person, becomes a public heretic or an occult heretic.[6]
If, per impossible, a pope became a formal heretic through pertinaciously denying a de fide doctrine, how would the faithful know that he had forfeited his office as he had ceased to be a Catholic? It must be remembered that no one in the Church, including a General Council, has the authority to judge the Popes. Reputable authorities teach that if a pope did pertinaciously deny a truth which must be believed by divine and Catholic faith, after this had been brought to his attention by responsible members of the hierarchy (just as St. Paul reproved St. Peter to his face), a General Council could announce to the Church that the Pope, as a notorious heretic, had ceased to be a Catholic and hence had ceased to be Pope. It is important to note that the Council would neither be judging nor deposing the Pope, since it would not possess the authority for such an act. It would simply be making a declaratory sentence, i.e. declaring to the Church what had already become manifest from the Pope’s own actions. This is the view taken in the classic manual on Canon Law by Father F.X. Wernz, Rector of the Gregorian University and Jesuit General from 1906 to 1914. This work was revised by Father P. Vidal and was last republished in 1952. It states clearly that an heretical Pope is not deposed in virtue of the sentence of the Council, but "the General Council declares the fact of the crime by which the heretical pope has separated himself from the Church and deprived himself of his dignity."[7] Other authorities believe that such a declaration could come from the College of Cardinals or from a representative group of bishop, while others maintain that such a declaration would not be necessary. What all those who accept the hypothesis of an heretical pope are agreed upon is that for such a pope to forfeit the papacy his heresy would have to be "manifest", as Saint Robert Bellarmine expressed it, that is notorious and public (notorium et palam divulgata).[8] A notorious offence can be defined as one for which the evidence is so certain that it can in no way be either hidden or excused.[9] A pope who, while not being guilty of formal heresy in the strict sense, has allowed heresy to undermine the Church through compromise, weakness, ambiguous or even gravely imprudent teaching remains Pope, but can be judged by his successors, and condemned as was the case with Honorius I.

2. What is heresy?

There has never been a case of a pope who was undoubtedly a formal heretic, and it is unlikely in the extreme that there ever will be one. This will become evident if some consideration is given to examining precisely what constitutes formal heresy. The Code of Canon Law defines an heretic as one who after baptism, while remaining nominally a Catholic, pertinaciously doubts or denies one of the truths which must be believed by divine and Catholic faith.[10] It teaches us that by divine and Catholic faith must be believed all that is contained in the written word of God or in tradition, that is, the one deposit of faith entrusted to the Church and proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn Magisterium of the Church or by its Ordinary Universal Magisterium.[11] No teaching is to be considered as dogmatically defined unless this is evidently proved.[12]

A doctrine is de fide divina et catholica only when it has been infallibly declared by the Church to be revealed by God. Hence this term does not apply to doctrines which one knows to have been revealed by God, but which have not been declared by the Church to have been so revealed (de fide divina); nor to those which the Church has infallibly declared, but which she does not present formally as having been revealed (de fide ecclesiastica); nor to those which the Church teaches without exercising her infallible authority upon them. If a doctrine is not de fide divina et catholica, a person is not an heretic for denying or doubting it, though such a denial or doubt may be grave sin.[13]

3. The conciliar Popes

It should now be apparent that there is no case whatsoever for claiming that any of the conciliar popes have lost their office as a result of heresy. Anyone wishing to dispute this assertion would need to state the doctrines de fide divina et catholica which any of these popes are alleged to have rejected pertinaciously. There is not one instance which comes remotely within this category. The nearest one can come to a formal contradiction between preconciliar and post-conciliar teaching is the subject of religious liberty. It has yet to be shown how they can be reconciled.[14] It is possible that the Magisterium will eventually have to present either a correction or at least a clarification of the teaching of Vatican II on this subject. Neither the pre-conciliar teaching nor that of the Council on religious liberty comes within the category of de fide divina et catholica, and so the question of formal heresy does not arise.


[1] Catholic Encyclopedia (New York, 1917), vol. III, p. 217. 
[2] CE, vol. VII, p. 261. 
[3] Saint Robert Bellarmine, De Romano Pontifice (Milan, 1857), vol. II, chap. 30, p. 420.
[4] Ibid., p. 418. 
[5] F. Suarez, De legibus (Paris, 1856), vol. IV, chap. 7, no. 10, p. 361.
[6] Dogmatic Works of St. Alphonsus Maria de Ligouri (Turin, 1848), vol. VIII, p. 720. 
[7] Wernz-Vidal, Jus Canonicum (Rome, 1942), vol II, p. 518. 
[8] Ibid., p. 433. 
[9] Op. cit., note 92, Wernz-Vidal, (Rome, 1937), vol VII, pp. 46-47. 
[10] Code of Canon Law: Old Code, Canon 1325; New Code, Canon 751. 
[11] Denzinger, 1792; CCL: Old Code, Canon 1323; New Code, Canon 750. 
[12] CCL, Old Code, 1323, §3; New Code, 749, §3. 
[13] T. Bouscaren & A. Ellis, Canon Law, A Text & Commentary (Milwaukee, 1958), p. 724. 
[14] M. Davies, The Second Vatican Council and Religious Liberty (The Neumann Press, Minnesota, 1992).

Monday, June 15, 2015

Faith and Error

Sixteenth in a Series on Catholic Morality

 Fr. John H. Stapleton

Intolerance is a harsh term. It is stern, rigid, almost brutal. It makes no compromise, combats à outrance and exacts blind and absolute obedience. Among individuals, tolerance should prevail; man, should be liberal with man, for the Law of Charity demands it. In regard to principles, there must and shall eternally be antagonism between truth and error, for justice demands it. It is a case of self-preservation; one destroys the other. Political truth can never tolerate treason preached or practiced; neither can religious truth tolerate unbelief and heresy preached or practiced.

Now, our faith is based on truth. The Church is the custodian of faith, and the Church, on the platform of religious truth, is absolutely uncompromising and intolerant, just as the State is in regard to treason. She cannot admit error, she cannot approve error; to do so would be suicidal. She cannot lend the approval of her presence, nay even of her silence, to error. She stands aloof from heresy, must always see in it an enemy, condemns it and cannot help condemning it, for she stands for truth, pure and unalloyed truth, which error pollutes and outrages.

Call this what you will, but it is the attitude of honesty first, and of necessity afterwards. "He who is liberal with what belongs to him is generous, he who undertakes to be generous with what does not belong to him is dishonest." Our faith is not founded on an act or agreement of men, but on the revelation of God. No human agency can change or modify it. Neither Church nor Pope can be liberal with the faith of which they are the custodians. Their sole duty is to guard and protect it as a precious deposit for the salvation of men.

This is the stand all governments take when there is question of political truth. And whatever lack of generosity or broad-mindedness there be, however contrary to the spirit of this free age it may seem, it is nevertheless the attitude of God Himself who hates error, for it is evil, who pursues it with His wrath through time and through eternity. How can a custodian of divine truth act otherwise? Even in human affairs, can one admit that two and three are seven?

We sometimes hear it said that this intolerance takes from Catholics the right to think. This is true in the same sense that prisons, or the dread of them, deprive citizens of the right to act. Everybody, outside of sleeping hours and with his thinking machine in good order, thinks. Perhaps if there were a little more of it, there would be more solid convictions and more practical faith. Holy Writ has it somewhere that the whole world is given over to vice and sin because there is no one who thinks.

But you have not and never had the right to think as you please, inside or outside the Church. This means the right to form false judgments, to draw conclusions contrary to fact. This is not a right; it is a defect, a disease. Thus to act is not the normal function of the brain. It is no more the nature of the mind to generate falsehoods than it is the nature of a sewing machine to cut hair. Both were made for different things. He therefore who disobeys the law that governs his mind prostitutes that faculty to error.

But suppose, being a Catholic, I cannot see things in that true light. What then? In such a case, either you persist, in the matter of your faith, in being guided by the smoky lamp of your reason alone, or you will be guided by the authority of God's appointed Church. In the first alternative, your place is not in the Church, for you exclude yourself by not living up to the conditions of her membership. You cannot deny but that she has the right to determine those conditions.

If you choose the latter, then correct yourself. It is human to err, but it is stupidity to persist in error and refuse to be enlightened. If you cannot see for yourself, common sense demands that you get another to see for you. You are not supposed to know the alpha and omega of theological science, but you are bound to possess a satisfactory knowledge in order that your faith be reasonable.

Has no one a right to differ from the Church? Yes, those who err unconsciously, who can do so conscientiously, that is, those who have no suspicion of their being in error. These the heavenly Father will look after and bring safe to Himself, for their error is material and not formal. He loves them but He hates their errors. So does the Church abominate the false doctrines that prevail in the world outside her fold, yet at the same time she has naught but compassion and pity and prayers for those deluded ones who spread and receive those errors. To her, the individual is sacred, but the heresy is damnable.

Thus we may mingle with our fellow citizens in business and in pleasure, socially and politically, but religiously - never. Our charity we can offer in its fullest measure, but charity that lends itself to error, loses its sacred character and becomes the handmaid of evil, for error is evil.