Thursday, August 28, 2014

Traditionalists and Schism

I have written here more than once that I am fearful that there is a great schism building up in the Catholic Church.  I feel it is coming from the traditionalist movement.  I make my judgment not as one looking in from the outside, but as one who was very much on the inside of this movement and deeply in agreement with it at one time.  Sadly, everything I hear and read is only confirming my worst fears.

I have been chastised by one traditionalist who says I don't know the meaning of the word schism and therefore I shouldn't be making such rash statements. The Catholic encyclopedia gives us this definition of schism [HERE for the full article]
Schism (from the Greek schisma, rent, division) is, in the language of theology and canon law, the rupture of ecclesiastical union and unity, i.e. either the act by which one of the faithful severs as far as in him lies the ties which bind him to the social organization of the Church and make him a member of the mystical body of Christ, or the state of dissociation or separation which is the result of that act.
The article further states while schism and heresy are two separate matters, one will ultimately lead to the other.
This distinction was drawn by St. Jerome and St. Augustine. "Between heresy and schism", explains St. Jerome, "there is this difference, that heresy perverts dogma, while schism, by rebellion against the bishop, separates from the Church. Nevertheless there is no schism which does not trump up a heresy to justify its departure from the Church (In Ep. ad Tit., iii, 10).
And St. Augustine: "By false doctrines concerning God heretics wound faith, by iniquitous dissensions schismatics deviate from fraternal charity, although they believe what we believe" (On Faith and the Creed). But as St. Jerome remarks, practically and historically, heresy and schism nearly always go hand in hand; schism leads almost invariably to denial of the papal primacy.
The article also says that disobedience alone does not constitute schism.  An essential element of schism is rebellion against and rejection of Church authority:
However, not every disobedience is a schism; in order to possess this character it must include besides the transgression of the commands of superiors, denial of their Divine right to command.
We can continue to identify as Christian and yet still be in a state of schism:
Anyone becomes a schismatic who, though desiring to remain a Christian, rebels against legitimate authority, without going as far as the rejection of Christianity as a whole, which constitutes the crime of apostasy.
The article explains that at one time rebellion against the local bishop constituted schism. This definition has somewhat changed. Rebellion against the local bishop is a serious step towards schism. However, schism is now specifically defined as rebellion against the Holy See:
Now through the centralizing evolution which emphasizes the preponderant role of the sovereign pontiff in the constitution of ecclesiastical unity, the mere fact of rebelling against the bishop of the diocese is often a step toward schism; it is not a schism in him who remains, or claims to remain, subject to the Holy See.
It is for this reason that the Society of St. Pius X is not considered formally schismatic, even though they are not in communion with the Church. The Society states that they still recognize the authority of the Holy Father. They are dangerously close to schism, however, as the head of the SSPX, Bishop Fellay, has called Pope Francis a modernist, and says that while they do still recognize his authority at this time, that may change in the future.

The penalties for schism are severe:
These are: excommunication incurred ipso facto and reserved to the sovereign pontiff (cf. "Apostolicæ Sedis", I, 3); this is followed by the loss of all ordinary jurisdiction and incapacity to receive any ecclesiastical benefices or dignities whatsoever. To communicate in sacris with schismatics, e.g., to receive the sacraments at the hands of their ministers, to assist at Divine Offices in their temples, is strictly forbidden to the faithful.
St. Cyprian explains that leaving the Church amounts to leaving Christ.  If we do not remain under the authority of the Church, we are not under Christ's authority, and are gravely endangering our salvation.
St. Cyprian:  "The spouse of Christ is chaste and incorruptible. Whoever leaves the Church to follow an adulteress renounces the promises of the Church. He that abandons the Church of Christ will not receive the rewards of Christ. He becomes a stranger, an ungodly man, an enemy. God cannot be a Father to him to whom the Church is not a mother. As well might one be saved out of the ark of Noah as out of the Church. . . . He who does not respect its unity will not respect the law of God; he is without faith in the Father and the Son, without life, without salvation"
As other saints have said, where Peter is, there is the church. Therefore, to reject Peter is to reject the Church. And as we have seen, to reject the Church is to reject Christ. Hence, to reject Peter is also to reject Christ:
St. Ambrose: "Where Peter is, there is the Church; where the Church is there is no death but eternal life"
St. Jerome: "That man is my choice who remains in union with the chair of Peter"
St. Jerome:  "I who follow no guide save Christ am in communion with Your Holiness, that is with the chair of Peter. I know that on this rock the Church is built. Whosoever partakes of the Lamb outside this house commits a sacrilege. Whosoever does not gather with you, scatters: in other words whosoever is not with Christ is with Antichrist"
Last week I linked to a post by Mark Shea in which he reproduced Karl Keating's response to an article in The Remnant Newspaper [HERE] which tried to prove that Pope Benedict XVI abdicated from only the administrative portion of the papacy and still retains his infallible authority, thus abrogating the authority of Pope Francis.  In effect, this means that Pope Benedict XVI is still pope and, therefore, we don't have to listen to anything Pope Francis says.  As Karl Keating wrote "Their antipathy to that pope is leading them into theological nonsense, and it will lead some of their readers, and perhaps some of them, into further error.

Recently, - a true bomb thrower of a website - had as its main headline "Verrecchio: Emeritus Was Pushed". You can read the article HERE if you really want to. Louis Verrecchio is another bomb throwing traditionalist who is constantly attacking the hierarchy of the Church. He saves his harshest invective for Pope Francis. Verrecchio cited a recent news story in which Benedict XVI gave an hour and a half homily at a conference. It was reported that he stood the entire time even though a chair was available. As one participant said, "It was extraordinary. As always, it amazed us that in spite of age, and without a prepared text, the Pope (emeritus) gave a homily at a great level, with an extraordinary clarity of mind for his age."

Verrecchio then gave us a quote from the Pope's 2013 statement of intent to abdicate.  It includes in part:
[I]n order to govern the bark [sic] of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.
According to Verrecchio, considering Pope Benedict's latest appearance in which he appeared to be in good health, statements about his physical weakness couldn't possibly be true.  Therefore, there is only one explanation for the Pope Benedict's abdication of the papacy:
Does anyone other than the willfully deluded and painfully ignorant still honestly believe that Benedict XVI wasn’t forced from office by a substantial threat either real or imagined?
Pope Francis
Verrecchio then goes on to tell us, with no proof whatsoever, that Cardinal Bergoglio was preselected "well before the doors [to the conclave] were even locked." This implies, of course, that Pope Francis's papacy is illegitimate and invalid and that Benedict XVI remains our true pope. 

The Remnant Newspaper, Louie Verrecchio and many other traditionalists are pushing the idea of schism fast and furious. It is hard to find a traditionalist website or blog that does not contain harsh and unrelenting criticism of Pope Francis, questioning his every move and every word, and trying to characterize the Holy Father as a heretic against the faith. These are not the actions of loyal Catholics but of those who are bordering on or are actually in a state of schism.

It should be noted that Verrecchio is scheduled to speak at a "Catholic Identity Conference" in September. The other main speakers are:
  • Dr. John Rao 
  • Michael Matt of The Remnant
  • John Vennari of Catholic Family News
  • Christopher Ferrara 
  • James Vogel from Angelus Press (publishing arm of the SSPX)
  • Kenneth Wolfe of Rorate Caeli 
  • Michael Brendan Doughtery from The American Conservative
All of these speakers are hard core traditionalists. They all disavow the validity of Vatican II to one extent or another, and by extension, the reject the "post Vatican II" church, as they define it. They all see the Traditional Latin Mass as the only valid Mass. They all are in basic disagreement with Pope Francis in almost everything he says and does.

These men are also highly educated, intelligent and successful at their chosen careers. They have studied intensely into church history, especially Dr. Rao, who teaches history at St. John's University. I spent 7 years in the traditionalist movement, and I can attest that the majority who call themselves traditionalists are educated, intelligent, intellectual, well-read and eloquent in defense of what they believe. And therein, I believe, lies their downfall.

I am not saying that there is anything wrong with education and knowledge. These things are very important. But what good is it if the end result is that you think you are more knowledgeable and more Catholic than Church hierarchy, and most especially that you are more Catholic than our Holy Father? What good is your intellectual ability if all it does is lead you to question and doubt everything the Church says?

In Jesus' time, the most educated of Jewish society were the Pharisees. And what was the only group of people condemned by Our Lord? The Pharisees. As Our Lord told the Pharisees in Matthew 21:31 - "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you."

What was the great sin of the Pharisees? It was a combination of pride in themselves and envy of Jesus Christ. They were angry that the people were accepting Our Lord's authority instead of theirs. And they were very proud of their "spirituality", looking down on others. And they did look good on the outside, doing all of the right things. But as Our Lord told them, "You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean." (Matt. 23:27).

As I have shown in the statements from the Catholic encyclopedia on schism, we can actually believe everything the church teaches but still be in a state of schism if we do not accept the authority of the Pope.

When someone like Remnant Newspaper or Louis Verrecchio comes along and tries to confuse and throw doubt into our minds about the validity of the Pope, how should we respond? How can we be sure of who the Pope is?

It all comes down to who and what we really believe. Our Lord told us that the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church. He said that the Holy Spirit will never cease to guide His Church. We have the sure promise of apostolic succession. This is not something that needs our approval. It is as sure as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west.

It is not up to us to make sure the Church conforms to our beliefs. It is up to us to conform to Holy Mother Church. However, many traditionalists such as Louis Verrecchio are so convinced of their own rightness and "infallibility", that they feel they can stand in judgment on Church authority, basically telling Church authority where they are wrong. And that is the big mistake traditionalists are making, and which may end up destroying them.

In the Divine Office from Wednesday, there was a reading from the Book of Jeremiah which I found to be apropos to this subject. This passage, from Jeremiah 2:1-13, 20-25, concerns ancient Israel's rejection of God. But it can apply to any of us, and we need to take note.

The passage starts out with a remembrance of the time when Israel was still very devoted to God, following Him as He freed them from the slavery of Egypt and brought them into the promised land:
Remember the devotion of your youth,
how you loved me as a bride,
Following me in the desert,
in a land unsown.
Sacred to the Lord was Israel,
the first fruits of his harvest;
Should anyone presume to partake of them,
evil would befall him, says the Lord.
Listen to the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob!
All you clans of the house of Israel.
But as Israel was following God in the wilderness, they started questioning and rebelling, thinking they knew a better way:
Thus says the Lord:
What fault did your fathers find in me
that they withdrew from me,
Went after empty idols,
and became empty themselves?
They did not ask, “Where is the Lord
who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
Who led us through the desert,
through a land of wastes and gullies,
Through a land of drought and darkness,
through a land which no one crosses,
where no man dwells?”
An "empty idol" is anything we worship other than God. What "empty idol" do traditionalists worship? As I have shown above, they trust in their own reasoning. They believe they know the direction the Church should be taking, and anyone who disagrees with them - even if that person is the Holy Father - is wrong and must be destroyed. They are no longer looking to the Mystical Body of Christ for answers because they have all the answers.  That is the worst idol of all.
When I brought you into the garden land
to eat its goodly fruits,
You entered and defiled my land,
you made my heritage loathsome.
The priests asked not,
“Where is the Lord?”
Those who dealt with the law knew me not:
the shepherds rebelled against me.
The prophets prophesied by Baal,
and went after useless idols.
Where Peter is, there is the Church. When we rebel against Peter, we are rebelling against the Church. And when we rebel against Holy Mother Church, we are rebelling against the Lord.
Therefore will I yet accuse you, says the Lord,
and even your children’s children I will accuse.
Pass over to the coast of the Kittim and see,
send to Kedar and carefully inquire:
Where has the like of this been done?
Does any other nation change its gods?—
yet they are not gods at all!
But my people have changed their glory
for useless things.
The Traditionalists argue that all they are doing is trying to uphold the sacred traditions of the Church. But they fail to see the great distinction between traditional practices and traditional beliefs. Practices have changed throughout the life of the church.  As just one example, we have seen practices changed in regard to the amount of required time to fast before the reception of communion, or in how frequently the faithful should be allowed to receive communion.  The way in which we do things is always subject to change.  What is unchanging is our core beliefs.  That has never changed and will never change.
Be amazed at this, O heavens,
and shudder with sheer horror, says the Lord.
Two evils have my people done:
they have forsaken me, the source of living waters;
They have dug themselves cisterns,
broken cisterns, that hold no water.
When our Lord promised that the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church, and when He sent the Holy Spirit as our guide and comforter, we were given a sure promise that no matter how badly things may look, the Catholic Church will always be the Mystical Body of Christ.  No matter how the sea may rage and the barque of Peter may be tossed to and fro, the Church will never cease to be the beacon of light in a dark world.  Yet, how many have instead turned to their own understanding and sat in condemnation of this beautiful gift given to us directly by Our Lord?  Does Our Lord now look at us and say, "O ye of little faith"?
Long ago you broke your yoke,
you tore off your bonds.
“I will not serve,” you said.
On every high hill, under every green tree,
you gave yourself to harlotry.
I had planted you, a choice vine
of fully tested stock;
How could you turn out obnoxious to me,
a spurious vine?
Though you scour it with soap,
and use much lye,
The stain of your guilt is still before me,
says the Lord God.
How can you say, “I am not defiled,
I have not gone after the Baals”?
Consider your conduct in the Valley,
recall what you have done:
A frenzied she-camel, coursing near and far,
breaking away toward the desert,
Snuffing the wind in her ardor—
who can restrain her lust?
No beasts need tire themselves seeking her;
in her month they will meet her.
Stop wearing out your shoes
and parching your throat!
But you say, “No use! no!
I love these strangers,
and after them I must go.”
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis (and he is the Holy Father, despite the malicious and hateful accusations of people like Verrecchio), gave a homily a couple of days ago in which he said, "In a Christian community division is one of the most serious sins, because it does not allow God to act”.  According to an article from Catholic News Agency [HERE]:
Addressing the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Roman Pontiff explained that as Catholics “we affirm in the Creed that the Church is one and that she is holy.”
“One because she has her origin in the Triune God, mystery of unity and full communion. Holy since she is founded by Jesus Christ, enlivened by his Holy Spirit, and filled with his love and salvation.”
We continue to refer to the Church as “one” and “holy” despite the fact that “we know by experience that it is also composed of sinners and that there is no shortage of divisions,” he said, recalling how the night before he was arrested Jesus “asked for the unity of his disciples: ‘that all be one.’”
“We trust in his desire that unity will be one of the characteristic features of our community,” the Pope continued, noting that “While we, the members of the Church, are sinners, the unity and holiness of the Church arise from God and call us daily to conversion.”
Division is never a fruit of the Holy Spirit.  Accusations and division are a sure sign of the work of the devil.

Continuing from the article:
“Sins against unity are not only schisms,” he said, “but also the most common weeds of our communities: envies, jealousies, antipathies...talking bad about others. This is human, but it is not Christian.”
These sins “which occur even in our parish communities,” Pope Francis continued, “come about when we place ourselves at the center.”
This last statement of the Holy Father, that these "sins against unity are not only schisms but the common weeds of our communities" and they occur "when we place ourselves at the center", basically summarizes everything I have been trying to say in this post.

Our Lord told us that we must become as little children in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  We are told in one of my favorite verses of the Bible, and which I quote frequently, that Our Lord says, "But to this man will I look: even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My word." (Isaiah 66:2)  Our Lord is not impressed by how educated we are or even how articulate we are in expressing our faith.  The only criteria He uses in judging us is how much we trust Him and how much we love one another.  Do we believe Him when He says that He will never leave or forsake us?

From Pope Francis' homily:
Explaining how “It's the devil who separates, destroys relationships, sows prejudices,” the Pope affirmed that “the holiness of the Church” is “to recognize the image of God in one another.”
“The holiness of the Church consists of this: reproducing the image of God, rich in mercy and grace.”
Our Lord told us in John 15:5-6, "I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in Me and I in Him, the same bringeth forth much fruit, for without Me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch and is withered; and men gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." To abide in Christ is to abide in His Church, which we see personified in the Holy Father. 
As St. Cyprian warned:
God cannot be a Father to him to whom the Church is not a mother. As well might one be saved out of the ark of Noah as out of the Church. . . . He who does not respect its unity will not respect the law of God; he is without faith in the Father and the Son, without life, without salvation."

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Path To Inner Peace

The world is completely upside down and backwards, and it is so hard to know what or whom to trust. Evil is growing every day. Here in the United States, to be a Christian is to be an outcast of society. We are condemned because we do not support the homosexual lifestyle. Mainstream society throws labels at us like hateful and bigot. We are condemned because we do not support the willful killing of unborn children. We are condemned because we put God first in our lives instead of political correctness. Our society has become so anti-God that they will condemn just the mention of His Name. Recently, a teenager was suspended from class for saying "Bless you" to another student who had sneezed, and this has now become a freedom of religion and freedom of speech issue [HERE].

In other parts of the world, Christians are being murdered by the thousands simply because of what they believe.  And the rest of the world stands by watching and basically doing nothing.  Christians have become the lepers of the world, shoved out of society, hunted down and literally killed.  

In yesterday's Divine Office, the concluding prayer of Midday Prayer touched me very deeply and helped me to realize what we must do to keep our sanity and stand against the hatred and persecution we face from others and from the disorientation caused by all of the conflicting voices that we hear.

"O God,
who cause the minds of the faithful to unite in a single purpose,
grant your people to love what you command,
and to desire what you promise,
that, amid the uncertainties of this world,
our hearts may be fixed on that place
where true gladness is found.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever.
We will only survive if we keep our hearts and minds fixed completely on Our Lord. We should not even trust ourselves. And where is Christ to be found?  Where is that one Voice that will never lead us astray?  He is in His Mystical Body, the Catholic Church. Our Lord has given us His Church as a beacon in a world full of darkness. To be united to His Church is to be united to Christ. To be separated from the church is to be separated from the King of Peace, the Giver of Life.

The more the world persecutes us, the more they need us to stand firm in our faith. Persecution has always made the church stronger. As Tertullian wrote in the second century when the Church was under intense persecution, "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." Killing us only makes us stronger.

Don't let anyone or anything separate you from His Church. Shut out all of the harsh raucous voices. Cling to Holy Mother Church "that, amid the uncertainties of this world, our hearts may be fixed on that place where true gladness is found."

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