Notes Concerning a Recent Address by a Cardinal of the Church

Somewhat recently, a Cardinal of the Holy Catholic Church gave an address. There were good points in the address. Such as the importance of adequate care, protection, and provisions for the poor, the powerless, the victims, etc. As we know from the discourse in Mt 25, we shall be judged by our involvement of non-involvement in love of neighbor.

There were, nevertheless, a number of statements which might cause an issue. That is, a listener might come away, from having heard certain statements, thinking that “X” is the case, when in fact “Not X” is the case. Or the listener might think “Not Q” is the case but “Q” is the case. Of course, should a listener come away with erroneous beliefs, this would be a tragedy. We are speaking about our Divine Faith, which no man has any authority to brook.

Thus, the focus of this entry is on what the various erroneous beliefs might be and on what the correct beliefs are.

The statement that “The Church is Rising” is not in itself harmful. However, one might erroneously think that this means the Church was dead or corrupt before. Again, one might think that the Church has been newly “inaugurated,” as though created with a foundationally new identity only 50 years ago. That she does not have a 2000 year life, instituted not by human persons gathering together but by a Divine Legislator, our Holy Lord Jesus Christ. But this is all False. It is false to think the Church began at Vatican II. She is the same Church, the same “Ecclesial Subject” to use Pope Benedict’s terminology. Amen.

Also, a statement seemed to run as follows: Vatican II brought about an end of hostilities to modernism, which Vatican I condemned. Let us examine this contention. First, if Vatican I condemned anything, then it is Eternally Condemned by the glory of the thunder of the council. And then no man can “undo” it, no authority whatsoever. Let us take solace that a dogma once proclaimed is eternally enshrined in the Archives of Being. We need not be troubled. (I recall my classes at Notre Dame making me wonder whether any week a change in dogma will happen. As I have said, I used to nourish these hopes / worries.) But such rabble rousing is a political move by theologians seeking power. But theologians have no permission to tyrannize over souls. Rather, he who does not accept that dogma is eternal is no theologian.

Second, Vatican II did not embrace modernism. Modernism is a heresy. (See the immortal encyclical of the watchful shepherd Pope St. Pius X, Pascendi.) Now, we can speak of “modernity” in a light that is not simply negative. Many benefits to humanity have come from “modernity”. These we cannot deny. And Vatican II indeed speaks positively of these benefits. However, Vatican II does not simply endorse everything technological. Rather, the council teaches that ethical and Gospel norms must govern technology. Essentially, this is simply to balance faith and reason. And this balancing act is nothing new! It was declared infallibly by Vatican I. And it is the long teaching of the Church that nature / intellect was not totally corrupted by the fall.

Someone might come to think that Jesus rules only by dying. Someone might think that Jesus is not also a “King”. But this is false. He is also a king. On this, see Pius XI. We know that when Jesus comes again, he comes in Glory. Of course, we know that he established the hierarchical priesthood, the sacrificing priesthood, not to seek its own glorification. The Cardinal rightly stated this. The ministry is for the good of souls. It is a ministry. Note, however, that it is a sacred ministry. It is not ordained to serve in soup kitchens. It is ordained to serve at Holy Mass. Further, it is indeed a “hierarchical” priesthood. This means that it is not subordinate to the community. The reverse. Its authority is to serve, and its service is to be authority. If no one guards, the sheep will be devoured. If no one rules, the sheep will go wild. If no one preaches, the sheep will not know the way. Thus, Christ appointed some to rule, to guard, the guide, and to sanctify.

Someone might come away thinking, “The Church used to be a society of unequals” but that “this disappears.” If one were to think this, one would think Vatican II was a rupture, a break from tradition. But Vatican II was not adding new dogmas. Nor was it denying any dogmas. Rather, it was reforming the Church in the continuity of the tradition. No rupture. Therefore, no one ought to think of a “pre” conciliar and a “post” conciliar Church. Indeed, various practices of the Church can and do change. We can speak of practices. And whether such changes are good or bad is not guaranteed. Good things, inestimably good things, can be lost. (See, e.g., Alcuin Reid, The Organic Development of the Liturgy, chap. 1.) Indeed, that is the very premise of Vatican II’s ressourcement: That some good things, somehow lost, should be restored!

Just what is meant by a “society of unequals”? Inequity is sin, but not inequality. Inequity is the unjust distribution of goods. Inequality is a difference of goods. Not all inequality is inequity. Indeed, some inequality may be inequity. Similarly, some equality may be and indeed is inequity.

But of itself, most inequality is simply a fact of the rich diversity of gifts, callings, etc. of the order of nature. That diversity also obtains in the order of grace (1 Cor 12).

Let us be perfectly clear: If my goal is the elimination of inequality, my goal is the elimination of God’s universe! It is nothing less than diabolical to wish the leveling of difference, of inequality. That is inequity – the mystery of sin. Mary is greatest among saints. Presumably, then Joseph. Etc. We do not wish to “level” them down. We glory in their transcendence. We do not wish the Gothic Cathedral became a Marxist style cubic dwelling. We wish it to exceed our reach. This lifts us up. SO TOO THE POOR. The poor want to be fed. They do not want all in society to possess the exact same amount. Unless they are viciously envious. Envy is not Christ’s program. And if we attempted to make all possess the same amount, each would have such a paltry amount that all would be equally miserable. Inequity.

Now, all are equally “Christian”. All are equally “human”. These equalities of substance and membership in Christ we proclaim. But the diversity of talents and achievements is the very design of Almighty God, and it is through a rightly ordered diversity that a just distribution of goods can come about. Economics 101. (Unless the author is a Marxist.)

Now, It is true: Wealthy bankers seem to be strangling the poor. They did this in the past. (See the prophets.) They are doing it now. Something must be done about this. This much is true.

However, Marxist revolution cannot solve the problem. And the Church condemns Marxism. One cannot be a Marxist and a Christian, for one will either serve the one and hate the other or serve the other and hate the one.

And so, there is indeed a ministry that is above the dignity of the universal priesthood. It is the hierarchical priesthood. The judgments, decisions, intercessions, etc., of the hierarchical priesthood have power superior to the universal priesthood. Thanks be to God! For I am but a man, and have no competence to approach Almighty God with confidence. Temerity that I should think I could. Thus, I need a priest, a sacrificing priest, a hierarchical priest. And he too needs a priest, namely, the bishop. And he needs a priest, namely our Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ changed the Old Covenant priesthood into his own everlasting priesthood. Thereby, he in no way abolished the sacrificing priesthood. He re-established it on higher grounds! He realized the type that was the old. So, Christ abolished the Old Law. In its place, supersedes the New Law with a New Priesthood. Vatican II reaffirms the real qualitative difference between the universal and the ordained priesthood.

Again, Jesus was not a “layman”. It is simply absurd to call him a “layman”. It is a category mistake.

Again, someone coming away from the address might think that the Church is not necessary for salvation. Or that salvation does not come through the Church. Now, the truth is that God Almighty is the author of salvation. And he needs no help. However, he chooses to save man not individually but, as Vatican II says, through a Church. Thus, through our Savior Jesus Christ, he instituted the Catholic Church. And the actions of the Catholic Church are salvific actions. How did I come to be in the grace of God? When my parents took me to the holy waters of Baptism and the priest pronounced the saving sentence. That is when I received the grace of salvation. So, it was indeed through the Church that I received salvation. Does this compete with Jesus? Not in the least. Jesus was such a Shepherd as not to leave us orphans. He gave us Holy Mother Church to guide us, guard us, sanctify us, and lead us to heaven. Not to embrace the Church is not to embrace Jesus Christ!

Many today think that that the Church is wrong to issue “anathemas”. However, Jesus himself gave her this authority in the person of Peter and his Successors and all the Bishops in union with him (Mt 16). These anathemas save lives. They guide us away from what is contradictory or inimical to the faith. We need them. Sheltered by the Church, we may journey with confidence to God.

Indeed, these anathemas indicate one of the foremost activities of a true shepherd. To proclaim the Full Truth, Without Ambiguity and Without Confusion. Anything less is scandal. Anything other is scandal. Scandal is leading others to sin! Why is this her foremost activity? Because her foremost goal is heavenly salvation. Her foremost goal is not social justice. Her foremost goal is to reunite sinners with the Holy Trinity. How can she do this unless she has “infallible certitude”. She needs this. We sinners need this.

Again, The Church will not and cannot change her moral teachings. She will not and cannot recognize “second marriage”. If a validly married man attempts to marry again while his wife lives, he utter fails in this attempt. It is simply a failure. Any man who stands in the way of this infallible teaching stands in opposition to God. And any man who teaches that this teaching is false or needs to be changed is leading souls astray. Sins of weakness call for tenderness. Sins of false teaching call for grave censure. For it is diabolical to lead a soul to think the good to be evil, and the evil to be good. A sin of weakness is not pre-meditated. False teachings are scandal and the cause of sin.

We should not come away thinking that the Church has renounced a monopoly on the truth. This again is a total category mistake. The Church never claimed a “monopoly” on all truth. She did not discover DNA. She did not send men to the moon. The suggestion that she once thought she was the source of all our knowledge is absurd. She is the recipient of divine revelation. Vatican I teaches that the Scriptures were authored by God as primary author. The Church did not author Scripture. She receives Scripture. And she is the sole authentic custodian of Scripture. Thus, when it comes to revealed knowledge, the Catholic Church is the sole authority. She treasures all revealed knowledge and she alone can teach on it. That is why she pontificates – To save souls! It is called, less pejoratively, “communication”. She preaches. She protects. She lovingly warns. Yes, and since the stakes are high – salvation and damnation – she issues “anathemas”.