Rebuttal to Schismatic Traditionalists (4)

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Continued from “Rebuttal to Schismatic Traditionalists (3)”



The Church Is Big


We often have such a small concept of the Church.  The Church is huge.  I am glad that I had the opportunity to study philosophy and theology in Rome were one sees the universality of the Church as well as many fruits of the Holy Spirit in the Church worldwide.  The soul of the Church is the Holy Spirit.  The schismatic traditionalists make the mistake of thinking that the whole Church is in one group which celebrates the Mass in Latin but are not under any legitimate bishop or under the one, true, living Pope.  I truly believe that since the schismatic traditionalists are not able to recognize the workings of the Holy Spirit in so many new saints and charisms in the Church today, I sincerely doubt that they would have been able to recognize Jesus Christ if they had lived 2000 years ago.


My experiences in Rome helped me to see that the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is very big.  It has all kinds of people in it.  The Church, even from the beginning, has always had many saints and sinners inside her because we are in the "Church Militant" on earth, not the "Church Triumphant" in heaven where all is perfect.  It is certainly important to know about the sinners and problems in the Church so as not to fall into the pitfalls of today.  But we should not be so afraid of the sinners and problems that we miss out on all the good things in the Church.


I have had much experience with the Focolare Movement and other ecclesial movements approved by the Church.  It is hard to describe how great a charism God has given to the foundress of the Focolare Movement, Chiara Lubich.  If one lives this charism of unity while loving ever more ones neighbor and especially Jesus Crucified and Forsaken in our lives, one can become a great saint in less time than normal.  Over eight hundred years ago the Church was in bad shape so God sent St. Francis and St. Dominic and others to reform the Church.  The Focolare Movement is just one of many charisms of the Holy Spirit for the Church today.



The Ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council


These schismatic traditionalist groups have a very difficult time with the fact that the Second Vatican Council gave greater appreciation and recognition to the non-Catholic Christians and especially to the non-Catholic Christian Churches.


We read in Lumen Gentium of the Second Vatican Council: “But, the society structured with hierarchical organs and the mystical body of Christ, the visible society and the spiritual community, the earthly Church and the Church endowed with heavenly riches, are not to be thought of as two realities.  On the contrary, they form one complex reality which comes together from a human and a divine element.  For this reason the Church is compared, not without significance, to the mystery of the incarnate Word.  As the assumed nature, inseparably united to him, serves the divine Word as a living organ of salvation, so, in a somewhat similar way, does the social structure of the Church serve the Spirit of Christ who vivifies it, in the building up of the body (cf. Eph. 4:15)” (LG 8).  “The sole Church of Christ” … “constituted and organized as a society in the present world, SUBSISTS IN the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him.  Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines.  Since these are gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, they are forces impelling towards Catholic unity” (LG 8).  “Holding a rightful place in the communion of the Church there are also particular Churches that retain their own traditions, without prejudice to the Chair of Peter which presides over the whole assembly of charity, and protects their legitimate variety while at the same time taking care that these differences do not hinder unity, but rather contribute to it” (LG 13).  “Christ himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk. 16:16; Jn. 3:5), and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door.  Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it, or to remain in it.” … “Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved.  He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but “in body” not “in heart” (LG 14).  The Church clearly teaches against indifferentism and subjectivism (DH 1).  Referring to non-Catholic Christians: “These Christians are indeed in some real way joined to us in the Holy Spirit for, by his gifts and graces, his sanctifying power is also active in them and he has strengthened some of them even to the shedding of their blood” (LG 15).  “Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways” (LG 16).


"Nevertheless, our separated brethren, whether considered as individuals or as Communities and Churches, are NOT blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ wished to bestow on ALL those who through Him were born again into one body, and with Him quickened to newness of life-that unity which the Holy Scriptures and the ancient Tradition of the Church proclaim. For it is ONLY THROUGH CHRIST’S CATHOLIC CHURCH, which is "the all-embracing means of salvation," that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation. We believe that Our Lord entrusted ALL the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college ALONE, of which PETER IS THE HEAD, in order to establish the ONE BODY OF CHRIST on earth TO WHICH ALL SHOULD BE FULLY INCORPORATED who belong in any way to the people of God." Unitatis Redintegratio n 3. (Vatican II Decree on Ecumenism)


"Moreover, some, even very many, of the most significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements.  All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to him, belong by right to the one Church of Christ. … For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church" (UR 3).  "… the Catholic Church has been endowed with all divinely revealed truth and with all means of grace,…" (UR 4).


Pope John Paul II in his “Discourse to the Roman Curia”, June 28, 1981 said: “In these truly plenary gatherings, the ecclesial communities of different countries make real the fundamental second chapter of Lumen Gentium which treats of the numerous “spheres” of belonging to the Church as People of God and of the bond which exists with it, even on the part of those who do not yet form a part of it.”


The Church in the Second Vatican Council reached a new level of maturity of not needing anymore to differentiate itself from other non-Catholic Churches but could now acknowledge the good in the other Churches without feeling in danger of loosing its own self identification.



“The New Ecclesiology”


The schismatic traditionalists call the Ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council “The New Ecclesiology” while continually quoting the strong statements of selected Popes of the past especially after the Council of Trent to convince themselves and others of apparent or seeming contradictions.  Many Popes after the Council of Trent were caught up in the heat of the polemics, condemning non-Catholic persons, groups or Churches.  When there is a heated fight between two or more people or groups, one tends to see and exaggerate only the faults and defects of the other person or group.  The more virtuous person or group succeeds in listening toand in seeing the positive side of the other person or group and thus succeeds in establishing a more Christian “dialogue".


There is also the tendency to blame all problems or at least the important religious problems on the recent council, VCII, without considering too much the many negative factors caused by our modern social and cultural crisis.  Life was simpler fifty or a hundred years ago.  There was more time to pray and to socialize without the temptation or possibility to spend a tremendous amount of time in front of the television set or with an impersonal computer, instead of spending time with ones own family.  Today we have more money, cell phones, answering machines, ipod’s, computer games, digital cameras and decoders, etc., along with an ever increasing consumism.  Certainly one of the big difficulties or barriers in walking together toward and with Jesus by example in the families today is the lack of time spent together due to the "rat-race" that claims mealtimes, evenings and weekends and days and …  The August 1974 issue of "Scientific American" in an important article, "The Origins of Alienation", by Dr. Urie Bronfenbrenner, reported the shocking results of their study that the average amount of time spent by middle-class fathers with their small children was thirty-seven seconds per day![1]


Many people today believe that technology and science can solve all our problems and thus there is no need of a superfluous and inconvenient God or a divinely guided teaching authority on earth.  This is modern man’s greatest sin: he considers himself self sufficient without any need of his Creator.  Even though all good things come from God, modern man shows no gratitude to his Creator.


The schismatic traditionalist groups have a very strong tendency to see everything simply as “black and white” or to use extreme examples and apply them to the non-Catholic Churches.  For example they say that an airplane that is to fly across the ocean and has only a half a tank of gas will crash.  Or if you inject a little poison into a person, the whole body dies.  Or if you do not have all the correct numbers in Bingo, you do not win anything.  They use these examples to conclude that a non-Catholic group or Church is totally bad since it is missing at least one of the basic truths or means of sanctification (see the article “The Impact and Interpretation of ‘Subsists In’ (Vatican II)”); they apply this logic also to the Roman Catholic Church since they say that the Second Vatican Council was heretical and thus there are no longer any valid sacraments or clergy or truths in the Roman Catholic Church!!!  It is interesting that schismatic groups do not apply these words to themselves even though they are missing the living Pope and the guidance of the Catholic Church.  The schismatic traditionalists also try to apply the statement that you cannot have only a part of Christ because essence does not admit to degrees.  If one reads carefully and studies the documents of the Second Vatican Council, I think one of good will and open to the truth will see that these extreme examples cannot be applied to non-Catholic Christian Churches, and thus these extreme examples and strong statements are not in contradiction to the documents of the Second Vatican Council.  God can sort out the tiny black and white dots that seem to us as grey.  As Pope John XXIII, during his address at the solemn opening (October 11, 1962) of the Second Vatican Council, pointed out to the council Fathers: "The Church has always opposed these errors.  Frequently she has condemned them with the greatest severity.”


In a very real sense, offensive speech or terminology had been elevated to a much more important priority (perhaps even a principle?!) especially when one considers the language used in Pope Pius XI’s encyclical ‘Mortalium Animos’ (1928).  Besides a perhaps greater sensitivity to other Christians and the very possible bad fruits caused by irritating or offensive presentation of certain Church teachings, a further, very plausible explanation of this great concern not to annoy non-Catholics could be found in the relatively recent development of the mass media and the great speed of disbursement of news.  In the time of Pius XI, ecclesial documents did not circulate much beyond a few ecclesial magazines months after the initial writing of the document.  Imagine the scorn Mortalium Animos would receive if this document was written today by Pope Benedict XVI!


The following are a few examples of Papal statements (not ex cathedra or infallible) after the Protestant Reformation that schismatic traditionalists use to justify condemning VCII and leaving the Catholic Church.  I offer my comments and documentation to show that the Church is consistent in her teaching before and after VCII.


“The Church, founded on these principles and mindful of her office, has done nothing with greater zeal and endeavor then she has displayed in guarding the integrity of the faith.  Hence she regarded as rebels and expelled from the ranks of her children all who held beliefs on any point of doctrine different from her own.  The Arians, the Montanists, the Novatians, the Quartodecimans, the Eutychians did not certainly reject all Catholic doctrine: they abandoned only a certain portion of it.  Still who does not know that they were declared heretics and banished from the bosom of the Church?  In like manner were condemned all authors of heretical tenets who followed them in subsequent ages.  “There can be nothing more dangerous than those heretics who admit nearly the whole cycle of doctrine, and yet by one word, as with one drop of poison, infect the real and simple faith taught by Our Lord and handed down by apostolic tradition”.” … “But when we consider what was actually done we find that Jesus Christ did not in point of fact, institute a Church to embrace several communities similar in nature, but in themselves distinct, and lacking those bonds which render the Church unique and indivisible after that manner in which in the symbol of our faith we profess: “I believe in one Church.”[2]


“Now, anyone who wishes to examine with care and to meditate on the condition of the different religious societies divided among themselves and separated from the Catholic Church… will easily be convinced that no one of these societies nor all of them together in any way constitute or are that one Catholic Church which Our Lord founded and established and which He willed to create.  Nor is it possible, either, to say that these societies are either a member or part of this same Church, since they are visibly separated from Catholic unity.”[3]


MY COMMENTS: VCII clearly teaches that there is only one true Church but as a “complex reality”.  The schismatic traditionalists want everything black and white, not many tiny black dots making up a “complex reality”.  The non-Catholic Christian Churches certainly do have “nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth”. … “Since these are gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, they are forces impelling towards Catholic unity” (see above; LG 8).  A non-Catholic Church can certainly possess “many elements of sanctification and of truth.”  For example, the Church community can decide to baptize and raise their children according to the Gospel and to live a virtuous life, etc.[4]  For further understanding about the fact that the Church of Christ “subsists in” the Catholic Church see the article “Ecclesiology of the Catholic Church” as well as the article “The Impact and Interpretation of ‘Subsists In’ (Vatican II)”


“The way and method in which the Catholic faith is expressed should never become an obstacle to dialogue with our brethren. It is, of course, essential that the doctrine should be clearly presented in its entirety. Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false irenicism, in which the purity of Catholic doctrine suffers loss and its genuine and certain meaning is clouded” (UR 11).


These words are faithful to the will of Pius XI and Pius XII who expressed their desire that doctrines not be sacrificed for the sake of unity among Christians (see below). Once again UR escapes the condemnation which the schismatic traditionalists are so anxious to attach to it.


December of 1949 Pius XII directed the Holy Office to release an instruction titled ‘Ecclesia Catholica’. One portion of the instruction reads: “The Catholic Church takes no part in "Ecumenical" conferences or meetings. But, as may be seen from many papal documents, she has never ceased, nor ever will, from following with deepest interest and furthering with fervent prayer every attempt to attain that end which Christ our Lord had so much at heart, namely, that all who believe in him "may become perfectly one" (Jn 17:23) . . . The present time has witnessed in different parts of the world a growing desire amongst many persons outside the Church for the reunion of all who believe in Christ. This may be attributed, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to external factors and the changing attitude of peoples’ minds, but above all to the united prayers of the faithful. To all children of the True Church this is a cause for HOLY JOY in the Lord; it urges them to extend a helping hand to all those sincerely seeking after the truth by praying fervently that God may enlighten them and give them strength . . .” [5]


* * * * * * *



Continued in “Rebuttal to Schismatic Traditionalists (5)”


[1] "Straight Talk to Men and Their Wives" by Dr. James C. Dobson; Word Publishing, Dallas, 1980; pp. 35-36.

[2] Leo XIII, Encyclical ‘Satis cognitum’, June 29, 1896.

[3] Pius IX, Letter ‘Jam vos omnes’, September 13, 1868, to Protestants and other non-Catholics.

[4] See also LG 15, UR 3, etc.

[5] Dz 908 as it appears in The Christian Faith compiled and edited by Neuner-Depuis, p. 343.

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