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Don't send in the clowns!

Updated: Jun 18, 2022

What’s wrong with this picture? Nothing! On the contrary, it is quite…promising.

Unfortunately, one cannot conclude the same about the contemporary and confusing picture of the Church heard more than occasionally nowadays. This morning, for instance, I met with gentlemen confused about their faith and living in a separated state from the Church. As members of SSPX, they go to Sunday mass only when it is available in the traditional Latin form. When the Traditional Latin mass is not available, they acknowledged that their priests encouraged them to skip their Sunday obligation. They presented with avowed certainty and sincerity sweeping statements about how Vatican II has changed everything, rendering the Novus Ordo null and void, the papacy perhaps unseated, and all current sacraments along with my own priesthood invalid. Genuine authority is reserved for those traditional priests alone who use pre-Vatican II wording and gestures. I hasten to add that I am not a particular fan of Vatican II, but that doesn’t and shouldn’t matter here. What does matter is what the Church herself teaches.

What is it that gives the Church her authority over believing Christians, validity in her sacraments and an esteemed presence in the world? I’ll tell you what it isn’t; it isn’t the pope, priests and believing people, tradition and Scriptures, or Councils and Canon Law. Rather, it is Jesus Christ who gives His Church authority (Mt. 28:19), wielded by these many instruments guided by the Holy Spirit according to the will of the Father in heaven. We believe that the Church is divine in its origin, and we assent to what the Church teaches about God in accord with that which has been revealed in the person of Christ. Confusion over this point led one of the gentlemen to tell me he follows Father so and so, and not the Second Vatican Council Church--as if one pastoral Council could change the nature of God’s marching orders! It cannot. The Church is much greater than any one council, and to think otherwise mistakenly supplants a different belief from “that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all” (St. Vincent of Lerins).

The Church has experienced excruciatingly painful apostasies before, even as one wonders whether such may be happening again. Recall the great heresy of Arianism that rocked the Church, sending her into splinters of Christianity, even after St. Athanasius almost single-handedly stood steadfast against his brother bishops and Emperor Constantine in defense of the two natures of Christ, united in a single Person. Subsequently, the Mohammedan heresy sent the Church reeling, which had the effect of reuniting many of these splintered Christian factions in defense of the divinity and authority of Christ. And once more, the Reformation heresy challenged the authority of the Church to oversee revelation in her Scriptures and Tradition. Questions over the validity of the Church are nothing new to Catholics.

Because it is the authority of Christ that gives the Church and her sacraments power to save souls, the contemporary schism of Archbishop Lefebvre over the spirit of Vatican II cannot supplant or override the Holy Spirit’s ongoing presence and guidance, just as the errors of the Council cannot supplant the one, true faith. Don’t get me wrong! I love the traditional Latin mass, and personally disagree with Pope Francis’ motu proprio, Traditionis Custodes, which currently suppresses practice of the traditional Latin mass. Sadly, I never learned to say that mass, but that doesn’t matter here. Catholics are bound by what the Church has consistently and coherently taught, teaches and will teach. One woman flatly stated that the Second Vatican Church has failed because it abandoned Latin, until I reminded her that the V2 documents were themselves written in Latin.

It is my fervent belief that neither the Council nor its spirit has supplanted the true faith--although I have severe reservations about both. But no matter what I think, the Second Vatican Council is merely that, an ecumenical council on pastoral matters, even if two of its documents maintain de fide status. And this is where the picture of clowns comes in: following the Council, a malignant spirit manifesting itself in clown masses, a general loss of respect and even dissent over what Catholics should believe or practice clashes with many, leaving the faithful in a state of general confusion. Some contend that since Vatican II, the Church has been essentially corrupted and that one ought to avoid the NO mass--even if that means reinterpreting the Third Commandment. Please note well: the Church's priorities cannot and must not be set aside! While the status of the Mass is hotly contested and re-examined by bishops and canonists world-wide, I would caution against avoiding Novus Ordo masses when you cannot find Christ’s holy sacrifice offered in traditional Latin. Doing so creates yet another heresy which challenges the authority of the Holy Spirit abiding in and guiding the Lord’s Church.

Don't send in the clowns who would make a mockery of what the Catholic Church actually teaches. Far too many are already here.

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