Not too long ago I was having a discussion, lively as usual, with a Novus Ordo conservative priest. In the discussions, I always press for an answer to the question: Is the Vatican II religion Roman Catholicism? Is it a homogeneous development of Catholicism, with nothing substantially different? Or is it a substantial rupture with the past? For everything we do and they do rests upon the answer to this question. For we would be wrong to oppose the reforms of Vatican II, if they are indeed a continuation of Catholicism. Conversely they would be wrong to accept them, if indeed they constitute rupture.
Well, I finally got an answer: “It is Catholicism, but imperfect Catholicism.” I never heard it put this way, but it di make me understand much better the position of the Novus Ordo conservative.
For I never understood how so many of them applaud — very discreetly — what we are saying and doing, but at the same time remain in the Novus Ordo.
Can Catholicism be imperfect? First we must define imperfect. There are three senses of imperfect: (1) to be incomplete; (2) to have a defect; (3) to be less perfect than something more perfect. A house under construction is imperfect in the first sense. A house with a leaky roof is imperfect in the second sense. A one thousand square foot home in good condition is less perfect, as a house, than a ten thousand square foot home. But these differ only accidentally, since both houses do the job of a house.
Catholicism cannot be imperfect in either of the first two senses. It cannot be incomplete, for this would mean that Our Lord failed to provide it with its necessary structure an elements.
Nor can it have any substantial defect. The substance of any religion consists in (1) its doctrines, both dogmatic and moral; (2) its laws and disciplines; (3) its worship and liturgical rites. Because the Catholic Church is assisted by the Holy Ghost, and is therefore indefectible, it cannot be defective in any of these areas.
It is to say that it cannot promulgate false doctrines. This means that anything which the Catholic Church universally promulgates as doctrine, contained in Revelation and to be believed as such, cannot be false. The Catholic Church is also infallible in condemning errors which are contrary to its teaching. Even when the Church is engaged in non-infallible teaching, called authentic magisterium, although these teachings could contain error, the error could never be pernicious. This is to say that the Church could never teach something in its authentic magisterium which would be sinful to accept, or a condemned doctrine, or anything contrary to faith or morals. This authentic magisterium is typically found in encyclicals and allocutions of popes, where, in most cases, they do not intend to use their full authority to bind the faithful in matters of faith, but nonetheless do teach authoritatively, and not merely as private theologians. Encyclicals and allocutions, however, can contain infallible teaching. The level of authority in all cases is determined by the language which the pope uses.
Indefectibility also ensures that the Church cannot promulgate sinful practices in its laws and disciplines. While laws and disciplines are always changeable, and while some laws may be more prudent than others, the Church could never make laws by which you would be required to accept or do something sinful.
Indefectibility also protects the Church’s worship, rites, and ceremonies. The Church could never change in the Mass or sacraments something which is of divine origin. What is completely under the Church’s control, however, are the liturgical ceremonies which surround the essential rites of the Mass and the sacraments. Here the Church is free to compose them and alter them as it will, but cannot prescribe a ceremony which does not conform to the doctrine of the Mass or the sacraments. In other words, the Church cannot compose a liturgy which would corrupt the faith or morals
of those who attend it.
More and less perfect. The only way in which the Church could be “imperfect” is in the third sense, that is, more or less perfect. A computer screen, for example, can be more o less perfect in regard to the definition of the image. One might be more defined than the other, but each serves its essential purpose of projecting images truthfully.
So the Church defines more and more clearly her never-changing dogmas by means of new dogmatic formulas. For example, the dogma of the Incarnation was far more defined after the many early general councils which declared this dogma against heresies. It does not mean, however, that the Church’s teaching before these definitions was faulty, but merely less defined.
Likewise the Church, as the centuries progressed, refined both her liturgical rites and her disciplines. It does not mean that her previous rites or disciplines were tainted or evil in any way, just less perfect than what came after them.
Is Vatican II merely imperfect Catholicism? I say no, because of the following reasons:
• Vatican II promulgated condemned and heretical doctrines: (1) Religious liberty, solemnly condemned by Pope Pius IX, (2) the new ecclesiology, which does not absolutely and exclusively identify the Church of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church; (3) that non-Catholic religions are means of salvation, which is a heresy; (4) that the college of bishops has supreme authority over the whole Church.
• The post-conciliar magisterium contains these errors in more explicit terms.
• The New Mass has been stripped of Catholic doctrines, and portrays a false notion of the Mass, the priesthood, and the Holy Eucharist.
• The 1983 Code of Canon Law sanctions sinful practices, such as giving Holy Communion to non-Catholics.
• The sinful practice of giving Holy Communion to adulterers, sanctioned officially by Bergoglio.
These are merely some of the reasons why the new religion must be termed a substantial alteration of the Catholic Faith. The severe decline in the faith of the clergy and people, the decline in religious vocations, the lack of unity of faith through the failure to impose Catholic doctrine, and the severe decline in the morals of the clergy are further signs of substantial change.
Where are the four marks of the Church to be found in the new religion?
Thank you Bishop Sanborn, for clarifying so many points that have been causing such confusion. The clear way you explain the many issues make them so easy to understand. I hope you are well and taking great care of yourself.
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Excellent article,thank you Bp. Sanborn. The new ‘imperfect’ Church puts me in mind of that odd product found in the fish section of supermarkets, ‘imitation crab’. Now, if the price was the same,who in the world would choose to buy it when fresh ‘real’ crab was ten feet away ? :o)
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The four marks of the Church are nowhere to be found in the Vatican II religion.
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Is it better to miss mass on a Sunday (because of the great travel distance to attend a traditional latin mass), and follow a traditional mass webcast, or attend a Novus Ordo mass when unable to travel to the Latin mass?
If the only dessert offered by a restaurant was moldy apple pie, would you order it ? I think you would simply forgo dessert. :o)
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