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Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus

The Catholic Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. [1] The Body is easily recognizable and has overwhelming motives of credibility, [2] and it has for its Soul the Holy Spirit. Pope John Paul I said, “It is clear that Jesus and the Christians, Jesus and the Church are the same thing: indissoluble, inseparable.” [3] Elements of the Church found outside of the Church “tend and conduct toward the Catholic Church”. [4]

“[T]he Church of Christ is present and operative” in the Orthodox churches, [5] in terms of the sacraments and individuals. The Orthodox retain and act as “means of salvation”, [6] but sacraments are only efficacious for those of good will; the Orthodox maintain the Eucharist, but those willfully separated from the Church “do not receive the fruit of the sacrifice”. [7] Sacraments in Orthodox churches are efficacious for Catholics in need. [8]

“Eastern Christians who are in fact separated in good faith” are allowed to receive the Eucharist from Catholic priests, “if they ask of their own accord and have the right dispositions”; [9] they have no schismatic mindset. [10] “Someone baptized and brought up in an alien sect will inevitably be, for a time anyway, merely in material heresy or schism. … At what point one brought up in such a sect formally adheres to heresy or schism is God’s business…” [11]

Especially since many among the Orthodox have been under-catechized or lived in remote areas — their leaders would often just allow Latin missionaries to catechize their flocks [12] — ignorance of their leaders’ heresy and schism has been at least temporarily possible, like with Catholics who unintentionally followed antipopes (thus not falling into formal schism [13]). They may also have no other priests regularly available. Thus, they do not lose charity in accepting sacraments from them, and they are only putatively “Orthodox”; they do not have the mindset of schismatics, though they are in a disordered situation. Charles Coulombe wrote in Desire & Deception, “As long as one believes the traditional faith, has been baptized, and accepts the supremacy of the Pope, he is a Catholic, whatever his circumstances — indeed, whatever the dispositions (heretical, schismatic, or orthodox) of the clerics around him.”

And they can have faith without obstinate denial of dogmas, actively trying to learn. [14] They can find the Faith in their creeds, liturgies, and saints’ writings. [15] Their leaders’ “negations of Catholic teaching are not on the level of dogma”, [16] and all that we believe (like the Immaculate Conception [17]) may be found among them. Papal primacy is also acceptable to them. [18] There have been occasions when explicit knowledge of the Holy See does not appear to have been given (e.g., for those baptized by St. Peter Claver [19]); so, there can be such a thing as implicit submission to the Pope, at least temporarily, for those who have not maliciously refused to acknowledge him as head of the Church. [20] An obstinate rejection of the Papacy is a rejection of all those under the pontiff and nothing short of a rejection of Christ’s Church. “By its very nature, faith is open to the ‘We’ of the Church; it always takes place within her communion.” [21]

It is possible for one to be faithful, trusting “that the learned believe aright” and having at least an implicit faith in everything proposed by the Magisterium, yet be unaware of or misinformed about some teaching. [22] However, we cannot take what we like from the Church and reject the rest, bending authority to our own whims; “partial communion” in this way saves no one. Adherence to error is not salvific. A person is saved despite any innocent association with a false sect and because of his relationship with Christ’s Mystical Body. “If one chooses to disbelieve a single article of faith, then the gift of infused faith is no longer available and he can then no longer give full assent to any of the teachings of the Church.” [23]

St. Augustine said that “neither do the heretics belong to the Church catholic, which loves God; nor do the schismatics form a part of the same”. (Schismatics are those who “in wicked separations break off from brotherly charity, although they may believe just what we believe”.) [24] But he also said that those “without obstinate ill will, especially those who have not originated their own error by bold presumption, but have received it from parents who had been led astray and had lapsed, those who seek truth with careful industry, ready to be corrected when they have found it” are in a different situation. [25] Those who have caused divisions are bad. “But,” Cardinal Charles Journet writes, “their followers in later times, who inherit a patrimony of schism or heresy from their birth, are not culpable on that account. They can grow in spiritual stature by remaining in good faith. The sanctifying influence of the sacraments, no longer finding the same obstacles in the will, can result in graces of a high order.” [26] Those who have not chosen against the Church are more under heretics or schismatics than they are heretics or schismatics. It is, however, better to presume that there is at least culpable negligence among them (for which they would be punished [27]), so that they might be saved and so that we do not neglect our duty to evangelize.

Br. André Marie, M.I.C.M., says, “There are many people who would not be considered ‘formal’ members of the Church who are, in fact, Catholics in the dogmatic sense. … What is important are not the ‘juridical’ issues, but the ecclesiological, sacramental, and ‘creedal’ elements that truly make one a Catholic. Perhaps we can put it in terms that might make a canonist cringe: de facto Catholicism is what matters, not de jure Catholicism.” [28] Fr. John J. King, O.M.I., would say, “They are vivified by the Holy Spirit because of the tenuous but true union they have with the Body of Christ. This is not an attempt to give a new meaning to the old word ‘extra.’ It is simply a conclusion forced upon them by the full realization, according to the analogia fidei, of what the Church’s understanding of this dogmatic word has always been.” [29]

Here, I should address “invincible ignorance”, often an exaggerated thing. It is that which “cannot be overcome by study”. [30] An absolute invincible ignorance (meaning, the impossibility of learning even “truths necessary for salvation“) would not save. [31] (Moreover, a Catholic cannot know if someone is “invincibly ignorant” of the Faith. And how is it possible for the Catholic to know it, but impossible for those with whom he comes into contact?) Salvation comes from sanctifying grace. We need supernatural divine faith, hope, and charity. Some say that the faithless might die that way “through no fault of their own”, but St. Thomas Aquinas could say that even the proverbial man on an island could be saved, “[f]or it pertains to divine providence to furnish everyone with what is necessary for salvation, provided that on his part there is no hindrance”. [32] Ignorance is a lack of something, and lacking something gains us nothing. A relationship can never be based on a lack of something, but must involve reciprocity. Whatever the reason for a lack of reciprocity to God in response to His grace, it cannot ever be justified. [33]

“God Himself has made known to mankind the way in which men are to serve Him” and “all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church”. [34] All must “enquire whether or not God has Himself revealed definitively and infallibly how He wishes to be known, loved, and served”, [35] and, in matters spiritual, where there’s a will, there’s a way; “seek, and you shall find” (Matthew 7:7). “[T]hat faith without which it is impossible to please [God]” can be transmitted in ordinary and extraordinary ways, as evidenced throughout history. [36] “[A]ll are capable of receiving the doctrines of the faith.” [37] If Catholics budge on the necessity of faith, then we give ammunition to the Protestant apologists who have accused us of promoting “works-based salvation”. It is wrong to think that “we need only seek that Christians should be good Christians, Muslims good Muslims, Hindus good Hindus, and so forth”. [38]

We are all given sufficient chance to be saved, either rejecting or accepting it, though Orthodox naturally have more available to them than Protestants, who so often define themselves against Catholicism, justify sins and disbelieve the need for good works (thus rejecting God as Rewarder), lack priesthood, increasingly doubt the crucial dogmas of the Trinity and the Incarnation, and sometimes do not even have baptism. There are also those who favor a view that matter is eternal (like Mormons) and deny God as Creator of everything. [39] Those who treat nothing as absolutely true and binding, leaving everything up to individual interpretation, show human and not divine faith. Bl. John Henry Newman said, “Protestants, generally speaking, have not faith, in the primitive meaning of that word”. [40] Faith is often replaced with emotional consolations. One who rejects oneness, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity cannot say the Creeds sincerely. Orthodox can be thankful that they are not exposed to as many temptations to err.

Politics and personal suffering cannot be excuses to reject the Church’s teachings (even for, say, those who suffered under Crusaders); those who try to use these are, like St. Augustine admitted of his past self, readier to impose falsehood than to be informed of the truth. [41] When people hear of the Pope as “Antichrist” or the Church as “Whore of Babylon”, they are no doubt at first incredulous, and so they are obliged to investigate.

Doubt can come to an Anglican sitting in a church he knows to be stolen, a Lutheran hearing of “Reformation Day”, a Methodist discovering that his views do not line up with those of a saint, a Baptist wondering how books’ infallibility can be known, and so on. They can also doubt when they come into contact with each other. But if they refuse to hear (Scripture contrasts hearing and reading [42]), do not follow promptings by the Spirit, and are malicious, they can be lost forever. If one cooperates with God, he will receive more and more graces. However, if he resists or abuses them, he is not guaranteed more. (Some imagine that no one would really defy what he knows to be true, but we ourselves disprove this every single time we commit mortal sin.)

Catholics should be concerned for them. Unless their contrition is perfect (with the firm resolution to sin no more and with love for God above all else and as the prevailing motive, not fear of Hell or any other reason), even nominal “Protestants” will die in their mortal sins, since “imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance”. [43] They will be condemned for sins that, without the sacraments, will be difficult to avoid. The Orthodox, however, have the sacraments. [44]

All must “return” to the Church, individually or corporately. Yet, as Pope Benedict XVI, the father of the Anglican Ordinariates, [45] noted in 2005, this “does not mean uniformity in all expressions of theology and spirituality, in liturgical forms and in discipline”. [46] Again, the Orthodox are in a special position. A 1992 CDF document says that they “merit the title of particular Churches”, but “their existence as particular Churches is wounded”. [47] The Orthodox have long been conceded the title of “Churches”, [48] but “to be fully Church…there must be…the supreme authority of the Church”. [49] A particular Church “can be truly complete only through effective communion in faith, sacraments and unity with the whole Body of Christ”. [50] “The Eucharist objectively creates a powerful bond of unity between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches,” [51] but “it is an intrinsic requirement of the Eucharist that it should be celebrated in communion” with the Church’s hierarchical order. [52] It is clear that acceptance of the Papacy is a non-negotiable.

Of Orthodox in particular, “we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces whereby He is operative among them with His sanctifying power”. However, one cannot separate himself from the Church on earth without also separating himself from the Church in Heaven, and graces always have the true Church as their end. The good among them “desire to be peacefully united, in the manner determined by Christ, as one flock under one shepherd”. [53] Many Orthodox today are “in good faith” and “are desirous of reunion with the Apostolic See of Rome”. [54]

History is complicated: there have been instances of communicatio in sacris, times when lines were blurred, and periods of reunion. Conversion and regularization were always the ends (e.g., the Pope would be remembered in concelebrations). [55] We can look to Bl. Pope Pius IX, who, with Arcano Divinae Providentiae, even invited the Orthodox to participate in the First Vatican Council. [56] Now, with the mutual excommunications (which were “censures against the persons concerned and not the Churches” [57]) lifted, may we be together again.

John 17:11 (DRA): “And now I am not in the world, and these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name whom thou has given me; that they may be one, as we also are.”

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1. See Thomas Storck, “What is the Church of Jesus Christ?” (Homiletic & Pastoral Review, vol. 108, no. 6, March 2008, p. 24-31, 42-45; available through the author’s website: http://www.thomasstorck.org/theological-topics).

2. See Dr. Lawrence Feingold’s “Motives of Credibility for Faith” (http://web.archive.org/web/20140104144437/http://www.hebrewcatholic.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/12.07-motives-of-credibility-for-faith-pdf.pdf) and James Likoudis’ “The Marks Of The Church And Eastern Orthodoxy” (http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=4752).

3. General Audience, 13 September 1978 (http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-i/en/audiences/documents/hf_jp-i_aud_13091978.html)

4. CDF, Notification on Leonardo Boff (http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19850311_notif-boff_en.html)

5. CDF, Dominus Iesus §17 (http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000806_dominus-iesus_en.html)

6. Second Vatican Council, Unitatis Redintegratio §3 (http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19641121_unitatis-redintegratio_en.html)

7. Summa Theologiae, TP, Q. 82, Art. 7, Ans. (http://newadvent.org/summa/4082.htm)

8. Canon 844 §2 (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P2T.HTM). Archimandrite Ambrosius (Pogodin): “In one of its decrees the Vatican Council felt it possible and even desirable that Roman Catholics finding themselves beyond the vicinity of a Catholic Church, could receive the holy sacraments, including Holy Communion, from Orthodox Churches in their vicinity. Only the Moscow Patriarchate responded to this and announced a decision favorable to the Catholics, allowing them to receive Communion in Orthodox Churches where there were no Roman Catholic churches. This decision was accepted by the Patriarchal Synod on December 16, 1969 and was also affirmed at a later date.” (“On the Question of the Order of Reception of Persons into the Orthodox Church”, Appendices; http://www.holy-trinity.org/ecclesiology/pogodin-reception/reception-appendices.html)

9. Second Vatican Council, Orientalium Ecclesiarum §27 (http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19641121_orientalium-ecclesiarum_en.html)

10. In the 43rd episode of his online show, Charles Coulombe mentions that Fr. Feodor Wilcock, S.J. (a priest of the Russian rite and a friend of Fr. Leonard Feeney, S.J.), “would never refuse an Orthodox communion, because he knew that any Orthodox that would come to a Catholic priest to receive was already in the right frame of mind”.

11. See Brother André Marie’s “Promising Salvation to Non-Catholics: A Sin against Charity” (http://catholicism.org/ad-rem-no-145.html) and comments on Coptic Orthodox (http://catholicism.org/the-twenty-one-slain-copts-martyrs.html). Material heretics and schismatics are not considered legal members of the Church, but they can be saved by a desire for membership (Fr. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, ISBN 978-1-929291-85-4, p. 311).

12. A. Edward Siecienski, The Papacy and the Orthodox: Sources and History of a Debate (ISBN 9780190245269), p. 348, footnotes. Catholic Encyclopedia, “Greek Church” (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06752a.htm): “…in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Jesuits and Capuchins were allowed to preach and hear confessions in the Greek Churches, by the express permission of the patriarch and the bishops.”

13. Catholic Encyclopedia, “Schism” (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13529a.htm). “In the material sense of the word there is schism, that is rupture of the social body, if there exist two or more claimants of the papacy, each of whom has on his side certain appearances of right and consequently more or less numerous partisans. But under these circumstances good faith may, at least for a time, prevent a formal schism; this begins when the legitimacy of one of the pontiffs becomes so evident as to render adhesion to a rival inexcusable.” St. Vincent Ferrer, though he accepted an antipope and was thus objectively wrong in identifying the visible Church, acted in good faith (http://www.ewtn.com/saintsHoly/saints/V/stvincentferrer.asp).

14. See Charles Coulombe’s “Looking Eastward” (http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=6082).

15. See, for example, Dave Armstrong’s The Quotable Eastern Church Fathers (Lulu, 2013; ISBN 978-1-304-21000-5).

16. Antonio Parisi, “Orthodoxy Is My Doxy” (http://jameslikoudispage.com/Ecumenic/orthetero.htm)

17. James Likoudis, “The Immaculate Conception and the Doctrine of Mary as Coredemptrix in Eastern Orthodoxy” (http://jameslikoudispage.com/Ecumenic/marycorede.htm). See also: “Catholics of Egypt Gratified by Schismatic Copts’ Defense of Assumption Dogma in Controversy”, 20 November 1950 (http://thecatholicnewsarchive.org/cgi-bin/crra?a=d&d=cns19501120-01.1.28).

18. See James Likoudis, “Testimony to the Primacy of the Pope by a 17th c. Russian Orthodox Prelate” (http://jameslikoudispage.com/Ecumenic/pmohila.htm) and “Light from the ‘Church of the East’ on the Roman Primacy” (http://jameslikoudispage.com/Ecumenic/assyrians.htm).

19. See Br. Michael’s “Slave of the Slaves: the Story of Saint Peter Claver” (http://catholicism.org/slave-of-slaves.html). “The holy man had no time to lose” before those coming in from slave ships “would be auctioned off in the market place and sometimes end up far away”. He was known to preach simply.

20. Canon 751: “schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him” (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P2H.HTM). Also, one becomes subject to the Church, and therefore to the Pontiff, at baptism. Explicit knowledge of the Papacy has never been considered essential in emergency instruction. Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton notes that “it is the common teaching of the theologians that true supernatural faith can exist even where there is only an implicit belief in the Catholic Church” (The Catholic Church and Salvation, The Newman Press, 1958, p. 69). Though there has been invincible ignorance of the Holy See, when writing of the Papacy and the Church’s Roman-ness, Cardinal Charles Journet saw fit to mention, “When the Christian communities of the Far East, converted from paganism by St. Francis Xavier, and left without priests for two hundred years, once more saw new missionaries disembark, they recognized them simply by asking whether they obeyed the ‘white robe’.” (http://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/chwordin3.htm) And, in the early Church, “Even the pagans knew that a true Christian was one in communion with the bishop of Rome,” according to Fr. Ludwig Hertling, S.J. (http://cathedraunitatis.wordpress.com/2007/09/04/ludwig-hertling-on-communio-and-the-roman-church-1/).

21. Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei §39 (http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20130629_enciclica-lumen-fidei.html)

22. Summa Theologiae, SSP, Q. 2, Art. 6, R. to Ob. 3 (http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3002.htm)

23. Steven J. Rummelsburg, “Give Full Assent to the Teachings of the Church” (http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2016/10/rummelsburg-give-full-assent-to-the-teachings-of-the-church/)

24. De Fide Et Symbolo, chapter 10 (http://www.clerus.org/bibliaclerusonline/en/ce5.htm)

25. The Fathers of the Church: Saint Augustine Letters, Volume I (1-82) (translated by Sister Wilfrid Parsons, S.N.D.; ISBN 978-0-8132-1556-3), p. 182

26. The Church of the Word Incarnate (http://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/chwordin3.htm). Msgr. Fenton says that “some of the members of these dissident and schismatical communities may receive the Eucharist and take part in the Eucharistic sacrifice fruitfully” (The Catholic Church and Salvation, p. 94), and “any man who fruitfully and worthily partakes of this Eucharistic feast is within the true Church, at least by intention” (p. 24). “Neither justification nor glorification — that is, neither the remission of our sins nor the attainment of the Beatific Vision — is possible except ‘in Christ Jesus.’ And the Church, in the divinely inspired epistles of St. Paul, is represented precisely though metaphorically as ‘the body of Christ.’ To be ‘in Christ Jesus,’ then, is to be ‘within’ the Mystical Body of Christ, Our Lord’s one and only true Church or kingdom.” (p. 22-23) “All of those outside the Church, even the individuals who have committed no sin against the faith itself, are in a position in which they cannot be saved unless they in some way enter or join the Church before they die.” (p. 40) “…if [a man] has the love of charity for God, he is ‘within’ the true Church of Jesus Christ, at least by sincere (although perhaps merely implicit) intention and desire. If, on the other hand, a man has not a love of charity for God, he is in the state of sin.” (p. 46) Those with faith, hope, and charity have “the spiritual or inner bond of unity within the Catholic Church” and are “by that very fact joined to Our Lord and to His disciples within the supernatural kingdom of God” (p. 62).

27. Fr. Bernard J. Otten, S.J., writes in The Business of Salvation (B. Herder, 1916), “…if anyone through his own fault, whether through obstinacy or through culpable negligence, fails to become a member of the Church which Christ has established on earth, he is by that very fact deprived of the means necessary for saving his soul” (p. 250-251). While desire to be in the Church, included in the firm will to do all that God requires, is an absolute necessity, because there are real cases in which attaining legal membership is impossible, we know that “membership” is a relative necessity, meaning that those who can die as members must (see John Salza and Robert Siscoe, True or False Pope?, ISBN 978-1-4951-8142-9, p. 132-137).

28. “Promising Salvation to Non-Catholics”. Pope Pius XI wrote in Ecclesiam Dei §9 that St. Josaphat Kuntsevych, though “born of schismatic parents”, “always considered himself a member” of the true Church (http://www.papalencyclicals.net/pius11/p11eccle.htm). For example, Francis E. Hyland wrote that the question of legal membership for excommunicates “seems to be one of theory and of little practical import”, since they lack benefits of membership and could still be saved by perfect contrition (Excommunication, Catholic University of America, 1928, p. 5-10). A person who passed away with sanctifying grace must have been sufficiently in accord with the Church, having all essentials and being without mortal sin, even if this accord was not recognized. According to Fenton, “…charity is absolutely incompatible with an unwillingness to live and die in the communion of the Church of Jesus Christ. … Thus every man who has charity, every man in the state of grace, every man who is saved, is necessarily one who is or who intends to become a member of the Roman Catholic Church. There can be no exceptions.” (This intent can be implicit for those not “fully informed about the identity of the true Church”.) Fenton says “[t]his is the only interpretation fully consonant with” the declarations of the Fourth Lateran Council, the Council of Florence, and Pope Boniface VIII (“Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus”, The American Ecclesiastical Review, unknown issue, p. 303-304; http://thecatholicarchive.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/106.pdf). The existence of just individuals who are not “members” no more contradicts the coextension of the Catholic Church and the Mystical Body of Christ than does the existence of sinful members.

29. The Necessity of the Church for Salvation in Selected Theological Writings of the Past Century (Catholic University of America, 1960), p. 357

30. Summa Theologiae, PSP, Q. 76, Art. 2, Ans. (http://newadvent.org/summa/2076.htm)

31. See §2 of Pope St. Pius X’s Acerbo Nimis (http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius10/p10chdoc.htm). A misinterpretation of words of Bl. Pope Pius IX can lead some to think that there are non-Christians perfectly obeying the natural law and remaining without mortal sin and being saved that way. Msgr. Fenton wrote that “no one can remain for any considerable time without committing mortal sin apart from the aid of supernatural grace” and without having sanctifying grace, and so “the man who is sedulously observing the natural law in such a way as to avoid mortal sin for a considerable period of time is one who has already made an explicit act of supernatural faith, in which the belief in the Church was at least implicitly contained” (“The Theological Proof for the Necessity of the Catholic Church: Part II”, The American Ecclesiastical Review, unknown issue, p. 299; http://thecatholicarchive.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/40.pdf).

32. Questiones Disputatae de Veritate, Q. 14, A. 11, A. to D. 1 (http://dhspriory.org/thomas/QDdeVer14.htm). Those with the good will to comply with God’s will are given the Truth, which they accept when it is sufficiently proposed to them. See Br. Thomas Mary Sennott’s “The Salvation of the Pre-Columbian Amerindians” (http://catholicism.org/eens-salvation-amerindian.html) and Mary Rezac’s “Did this Spanish nun bi-locate to Texas?” (http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/did-this-spanish-nun-bi-locate-to-texas-vatican-aims-to-find-out-60292/). For more on opportunity for salvation, see Msgr. Joseph Pohle and Arthur Preuss, Grace: Actual and Habitual (2nd Revised Ed., 1917), p. 152-187.

33. “…endowed as they are with free will, they can misuse their freedom under the impulse of mental agitation and base desires. Unfortunately many are still wandering far from the Catholic truth, being unwilling to follow the inspirations of divine grace, because neither they nor the faithful pray to God with sufficient fervor for this intention.” (Mystici Corporis Christi §104; http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_29061943_mystici-corporis-christi.html)

34. Second Vatican Council, Dignitatis Humanae §1 (http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651207_dignitatis-humanae_en.html)

35. Bl. Pope Paul VI, Ecclesiam Suam §107 (http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_06081964_ecclesiam.html)

36. Catechism of the Catholic Church §848 (http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p123a9p3.htm#848)

37. Pope Paul III, Sublimus Dei (http://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_pa03sd.htm)

38. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 1988 (http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=3032)

39. “There can be real divine faith when a man believes explicitly, on the authority of God revealing, the existence of God as the Head of the supernatural order, the fact that God rewards good and punishes evil, and the doctrines of the Blessed Trinity and of the Incarnation.” (The Catholic Church and Salvation, p. 69) Fr. Brian Harrison, O.S., citing Scripture, magisterial statements, and liturgy, has powerfully argued in a speech entitled “Can an Implicit Faith in Christ Be Sufficient for Salvation?” for the absolute necessity of explicit belief in all of these (http://store.catholicism.org/can-an-implicit-faith-in-christ-be-sufficient-for-salvation-mp3.html).

40. Discourse 10: “Faith and Private Judgment” (http://www.newmanreader.org/works/discourses/discourse10.html). For early Christians, “The Church was their teacher; they did not come to argue, to examine, to pick and choose, but to accept whatever was put before them. No one doubts, no one can doubt this, of those primitive times. A Christian was bound to take without doubting all that the Apostles declared to be revealed”. For many now, “what looks like faith, is a mere hereditary persuasion, not a personal principle”. Putative Protestants “who firmly believe in spite of all difficulties, they certainly have some claim to be considered under the influence of faith; but there is nothing to show that such persons, where they are found, are not in the way to become Catholics, and perhaps they are already called so by their friends, showing in their own examples the logical, indisputable connexion which exists between possessing faith and joining the Church”.

41. “…I should either even then have defended the Catholic Scriptures attacked by the Manichæans, if as I say, I had been cautious; or I should now show that they can be defended.” (Of Two Souls, Chapter 15; http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1403.htm) Once finding himself unable to answer a question, St. Augustine felt “admonished from on high to leave that error and to be converted to the Catholic faith or rather to recall it, by the indulgence of Him who did not permit [him] to inhere forever in this fallacy” (Disputation Against Fortunatus, Second Day; http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1404.htm). Pope Pius XI said that those who “humbly beg light from heaven” “will recognize the one true Church of Jesus Christ and will, at last, enter it, being united with us in perfect charity” (Mortalium Animos §13; http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_19280106_mortalium-animos.html).

42. Orlando Fedeli, “Read the Bible?” (http://www.catholicapologetics.info/apologetics/protestantism/read.htm)

43. Catechism of the Catholic Church §1451-1453 (http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p2s2c2a4.htm#1451)

44. According to Cardinal Journet, “…the dissident Churches which retain the power of order (the dissident Oriental Churches for instance), may retain, by a concession of the Sovereign Pontiff, either express or tacit, a partial but genuine jurisdiction which enables them validly to administer to their subjects even those sacraments which require a jurisdictional power in the minister; such as Confirmation and Penance. ….the validity of the Confirmation given by the dissident priests, a validity that could only result from a concession of the Sovereign Pontiff, was explicitly recognized by the Holy Office (3rd July 1859) for all the Oriental Churches, save those of Bulgaria, Cyprus, South Italy and the islands adjacent from whom this concession had been earlier withdrawn. … As to the sacrament of Penance, we know that ‘in peril of death all priests, even those not approved for hearing confessions, can validly and licitly absolve any penitents from all sins and censures.’ There then is a definite case in which the dissident Oriental priests certainly receive from the Sovereign Pontiff every authorization to dispense the sacrament of Penance. ….(1) The Church, which has not withdrawn from them the jurisdiction needed for Confirmation, will not deprive them of the still more useful jurisdiction to absolve their flock from their sins; (2) Rome has never required Eastern converts to make a general confession; and must thus regard confessions made in good faith to dissident priests as valid.” (http://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/chwordin3.htm)

45. See Anglicanorum Coetibus (http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_ben-xvi_apc_20091104_anglicanorum-coetibus.html).

46. Address at Ecumenical Meeting in Cologne, 19 August 2005 (http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/speeches/2005/august/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20050819_ecumenical-meeting.html). Fr. Yves Congar, O.P., said that “union, while not representing an ‘absorption’ in the odious sense of the word, can only be, from the point of view of ecclesiology, a reunion with the Apostolic See” (After Nine Hundred Years, Fordham University Press, 1959, p. 82).

47. CDF, “On Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion” §17 (http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_28051992_communionis-notio_en.html)

48. Preparatory Schema for Lumen Gentium, chapter XI, notes (translated by Fr. Joseph A. Komonchak; http://jakomonchak.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/draft-of-de-ecclesia-chs-1-11.pdf)

49. “On Some Aspects” §13

50. Pope St. John Paul II, Address to U.S. Bishops, 16 September 1987 (http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/speeches/1987/september/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_19870916_vescovi-stati-uniti.html)

51. Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis §15 (http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20070222_sacramentum-caritatis.html)

52. Pope St. John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia §35 (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/special_features/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_20030417_ecclesia_eucharistia_en.html)

53. Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium §15 (http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html)

54. James Likoudis, “History of the Byzantine Greco-Slav Schism” (http://jameslikoudispage.com/Ecumenic/byschism.htm)

55. See James Likoudis’ “A Formal Schism in 1054 A.D.?” (http://jameslikoudispage.com/Ecumenic/pamiccer.htm), William Huysman’s “Why God Led Me to Rome Instead of Constantinople” (http://web.archive.org/web/20180213114036/http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2011/04/old-rome-not-new-rome-1.html), the first chapter of Fr. Serge Descy’s The Melkite Church (Sophia Press, 1993), a series from the Transalpine Redemptorists (http://papastronsay.blogspot.com/search/label/Communicatio%20in%20sacris), and Fr. John Hunwicke on ecumenism (http://liturgicalnotes.blogspot.com/2016/02/ecumenism-update.html).

56. They were “not only invited but exhorted and begged”. “…if these men had gone to the Vatican Council as their predecessors had gone to Second Lyons and to Florence, they could have become members of this council with the right of deliberative vote.” (Fenton, “The Ecumenical Council and Christian Reunion”, The American Ecclesiastical Review, Vol. CXLI, July-December 1959, p. 45-57)

57. Joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration, 7 December 1965 (http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/speeches/1965/documents/hf_p-vi_spe_19651207_common-declaration.html)

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American Anti-Catholic Bigotry Exposed

READ THE STORY: America Turns Nativist Against Pope Francis

Proof that the Greek Church accepted papal primacy prior to the Photian Schism?

A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics

Another excerpt from Dom Prosper Gueranger, and this one is most interesting.  It is from the Greek Menaea for Pope St. Leo the Great, written, according to Dom Gueranger, many centuries before the Great Schism of 1054.  The words from this hymn certainly do seem to establish a strong St_Leo_the_Great_2_CNA_US_Catholic_News_11_2_12

belief in Papal primacy.  They also highlight how the early Church viewed doctrinal orthodoxy/purity/correctness as one of the most vital characteristics of a bishop, especially the Sovereign Pontiff.  No bonus points for saying Catholic things 99% of the time……they are demanded 100% of the time. See what  you think below:

O happy Pontiff! Glorious Leo, thou hast been made companion of the faithful priests and martyrs; for thou was t most invincible in battle, and immovable as a tower and fortress of religion.  Thou dist proclaim, with most prefect orthodoxy and wisdom, the unspeakable generation download (10)of Christ.

O ruler of…

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Vladimir Solovyov on Papal Primacy

From p. 15-17 of Eastern Orthodox theologian Vladimir Solovyov’s wonderful work, Russia and the Universal Church:

There is in the Christian Church a materially fixed point, an external and visible center of action, an image and an instrument of the divine power. The apostolic see of Rome, that miraculous ikon of universal Christianity, was directly involved in the Iconoclastic struggle, since all the heresies were in the last resort denials of the reality of that divine incarnation, the permanence of which in the social and political order was represented by Rome. It is indeed historically evident that all the heresies actively supported or passively accepted by the majority of the Greek clergy encountered insuperable opposition from the Roman Church and finally came to grief on this Rock of the Gospel. This is especially true of the Iconoclastic heresy; for in denying all external manifestation of the divine in the world it was making a direct attack on the raison d’être of the Chair of Peter as the real objective center of the visible Church.

The pseudo-Christian Empire of Byzantium was bound to engage in decisive combat with the orthodox Papacy; for the latter was not only the infallible guardian of Christian truth but also the first realization of that truth in the collective life of the human race. To read the moving letters of Pope Gregory II to the barbarous Isaurian Emperor is to realize that the very existence of Christianity was at stake. The outcome of the struggle could not be in doubt; the last of the imperial heresies went the way of its predecessors, and with it the circle of theoretic or dogmatic compromises which Constantine’s successors had attempted between Christian truth and the principle of paganism was finally closed. The era of imperial heresies was followed by the emergence of Byzantine “orthodoxy.” To understand this fresh phase of the anti-Christian spirit we must revert to its origins in the preceding period.

Throughout the history of the great Eastern heresies, extending over five centuries from the time of Arius to that of the last Iconoclasts, we constantly find in the Empire and Church of the East three main parties whose alternating victories and defeats form the framework of this curious evolution. We see in the first place the champions of formal heresy, regularly instigated and supported by the imperial court. From the religious point of view, they represented the reaction of Eastern paganism to Christian truth; politically, they were the declared enemies of that independent ecclesiastical government founded by Jesus Christ and represented by the apostolic see of Rome. They began by conceding to sar [sic], whose protégés they were, unbounded authority not only in the government of the Church but even in matters of doctrine; and when Cæsar, impelled by the orthodox majority of his subjects and by the fear of playing into the hands of the Pope, ended by betraying his own creatures, the leaders of the heretical party sought more solid support elsewhere by exploiting the separatist and semi-pagan tendencies of the various nations which were free, or were aiming at freedom, from the Roman yoke. Thus Arianism, the religion of the Empire under Constantius and Valens, but abandoned by their successors, claimed the allegiance of the Goths and Lombards for centuries; Nestorianism, betrayed by its champion Theodosius II, was for a time welcomed by the Eastern Syrians; and Monophysitism, thrust out from Byzantium in spite of all the efforts of the Emperors, finally became the national religion of Egypt, Abyssinia and Armenia.

At the opposite extreme to this heretical party, trebly anti-Christian — in its religious doctrine, its secularism, and its nationalism — we find the absolutely orthodox Catholic party engaged in defending the purity of the Christian idea against all the pagan compromises and in championing free and worldwide ecclesiastical government against the onslaughts of Cæsaropapism and the aims of national separatism. This party could not count on the favor of earthly powers; of the higher clergy it included only individuals here and there. But it relied on the greatest religious force of those times, the monks, and also on the simple faith of the mass of devout believers, at least in the central parts of the Byzantine Empire. Moreover, these orthodox Catholics found and recognized in the central Chair of St. Peter the mighty palladium [sic] of religious truth and freedom. To indicate the moral weight and ecclesiastical importance of this party, it is enough to say that it was the party of St. Athanasius the Great, of St. John Chrysostom, of St. Flavian, of St. Maximus the Confessor and of St. Theodore of the Studium.

vladimir-solovyov

The Pope Alexander VI Series

Catholic Analysis, our “sister site”, presents its series on Pope Alexander VI, the poorly-treated blasphemabitur reformator. Here, its posts are listed.

Shepherds & Kings

Shepherds & Kings: A Look at the Papacy

There is to be one Shepherd here. It was first King David (Ezekiel 34:23), then Jesus (John 10:11), and now is the Pope (John 21:17). This role is tied to the role of King. As David was King (2 Samuel 5:12) and Christ is King (Matthew 27:11), so the Pope is (as the Vicar of Christ) “father of princes and kings”.

Historically, the Pope has been the unifier of everyone: emperors, artists, the religious, and so on. Whenever emperors would abandon the Faith, they would be publicly corrected. Whenever artists sought to honor Christ, they would be promoted. And whenever Christians in the East would fall into heresy, the Pope would be the one to bring them in line, as Russian Orthodox theologian Vladimir Solovyov noted.

The Pope has a temporal role. Only the Pope can thoroughly ensure the recognization of Christ as King in society.

Pope Gelasius I wrote to Emperor Anastasius, “There are two powers, august Emperor, by which this world is chiefly ruled, namely, the sacred authority of the priests and the royal power. Of these that of the priests is the more weighty, since they have to render an account for even the kings of men in the divine judgment.”

On the correction of earthly monarchs, I often think of the Walk to Canossa, the journey of penance taken by Henry IV, of the Holy Roman Empire, in reparation for his grave sins against the Pope. This was done only out of selfishness on Henry’s part, of course, but still, under the right societal conditions, people can be motivated to repent. I also think of Emperor Theodosius, who only repented after forceful rebukes by St. Ambrose. Should we not incentivize such righteous actions in our own societies? Of course, we should!

Much temporal good has come from our Holy Mother Church, the Mater et Magistra (“mother and teacher”). In the Middle Ages, for example, during which the power of the Church was at its highest, literacy rates increased, art flourished, the university system developed, laws were better-codified, and the Bible became more accessible to lay people. This was all due to popes leading as shepherds and flocks following like sheep. The laypeople of the period, I think, had a greater appreciation for hierarchy and understood that, if left to its own devices, society would collapse. Remember that God had to come down to His people; His people did not go up to Him. Society, today, unfortunately, detests anything other than near-absolute egalitarianism.

Now, imagine for a moment, a Papacy unhindered by societal pressures, free to guide its flock to the fullest, and empowered to pave a beautiful kingdom for Christ’s return! Shepherds like Pope Alexander VI understood and promoted this possibility. Unfortunately, because of the rise of democracy and secularism, the temporal honors historically afforded to popes have dwindled. Now, an Alexander would be almost universally despised, and for no reason!

The Pope, the Vicar of Christ, the Visible Shepherd, the Father of princes and kings, the pinnacle of civilization — he needs us. Pray for him and forever support him in every way possible. And pray that the Church may be empowered to pave the way for Her King.

“[W]hat is certain is that the ruins and traces of the Holy Empire are all about us. An understanding of its history and continuing influence is key to understanding the practical implications of the Social Kingship of Christ — which idea, in so many ways, is the ideal successive Emperors and their loyal subjects sought to follow on Earth, and without which, as Pius XI teach[es] in Quas primas, real peace is impossible.” – Charles A. Coulombe

“A Worthy Burden” – My Apologetic Story

The Church is my greatest weight. Of course, the weight of over a billion souls would likely be rather large, especially post-McDonald’s, so I suppose that nothing else is really comparable.

What does this mean? In an age of moral relativism, instability, and self-gratification, much like the age of the Roman Empire prior to its Christian conversion, I found myself alone and empty after a scarring experience. So, I sought the counsel of philosophy and history – surely, men had answered my questions before! – and I was, after seemingly endless struggles with myself and others, eventually comforted. The Church became vindicated in my heart.

The more I study, the more I am forced to accept Catholicism as the true Faith. The depth and size of it, as well as its impacts on culture, force any serious student to step back and pay at least a bit of attention. It took me a while to overcome my initial ambivalence toward any religion in particular – though I was always appreciative of God and enamored with the subject in general – but once I had crossed the proverbial Tiber, there was no going back.

I was baptized Catholic, and I vaguely recall some crossing with holy water and lighting prayer candles, but I was hardly raised to practice the Faith. In high school, I dug into a box of things from my infancy. I spotted a rosary within it, along with a note saying that it belonged to my great-grandmother. I mentioned it to a Catholic friend, and he gave me some information about it. That set of events started the arduous process of reconciliation.

Later, at the urging of the aforementioned friend, I casually flipped through the writings of the Church Fathers (prominent ancient Christian leaders). I quickly became impressed. I only did this, originally, to assuage my ego. I had made a theological speculation, and he answered me with, “Well, did the early Christians believe that?” I did not know. Anyway, he was right, and I was wrong.

My advice for anyone that wishes to be a Protestant is to avoid the Church Fathers like one would avoid a plague. I once remarked to a professor that introducing the former to the latter is like shaking a baby: it might teach them a lesson, but it also might kill them.

In my search for the Truth (capital ‘T’ intended), I asked a long series of questions.

On the Magisterium (teaching authority) of the Church, I asked: Does God still reveal things to us, or does His message end with the Bible? What would He reveal things through?

The idea that God arbitrarily ended His message with the Bible and deliberately chose to allow confusion over doctrine became untenable to me, especially in light of verses like Deuteronomy 31:6 (He will never leave us) and John 17:11 (He requests Christian unity). The Protestant position on this (Sola Scriptura) then made little sense. How could that idea, unprecedented before the Renaissance and ungrounded in Tradition or common sense, be true? I have found no sensible argument in favor of it.

What would His mouthpiece be, though? His Bride (Mark 2:18-20), the Church, of course! As a wife understands the workings of her husband, so does the Church understand Christ. From there, how is She structured? This is where apostolic succession (the lineage of bishops from the time of the Apostles to the present) comes in. Bishops are given special power (Luke 21:15) – which even Simon Magus knew was handed down (Acts 8:18-19) – after the laying on of hands (1 Timothy 4:142 Timothy 1:6) in their consecration ceremonies. They can trace themselves back to the very beginning of Christianity. All of this “clicked” in my head when I first read these words from St. Ignatius of Antioch: “See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop.”

Now, who leads it? This is answered by Matthew 16:18, the famous verse, which helped me grasp that Christ built His Church on Peter (aka Cephas), the faithful “rock” (Greek, Aramaic). It’s a parallel to the story of Eliakim (Isaiah 22:20-22), who represented his king. St. Peter, called by Christ to “feed [His] sheep” (John 21:17), likewise represented his King. Some in the historical-critical movement have, naturally, raised objections to St. Peter’s primacy. But even agnostic Protestant historian John Julius Norwich wrote of the pope, “It seems more likely than not that St. Peter did in fact come to Rome and was martyred there, probably somewhere on the Vatican Hill…[and] there can be little doubt that he was the generally acknowledged leader of Christ’s disciples.” Whenever I doubt, I latch on to this information: the historical basis for the Papacy is rock-solid.

My goal is to increase the powers and jurisdiction of this great entity to the fullest capacity, because I recognize the impact that She has had and can have on the world. Documents like Humanae Vitae and Evangelium Vitae urge respect for the sanctity of life, Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno offer economic principles rooted in good morals, and so on. If only humanity would follow the path that the Church has set forth! This temporal aspect, even by itself, is enough to drive me, despite how burdensome this desire can be.

In conclusion, I will leave the reader with a quote from G. K. Chesterton. “The difficulty of explaining ‘why I am a Catholic’ is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.”

Jesus Christ gave “the keys” to St. Peter, the first pope.

Yes, we know that popes are not perfect.

The Church openly recognizes that popes are not perfect.

Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) was asked on Bavarian television in 1997 if the Holy Spirit is responsible for who gets elected Pope. His response was:

“I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the Pope. … I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit’s role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined. … There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit obviously would not have picked!

There is a common misconception among Protestants that the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility means, essentially, that popes can never be wrong about anything. However, that is not what the Church teaches. The Pope is only infallible when he is speaking ex cathedra (basically, when he is instructing all of the faithful at once about something relating to faith or morals).

In the First Vatican Council (1869-1870) papal infallibility was defined:

“Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.”

(By the way, you can read the documents from the First Vatican Council here.)

Popes are capable of sinning, just like any other person, and they know that. In fact, Popes typically go to Confession fairly often, even though Catholics are only duty-bound (by one of the Precepts of the Church, which you can read about here) to go to Confession at least once a year.

Now, some point to popes such as Pope Alexander VI and others as proof that popes are corrupt and unworthy of their office. However, I do not believe that personal flaws necessarily mean a pope is bad, nor do they prevent a pope from doing good.

For example, Pope Alexander VI helped with negotiations between Spain and Portugal (which eventually led to the Treaty of Tordesillas and what is sometimes called the “Papal Line of Demarcation”) and encouraged the development of education by signing a papal bull which founded King’s College, Aberdeen. He also, after the 1492 expulsion of Jews from Spain, welcomed thousands of Jews into Rome.

If you read more about the what some call “bad popes,” you will see that, underneath a handful of flaws, the vast majority of them were men with many positive attributes who, for one reason or another, felt called to serve God.

But let us look at this from a different perspective. Not all Presidents of the United States are well-liked, but that does not have any bearing on their authority. Even if you may not like the person administering the law, you are still obliged to follow the law.

Popes are not perfect, but that is irrelevant. They are the successors of St. Peter. They have been chosen to lead us, and it is our job to listen to them (on matters of faith and morals, at the very least). After all, the Holy Spirit is more than capable of speaking through them and making sure that we are not led astray.

No, Pope Benedict XVI is not a Hitler fan.

Despite the fact that Pope Benedict XVI has labeled the Third Reich as a “dark time,” despite the fact that neither he nor any member of his immediate family ever joined the Nazi Party, despite the fact that his own father was critical of the Nazi government (and, as a result, his family had to move four times before he was ten years old), and despite the fact that many Jewish leaders generally like him and openly praise him [Source 1, Source 2], some individuals in the media apparently think it is prudent to mention ever so frequently in the current papal resignation coverage that Pope Benedict XVI was once a member of the Hitler Youth.

It’s disappointing, really. Here, we have a great, holy man that seems to be ill (listen to his voice at the end of his resignation announcement here for some evidence of that), and some people are trying to soil his reputation.

From the Catholic League:

Here are the facts. Like all teenage boys in Nazi Germany, Joseph Ratzinger was forced to join the Hitler Youth. Unlike many others, he did not attend meetings and deserted when he was drafted into the German army. His refusal to attend meetings brought economic hardship to his family—it meant no discounts for school tuition. German left-wing intellectuals like Günter Grass and Jürgen Habermas also were conscripted into the Hitler Youth, yet no one ever accused them of voluntarily joining.

Rabbi David Rosen, director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, said it is “rubbish” to suggest that the pope willfully joined the Hitler Youth. Following a complaint by us, even Bill Maher apologized in 2008 for making this pernicious accusation. In short, it is despicable for these journalists to smear the pope as a Nazi sympathizer.

(statement containing the above excerpt and more from the Catholic League posted here)

Let’s hope the media stops propagating the insane and intolerable accusation that Pope Benedict XVI is a closeted Hitler supporter.

No, the Pope does not worship a fish god.

In the rush to denounce Tradition in the Church, some Protestant leaders have an unfortunate tendency to go a bit overboard. For instance, one of the most common (at least, “common” in more radical circles) objections is that, through certain liturgical customs, the Pope worships a fish god. While most would probably laugh at the thought, the allegation has been made on numerous sites.

First, there are many things wrong with that allegation, but I’ll start with the simplest one. Catholics do not “abstain from eating fish on all days except Fridays.” Many Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays and consume fish instead. This is a popular form of penance and sacrifice in honor of God, especially during Lent. However, there is no rule against eating fish on normal weekdays.

And as for the historical accuracy of their claims about the origins of the mitre, it appears that they just do not hold up to close inspection. For a relatively in-depth look at the history of the mitre, click here.

There is something semi-almost-but-not-really-accurate in the allegation, though: the Church does utilize symbolism.

There is a picture (taken by Alessandra Benedetti, it seems) in which you can see part of a papal chasuble with shell designs on the back, which a lot of the aforementioned Protestants point to.

Christianity has a close association with aquatic symbolism. The symbol of the early Church was the fish (the use of the cross did not come until later), St. Peter was a fisherman, and priests even use shells to scoop and pour water when baptizing, so shells also remind us of our baptism. To read about the origins of the Christian fish symbol, click here.

In conclusion, even if we make the false assumption that the Papacy is merely a temporal institution with temporal goals, it simply would not be in the Pope’s best interests to worship anything other than God. The Pope gets his temporal influence (what little he has in today’s hostile anti-religious environment) from Christians. Christians worship a single God in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (or “Holy Ghost,” if you prefer). Christians have no interest in supporting the idea of some random fish god. Therefore, the Pope does not even have a temporal reason to worship a fish god, as his power base does not want one.

The concept that the Pope worships a fish god is illegitimate and hardly constructive, and I hope that the few that believe it will drop it. It only serves as an obstacle in the way of meaningful ecumenical dialogue among believers.