Episode II: Sede Clergy and the Question of Jurisdiction
Please read the following article before watching!
Please read the following article before watching!
We who keep the Faith, who keep to the laws of the Church and believe everything that the popes have taught, the councils have promulgated, we who do not solicit sacraments from dubitable priests, labor under a terrible burden. We do not have holy orders. We are not members of the hierarchy. We are not teachers and preachers with authority or jurisdiction. What are we, then? What is our place in the Church? How do we exist as members of the Church at all, if, by all accounts and reasoning, the hierarchy is no more? To answer these questions, I propose an ancient metaphor, which at a certain space in the intervals of time was much more than a metaphor.
As you all may know, I am a veteran of the United States Navy. I served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln as a photographer and journalist. An aircraft carrier is a floating city. There is a post office, chapel, library, gas station, grocery and convenient store, coffee shop, gyms, even an airport (of course!), a police station and jail, and a newspaper office—which yours truly worked at. Now these places of business are all manned by enlisted sailors, and overseen by commissioned officers—let me say that again, commissioned officers! The metaphor is becoming apparent, no? Okay, well let’s continue.
The head of the ship is the captain. His word is law, and his command is the natural forces directing the energies and activities aboard ship. All the wills of the crew and officers are directed by the captain’s will. From the flight-deck officer directing a helicopter landing to a lowly deck-swabbing petty officer like myself, our wills were that of the captain’s. True, the captain’s will is directed by higher forces still, but that only emphasizes the parallel and metaphor. What metaphor? Oh, yes. I haven’t quite stated it, have I? Well, here we go.
The captain is the pope. The officers are the hierarchy. The enlisted are the laity. What happens, you think, if there were no captain, or, better yet, if the officers mutinied and the captain was killed? What would happen to all the activity aboard ship? What would the enlisted do? Follow the orders of mutineers? Go along to get along? I cannot answer for the moral compass of a boatload of sailors, but I can tell you what I would do. I would do what I am doing now: cry “Mutiny!” and patiently await my execution.
All metaphors limp. I’d say mine hobbles in one important respect. The officers who mutinied would not be on the ship anymore. They would be deep-sixed by their apostasy. Were I to perfect the metaphor, I would have you imagine that all the officers on board were thrown in the brig by the faithful crew who wanted to uphold their oath. Without officers, the operations of the ship would come to a stand still, and the only thing to do would be to cast anchor and await rescue, all the while conducting life-preserving operations, such as cooking, cleaning, and writing newspaper articles.
What you wouldn’t do, if you were a good sailor, is pretend that you could direct flight operations, or pilot jets, or navigate the vessel to safer waters. These are activities proper to officers. Likewise, if you were a good Catholic, you wouldn’t get yourself consecrated, open seminaries, ordain priests, or offer sacraments. These are the proper activities of the hierarchical Church militant, or the commissioned officers. These operations are vital to the mission of the aircraft carrier as well as the Church, but they are not vital to the survival of either! It is not necessary for an enlisted man to pilot a jet, just as it isn’t required of a layman to pretend to be a priest.
So, what exactly is required of us enlisted laymen? Though militaristic operations utilizing the weapons of the sacraments is altogether out of the question, I think God would have us bring aboard the aircraft carrier as many as may be floating about in the waters who are willing to be saved. The warship that is the Church has become a lifeboat as in the time of Noah, and no one needs a commission to throw a life-saver into the sea.
Children are the most mysterious creatures in existence. Walking, talking monuments of morality, children at once can teach us everything we could possibly need to know and yet not be able to tie their own shoes. They have within themselves that perfect balance of wisdom and humility which is so characteristic of the holy, which shakes the very foundations of the Earth with a simple question…
Is it any wonder, then, that our Lord tells us, “Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven”? The humility of a child is essential to faith, to that disposition of the soul to trust in God alone as Father, and to wait with palms up to receive His blessing.
But, if this is the image of the Christian soul faithful to Christ and His Church, what would the image be of one who did not have the faith of a child? The quickest and most reasonable image that comes to my mind is the image of a grownup, which is characterized by the very opposite qualities than that of a child.
For starters, the grownup doesn’t ask “why”—ever. He knows why. He lectures and lectures until the child, or anyone else in earshot, falls asleep or dies from boredom. He does not have wisdom so much as knowledge. He knows the rubrics, the laws, the teachings, the feast days and abstinence days, and so much and many other things that bewilder the brain just pondering them. But he doesn’t have wisdom. That is the gift only given to the child of the Faith.
Whereas the child waits upon his Father to receive, the grownup is impatient. He doesn’t wait for anything, but insists upon his own time-table and priorities. He’s a go-getter, and so he goes and gets himself ordained a priest and consecrated a bishop. He’s grownup, and the salvation of souls is his top priority—as if that weren’t the top priority of God when he wrote the Divine law in the stars. He’ll feed the sheepfold with the Eucharist. He’ll heal the sickly lamb with Penance. “God, just sit back in the folds of eternity. I got this,” he seems to say. “No need to rush the culmination of the world. There’s still some soul-saving to do here. Speaking of which, is my flight to Phoenix booked?”
Catholic Twitter and the Sedevacantist blogosphere has been buzzing with the recent episcopal consecration of Charles McGuire, which took place in Cincinnati, at the Saint Gertrude the Great mass center. This just followed Daniel Dolan’s unexpected passing (requiescat in pace). The principle consecrator—actually, the only consecrator—Rodrigo da Silva, was just recently consecrated himself by Dolan. All this consecrating got me thinking, though, and, when I start thinking, I usually start tweeting. I tweeted a few quotes from Church authorities on the matter of mission.
“…Let all who, being prohibited or not sent, without having received authority from the Apostolic See, or from the Catholic bishop of the place, shall presume publically or privately to usurp the duty of preaching be marked by the bond of excommunication…” (Denzinger, 434).
Needless to say, that tweet didn’t get much love. So I set to work on the woodworm itself which has been eating away at the Barque of Peter for several decades now. I am speaking, of course, of epikeia, which apparently like a magic word enchants anything it touches with divine powers. Well, I was having nothing of that hocus-pocus. I found some sources which stated that epikeia cannot be invoked in matters of divine law, because the Divine Lawgiver foresaw all contingencies and accordingly provided for them. And, since canonical mission is a matter of divine law, which no one disputes, epikeia cannot be invoked.
Then someone posted a wonderfully clear excerpt on mission from Abbot Dom Guéranger, an imminent theologian of his day (1800s) which I quote in full:
“We, then, both priests and people, have a right to know whence our pastors have received their power. From whose hand have they received the keys? If their mission come from the apostolic see, let us honour and obey them, for they are sent to us by Jesus Christ, who has invested them, through Peter, with His own authority. If they claim our obedience without having been sent by the bishop of Rome, we must refuse to receive them, for they are not acknowledged by Christ as His ministers. The holy anointing may have conferred on the the sacred character of the episcopate: it matters not; they must be as aliens to us, for they have not been sent, they are not pastors.”
Well, apparently, it wasn’t clear enough for the grownup Sedevacantists. Not one received the Abbot’s teaching (which is the teaching of the Catholic Church!) with a child-like faith and trust. What they did, those who actually engaged in the discussion, was try to turn the conversation to validity of Holy Orders and supplied jurisdiction, instead of simply accepting the Church’s teaching on the matter, and letting themselves be guided and governed by it.
You see, God did not leave us abandoned. He gave us simple rules to follow and to trust, that we might not be led astray, even during the Apocalypse and reign of the Antichrist. One does not need to know anything about supplied jurisdiction, colored titles, conditions for consecration validity, sacramental theology, etc. These things are important in their way, but for the simple, obedient and humble child of the Faith, all that is required is to know and to ask that man in black with the white collar standing at your door, “Did Papa send you?”
“I’m Catholic.” This simple sentence a hundred million people say every day. Those who worship Satan say it. Those who bash the one they believe to be the Vicar of Christ say it. Now there is a group of “Catholics” who also say it, but these are somewhat different than the obviously non-Catholic members of the Novus Ordo sect or the Recognize and Resist sect. Sedevacantist say it, too.
What is a “sedevacantist”? Well, to answer that question as simply as I can, at the basic level a sedevacantist is one who believes the Holy See to be empty. But the term is more charged than that. Associations are tied up with what it means to be a sedevacantist. Thus, you have the Congregation of the Immaculate Queen (CMRI), who have their own bishop. You have folks in the Most Holy Trinity Seminary (MHT), and then there’s the Saint Gertrude the Great mass center (SGG). And who could forget the Saint Pope Pius V society (SPPV)?
Now, what binds all these groups together under the name of sedevacantist is that each group believes that the Chair of Peter is vacant. This would seem to be a prerequisite to what it means to be a Catholic, but it could hardly be considered a sufficient condition. Let me explain.
If Francis is a heretic (and he is; so manifestly so that it actually physically hurts to look at him for more than a minute; the phrase “Offensive to pious eyes” comes to mind), then one who claims to be Catholic cannot submit to him, or have any communion with him. This Catholic truth is so obvious, and yet many “Catholics” don’t even grasp it. Thankfully, though, sedevacantists understand this much.
But denying that a particular person in Rome is the pope is not what defines a Catholic. So what is the sufficient condition of being a Catholic? To be a member of Christ’s Body, of course, to be a member of the Catholic Church. To belong to something presupposes that I know what that thing is to which I belong. So the next logical question to ask is, what is the Catholic Church? Put another way, how do we know that this group or that is the Catholic Church?
Happily, the Baltimore Catechism tells us how the Catholic Church is to be known. The four marks of One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, tells us that this entity, if it has these marks, is the Catholic Church. A mark here means, “a given and known sign by which a thing can be distinguished from all others of its kind. Thus a trademark is used to distinguish the article bearing it from all imitations of the same article,” (A.518).
So, where’s the trademark “Catholic” to be found on the sedevacantist clergy, laity, buildings, or books? I’ve never located it. Have you? I very much doubt it. Why? Because, as the Baltimore Catechism also teaches us children of the Faith, “The Church cannot have the four marks without the three attributes, because the three attributes necessarily come with the marks and without them the marks could not exist,” (A.520). The three attributes are, wait for it, 1. Authority; 2 Infallibility; and 3. Indefectibility. I’m going to let that sit on your mind and simmer for a few.
These attributes are not merely suggestive of being Catholic, or, worse, a mere idealized form of Catholicism, which cannot be realized today because of the Apocalypse. The attributes are those by which the Catholic Church exists, and without which we do not know where the Catholic Church is.
Now you cease to wonder why the sedevacantist groups say different things (no mark of unity); or how one group believes Francis has an election in hand, though he cannot exercise it, while another group says he cannot; or all the highly questionable episcopal consecrations, or the fact that these “bishops” do not act like apostolic delegates of God, insofar as they claim no authority. The sedevacantist groups all lack the three necessary and sufficient conditions to be Catholic: they all lack the three attributes of authority, infallibility, and indefectibility.
So what’s the takeaway here, that there is no Catholic Church today, that She has disappeared? In a very real sense, this is true. This is the consequence of an extended interregnum. “I shall strike the shepherd, etc.” We are the “scattered flock” as one friend put it. We are not a sheepfold. To act like it, to be corralled into this group or that calling itself Catholic is not only doctrinally unsound, it is also spiritually dangerous! Without the attributes that safeguard us, we are not unlike little sheep who happily bleat our belonging to a sedevacantist fold, when all the while the shepherds of these could be wild wolves in miters.
“But what about you, CatholicEclipsed! You’re a Home-Aloner! You have your group, too! Why can’t we?” Well, for starters, because this isn’t about groups, it is about desiring to be a Catholic, and belonging to the mystical body of Christ. And there is not a “Home-Alone” group. We who have chosen, through painful sacrifice and research and prayer, not to solicit sacraments from these sedevacantist groups, are individual and not a collective body at all. We are scattered sheep! I’m down here in the swamps of southern Illinois with my family, praying at home. There are those up near Chicago or in the westward landscapes of South Dakota. There are those who live in Arizona, New York, California, Canada, England, Germany, and any number of places.
Just as I cannot say that the sedevacantist groups and their members are Catholic, so I cannot say that those who stay at home to pray are Catholic. I don’t know about you, but I don’t claim any authority or infallibility or indefectibility. I cling only to those teachings and disciplines which have come from such, namely from Pius XII and before, but that just proves the point! I do so imperfectly and am liable to err. Thus there are even pray-at-homers who don’t believe Pius XII was pope or that there aren’t hundred-year-old bishops somewhere in hiding, because carrying on the “visibility” of the Church is a dogmatic must, you know!
In brief, pray-at-homers are just as multifarious in their opinions and how they live out what they think is Catholic as any other sedevacantist group. Though not a collective body or group themselves, each household is a kind of off-brand Catholic, I won’t say counterfeit, because that implies deceit, but an honest albeit imperfect attempt at being the real McCoy. So, the next time you say, “I’m Catholic,” mean it like the sky is falling, but don’t believe it too much; because your brand of Catholic might just be a knock-off.
Speaking of flaming heretics, oh, yes, the VaticanCatholic website of the Most Holy Family Monastery. If you didn’t know better, you’d think you’d loaded the webpage for the Catholic version of the National Enquirer instead of a publication supposedly dedicated to disseminating true doctrine. With tabloid-like thumbnails everywhere, sensational news stories utterly devoid of religious content, you would be forgiven for thinking so, since the veneer of Catholicism is so thin as to be completely transparent. In other words, you’d see through it, and you should, too.
Most Holy Family Monastery does have an air of legitimacy, though I confess my ignorance as to how to establish a monastery legally, take public monastic vows, and carry on the work of a such a community in good faith and standing with the Church. For all I know, Most Holy Family Monastery may be legitimate as a Benedictine monastery. The scope of this post does not question whether Michael Dimond is a monk or not; only whether he and his website is heretical. I would answer that in the affirmative.
The issue which MHFM raises hell over, and for which it has become notorious is the issue of baptism of desire. Now I am not going to sit here and recapitulate all the tedious (and I must say, stupid) arguments the website proffers in defense of its position, namely, that baptism of desire is not taught by the Church. To do so would be to give too much ground to the enemy. There is a certain point at which one is obliged by Catholic teaching and discipline, to submit to clearly defined dogmatic teaching, and not engage in argumentation to its contrary. I am not obliged by duty or honor to argue with a supposed Catholic whether transubstantiation is a dogmatically sound teaching of the Holy Eucharist. If you don’t believe that, you ain’t Catholic, man! Likewise, if you don’t believe that a man may be saved from his sins through the desire of being saved from his sins by Christ, you ain’t Catholic, man.
We have a duty as Catholics to believe all that the Church teaches. We neither have a duty or a right to even entertain what non-Catholics (even those who call themselves Catholic) believe and teach which is contrary to what the Church teaches. We must submit our minds and wills to the magisterium and discipline of the Catholic Church. Not to give our assent and submission to such constitutes either an act of heresy or schism, or, ultimately, if the denial is based upon foundational teachings (like the divinity of Christ), apostasy.
What I am obliged by duty to do, however, is to point out where the Catholic Church definitively teaches, clearly and without qualification, that baptism of desire is a means by which we are born again. Once done, you the reader may rest assured that whatever MHFM may argue to the contrary, their position against BOD is erroneous, false, backward, and simply heretical, and their institution (be it even legitimately erected as a monastery) must be avoided as being heretical.
In session six, recorded in the fourth chapter of the Council of Trent—an organ of the infallible magisterium of the Catholic Church—we read the following:
By which words, a description of the Justification of the impious is indicated,-as being a translation, from that state wherein man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace, and of the adoption of the sons of God, through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Saviour. And this translation, since the promulgation of the Gospel, cannot be effected, without the laver of regeneration, or the desire thereof, as it is written; unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.
Though the wording is archaic and somewhat dense, I think any reader of any normal intelligence can understand the meaning here. Without baptism (the laver of regeneration), or without desiring baptism, you remain an impious and unjustified son of Adam, and are not adopted as a son of God—because you have not been born again!
Thus clearly does the Catholic Church teach that BOD is a legitimate means by which one becomes a member of the Church. But just in case the above is a little tentatively held in our minds, let us consider what the preeminent Doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, had say, to whom the Council Fathers of Trent looked for guidance during the sessions of the council.
In the Summa Theologica, third part, question sixty six, article eleven, “Whether three kinds of Baptism are fittingly described—viz. Baptism of Water, of Blood, and of the Spirit?” St. Thomas writes the following:
I answer that, As stated above (III:62:5), Baptism of Water has its efficacy from Christ’s Passion, to which a man is conformed by Baptism, and also from the Holy Ghost, as first cause. Now although the effect depends on the first cause, the cause far surpasses the effect, nor does it depend on it. Consequently, a man may, without Baptism of Water, receive the sacramental effect from Christ’s Passion, in so far as he is conformed to Christ by suffering for Him. Hence it is written (Apocalypse 7:14): “These are they who are come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” In like manner a man receives the effect of Baptism by the power of the Holy Ghost, not only without Baptism of Water, but also without Baptism of Blood: forasmuch as his heart is moved by the Holy Ghost to believe in and love God and to repent of his sins: wherefore this is also called Baptism of Repentance. Of this it is written (Isaiah 4:4): “If the Lord shall wash away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall wash away the blood of Jerusalem out of the midst thereof, by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.” Thus, therefore, each of these other Baptisms is called Baptism, forasmuch as it takes the place of Baptism. Wherefore Augustine says (De Unico Baptismo Parvulorum iv): “The Blessed Cyprian argues with considerable reason from the thief to whom, though not baptized, it was said: ‘Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise’ that suffering can take the place of Baptism. Having weighed this in my mind again and again, I perceive that not only can suffering for the name of Christ supply for what was lacking in Baptism, but even faith and conversion of heart, if perchance on account of the stress of the times the celebration of the mystery of Baptism is not practicable.”
There you have it, folks. The clear teaching and theological reasoning for why BOD, here called Baptism of the Spirit, also called, Baptism of Repentance, is the teaching of the Catholic Church, the contradictory view being heretical. As Aquinas teaches, the effect is dependent on the cause, but the cause is not dependent on the effect. MHFM wants to reverse this teaching and say that, unless you are baptized by water you are not baptized at all. But this is reducing the cause to the effect, and making the cause, indeed, depend on the effect. The cause of the laver of rejuvenation is not water, H2O, but the Passion of Christ, as Aquinas teaches above. This cause “far surpasses the effect, nor does it depend on it.” Hence, if one conforms his life to that of Christ’s suffering, and suffers with Him and for Him, the neophyte yet unbaptized by water becomes baptized by blood, and is rejuvenated, made young, born again. Again, a man may receive the effect of the baptism without water, if he be “moved by the Holy Ghost to believe in and love God and to repent of his sins…”
As if that wasn’t enough to convince the reasonable man that the Church teaches BOD, in both the Catechism of the Council of Trent and in the next article of the ST, the Church teaches that charity and repentance are necessary conditions for the sacrament of baptism to even have an effect! In a topsy-turvy conclusion, the MHFM actually have it all donkey-backwards (if you catch my meaning). BOD is more important than the sacrament of baptism, because without it, one is not actually baptized, provided they are of the age of reason. This condition doesn’t apply to those who do not have the use of reason.
In the Tridentine Catechism, we read that, in order for baptism to have an effect, the one to receive baptism must have the three necessary conditions of the soul in order for the sacrament to have any effect: The first is the intention to receive baptism:
The faithful are also to be instructed in the necessary dispositions for Baptism. In the first place they must desire and intend to receive it; for as in Baptism we all die to sin and resolve to live a new life, it is fit that it be administered to those only who receive it of their own free will and accord; it is to be forced upon none. Hence we learn from holy tradition that it has been the invariable practice to administer Baptism to no individual without previously asking him if he be willing to receive it. This disposition even infants are presumed to have, since the will of the Church, which promises for them, cannot be mistaken.
Next, one must have faith:
Besides a wish to be baptised, in order to obtain the grace of the Sacrament, faith is also necessary. Our Lord and Saviour has said: He that believes and is baptised shall be saved.
And, finally, one must have repentance for past sins and a firm resolve not to sin:
Another necessary condition is repentance for past sins, and a fixed determination to avoid all sin in the future. Should anyone desire Baptism and be unwilling to correct the habit of sinner, he should be altogether rejected. For nothing is so opposed to the grace and power of Baptism as the intention and purpose of those who resolve never to abandon sin.
Hence, the Church clearly teaches that the sacrament of baptism is preconditioned on what is fittingly called as baptism of desire, or baptism of the Sprit, or baptism of repentance, which corresponds to the three necessary conditions for water baptism: desire or intention, faith, and repentance.
Finally, St. Thomas teaches in the Article 12: “Whether the Baptism of Blood is the most excellent of these,” that water baptism and baptism of blood are dependent on baptism of desire or charity or the spirit:
The shedding of blood is not in the nature of Baptism if it be without charity. Hence it is clear that the Baptism of Blood includes the Baptism of the Spirit…
From what has been cited as evidence, it is evident to any reasonable person that the Catholic Church teaches baptism of desire. To argue to the contrary is to be a heretic, plain and simple. Why MHFM has decided to die on this particular heretical hill is beyond my comprehension. Why they couldn’t just be a Benedictine monastery (legitimate or no, I cannot say), confine themselves to what the Church teaches, and not engage in disputations of the obvious, is beyond my comprehension. If I may idly speculate however, it could have something to do with that tabloid-mentality which centers on and indeed revolves around the sensational and controversial. Perhaps it is a marketing strategy, a way to separate themselves from the rest of the sedevacantist market out there.
Case in point: one of the latest videos on the website (which I did not click on and I discourage you from doing so!) is entitled: “Bishop Daniel Dolan Dies Suddenly—Six Months After He Said This.” The flowers of the man’s funeral are still fresh, and the Dimond sect have the vitriolic gall to release a video with a title like that. One should expect more (and get more) common decency even among the heathen. But, then again, the heathen in many respects is better than the heretic.
To that end, let it be known: The Most Holy Family Monastery and the VaticanCatholic website are hereby suspected of heresy and are henceforth placed and to remain on the index of forbidden websites until such a time as they renounce their heresy—and perhaps also renounce their penchant for tabloid content.
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