I am coming to the conclusion that there may yet be almost no Catholics left in the world.
Through correspondence, social media, and, of course, conversations with people in person, it has become more and more evident that there is some one thing that prevents me from saying, ‘Yea, he’s a fellow Catholic.” I say this with the utmost caution and reluctance, but it is something I must say, because it weighs heavily on my heart and conscience. That one thing is pride.
Usually, personal, actual sin does not cut us off from the Body of Christ, unless that sin destroys the bond of faith or of charity, that is, if one is a heretic or schismatic. Those who belong to the Novus Ordo sect are not in the Catholic Church because they are heretics. Anyone who has a ninth-grade reading ability and who has read what the “popes” of the past sixty years have taught, would be able to see that. I am not overly concerned with them. The author over at NovusOrdoWatch.com has been doing a fine job for the past decade showcasing the absurdity of the pretender popes and the Novus Ordo clown show. Those who are of good will who are attached to that sect simply do not know their faith, just as I did not know my faith when I converted to that sect from being a heathen.
I am not now so much even concerned with Sedevacantists. The mission of CatholicEclipsed is to expose the agents of darkness eclipsing Catholicism. Through the work done by Sedevacantist apologists (like Mario Derksen, for instance, author of NovusOrdoWatch), a lot of the dark agency that has been eclipsing the Catholic Faith has been exposed by sound Church teachings. But there is still darkness which covers up what it really means to be Catholic. I have written time and again about this proclivity of Sedevacantists to override papal law, divine law, and usurp the powers and prerogatives of the Church in the name of necessity. They invoke legal principles in canon law to construct a basis for their sacramental operation, which is really nothing more than a chain of retail businesses selling sacraments. The CMRI, SSPV, SGG, MHT are the main merchants in the Sedevacantist enterprise. I leave those out of my consideration at present.
So, who do I have in mind? I am speaking of Pray-at-Home “Catholics” who, time and again have demonstrated a marked disregard for the Roman Pontiffs. There are those who do not believe Pius XII was even the pope. I will not discuss those people. But there is a fringe of Pray-at-Homers I am discovering who have so little regard for the regency and primacy of the See of Peter, that they actually publicly call into question the faith of the Roman Pontiffs!
In a Twitter battle, I found myself having to defend the use of nude figurative art in Churches. The issue revolved around the so-called decadence of the Church around the time of the Council of Trent. This criticism was not unfounded, insofar as even the Council Fathers thought it prudent to say a word about keeping artwork lust-free, and so forth. I do not contend against the notion that there may have been some slippage here and there in the freedom artists had with the depiction of the human body in sacred places. Perhaps there were some instances where more modesty was demanded. I concede that point. But I emphatically do not concede what my interlocutor said next:
“The pagan and nude artwork was never removed or whitewashed by any pope, as they remain to this day. Is that indicative of fervent faith? By their fruits you shall know them. Ezekiel 8 shows the anger and judgement of God when His temple is desecrated.”
Mind you, this was uttered in the public square (digital anyway), in front of potentially thousands of souls, and by someone who is a Pray-at-Homer. So, let’s get this straight, here is a “Catholic” who is saying out loud that the Roman Pontiffs who oversaw the artworks of the Renaissance, indeed personally commissioned said artworks, have “desecrated” the Temple of God, and that the faith of these same Roman Pontiffs is subsequently questionable.
We already saw how earlier this week I had to contend against those Pray-at-Homers who had so little love of the papacy and of the Holy Father, Pius XII, as to believe that he could crown a demon as Queen of the world. Today I have to do the same, and for the same reason, because ultimately there is a fringe who do not really believe in the papacy.
I will not reproduce the quotes of Church teaching which state our utter subjection of will and intellect to papal teaching and law. A Catholic simply knows that his Holy Father knows best. A Catholic prays for the pope, pays him homage and reverence, salutes him, kneels down at his feet and kisses his ring, assents to his teachings, and is joyfully directed by his laws. A Catholic is a sheep, and the pope his shepherd. A Catholic follows him wherever he goes—where else shall the sheep go, the shepherd hath words of eternal life. And if a pope commissions artwork for a holy place with nudes in it, and approves it after completion, the sheep bleat their enthusiasm (even if a little prudish in their own way, and wouldn’t prefer such artwork), and accept that Rome has decided it should be so, which is a sufficient and necessary condition for sheep approval and assent.
I say that is what a Catholic would do, but, as is evident in the case above, that is not what some Pray-at-Homers do. Rather, they take it upon themselves to pass judgment on the Roman Pontiffs, to call into question the aesthetic and religious decisions of past popes, as if theirs could be a detriment to the faith—or worse, as was actually stated above, a “desecration”! These people assent to the teachings and laws of the Roman Pontiffs, but they hold something back, a portion of their mind and wills they think is their own, as if the popes did not exercise their authority over all of a Catholic’s person. Some take issue with a popes financial dealings; another takes issue with a particular devotion; and yet others disparage the reputation of the Roman Pontiffs on account of aesthetics and propriety in art. But the principle which creates schism between these people and real Catholics is what unites each of them in their own groups, that is pride, which St. Thomas defines as the desire to be greater than what one is, which ultimately results in either heresy or schism, and in this case, the latter:
“Accordingly schismatics properly so called are those who, willfully and intentionally separate themselves from the unity of the Church; for this is the chief unity, and the particular unity of several individuals among themselves is subordinate to the unity of the Church, even as the mutual adaptation of each member of a natural body is subordinate to the unity of the whole body. Now the unity of the Church consists in two things; namely, in the mutual connection or communion of the members of the Church, and again in the subordination of all the members of the Church to the one head, according to Colossians 2:18-19: “Puffed up by the sense of his flesh, and not holding the Head, from which the whole body, by joints and bands, being supplied with nourishment and compacted, groweth unto the increase of God.” Now this Head is Christ Himself, Whose vicegerent in the Church is the Sovereign Pontiff. Wherefore schismatics are those who refuse to submit to the Sovereign Pontiff, and to hold communion with those members of the Church who acknowledge his supremacy,” (ST 2:2. 39.1).
In my previous post, and in this one, I only wish to stress that the supremacy of the Vicegerent (awesome title) over us is valid and real and a necessary condition to be called Catholic. This subordination of mind to the will of the Roman Pontiffs is not a trifling thing, one which may be undone or set aside in cases where one has conducted amateurish research online or read some books of history. What I have witnessed recently, and it saddens me deeply, is that would-be fellow Catholics who pray at home refuse to submit to the Roman Pontiffs, because of an inflated (“puffed up by the sense of the flesh”) sense of self-dependency in formulating their own notions as to how things ought to be, be it in devotion or art, which allows them to say such things as:
“The pagan classics, nude artwork in Catholic churches, pagan carvings on the doors of St Peters, the Renaissance itself, are not the cause but the visible symptom of the loss of faith, the seeds of which were sown hundreds of years prior to the Renaissance.”
I guess for some, St. Bernard’s words fall on deaf ears and before blind eyes: “It is fitting that every danger and scandal of the kingdom of God be referred to your Apostolate and especially these which touch upon the faith. For I regard it worthy that there, above all, dangers to the faith are mended, where one cannot think the faith is lacking. For to what other See was it ever said: ‘I have prayed for thee, that thy faith not fail?’” (Epist. 190 Ad Innocentium, Emphasis added).
I do not let my own moral or aesthetic preferences determine my judgments about our holy religion. As Chesterton put it, speaking of the two greatest poets in English:
“A correspondent has written to me asking me what I meant by saying that Shakespeare was a Catholic and Milton a Protestant. That Milton was a Protestant, I suppose, he will not dispute…..But the point about the religion of Shakespeare is certainly less obvious, though I think not less true….These impressions are hard to explain….But here, at least, is one way of putting the differences between the religions of Shakespeare and Milton. Milton is possessed with what is, I suppose, the first and finest ideas of Protestantism—the idea of the individual soul actually testing and tasting all the truth there is, and calling that truth which it has not tested and tasted truth of a less valuable and vivid kind. But Shakespeare is possessed through and through with the feeling which is the first and finest idea of Catholicism that the truth exists whether we like it or not, and that it is for us to accommodate ourselves to it….But I really do not know how this indescribable matter can be better described than by simply saying this; that Milton’s religion was Milton’s religion, and that Shakespeare’s religion was not Shakespeare’s,” (as quoted from The Quest for Shakespeare, Joseph Pearce).
I find myself in the ironic position of defending Roman Pontiffs against prudish persons who think nudes a desecration of holy places. You see, this controversy is very personal to me, but not in the way you might think. I defend the Renaissance popes, not because I like figurative art. I don’t. I have struggled with art depicting the beautiful form of the female body, and so I have always kept a safe distance from viewing such artwork, classical or modern, lest it be a near occasion for sin. As returning readers of CatholicEclipsed may know, I am also a painter—I won’t say an artist, I haven’t earned that title yet. I paint landscapes, and you can view my work here, if you’d like. What you all do not know is that, I paint landscapes almost entirely because I am too much a Puritan like Milton. I couldn’t bear the temptation of staring at a naked beautiful woman modeling for a painting. I don’t know how Michelangelo or Titian did it. But, like Shakespeare, I do not let my own private opinions about such things determine how I am to accommodate myself to what the Church has determined as good. Through grace and a filial devotion to the Roman Pontiffs of the Renaissance (as in all periods) you would see me hung, drawn and quartered before I spoke out against the Vicegerent of God. If we are to call ourselves Catholic, it is high time we stop disagreeing with the Popes of the past: otherwise, we might just as well call ourselves Protestants.