Below are responses to the post and to comments on BetrayedCatholics latest article, “Scaring up ghosts and calling them errors.” It is in two parts, for the first is Laura addressing what Teresa Benns had posted in a comment; the second part is Robert (that’s me) addressing what Irene had posted in a comment. The object of these responses is to clarify our position and to defend the truth.
Before we dive into the responses, though, I wish to make it very plain and clear: I am not saying we should not read anything other than the Catechism to learn our faith. Of course there are books written for furthering our education in the faith, but I am saying that the Catechism, and the BC in particular for its convenient referencing and concise language, makes for the best defense of the faith I know of. I am also saying that we should learn our Catechism by rote, even if it takes us some years to do it, because that is what Mother Church would have us do.
1166. We have many means of learning the Christian doctrine: In youth we have Catechism and special instructions suited to our age; later we have sermons, missions, retreats, religious sodalities and societies through which we may learn. At all times, we have books of instruction, and, above all, the priests of the Church, ever ready to teach us. God will not excuse our ignorance if we neglect to learn our religion when He has given us the means.
You see, the BC speaks of the Catechism as the first means by which we are to learn our faith. It is fundamental, and since the fundamentals are what are being attacked today, I think it is best to focus on that, until we have a solid grasp of doctrine. We can, of course, supplement with sermons and books of instruction. We may even read papal encyclicals and read canon law, too; but it is altogether dangerous and presumptive to think we have understood these texts well enough to build a defense of the faith on them. I am only saying we should stick with the fundamentals presented in the Catechism as the safest and surest means of defending the faith. Why would anyone have a problem with that?
Teresa wrote: “…And BTW, I will be taking no more posts on this,” yet there she allowed Irene to post a comment afterward. I am responding to Irene here on CatholicEclipsed, because Irene was responding to my article, and so it makes sense to do so. That, and I wasn’t going to write out a lengthy response only for Teresa to have actually kept her word and not allow it to be posted.
LAURA’S RESPONSE TO TERESA
What the popes state, (and those things that the Holy Office approves which are written by others state), is, according to the popes themselves, perfectly understandable. So who do I believe, you or them? When I quote from theologians, and I do so usually only in way of explanation, they are theologians loyal to the papacy. Don’t confuse me with Traditinalists [sic] who use them almost exclusively.
I have scanned over your most recent blog post, Robert, with its insinuations about my lack of education, and I am sorry, but you are wrong on this catechism business. This is not about me or you, but the truth. The catechism is a starting point only and not all you need to know to be saved is within its pages. Even common sense tells us that.
I know this is true because Pope Boniface VIII declares that unless one is subject to the pope and obedient to him, he cannot be saved, so there goes your theory that everything you need to know to be saved being in the catechism! How can anyone obey something he doesn’t study and therefore does not know?
Where does that catechism teach how to avoid the errors of Liberalism, Modernism and Americanism, heresies that destroyed the Church? Every error out there today, especially Traditionalism, constitutes a concerted effort to obliterate even the idea of the papacy.
Not teaching people how to avoid these errors is teaching them how to learn to forget the papacy ever existed or meant anything. You forget: the POPE was Christ’s voice on earth, not the catechism, even though it may echo Church teaching to some degree. Stay with Peter or be lost.
The ridiculousness of a recent public comment has prompted me to feel the need for a correction and clarification of Church teaching. There were so many errors, it was necessary to write a full post to correct them all.
First of all, we need to start with a true understanding of the nature of the Church. The Church is hierarchical. A hierarchy exists to keep order, and as such, it must be treated appropriately to create that order. Stating that we must follow the pope, does not maintain the hierarchy. To get a better understanding, I will give an example. In the military, a strict hierarchy exists, such that you are allowed to order anyone below you but to seek orders from those only directly above you, such that if a petty officer went straight to the captain (even with a serious or grave issue) he would be out of line and rightly punished. That same petty officer certainly isn’t going to be asking the captain for his own orders either. The captain speaks to the department heads (officers), the officers speak to the chiefs (enlisted) and the chiefs take it to the petty officers (sometimes with lots more steps than this in between!). Now let’s compare this with the Church. The pope speaks in allocutions and encyclicals, etc. written to the cardinals, archbishops, and bishops, the list doesn’t even mention priests or other lesser clergy, let alone laymen. The bishops direct any necessary information to the priests and the priests give any necessary information to the laity, through catechisms for instance.
Now, our commenter stated this: “What the popes state, (and those things that the Holy Office approves which are written by others state), is, according to the popes themselves, perfectly understandable. So who do I believe, you or them?” First of all, as I stated above, the pope himself says he’s writing for the bishops, not the laity. Secondly, the layman is not going to write to the pope and tell the pope to start sending encyclicals to his address, because he’s educated. Likewise, everything that the Holy Office approves. So in any age other than our digital one with everything online, how would a layman even be able to read what the pope has written? Third, of course the letters written to the bishops would be clear for those they are written to, but no pope in anything I have ever read said that he was writing for the laity or that the laity should read his letters or that the laity would clearly understand what he was writing about. Now, that is not to say that I think they are to remain unread, but we must take care and tread lightly, especially since no matter how much we have read or studied, NONE of us has done such under the counsel of a member of the clergy (except supposedly Introibo) and none of us (including Introibo) has acquired a degree in theology under the guidance of the Church. Therefore, NONE of us has the specific training to properly understand everything that is written for the bishops who have not only such training and degrees, but also experience, and graces from Holy Orders.
Next, just because we think something is clear, does not mean that we properly understand it. Let us not wonder too hard at this for the protestants have gone before us in determining the sense of Scripture in this way, and yet also the Scripture seems clear (most of the time) when you read it. Theologians are trained for many years in order to apply the principles to interpret rightly what the pope has said. And many things in the Church are not yet defined in such a way as to make necessary a passage being taken in a certain sense. That is why theologians do not always agree on what they write, and they usually even say so within their writings!
Lastly, who among us is competent enough in Latin to truly say that we could rightly understand what the Church has written in Her books, manuals, letters, canons, etc. All these things have been translated, yes, but which of them was translated and approved by or under the auspices of a true Roman Pontiff? As far as I know, all the translations we have are from the Novus Ordo or other modern sources. Who would be silly enough to argue a fine distinction that the pope or theologians wrote when translated by such?
Now, the next statement made in the comment was this, “When I quote from theologians, and I do so usually only in way of explanation, they are theologians loyal to the papacy. Don’t confuse me with Traditinalists [sic] who use them almost exclusively.”
Now, just as the Protestants misunderstand the seemingly clear text of Scripture, and therefore a good Catholic would go to the Church to see how to understand a passage in the Bible, so to should we see what the Church has stated in Her teachings to see how we should understand the pope. This is why Traditionalists do it. They have the habit created from their training. What training does our commenter have to say that such a passage is clear and needs no explanation? (None.)
Also, as previously mentioned, without training (or obviously a censure from the Church) who are we to judge which theologian is loyal to the pope?!
Next, “I have scanned over your most recent blog post, Robert, with its insinuations about my lack of education, …” First of all, as a gentle reminder, a wise person does not SCAN something and then think they have the understanding to not only comment, but pass judgment on the text. They read it, and sometimes reread it in order to understand. I can’t imagine a bishop scanning what a fellow bishop wrote and presuming to pass judgement on it. Secondly, in this democratic age, we all too often forget the strata that used to exist in society as social classes. We think that anyone can do anything regardless of their education, experience, or background and we are constantly bombarded with examples to back up the nonsense: such as Abraham Lincoln growing up in a log cabin, teaching himself the law, and becoming president of the Unites States. Lincoln was most likely a genius intellect to have taught himself and is therefore not a common man. I may be treading on thin ice with people here, but I believe (and in ages past it was understood such that) education matters, life experience matters, and God-given ability matters. Not everyone is capable of doing everything. I am reminded of this every time I go into town: the man that bags the groceries at my grocery store would not be able to “put his mind to” learning astrophysics or engineering or maybe even algebra. He is definitely not mentally handicapped, but you can tell that his cognitive level would not be able to reach those heights. Neither would the beggar on the street corner. Who among us thinks they can write as well as Shakespeare or argue like Cicero or conquer like Alexander the Great or keep the world at peace like Augustus Caesar? Therefore, to circle back, education (or the lack thereof) does matter. True autodidacts are few and far between (if they even exist at all) because education requires a master/disciple relationship with feedback in order for the student to make corrections in their understanding.
Moving on “… and I am sorry, but you are wrong on this catechism business. This is not about me or you, but the truth. The catechism is a starting point only and not all you need to know to be saved is within its pages. Even common sense tells us that.” Now, we get the the crux of the matter and here is where it starts getting painful. This is certainly about truth, the problem is, our commenter doesn’t have it. I know that I have read, and I therefore believe, that Catechisms are infallible. Common sense tells us that. And Rome approved the Baltimore Catechism. So how could Our Mother give us error when we ask for truths of the faith to teach ourselves and our children what is required to save our souls? What did the people in ALL the times past have in order to flee from or combat the heresies of their day, ex. Arianism, Lutheranism, Anglicanism? How did the Japanese pass on the faith without even a priest?! They had their catechism, and most didn’t even have the book, they had the oral questions and answers given and memorized. What more do we need than the Catechism? (This is not to say we are not able to learn more, only that the catechism supplies all that is necessary.) What does the Catechism say about all this?
124. Our Catechism treats of religion; that is, of the truths we must believe and of the things we must do to serve God.
The commenter goes on: “I know this is true because Pope Boniface VIII declares that unless one is subject to the pope and obedient to him, he cannot be saved, so there goes your theory that everything you need to know to be saved being in the catechism! How can anyone obey something he doesn’t study and therefore does not know?”
The commenter apparently doesn’t know her Catechism and didn’t even consult one before making such a comment. Here is what the Catechism says:
489. The Church is the congregation of all those who profess the Faith of Christ, partake of the same sacraments, and are governed by their lawful pastors under one visible head.
496. Our Holy Father the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, is the Vicar of Christ on earth and the visible Head of the Church.
To be “under one visible head” is to be subject to the Roman Pontiff. They mean the same thing. And if our commenter had more Catholic sense, she would know that, and just as importantly, she would have known that was to be found within the catechism. In what age was the laity ever required to read papal or council documents in order to know their faith to be saved?! None.
Sadly, our commenter continues, “Where does that catechism teach how to avoid the errors of Liberalism, Modernism and Americanism, heresies that destroyed the Church? Every error out there today, especially Traditionalism, constitutes a concerted effort to obliterate even the idea of the papacy.”
Now, I will have to limit myself to just a few examples here in order not to create a whole post on this error alone. The BC on Liberalism:
494. By “lawful pastors” we mean those in the Church who have been appointed by lawful authority and who have, therefore, a right to rule us. The lawful pastors in the Church are: Every priest in his own parish; every bishop in his own diocese, and the Pope in the whole Church.
Being subject to your pastor and the pope takes care of every error, but since freedom of thought and conscience are two of the most important tenets of liberalism, if you’re subjecting yourself to lawful authority, you’re not free from that authority.
Also, advocated in liberalism is freedom of religion, but the Baltimore Catechism says:
1171. The denial of only one article of faith will make a person a heretic and guilty of mortal sin, because the Holy Scripture says: “Whosoever shall keep the whole law but offend in one point is become guilty of all.”
Now, contained within these two, is the logical conclusion that if I must believe and do all that the Church teaches, I am not free to speak or write error or heresy, and therefore the teaching against freedom of speech is implicitly contained in the catechism as well.
Now, for Modernism, I put it to our commenter to even define what it is and therefore what we need to know to fight against it since this is what the Catholic Encyclopedia had to say on the subject:
“A full definition of modernism would be rather difficult. First it stands for certain tendencies, and secondly for a body of doctrine which, if it has not given birth to these tendencies (practice often precedes theory), serves at any rate as their explanation and support. Such tendencies manifest themselves in different domains. They are not united in each individual, nor are they always and everywhere found together. Modernist doctrine, too, may be more or less radical, and it is swallowed in doses that vary with each one’s likes and dislikes. In the Encyclical “Pascendi”, Pius X says that modernism embraces every heresy.”
I have tried to read Pascendi, and I gladly admit, it’s far above me. The errors it discusses are things I don’t even understand and therefore, I know that if I could even fall into one of them, I should be considered invincibly ignorant on that account, but I assume the more likely, that I wouldn’t even fall into such complex and complicated errors since I believe all that the Church teaches and I know my catechism.
Lastly, the errors of Americanism are pretty much the errors of liberalism (freedom of conscience, religion, speech, etc.) and therefore have been dealt with above.
So you see commenter, if you knew your catechism, you would know that these teachings are already there for the faithful. The hierarchy may need to be put on guard against them, which is why the encyclicals were written, but that doesn’t mean that the faithful don’t already have the tools to fight for themselves.
Now for the last part of this extremely long comment. “Not teaching people how to avoid these errors is teaching them how to learn to forget the papacy ever existed or meant anything. You forget: the POPE was Christ’s voice on earth, not the catechism, even though it may echo Church teaching to some degree. Stay with Peter or be lost.”
The catechism does teach us what we need to know as lay faithful. We are not bishops, we don’t have teaching authority, and a complex or complicated explanation of the faith doesn’t convert anybody. Those who are of goodwill will correct their error when shown the simple truth. The pope teaches the bishops in order for the bishops to keep the flock away from error and scandal, not because the pope expected all the laity to read and understand Pascendi for example and therefore start publicly arguing against it.
The catechism teaches us about the papacy and its importance. Therefore, we don’t need to be taught about modernism in order to somehow not forget about the papacy! What an absurd thing to say! The catechism also teaches us that the pope is the visible head of the Church as stated above and it does NOT just ECHO Church teaching to some degree! It is all the laity need to know to save their souls as stated above.
We who love the catechism, love the Church and love the Pope. Those who are ignorant of so basic a thing as the catechism (the basic tenets of the faith necessary to save your soul) and disparage it in such a way cannot and should not be listened to when speaking on anything related to Church teaching.
ROBERT’S RESPONSE TO IRENE
My comment below is in regard to Robert Robbin’s article, “Need to Know” written on July 24, 2022.
It is peculiar that you would be responding to my article on another’s website. Who does that? It shows a certain lack of decorum. If you would like to take an issue with what I wrote in an article, you should address yourself to me on that article’s page.
So, Robert, the Traditionalist “laity” don’t need to know and should just stay within the confines of the Baltimore Catechism for all their spiritual needs?
First of all, why is laity put into quotation marks? And I am not sure why you are associating what I say with Traditionalists. As I understand that term—ill-conceived and vague as it is—I am not nor ever shall be a Traditionalist. I am a Catholic who is simply promoting the BC (or any Catechism that you prefer) to form the bedrock for a defense of the faith and, yes, to provide for our spiritual needs, because that is what the BC says of itself:
124. Our Catechism treats of religion; that is, of the truths we must believe and of the things we must do to serve God.
Does that mean that there are not other pious practices and even beliefs to be found outside of the BC? Of course there are! That is not my point. My point is to get us Pray-at-Home Catholics back to the basics, and to learn our faith from the bottom up, instead of from the top down, that is, to learn our faith from the very means by which Holy Mother Church meant for us to learn our faith, by the Catechism, instead of going in search of possible arguments against the heretics and schismatics to be found in papal encyclicals and legislation, canon law and commentaries, or theological treatises and manuals. We are untrained laity, and as such we do not have the competency to do such work.
Where do you find in the BC the fact that Lefevbre [sic] and Thuc were never able to consecrate or ordain anyone? Is that in there? Where do these innocent people find out that their “priests” are frauds and have no power to absolve them in confession or administer ANY sacraments to them?
Yes, Irene, it is, insofar as the definition of a heretic is there, and, given the fact that Lefebvre and Thuc were heretics, and so not members of the Church, which is also taught in the BC, it is easily proven that the ordinations and consecrations of those schismatics and heretics were unlawful and sacrilegious, as the BC teaches us:
1004. Bishops, priests and other ministers of the Church cannot exercise the power they have received in Holy Orders unless authorized and sent to do so by their lawful superiors. The power can never be taken from them, but the right to use it may be withdrawn for causes laid down in the laws of the Church, or for reasons that seem good to those in authority over them. Any use of sacred power without authority is sinful, and all who take part in such ceremonies are guilty of sin.
Does the BC explain how in the latter days the sacrifice would cease as prophesied in the book of Daniel?
I would class the question of the prophecy of the Cessation of the Sacrifice as further reading. I do not think you believe, nor anyone, that we pray-at-home Catholics pray at home and not at Sede chapels because of Daniel’s prophecy. It is instructive to learn of this prophecy, no doubt, and I have never said that we shouldn’t read Holy Scripture and commentaries for the laity, nor other books written for us laity on other topics.
Does it teach how to understand the meaning of Christ’s words about the false priests who would say, “Lo, here is Christ…”? Does the BC tell us how we will recognize these wolves in sheeps’ [sic] clothing? Something Christ commanded we do?
The BC.1004 teaches us to avoid those ministers who have not been sent by the Church, so, yes, indirectly the BC does teach us to recognize wolves in sheep’s clothing. As to the meaning or sense of Sacred Scripture, that is the job of Biblical commentaries not catechisms.
I think the real issue here is that I am asking you to consider reading the Catechism instead of Teresa Benns’s untrained theological and canonical rants. That hurts you because you are friends with Teresa. You have no reasonable basis to assail what I am saying other than that you perceive that I am attacking your friend. I am not attacking Teresa, but I am putting her in her proper place, which is in the place of a laywoman without education or training in theology or canon law who has shown that she is incapable of fraternal correction, which is a dangerous thing indeed for herself and for her readers whom she may scandalize.
“Robert, I was so happy when I learned you were a Catacomb Catholic, but now I am irretrievably saddened to see you are just another Trad. Just another Trad. Or a liberal Catholic.
This is a slanderous outrage which you have not a single shred of evidence to back up. You call me a Trad and a liberal Catholic because I want to promote a surefire way to defend the Church and the honor of God and His mother by promoting the means by which we are to know, love, and serve God Almighty!? Frankly, this is unbecoming of a reasonable human being, let alone a Catholic.
I had been deluded by the Trads to my great sorrow and almost lost my mind trying to find the Truth. Was led down the wrong road by Novus Ordos, Trads, “Independent priests”, SSPX charlatans, and then thankfully through what I believe to have been a miracle from God, was led to Teresa Benns where I recognized Truth immediately and have never stopped thanking God for rescuing me.
I do not deny that there have been helps that I received from Benns as well, that her website does have good on it, and that my family and I have learned from what she has written. But there are also errors on her website, and the general method that she uses to approach the crisis is beyond her competency. Who is to say that she could not have equally rescued you and me from the Trads had she simply quoted from the Catechism? Or, perhaps, if you had known your Catechism, had studied it by rote, in and out, you wouldn’t have necessarily succumbed to the sects? Or perhaps you wouldn’t have lost your mind trying to find the truth if you had picked up your Catechism and read it?
I pray you ask to be rescued, too.
I appreciate your prayers. I am in need of conversion every day. That is why I am trying to learn my faith by reading and studying the BC. It has proven very spiritually enriching and enlightening.
The devil is in control of the trads, liberals, modernists, etc., and will kill the souls of each one of their supporters if given half a chance. Some of us, no I say most of us, may have to recognize the devil before we can recognize the Truth.”
I know the truth, and I am learning more day by day, because I am reading the BC, which contains what it is I must know to serve God and save my soul from the Devil. The truth is to be sought for in the open pastures and beside the living streams and brooks of authorized catechisms, not in the thicket and brambles of disputations between heretics on the exact meaning or application of canonical law or papal legislation written by a layperson without training. We are sheep, not shepherds. We must go where the Shepherd has led us, and graze for truth there. If you enjoy the dark forest and think the truth is more easily found therein, then have at it. I do not think that is the safest nor the most Catholic way to go about it. Rather it is to walk in the straightforward path to truth, than to take the winding way: “Midway upon the journey of our life / I found myself within a forest dark, / For the straightforward pathway had been lost,” (Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri).
To teach and defend the truths of the faith requires certitude, not opinions, as the BC teaches us:
1168. Such instruction should be given to those who ask it of us in a kind and Christian spirit, without dispute or bitterness. We should never attempt to explain the truths of our religion unless we are certain of what we say. When we are unable to answer what is asked we should send those who inquire to the priest or to others better instructed than ourselves.
It is my earnest opinion that the BC provides us with those certain truths of the faith which we must know to defend the Catholic faith. Let us endeavor not to assassinate the character of the messenger anymore simply because he is carrying on the mission of the magisterium by promoting the catechism.
And a final word in response to TB’s latest rant: It is simply a straw man fallacy which does not deserve a response.