Part I: What is the Catholic Church and Who Belongs to It

Ever Notice How the Cross is Always Diabolically Last on the List?

A friend emailed me recently with a kind of challenge for the Baltimore Catechism (BC), which was to see if the BC could demonstrate that the Novus Ordo religion was a sin to participate in, and whether the Pray-at-Home position could be proven from the BC alone without consulting other sources, and this to be done with the least amount of steps as possible. The following, then, is an attempt at his challenge, at least in the first part. It is only one way to skin a heretical Tradcat. There are any number of ways to prove that the Novus Ordo religion is not the Catholic religion, and so participation in it is inherently sinful.

For fun, I will throw out this argument, which is perhaps the quickest way to demonstrate that the Novus Ordo Church of Francis (NOCOFF) is not the Catholic Church. Then I will develop a more elaborate argument based upon direct quotations from the BC. But this brief argument may be used over some beer and barbecue with relatives since, being brief, it may be more readily remembered and recalled. 

If the Catholic Church teaches faith and morals, then it is infallible. (BC 526) 

The Catechism is a teaching of faith and morals. (BC 124)

Therefore, the Catechism is infallible. 

Modus Ponens

The supposed Catholic Church—the church headed by Francis—teaches faith and morals in its Catechism of the Catholic Church, but it is not infallible, because it teaches the belief that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, which is an explicit denial of the Trinity (CCC 841). 

Therefore, the church headed by Francis is not the Catholic Church.

Modus Tollens

You will notice that after each argument, there is a Latin designation of what kind of argument is being employed. Both Modus Ponens and Modus Tollens are valid logical arguments. This means that, if the premises are true, it is impossible for the conclusion to be false. The premises used in these arguments are fact and are therefore true. There is no argument against a fact. And there is no argument against a valid logical form whose premises are true. Therefore, there is no argument against the above argument.  


But, let’s be real for a second. I know that people do not respond well to such crystalline discourse. People need more to cling to, because ultimately—as my friend pointed out—people tend to choose their religion based upon human comfort instead of the Divine consolation that comes with professing the true religion and belonging to the true Church. The BC is not silent even on this idea, for it teaches us,  

1175. A want of Christian courage chiefly prevents persons who believe in the Church from becoming members of it. They fear too much the opinion or displeasure of others, the loss of position or wealth, and, in general, the trials they may have to suffer for the sake of the true faith.

How often have we seen this unfold before our eyes with relatives or friends who do not take the next logical step, once they have identified that the NOCOFF is not the Catholic Church? Nevertheless, though it is hard, the sacrifice real and painful, we are obliged to belong to the Catholic Church: 

509. All are bound to belong to the Church, and he who knows the Church to be the true Church and remains out of it cannot be saved.

And, again, the BC reiterates elsewhere: 

1179. They who fail to profess their faith in the true Church in which they believe cannot expect to be saved while in that state, for Christ has said: “Whosoever shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven.”

I do not want to be denied by my Lord because I didn’t want to lose my job, or be estranged from my relatives. But I say this with the utmost humility, without the grace of God, I am sure I would have forsaken Him and His Church the moment it proved disadvantageous to adhere to it and belong to it. Let’s not forget Who is in control here. God calls us into His sheepfold, and preserves us here. We do not call ourselves. Membership in His Church is a gift, not a right. Our membership hangs as by a thin thread of grace to God. Therefore, this is not about condemning those who are not members of the visible Church—those who are baptized and profess the entire faith. There may be those who are not members who appear to be, and there may be those who are members but do not appear to be. Though we must be unshaken in our determination of doctrine and dogma of the Church as is taught in the BC, we must proceed with all humility in determining these questions as they pertain to individual persons. The knowledge of the faith ought not to be used as a club to beat our neighbors into submission to the truth. True doctrine is a medicine to our friends, and a weapon to our enemies. Those who are not inimical to the true faith, though they do not perfectly profess it, are our friends, not our enemies. They are simply in need of a medicine.          


The question, then, becomes for those to whom it is not self-evident that the NOCOFF is not the Catholic Church, how do we know what the Catholic Church is? To say that the NOCOFF is not the Catholic Church, one must first demonstrate what the Catholic Church is, before saying what it is not. So, let’s do that. First, the BC tells us what the Church is:

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.

Further, the Church has provided for our understanding for distinguishing it from counterfeits—or knockoffs:   

518. A mark is 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. 

519. We know that the Church must have the four marks and three attributes usually ascribed or given to it from the words of Christ given in the Holy Scripture and in the teaching of the Church from its beginning.

520. 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.

Though the BC teaches us that the four marks (One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic) are better known than the three attributes (listed below), in my opinion, because the three attributes are a necessary condition and cause of the four marks, it makes for a better argument to show how a church which does not have the three attributes couldn’t have the four marks. This is only necessary because it is self-evident that the NOCOFF is not the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church founded by Christ, but to argue at length on this point is to try to convince someone of the obvious, which is very difficult to do. In this backward age in which we live, people seem to respond better to more elaborate and oftentimes more zesty and fresh or new argumentation, with fancy terms and several steps of logic, because they are too blind to see the Great Apostasy staring them in the face. To do that is just boring for them, I guess, so they need to read a hundred thousand words of a theology manual before they can assent to the commonsensical proposition that Rome has lost the Faith and has become the Seat of the Antichrist. 

Anyway, the BC continues:    

522. The attributes of the Church are three: authority, infallibility, and indefectibility.

526. By the infallibility of the Church I mean that the Church can not err when it teaches a doctrine of faith or morals.

528. I know that the Church can not err because Christ promised that the Holy Ghost would remain with it forever and save it from error. If, therefore, the Church has erred, the Holy Ghost must have abandoned it and Christ has failed to keep His promise, which is a thing impossible.

529. Since the Church can not err, it could never be reformed in its teaching of faith or morals. Those who say the Church needed reformation in faith or morals accuse Our Lord of falsehood and deception.

530. The Church teaches infallibly when it speaks through the Pope and Bishops united in general council, or through the Pope alone when he proclaims to all the faithful a doctrine of faith or morals. 

From these data points of doctrine, a picture of what the Church is emerges, which is quite different from the picture we see today of the NOCOFF. An official organ for teaching faith and morals in the NOCOFF is the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCCC). (I make an aside here that it is ridiculous that a catechism needs a compendium to condense it down, when a catechism is supposed to be a concise statement of belief. Of course, the NOCOFF’s modus operandi has always been confusion and needless verbiage to further obfuscate the true faith, which is, as the BC demonstrates, quite accessible and able to be simply stated.) In it, a catechumen will read—as I was once upon a time, and did so read—the following teachings regarding what the Church is and who belongs to it: 

162. Where does the one Church of Christ subsist?



The one Church of Christ, as a society constituted and organized in the world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him. Only through this Church can one obtain the fullness of the means of salvation since the Lord has entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone whose head is Peter.

The verb subsists seems as good a word as is, so what is the foul here? Well, the CCCC continues:

168. Who belongs to the Catholic Church?


All human beings in various ways belong to or are ordered to the Catholic unity of the people of God. Fully incorporated into the Catholic Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, are joined to the Church by the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government and communion. The baptized who do not enjoy full Catholic unity are in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.

This is simply a restatement of a teaching which was put forward when—wait for it—“it [spoke] through the Pope and Bishops united in general council” at the Vatican back in the 1960s. It is essentially stating that those who belong to heretical or schismatic churches are in communion with the Catholic Church, which is false. And just in case one is not convinced that this is what it is teaching, the CCCC goes further to say:

163. How are non-Catholic Christians to be considered?



In the churches and ecclesial communities which are separated from full communion with the Catholic Church, many elements of sanctification and truth can be found. All of these blessings come from Christ and lead to Catholic unity. Members of these churches and communities are incorporated into Christ by Baptism and so we recognize them as brothers.     

So heretics and schismatics are recognized as brothers, and even these sects have elements of sanctification? This is obviously false, and so shows that the NOCOFF is not the Catholic Church, because its teachings on the very identity of what the Church is, are false, which is impossible if it were the Catholic Church. 

The BC clarifies how non-Catholic Christians are to be considered:

571. Protestant Churches have not the marks of the true Church, because:

   1. They are not one either in government or faith; for they have no chief head, and they profess different beliefs;

   2. They are not holy, because their doctrines are founded on error and lead to evil consequences;

   3. They are not catholic or universal in time, place or doctrine. They have not existed in all ages nor in all places, and their doctrines do not suit all classes;

   4. They are not apostolic, for they were not established for hundreds of years after the Apostles, and they do not teach the doctrines of the Apostles. 

Well, that is how a real Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches on faith and morals. The CCCC of the NOCOFF would have us live somewhere between right and wrong, in communion and not in communion, in making our yes merge into our no, and, in the ultimate analysis, make good evil and evil good. Is this satisfactory to show that it is a sin to belong to the NOCOFF? Well, since we are bound to belong to the Catholic Church, and since the NOCOFF is not the Catholic Church, it stands to reason that it is a sin (and a jeopardy to the eternal salvation of our souls) to remain in the NOCOFF. 

I have no more space to take up the second part of my friend’s challenge, which would be to demonstrate from the BC alone the reasonableness of the Pray-at-Home position. I intend to do so in a future post, but let me say this much now in closing. We must show people of good will what we have seen with our own eyes, before we can show them the path we must walk to Heaven. A man will not save his soul in the NOCOFF, because it is not the Catholic Church. That eliminates the possibility of going to an indult mass society for the sacraments or to the Society of Pope Pius X, because these claim that the NOCOFF is the Catholic Church. They just cling to most of the teachings—not all of them!—of the Catholic Church, and cling to Her ceremonies. But one is obliged to believe all that the Church teaches, not just most things, like, for instance, the attribute of infallibility. 

The second part of this post will be in answer to the question of Sedevacantists and their organizations and outfits, and whether they are the Catholic Church and if we are bound to belong to them. I will attempt an answer at these questions using only the BC, because I believe it is sufficient to answer the question. I encourage you to leave your comments and ask questions below.

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