The Catholic Core
Authority of the Church
“The office uniquely committed by the Lord to Peter, the first of the Apostles, and to be transmitted to his successors, abides in the Bishop of the Church of Rome. He is the head of the College of Bishops, the Vicar of Christ, and the Pastor of the universal Church here on earth. Consequently, by virtue of his office, he has supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church, and he can always freely exercise this power.”
How then do we know that a particular man is the Pope? Canon 332 §1 answers: “The Roman Pontiff acquires full and supreme power in the Church when, together with episcopal consecration, he has been lawfully elected and has accepted the election.”
Who is the authentic interpreter of Canon law? Canon 16 §1 says, “Laws are authentically interpreted by the legislator and by the one to whom the legislator has granted the power to interpret them authentically.” St. John Paul II was the legislator at the time of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, meaning he and his successors are the most qualified to interpret it. Canon 333 § 3 says, “There is neither appeal nor recourse against a decision or decree of the Roman Pontiff.”
Canon 338 §1 states: “It is the prerogative of the Roman Pontiff alone to summon an Ecumenical Council, to preside over it personally or through others, to transfer, suspend or dissolve the Council, and to approve its decrees.” St. John XXIII called Vatican II, and Pope Paul VI approved its decree.
What Makes Us Catholic
What makes us Catholic is our belief that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, the living authority sent to lead and guide us.. § 837 “Fully incorporated into the society of the Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept all the means of salvation given to the Church together with her entire organization.” We owe the Holy Father, and the bishops in communion with him, submission of mind and will. The Orthodox churches that cut away in AD 1054 validly celebrate the sacrament of Rabbi Yeshua‘s Body and Blood and teach much as we do. They even have great respect for the Pope, but they do not accept him as the Vicar of Christ today so they are not Catholic.
This above all makes us Catholic. If we believe every single Catholic doctrine because we have personally examined it and found it to be true, we are not Catholic. We are Catholic because we believe that Rabbi Yeshua instituted Rabbi Kefa as Vicar of Christ to teach infallibly on faith and morals, and that each particular doctrine is true because the popes teach it. When we encounter a Catholic doctrine we do not understand, we respond as Rabbi Kefa did. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” Jn 6:68.
Beyond that, St. Ignatius of Loyola gave us the standard, sentire cum ecclesia, “Think with the Church.” The popes have not pronounced on every single issue that arises in our lives. “I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts” Jer 31:33. Rabbi Yeshua “… emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” Phil 2:7. Popes for 1,500 years have described themselves as servus servorum Dei, servant of the servants of God. We are to approach every question as servants of the Church, “… not as I will, but as you will” Mt 26:39.
For instance, Sacrosanctum Concilium § 22(1) directs, “Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop.” § 22(3) concludes, “Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.”
What Separates Us from the Church
God’s first command to Adam was, “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die” Gen 2:17. Satan’s first temptation to Adam was, “You will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Gen 3:5. Woman “took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate” Gen 3:6. Therefore, Rabbi Paul comments, “Sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned” Rom 5:12.
Rabbi Yeshua had made Rabbi Kefa his Vicar. “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church … I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” Mt 16:18–19. Just before ascending to the Father, the good shepherd” Jn 10:11 commanded Rabbi Kefa, “Feed my lambs … Tend my sheep … Feed my sheep” Jn 21:15–17.
The original sin was disobedience to God. § 1850 “Sin is an offense against God.” Rabbi Yeshua told the seventy, “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” Lk 10:16. Disobedience to the Vicar is disobedience to Rabbi Yeshua, our final judge.
Disobedience from the left or from the right is exactly the same sin. It can often be observed in a lack of charity toward orthodox Catholic faith 1 Cor 13:13. Every argument not presented in a spirit of charity is null and void because the person is not authentically representing Catholic teaching 1 Pet 3:15. Let us look at both sides and see how we can help our own prodigal sons come home.
Many Catholics see the terms “right-wing” and “left wing” to describe Catholics who drift away from the Magisterium as political rather than ecclesiastical language. They make a good case, but that’s for another time. Everyone understands “right” and “left” Catholics.
The Barque of Peter sails across the centuries on the winds of the Holy Spirit toward Rabbi Yeshua‘s Second Coming. True Catholics stay within the barque and celebrate Mass. Right-wing Catholics drop an anchor trying to keep the barque where she was long ago. Left-wing Catholics attach an outboard motor trying to change its direction.
Traditionalists and Radicals
Traditionalist has come to mean a Catholic who prefers the Missal of Pope Pius V, which was in worldwide use before Vatican II and is now available to the faithful by special indult (permission) of each local bishop, over the Missal of Pope Paul VI, which is in worldwide use today.
Traditionalists prefer the Missal of Pope Pius V, now called the Extraordinary Form, because it can only be celebrated in Latin, the unchanging language of the Church, and because its more rigorous phrasing and beautiful stately elegance impart a sense of the sacred that they find attenuated in the Missal of Pope Paul VI, now called the Ordinary Form. That view is fully Catholic as long as it fully respects the authority of each Vicar of Christ.
However, a few radical traditionalists see the Missal of Pope Paul VI as unworthy. Like the Arians who refused to accept the teachings of the Council of Nicaea, radical traditionalists refuse the teachings of Vatican II. They claim to represent the continuous teaching of the Church during the past two thousand years, but the Church has taught continuously that the formal acts and decisions of an ecumenical council, approved by a Vicar of Christ, are guaranteed by the Holy Spirit and binding on the faithful.
Equality of the Rites
There is only one Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the one celebrated by Rabbi Yeshua at the Last Supper and by his followers in the apostolic succession according to missals approved by each Vicar of Christ in his time.
Is the Missal of Pope Pius V better than the Missal of Pope Paul VI? Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, published by Pope Paul VI on December 4, 1963, Introduction, § 4, declares, “In faithful obedience to tradition, the sacred Council declares that Holy Mother Church holds “all lawfully recognized rites to be of equal right and dignity.” This is the teaching of the Catholic Church at the highest level of authority: “All lawfully recognized rites [are] of equal right and dignity.” They have to be equal. They all derive their holiness from the Body of Christ, sacramentally present identically in the Missal of Pope Pius V, the Missal of Pope Paul VI, and the Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgies 33:38.
Some radical traditionalists say that Vatican II was a “pastoral Council”, not a “doctrinal Council,” and therefore doesn’t require the same level of obedience that a doctrinal Council would.
St. John XXIII was clear about what he wanted Vatican II to do: “The greatest concern of the ecumenical council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously.” (Pope John XXIII, quoted in Ralph McInerny, What Went Wrong With Vatican II: The Catholic Crisis Explained (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 1998), p. 25.)
Ralph McInerny explains, “John XXIII said that in our day there is already sufficient clarity about the teaching of the Faith. The emphasis of the council should thus not be doctrinal but pastoral. It should consider how best to convey the truth of Christ to the modern world.”
The ancient Church motto, lex orandi, lex credendi, “As we pray so we believe,” reminds us that the way we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass bears directly on how we teach the truths of the Faith. The Missal of Pius V put much more emphasis on saints than on Scripture. The Missal of Paul VI has much less on saints but many more Scripture verses during the liturgical cycle.
Anyone who looks at the Catechism of the Catholic Church footnotes, and the indexes at the back, will discover reference after reference to the sixteen documents of Vatican II. After Scripture, the Catechism quotes Vatican II more often than any other source.
Inter Mirifica makes clear that getting the faith out to the people involves more than simply publishing a document. As a practical example, during World War II some 400,000 U.S. soldiers were killed. The public read about them in the newspapers and continued to support the war. But when 58,000 soldiers were killed in Vietnam and the public saw them on television, support for the war fell away. In Iraq, which the public experienced on television and the Internet, support for the war faded after about 2,000 U.S. military deaths. Marshall McLuhan summarized, “The medium is the message.”
The Church teaches:
§ 891 “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful — who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. … The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium, above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine for belief as being divinely revealed, and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions must be adhered to with the obedience of faith. This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.”
The terms pastoral council and doctrinal council are not canonical. They have no meaning in Church tradition. For two thousand years Holy Mother Church has spoken of ecumenical councils as distinct from regional and other councils.
Ralph McInerny explained why Vatican II has the full authority of an ecumenical council. “… Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s schismatic movement involved an internal incoherence. He sought to appeal to earlier councils to discredit Vatican II. But that which guarantees the truth of the teaching of one council guarantees the truth of them all” (Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media [New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964], p. 33).
Supersession: The Catholic Church Rejects It
Some radical traditionalists propose the doctrine of supersession, sometimes called replacement theology, that the Old Covenant is a spent force in salvation history. They quote Rabbi Paul, “But it is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants; but ‘Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.’ This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are reckoned as descendants” Rom 9:6–8. They also quote, “In speaking of a new covenant he treats the first as obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” Heb 8:13.
These quotations, taken out of context, appear to support their conclusion that when the eternal election was given to Rabbi Yeshua‘s followers it was taken from the Jews who did not follow him. They say that observant Jews today, those who “hear the word of God and keep it” Lk 11:28 as they have been taught, participate in the New and Eternal Covenant through the principle of ecclesia supplex, the Church supplies the grace. They recognize the existence of a Jewish nation, but deny that it has any relationship to God’s covenant and so they conclude that non-observant Jews have no access to God’s grace.
As regards the gospel they are enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers” Rom 11:28. Ecclesia supplet applies to the salvation of individual Jews, but for the nation, “… the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable Rom 11:29.
Rabbi Paul wrote of the election, “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead” Rom 11:15. Life from the dead! Obviously the Jews are still active in salvation history. But why?
“If the dough offered as first fruits is holy, so is the whole lump; and if the root is holy, so are the branches Rom 11:16. The Jewish nation is the root. And Rabbi Paul is clear. “If you do boast, remember it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you” Rom 11:18.
Finally, Rabbi Paul speaks directly to the supersessionists. “Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and so all Israel will be saved” Rom 11:25.
During the twentieth century, Holy Mother Church began to emphasize what had once remained quiescent. Pope Pius XII did what he could to save all the Holocaust victims, but his effort to rescue Jews was extraordinary.
The Jews, the people Israel, are the first fruits of God’s revelation to man. God commanded Moses “Consecrate to me all the first-born …” Ex 13:2 The Torah was the first fruit of the teaching for the twelve tribes of Israel that twelve hundred years later would be fulfilled and taught to the world. The Passover bread and wine that Rabbi Yeshua consecrated on the last night of His mortal life were first-fruits of the harvest. The shlikhim he told to, “Do this in memory 0of me” Lk 22:19, were the first fruits of the New and Eternal Covenant. § 1832 “The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory.”
Believers in supersession theology say descent from Abraham, the mark of Judaism is of no consequence, but Pope Paul VI wrote in Nostra Aetate § 4, “As the sacred synod searches into the mystery of the Church, it remembers the bond that spiritually ties the people of the New and Eternal Covenant to Abraham’s stock.” Paul VI in these words clearly recognized that the people descended from Abraham still exist as the Jewish nation in salvation history. And that we Catholics have spiritual ties with them.
St. John Paul II said on March 6,1982, quoted in Notes, “We should aim, in this field, that Catholic teaching at its different levels, in catechesis to children and young people, presents Jews and Judaism not only in an honest and objective manner, free from prejudices and without any offenses, but also with full awareness of the heritage common to Jews and Christians.” Four years later he became the first pope, after Rabbi Kefa, to visit a synagogue, the Great Synagogue of Rome, only two miles from the Vatican, on April 13, 1986. Pope Benedict XVI, only four months into his pontificate, visited the Roonstrasse Synagogue in Cologne on August 19, 2005, and then the Great Synagogue of Rome, on January 17, 2010, thereby reaffirming St. John Paul II’s commitment toward improved relations with the Jewish nation. Then Pope Francis visited the Great Synagogue of Rome on January 17, 2016.
John Paul II was also the first pope ever to visit a mosque. He went to the Umayyad Great Mosque of Damascus in May 2001. That mosque, in Damascus’ “old city,” had been a place of worship for 3,000 years, first as a synagogue, then converted by Rabbi Paul to early Christian worship, and finally as a mosque.
The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable
“On the part of many of the Church Fathers the so-called replacement theory or supersessionism steadily gained favor until in the Middle Ages it represented the standard theological foundation of the relationship with Judaism: the promises and commitments of God would no longer apply to Israel because it had not recognized Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God, but had been transferred to the Church of Jesus Christ which was now the true ‘new Israel’, the new chosen people of God. Arising from the same soil, Judaism and Christianity in the centuries after their separation became involved in a theological antagonism which was only to be defused at the Second Vatican Council.”
The earlier theology had been rooted in the Epistle to the Hebrews. GCGI § 18 explains,
There have often been attempts to identify this replacement theory in the Epistle to the Hebrews. This Epistle, however, is not directed to the Jews but rather to the Christians of Jewish background who have become weary and uncertain. Its purpose is to strengthen their faith and to encourage them to persevere, by pointing to Christ Jesus as the true and ultimate high priest, the mediator of the new covenant. This context is necessary to understand the Epistle’s contrast between the first purely earthly covenant and a second better (cf. Heb 8:7) and new covenant (cf. 9:15, 12:24). The first covenant is defined as outdated, in decline and doomed to obsolescence (cf. 8:13), while the second covenant is defined as everlasting (cf. 13:20). To establish the foundations of this contrast the Epistle refers to the promise of a new covenant in the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah 31:31–34 (cf. Heb 8:8–12). This demonstrates that the Epistle to the Hebrews has no intention of proving the promises of the Old Covenant to be false, but on the contrary treats them as valid. The reference to the Old Testament promises is intended to help Christians to be sure of their salvation in Christ. At issue in the Epistle to the Hebrews is not the contrast of the Old and the New Covenants as we understand them today, nor a contrast between the Church and Judaism. Rather, the contrast is between the eternal heavenly priesthood of Christ and the transitory earthly priesthood. The fundamental issue in the Epistle to the Hebrews in the new situation is a Christological interpretation of the New Covenant. For exactly this reason, “Nostra aetate” (No.4) did not refer to the Epistle to the Hebrews, but rather to Saint Paul ’s reflections in his letter to the Romans 9-11.
Catholic Participation in Jewish Ritual
However, some radical traditionalists disregard what the popes are teaching today and instead go back centuries in time to find a document that they say represents two thousand years of tradition. Some radical traditionalists quote Pope Eugene IV’s bull Cantate Domino to falsely suggest that Catholics are prohibited from participating in Jewish rituals in which they do not place hope for salvation.
God’s law visibly allowed Catholics to participate in Jewish rituals. At Gethsemane, Rabbi Yeshua told the crowd, “Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching” Mk 14:49. After Rabbi Yeshua ascended to the Father, his shlikhim “were continually in the temple blessing God” Lk 24:53. After Pentecost Acts 2:1–12, when the Catholic Church was already in full operation, Rabbi Yeshua’s shlikhim, who knew his mind better than anyone, “Day by day, [attended] the temple together and [broke] bread in their homes” Acts 2:46. Their daily temple attendance evidently met with Rabbi Yeshua‘s approval, since “The Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” Acts 2:47. Years later, Rabbi Paul, in Corinth, “argued in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded Jews and Greeks” Acts 18:4.
Pope Eugene IV addressed that by limiting his edict to “after the promulgation of the Gospel.” That could take into account only whether people knew what the Church taught on attending Jewish worship. But it could not have applied to Rabbi Yeshua‘s shlikhim, who knew exactly what he taught.
During the 1300s and 1400s Europe’s secular authorities were forcing many Jews to accept baptism or lose their lives and property. The sins of Christians, some ignorant and some culpable, were a primary cause of these persecutions. England expelled its Jews in 1290, France in 1306, Spain in 1492. Many Europeans resented the wealth of Jewish merchants, and their shtetls, ghettos, that seemed to nurture hatred of Christianity. When a storm of persecution arose, many Jews moved elsewhere to wait out the fury. Some accepted baptism. In Spain many Jews publicly entered the Catholic faith but privately remained Jewish. These false “Catholics,” called conversos, “carnal” (flesh, not spirit) in Cantate Domino, began to form a secret network. They grew rich and rose to high positions in the Church, the royal court, and the state, and married into the noblest families of Spain. Because their loyalty was to one another, not to Church or crown, the conversos were a threat to the Church and to Spain. In that adversarial relationship, a Catholic who embraced Jewish rituals might well become a traitor, thereby risking damnation.
Spanish Jews baptized as Catholics during the Inquisition are sometimes called marranos. Marrano comes from the Spanish verb marrar, to deceive. A marrano is el que marra, one who deceives. Probably during the sixteenth century, the connotation of “dirty animal” or “pig” was added. In some minds, the juderias, Jewish neighborhoods, were as dirty as pocilgas, pig pens, and so marrano became synonymous with puerco, pig. Catholics therefore use the more respectful term conversos, converts, to refer to Jews baptized as Catholics during the Spanish Inquisition.
Alexandrian Jews persuaded Coptic Christians to become so involved with Jewish rituals that the Copts began to regard them as necessary for salvation. Pope Eugene IV responded in his bull Cantate Domino, which was adopted by the Council of Florence in 1442. At that time papal bulls were generally seen only by the bishops to whom they were addressed. These bishops often wanted strong language to quote to the faithful, so papal writing then was much less precise than it is now, when each papal document is carefully scrutinized by thousands of Catholic scholars worldwide. Cantate Domino included this prohibition against Catholics participating in Jewish rituals:
- “It [the Holy Roman Church] firmly believes, professes and teaches that the matter pertaining to the law of the Old Testament, of the Mosaic law, which are divided into ceremonies, sacred rites, sacrifices, and sacraments, because they were established to signify something in the future, although they were suited to the divine worship at that time, after our Lord’s coming had been signified by them, ceased, and the sacraments of the New Testament began; and that whoever, even after the passion, placed hope in these matters of the law and submitted himself to them as necessary for salvation, as if faith in Christ could not save without them, sinned mortally. Yet it does not deny that after the passion of Christ up to the promulgation of the Gospel they could have been observed until they were believed to be in no way necessary for salvation; but after the promulgation of the Gospel it asserts that they cannot be observed without the loss of eternal salvation. All, therefore, who after that time observe circumcision and the Sabbath and the other requirements of the law, it declares alien to the Christian faith and not in the least fit to participate in eternal salvation, unless someday they recover from these errors. Therefore, it commands all who glory in the name of Christian, at whatever time, before or after baptism, to cease entirely from circumcision, since, whether or not one places hope in it, it cannot be observed at all without the loss of eternal salvation.”
Some radical traditionalists, reading this passage in isolation from the whole body of Church teaching, conclude that Catholic participation in Jewish ritual is absolutely prohibited. But divine law is forever. Cantate Domino signaled that its prohibition of Catholic participation in Jewish ritual was man-made law to address a particular situation in these words: “With the ending of the cause of this apostolic prohibition, the effect also ended:”
- “And it says also that the prohibition of the apostles “from things sacrificed to idols, and from blood and from things strangled” [Acts 15:29] befitted that time in which one Church arose from the Jews and Gentiles, who before lived according to different ceremonies and customs, so that even Gentiles observed some things in common with the Jews, and occasion was furnished for coming together into one worship of God, and one faith, and ground for dissension was removed; since to the Jews, by reason of an ancient custom, blood and things strangled seemed abominable, and they could think that the Gentiles would return to idolatry because of the eating of things sacrificed. But when the Christian religion is so propagated that no carnal Jew appears in it, but all passing over to the Church, join in the same rites and ceremonies of the Gospel, believing “all things clean to the clean” [Tit 1:15], with the ending of the cause of this apostolic prohibition, the effect also ended.”
Some traditionalists also quote Pope Pius XI Mortalium Animos § 10. “… this Apostolic See has never allowed its subjects to take part in the assemblies of non-Catholics.” However, he spoke of Sundays and other holy days of obligation. § 2180 “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass. The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day.” But here we are speaking of an occasional visit, after the Catholic Sunday obligation § 2180 has been fulfilled.
- First, the shlikhim “were continually in the temple blessing God” Lk 24:53 and “Day by day, [attended] the temple together” Acts 2:46. Rabbi Paul, in Corinth, attended the synagogue every sabbath Acts 18:4. It is untenable to believe that all committed grave sin by doing so since, “The Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” Acts 2:47.
- Second, Rabbi Paul wrote, “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?” Rom 11:15. His reference to “their acceptance” means acceptance of their Mashiakh. St. Augustine wrote in The City of God, Book 20, Chapter 29, “It is a familiar theme in the conversation and heart of the faithful, that in the last days before the judgment the Jews shall believe in the true Christ, that is, our Christ.” Holy Mother Church continues today in her firm conviction that § 674 “The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by all Israel.” Perhaps our greatest responsibility is to clear the way for the Second Coming. When we dialogue with them but say, “We cannot set foot in your Jewish place of worship,” they are likely to say, “Your Rabbi Yeshua taught in the Temple Mt 26:55; Mk 14:49; Lk 19:47, 21:37; 22:53; Jn 18:20.”
- Third, Rabbi Yeshua prayed to his Holy Father “that they may be one, even as we are one” Jn 17:11, 22. He called active ecumenical ministry: “And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd” Jn 10:16. His vicar St. John Paul II, in Ut Unum Sint § 1, wrote: “Christ calls all his disciples to unity. My earnest desire is to renew this call today, to propose it once more with determination …” e
- Ecumenical work often begins with inviting one another to worship services. If we begin by saying, “I will not set foot in your place of worship,” it is not likely to go very far.
Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus
The Catholic Church teaches, extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, outside the Church there is no salvation. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” Jn 3:5. Cantate Domino expressed it: “[The Council of Florence] firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart into everlasting fire …”
In 1442, just a few years before the printing press, most people in the western nations were Catholic. Everyone knew, at least in a simple way, what the Church taught. But in today’s widespread confusion a man can grow up working all his life in God’s service without hearing the Catholic faith proclaimed in a way he can understand. God would never send a man to hell with no opportunity for the free will decision that has been at the heart of Catholic life these past two thousand years, so today Holy Mother Church expresses her constant teaching more clearly:
- CCC 846 How are we to understand [Outside the Church there is no salvation], often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body: Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.
- CCC 847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church: Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.
St. John Paul II wrote, “We are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the ‘culture of death’ and the ‘culture of life.’”
Some faith communities call themselves as American Catholic. Catholic American puts Catholic first, the world conforms to the Church. American Catholic puts American first, the Church conforms to the world. Perhaps the most recent on the old heresy trail, the American Catholic heresy believes that Catholic doctrine, moral norms, and institutions should adapt to reflect the surrounding culture.
It got started during the 1960s as a systematic effort to hijack Vatican II by trying to convince clergy and laity alike that its documents, signed by Pope Paul VI, did not say what they in fact did say. The radicals coined the phrase “spirit of Vatican II” to distinguish between what it actually said and what they wanted everyone to believe it said.
Heresy in Liberal Catholicism
Liberal theologian Karl Rahner believed that the heresy most threatening to Catholicism in America is Docetist heresy. His idea was that although we hold the full range of Catholic teaching to be true, it floats above reality, never connecting with our practical day-to-day lives. Liberal Catholicism therefore sought to reconnect faith with life through relativism in the form of nuanced imaginings that certain aspects of the human condition “open up toward the transcendent.” Liberal Catholics often complain that the Magisterium deals in absolute statements that are not open to relativist distortion.
In addition, liberal Catholicism is open to the Nestorian heresy. Nestorius was so concerned to isolate Rabbi Yeshua‘s human nature from hypostatic union with his divine nature that he imagined Christ as two separate persons, a divine person and a human person. Our “multicultural” liberals are obsessed with rejecting authoritative moral norms so that we can express our own cultural preferences Gen 3:5.
Dissenting Ethical Theories
Holy Mother Church teaches that acts such as fornication, contraception, abortion, euthanasia, etc., are intrinsically evil, but some moral theologians want to make exceptions based on the purpose of these acts. In Greek, telos is purpose, logos is word. Teleological ethical systems assert that an act is moral or immoral based on its stated purpose.
St. John Paul II wrote, in Veritatis Splendor § 75, “The teleological ethical theories (proportionalism, consequentialism), while acknowledging that moral values are indicated by reason and by Revelation, maintain that it is never possible to formulate an absolute prohibition of particular kinds of behavior which would be in conflict, in every circumstance and in every culture, with those values.”
But what if the person’s intention is good, for instance aborting to prevent birth of a seriously deformed baby? The Holy Father answered in Veritatis Splendor § 78, “The reason why a good intention is not itself sufficient, but a correct choice of actions is also needed, is that the human act depends on its object, whether that object is capable or not of being ordered to God, to the One who ‘alone is good,’ and thus brings about the perfection of the person. An act is therefore good if its object is in conformity with the good of the person with respect for the goods morally relevant for him.”
John Paul II continues in Veritatis Splendor § 79, “One must therefore reject the thesis, characteristic of teleological and proportionalist theories, which holds that it is impossible to qualify as morally evil according to its species — its ‘object’ — the deliberate choice of certain kinds of behavior or specific acts, apart from a consideration of the intention for which the choice is made or the totality of the foreseeable consequences of that act for all persons concerned.
Holy Mother Church teaches as divine law that § 1789 “One may never do evil so that good may result from it.” Some acts are intrinsically evil. Perhaps the most prominent application is in sexual temptation, where “just a little is okay” often brings unanticipated consequences. Contraception is intrinsically evil. For four centuries every sola Scriptura denomination held firmly that God’s law in Scripture prohibits it. Then the Anglicans at Lambeth Palace in 1930 believed that just a little would be okay to relieve extreme marital stress. But within only a few decades, an eye-blink in salvation history, virtually all the sola Scriptura denominations held firmly that God’s law in Scripture permits it, gravely damaging Protestant credibility. More on this: The Catholic Church Alone. Homosexual acts are intrinsically evil, but during the 1970s some disordered seminaries taught that homosexual activity is good if it relaxes a stressed priest. The Long Lent of 2002 revealed the terrifying evil that proposition had caused.
Dual Covenant Theology: The Catholic Church Rejects It
On August 12, 2002, an ongoing dialogue between the delegates of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (USBCEIA) and the National Council of Synagogues publicly released a joint statement entitled Reflections on Covenant and Mission. It was placed on the USCCB web site, which gave the impression that it had been approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In fact, it had not been approved by the bishops. It had not been approved even by the US Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (USBCEIA). It was put up on the site by some delegates from the USBCEIA. Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore, the Catholic co-chairman of the dialogue group, explained on August 16 that the document was unofficial and was published with the purpose of encouraging serious reflection on the issues in both the Catholic and Jewish communities. It remained on the USCCB web site for about two months and was then quietly withdrawn.
However, the “dual-covenant” theological issue of whether Jews live in a separate saving covenant, the heart of the controversy, belongs not to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (at that time governed by Cardinal Kasper) but to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Reflections on Covenant and Mission stated, “A deepening Catholic appreciation of the eternal covenant between God and the Jewish people, together with a recognition of a divinely given mission to Jews to witness to God’s faithful love, lead to the conclusion that campaigns that target Jews for conversion to Christianity are no longer theologically acceptable in the Catholic Church.”
Reflections was correct in saying that campaigns that target Jews for conversion to Christianity are no longer acceptable to the Church. Holy Mother Church ’s emerging prudent judgment is that evangelizing Jews is best done quietly by individual Catholics through the testimony of life, answering questions raised by inquiring Jews, Jewish-Catholic dialogue, web sites that Jews may visit if they wish, and similar conversations. Catholics understand Judaism is an earlier form of God’s true revelation to man, and that Catholic faith is the fulfillment and completion of Judaism. However, the need to evangelize Jews in some way remains with us.
Cardinal Dulles’ Response
Certainly the most important response was written by Cardinal Avery Dulles SJ,, called “Covenant and Mission,” published on October 21, 2002, in the Jesuit weekly magazine America:
“This view of evangelization is difficult to reconcile with the teaching of recent popes. Paul VI declared in his 1975 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi that, “There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the Kingdom, and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not proclaimed” (No. 22). He added: “Evangelization will also always contain—as the foundation, center, and at the same time summit of its dynamism—a clear proclamation that, in Jesus Christ, salvation is offered to all men, as a gift of God’s grace and mercy” (No. 27). John Paul II quotes these words approvingly in his 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio (No. 44).”
In Ecclesia in America, an apostolic exhortation published in 1999 after the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, the pope, referring again to Paul VI, writes: “The vital core of the new evangelization must be a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ” (No. 66). Covenant and Mission presents a concept of evangelization in which this vital core is dispensable. Unlike the popes, it seems to say that Christians can evangelize without pronouncing the name of Jesus.”
Cardinal Dulles also addressed the term mission. The Jewish reflections tried to suggest that, “mission” refers only to conversion from false gods and idols to the true and one God. Cardinal Dulles responded:
“Mission” and cognate terms in the New Testament and in traditional Catholic usage extend both to the Jews and to the Gentiles, not just the latter, although differences are of course recognized between the two groups (Acts 3:26; Gal. 2:8 and elsewhere). Even if, with Cardinal Kasper, one were to limit “mission” to the apostolate to the Gentiles, the church would not be absolved of her God-given responsibility to proclaim Christ to all the world. Peter on Pentecost Sunday declared that the whole house of Israel should know for certain that Jesus is Lord and Messiah and that every one of his hearers should be baptized in Jesus’ name (Acts 2:38). Paul spent much of his ministry proclaiming the Gospel to Jews throughout the diaspora. Distressed by their incredulity, he was prepared to wish himself accursed for the sake of their conversion (Rom. 9:3).
The Association of Hebrew Catholics overwhelmingly reflected the Church’s rejection of dual-covenant theology. David Moss published a follow-up article, “Should Catholics … In the Wake of ‘Reflections on Covenant and Mission.’ Marty published two articles. Catholic Teaching on Evangelizing Jews appeared in The Hebrew Catholic § 77, Summer-Fall 2002, p. 23. That issue also had many other comments. The other, “Reflections on Covenant and Mission: A Response,” appeared in Homiletic & Pastoral Review magazine, June 2003. The Hebrew Catholic § 78, Winter-Spring 2003 had many more comments.
The theological assertion that Jews live in a separate saving covenant may be swiftly demolished: Rabbi Yeshua, during his entire public ministry, evangelized only Jews. “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” Mt 10:5–6. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” Mt 15:24.
At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit ’s miracle highlighting the universality of the Catholic Church was an evangelization of Jews. “Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language” Acts 2:5–6. “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them … be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus of Nazareth … there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” Acts 4:8–12.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 1226, states: “The apostles and their collaborators offer Baptism to anyone who believed in Jesus: Jews, the God-fearing, pagans.”
Rabbi Yeshua said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” Jn 3:5. He was speaking to Nicodemus, a devout Jew and member of the Sanhedrin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 1257, says, “The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are ‘reborn of water and the Spirit.’
It adds, at § 1260, “Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.”
St. John Paul II’s encyclical Redemptoris Missio, “The Mission of Christ the Redeemer,” and the Catechism of the Catholic Church § 849-856 and § 2044-2046 hold clearly that Holy Mother Church has a mission to the Jews, which is to be fulfilled with grace and charity.
The ancient rabbis said that even one letter added or taken from the Torah can destroy the entire world. Could it be that God intended to allow Judaism to continue as a separate saving covenant without its Temple sacrifices? No. He had taught integral observance of the Law § 579. The ancient rabbis themselves believed that the Torah was indivisible and Rabbi Yeshua confirmed it Mt 5:19.
Mosaic Judaism, in its time God’s authentic revelation to man, pointed directly toward Rabbi Yeshua. However, after Rabbi Yeshua‘s redemptive sacrifice followed by the Temple destruction, Rabbinic Judaism pointed away from Rabbi Yeshua. It cannot be that God has two authentic and equal covenants in the world, one proclaiming God’s Mashiakh and one denying him.
Rabbi Yeshua Commanded Evangelizing Jews
During His mortal life Rabbi Yeshua spent His entire public ministry evangelizing Jews. “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” Mt 10:5. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” Mt 15:24.
After rising from the tomb Rabbi Yeshua told the shlikhim, “… you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” Acts 1:8. Jews lived in Jerusalem. Jews lived in Judea. The Samaritans were partly Jewish and partly pagan. Rabbi Yeshua, after rising from the tomb, expected his followers to evangelize Jews and pagans alike.
The Catholic Church Today Teaches the Same
§ 849 “The missionary mandate. Having been divinely sent to the nations that she might be ‘the universal sacrament of salvation,’ the Church, in obedience to the command of her founder and because it is demanded by her own essential universality, strives to preach the Gospel to all men.” All men. Pope Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi § 14 “We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church.” All people. Holy Mother Church is specific: § 1226 “The apostles and their collaborators offer Baptism to anyone who believed in Jesus: Jews, the God-fearing, pagans.”
Rabbi Yeshua‘s Final Sacrifice opened heaven for us Lk 23:43, and so only baptism into it can reach heaven. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” Rom 6:3–4.
§ 1257 “The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation to those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed. The Church does not know any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are reborn of water and the Spirit.”
But the Catholic Church teaches salvation by grace, not knowledge. Some men are eager to know, love and serve God but have never heard the Catholic faith presented in a way they could understand and embrace.
§ 1260 Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.