A commentator who calls himself “Ignatius” left me a comment on my previous post which I aimed to respond to but it ended up being such a pleasant exercise that I decided to make it into a post outlining some of my views on sedevacantism as well as addressing his request for some advice.
Here is his comment:
James – English is not my first language so please forgive my writing.
I am a recent convert to the Faith. I received RCIA in a diocesean parish and did not have a very deep formation. Studying more about Vatican II, the recent call to not convert the Jews, the liberal heretical bishops and priests… supposedly there was no point in me converting because I could have just as easily been saved as an atheist.
This post has caused me to think very much, I have been considering joining the SSPX but now am rethinking things. Do you have any advice for me? Should I continue to attend NO Masses that are full of liturgical abuses and that teach Modernism? My faith is still weak and I am not sure what to do. I want to place Christ first and foremost and will never betray him.
Thank you so much for your comment. I have to say that your English isn’t bad at all. Welcome to the Faith! Know that your exoteric endeavours to join us are not in vain.
The first “advice” I’d like to give for you is to not stop striving to create a culture and society where liberalism and vice are eliminated. This first starts with living out virtue in ourselves. Most often, people misunderstand the way in which metanoia in the Church should take place. They expect the Church to baby them and treat them as infants by providing the necessary transformation in the individual for them. No, this is backwards. We first must adhere to virtue in our very person. It is only then that we can lead the people around us. And, after that, once we have led our community, it will affect the diocese, and, in turn, Christendom as a whole. In essence, the first piece of advice is to adhere to a life of virtue and not to expect the Church to change when you yourself still live a life of sin.
This is the law of microcosm and macrocosm. If we do not change ourselves in our bodies first, why do we have any legitimacy to criticize society and the Church when we do not have the will to change ourselves? That is what I expect for myself as I attempt all I can with great sincerity to work to eliminate my sinfulness. Some might accuse me of hypocrisy since I often talk about change in society happening first through leadership. Yes, this is true and this bears out in my analogy: For the body to improve, the heart must first act according to what the mind teaches. How many times have you known yourself to intellectually understand what is right and yet have not the heart to do it? This is the same with the present state of the Church. She knows what is true in her mind, but we, the heart, the Empire, have not yet moved to make it so in the rest of the body. Thus, leadership starts with ourselves. Be the leader you wish to see. Be the change you wish to affect.
Secondly, studying Vatican II should not be done in a vacuum. The study of scripture or even documents of the Church were never meant to be done without proper authority. The idea that any layman can interpret Church documents on his own and deem them heretical is antithetical to the hierarchical and authoritative modality of the Apostolic dimension of the Church. Christ intended the Church to be our organic interpreter and it is through her and her agents, no matter how flawed, that we receive an understanding of things like Vatican II. After all, no matter how sinful a priest, if he observes the proper rites, he may confect the Eucharist even if his hands have been stained with murder or pedophilia. Thus, if a true Catholic realizes that sacramentality is immune to sin, then why do Catholics contend that the Church’s authority is not immune to the “stink” of liberalism in her members?
Concerning Nostra Aetate, the call to respect the legitimate covenant of the Jews, is a nuanced subject which is more about affirming God’s integrity rather than any sign of “weakness.” It is difficult to explain the whole of Nostra Aetate in one sentence, but the point is that your interpretation of that document is not authoritative and if one listens to the magisterial teachings of the Church, one understands that the call to respect the integrity of God in His covenants is not at all a threat to the “truth” of the Catholic faith. If you truly wish to know more about how to read Nostra Aetate, then feel free to ask me for resources. I will probably ask my good friend Lawrence who has studied the document better than I have.
This brings us to the main point of my contention with those of the SSPX variety. Most of their spirituality (if it can even be called such a thing) is a spirituality of fear. It is a fear of heresy around every corner. They deny the mystical truth that “they shall take up serpents; and if they shall drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them,” (Mk. 16:18). The truly initiated Christian is able to hold fast to the eternal, unchanging truths of Catholic teaching while maintaining his external composure as the world seems to crumble around him. It is this ability to remain composed during long martyrdom that defines a Christian who ascends rather than one who retreats.
Have you ever wondered why it was that the Christian martyrs of the past were able to withstand boiling oil or hot coals? It is because they had inner peace, by God’s grace, in a time of persecution. Do you think God gave them anesthesia? No, they felt the totality of the pain just as you are asked now to endure the degeneracy of the Church. In the modern world, our time of persecution is now and whether or not we can keep Christ on our lips or say, like the Protestants, “the Holy Spirit made a mistake in choosing the Popes and leading the councils” will define whether or not we are martyrs or cowards; whether we are saints or apostates.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not fatalistic about our role in the persecution of the Church. I want you to fight. I hope you fight. I want you to fight as much as you can. But tell me, Ignatius; if your mother has been held captive by ignoble men and forced into a degrading lifestyle, would you say “that is no mother of mine. I want a better woman to be my mother” or, rather, would you go rescue her? Do you expect your mother to wrestle the evil men herself or are you going to go there and do something? Do not expect the Church to fight your battles for you. Be a man and save her not from herself but those who are making it difficult for her to be herself!
Similarly, if you married a woman who had been abducted and maimed by evil men and she could no longer walk straight, would you abandon her for a younger woman? If you are a man of any worth, you would remain true to your marriage vows. SSPXers are oathbreakers. Yes, Many are well-meaning. Many want to rescue the Church in their hearts, but they do not know that their methods of abandoning her are akin to abandoning their crippled wife and having an affair with a statue. Notice that this is the inversion of the present state. The present state is the Church who still retains the authentic deposit of faith and a body which has no heart to nourish and protect that deposit while the sedevacantists are those who have plenty of heart but refuse the guidance of the Head. SSPXers are guilty of idolatry; they are guilty of idolizing the Church of the past instead of rescuing the Church of the present by reestablishing the Empire.
What you must avoid, dear Ignatius, is moral fetishism which is not only a stumbling block for SSPXers but also for new converts. Often, when one exoterically adheres to a new faith, the question of “right” and “wrong” becomes paramount. However, this is not the highest good for Christianity. For Christianity, the primary mode is not judgment, but love. When love is present, then judgment is restrained by mercy. After all, the Master told us to “go then and learn what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice. For I am not come to call the just, but sinners” (Mtt. 9:13).
This goes back to your concern that it makes no difference if you can attain salvation by being an Atheist. This is grossly misinterpreting the Vatican II documents. However, even without the proper interpretation of the documents, it is clear to see why this approach and mindset is mistaken. If one has the internal attitude of spiritual acedia and does not choose a path to follow, then of course one will not attain salvation. Anyone who thinks that they are “alright” as they are with their path of apathy and relativism, then they have lost the whole point. Anyone who sincerely ascends a path (and I don’t mean the petty bourgeois concept of “sincerity” that says “oh, if you just want it enough you’ll get it,” but rather the type of sincerity that includes being sacrificed on a cross—the aristocratic type of sincerity) will always enter through a legitimate doorway—he will always find the Church even if it is not the visible one. This is the meaning behind “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you” (Mtt 7:7). Furthermore, just because one professes Christ does not guarantee one’s salvation. After all, “not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mtt 7:21).
You should not mistake the doorway for the destination. You should not mistake the exoteric affiliation to the Church as the Church herself. The Church is much greater, grander, larger, more beautiful, and more awesome than the doorway she presents to the world. We should not begrudge our brothers and sisters who end up at the top of the mountain with us even though they came up a more unsure path because if they reached us here at the top, then they must have achieved it through God’s help and who are we to begrudge God for being generous? After all, didn’t the landowner go out late at night and called the late ones who had no work to tend his vineyard and yet paid them the same amount as those who have been there all day? (Mtt 20:1-16).
Are you going to be like the elder brother who resents his generous father for accepting your degenerate younger brother back into the fold? Notice how we remember him forevermore as being mistaken. Therefore, be not afraid! Those who follow false gods and false religions will find their ruin, and the Church affirms this. After all, “extra ecclesiam nulla salus.” Yet, the boundary of that Church is not defined merely exoterically just as not all the saints in heaven are canonized.
The only tether we have is through obedience. This is not some modern concept of “inclusion.” The Church never “includes” anyone out of pity. For us, the journey of salvation is helped by the Church like a guide to a mountain climber. The guide shows us the sure and true way up although it may be very difficult. There are plenty stranded at the base both Catholic and non-Catholic alike. Yet, God will not deny anyone who expresses such great love for Him that they climb the difficult parts of the mountain and succeed without the guide’s help. Sure, it would be foolish and if only they would believe our guide, but it is not impossible. No one who makes it to the top diminishes our adherence. We will have the greater seat since obedience is greater than sacrifice (1 Sam 15:22). No one who climbs to the top is guilty of apathy and hence why “true” atheists and not merely those who call themselves atheists because they have no words for their upward journey will never make it. Anyone who loves God so much as to climb the mountain and attain the summit deserves to be there. You both will suffer to achieve Calvary. You will achieve it through obedience. The other, will achieve it through rising above his religion to the mystical Church. Both of you will achieve it through God’s grace; and it is His to give to whomever is willing.
Lastly, I’d like to contend with the concept that may be pushed by sedevacantists that adhering to the present Church is “abetting” weakness. This is a horrible sadness. These would have been the same kind of people who would have abandoned Christ at the crucifixion because they would have thought him to be a weak god to let himself be crucified. Do not be mistaken. SSPXers are not courageous crusaders fighting liberalism; they are peddling power rather than real authority. They are selling shortcuts rather than true work. They are peddling fear rather than courage (because fear does indeed grant strength, but not of the same quality as that of courage). They are peddling betrayal rather than rescue. They are peddling moral fetishism rather than true spirituality. They are forcing a merely materialistic dimension of the Church instead of admitting that she is the gateway to something greater and beyond—to Christ. They deny Christ and wish for “Church” instead. This is not surprising. Tomberg tells us:
“The idol of power has such a hold on some human minds that they prefer a God who is a mixture of good and evil, provided that he is powerful, to a God of love who governs only by the intrinsic authority of the divine — by truth , beauty , and goodness — i.e. they prefer a God who is actually almighty to the crucified God.”i
Was God wrong to empty Himself in order to become powerless on the cross? Shall you be one of the SSPXers who jeer and say “if the Popes were any good, they’d save the Church by now” just like the men jeered at Jesus, “if he’s truly the Christ, then let him come down from the cross!” No, Ignatius, you must rethink your concepts of authority and power. You must let go of the Protestant and SSPX tendencies for control and moral fetishism. True religion, yes, has rules and regulations, but it is done so in the context of a human and divine family. It is not done so in a vacuum. If you want mindless rules, become a Muslim or a Protestant. If you want a religion that treats you like a human being, then remain true to the Faith of a God who so loved the world that He became powerless like us.
So does this mean that I’m asking you to join me in suffering through the Novus Ordo? No. I understand its ugliness and I have come to be at peace with it. It doesn’t mean I accept the ugliness of it, after all, even Jesus prayed for the cup to pass from Him (Mtt 26:39). No one enjoys and revels in fertilizer (it is literally manure), yet we use it to make crops rise towards heaven. Therefore, if you are not yet ready to “ride the tiger” of modern Catholicism, then do not. Find a “conservative” safe haven for yourself, but do not be fooled into choosing one that has no connection to the Head of Rome or merely teaches moral fetishism and peddles “powerful” Catholicism. Do not be fooled into accepting a false ark. If you do not like the smell of the tigers, go among the sheep. If you are not yet ready to bunk with the lions, go lay with the lambs. There is plenty of room in the Barque of Peter.
i Meditations on the Tarot, pp. 82.