Catholic Apologetics #11
The Catholic Religion Requires Both Internal and External Practices
Just a few days ago I noticed on a Facebook group dedicated to traditional Catholic vestments that a photo was shared of an interreligious prayer gathering that took place in response to the March mosque shooting in New Zealand. I criticized the group for sharing an image that is contrary to the First Commandment and in response I was banned. It seems some Catholics think that if something looks holy, then it must be holy.
Yet, heretics can wear nice vestments. The Pharisees, like the modern-day heretics, came in many varieties and not all heretics have rejected all external Catholic practices. Ironically, many Anglican “services,” which are heretical and invalid as Pope Leo XIII explicitly affirmed, externally look more genuinely “Catholic” than a typical Novus Ordo Mass. One can not judge a heretic by his clothes.
The Faith is not defined by merely external actions. Archbishop Lefebvre rightfully criticized the Novus Ordo – even when accompanied by Latin, ad orientem postures, and the external appearance of piety. Our Lord Jesus Christ instituted a set of doctrines and established His one True Church as the means of bringing about the conversion of souls and their salvation. He did not institute merely external gestures while telling His disciples to ad lib the rest. And on the opposite extreme, the Lord also did not teach His disciples the precise words for Sacramental validity and tell them that their external postures, garments, and actions were useless since only the internal mattered. Our Faith not only includes heart-felt prayers, works of charity, and pious devotions, but also includes rich liturgical music, elaborate cathedrals, and ornate vestments. This Facebook group that I criticized maintained that images of beautiful vestments should be shared even if they showcase Catholic bishops praying along with heretics and pagan sorcerers.
Interreligious Gatherings Are Condemned by Catholic Teaching
One manifestation of error in our world today is the pernicious error that interreligious gatherings are acceptable. Further compounding this grave error are the errors of Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and now Pope Francis who attended such gatherings. Rather than striving to convert souls and win them over for Christ in the only True Church, outside of which no one is saved, they have caused scandal at the very rock of the Church’s foundation.
The Church’s position condemning such gatherings is manifestly clear. The Council of Laodicea in 365 AD stated, “No one shall pray in common with heretics and schismatics.” St. Cyril of Alexandria echoed these same sentiments when he said, “It is therefore unlawful, and a profanation, and an act the punishment of which is death, to love to associate with unholy heretics, and to unite yourself to their communion.” Likewise, the Council of Carthage in the fifth century decreed, “One must neither pray nor sing psalms with heretics, and whoever shall communicate with those who are cut off from the communion of the Church, whether clergy or layman: let him be excommunicated.”
But this is not only an ancient teaching. In the Middle Ages the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, said, “To know whom to avoid is a great means of saving our souls…Thus, the Church forbids the faithful to communicate with those unbelievers who have forsaken the faith by corrupting it, such as heretics, or by renouncing it, such as apostates.” And even in modern times, we have the words of Pope Pius XI in Mortalium Animos from 1928: “Venerable Brethren, it is clear why this Apostolic See has never allowed its subjects to take part in the assemblies of non-Catholics: for the union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it.”
In October 2016, Pope Francis attended the fifth interreligious meeting in Assisi. This meeting coincided with the 30th anniversary of the first such meeting which took place on October 27, 1986. Speaking of that grave scandal, Archbishop Lefebvre commented with words that continue to apply today to such gatherings: “It is demonic. It is an insult to our Lord Jesus Christ. Who will they pray to? What god will they pray to for peace? What peace can they ask for if they are not praying to the only true God? They will not be praying to our Lord Jesus Christ. The Jews do not want Him, the Muslims and Buddhists do not want Him neither. Lots of Protestants do not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. What god will they pray to? God was made flesh and came and lived amongst us to save us. We have no right to pray to anyone else. If we put Jesus Christ aside, we are not praying to the true God. It is an indescribably impious act against our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Spiritual Conferences, 117B, Jan. 28)
May we never tire of courageously defending the Traditions of Holy Mother Church even when the practices of those in her hierarchy – including the Holy Father himself – attack the Truth. As a remedy, besides publicly stating the truth, we can and should offer Rosaries of reparation and ask for Masses of reparation. Priests, please offer the votive Mass for the Propagation of the Faith (Missa Deus Misereatur) to implore Almighty God to not leave the infidels and pagans and heretics outside of salvation but call them all to repentance and conversion to the only saving Faith.
Heretics come in all varieties. As Catholics, we cannot judge merely by external actions. Great and pious men may appear to us as poor and abject. And those who wear the finest vestments worn by saints and popes may be manifest heretics. Only in the End of Times will the wheat and the weeds fully be separated. Our duty is to keep the Faith, live the Faith, and defend the Faith. And the rest we entrust to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord and the Immaculate Heart of His Mother.
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