II. Who is Catholic?
III. What are the true teachings of the Catholic Faith?
IV. Is it necessary to be Catholic to be saved?
V. Can the Church’s Dogmatic teaching change?
VI. What must we do to be truly called Catholic?
There is a very common practice today of adding various prefixes to the wonderful title of “Catholic”. These are not the acceptable ones such as: Roman, Greek, Melkite, Maronite, Syro-Malabar, etc which refer to the legitimate diversity of Catholic liturgies and cultures. The ones I refer to are those such as: Traditionalist, Neo-Conservative, Liberal, etc. This has resulted in great scandal to the world, because of these vast numbers of men and women calling themselves Catholic and dissenting from the teaching and/or the authority of the Church. These dissenters have thus removed themselves from the Church and no longer have the right to call themselves Catholic at all, but yet to the world they are representatives of Catholicism. It also shows only further division in Christendom, which is a great stumbling block to potential converts. This is a trend that dates back more than a century and was even preached against by our Holy Father Pope Benedict XV in his encyclical Ad beatissimi apostolorum of November 1st, 1914:
“It is, moreover, Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as “profane novelties of words,” out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim “Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,” only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself.” (Paragraph #24)
The position of many faithful Catholics who call themselves “Conservative” or even “Traditionalist” Catholics, however, is understandable for by doing so they attempt to differentiate themselves from the many dissenting Catholics who while not actually professing what the Church teachers nor in any way practicing their faith still insist upon calling themselves Catholic. Still these appellations have often developed into a very dangerous drawing of lines, even among good Catholics who are doing their best to be faithful. We have on one side those who suggest that the Church as it was before the Second Vatican Council is the true Church, and on the other those who would say that the Church after the council is the true Church, while rejecting what came before. This rupture is just what our dear Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has spoken of on a number of occasions:
“Certainly the results of Vatican II seem cruelly opposed to the expectations of everyone, beginning with those of Pope John XXIII and then of Pope Paul VI: expected was a new Catholic unity and instead we have been exposed to dissension which, to use the words of Pope Paul VI, seems to have gone from self-criticism to self-destruction. Expected was a new enthusiasm, and many wound up discouraged and bored. Expected was a great step forward, instead we find ourselves faced with a progressive process of decadence which has developed for the most part under the sign of a calling back to the Council, and has therefore contributed to discrediting it for many. The net result therefore seems negative. I am repeating here what I said ten years after the conclusion of the work: it is incontrovertible that this period has definitely been unfavorable for the Catholic Church.” -Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), L’Osservatore Romano, 24 December 1984
“The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest.” -Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), address to the Chilean Bishops, 13 July 1988, Santiago Chile
“How much Christ suffers in his own Church. How often is the Holy Sacrament of His real presence abused. How often must He enter empty and evil hearts. How often do we celebrate only ourselves without even realizing that He is there. How often is His word twisted and misused. What little faith is present behind so many theories and so many empty words. How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those in the priesthood who should belong entirely to Him. How much pride. How much self complacency. What little respect for the sacrament of reconciliation where He waits for us to raise us up whenever we fall. How much filth there is. How much filth.” -Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Sermon given on Good Friday of 2005 just 3 ½ weeks before being elected Supreme Pontiff
And he clearly points out the focal point of these troubles in the Church:
“I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy.” -Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), “Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977” (SF, CA: Ignatius), p. 149.
“What happened at the Council was something else entirely: in the place of the liturgy as the fruit of development came fabricated liturgy. We abandoned the organic, living, process of growth and development over centuries, and replaced it – as in a manufacturing process – with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product.” -Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), From the preface to the French edition of “Reforms of the Roman Liturgy Its Problems and Background” 1993
“The second great event at the beginning of my years in Regensburg was the publication of the Missal of Paul VI, which was accompanied by the almost total prohibition, after a transitional phase of only half a year, of using the missal we had had until then. (…) The prohibition of the missal that was now decreed, a missal that had known continuous growth over the centuries, starting with the sacramentaries of the ancient Church, introduced a breach of the liturgy whose consequences could only be tragic.” -Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), “Milestones – Memoirs 1927 – 1977”, Ignatius, San Francisco, 1998, p. 146
Here Pope Benedict has plainly elucidated the fundamental principal of “Lex orandi Lex credenda”, which means: the law of worship is the law of belief. Indeed, the way we worship directly influences how we believe and vice versa. On the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi in 2011 Cardinal Piacenza, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, made the following remarks to seminarians of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles:
“Yours will probably be the first generation that will correctly interpret the Second Vatican Council, not according to the ‘spirit’ of the Council, which has brought so much disorientation to the Church, but according to what the Conciliar Event really said, in its texts to the Church and to the world…There cannot be, nor could there be, a pre-Conciliar Church and a post-Conciliar Church! Were it thus, the second one – ours – would be historically and theologically illegitimate! There is only one Church of Christ, of which you are part, that goes from Our Lord to the Apostles, from the Blessed Virgin Mary to the Fathers and the Doctors of the Church, from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, from Romanesque to Gothic to Baroque, and thus until our days, uninterruptedly, without any dissolution of continuity, ever!”
We need to remember that we must be with the Church in what it actually teaches. We must be faithful to what it is teaching, has taught, and will always teach: the one only truth of Jesus Christ.
“He that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth.” –Luke 11:23; Matt 12:30
“But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, not hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest: I am rich, and made wealthy, and have need of nothing: and knowest not, that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. I counsel thee to buy of me gold fire tried, that thou mayest be made rich; and mayest be clothed in white garments, and that the shame of thy nakedness may not appear; and anoint thy eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. Such as I love, I rebuke and chastise. Be zealous therefore, and do penance. Behold, I stand at the gate, and knock. If any man shall hear my voice, and open to me the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that shall overcome, I will give to sit with me in my throne: as I also have overcome, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.” –The Apocalypse of Saint John 3:16-22