Living Tradition
Editor: Msgr. John F. McCarthy, J.C.D., S.T.D.Distributed several times a year to interested members.
Associate Editor: Rev. Brian W. Harrison, O.S., M.A., S.T.D.  Not to be republished without permission.
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No 57 Roman Theological Forum | Article Index | Study Program March 1995


by Brian W. Harrison

(The following article is the text of an address given at the Wanderer Forum in September 1993.)
        Few of us involved in the struggle to defend and promote orthodox Catholic faith and morality will dispute the proposition that the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church comes at a time when we are very much in need of some good news. The bad news that is trumpeted almost daily in our ears - the infiltration of strange philosophies and false doctrines which obscure the Way of the Lord Jesus; declining vocations and Mass attendance; polls showing massive rejection of Church teachings on the part of professing Catholics; the public humiliation of Holy Mother Church because of the moral and spiritual deterioration amongst shepherds of Christ's flock - all this is distressingly self-evident.

        We are living in times when the pungent eloquence of William Butler Yeats springs to mind. In the year 1919, when violence was racking his native Ireland and the horrors of the Russian Revolution presaged an era of untold and perhaps unlimited social collapse and tyranny for the world, Yeats expressed a sense of deep foreboding in his poem, "The Second Coming," the title of which refers ironically to the expected arrival, not of Christ, but of Antichrist. His words may seem all too applicable to a Church which often appears to have lost its sense of direction, and, as it were, is spinning out of control. Yeats' first stanza reads:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
        So much for the bad news. The main thing I wish to share with you all tonight is my conviction that the promulgation of the Catechism is not just good news, but quite simply the best news to reach the Catholic Church in all the thirty stormy years since Vatican Council II. In very truth, Roma locuta est. But the particular merit of the Catechism, coming as it does at this crucial point in Church history, is that the Roma which speaks here is not merely the Rome of the conciliar period, or even of the twentieth century, but Rome of all the Christian centuries: eternal Rome.

        The way in which Rome has spoken in the Catechism can be illustrated by looking at its sources. As well as about 800 quotations from Vatican II (the vast majority of which simply repeat what the Church had always explicitly taught before the Council), we find 64 citations from the pre-conciliar encyclicals, bulls and other papal documents; 493 citations from the Fathers, Doctors, and Saints, ranging in time from St. Clement of Rome at the end of the first century to St. Therese of Lisieux at the end of the nineteenth; 102 quotes from the ancient and mediaeval Councils, both local and ecumenical; 27 from Vatican I, and 127 from that most despised and rejected of all Church sources in the eyes of modern dissenters, the Council of Trent and the old Roman Catechism which sprang from it. All this, in addition to over four thousand citations from that decidedly pre-conciliar collection of documents known as Sacred Scripture.

        What all this amounts to, of course, is that, with the advent of the Catechism, it is once again made clear beyond all possible doubt that the Church which is about to launch into the Third Millennium is still the Catholic Church of all the ages. So from now on the appropriate response to the tired old taunt that this or that point of orthodoxy is "pre-conciliar" will be that heterodoxy is "pre-Catechism."

        Before returning to some further general observations on the authority and value of the Catechism in the present-day fight for Catholic truth, I would like to offer some rather more specific comments on one of the very few areas in which it has been plausibly - though I believe incorrectly - argued that Vatican II really did contradict the previous teaching of the Church, namely, in regard to Church-State relationships and religious liberty. This has been an area of Catholic doctrine which I have studied with particular attention, and which I believe is especially relevant to this present gathering, insofar as the Wanderer Forum Foundation defines itself as a network of lay Catholics who not only seek to promote and defend Catholic teaching, but also "to infuse principles based on that teaching into the social consciousness of this nation." It should be of no small interest, therefore, to know that the new Catechism, in its teaching on human liberty and on what it calls "the social duty of religion," manifests more clearly than the Council itself that continuity of doctrine which has so often been called in question by both liberal supporters and traditionalist opponents of the Vatican II Declaration on Religious Liberty, Dignitatis Humanae.

        Such continuity is in fact of central importance to the credibility of the venerable maxim, Roma locuta est, causa finita est. There must be a demonstrable coherence and consistency between what the Roman Pontiffs teach firmly and definitively in one period of Church history and what they teach with equal force in any other age. I find it hard to see how any "cause" could be "finished" by Rome - that is, how any doctrinal dispute could be considered definitively settled by her - if Rome herself were to flatly contradict, in a forum as august and solemn as an Ecumenical Council, even one doctrine which she had previously proposed as certainly true by either her ordinary or extraordinary Magisterium. Such a contradiction would be, quite simply, suicidal for the authority of the See of Peter, and thus for the credibility of the Roman Catholic religion as such.

        This point has certainly not been lost on the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, nor on Cardinal Ratzinger and his collaborators in the preparation of the new Catechism. In his Apostolic Letter Ecclesia Dei, issued in response to the illicit episcopal consecrations carried out in 1988 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the Pope clearly had the religious liberty question in mind when he invited theologians to engage in further study, "in order to reveal clearly the Council's continuity with Tradition."

        At a distance of more than a quarter-century since the promulgation of Dignitatis Humanae, we have witnessed the tragic rupture between Rome and an estimated million or so followers worldwide of Archbishop Lefebvre - a number which is expected to continue growing rapidly because of their strict adherence to Humanae Vitae and preference for large families. 1 Since it is the religious liberty issue, and no longer that of the Tridentine Mass as such, which heads the list of grievances of these 2 and other still more extreme traditionalists, it is not surprising that the Catechism has endeavoured to take into account whatever elements of truth there may be in their complaints. I would now like to share with you one or two of the key points here.

        In his history of Vatican II, The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber, Fr. Ralph Wiltgen records how, during the final days of the conciliar debates on religious liberty, the conservative consortium known as the International Group of Fathers, of which Marcel Lefebvre was a prominent member, showed satisfaction at several late amendments to the prologue of the schema, but requested that the term "common good" be substituted for "public order" as the criterion which governments might appeal to in order to limit activities carried out in the name of religion. If this change were made, they informed the drafting committee, the several hundred members of this group would be prepared to give an affirmative vote to the document. 3 Fr. Wiltgen notes, however, that "the desired changes ... were not made." 4

        The reason these conservative Fathers would have been satisfied with "common good" is quite simple: that is precisely the criterion which Catholic governments, in conformity with Church teaching, had always appealed to in order to limit, or even prohibit entirely, the public manifestation of anti-Catholic doctrines or rites in predominantly Catholic societies.

        It is simply historical fact that practically ever since the emancipation of Christianity in the fourth century, the ordinary Magisterium of the Roman Pontiffs and the world's Catholic Bishops had insisted with the utmost constancy and firmness that such restriction is in itself morally legitimate, and may be imposed in the interests of the "common good" of society, since heresy and apostasy are dangers to the eternal salvation of Catholic citizens, whose welfare - spiritual as well as temporal - is the legitimate concern of civil authority. To suggest that this is a teaching which could be reversed with as little damage to the Church's credibility as that which was occasioned by the Vatican's self-contradiction in regard to the Galileo case would show a very superficial grasp of both history and theology. 5 In the case of Rome's 17th-century insistence on geocentrism, we have a teaching which: (a) was promulgated only in disciplinary documents, not in formally doctrinal ones; (b) was never promulgated directly and personally by any Pope, only indirectly, through the instrumentality of the Vatican Congregations of the Index and the Holy Office; (c) was endorsed by the papacy for only 141 years (1616-1757); (d) was never greeted with the emphatic and morally unanimous endorsement of the world's Bishops, only a respectful acquiescence; and (e) never in any case affected the concrete lives and destinies of any more than a handful of professional scientists such as Galileo.

        When it comes to the moral legitimacy of repressing the spread of false doctrine within the Christian commonwealth, however, we are faced with a solid block of near-unanimous and unwavering insistence, for over a thousand years, on the part of the pastors of the universal Church in communion with Peter's successor. We are talking about a doctrine which Pope Leo XIII declared personally in the encyclical Immortale Dei to be "the necessary growth of the teachings of the Gospel." 6 In regard to the contrary doctrine (i.e., that government repression of anti-Catholic doctrine for the sake of the common good is intrinsically evil and unjust), Pius IX declared that this "evil opinion" must be "absolutely held as reprobated, denounced and condemned by all the children of the Catholic Church." 7 We are looking at a doctrine to which the Bishops of the Catholic world gave their absolute and zealous support, endorsing its enforcement by the civil arm, with varying degrees of severity, for century after century; a doctrine with the gravest practical implications for the lives of millions of people, both Catholic and non-Catholic; a doctrine which formed one of the pillars of that whole world-view and civilization known historically as Catholic Christendom; a doctrine which the learned and holy Pontiff Pius XII endorsed as recently as 1953, when his Concordat with the Spanish government prohibited all exterior manifestations of non-Catholic religions in that nation. If the Church had really taught at Vatican II (as is claimed by my critic Anthony Lo Bello 8) that all this was "intrinsically wrong" - an absolute, per se violation of a natural human right - then I say that the Church would have utterly destroyed her claim to be the divinely-appointed interpreter of the moral law, guarded from error in her definitive teaching by the Holy Spirit in every age of history. Roma locuta est, cause finita est would in that event have become nothing more than a hollow boast, a cynical joke, an untenable superstition. How could any intelligent person ever trust a supposed oracle of truth which contradicted itself so calamitously and ignominiously as this?

        All this is the background to that request from the tradition-conscious Fathers at Vatican II for that apparently innocuous change in terminology from "public order" to "common good" as the criterion for government restrictions on religious manifestations. After all, the use of the former seemed to imply that the state can never intervene unless religious (or anti-religious) activity involves actual rioting, fraud, public obscenity, instigations to violence or sedition, and so on: the kind of thing we normally think of as breaches of "law and order" or "disturbing the peace."

        How then did the Council respond to this request? When Fr. Wiltgen states that the desired change to "common good" was "not made" by the drafting committee, he over-simplifies. In my book Religious Liberty and Contraception I have made available for the first time in English, I believe, the official response given to this request of the conservative Fathers by the relator, Bishop Emil de Smedt. 9 His complex response amounted to a compromise. The traditional term, "common good," was also included in article 7 of the Declaration, dealing with limits or restrictions, but "public order" was still given more prominence, both there and in several other parts of the text. However, this novel expression was explained more carefully so as to make it clear that the Council was to be understood as giving its own special meaning to the term "public order." It was not to be understood merely as the prevention of riots, theft, violence, and so on, but was also to include the restraint of any kind of infringement of "the rights of other citizens." That of course is a very broad and general concept: quite broad enough, in fact, to prevent the Declaration from condemning as intrinsically unjust the kinds of restrictions which the Church had traditionally sanctioned in the name of the "common good."

        If that strikes you as all rather confusing and less than straightforward, then I am inclined to agree with you. The net result was that we have had an Ecumenical Council promulgating a Declaration which sounds more liberal than it really is. Conscious of the Church's public image at a time when dialogue with non-Christians and non-Catholics was being given high priority, Vatican II gave prominence to language which seems to allow for very few government restrictions on religious propaganda. But then, in the "fine print" and official commentary, which was not even published in Latin by the Vatican Press until thirteen years after the Council, it is revealed that this language is not to be understood in a way which would contradict the doctrine of the previous one-and-a-half millennia, which in fact allowed for many more such government restrictions.

        It is thus of great importance that the Catechism has now given an authentic interpretation of Dignitatis Humanae which in effect brings this "fine print" right up front, where the tradition-conscious Fathers wanted it back at Vatican II. Cutting boldly through the semantic tangle, the Catechism's section on "Human Liberty" asserts both the old and new terms as limiting criteria on religious activity, but gives priority to the old one. Referring to DH, §7, whose subtleties we have been examining, article 1738 of the Catechism asserts straightforwardly that governments must "recognize and protect" the right to religious liberty "within the limits of the common good and public order." 10 Later, in dealing more extensively with the state's duties to God, the preferred conciliar term is dropped altogether: article 2109, emphasizing that the right to religious liberty is an "inherently" limited one, states that the "just limits ... should be determined for each social situation by political prudence, according to the requirements of the common good" - period.

        The Catechism also clarifies other related issues which have troubled many traditionalists. They have often maintained, for instance, that the solemn teaching of Pius IX in Quanta Cura against "liberty of conscience," and against "public peace" as the only criterion for limiting religious propaganda, is contradicted by DH. I have argued 11 that QC, correctly understood, intends to condemn only that excessive degree of liberty that flows from a political philosophy of "naturalism" - that is, the demand for neutrality toward the various religions on the part of the state. Again in article 2109 the Catechism presents the same view as an authentic interpretation of QC, insisting that "religious liberty," as now affirmed by Catholic doctrine, is not to be understood as one which is "limited solely by a `public orderī conceived in a positivist or naturalist manner (cf. Pius XI, enc. Quanta Cura)." The same article of the Catechism aligns itself with Pope Pius VI's 1791 condemnation of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen which had been promulgated two years earlier by the French revolutionaries, and which proclaimed a virtually unlimited "right" to freedom of expression.

        Both traditionalists and liberals often claim (with sentiments of either gloom or glee as the case may be) that since Vatican II the Church has abandoned the traditional doctrinal principle that "error has no rights." The Catechism now rebuts this claim by citing the most recent papal assertion of that principle, Pius XII's 1953 allocution Ci riesce, in which the Pope declared: "What does not correspond with truth and the moral law has no objective right to existence, propaganda or action." 12 Article 2108 of the Catechism refers to this allocution, as well as to Leo XIII's 1888 encyclical Libertas praestantissimum, in affirming that religious liberty, as the Catholic Church understands that term, does not mean "a moral permission to adhere to error," nor "a supposed right to error," but only an (intrinsically) limited right to immunity from government coercion in believing and manifesting one's own religious beliefs (even if these happen to be erroneous). In other words, the fact that nobody is morally entitled to spread (or even believe) religious error does not necessarily justify government repression of such error. The Church had never explicitly taught this proposition before Vatican II, but neither had she ever condemned it. Already 700 years ago St. Thomas had taught that it is not up to government "to repress all vices." 13 In short, the Church had never taught that government may suppress religious error simply because it is erroneous; but only insofar as the error is judged to be seriously harmful to the common good of society.

        Of course, the big question arising here is, Who should be the judge? Who is to judge, first of all, what is erroneous in matters of religion or morals, and secondly, what kind or degree of error is sufficiently harmful to justify government repression? The traditional Catholic answer was of course that the Church herself is the divinely-appointed judge of such matters, and that the State should implement such judgments. In other words, that while Church-State separation may well be inevitable and even preferable in countries like the U.S.A., where the majority of citizens are non-Catholic or simply secularized, it cannot be seen as the best form of Church-State relationship in principle - or even a legitimate form, in countries where the overwhelming majority of citizens are believing Catholics.

        What, then, does the Catechism say on this most basic question of Church and State? Fr. John Courtney Murray and many of his fellow-Jesuit theologians since the Council have spread the idea that Vatican II has, so to speak, "canonized" American-style separation as the normative, or even best possible, arrangement, even in overwhelmingly Catholic countries. But DH does not say that, and in fact implies the opposite, even though in very muted tones: two little words inserted at the last minute into the text by order of Pope Paul VI. The prologue to the Declaration affirms that it intends "to leave intact the traditional Catholic doctrine regarding the moral duty of men and societies to the true religion and the one Church of Christ." (The words "and societies" in that sentence were the ones added by papal mandate.) Those of us who believe firmly in the traditional doctrine can now rejoice that those two timid little words have been quoted and expanded by the Catechism into an entire paragraph of 172 words, under the title of "The social duty of religion." Article 2105 declares, "The duty of offering God genuine worship concerns man both individually and socially." But, it might be asked, is this "social" duty, or duty of "society" to the one true religion, supposed to include in principle the State? That is, should a Catholic society reflect its Catholicity in legislation and public policy? The Catechism answers implicitly, but clearly, in the affirmative. Bearing in mind, no doubt, that very few national populations today could still be regarded as integrally Catholic, the Catechism teaches that the first task in fulfilling this social duty is for all Catholics to evangelize their fellow citizens by word and deed, truly being "the light of the world" and making known to them "the worship of the one true religion, which subsists in the Catholic and Apostolic Church." But the Catechism adds in this context the most traditional passage to be found in the Vatican II Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, asserting that Catholics must strive "to infuse the Christian spirit" not only into the "mentality and mores" of their society, but also into its "laws and structures."

        To make the point clearer, the Catechism "resurrects" in this article two pre-conciliar encyclicals which were ignored in the Council documents, 14 and which liberals have therefore been telling us are "superseded" or "obsolete" in the Church of Vatican II. These are Leo XIII's classic 1885 encyclical Immortale Dei, whose official title, "On the Christian Constitution of States," speaks for itself; and Pius XI's Quas Primas of 1925, instituting the Feast of Christ the King. Both of these encyclicals assert as a matter of immutable divine law that the political community as such and its rulers are bound in principle to recognize Catholicism as the true religion and to reflect this recognition in the laws and structures of society. 15 Referring to these two encyclicals, the Catechism says that by this combination of evangelization and the effort to penetrate social and political structures with Catholic principles, "the Church shows forth the kingship of Christ over all creation, and in particular over human societies." It thereby gives a ringing endorsement of the stated aims of the Wanderer Forum Foundation.

        One more point is well worth noting here. This section of the Catechism on "the social duty of religion" is not included with the rest of the Church's social doctrine, most of which is included either under the Fourth Commandment (dealing with legitimate authority) or the Seventh Commandment (dealing with labor and the just use of material wealth). Rather, this fundamental principle we have been considering is given a more privileged position in the Catechism: it is included under the First Commandment. Thus, once again, Roma locuta est. God speaks again through the Church of Rome as He always spoke before, denouncing the privatization of religion and the secularization of the political order, which freemasonry, communism, and the other forces hostile to Christ have been foisting upon Christian civilization ever since the French Revolution. Not only to you and me as individuals, not only to kings, congressmen and presidents as individuals, but to all of us as citizens, and to all of them as public legislators and officials, the Almighty declares yet again, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

        Even orthodox Catholics often fail to grasp the importance of this point. Good Catholics, especially in America, often think that the question of Catholicism as an official national or state religion is really only a policy issue, not a strictly doctrinal one. The standard argument one hears is that the Church has flourished at least as much in America as it has in many officially Catholic states where its "established" status has often in practice led to government interference in the Church's liberty, and so has turned out to be more of a hindrance than a help to her mission. This argument is based on a completely false assumption, namely, that special state recognition of Catholicism is merely supposed to be a means toward an end: facilitating the mission of the Church. But, as the documents of the Magisterium make clear, the civic community's recognition of the true religion as true is a divinely-imposed duty which it owes directly to the Blessed Trinity and to Christ the King. This duty is objectively binding on the civic community and its leaders, quite independently of whatever benefits or burdens this may produce for the Church in practice. That is the whole point of placing this "social duty of religion" under the First Commandment in the Catechism.

        Let us return more specifically to the theme Roma locuta est; causa finita est. First, what is the authority of the Catechism? The key words in answer to this question are those of the Supreme Pontiff himself in the Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, promulgating this new compendium of Catholic doctrine. The Holy Father says it is "a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion," and "a sure norm for teaching the faith. ... Therefore, I ask all the Church's Pastors and the Christian faithful to receive this catechism in a spirit of communion and to use it assiduously in fulfilling their mission of proclaiming the faith and calling people to the Gospel life."

        The fact that the Catechism is promulgated by an Apostolic Constitution is worthy of comment in itself. Although the Catechism itself is an instrument of the Church's teaching authority, an Apostolic Constitution, in contrast to an Encyclical Letter, is an instrument - indeed, the supreme instrument - of the Roman Pontiff's governing authority. It is a type of document used only to establish major new dispositions or institutions affecting the life, discipline, or organization of the Church. Other recent examples are the promulgation of the new Missal, the new Liturgy of the Hours, the reorganization of the Roman Curia, and the new Codes of Canon Law for the Latin and Oriental Churches respectively. The only other Apostolic Constitution I know of which, like the present one, is directly concerned with the content of doctrine itself is Pius XII's Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus of 1950, which infallibly defined the dogma of Our Lady's Assumption, thereby introducing a new article of faith into the defined corpus of Catholic belief. This does not mean that the Catechism is being presented as an infallible document in itself. However, it does show the tremendous importance which John Paul II attaches to the Catechism. The old Roman Catechism was promulgated after the Council of Trent by a much lower-ranking document, Pope St. Pius V's Motu Proprio Pastoralis Officio, which did nothing more than confer publishing rights on a certain Roman printing establishment. 16

        Moreover, the Church's infallible teaching is of course comprehensively presented in the Catechism, especially in the summaries at the end of each section. Msgr. Rafaello Martinelli of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has explained the significance of these short, pithy statements as follows: "They seek to encapsulate the doctrinal substance (of faith and morals). For this reason, great effort has been made to avoid, wherever possible, ... elements relating to the subject matter but referring to theories, opinions, or theological hypotheses." 17 In other words, the real, essential nucleus of immutable Catholic doctrine is to be found in a special way in these summaries.

        In spite of the weight of authority with which "Rome has spoken" in the Catechism, many of us will be wondering to what extent it will be accepted in the American Catholic Church that indeed, causa finita est. Many faithful Catholics, on looking around at the formidably entrenched dissent which continues to hold sway in most of the middle-order power structures (diocesan and national bureaucracies, as well as seminaries and other "establishment" educational institutions) will be tempted to lapse back into that spirit of dejection, or at least disgruntled resignation, which has too often weighed heavily upon us in recent decades. Is it not naive, we ask ourselves, to think that the Catechism, for all its merits, will be able to rectify things in any important way? Will it not suffer the same fate as other fine magisterial documents of the post-conciliar period - Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul's Credo, the General Catechetical Directory, and others which have been first attacked, and then simply ignored, by the dissidents, who somehow always manage to carry on regardless with their "business as usual"?

        Perhaps the answer to that question depends to a large extent on our own response to the Catechism: that is, the response of us rank-and-file laity, religious, and clergy. Certainly, the primary formal responsibility for implementing the Catechism lies with the hierarchy. However, with this document, the universal Church has placed a new and sharp sword into the hands of every member of the faithful. Because of the wide consultation and years of preparation that went into its making; because of its copious quotes from Vatican II (which our adversaries have so long been manipulating in their own interests); because of its great length and comprehensiveness; because of its promulgation by no less than an Apostolic Constitution; because of its enormous sales (it will end by selling millions of copies) - for all these reasons the Catechism should prove to be much more difficult for the dissenters to ignore than the usual kinds of Vatican documents. But the effectiveness of the sword will be in proportion to the courage and skill of those who wield it. Each of us, therefore, must now become thoroughly familiar with our new weapon. We must learn to brandish it without fear, and to cut and thrust without hesitation: in parishes, schools, retreats, workshops, conferences, letters to editors, letters to Bishops, and if need be, in picket lines. With this Catechism we must make thorough nuisances of ourselves to the dissident elites! Because of its abundant references to Trent and a multiplicity of other traditional sources, it will be harder than ever for them to pass off Vatican II (or rather, their distortions thereof) as a "supercouncil" which has somehow superseded everything prior to it. It will also be easier than ever for the laity to stand up confidently to the "experts:" "No, Father." "I'm sorry, Sister." "You are teaching such-and-such; but here the Church clearly teaches the contrary!"

        Finally, the very power, numbers and apparent invincibility of the dissenters should, paradoxically, give us new cause for hope as we reflect on the phenomenon of the Catechism. Consider the increasingly shrill cries of the liberal and radical feminist partisans. Listen to the frustration of Frs. Richard McBrien, Hans Küng, and so on, as they clamor vainly into the void for some "ecclesiastical Yeltsin" who will dethrone what they dismiss as the "Vatican patriarchy," in order to usher in a new era of liberal democracy wherein the Church will finally win a benign nihil obstat from Newsweek and the New York Times. The anguish of dissidents should serve to remind us that they have not won the war in the Church, as we are so often tempted to feel as we contemplate our apparently "desolate city." They have won some mighty battles, it is true; but the promulgation of the new Catechism proves that they are farther away than ever from that conquest of the citadel without which their struggle will be ultimately futile - as indeed it is doomed to be. The amazing fact, humanly speaking, is that in spite of their formidable power in the Church's middle-order institutions throughout most of the Catholic world for a good quarter-century, the neo-modernists have not succeeded in getting a single item of their revolutionary doctrinal agenda into the real and authentic agenda of the universal Church. The Catechism simply yields nothing to their demands. Not one article of faith is demythologized, muddied or called in question. Not one moral norm is discarded or compromised. And they know it!

As the old maxim says, scripta manent: what is written remains. And nowhere is this truth more relevant than when the Catholic Church publishes a universal catechism. That of the Council of Trent "remained" as a source of life-giving truth for four centuries, and that of Vatican II will certainly not be here today and gone tomorrow. Dissidents have been trying to assure us (and reassure themselves) of the "inevitable" - and indeed, more or less imminent - triumph of their plans for the Church, because after all, "history" (meaning in fact decadent Western culture) is supposed to be heading "inexorably" in that direction. As Hans Küng has been fond of saying: "Pope John XXIV could turn this all around overnight." But if any further nails were needed for the coffin of that kind of vain speculation, they are provided by the new Catechism, which demonstrates that, in reality, the Catholic Church is light years - and more - away from giving her approval to women's ordination, contraception, divorce and remarriage, sodomy, or any of the other radical innovations on the dissident agenda.

        True, the Catechism alone will not win the present civil war for the soul of the Catholic Church. Many battles remain to be fought, and the situation may yet become worse before it gets better. However, this monumental document must be seen as a strategic, long-range weapon of great potential power, and a further manifestation of the might of Christ's promises to His Church. She has been severely battered in this titanic struggle to pervert her faith and corrupt her holiness, and vast numbers of officers and troops have fallen or defected to the enemy. Nevertheless, in the thick of battle her citadel remains unbreached and, high above it, her colors are now flying more proudly than ever. The centre is holding. Mere anarchy will not prevail within the Church, because, in the last analysis, it remains the Church of Him who says to us, "In the world you shall have distress: but have confidence, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

1. Cf. Inside the Vatican, August-September 1993, p. 13.

2. Ibid., p. 12.

3. Cf. Ralph M. Wiltgen, The Rhine Flows into the Tiber (New York, 1967), p. 251.

4. Ibid.

5. This is the claim made by Anthony J. Lo Bello in an attack on my review of Michael Davies' book, The Second Vatican Council and Religious Liberty (cf. Latin Liturgy Association Newsletter, Sept. 1993, pp. 13-14).

6. Leo XIII, Immortale Dei, §6.

7. Pius IX, Quanta Cura, §6.

8. Lo Bello, op. cit., p. 14.

9. Cf. Brian W. Harrison, Religious Liberty and Contraception (Melbourne, 1988), pp. 90-91. (Available for $12 post paid from Catholics United for the Faith, 827 N. 4th Street, Steubenville, OH 43952.)

10. By one of those remarkable coincidences by which divine Providence so often seems to be "sending a message," it was in the year 1738 that the Church first condemned Freemasonry, whose overriding aim has always been to destroy what Pope Pius IX described in the Encyclical Quanta Cura as "the salutary influence which the Catholic Church, by the institution and command of her Divine Author, ought to exercise even to the consummation of the world, not only over individual men, but nations, peoples, and sovereigns." (QC, §6.) Cf. Pope Clement XII's Apostolic Letter In eminenti apostolatus specula of 28 April 1738, condemning Freemasonry (DS, 2511-2513).

11. Cf. Harrison, op. cit., pp. 96-109.

12. Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 45 (1953), p. 798.

13. Aquinas answers negatively to the question, "whether it belongs to human law to repress all vices" (Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 96, art. 2).

14. Immortale Dei is referred to just once by Vatican II, in a footnote to DH, §6. The reference is to one specific passage of the encyclical which includes none of its distinctive teaching, and is cited merely in support of the Council's very bland statement that justice and peace are the result of faithfulness to God's will. Quas Primas is not mentioned or cited at all in the Vatican II documents.

15. Pope Leo declares in ID that "it is not lawful for the State, any more than for the individual, ... to hold in equal favor different kinds of religion" (§35), and indeed, that "it is a sin in the State ... [to adopt] out of many forms of religion ... that one which chimes in with the fancy; for we are bound absolutely to worship God in the way which He has shown us to be His will" (§6). In Quas Primas, §32, Pius XI expresses the hope that, through his new liturgical feast (of Christ the King), "Nations will be reminded ... that not only private individuals but also rulers and princes are bound to give public honor and obedience to Christ. It will call to their minds the thought of the last judgment, wherein Christ, Who has been cast out of public life, despised, neglected, and ignored, will most severely avenge these insults; for His kingly dignity demands that the State should take account of the commandments of God and of Christian principles, both in making laws and administering justice, and also in providing for the young a sound moral education."

16. Fr. Raul Lanzetti, "The new Catechism compared to the `Roman Catechismī of Trent" (L'Osservatore Romano - English edition: 7 July 1993), p. 9.

17. Msgr. Rafaello Martinelli, "Formulas should be adapted to needs and capacity of audience" (L'Osservatore Romano - English edition: 23 June 1993), p. 10.

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