Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Catholic faith
From Catholic Family News

On papolatry
By the late Dr William Marra
Edited by a married couple, my acquaintances John, a former Benedictine monk who lawfully left that life, and the lovely Susan Vennari. This is the authentic traditionalist position — ‘we are actually papal minimalists’ as Jeff Culbreath says. Contra the EWTN and other Novus Ordo neocons, the types clamouring for John Paul the Overrated to be declared a ‘Santo subito!’, the faith is not and never was the personal cult of the Pope as a man. Tradition, rule of law if you will (what the Orthodox tradition calls Holy Tradition, pointing out that Scripture isn’t separate but part of it), is what we’re all a part of and follow, and the Pope is as subject to that as you are or I am. (Which is why the last one refused to consider trying to ordain women and why Pope Paul VI despite his failings couldn’t and didn’t try to change tradition’s consistent teaching on artificial birth control.)

As St Robert Bellarmine taught, if he tried to teach ex cathedra something that goes against a defined doctrine of the faith (denying the Trinity for example) then ipso facto he wouldn’t be Pope anymore (and presumably would become an antipope if he didn’t step down — the scenario envisaged by the sedevacantists can happen even though it isn’t right now).

‘Is the Pope Catholic?’ can be a real, serious question!

See yesterday’s quotation from Evelyn Waugh.

On sanctifying grace
The gift of knowledge is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost. The purpose of this gift is to give us the grace to see all created things from God’s point of view.

Now according to God’s point of view — which is the only point of view that counts! — man was placed here on earth to live the life of sanctifying grace and to get to heaven. Sanctifying grace is the greatest gift given us by God, for by it, we actually participate in the Divine Life of the Blessed Trinity.
[The Christian East puts it thus: God in himself, his essence, is too much for us to know directly, but his energies, his saving and transforming (deifying!) grace that he gives us, is uncreated, that is, directly from him.] Through grace we live the supernatural life.

Sanctifying grace is not part of our human nature. It is a supernatural gift we receive through baptism. We can begin to understand the immeasurable value of sanctifying grace when we consider the price paid for it: the Lifeblood of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, who died on the cross to open the gates of heaven that were closed to mankind by the sin of Adam. It is only Christ’s death on the cross that makes it possible for us to live the life of grace.

The Catechism tells us that sanctifying grace is a supernatural gift inherent in our souls that renders us justified, adopted children of God and heirs to paradise.

Without sanctifying grace we can do nothing to gain an eternal recompense.
‘I am the vine, you are the branches’, says Our Lord. ‘As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me’ (John 15:4-5).

Thus sanctifying grace is the most important treasure we can possess.

Mortal sin, which is the only thing that can drive grace from our souls and make us deserving of eteranl damnation, is the greatest tragedy that can befall us.
- John Vennari

But you can get this grace back through perfect contrition (sorrow) confirmed through sacramental confession and absolution, which is why the Church Fathers called this sacrament metaphorically a second baptism or ‘a second plank after shipwreck’. In the early church one had to confess not only to the bishop or priest but in public to him and the whole congregation, was allowed this only once and, as if that weren’t tough enough, had to put in years of hard penance* before being readmitted to the assembly and allowed to receive Communion again! (And if I recall rightly, if you were married and had to do this, as part of your penance you weren’t allowed to have sex anymore.) Making the service private came from the later spontaneous practice of the laity of going to monks one on one for spiritual direction (spiritual fathers as the Orthodox say) — in the West the very monastic-centred Irish started this.

Fun stuff to remember if a liturgical revisionist/iconoclast tells you that he wants to play ‘early church’ as his reason for trashing the ‘worship space’.

*Indulgences in the West are simply a substitute for that.

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