A Pastor’s Page: We are Catholic to the extent that we accept Church teaching in its entirety.

My dear friend, the great Fr. George Welzbacher (Class of 1951!), on my list of the smartest men I’ve ever known, has one of the best “Pastor’s Page” weekly offerings you’ll find in any parish bulletin.

Before you read what I posted below, you should know that very soon Father’s parish is going to be closed, thus rendering him “retired”, though he would have liked to keep going.  He accepted the decision with a serene attitude.  He is 62 years a priest, well into his 80’s, and he writes things like the following every week.

May I give you a pleasant “action item”?  Could I ask you to go HERE (there is an email link) and perhaps drop him a note of thanks for his years as a priest and for the following? You might indicate your country or state. It would be great to flood the secretary’s email with notes for him.  (He does NOT do email, so she will print them.)

Pastor’s Page
By Fr. George Welzbacher, Church of St. John of St. Paul, MN 
May 19, 2013

The technical term Catholic, whose first known use occurs in the letters of the bishop and martyr Ignatius of Antioch, writing very early in the second century of the Christian era (in what is known as the sub-Apostolic age) is a term derived from the ancient Greek adverbial phrase kath holon, meaning “according to the WHOLE“. This new adjective – perhaps his coinage – was used by St. Ignatius to differentiate, on the one hand, the Church that preaches the whole revelation of Christ to the whole world to all generations to come until the end of time, in contrast with those transitory sects that, like bargain hunters at a rummage sale, pick and choose only such items as happen to have a passing appeal. The authentic Catholic is therefore one who accepts the whole doctrine of Christ, intact and untrimmed, and (with special relevance to our day) not revised with respect to the proper use of the sexual power. The authentic Catholic recognizes that Christ’s teachings are eternal and absolute, not subject to revision, inasmuch as not even Christ Himself was at liberty to change them, since, as He explained: “The word that I have spoken to you is not mine; it is the word of Him Who sent Me” (John 14: 24). So it was that the Apostles were to convey Christ’s revelation, exactly as they had received it, with no addition or loss. And those whom they in turn ordained through the laying on of hands together with prayer to the Holy Spirit were instructed to transmit the Christian doctrine exactly as they had received it from the Apostles. Thus St. Paul writes to Timothy:…”rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands …. Follow the pattern of the SOUND words which you have heard from me … guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us …. what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also …. Preach the word, be urgent in season and OUT of season, convince, rebuke and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when men will not endure SOUND teaching but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings and will turn away from listening to the truth …. (II Timothy 1:6; 1:13-14; 2:1 4:2-4). And so the transmission of a teaching and sacramental authority would continue till the end of time, within the Church in which the Holy Spirit dwells, Whose presence makes the Church to be indeed “the pillar and bulwark of the truth”. (I Timothy 3:15).

St. Paul could speak with such confidence about the Church as “the pillar and bulwark of truth,” within which “the Holy Spirit dwells, ” precisely because at the Last Supper Christ had promised the Apostles that, as He was about return to the Father, He would not leave them “desolate”.  Instead He would send another Counselor,   another Advocate, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to dwell with them “forever” and to guide them “to the whole truth.” “I will pray the Father,” Christ said “and He will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth …. the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you …. But when the Counselor comes, Whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness to me, and you also are witnesses …. When the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth … and He will declare to you the things that are to come …. He will take what is mine and declare it to you “(John 14:16-17; 14;26; 15:26 16:13-14).

The Catholic, therefore, is not dependent on his own very fallible opinions as to what must be done and what must be avoided in order to gain eternal life. Within a Church that traces itself back in unbroken continuity to the Apostles themselves the Catholic possesses the full doctrine taught by the Apostles, which is in turn the doctrine of Christ. And he possesses that doctrine in its fullness, without corruption, not because of the human intelligence of the intervening generations between the present and the apostolic age but because within that Church, in fulfillment of Christ’s promise, the Voice of the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Spirit of Truth, speaks clearly and forever.

Those who reject that Voice cannot call themselves authentically Catholic; rather, they are sectaries who pick and choose as passion and caprice dictate. The Catholic in truth is one who accepts the whole teaching of the Church because that teaching is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit. Even the Catholic sinner – and who among Catholics, apart from Christ’s Blessed Mother, is not? – is Catholic to the extent that his mind accepts the teaching of the Church in its entirety, precisely because Christ and the Holy Spirit guarantee that teaching in its full content forever.

Thus those who publicly and persistently promote abortion, contraception and homosexual behavior as things good and worthy of praise, in flat-out contradiction to the Voice of the Holy Spirit speaking through the teaching of the Church, a teaching reflected in the Scriptures, have in all honesty forfeited the right to receive Holy Communion, the supreme sign of unity with Christ’s Church. In their public and impenitent promotion of what is in fact intrinsic disorder, and as such gravely sinful, they fall under the prohibition against receiving the Eucharist as expressed in Canon 915 of the Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law, a Canon that forbids giving the Eucharist to public, grave and impenitent sinners.

A recent instruction of Pope Francis to the Catholic bishops of Argentina has therefore quite properly aroused great interest. Let us pray that it will prove to have been the harbinger of a more insistent and widespread enforcement of Canon 915.

Fr. Z kudos to Fr. W.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Deo Gratias, and e-mail sent!

  2. Supertradmum says:

    Thank you for posting this. I have been trying to speak about this and write about this on my blog for years. Sadly, the Church is weakened by the laity picking and choosing what a person wants to believe. In addition, the following of so many false seers in Great Britain means that many of the laity are not following Church teaching but goofy, new age and supposedly Catholic visionaries, who are actually heretics. This is almost a daily battle for me here.

    To add to all of this, one cannot enter into the life of the virtues and the pursuit of perfection, as I noted in my long series on the Doctors of the Church and perfection, without first being completely orthodox. The route to holiness must be based on a complete acceptance of the doctrines and dogmas of the Church. This is not understood by most of the laity here, who think they can do a run around the goal by believing in all sorts of permutations of the Truth and still become saints. No.

    Again, sadly, charismatics here are the worst ones for both believing in false teachings, that is, not being obedient to the Church, and for following false seers. All of these anomalies and lack of humility weaken the Church Militant from the inside.

    I must add that anti-intellectualism is a huge part of the problem. Most people I know have never cracked open the CCC, which is not that hard to read. I know a woman with a sixth grade education who is working her way through it just fine. Either one is dedicated to following Christ in His Church or one cannot enter into the route to holiness. Period.

  3. Navarricano says:

    E-mail duly sent, Father. And thank you very much for the link, because the archive of Fr. Wehlzbacher’s “Pastor’s Page” is a treasure trove! I’ll definitely be working my way through them.

    As an aside, I also visited the parish’s homepage and looked at the photos of the church; if the parish is indeed set to close, then I pray, pray, pray, someone has made provisions to rescue the church’s magnificent altar rail, high altar and statuary. It would be a shame for all of that to end up scrapped, gathering dust somewhere or worse.

  4. Midwest St. Michael says:

    Oh man! Thanks for posting this, Fr. Z. :)

    As a lay catechist I base my whole approach to catechesis on what Fr. Wehlzbacher says. Oh yes, people call me “harsh”, but for heaven’s sake!, we are talking abou the salvation of souls here. This “offering” by Fr. W should be posted in every parish bulletin once a month.

    SuperT says:

    “Most people I know have never cracked open the CCC, which is not that hard to read. I know a woman with a sixth grade education who is working her way through it just fine.”

    Good for her! I tell Catholics (adults, mostly… educated ones, too), all – the – time, what is contained in the Catechism *is* what every Catholic must give religious assent to or assent of faith (religious assent to Divine Revelation and assent of faith to what Mother Church proposes for belief [CCC 892, 182]).

    I *barely* have a high school education. If I can read the Catechism and have some semblence of understanding it – anybody can! ;)


  5. dnicoll says:

    As John Donne may have said:

    No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any faithful priest’s retirement diminishes me, because I am involved in the Church; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee..

  6. Supertradmum says:

    We have one priority. To cooperate with God to live up to our baptismal vows. This excellent priest is helping us all do this. The laity who are too busy or too distracted to learn their faith as adults may be surprised at their particular judgments. We have all the graces we need for clarity about orthodoxy.

    Great post.

  7. pmullane says:


    “The route to holiness must be based on a complete acceptance of the doctrines and dogmas of the Church”

    I agree, and its the loss of this sense that allows the relitivist notion that someone is nice and doesnt do anyone any harm, so there is no compulsion to try and evangelise them. Every soul is a spiritual battleground, and each soul needs the armour of Christ, provided for by the Church. This is true both in and out of the Church, and is applied to Atheist neighbours, Protestant friends, Muslim neighbours, but also ‘c’atholic’s who go to Mass and are generally pleasant people but who also believe women should be priests and use contraception and dont think that Holy Communion is ‘really’ Jesus, etc etc. Catholics who dont believe in the teachings of the Church are the definition of Salt losing its Saltiness.

  8. Thanks for posting this. A very timely article for the situation with one of my daughters, who has decided to go to a “Bible Church” . She is one that just doesn’t get it and I think this writing may help her.

    Thank you, Fr. George! May God bless and keep you

  9. Scott W. says:

    Thanks for posting this. A very timely article for the situation with one of my daughters, who has decided to go to a “Bible Church” . She is one that just doesn’t get it and I think this writing may help her.

    I’ll give you and your daughter my prayers. My children are still young, so I can only imagine the heartbreak when one leaves the faith. Unfortunately, I don’t think an argument (even a well-crafted one) can win her back (not that one shouldn’t try anything within reason). It seems a problem of the will rather than the intellect.

  10. Joe in Canada says:

    I think sometimes that talking about our “separated brethren” and “common baptism” and what various sorts of Protestants share with us – all true and good – has influenced Catholics into thinking that we can still be “more or less good enough” without considering the dangers of rejecting any part of the Catholic faith. If I simply say “Anglicans can receive grace through their ecclesial structures” without warning that it becomes very difficult when their ecclesial structures promote abominations as good, for those Anglicans to avoid doing grave sin, then it is an easy step for a Catholic to say “if Anglicans can do this or that and be saved, why can’t I?”

  11. LarryW2LJ says:

    Thanks Fr. Z!

    Like night and day from that trash that The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori puts forth. [Why should she figure in this discussion at all?]

    Maywe always be blessed to have a Church with likes of men like Fr. W. and Fr. Z guarding the flock.

  12. Choirmaster says:

    @semperficatholic: This is a very nicely written homily so if your daughter will read it I’m sure it will not be without any impact. Your daughter may be attracted to the Bible Church for reasons wholly unconnected to matters of doctrine. Many of these Protestant churches fill their gaps in doctrine with fellowship and “community”; a sense of belonging and friendship, like a close-knit Sunday-morning club. This kind of “church” is what many people are told and believe that “church” should be, and the social gratification (mixed with works of charity) is the main “deliverable” of religion. When evangelizing these people it is important to recognize this need and address it, and use it to cultivate a desire for gaining the full spiritual dimension, and true fulfillment, of that same need, which is membership and belonging in the Mystical Body of Christ. Do not get discouraged, though, if it fails to gain her immediate conversion back to the Church. The most effective way to win her back is through prayer, like St. Augustine’s mother did.

    @Scott W.: I’m not prepared to discount the efficacy of a good, well reasoned argument. Many converts I know have come into the Church through intellectual paths, such as arguments and reasoned analysis.

  13. mariadevotee says:

    If he is retiring, we would love to have him in Nashville. He should give our beloved Bishop Choby a call……

  14. LarryW2LJ says:

    I only mentioned her, Fr. Z because I thought is such a good and soul stirring thing to see and hear the Truth be spoken – loudly , clearly and strongly versus watered down drek that many, many people seem to want to hear these days.

    That our Church is the repository of that eternal, never waivering Truth is a comfort. And I’m glad that there are good priests out there who are fearlessly declaring it – even if it seems to go against the day’s prevailing social norms.

  15. The Masked Chicken says:

    Wouldn’t, kath holon, would make an excellent name for a main character in a science fiction story?

    It has been a constant question for me for years to try to understand why people will accept that 2 + 2 = 4, but not the statement that Catholicism is true. Both statements use the same sorts of reasoning.

    Dietrich and Alice Von Hildebrand wrote a book entitled, “Morality and Situation Ethics,” which goes into how this muddying of Catholicism came about.

    They have a quote which is telling:

    “In an allocution to the Federation Mondiale des Jeunesses Feminines Catholiques, His Holiness Pope Pius XII condemned this new ethics whose main features are characterized in the following terms:

    The distinctive mark of this morality is that it is in fact in no way based on universal moral laws, for instance, on the Ten Commandments, but on the real and concrete conditions or circumstances in which one must act, and according to which the individual conscience has to judge and choose. This state of things is unique and valid but once for each human action. This is why the supporters of this ethics affirm that the decision of one’s conscience cannot be commanded by universal ideas, principles, and laws….

    In the determination of conscience, the individual encounters God immediately and makes up his mind before Him, without the intervention in any way of any law, any authority, any community, any cult or confession.

    Here there is only the “I” of man and the “I” of the personal God; not of the God of law, but of God our Father, with Whom man must unite himself in filial love.

    Viewed in this way, the decision of conscience is a personal risk, according to one’s own knowledge and evaluation, in all sincerity before God. These two things, conscientiousness and the sincere response, are what God considers; the action does not concern Him….

    All this corresponds perfectly to the “majority” status to which man has attained, and, in the Christian order, to the filial relation which, according to the teaching of Christ, has us pray: “Our Father.” This personal view spares man from having at every instant to consider whether the decision to take is in conformity with the paragraphs of the law, or with the canons of abstract norms and regulations; it protects him from the hypocrisy of a pharisaical faithfulness to the law; it protects him as much from pathological scrupulousness as from levity or the lack of conscience, because it makes the entire responsibility before God rest personally upon the individual Christian. So speak those who are preaching the “new morality.”[2]”


    The Chicken

  16. veritasmeister says:

    Fr. Welzbacher is indeeed a very good priest, though he is not the biggest fan of the traditional Latin Mass.

    It would be interesting to know how his analysis here applies to matters surrounding the various claims about Church-State separation and about non-Catholic Christians.

  17. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Get Religion has a good story on young French Catholics leading the fight against gay marriage. There’s also a funny “Catho-style” video linked. If you follow the article in Google Translate, you’ll find out that they also mention a lot of blogs and social media stuff going on. (The article also links to a parody of a French spy movie that’s apparently pushing World Youth Day. I want subtitles!)

    The point is that the “Cathos 2.0” seem determined to live all of Catholicism, not just the parts that are cute and acceptable to their society. We also seem to be having some problems with that, and they’re coming back to bite us now. You can’t have Catholic identity and virtues without Catholic belief (not for long, anyway).

  18. frjim4321 says:

    With all due respect to a priest who by all appearances is very fervent and hard-working, there is a fault to his logic in that what “makes” a person Catholic are the sacraments of initiation, and not the extent to which a person passes a litmus test designed by a most likely well-intentioned pastor.

    I am really quite exasperated by the bumper-sticker logic that “you can’t be Catholic and X, you can’t be Catholic and Y.” This is a denial of sacramental principal. Being Catholic is not a matter of degree (such as being a “little bit pregnant”).

    Further, the “in-its-entirety” bit is rather unhelpful, because indeed there are some teachings that are of greater import than others. Disagreeing that abortion is a grave offense is not the same as disagreeing that the sacred vernacular theory valid a worthy principal upon which to base the translation rules for liturgical texts.

  19. MouseTemplar says:

    I came home from my Thursday Holy Hour [dedicated to the priesthood] to read this. It was like God reminding me that He does indeed look after His priests and makes a gift of them to us regularly.
    It was a happy task to thank Father George. Thanks to Father Z for introducing him to us!

  20. Imrahil says:

    The Rev’d Fr Jim is on the right track… except if we do speak about “extents of Catholicism”. Being personnally rather fond of viable yes-no-statements where I can get them and rather preferring to speak about the extents of the sentiments of faith, hope and charity, the extents of practiced virtue in, first, fulfilling and second, surpassing one’s duties, and the extents religious erudition (all things where there really can be spoken of extents and all quite separate things) things that certainly exist, I go for a definition which makes a precise difference between a Catholic and a non-Catholic.

    Yet it is not “the sacraments of initiation”, but first, precisely Baptism* – Catholic Baptism** -, and second, according to the teaching of Pope Ven. Pius XII (as presented for instance by Ludwig Ott), exception has to be made for the manifest apostates, heretics and schismatics, and those who have been put under vitandus-excommunication (now in disuse).

    [*For practical matters, albeit for these only, the Catechumens may be classed among the Catholics.
    **An addition of mine which seems preferable for at least practical purposes, without denying that, insofar as the ones baptized without did not subjectively reject the Church of Christ, they are interiorly part of her which is the Catholic Church.]

  21. Mary Jane says:

    Obviously it is baptism that makes a person Catholic. There are baptized persons who have gone to hell, however, because they have not adhered themselves to the teachings of the Church. Perhaps the bumper stickers should instead say, “You can’t be a good Catholic and be X”.

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