I’ve had a lot of notes from people about a post from yesterday.
I have, once again today, prayed the prayer I mentioned. I am going to make this part of my routine for the foreseeable future.
Also, in regard to indefectibility, it may be that some of you have not thought about this since basic catechism. It may be that some of you have never heard of this (including seminarians… HEY! SEMINARIANS! Get a copy of the mighty Baltimore Catechism [US HERE] or the mickle Penny Catechism [UK HERE] and memorize stuff! If nothing else, you will gain a grasp on how people you meet used to learn their Catholic Faith. And I’ll bet there are a whole lot of priests out there who don’t know what I’m about to write. I’d be interested in feedback from seminarians and priests about this… which will be entirely confidential and anonymized. Click HERE)
Indefectibility is one of the three attributes of the Church.
The Church’s three attributes are authority, infallibility, and indefectibility. The three attributes are not to be confused with her four marks (unity, holiness, catholicity, apostolicity). An attribute is a quality or characteristic. A mark is a sign that allows something to be distinguished from others.
The attribute of authority means that the Church can exact obedience from her subjects, just as parents can from their children. The attribute of infallibility means that the Church cannot err when it teaches concerning faith or morals.
The attribute of indefectibility, on the other hand, is the quality of unfailingness in the Church, her constitution and ministration, promised by Jesus Christ in the words “Behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Matthew 28:20).
The Church’s members may err or fail, but the Church cannot.
Holy Catholic Church’s indefectibility is proven through history by her nearly 2000 year endurance through the most terrible external trials and dangers, threats from without by states, and so forth, and through internal attacks and dangers from incompetence or wickedness of pontificates and heretics or from human indifference or carelessness. The Church has endured through everything, negative external and internal influences, and has remained the privileged and dependable channel of supernatural life and of grace. God protects the Church through special assistance.
We know by faith and by reason that the Church is indefectible, but how this works is a matter of speculation.
Hence, I am able to repeat with confidence what I have written and said many times.
There have been really important Ecumenical Councils and other Councils that were not terribly important. Frankly, I hold Vatican II not to be very important when compared to monumentally significant Councils such as Chalcedon or Trent. There have been really important Pontificates and some that were not. Some were long and some were short. Some were good and some were bad. Most were tiny blips on the long arc of the Church’s history. Some were bigger blips. Popes come and go. Romans, who have a special perspective on Popes, have a proverb: “Morto un papa, se ne fa un altro… When a Pope dies, ya make another.” All these things and people come and go, but the Church remains, with her three attributes, including indefectibility.
Our Savior knew that – in our times – right NOW – we would need the Church just as much as the men and women in the age of martyrs needed her. Therefore, the same Church endures and cannot be turned to sand no matter what we human beings do.
If you are irritated about something going on right now, something manifestly stupid, wicked, or just ill-conceived but well-intentioned missteps in judgment, examine your own consciences and then …
… GO TO CONFESSION.
That’s what I do.
And I must repeat, form groups – base communities – study your catechisms and don’t let your priests off the hook. They are obliged by their vocations both to know the content of the Faith, the fides quae creditur, and also to believe, teach and defend the Faith.
If they don’t, they are culpable before man and God.
If priests or bishops neglect this aspect of their divinely given vocations – knowing, believing, teaching and defending the Catholic Faith – they are guilty of a terrible sin and they put themselves at risk of eternal damnation.
If an ophthalmologist somehow managed to act as an eye doctor without knowing much about the eye, he would be a bad ophthalmologist. He would be guilty for inflicting bad treatments that harmed people. If he once knew his art but he doesn’t keep his knowledge fresh and doesn’t keep up with new developments, he would similarly be a bad doctor. Moreover, he may not claim innocence by virtue of his ignorance because he has the obligation by his profession to know certain things.
The same is true for the priest, and with even more serious consequences because he touches souls, not just eyes, which Our Lord Himself indicated are dispensable in regard to getting to Heaven. If it is important that an ophthalmologist be diligent in tending and maintaining his professional abilities, it is even more important that the priest tend and maintain those things which pertain to his vocation, for which he is responsible before his Judge, the High Priest, the King of Fearful Majesty.
It is possible that the priest or the bishop simply isn’t very smart. How they come to be ordained is another matter. Nevertheless, they are still obliged to do their best and try to learn, teach and defend the Catholic Faith. They are not off the hook. We must be patient with them and helpful, while they must be earnest and humble. This also means that those priests who are brighter have an even greater obligation, since more is expected from those who have more received.
Finally, I think we will all agree that everyone should be versed in the basics of our Catholic Faith and that resources such as the old school-age catechisms are gems.
Let’s find ways to encourage each other to make either new reviews or fresh discoveries.
And if you sense that you may have some weak spots, shore them up. Don’t be that gal who hasn’t looked at the basics since her last day of Catholic school or CCD or RCIA.
Here endeth the rant.