The Church

$EasyMoney$ - A Response to Eric Svendsen’s 18 Challenges to the Catholic Faith

by John Pacheco

Dr. Svendsen,

It was with great interest and amusement that I read your 18 challenges to the Catholic Faith on your web site.  I must commend you on the very generous $100,000 reward you will be offering to the ‘contestant’  who is able to satisfactorily answer them.  May I inquire, sir, as to the identity of the judge or arbiter in this contest?  Indeed, it surely appears, based on your comments to previous answers submitted, that you are currently acting in this capacity.  Since you have an obvious bias in rejecting Catholic arguments given your Protestant sensibilities, it would only seem just and right that you appoint someone who has no apparent theological tendency in judging my (and other Catholic) responses - perhaps an agnostic friend or acquaintance?  I do not think it an unreasonable request to ask that the judge exhibit, at the very least, the appearance of objectivity.

Since I have every confidence in winning this contest, I want to assure you that the prize money will be put to good use.  I intend to distribute it amongst excellent Catholic Apologetic Ministries and Outreaches, and it is greatly edifying to know that these funds will be coming from your “New Testament Restoration Ministry”.  I can scarcely think of a better Ministry that should fund these great Catholic organizations.  Please be sure to make the cheque payable to:  “The Apologists of St. Francis de Sales”.   Or if you prefer, I also accept VISA or Mastercard, but I don’t take American Express because they support the pernicious population control policies of Planned Parenthood.

Well, enough of the chit chat, let’s get down to it…..

Challenge 1:  Tell us how you came to decide that Rome was the "true" church without engaging in the very private judgment that Rome condemns as illegitimate.

Response 1:   Rome has never condemned private judgement per se.  It condemns the error that sometimes comes from private judgement.  St. James no doubt uttered his private judgement when he said, “Therefore, my judgement is….”  (Acts 15:19).  His judgement was singular, and therefore was private.

The question essentially  reduces to the infallible-fallible card that Protestants try to play against Catholics.   Catholics rightly ask Protestants to guarantee that they are preaching the ‘true gospel’ since there are many of them out there (Cf. Galatians 1:6-9).  No Protestant, however, can guarantee the truthfulness of his gospel since it would mean calling in the question of the speaker’s infallibility.  In order to validate his interpretation over his Protestant opponent,  the first Protestant must claim something that his opponent does not have; namely, the charism of infallibility.   For the Gospel to have any true and definitive meaning (which it must), the Protestant must be able to appeal to a source which *cannot* be common to everyone.  This source must be *outside* of the bible  to show that any one Protestant’s interpretation is correct.   If indeed the Gospel is God’s inspired, infallible Word, then what good is it if Christians cannot be certain that they are indeed hearing the true Gospel preached?  If God did not make sufficient provision for the Gospel message to be declared infallibly, then God would not be God, He would be a sadist.

But, the Protestant will say, the Catholic is in the same position since he must make a private, fallible judgement on the claims of the Roman Catholic Church.  He will claim that the Catholic is simply substituting one alleged infallible source (the Bible) with another (the Church).  So we have the fallible Protestant reading an alleged infallible bible, and we have a fallible Catholic listening to an alleged infallible Church.

But is the Protestant construction of the problem a fair one?  Nope.  You see, some propositions are manifestly infallible by their very nature.  For instance, there are plenty of historical, mathematical, and scientific facts which are beyond speculation.  Likewise,  I propose that it is a naturally manifest and infallible fact that the Roman Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ.  Now, there are not too many Churches that even claim such a charism so I will restrict myself to simply proving from reason alone that one must believe that God established an infallible Church.  Once this is conceded, then we may turn our attention to try and find out which Church it is.

The following arguments, obviously, presuppose that I am addressing this question to a Protestant who believes in God.   Of course, I would have to prove a few of these premises if I were addressing an atheist which is not within the scope of this examination.

Argument 1
Premise 1:    God exists.
Premise 2:    God is omnipotent.
Premise 3:    The Holy Scriptures teach the truth.
Premise 4:    The Holy Scriptures cannot be infallibly interpreted by any human authority today.
Conclusion:  God does not want the truth contained in the Holy Scriptures to be known infallibly (or He does want the truth to be known but has not provided the means - an impossibility give premise 2)

Argument 2
Premise 1:     The truth can be known..
Premise 2:     God does not want the truth contained in the Holy Scriptures to be known infallibly. (Conclusion of Argument 1)
Conclusion:   Therefore, God wants the truth in the Holy Scriptures to be known ONLY fallibly.

Overall Conclusion
Since God wills the gospel message to be known only with the possibility of error (that is, fallibly), then God wills the possibility of error in communicating His truth. The conclusion therefore is that God has contradicted His very being by willing something that cannot be; namely, willing something other than the truth.

It is important to distinguish between the mere existence and tolerance of error versus the normative declaration and existence of it in communicating the Gospel message.  We are not talking about simply willing the possibility of error.  Obviously, God has, by definition, done that through free will.   The implication of the above conclusion is not simply that God tolerates error, but that He also wills the possibility of error IN COMMUNICATING THE GOSPEL MESSAGE ITSELF. God can tolerate error ON OUR PART, but He cannot, by definition, even allow the possibility of it when He speaks about what is Truth.

Now, the question for Mr. Svendsen is this:  In order to reject the conclusion, which premise does he reject?

[To remain a Christian, one must reject Premise 4 in Argument 1.  If this premise is rejected, however, sola scriptura is also rejected, and an infallible human authority is conversely conceded, which means I have at least proven that we require an infallible teacher.  Mr. Svendsen’s challenge specifically asks if Rome is that ‘true’ Church.  I will address that issue in Challenge 3.  This response at least establishes the necessity of having a true and infallible church in the first place, which represents half the battle.]

Challenge 2:  Demonstrate that those ecclesial systems that follow "Scripture plus an Infallible Interpreter" are more unified in their beliefs than those ecclesial systems that follow Sola Scriptura.

Response 2:  Mr. Svendsen has made the following comments in response to Catholic Apologists’ rebuttals to his second challenge:

“The contestant is, in essence, comparing a single entity within the collective body of entities that maintain we must subscribe to the Bible plus an infallible interpreter (system 1) to the collective body of entities that maintain we must subscribe to the Bible alone (system 2). In order to make a fair comparison, the contestant must select one of the entities within system 1 (say, Roman Catholicism) and compare it to only one of the entities within system 2 (say, the Evangelical Free church). I dare say, there is much more agreement within the Evangelical Free church than there is in the Roman Catholic church…

The contestant has misunderstood the challenge, most likely due to the fact that the false comparison between the one denomination of Rome vs. the many denominations of Protestantism is such a deeply entrenched fallacy in the Roman Catholic mind that it is difficult for the contestant to escape its clutches.”

The body of Christ started out as a unified and authoritative voice as the bible clearly demonstrates, and it remained essentially so until the Eastern schism in the 11th century (and not yet formalized until the 15th) and then the great Deformation of the 16th century.   No one who is not so immersed in polemical bias can escape this fact.  The biblical model, of course, sees the Church as united as opposed to divided - a premise which is logically self-sustaining without even so much as a cursory reading of scripture.  Sin is the cause of the division - a fact even conceded by James White.  The Church was coherent, unified, authoritative, hierarchical, visible, apostolic, and infallible in the days of the Apostles, and there is no reason to believe that this model has changed since then.  Having then admitted this fact, I move on to ask Mr. Svendsen this question:  Mr. Svendsen insists we compare the Roman Catholic Church to “only one of the entities within the system (say the Evangelical Free Church)”.  Very well.  Are we to restrict ourselves to this day in history, or may I inquire as to WHEN the Evangelical Free Church began?

Mr. Svendsen insists on comparing “apples to apples”, but he forgot to see that one of those apples is rather rotten.  One cannot guarantee that the apple that is to be judged NOW AT THIS POINT IN TIME will not, in the proximate future and as it has been manifestly demonstrated in the past, BREAK OFF from itself and establish its own “appleship” apart from its origin.  Why should my opponent insist that I judge only this second apple and ignore the apple from whence it came? At one point in time there was one rotten, schismatic apple, and then within five centuries, there are over 25,000 more rotten apples, and all of them coming from the first.  It is absurd to say, “Well, you have to assess one particular denomination NOW and not look into its past or ahead to its future in order to ‘fairly’ compare it to the Roman Catholic Church”.  Good grief. That is one of the lamest arguments I have ever heard!

Challenge 3:  Demonstrate that you picked the "true" church from among all the other "true" churches that say you can’t rightly understand the Bible and church history without their help, such as the Eastern Orthodox church, the Watchtower Society, Mormonism, and every other cult that exists (remember, you can’t use private judgment for this since you are fallible).

Response 3:  In Response 1, I demonstrated to Mr. Svendsen that the truth MUST be in those bodies who can at least CLAIM an infallible interpreter, and I do not need Rome at all to “influence me” at all in the decision.

Let me digress a bit and expound on the implications of Mr. Svendsen’s first challenge.  I do this since the response to Challenge 3 is contingent on veracity of the response in the first challenge.  The choosing of the ‘true’ church is rather moot if the response to challenge 1 is weak.

As I demonstrated in Challenge 1, we see that the argument goes something like this:

Premise 1:  It is a manifest intention of God that he wants us to know the truth of the Gospel infallibly and definitively since it impacts our salvation.  To deny this would be to admit that God may want us to know something which may be false, which is an absurd impossibility.

Premise 2:  Any ecclesiological system which does not guarantee the communication of the Gospel infallibly is therefore certainly a false one.

Premise 3:  Those systems which do not even claim an infallible interpreter cannot, by definition, satisfy the condition for the infallibility of the Gospel message in Premise 1.   No proponent of  sola scripture can elevate his interpretation over another proponent’s different interpretation since that would effectively be an appeal to a definitive (or infallible?) authority, which, of course, would mean the de facto denial of ‘sola scriptura’.

Conclusion:  Those systems which do not even claim an infallible interpreter are false systems.

Now, Mr. Svendsen will say, ‘yes but you see, you arrived at that conclusion using your own fallible, private judgement.” I will then ask the reader to examine my argument and PICK which premise he wishes to reject in order to reject the conclusion.  I contend that there are certain manifest truths which need not be revealed by an infallible body because they are provable WITHOUT the necessity of an infallible body, but are still IN THEMSELVES INFALLIBLE.  The Catholic Church holds, for instance, that one does not need divine revelation to prove the existence of God.

Let me give a few examples, lest I be wrongly accused of special pleading.  I believe in the Trinity, the Eucharist and Water Baptism, yet I would not claim that that these are ‘manifest truths’; that is, they would not be clearly evident to someone reading the bible.  On the other hand, I would say that 1+1=2 is a manifest truth and that God’s existence is
also a manifest truth - not requiring divine revelation.  I am also saying that the argument presented above also indicates that the necessity of an infallible body is a manifest truth.  If Mr. Svendsen disagrees, then he must demonstrate to me either how the conclusion does not follow from the premises, or which premise you reject.

The second part of this challenge wants me to PICK which of those alleged infallible bodies is the correct one.  Now, I can point to a number of doctrines of the Mormons and Witnesses that are completely contradictory to many of the early Christian beliefs as well as to the bible.  I can also point to WHEN they were established and by WHOM they were established.  Now, Mr. Svendsen’s big come back is this:  “Remember, we can’t use private judgment to determine which ecclesial system is correct on its understanding of church history, because each one claims that you cannot understand church history without its help.”  This is rubbish.  I am not relying on the Catholic Church in identifying a manifest contradiction when I see it!!!!  What Mr. Svendsen is saying is that YOU CANNOT GO BACK INTO THE HISTORY BOOKS OR TO THESE BODIES’ OFFICIAL TEACHINGS AND CONFIRM FOR YOURSELF THAT, FOR INSTANCE, THE WITNESSES (WHAT THEY EVENTUALLY BECAME KNOWN AS) WERE FOUNDED BY CHARLES RUSSELL IN THE 1870’S OR THAT THIS SAME GROUP DENYS THE TRINITY?!?!?! You then, apparently, cannot take these facts of contradictions and then apply them to WHAT MUST NECESSARILY BE present in God’s Church:  non-contradiction and the historicity of its origins.  (I have a former Witness friend who made such an historical investigation, and came to the conclusion that the Witnesses could not be that true Church.)  Mr. Svendsen has implied that there is no knowable objective historical truth (at least when it pertains to Church history) since no one is infallible! That’s pretty sad.  Once again, Protestantism shows itself for what it really is:  religious and historical nihilism.

So have I answer Challenge 3 (and 1)?  Not completely, but I’ve addressed the most important points:  that you need an infallible interpreter and the JWs or Mormons are certainly not it.  As for the remaining claimants, the Orthodox Churches, I will allow Mr. Svendsen to do an investigation into their claims…at least I have turned this question towards Apostolic Ecclesiology.

 (By the way, to equate the Mormons and Witnesses in this question with the Catholic and Orthodox Churches gives us a glimpse into just exactly what kind of student of history we are dealing with here.)

Challenge 4:  Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on the Inerrancy of the Bible--does it contain errors or not?

Response 4:   The implication of this question is, of course, that there is still a question in the Church on the inerrancy of the bible.  It’s sad to see Mr. Svendsen sinking so low on a point that he should concede.  And, I am afraid, it does not speak too highly of his sincerity.  Appealing to theologians who have different opinions than those of Rome is irrelevant, and so is, by the way,  referring to one ambiguous phrase in Dei Verbum and holding it out as some kind of great debate that still exists in the Church.  Dei Verbum must be understood in light of Catholic Tradition which has always regarded the Sacred Scriptures as inerrant.  Mr. Porvanznik reminded Mr. Svendsen of that when he wrote:

“Several popes have written encyclicals that speak to the issue, Leo XIII in Providentissimus Deus, Benedict XV in Spiritus Paraclitus, Pius XII in Divino Afflante Spiritu (all three of these are referenced in Vatican II Dei Verbum) and there is a section on Scripture and inerrancy in the Catechism of the Catholic Church…”,

And this is what Mr. Svendsen said:

“Here is the selective use of papal encyclicals that is so characteristic of conservative Roman Catholic apologists. Papal documents are always infallible and authoritative when they seem to support the conservative position, but never so when they don’t (such as when pope Honorius gave his official support to the heretical Monothelyte position in a letter to Sergius-"the letter cannot be called a private one, for it is an official reply to a formal consultation," The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol VII [New York: Encyclopedia Press, 1913], 453-or when pope Liberius gave his official endorsement of the Arian position by signing an Arian decree in 358).”

This poor man simply does not know what he is talking about in the case of Honorius or Liberius.  Honorius’ statement was extremely ambiguous, and cannot be correctly understood unless the historical conditions are FAIRLY put on the table, and Liberius’ assent to Arianism only means something if a gun was not pointed at his head.  Mr. Svendsen should go read what conditions must be in place for infallibility to take effect, and then perhaps he can begin to speak intelligently about the issue.  Arguing against straw men is a waste of time.

Mr. Porvanznik referred to AUTHORATIVE AND BINDING papal encyclicals as well as the citation from the current Catechism about what the Catholic Church teaches on this topic.  And here is the pertinent text from Pius XII’s encyclical:

"In our own time the Vatican Council, with the object of condemning false doctrines regarding inspiration, declared that these same books were to be regarded by the Church as sacred and canonical "not because, having been composed by human industry, they were afterwards approved by her authority, nor merely because they contain revelation without error, but because, having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God for their author, and as such were handed down to the Church herself."[3] When, subsequently, some Catholic writers, in spite of this solemn definition of Catholic doctrine, by which such divine authority is claimed for the "entire books with all their parts" as to secure freedom from any error whatsoever, ventured to restrict the truth of Sacred Scripture solely to matters of faith and morals, and to regard other matters, whether in the domain of physical science or history, as "obiter dicta" and--as they contended--in no wise connected with faith, Our Predecessor of immortal memory, Leo XIII in the Encyclical Letter Providentissimus Deus, published on November 18 in the year 1893, justly and rightly condemned these errors and safe-guarded the studies of the Divine Books by most wise precepts and rules.” (Pope Pius XII, Divino Afflante Spiritu, Promulgated on September 30, 1943)

And Leo’s encyclical:

"...For sacred Scripture is not like other books. Dictated by the Holy Ghost, it contains things of the deepest importance, which in many instances are most difficult and obscure. To understand and explain such things there is always required the 'coming' of the same Holy Ghost; that is to say, His light and His grace...It is absolutely wrong and forbidden either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of holy Scripture or to admit that the sacred writer has erred... and so far is it from being possible that any error can co-exist with inspiration, that inspiration is not only essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true." (Pope Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, Promulgated on Nov. 18, 1893)

Oh yes, I almost forgot to include the subject of your Challenge 16, where Pope Pius X squashes Modernist pretentions:

“In the Sacred Books there are many passages referring to science or history where, according to them, manifest errors are to he found. But, they say, the subject of these books is not science or history, but only religion and morals. In them history and science serve only as a species of covering to enable the religious and moral experiences wrapped Up in them to penetrate more readily among the masses. The masses understood science and history as they are expressed in these books, and it is clear that the expression of science and history in a more perfect form would have proved not so much a help as a hindrance… We, Venerable Brethren, for whom there is but one and only one truth, and who hold that the Sacred Books, "written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, have God for their author'' declare that this is equivalent to attributing to God Himself the lie of utility or officious lie, and We say with St. Augustine: "In an authority so high, admit but one officious lie, and there will not remain a single passage of those apparently difficult to practice or to believe, which on the same most pernicious rule may not be explained as a lie uttered by the author willfully and to serve a purpose.” (Pope Pius X, Pascendi Dominici Gregis, Promulgated on Sept. 8, 1907.)

Now, the question for Mr. Svendsen is this:  Can you find a papal encyclical or concilliar document which DIRECTLY contradicts this teaching?  No?  Then show me the money.  What’s that you say?  Something about how you can’t understand what he wrote because you are fallible?

Challenge 5:  Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on Predestination--is it the position of Augustine? Scotus? Molina? Aquinas?

Response 5:  Mr. Svendsen’s challenge is aimed at showing the difference in Catholic theology on this question.  While these positions all share in the general defined teaching of the Church on the matter; namely, that God does pre-determine certain men to eternal blessedness, there are certain disagreements within this question. (The Augustine, Thomist, and Scotus schools favour absolute pre-destination, while the Molinist and Salesian schools believe in a conditioned pre-destination.  The Council of Trent rejected double-predestination.)  I am not going to say that the differences between the schools are not important. They are.  But I believe they fall into the category of nuances of the defined teaching.  Be that as it may, unlike Protestants, we do not go off like spoiled brats, breaking communion with one another, over *some aspects* of a question that the Holy Spirit has not yet seen fit to define.  Mr. Svendsen thinks that the Catholic Church *must* have decided ALL doctrinal issues IN THEIR ENTIRETY AND AT THIS POINT IN TIME when, in fact, all that She claims is that She will not teach error.  That’s a big difference which Mr. Svendsen does not seem to appreciate.  The point is that Catholics must accept what the Catholic Church has defined on this subject, and afford CHARITY to those Catholics who believe propositions in undefined areas of the subject which do not agree with their own.  That is the Catholic way.  It is not, on the other hand, how the historical Protestant tradition has settled disputes.

It is rather amusing, however, that a Protestant should point to differences in Catholic theology as some kind of proof of disunity.  If it proves anything, it proves we can still love one another and remain in communion with one another despite our differences.  Of course, that cannot be said for the Protestant abomination that exists today.

Challenge 6: Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on interpreting the Genesis account--was there a literal Adam and Eve, or did evolution take place?

Response 6:  In his encyclical Humani Generis (On Evolution) [1950], Pius XII taught this on evolution:

“ For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter - for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God. However, this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faith. Some however, rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question.” (36)

And in the next paragraph teaches the literal existence of Adam and Eve:

When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.”(37)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church confirms both teachings.

Challenge 7:  Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on whether or not Jonah was really swallowed by a "great fish."

Response 7:  There is no official position on this passage.

Where does the Roman Catholic Church teach that it must infallibly decide the literary quality of every single biblical passage?

And how does a symbolic or literal interpretation of this passage affect any doctrine of the Catholic Church?

Challenge 8:  Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus ("no salvation outside the church"). Is it the view of Vatican II, or the view of every Roman document before Vatican II? Should Protestants and the Eastern Orthodox be embraced as "brothers" (as Vatican II teaches), or should they be eternally condemned as heretics (as all pre-Vatican II documents teach)?

Response 8:

Mr. Svendsen’s question presupposes some conflict between Vatican II and “every Roman document before Vatican II” on this dogma.  We shall see how inaccurate that claim is in just a moment.  It is not within the scope of this response to give the historical context of some of the Papal encyclicals of this teaching, but it may serve some use to provide some background to the question.

It is a defined article of faith that membership in the Church is necessary for all men for salvation.  The Fourth Lateran Council (1215 A.D.) declared:  “One indeed is the universal Church of the faithful outside which no one at all is saved...”  This was also the teaching of a number of other Ecumenical Councils including the Council of Florence (1438 A.D.), the First Vatican Council (1870 A.D.), and the Second Vatican Council (1963 A.D.).  Added to the solemn definitions and confirmations of the Councils, the Holy Pontiffs have also been unanimous in their defense of the dogma including Pope Innocent III, Clement VI, Benedict XIV, Gregory XVI, Pius IX, Leo XIII, Pius XI, and Pius XII.  The dogma was forcefully repeated by Boniface VIII in the Bull ‘Unam Sanctum’ (1302 A.D.):  “We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.”

Pope Eugene IV (Cantate Domino, 1441 A.D.) and the aforementioned Council of Florence declared that the Church “firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart ‘into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Cf. Matthew 25:41), unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practised, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.”

Many of the Fathers also affirmed this teaching, including St. Cyril (d. 386 A.D.), St. Ambrose (d. 397 A.D.), St. Jerome (d. 420 A.D.), St. Augustine (d. 430 A.D.), St. Fulgentius (d. 533 A.D.), St. Bede (d. 535 A.D.), St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274 A.D.), St. Robert Bellarmine (d. 1621 A.D.).

The earliest Christian writings also affirm the constant teaching:

The Church “is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account we are bound to avoid them... We hear it declared of the unbelieving and the blinded of this world that they shall not inherit the world of life which is to come... Resist them in defense of the only true and life giving faith, which the Church has received from the Apostles and imparted to her sons." (Saint Irenaeus [d. 202 A.D.], Against Heresies, Book III).

"Let no man deceive himself. Outside this house, that is, outside the Church no one is saved." (Origen
[d.  254 A.D.], Homilies on Josue 3:5)

"He who has turned his back on the Church of Christ shall not come to the rewards of Christ; he is an alien, a worldling, an enemy. You cannot have God for your Father if you have not the Church for your mother. Our Lord warns us when He says:  he that is not with Me is against Me, and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth.' Whosoever breaks the peace and harmony of Christ acts against Christ; whoever gathers elsewhere than in the Church scatters the Church of Christ." (Saint Cyprian [d. 258 A.D.], Unity of the Catholic Church).

Those who hold to the strict interpretation cite these and other sources for their views, but they cite them selectively - neither offering the historical context of the definition, nor elaborating on the object to whom the teaching was directed.  In fact, even the citings that are provided by the rigorists cannot be held as conclusive proof for their interpretation simply because many of the Fathers they cite did not, in fact, hold to the rigorist view.  For instance, St. Ambrose (De obit Val. 51) and St. Augustine (De bapt. IV 22,29) both held that catechumens who die before baptism can receive salvation on the basis of their faith and their desire for baptism.  St. Thomas Aquinas also concedes the possibility of salvation occurring extra-sacramentally (S. Th. III 68,2).

Similarly, two Popes who are cited above in support of the rigorist position did not hold this view at all,  AND MAY I ADD, REIGNED BEFORE VATICAN II - despite Mr. Svendsen’s above claim.  Pius IX did not understood the article in the strict sense.  His belief in the article was directed at modern religious indifferentism rather than to a universal, exclusive position:  “By Faith it is to be firmly held that outside the Apostolic Roman Church none can achieve salvation.  This is the only ark of salvation.  He who does not enter into it will perish in the flood.  Nevertheless, equally certainly it is to be held that those who suffer from invincible ignorance of the true religion, are not this reason guilty in the eyes of the Lord.  Now, then, who could presume in himself an ability to set the boundaries of such ignorance, taking into consideration the natural differences of peoples, land, native talents, and so many other factors” (Singulari Quidem, 1863 A.D.). Hence, Pius IX distinguished between those who have knowledge of the Church and Her divine foundation, and those who have no such knowledge due to a number of mitigating circumstances.

Pius XII, who affirmed the doctrine in his Encyclicals ‘Mystici Corporis’ (1943 A.D.) and ‘Humani Generis’ (1950), also qualified its meaning in attempting to silence Father Leonard Feeney, S.J., an American Jesuit at Boston College and the ‘father’ of the rigorist movement (whose proponents, whether rightly or wrongly, are now referred to as the ‘Feeneyites’).  Father Feeney was expelled from his order and then excommunicated in the 1940’s for holding and pushing the rigorist view as official Catholic teaching.  (He was later reconciled to the Church.)  “In the aftermath of the controversy, the Archbishop of Boston, Richard Cushing, received a letter of clarification from the Holy Office.  This letter, dated  August 8, 1949, is important for its explanation of the necessity of the Church: she is necessary for salvation by divine command, not by intrinsic necessity.  The Church, as Christ’s mystical body, is the sole ark of salvation, but direct membership in her through the sacraments is only the ordinary means of salvation.  In other words, knowledge of the Church and of her Founder is required of anyone for whom is to be considered necessary for salvation.” (Catholic Encyclopedia, p.862, Reverend Peter Stravinskas, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., Huntington, Indiana, 1991)

The Second Vatican Council also affirmed the qualified teaching in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church:  “Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by God through Jesus Christ, would refuse to enter her or to remain in her could not be saved” (Lumen Gentium, 14).  Nevertheless, “those also can attain to everlasting salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience” (Lumen Gentium, 16).

Even the early Church Fathers such as Justin Martyr (First Apology, 46) and Origen (Against Celsus 4:7) did not hold to the strict view.  And even those who first appear to hold to such a strict interpretation may not have.

“Let them not think that the way of life or salvation exists for them, if they have refused to obey the bishops and priests, since the Lord says in the book of Deuteronomy:  ‘And any man who has the insolence to refuse to listen to the priest or judge, whoever he may be in those days, that man shall die.’ (Deut. 17:12-13)  And then, indeed, they were killed with the sword…but now the proud and insolent are killed with the sword of the Spirit, WHEN THEY ARE CAST OUT FROM THE CHURCH.  For they cannot live outside, since there is only one house of God, and there can be no salvation for anyone except in the Church.”  [St. Cyprian, Letters, 61(4):4].

The heretics of Cyprian’s day were not the twentieth generation of Lutheranism that exists today - they were perhaps 1 or 2 generations cut off from the Catholic Church.  Indeed, that fact is an enormous difference - one group has likely been exposed to the Truth; the other likely has not.  As well, the phrase he uses should also be appreciated, “if they have refused to obey the bishops”.   A twentieth generation Lutheran, probably does not know the necessity of obeying a Catholic bishop to be saved.  This is also totally in line with Catholic morality on the requirements for mortal sin.

The belief of the Church, therefore, is this:  there is no other *objective* means of salvation for any one other than through the Catholic Church.  No other religion or quasi-Christian Church is pleasing to God since they teach contrary (at least in part) to the Catholic Church who alone is the ark of salvation and pillar of truth (Cf. 1 Timothy 3:15).

Turning our attention now to Mr. Svendsen’s rather remarkable claim:  “Is it the view of Vatican II, or the view of every Roman document before Vatican II?” Let the reader observe that two of the Popes cited above against the rigorist view, namely Pius IX and Pius XII reigned before the Second Vatican Council.  And, oh yes, what was the name of that small and obscure Council in the sixteenth century?  Darn it…what was it’s name…hmmm….Eureka!  I just remembered…the Council of Trent!!!  Please pay attention to the Council’s teaching on the desire of water baptism.

A description is introduced of the Justification of the impious, and of the Manner thereof under the law of grace.
By which words, a description of the Justification of the impious is indicated,-as being a translation, from that state wherein man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace, and of the adoption of the sons of God, through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Saviour. And this translation, since the promulgation of the Gospel, cannot be effected, without the laver of regeneration, or the desire thereof, as it is written; unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.”  (The Council of Trent’s Decree on Justification, Sixth Session, Chapter IV)

Challenge 9:  Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on Vatican II. Was it an infallible ecumenical council? Does it contradict earlier teachings of Rome (as the Traditionalists claim)?

Response 9:

Typical.  Just like a Protestant to see a great “contradiction” within the time frame of a few decades in a divine institution that spans two thousand years.  That’s a hoot.  Since Protestantism is constantly disintegrating, it cannot see history, or the future for that matter, from any kind of perspective other than a few years.  There has always been controversy in the Church over BIG issues, and there always will be.  An atheist in the fourth century can point to the Arian controversy and ask the same thing.  Is Mr. Svendsen going to imply that there is something deficient in Christianity simply because of the existence of that controversy?  The other problem with the “challenge” is the suggestion that ALL Traditionalists believe that Vatican II contradicted earlier teachings.  That, of course, is not entirely accurate.

Here is a very lucid reminder from David Currie’s book “Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic” (Ignatius Press, 1996):

“Evangelicals have to remember that after every major council of the Church there has been a time of readjustment.   Some historians claim it takes hundreds of years or more for the Church to absorb the truths expressed in each new council.  After the Council of Nicaea, for example, there were more Arians that there had been before the Council declared Arianism to be heretical.  By defining the heresy, the Council strengthened the resolve of the heretics.  Centuries later, we all agree that Arianism is heretical.” (p. 83)

The Second Vatican Council was an infallible Council.  It has been confirmed by three Popes, and as future Popes do the same, as they most assuredly will given the current makeup of the College of Cardinals, it’s going to be harder and harder for those who deny the infallibility of the Council to hold to their position.  Ultimately, if their refusal to accept the Council’s infallibility turns into schism, they will be sadly left behind like the Old Catholics in the nineteenth century who first denied papal infallibility then they successively abandoned the precept of confession (1874), ecclesiastical celibacy (1878), the Roman liturgy, which was replaced (1880) by a German liturgy, etc.

Not only does the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the definitive teaching document available for Catholic doctrine, quote EXTENSIVELY from the documents of Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 25 was the source for the current wording of the canons in the 1983 Code on the Magisterium.  Clearly, the difficulties of declaring the Council as invalid or fallible have far ranging implications which are hard to reconcile with the divine institution of the Church.  Moreover, Vatican II had extensive Episcopal and Papal participation.  There were 2500 bishops that participated in the Council and the Pope was present for EVERY session.  Even Trent does not even come close to this level of participation - even proportionally speaking.

Pope Paul VI said this about the Council:  “We decided moreover that all that has been established synodally is to be religiously observed by all the faithful, for the glory of God and the dignity of the Church and for the tranquility and peace of all men. We have approved and established these things, decreeing that the present letters are and remain stable and valid, and are to have legal effectiveness, so that they be disseminated and obtain full and complete effect, and so that they may be fully convalidated by those whom they concern or may concern now and in the future; and so that, as it be judged and described, all efforts contrary to these things by whomever or whatever authority, knowingly or in ignorance be invalid and worthless from now on.”

At the opening of the 3rd Session of VCII, Pope Paul VI said, “it is the role of the council to settle some difficult theological controversies…to explain to the faithful of the Catholic Church, and to the brethren separated from it, the true notion of the orders of the sacred hierarchy… and to do this with its certain authority, which may not be called into doubt.”  Moreover, while the traditional anathemas are not present a la Trent, the formula carries the same weight in modern idiom. The use of the phrases "This council teaches…" and "This council is resolved to declare..." confirm their certainty.

Challenge 10:  Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on Divine Revelation. Is it all found in Scripture, or is it partly in Scripture and partly in Tradition?

Response 10:

In the ***Dogmatic*** Constitution Dei Verbum (DV), it says the following:

Hence, there exists a close connection and communication between sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end…

Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the Word of God, committed to the Church…. It is clear, therefore, that sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God's most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.

Challenge 11:  Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on the decisions of the synods of Hippo and Carthage (which lists the books of the canon). Were these infallible "councils"? Where  [sic] they right in their list of OT books, or was Trent right in its list instead?

Response 11:

The only apparent reason that I can think of for posing this question is to suggest that the two books of Esdras confirmed at the North African Councils were different from the ones accepted at Trent.  Before discussing the question directly, I have provided a little background for the reader:

“Not a little confusion arises from the titles of these books. Esdras A of the Septuagint is III Esdras of St. Jerome, whereas the Greek Esdras B corresponds to I and II Esdras of the Vulgate, which were originally united into one book. Protestant writers, after the Geneva Bible, call I and II Esdras of the Vulgate respectively Ezra and Nehemiah, and III and IV Esdras of the Vulgate respectively I and II Esdras. “ (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913)

The following chart summarizes the classifications of both Catholics and Protestants:

Greek MS Catholic Classification Protestant Classification
Esdras B*  Ezra  (Esdras I)
Nehemiah (Esdras II)
Esdras A** Esdras III 
Esdras IV 
Esdras I
Esdras II

*   Canonical:    recognized as canonical in both Protesant and Catholic Bibles
** Apocrypha:   not included in either Protestant or Catholic Bibles

Esdras I (Ezra):
“(Gr. Esdras B, first part; A.V. Ezra). As remarked above, this book formed in the Jewish canon, together with II Esdras, a single volume. But Christian writers of the fourth century adopted the custom -- the origin of which is not easy to assign -- of considering them as two distinct works. This custom prevailed to such an extent that it found its way even into the Hebrew Bible, where it has remained in use…. There is little discussion as to the union of I and II Esdras, which may well be considered as a single book.”  (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913)

Esdras II (Nehemiah):
“Also called the second Book of Esdras, is reckoned both in the Talmud and in the early Christian Church, at least until the time of Origen, as forming one single book with Esdras, and St. Jerome in his preface (ad Dominionem et Rogatianum), following the example of the Jews, still continues to treat it as making one with the Book of Esdras. The union of the two in a single book doubtless has its origin in the fact that the documents of which the Books of Esdras, [Ezra] and Nehemiah are composed, underwent compilation and redaction together at the hands probably, as most critics think, of the author of Paralipomenon [1and 2 Chronicles] about B. C. 300. The separation of the Book of Nehemiah from that of Esdras, preserved in our editions, may in its turn be justified by the consideration that the former relates in a distinct manner the work accomplished by Nehemiah, and is made up, at least in the great part, from the authentic memoirs of the principal figure.” (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913)

In light of  the background provided above, we move on to read what the Councils in question taught:

Council of Hippo

"[It has been decided] that besides the canonical Scriptures nothing be read in church under the name of divine Scripture. But the canonical Scriptures are as follows: Genesis, Exodus…Ezra, two books, Maccabees, two books . . ." (canon 36 [A.D. 393]).

Council of Carthage III

"[It has been decided] that nothing except the canonical Scriptures should be read in the Church under the name of the divine Scriptures. But the canonical Scriptures are: Genesis, Exodus…two books of Esdras, two books of the Maccabees . . ." (canon 47 [A.D. 397]).

Council of Trent

“And it has thought it meet that a list of the sacred books be inserted in this decree, lest a doubt may arise in any one's mind, which are the books that are received by this Synod. They are as set down here below: of the Old Testament: the five books of Moses, to wit, Genesis, Exodus…the first book of Esdras, and the second which is entitled Nehemias…” (Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures, Session IV [A.D. 1546]).

In additions to these councils, the same kind of wording is found even earlier at the Council of Rome (382) and later at another Council of Carthage (419).  This exact same canon was implicitly affirmed at the seventh ecumenical council, II Nicaea (787), which approved the results of the 419 Council of Carthage, and explicitly reaffirmed at the ecumenical councils of Florence (1442), Trent (1546), Vatican I (1870), and Vatican II (1965).

Protestant Argument

Some Protestants posit the "2 books of Esdras" for many of the Fathers prior to 400 AD referred to the Greek versions of what we would call Ezra/Nehemiah (collected as one book) and apocryphal Esdras III.  This means that the list from Hippo may have referred to the Apocryphal Esdras III which is clearly not what Trent confirmed.  This appears to be what Mr. Svendsen is addressing in his challenge.


a) Before I begin my answer, I would like to ask Mr. Svendsen this question:  If the lists are different, then could you please tell me which list forms the inerrant, inspired, infallible “Word of God”, and more importantly, *why* you believe it is so?

b) The Popes and the African Councils:

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (2nd ed., edited by F.L. Cross & E.A. Livingstone, Oxford Univ. Press, 1983, p.232) states:  “A council probably held at Rome in 382 under St. Damasus (366-384) gave a complete list of the canonical books of both the Old Testament and the New Testament (also known as the 'Gelasian Decree' because it was reproduced by Gelasius in 495), which is identical with the list given at Trent.”

The canon of the Old and New Testaments, submitted by the Councils of Hippo (393)and Carthage (397) to Pope Boniface, were later ratified (though the books were not enumerated individually) by the later Ecumenical councils of II Nicaea (787) and Florence (1438-1445).]

Pope Innocent I, Bishop of Rome, (401-417) responded to a request by Exuperius, Bishop of Toulouse who asked for a formal letter identifying the canon of scripture.  The Pope responded in his letter Consulenti Tibi (405 A.D.) with a list of canonical books of Scripture which re-affirmed the disputed books and the list given at Hippo a few years previously.

The Council of Trent re-affirmed those books listed by St. Jerome in his Latin Vulgate.  In the second decree of its sixth session in 1546, the Council Fathers proclaimed the juridical authenticity of the Vulgate, and this was later confirmed by Pope Pius XII in his Encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943).

So what do these facts suggest?  Well, it suggests that there was no disagreement over the canon of Scripture between Pope Damasus, Pope Boniface, Pope Innocent I, and the African councils.  And it proves that the Council of Trent recognized St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate.  Having therefore established these facts, we move on to try and link between the African Councils and Trent, which is the subject of this challenge.

c) St Jerome:

The challenge before us, then, is to try and demonstrate that if St. Jerome agreed with the North African Councils, then it follows that Trent, who followed St. Jerome’s Vulgate, confirmed a list identical with these same North African Councils.

First, St. Jerome completed his bible by the early fifth century A.D. although he started the translation task of the Old Testament in 390 A.D.  Now, if his list was different from that of the North African Councils, that is, if he had omitted Esdras III, there would have been a huge furor over it just as there was between the saint and those prelates who accepted the deuterocanonicals .  Yet, there is no hint of any such controversy at a time when the deuteronical books were being heatedly debated.  If there was a dispute over this book, there should have been some evidence of the dispute as there was over the deuterocanonical books.

Moreover, the canonical list of the second Council of Carthage in 419 reaffirmed the same list proposed by the earlier Councils.  Is it to be held, therefore, despite all of these identical lists being circulated *around* St. Jerome, that St. Jerome himself would omit a protocanonical book? Not likely.

But, our Protestant friend, may say, “well, he certainly rejected the deuterocanonical books so why is it so hard to believe he would do the same with an alledged protocanonical one i.e. Esdras III?”  Well, it is true that St. Jerome did *at one time* reject the deuterocanonical books.  Due to the influence of the Jewish rabbis during his Hebrew studies in Palestine, St. Jerome (342-419) became a staunch opponent of including the deuteronical books in the canon.  Yet, towards the end of his life, he argues that he never really rejected the deuterocanoncical books, but was simply not inclined to use them because the Jews rejected them (Apol. Contra Ruf. II, 33; PL 23, 476).  And what is most important to consider is that after the North African Councils, we see no evidence of St. Jerome rejecting them.  And lest I be accused of appealing to sufficiency, in his commentaries on Isaiah, he quotes the Deuterocanonicals as authoritative. Although not conclusive, it appears that St. Jerome’s attitude toward the Deuterocanonicals had changed *after* the North African Councils.

Furthermore, Pope Innocent I confirmed the list given at the North African Councils in his Apostolic letter Consulenti Tibi (405 A.D.).  At that time, St. Jerome’s Old Testament protocanonical bible was completed, and gained widespread acceptance among the Church.  Again, this suggests that the Pope and St. Jerome held to the same canon of the Old Testament protocanonical books.

And finally, if there was a difference in the lists, when did departure originate?  Was the Council of Trent first to depart from Carthage and Hippo or was Florence or Nicea II?  The link becomes harder to break when one considers the succession of Councils affirming the same list.

So, are these arguments conclusive?  No.  But they are certainly suggestive, and the burden of proof still remains with the Protestant to prove otherwise.

Challenge 12:  Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on the Greek manuscripts of the NT. Are we to trust the Byzantine text-type (as Roman Catholic apologist Bob Sungenis does), or are we to trust the Eclectic test type (as do almost all of Sungenis' colleagues)?

Response 12:

There is no “position” on the preference of Greek manuscripts of the NT that I am aware of. The Catholic Church is not in the business of declaring that the text of Greek manuscripts are completely free from error.  The only thing the Church guarantees is that no doctrinal error is present in them.  Inerrancy only applies to the original text.  As for differences in preference between Catholic Apologists, what has this to do with the Church’s teachings or position on the text?

Challenge 13:  Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on the Eucharist. Is it a "real," bodily presence, or is it a sacramental presence?

Response 13:

It’s the same old, same old with Protestants - the nefarious “either/or” construction that Protestants insist on foisting into the debate - “Scripture or Tradition”, “Faith or Works”, “Perfection or Depravity”, etc.   And so we see it here once again being resurrected from the dead and applied to the Eucharist:  Is it a sacramental presence OR a real, bodily presence?

The answer, of course, is that the Eucharist is BOTH.  The Eucharist is a sacrament, which is an instrument for conferring sanctifying grace.  The Eucharist is also the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Challenge 14:  Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on Transubstantiation. Is this something the church has "always held from the beginning" (as Trent claims), or did this belief develop over time? And for that matter . . .

Response 14:

Let me ask you a couple of questions.

a) Did your understanding or appreciation of the big questions in life change from when you were a child?  Yes?  Were your impressions as a child necessarily contradictory to those you hold now?

b) “Tell us what your position is on the Apostle’s declaration on the Mosaic law at the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15.  Is this something the church had  ‘always held from the beginning’, or did this belief develop over time?  And for that matter…”

Challenge 15:  Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on the formulation of doctrine. Was the apostolic deposit complete in the first century (as Trent claims), or did doctrine develop over time (as Newman claims)?

Response 15:

“Another parable he put before them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’” (Matthew 13:31-32 - RSV)

And there is, of course, the idea of the ‘body of Christ’, the Church, which is found throughout St. Paul’s letters, especially to the Corinthians.  Now, if the Church is truly a body in a symbolic and mystical sense, we can expect it to grow from its infancy, holding true to its original substance, but allowing for growth and development in the definition of its doctrines.  It is not unlike an infant or a young child. No one would say that when this person attains adulthood that it is not the SAME person.  Sure, he may have grown more hair (more Christians, more Bishops), his muscles might have developed (Trinity, Original Sin, etc.) and he may know more about himself.  But his substance is the same - the same DNA, the same soul, the same dimple…

Challenge 16:  Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on how to interpret the Bible. Should we use critical methods such as redaction criticism and form criticism, or were these officially condemned by Pius X's Pascendi Dominici Gregis?

Response 16:

There are a couple of things to address here.  First, unlike Protestants we do not rely on human constructions and literary techniques to interpret the bible definitively, we rely on the successors of the Apostles to settle disputed points of doctrine and discipline.  The superintendance of the Holy Spirit, of course, preserves them from teaching error when they interpret the bible- a very reasonable provision for God to make, I should think.  Of course, this is the biblical and historical model for the Christian Church, and remained so until the novel introduction of ‘bibliodolatry’ of the Deformation.

Second, literary methods of interpreting the bible, whether it is redaction, form, or the historical critical methods, are, by themselves, neutral.  It is the abuse of the method through the preconceived biases of those who use the method that is dangerous.  Since those who use those methods were in Pius’ day, and predominantly still are, modernist in theology, the methods themselves start to become suspect by orthodox Christians.  However, the methods themselves are valuable methods to gain a better understanding of the biblical text as long as they do not contradict the historicity of the Gospels or  defined Church teaching.

Having said that, I have read this encyclical, and I didn’t pick up an “official condemnation” of these methods.  The Pope does rip into many of the various techniques that Modernists do use in subterfuging the Catholic faith, but the he castigates the Modernist a priori assumptions in applying their methods.  Here are some highlights from the encyclical (57 reference points) which I believe to be the main thrust of the encyclical. I do quote it at length since the encyclical is nothing less than a masterpiece refutation and thrashing of Modernism.  (The full encyclical can be found here.)

3. There is the fact which is all hut fatal to the hope of cure that their very doctrines have given such a bent to their minds, that they disdain all authority and brook no restraint; and relying upon a false conscience, they attempt to ascribe to a love of truth that which is in reality the result of pride and obstinacy.

7. Thus they advance from one to the other. Religion, whether natural or supernatural, must, like every other fact, admit of some explanation. But when natural theology has been destroyed, and the road to revelation closed by the rejection of the arguments of credibility, and all external revelation absolutely denied, it is clear that this explanation will be sought in vain outside of man himself. It must, therefore, be looked for in man; and since religion is a form of life, the explanation must certainly be found in the life of man. In this way is formulated the principle of religious immanence.

8. It is thus that they make consciousness and revelation synonymous. From this they derive the law laid down as the universal standard, according to which religious consciousness is to be put on an equal footing with revelation, and that to it all must submit, even the supreme authority of the Church, whether in the capacity of teacher, or in that of legislator in the province of sacred liturgy or discipline.

10  This, then, is the origin of all. even of supernatural religion. For religions are mere developments of this religious sense. Nor is the Catholic religion an exception; it is quite on a level with the rest; for it was engendered, by the process of vital immanence, and by no other way, in the consciousness of Christ, who was a man of the choicest nature, whose like has never been, nor will be. In hearing these things we shudder indeed at so great an audacity of assertion and so great a sacrilege.

12. Hence it is quite impossible to maintain that they absolutely contain the truth: for, in so far as they are symbols, they are the images of truth, and so must be adapted to the religious sense in its relation to man; and as instruments, they are the vehicles of truth, and must therefore in their turn be adapted to man in his relation to the religious sense. But the object of the religious sense, as something contained in the absolute, possesses an infinite variety of aspects, of which now one, now another, may present itself. In like manner he who believes can avail himself of varying conditions. Consequently, the formulas which we call dogma must be subject to these vicissitudes, and are, therefore, liable to change. Thus the way is open to the intrinsic evolution of dogma. Here we have an immense structure of sophisms which ruin and wreck all religion.

16. We have proceeded sufficiently far, Venerable Brethren, to have before us enough, and more than enough, to enable us to see what are the relations which Modernists establish between faith and science--including, as they are wont to do under that name, history. And in the first place it is to be held that the object-matter of the one is quite extraneous to and separate from the object-matter of the other. For faith occupies itself solely with something which science declares to be for it unknowable. Hence each has a separate scope assigned to it: science is entirely concerned with phenomena, into which faith does not at all enter; faith, on the contrary, concerns itself with the divine, which is entirely unknown to science. Thus it is contended that there can never be any dissension between faith and science, for if each keeps on its own ground they can never meet and therefore never can be in contradiction. And if it be objected that in the visible world there are some things which appertain to faith, such as the human life of Christ, the Modernists reply by denying this. For though such things come within the category of phenomena, still in as far as they are lived by faith and in the way already described have been by faith transfigured and disfigured, they have been removed from the world of sense and transferred into material for the divine. Hence should it be further asked whether Christ has wrought real miracles, and made real prophecies, whether He rose truly from the dead and ascended into Heaven, the answer of agnostic science will be in the negative and the answer of faith in the affirmative yet there will not be, on that account, any conflict between them. For it will be denied by the philosopher as a philosopher speaking to philosophers and considering Christ only in historical reality; and it will be affirmed by the believer as a believer speaking to believers and considering the life of Christ as lived again by the faith and in the faith.

21. But for the Modernists, sacraments are bare symbols or signs, though not devoid of a certain efficacy--an efficacy, they tell us, like that of certain phrases vulgarly described as having caught the popular ear, inasmuch as they have the power of putting certain leading ideas into circulation, and of making a marked impression upon the mind. What the phrases are to the ideas, that the sacraments are to the religious sense, that and nothing more. The Modernists would express their mind more clearly were they to affirm that the sacraments are instituted solely to foster the faith but this is condemned by the Council of Trent: If anyone says that these sacraments are instituted solely to foster the faith, let him be anathema

23. A wider field for comment is opened when we come to what the Modernist school has imagined to be the nature of the Church. They begin with the supposition that the Church has its birth in a double need; first, the need of the individual believer to communicate his faith to others, especially if he has had some original and special experience, and secondly, when the faith has become common to many, the need of the collectivity to form itself into a society and to guard, promote, and propagate the common good. What, then, is the Church? It is the product of the collective conscience, that is to say, of the association of individual consciences which, by virtue of the principle of vital permanence, depend all on one first believer, who for Catholics is Christ. Now every society needs a directing authority to guide its members towards the common end, to foster prudently the elements of cohesion, which in a religious society are doctrine and worship. Hence the triple authority in the Catholic Church, disciplinary, dogmatic, liturgical. The nature of this authority is to be gathered from its origin, and its rights and duties from its nature. In past times it was a common error that authority came to the Church from without, that is to say directly from God; and it was then rightly held to be autocratic. But this conception has now grown obsolete. For in the same way as the Church is a vital emanation of the collectivity of consciences, so too authority emanates vitally from the Church itself. Authority, therefore, like the Church, has its origin in the religious conscience, and, that being so, is subject to it. Should it disown this dependence it becomes a tyranny. For we are living in an age when the sense of liberty has reached its highest development. In the civil order the public conscience has introduced popular government. Now there is in man only one conscience, just as there is only one life. It is for the ecclesiastical authority, therefore, to adopt a democratic form, unless it wishes to provoke and foment an intestine conflict in the consciences of mankind. The penalty of refusal is disaster. For it is madness to think that the sentiment of liberty, as it now obtains, can recede. Were it forcibly pent up and held in bonds, the more terrible would be its outburst, sweeping away at once both Church and religion. Such is the situation in the minds of the Modernists, and their one great anxiety is, in consequence, to find a way of conciliation between the authority of the Church and the liberty of the believers.

25. The following is their conception of the magisterium of the Church: No religious society, they say, can be a real unit unless the religious conscience of its members be one, and also the formula which they adopt. But this double unity requires a kind of common mind whose office is to find and determine the formula that corresponds best with the common conscience; and it must have, moreover, an authority sufficient to enable it to impose on the community the formula which has been decided upon. From the combination and, as it were, fusion of these two elements, the common mind which draws up the formula and the authority which imposes it, arises, according to the Modernists, the notion of the ecclesiastical magisterium. And, as this magisterium springs, in its last analysis, from the individual consciences and possesses its mandate of public utility for their benefit, it necessarily follows that the ecclesiastical magisterium must be dependent upon them, and should therefore be made to bow to the popular ideals. To prevent individual consciences from expressing freely and openly the impulses they feel, to hinder criticism from urging forward dogma in the path of its necessary evolution, is not a legitimate use but an abuse of a power given for the public weal. So too a due method and measure must be observed in the exercise of authority. To condemn and proscribe a work without the knowledge of the author, without hearing his explanations, without discussion, is something approaching to tyranny. And here again it is a question of finding a way of reconciling the full rights of authority on the one hand and those of liberty on the other. In the meantime the proper course for the Catholic will be to proclaim publicly his profound respect for authority, while never ceasing to follow his own judgment. Their general direction for the Church is as follows: that the ecclesiastical authority, since its end is entirely spiritual, should strip itself of that external pomp which adorns it in the eyes of the public. In this, they forget that while religion is for the soul, it is not exclusively for the soul, and that the honor paid to authority is reflected back on Christ who instituted it.

32. But the dominion of philosophy over history does not end here. Given that division, of which We have spoken, of the documents into two parts, the philosopher steps in again with his dogma of vital immanence, and shows how everything in the history of the Church is to be explained by vital emanation. And since the cause or condition of every vital emanation whatsoever is to be found in some need or want, it follows that no fact can be regarded as antecedent to the need which produced it--historically the fact must be posterior to the need. What, then, does the historian do in view of this principle? He goes over his documents again, whether they be contained in the Sacred Books or elsewhere, draws up from them his list of the particular needs of the Church, whether relating to dogma, or liturgy, or other matters which are found in the Church thus related, and then he hands his list over to the critic. The critic takes in hand the documents dealing with the history of faith and distributes them, period by period, so that they correspond exactly with the list of needs, always guided by the principle that the narration must follow the facts, as the facts follow the needs. It may at times happen that some parts of the Sacred Scriptures, such as the Epistles, themselves constitute the fact created by the need. Even so, the rule holds that the age of any document can only be determined by the age in which each need has manifested itself in the Church. Further, a distinction must be made between the beginning of a fact and its development, for what is born in one day requires time for growth. Hence the critic must once more go over his documents, ranged as they are through the different ages, and divide them again into two parts, separating those that regard the origin of the facts from those that deal with their development, and these he must again arrange according to their periods.

33. Then the philosopher must come in again to enjoin upon the historian the obligation of following in all his studies the precepts and laws of evolution. It is next for the historian to scrutinize his documents once more, to examine carefully the circumstances and conditions affecting the Church during the different periods, the conserving force she has put forth, the needs both internal and external that have stimulated her to progress, the obstacles she has had to encounter, in a word, everything that helps to determine the manner in which the laws of evolution have been fulfilled in her. This done, he finishes his work by drawing up a history of the development in its broad lines. The critic follows and fits in the rest of the documents. He sets himself to write. The history is finished. Now We ask here: Who is the author of this history? The historian? The critic? Assuredly neither of these but the philosopher. From beginning to end everything in it is a priori, and an apriorism that reeks of heresy. These men are certainly to be pitied, of whom the Apostle might well say: "They became vain in their thoughts...professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.''  At the same time, they excite resentment when they accuse the Church of arranging and confusing the texts after her own fashion, and for the needs of her cause. In this they are accusing the Church of something for which their own conscience plainly reproaches them.

34. The result of this dismembering of the records, and this partition of them throughout the centuries is naturally that the Scriptures can no longer be attributed to the authors whose names they bear. The Modernists have no hesitation in affirming generally that these books, and especially the Pentateuch and the first three Gospels, have been gradually formed from a primitive brief narration, by additions, by interpolations of theological or allegorical interpretations, or parts introduced only for the purpose of joining different passages together. This means, to put it briefly and clearly, that in the Sacred Books we must admit a vital evolution, springing from and corresponding with the evolution of faith. The traces of this evolution, they tell us, are so visible in the books that one might almost write a history of it. Indeed, this history they actually do write, and with such an easy assurance that one might believe them to have seen with their own eyes the writers at work through the ages amplifying the Sacred Books. To aid them in this they call to their assistance that branch of criticism which they call textual, and labor to show that such a fact or such a phrase is not in its right place, adducing other arguments of the same kind. They seem, in fact, to have constructed for themselves certain types of narration and discourses, upon which they base their assured verdict as to whether a thing is or is not out of place. Let him who can judge how far they are qualified in this way to make such distinctions. To hear them descant of their works on the Sacred Books, in which they have been able to discover so much that is defective, one would imagine that before them nobody ever even turned over the pages of Scripture. The truth is that a whole multitude of Doctors, far superior to them in genius, in erudition, in sanctity, have sifted the Sacred Books in every way, and so far from finding in them anything blameworthy have thanked God more and more heartily the more deeply they have gone into them, for His divine bounty in having vouchsafed to speak thus to men. Unfortunately, these great Doctors did not enjoy the same aids to study that are possessed by the Modernists for they did not have for their rule and guide a philosophy borrowed from the negation of God, and a criterion which consists of themselves.

We believe, then, that We have set forth with sufficient clearness the historical method of the Modernists. The philosopher leads the way, the historian follows, and then in due order come the internal and textual critics. And since it is characteristic of the primary cause to communicate its virtue to causes which are secondary, it is quite clear that the criticism with which We are concerned is not any kind of criticism, but that which is rightly called agnostic, immanentist, and evolutionist criticism. Hence anyone who adopts it and employs it makes profession thereby of the errors contained in it, and places himself in opposition to Catholic teaching. This being so, it is much a matter for surprise that it should have found acceptance to such an extent among certain Catholics. Two causes may be assigned for this: first, the close alliance which the historians and critics of this school have formed among themselves independent of all differences of nationality or religion; second, their boundless effrontery by which, if one then makes any utterance, the others applaud him in chorus, proclaiming that science has made another step forward, while if an outsider should desire to inspect the new discovery for himself, they form a coalition against him. He who denies it is decried as one who is ignorant, while he who embraces and defends it has all their praise. In this way they entrap not a few, who, did they but realize what they are doing, would shrink back with horror. The domineering overbearance of those who teach the errors, and the thoughtless compliance of the more shallow minds who assent to them, create a corrupted atmosphere which penetrates everywhere, and carries infection with it. But let Us pass to the apologist.

Challenge 17:  Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on the novus ordo mass? Is it binding and infallible? Or is it just an option among other options? Is the Latin mass still valid, or is it merely an accommodation to those who are not inclined to change with the Roman times?

Response 17:

The Novus Ordo mass is licit given Christ’s promise to the Church to preserve Her from error.  That is not to say that it is preferrable to the Latin Mass, but only that it is valid.  The Latin Mass is valid in perpetuity as Pope Pius V had declared. Tradition has affirmed the validity of the Latin Mass since the early Church.  The local bishop, however, has the authority to allow or disallow its use in his diocese (as far as I know).

Oh, by the way, Mr. Svendsen gets no cigar by pitting a “ultra Traditionalist’s” opinion of the Novus Ordo mass against a “Conservative” Catholic.  Why? Because it really doesn’t matter what the “ultra-trads” think.  The truth resides in Rome and Rome ALONE.  Those of us who tow the line are in the truth; Catholics who vilify the Holy Father and reject the novus ordo mass as invalid are in danger of losing their souls because they are nothing less than “protestants on the right” - whether one has jumped off the right or left of the boat, off is still off.

Do you see?  I can say “who cares what such and such a Catholic thinks about a controversial issue” because God gave us an authoritative Church to decide the question.  Alas, Mr. Svendsen and every other Protestant do not have that liberty.

Challenge 18:  Did Mary die?

Response 18:

In defining the dogma of the Assumption in 1950, Pope Pius XII did not address this question in his definition.  We simply do not know.  It is a matter of speculation in Catholic theology, and it is likely to remain so while the Church sojourns on this earth given the limited evidence on the question. (It is similar to the status of children’s limbo in Catholic theology - we will likely never know the answer to this question either.)  On the other hand, the doctrine of Mary as ‘co-mediatrix’ does have lots of room for development and definition.  It is not a ‘static question’ like Mary’s death.

Imagine that you are about to witness the Assumption.  Mary is lying down. Her eyes are closed.  She is quiet, and does not stir much.  She has a peaceful and anticipative expression on her face.  John and another Apostle are present, together with a few other bishops and faithful.  They anticipate that she will die at any moment.  Suddenly, however, the room fills with extraordinary light, and her body slowly ascends to heaven in the presence of her children.  The question is:  did she die?  If something like this happened, it seems to me that the Apostles could not honestly say.  She might have.  On the other hand, she might not have.  They did not know.  So they did not guess.  As a result, we do not know, and likely never will.

The Buck Stops Here

It’s safe to say that Mr. Svendsen is unlikely to cough up the cash.  But if you, dear reader, think that I have given you something to think about, perhaps you could let me know.  And please feel free to email Mr. Svendsen with your own answers:

St. Francis de Sales pray for Eric.  Bring him back to the truth.
Blessed Mother, Queen of Christians, pray for us all.

John Pacheco
The Catholic Legate
February 10, 2000