Rorate Caeli

Don Pietro Leone: The Council and the Eclipse of God – PART V


                  THE CHURCH


                            I   THE CHURCH CONSIDERED IN HERSELF


Ecclesiae tuae, quaesumus, Domine, preces placatus admitte: ut destructis adversitatibus et erroribus universis, secura tibi serviat libertate 1

The Church, Militant, Suffering and Triumphant by Andrea Buonaiuto (1365)

After a brief introduction to expound Catholic teaching concerning the Church in Herself, we shall see how the Council opposes this teaching.





In this introduction we shall briefly expound the Church’s:


a)     Nature;

b)    End, and Means for Attaining the End;

c)     Constitution;

d)    Properties;

e)     Necessity.



a)  The Nature of the Church


The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. Pope Pius XII declares in Mystici Corporis (1943): “To describe this true Church of Christ… there is no name more noble, none more excellent, none more Divine, than the expression: ‘The Mystical Body of Jesus Christ’ ”. This name, which originates in Pauline teaching, signifies in a broad sense the Church as a society of angels and men on earth, in Purgatory, and in Heaven, and in a narrow sense the Church on earth. We shall expound the meaning of the name more fully in section A that follows.



b) End and Means


The End of the Church is the Salvation (or Sanctification) of mankind. The means by which She attains this end are the three offices delegated to Her by Our Lord: that of teaching, government, and sanctification 2, all of which He received from the Father.



c) Constitution 


 Our Lord Jesus Christ established the Church as a Hierarchy. He conferred on the Apostle St. Peter, and thereafter on the Bishops of Rome (the Popes), the first place among the bishops and the visible headship of the Church, constituting him principle of Her unity. As visible Head of the Church, the Pope has a share in the authority of, and represents, the invisible Head of the Church Who is Christ.


Our Blessed Lord entrusted to the Church Divine Revelation, the Graces he had merited by His death, together with the corresponding offices of teaching, sanctification, and government mentioned above. It was to the Apostles, and thereafter to the bishops that were to succeed them and to the priests that they were to ordain, that He delegated these offices for the salvation of mankind.



d) Properties


i) The Church is Indefectible, i.e. She will remain the Institution of Salvation till the end of time;

ii) She is Infallible;

iii) She has four ‘Notes’ (or characteristics) of Unity, Sanctity, Catholicity, and Apostolicity.



e) Necessity


The Church is necessary for salvation. In other words, Outside the Church there is no Salvation.




The Opposition of the Council to Catholic doctrine concerning the Church in Herself                                                                


Of the Catholic teaching that we have just briefly set forth, the Council silences, or manifests opposition to, the dogmas concerning:


-         the Mystical Body of Christ;

-         the Constitution of the Church, namely Her Hierarchy;

-         the Four Notes of the Church;

-         the End of the Church, namely the salvation of souls 3.;

-         the Necessity of the Church, namely Outside the Church there is no Salvation.



We shall treat the first three dogmas here; the other two later 4. We shall conclude the chapter with a section on Our Blessed Lady, as being the most sublime and perfect member of the Church, as well as Her model. The sections of this chapter will read, then, as follows:


A.   The Mystical Body of Christ;

B.   The Hierarchy of the Church;

C.   The Four Notes of the Church;

D.   Our Blessed Lady.



A.   The Mystical Body of Christ


We have observed that the Council passes over in silence the doctrine that the Catholic Church is the ‘Mystical Body of Christ’. It is true that the term occurs some 19 times in the Council, but only in passing, as a synonym for the Catholic Church, and without doctrinal intent. To appreciate what St. Pius XII calls the ‘excellence’ of this name and what precisely the Council passes over in silence, we here undertake to expound it in somewhat greater depth.


We shall consider:


1.     The Nature of the Mystical Body;

2.     That part of it which is the Church Militant.



1.     The Nature of the Mystical Body


To describe the Church as ‘Mystical Body’ is to describe Her in the first instance as a society with Christ as its head, which consist in the angels and in all men validly baptized who are not damned or excommunicated, or who have not formally apostasized, become heretics, or schismatics. This society is extended over the Earth, Purgatory, and Heaven (as the Church Militant, Suffering, and Triumphant), and in this sense is known as the Communion of Saints. On earth She is distinguished into the ‘Church visible’ (for instance in Her ceremonies and religious institutions) and the ‘Church invisible’ (for instance in the Grace and holiness of Her members). She relates to God in the following ways: Our Lord is Her Head, Founder, Conserver, Spouse, and Redeemer; the Holy Spirit is Her soul.

‘To describe the Church as ‘Mystical Body’ is to describe Her in the first instance as a society with Christ as its head, which consists in the angels and in all men validly baptized who are not damned or excommunicated, or who have not formally apostasized, become heretics, or schismatics.’

Now it is the intimate relationship of Christ to the Church, as Head to the Body, which lends to the Body, that is to say to the society that is the Church, all of its particular properties and characteristics: the fact that it is supernatural, hierarchical, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, and necessary for salvation 5. We shall now show how Christ is the principle of all the Church’s properties and characteristics:


-         Christ, as God, being supernatural, is the principle of the supernatural nature of the Church;

-         Christ, as God, being a Unity (in the sense of wholeness), is the principle of the Unity of the Church in Her wholeness 6: the principle of Her hierarchical, doctrinal 7, and sacramental 8 unity;

-         Christ, as God being a Unity (in the sense of uniqueness), is the principle of the Unity of the Church in Her uniqueness;

-        Christ, as God, being the Head of all things, is the principle of the Hierarchy of the Church;

-         Christ, as God, being Holy, is the principle of the Holiness of the Church;

-         Christ, being the object of all supernatural Truth, being the principal agent of all the sacraments, and the source and motivating force of the sanctification of all men to the highest degree, is the principle of the Church’s Catholicism;

-         Christ, as the principal agent of the Sacraments and as the ground of the Immutability of the Faith, is the principal of the Church’s Apostolicity: Her immutable doctrine and Her unbroken succession;

-         Christ, as Redeemer, being necessary for salvation, is the principle of the necessity of the Church. Indeed, Heaven, in the final analysis, is nothing else than the Mystical Body of Christ Itself in its definitive form as the Church Triumphant.


We see in conclusion how the name ‘Mystical Body’ expresses the nature of the Church as a society and all of Her properties, and how the name may consequently stand as the very definition of the Church. To silence or to deny the definition of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ is, then, to remove all possible theological justification for Her particular nature as a society, and for all of Her particular properties and characteristics: for Her supernatural dimension, for Her being a hierarchy, for Her being One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, and necessary for salvation; it is to degrade her to the level of a secular, humanitarian association, like any other. What definition does the Council give of the Church in the place of this one? No definition at all, in accordance with its skepticism towards the expression of Truth, but rather a confused and distorted picture of the Church’s nature which we shall present at the end of chapter 5.




2.     The Church Militant


Remarkable is the Council’s complete silence, even in its orthodox passages treating of holiness, concerning the Church Militant. We may understand the term ‘Church Militant’ to refer to spiritual warfare both on the social and on the personal levels. Examples of spiritual warfare on the social level are the liberation of the Holy Land by the Crusaders and the defense of Europe from Moslem aggression; spiritual warfare is waged on the personal level, by contrast, by every man that has ever lived. This means that the latter type of spiritual warfare is universal, and therefore more important than the former.


The Council designates the Church in this world, not as ‘Church Militant’, but rather as the ‘Pilgrim Church’, a term poor in content, applying to the Church as a whole little more than the Catholic vision of the individual man, the homo viator, travelling to Heaven during the course of his earthly life. The term ‘Church Militant’, by contrast (like the term the ‘Mystical Body of Christ’), is rich in meaning, in fact the most expressive term for the activity required of Her members in their passage through this world.


The purpose of the Church and of every man who has ever lived, lives, or will ever live, is the salvation of the soul. And yet this is a difficult enterprise in which, as the Church has always taught, many will fail. Man is beset by dangerous and invisible enemies, more intelligent than he, with long experience of deceit and murder, working against him either directly, or indirectly through human allies: the enemies of Jesus Christ, known as ‘The World’, or through ‘The Enemy Within’, that is to say Fallen Nature: ‘The Flesh’, the Triple Concupiscence of Man. The primary intent of the devils is to seduce man into mortal sin, and so to thwart his salvation and have his immortal soul consigned to Hell.


The intent of God, by contrast, which He realizes by His gift of Faith, sacraments, inspirations, Providence, and through the ministry of the angels, is that man should overcome the attacks of the devils and so attain to the Church Triumphant of Heaven, whether directly on death, or indirectly after passing through the realm occupied by the Church Suffering, or Purgatory. At the head of the Church Militant stands Christ the King, triumphant over sin and death and over the whole human race, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. This then is the drama of human life and of the Church on earth: True indeed it is that: ‘The life of man upon earth is a warfare, and his days are like the days of a hireling’ 9.


‘At the head of the Church Militant stands Christ the King, triumphant over sin and death and over the whole human race,  Catholic and non-Catholic alike.’


It will be instructive to list the instances of some of these key terms in the Council documents:


1.     Church Militant: 0;

2.     Church Suffering: 0;

3.     Church Triumphant: 0;

4.     Christ the King: 0;

5.     Fall / Fallen Nature: 7 instances, but only in passing;

6.     Original Sin: 3 instances, but only in passing;

7.     Concupiscence: 0

8.     Mortal Sin: 0

9.     Purgatory: 0;

10.  Hell: 0 10.



       Historical Note 11


Bishop Franić of Split had recommended that the title ‘Church Militant’ be added to the title ‘Pilgrim Church’ in the scheme on the Church: ‘…We cannot attain or conserve peace in our souls or in the Church without a difficult and continuous battle… with spiritual arms… How can we combat as good soldiers of Christ… if we do not cultivate… the virtue of resistance to the malignant and atheistic world!’ In adopting this approach, the Bishop was following the lead of Pope Pius XII who, in many of his allocutions, had spoken of the Church Militant, for example of the need of all Christians to ‘stand up and fight till death, if necessary, for their Mother the Church.’ 12


The following day, however, Cardinal Wyszyński disapproved the concept of ‘Church Militant’, stating that ‘the men of our time are contrary to any form of struggle’, and advocating in its stead the concept of a Church that ‘vivifies’ and ‘sanctifies’, thereby revealing himself, as Professor de Mattei points out, ‘a representative of the accommodating line towards Communism, very different from that taken by Cardinal Mindszenty in the same years’. The Croatian Bishop noted in his memoirs: ‘One had to follow a new line in the Council: no provocations or condemnations of any-one, but only discourses on peace.’ After Pope Paul VI returned from delivering his famous speech to the United Nations: ‘Non più guerra, non più guerra…’13, the spirit of pacifism was warmly welcomed by the Council Fathers, especially by Cardinals Liénart, Alfrink, Léger, and surprisingly also by Cardinal Ottaviani.


The primates of Croatia and Poland quoted above (two countries then still subjugated to Communist dominion), as well as the prelates just mentioned, were of course speaking particularly about spiritual warfare in its social dimension, but the Council’s pacifism was not in fact limited to the social sphere: to the definitive abandonment of war and to the condoning of, and overtures towards, atheistic Communism, but rather extended also to the inner life, manifesting an unfounded optimism in man, both in the social and in the personal spheres. 


 1‘Admit, placated, we beseech Thee, Lord, the prayers of Thy Church, so that, all adversities and errors having been destroyed, She may serve Thee in secure freedom’ - additional Mass collect ‘Against the Persecutors of the Church’ abolished in the liturgical changes prior to the Novus Ordo. This certainly has not helped the Church in any way.

2 sanctification in the narrower sense of the word, as signifying the administration of the sacraments

3 we note that the means to that end, that is the three munera, are correspondingly neglected

4 in the next chapter and in chapter 6 (on the dignity of man)

5 we could add other doctrines to this list such as that of indefectibility, but limit ourselves here to the themes treated in this book. We shall explain more precisely below the meaning of the Notes of Unity, Catholicity and Apostolicity

6 St. Cyprian declares, de Unitate Ecclesiae s.6: ‘The Lord says: ‘I and the Father are one’; and again it is written of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: ‘And these three are one.’ And does any-one believe that this unity which thus comes from the divine strength and coheres in celestial sacraments, can be divided in the Church, and can be separated by the parting asunder of opposing wills? He who does not hold this unity does not hold God’s law, does not hold the Faith of the Father and of the Son, does not hold life and salvation.’

7 since the whole Faith is centered on Him

8 since it is He that operates as primary agent in all the sacraments

9 Job 7,1

10 The Council’s silence on Hell is the more remarkable in the light of the Apparitions of Fatima of which it constituted an important theme. ‘It has been reserved for modern and contemporaneous atheism, carried to the pitch of delirium, to outdo the impiety of all ages by denying the existence of Hell.’ Father F.X. Schouppe S.J. (Tan Books) in his treatment of Hell, warmly to be recommended to the reader

11  RdM IV 5, p.310-14

12 discourse to Azione Cattolica Italiana , 1953

13 ‘No more war...’