Dissecting a Fallacious Slogan…
Does the Catholic Church have the “Fullness of Truth”?
You’ve heard it numerous times: “The Catholic Church has the fullness of truth.” It is a very popular slogan among “conservative” Novus Ordo adherents, and even many Traditional Catholics unwittingly use it. Yet, this adage, though not incorrect if interpreted strictly, is actually favorable to heresy, specifically the heresy of Modernism. This explains why it is an expression that only began to be used with the advent of the Modernist Vatican II religion and was virtually unknown among Catholics before the 1960s.
So, what is the problem? Are we suggesting that the Catholic Church does not have all the truth? No, of course not.
Rather, the problem lies in the term “fullness” because it implies that the truth can be found in other religions as well, albeit only in part, in “elements,” as they love to say. And this idea of “partial truth” — as opposed to the fullness of truth — leads to further errors and erroneous implications, as is evidenced by the teaching and practice of the Modernist Vatican II Sect, which praises false religions for the truth supposedly contained in them.
The Danger of the Notion of “Partial Truth”
The very concept of “partial truth” in other religions as a supposedly good thing totally leaves out of account the fact that the other parts of that religion’s teaching are false. Yet this consideration is crucial because a body of doctrine that contains only some truth is not “partially true” but in fact completely false.
This is very easy to demonstrate. If I say that “Christ died on the Cross and did not rise from the dead,” my statement is false — it is not “partially true” or “imperfectly true.” Or, using an even clearer example, saying that the Most Holy Trinity consists of Father, Son, and the Virgin Mary, is false. It is not “partially true” on the specious grounds that the Father and the Son are part of the Holy Trinity after all. That’s just not how it works.
A few examples from daily life may help to illustrate the folly of the “patrial truth” idea further.
Who would eat a cake from a baker who says that the ingredients he used are only “partiallypoisoned”? Should we praise him for the healthy parts? And yet, are not religious teaching and the health of the soul infinitely more important than some man-made cake and the health of the body, which must, in any case, wither away and return to dust (cf. Eccl 12:7; Mt 10:28)?
Likewise, a cocktail that has been poisoned isn’t “partially healthy.” Rather, the toxic elements mix inseparably with the healthful elements, thus creating a drink that is entirely deadly. And so it is also with false religions and their teachings — all the more so, in fact.
Again, no one in his right mind would point to sewage as containing “partial drinking water” and therefore laud its qualities of “partial purity” giving “partial health” — and then state that this part of the sewage is to be considered as “impelling” to the full purity of drinking water.
Yet, this is the nonsense taught by and since Vatican II, that abominable robber synod of the false Modernist church. In its Dogmatic [!] Constitution on the Church, the council asserts that “many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of [the] visible structure” of the Catholic Church, and that these “elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, par. 8). This new ecclesiology, which essentially holds that there is a little bit of the Catholic Church in every religion, has been nicknamed “Frankenchurch” by some, and is documented and roundly refuted in the following three articles:
- Resisting the Pope, Sedevacantism, and Frankenchurch
- Frankenchurch Rises Again: Ratzinger on the Church
- The New Ecclesiology: Documentation [PDF]
We see, then, that partial truth is not truth at all but complete error. What is “partially true” is entirely false. A religion that teaches the truth only in part is a false religion, an erroneous religion, not the one true religion established by Almighty God, who promised to lead us into “all truth” (Jn 16:13). A religion that is “partially true,” then, is actually completely false.
But just as it is dangerous, false, and favoring heresy to speak of “partial truth”, so it is likewise dangerous, false, and favoring heresy to speak of the Catholic Church as possessing the “fullness of truth” or the “fullness of the means of sanctification and salvation,” because this implies the legitimacy of the “partial truth” error, as completeness is necessarily contrasted with incompleteness.
The True Catholic Teaching
Exhorting Protestants and other Non-Catholic Christians to return to the unity of the Faith in the Catholic Church on the occasion of the First Vatican Council, Pope Pius IX issued the Apostolic Letter Iam Vos Omnes, in which he insisted unequivocally that there was no legitimacy to their false religions whatsoever and that their salvation depened upon their return to the true fold of Christ, the Catholic Church which alone teaches the true Faith:
…We cannot refrain Ourselves, on the occasion of the future Council, from addressing Our Apostolic and paternal words to all those who, whilst they acknowledge the same Jesus Christ as the Redeemer, and glory in the name of Christian, yet do not profess the true faith of Christ, nor hold to and follow the Communion of the Catholic Church. And We do this to warn, and conjure, and beseech them with all the warmth of Our zeal, and in all charity, to consider and seriously examine whether they follow the path marked out for them by Jesus Christ our Lord, and which leads to Eternal Salvation. No one can deny or doubt that Jesus Christ himself, in order to apply the fruits of his redemption to all generations of men, built his only Church in this world on Peter; that is to say, the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic; and that he gave to it all necessary power, that the deposit of Faith might be preserved whole and inviolable, and that the same Faith might be taught to all peoples, kindreds, and nations, that through baptism all men might become members of his mystical body, and that the new life of grace, without which no one can ever merit and attain to life eternal, might always be preserved and perfected in them; and that this same Church, which is his mystical body, might always remain in its own nature firm and immovable to the end of time, that it might flourish, and supply to all its children all the means of Salvation.
Now, whoever will carefully examine and reflect upon the condition of the various religious societies, divided among themselves, and separated from the Catholic Church, … cannot fail to satisfy himself that neither any one of these societies by itself, nor all of them together, can in any manner constitute and be that One Catholic Church which Christ our Lord built, and established, and willed should continue; and that they cannot in any way be said to be branches or parts of that Church, since they are visibly cut off from Catholic unity….
Wherefore, let all those who do not hold to the unity and truth of the Catholic Church avail themselves of the opportunity of this Council … and let them, in obedience to the longings of their own hearts, be in haste to rescue themselves from a state in which they cannot be assured of their own salvation. And let them not cease to offer most fervent prayers to the God of Mercy, that he may break down the wall of separation, that he may scatter the mists of error, and that he may lead them back to the bosom of Holy Mother Church, where their fathers found the wholesome pastures of life, and in which alone the doctrine of Jesus Christ is preserved and handed down entire, and the mysteries of heavenly grace dispensed.
… We therefore address this Our Letter to all Christians separated from Us, wherein We exhort and entreat them, again and again, to hasten their return to the One Fold of Christ; for with Our whole soul We ardently desire their salvation in Jesus Christ, and We fear lest We may one day have to render an account to the same Lord, who is Our Judge, if We do not, so far as is in Our power, show them, and prepare for them the way to attain to this eternal salvation….
And since, notwithstanding Our unworthiness, We are his Vicar here upon earth, We therefore wait, with outstretched hands, and with most ardent desire, the return of Our wandering children to the Catholic Church, that We may most lovingly welcome them to the home of their Heavenly Father, and enrich them with his inexhaustible treasures. Upon this longed-for return to the truth and unity of the Catholic Church depends the salvation not only of individuals, but also of all Christian society; and never can the whole world enjoy true peace, unless there shall be one Fold and one Shepherd.
(Pope Pius IX, Apostolic Letter Iam Vos Omnes, Sep. 13, 1868; underlining added.)
Did you notice? Utterly absent from Pope Pius’ exhortation were any references to “imperfect communion,” “partial truth,” or a lack of the “fullness of truth.” These are all Modernist concepts disseminated by the Vatican II religion. Rather, the simple fact is that the Catholic Church alone has the truth, and non-Catholic sects are false. They do not have the Faith at all, not merely only “partially.” That’s why the Holy Father says that these Protestants and Eastern schismatics “do not profess the true faith of Christ” — he does not say they profess it only “in part” or “to an extent.” Rather, they do not profess it at all. This is because the Faith does not admit of degrees; it can only be embraced in its entirety or rejected in its entirety. Pope Benedict XV, in his inaugural encyclical in 1914, emphasized this very point: “Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected” (Encyclical Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum, par. 24).
“Partial truth,” then, is not praiseworthy but worthless; it is complete error. Just as a single pin can pop an entire balloon, so denying or doubting a single dogma renders one wholly a non-Catholic — not a “partial Catholic” or “pretty much” a Catholic. In fact, Pope Leo XIII warned that those heretics who admit nearly all truths of the Catholic Faith but reject a single one are the most dangerous of them all: “There can be nothing more dangerous than those heretics who admit nearly the whole cycle of doctrine, and yet by one word, as with a drop of poison, infect the real and simple faith taught by our Lord and handed down by Apostolic tradition” (Encyclical Satis Cognitum, par. 9).
Whatever individual truths heretical communities may teach and whatever valid sacraments they may even have, they have simply stolen from the Catholic Church. This is the reality of the matter, and only a fool would seek to admire or commend them for it.
Having laid all of this out, let us now proceed to consider some excerpts from Catholic authorities that amply reinforce what we have just presented.
The first comes from the great anti-liberal Spanish priest Fr. Felix Sarda y Salvany, whose 1886 work Liberalism is a Sin was endorsed by the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation of the Index, that office of the Roman Curia that deals with the censorship of books (a liberal priest in Spain had submitted Fr. Sarda’s work to the Congregation of the Index in the hopes of having it condemned, but far from doing that, the Holy See turned instead to the liberal accuser and started investigating him, while highly praising Fr. Sarda’s Liberalism is a Sin):
In the fulsomeness of their flattery, [Liberals] hope to show that it costs a Catholic nothing to recognize merit wherever it may be found; they imagine this to be a powerful means of attracting the enemy. Alas, the folly of the weaklings; they play a losing game; it is they who are insensibly attracted, not the enemy! They simply fly at the bait held out by the cunning fisher who satanically guides the destinies of Liberalism.
Heresy under a charming disguise is a thousand times more dangerous than heresy exposed in the harsh and arid garb of the scholastic syllogism — through which the death’s skull grins in unadorned hideousness. Arianism had its poets to propagate its errors in popular verse. Lutheranism had its humanists, amongst whom the elegant Erasmus shone as a brilliant writer. Arnauld, Nicole, Pascal threw the glamour of their belles lettres over the serpentine doublings [tricks, artifices] of Jansenism. Voltaire’s wretched infidelity won its frightful popularity from the grace of his style and the flash of his wit. Shall we, against whom they aimed the keenest and deadliest shafts, contribute to their name and their renown! Shall we assist them in fascinating and corrupting youth! Shall we crown these condemners of our faith with the laurels of our praises and laud them for the very qualities which alone make them dangerous!And for what purpose? That we may appear impartial? No. Impartiality is not permissible when it is distorted to the offense of truth, whose rights are absolute. A woman of bad life is infamous, be she ever so beautiful, and the more beautiful, the more dangerous. Shall we praise Liberal books out of gratitude? No! Follow the liberals themselves in this, who are far more prudent than we; they do not recommend and praise our books, whatever they be. They, with the instinct of evil, fully appreciate where the danger lies. They either seek to discredit us or to pass us by in silence.
Si quis non amat Dominum Nostrum Jesum Christum, Sit anathema [“If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema”], says St. Paul. Liberal literature is the written hatred of Our Lord and His Church. If its blasphemy were open and direct, no Catholic would tolerate it for an instant; is it any more tolerable because, like a courtesan, it seeks to disguise its sordid features by the artifice of paint and powder?
It is always a joy to quote the piercing analysis and potent logic of this great anti-Modernist. There is really not much that can or needs to be added to what Fr. Sarda has said here. The apparently good qualities of error, the “partial truths” contained in them, are not good and are not to be praised, for it is they that make the error appealing and seductive in the first place. It is precisely in the “elements of truth” found in other religions that their danger lies, just as a half-truth is more dangerous and more believable than a blatant lie, and cannot as easily be detected or repudiated.
Fr. Sarda proved himself quite a prophet by warning of the folly of thinking that recognizing truth where it may be found would be “a powerful means of attracting the enemy”, because this is exactly the attitude that prevailed at Vatican II, and just as he predicted, what happened was not that non-Catholics were attracted to the Church, but rather, that Catholics lost the Faith — “it is they who are insensibly attracted, not the enemy!”
Liberalism is a Sin is a must-read for every Catholic; we cannot recommend the book too highly. (Why not purchase some copies and pass them out to friends and family, to co-workers, neighbors and other potential converts, especially those in the Novus Ordo?)
The next passage to bolster our contention that this “fullness of truth” business favors heresy comes from Pope St. Pius X’s landmark encyclical against Modernism:
Indeed, Modernists do not deny, but actually maintain, some confusedly, others frankly, that all religions are true…. In the conflict between different religions, the most that Modernists can maintain is that the Catholic has more truth … and that it deserves with more reason the name of Christian because it corresponds more fully with the origins of Christianity.
(Pope Pius X, Encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis, par. 14)
Although when read in context the Modernist error St. Pius is reproving here is not exactly the same as the “partial truth” error we are discussing at present, nevertheless this passage can very much be applied to our case as it clearly rejects the idea that we can legitimately ascribe “more” or “less” truth to individual religions — as opposed to juxtaposing the One True Religion with all other, false ones. For the Vatican II Modernists, just as with the classical Modernists, it’s not a question of true vs. false, but of more truth (or “full” truth) vs. less truth (or “partial” truth).
It would be interesting to research just who first came up with this idea of truth as consisting of elements which a religion can possess either “fully” or only “partially”, but it was certainly already present, in some form, in the thought of the Modernist Baron Friedrich von Hügel (1852-1925), who in his writings mentioned ideas eerily similar to the Vatican II error. Commenting on the Modernism of von Hugel, the great American theologian Mgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton (1906-1969) chided
…those who state that the Catholic Church is [merely] more advantageously placed than other religious bodies in this world. They assert that the Church has the fullness of God’s revealed message; but, at the same time, they likewise insist that the other religions are really from God, and that they constitute the plenitude of God’s teaching for those whom He does not call to the higher position of Catholicism.
(Mgr. Joseph C. Fenton, The Catholic Church and Salvation [Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1958], pp. 141-142; underlining added.)
Fenton then proceeds to quote von Hugel:
The Jewish religion was not false for the thirteen centuries of the pre-Christian operations; it was, for those times, God’s fullest self-revelation and man’s deepest apprehension of God; and this same Jewish religion can be, is, still the fullest religious truth for numerous individuals whom God leaves in their good faith; in their not directly requiring the fuller, the fullest, light and aid to Christianity. What is specially true of the Jewish religion is, in a lesser but still a very real degree, true of Mohammedanism, and even of Hinduism, of Parseeism, etc.
(Gwendolen Greene, ed., Letters from Baron Friedrich von Hugel to a Niece [London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1928], p. 56; underlining added.)
This sounds a lot like Novus Ordo theology, doesn’t it? Not in its every detail, perhaps, but nevertheless very much so in its basic characteristics, its overall concepts, its points of emphasis, and its terminology and manner of expression. One of the big problems with von Hugel’s teaching is, Fenton says, that he “depicted non-Catholic religions as acceptable, even though less perfect than Catholicism” (p. 142), and this is exactly what the Vatican II Church has been teaching, not perhaps in such blunt terms, but nevertheless in plenty of documents, sometimes worded intentionally ambiguously so as to provide, should the need arise, a loophole of “plausible deniability”, but always confirming, by its official and non-official interreligious and ecumenical undertakings, that the heretical understanding is what is intended (see, for example, “Pope” Francis’ recent statement that he hoped Muslims would draw “abundant spiritual fruit” from their observance of Ramadan).
This is Modernism at its most cunning, and it is the reason why Pope St. Pius X said that Modernists have to be identified not only by what they teach but also by “their manner of speech, and their action” (Encyclical Pascendi, par. 3); and it is why Pope Pius VI condemned heretics who employ tactics that allow “for both the possibility of promoting error and of excusing it” (Bull Auctorem Fidei, introd.).
Mgr. Fenton’s main point against von Hugel is that his idea of “partial” and “fuller” or “fullest” truth implies the heresy that people can very much be saved in any religion, they are just not in as “perfect” a position as those who are inside the Catholic Church; that they have the means of salvation, just not the “fullness” thereof; that they are in a condition in which they can be saved, just not in a condition as advantageous for salvation as is that of Catholics.
But this is heresy, for there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church (see Denz. 714), and “it is not true to say that a man is saved when he is transferred from a less perfect to a more perfect condition. He is saved only by being transferred from a ruinous position into a status wherein he can live as he should” (Fenton, The Catholic Church and Salvation, p. 142).
Error has Consequences
Of course, false doctrine is only the beginning. It is from there that numerous practical ramifications flow, because thought leads to action. It will be good, therefore, to examine a few of the consequences of the Vatican II Sect’s flawed “fullness of truth” doctrine.
First, the Modernist “partial truth” error leads quite naturally to “that false opinion,” condemned by Pope Pius XI, “which considers all religions to be more or less good and praiseworthy…” (Encyclical Mortalium Animos, par. 2). After all, truth is admirable and hence deserves praise, and so it follows that “some” truth deserves “some” adulation. And this is exactly what we have today in the Vatican II Sect — they shower praises upon false religions all the time for the “truth” that is in them, that is, inasmuch as they have some truth, as they never tire to tell us.
Thus, for example, we find the Second Vatican Council teaching, quite scandalously, the following. Having praised the pagan religions of Hinduism and Buddhism, the council declares:
Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing “ways,” comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.
(Bogus “Second Vatican Council”, Declaration Nostra Aetate, sec. 2)
Over the decades since the council, this asinine error has led to the most blasphemous and pernicious ideas and undertakings, such as, in particular, Antipope John Paul II’s prayer meetings with all religions in Assisi in 1986 and again in 2002, later repeated once more by Antipope Benedict XVI in 2011; John Paul II’s visit to India (1986) and his praise of Voodooism in Benin (1993), to mention just a few of a seemingly endless number of examples that could be given.
There is virtually no conclusion following from this distorted idea of truth as consisting of “elements” that can be possessed “fully” or “partially” that these Neo-Modernists don’t find too disturbing to draw. In fact, one of the Novus Ordo religion’s most indefatigable full-time crusaders, Dave Armstrong, even stoops so low as to argue that there is nothing wrong with contributing to the building fund of a mosque! He did this in response to a Protestant (!!) complaining about a Novus Ordo parish in Germany taking up a collection for the building fund of the local mosque. You can’t make this stuff up! At this point, Protestants are “more Catholic” than these Novus Ordo people!
Think about this for a minute. Armstrong is promoting the idea that financially supporting the building of a house of false worship to a false god by a religion that is most odious in God’s sight, is morally good and praiseworthy! He calls it “a gesture of good will” and “part of charity,” and justifies it by saying that a mosque is “not pure evil by any stretch of the imagination” (huh??) and — get this — “there is truth and falsehood in virtually any religion” (source). This is disgusting!
But is it really surprising? Once you start with the wrong principles, it’s only a matter of time before you will draw all the conclusions that follow logically. And Mr. Armstrong, it is abundantly clear, has no idea about Catholic moral theology, as his argumentation shows. He does not understand Catholic moral principles, he does not lay them out, and he does not define his terminology. His misuse of Holy Scripture and distortion of Catholic morality to bolster his position are as sickening as they are reprehensible. Though his conclusion — that it’s good to contribute financially to the building of mosques — is so disturbing that it should cause nothing but the greatest consternation in every person claiming to be Catholic, apparently Mr. Armstrong has been steeped in the foulest errors of Modernism for so long that he cannot detect apostasy when it’s right in front of him. (The cartoon “The Descent of the Modernists” illustrates the slippery slope quite well, by the way.)
Don’t think that Armstrong is a Modernist lone ranger somewhere who’s simply lost it. Oh no — he’s part of the Novus Ordo “conservative mainstream.” Just recently, no less of a personality than Mr. Karl Keating, the well-paid president of so-called Catholic Answers sent out an appeal to his own supporters to ask them to help Armstrong stay afloat financially so he can continue his work of “Catholic” apologetics. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, such people are the New Church’s finest “conservative” apologists today. With “Catholics” like these, who needs heretics?
Does the Catholic Church possess the “fullness” of truth?
We have seen that this popular adage, though no doubt well-intentioned, is loaded with theological problems and is very favorable to heresy. No Catholic should use it because it implies or at least strongly suggests the “partial truth” error of the Modernists and contradicts the clear Catholic teaching that the Catholic Church alone possesses the truth, which has been entrusted to her by Christ, and that she alone is the Ark of Salvation into which all who wish to be saved must enter.
Apart from the True Faith of the Catholic Church, there can be no faith at all. The Faith she preaches is entirely true, and the faith preached by other religions is entirely false; so the Catholic Church alone has the True Faith, and all the others have nothing. It is for this reason that salvation can only be found inside the Catholic Church, “the only ark of salvation,” so much so “that he who shall not have entered therein will perish in the flood” (Pope Pius IX, Allocution Singulari Quadem; Denz. 1647).