“If Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain” (1 Cor 15:17)
Did Christ truly Rise from the Dead? How “Pope” Francis cleverly denies the Historicity of the Resurrection
The reason why Modernists have been so successful in their destruction of the Faith in souls is that their errors are typically camouflaged. The outrageous ideas they proclaim they often contradict or relativize in other places; or they use sufficient ambiguity in their words so that although most people will take heresy from their less-than-clear words (especially if the words are accompanied by heretical actions), Francis apologists will detect enough “plausible deniability” in them should the need arise to defend their master from the accusation of poisoning souls.
Camouflaging errors does not make them less harmful; on the contrary, it makes them more dangerous still because they are prone to escape detection or are excused again and again, all the while they infect their unsuspecting victims just the same.
One of the dogmas Modernists hate the most is that of the Resurrection — the Resurrection of Jesus Christ in 33 AD as well as the resurrection of the body at the end of time (for the elect, a resurrection unto glory; for the damned, a resurrection unto shame; see Jn 5:28-29). Famous individuals such as Walter Kasper, Gerhard Ludwig Muller, and Joseph Ratzinger are all guilty of denying the Resurrection as defined by the Catholic Church:
A typical tactic Modernists like to use to deny the Resurrection is not, of course, to say outright that the Church’s definition is false. Rather, the preferred method is to say that resurrection “really” means ______ [insert Modernistic gobbledygook here].
So Fr. Ratzinger, for instance, claims that “[Saint] Paul teaches not the resurrection of physical bodies but the resurrection of persons…” (Introduction to Christianity [New York: Herder and Herder, 1970], p. 277). Yet the Creed itself could not be any clearer in its refutation of such a notion: “I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting” (Apostles’ Creed). The resurrection of the body is precisely what the Church teaches dogmatically (see Catechism of Trent, Part I, Article XI), not some resurrection of “persons”, as Ratzinger, always having itching ears (cf. 2 Tim 4:3), would have it.
It is usually under the pretext of providing a deeper or more accurate understanding that Modernists will distort and deny dogma, in verbatim contradiction to the First Vatican Council:
Hence, also, that understanding of its sacred dogmas must be perpetually retained, which Holy Mother Church has once declared; and there must never be recession from that meaning under the specious name of a deeper understanding. “Therefore . . . let the understanding, the knowledge, and wisdom of individuals as of all, of one man as of the whole Church, grow and progress strongly with the passage of the ages and the centuries; but let it be solely in its own genus, namely in the same dogma, with the same sense and the same understanding.”
(Vatican I, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius, Ch. 4; Denz. 1800)
With the Modernist track record on the Resurrection, it is not surprising that the current papal pretender in Vatican City — Jorge Bergoglio aka “Pope Francis” — has to make his very own contribution to undermine this dogma. In contrast to his predecessors and coworkers, however, he does it more subtly still.
On Apr. 19, 2017, Francis gave a catechesis on the Resurrection of Christ during his General Audience. In what is largely a very beautifully written and orthodox text, he manages to sneak in two grave errors:
If in fact everything had ended with his death, we would have in Him, an example of supreme self-denial, but this would not be able to generate our faith. He was a hero. [No!*] He died, but He is Risen because faith arises from the Resurrection. Accepting that Christ is dead and that He died crucified is not an act of faith. It is a historical fact. Believing he is Risen, on the other hand, is [an act of Faith]. Our faith begins on Easter morning.
(Antipope Francis, General Audience, Vatican.va, Apr. 19, 2017. *The word “No!” above does not appear in the Vatican’s English translation but is part of the Italian original, hence we added it.)
To most ears, this may sound innocuous, but it is not. The two errors Francis has slyly included here are: (1) denial of Christ’s Crucifixion and Death as articles of Faith; and (2) denial of the Resurrection as historical fact. Francis leaves no doubt that he adheres to these errors as he even contrasts the two to show what he claims is their essential difference: Christ’s Passion/Death on the one hand, and then His Resurrection on the other. The first idea is not like the second; the second is unlike the first.
Let’s take a close look at both errors now.
First, it is important to understand that something can be accepted by reason apart from Faith and yet also be an article of Faith at the same time. A prime example would be the existence of God. It can be demonstrated from created things and thus is knowable by reason alone (see Pope Pius XI, Encyclical Studiorum Ducem, n. 16); yet it is also a dogma of the Faith. (Interestingly enough, it is even a dogma of the Faith that the existence of God can be proved from reason alone; see Vatican I, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius; Denz. 1806,1812.)
The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus of Nazareth are indisputable historical facts. These occurrences can be proved using the discipline of history, and thus they can be known apart from the virtue of divine Faith. They are, in fact, among the so-called “motives of credibility”.
In addition to being historical facts and motives of credibility, however, Christ’s Crucifixion and Death are also dogmas of the Faith — dogmas which are obviously divinely revealed throughout the New Testament and in which we profess our belief every time we pray the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.” The Council of Trent, too, clearly teaches that “our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘who when we were enemies’ [Rom 5:10], ‘for the exceeding charity wherewith he loved us’ [Eph. 2:4], merited justification for us by His most holy passion on the wood of the Cross, and made satisfaction for us to God the Father” (Session VI, Ch. 7; Denz. 799).
The matter is clear: The Passion and Death of Christ are not only historical facts; they are also dogmas of Faith. If we accept them only on the authority of human history and not also on the authority of the all-knowing and all-truthful God, we commit the mortal sin of heresy.
With regard to the Resurrection of Christ, it is of course a dogma of our Faith, but it is also a historical fact. The contrary was rejected directly and explicitly by Pope Pius X. In his famous Syllabus against Modernism, St. Pius X condemned the following error: “The resurrection of the Savior is not properly a fact of the historical order, but a fact of the purely supernatural order, neither demonstrated nor demonstrable, and which the Christian conscience gradually derived from other sources” (Decree Lamentabili Sane, Error no. 36; Denz. 2036).
Yet it is this error which Francis introduces into the minds of his hearers, especially because he contrasts it with truths he says are historical facts. True, he does state several times in the same General Audience catechesis that the Resurrection of Christ is “fact” — but by that he obviously does not mean historical fact, else there would be nothing to distinguish it in his mind from our Lord’s Crucifixion and Death.
Do not let Francis mislead you when he appears to acknowledge the Resurrection as fact, because if it is not a historical fact, i.e. if it did not objectively occur in human history, then it is no fact at all. “Cardinal” Gerhard Ludwig Muller, for example, would probably agree that the Resurrection is a fact but only in the sense of a “transcendental experience” — whatever that is — and not as an empirically verified historical occurrence:
A running camera would not have been able to make an audio-visual recording of either the Easter manifestations of Jesus in front of his disciples, nor of the Resurrection event, which, at its core, is the consummation of the personal relation of the Father to the incarnate Son in the Holy Ghost.
(Gerhard L. Müller, Katholische Dogmatik, 8th ed. [Freiburg: Herder, 2010], p. 300; our translation; see scanned image here.)
Francis’ predecessor, Fr. Ratzinger (aka “Pope Emeritus” Benedict XVI), likewise impugns the historical truth of the Resurrection, claiming that it “cannot be a historical event in the same sense as the Crucifixion is. For that matter, there is no account that depicts it as such, nor is it circumscribed in time otherwise than by the eschatological expression ‘the third day’” (Principles of Catholic Theology [San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987], p. 186).
It is important to understand, then, that just because a Modernist calls the Resurrection a fact or an event does not mean that he means by that an objective, historical, and empirically verified occurrence.
Yet, so much hinges on the historicity of Christ’s Resurrection. In fact, the entire Catholic religion does. As St. Paul teaches so beautifully in his First Letter to the Corinthians, if the Resurrection is not a historical fact, then our Faith is vain:
Now if Christ be preached, that he arose again from the dead, how do some among you say, that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen again. And if Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God: because we have given testimony against God, that he hath raised up Christ; whom he hath not raised up, if the dead rise not again. For if the dead rise not again, neither is Christ risen again. And if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain, for you are yet in your sins. Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ, are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, the firstfruits of them that sleep….
(1 Corinthians 15:12-20)
The Resurrection of Christ as historical fact is the ultimate criterion that makes the Catholic religion credible. Mgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, who received ecclesiastical honors from Pope Pius XII for his outstanding contributions to Sacred Theology, calls the historicity of the Resurrection the “supreme evidence” for the validity of the Roman Catholic religion:
Jesus of Nazareth died. He was buried. Then He lived and walked again. This incontrovertible truth constitutes the supreme evidence for the reliability of His teaching as divine revelation. So intimately is the fact of the resurrection bound up with the credibility of divine faith, that St. Paul could state that the acceptability of the Christian message as such depended upon it [see 1 Cor 15:13-20].
(Rev. Joseph Clifford Fenton, We Stand with Christ [Milwaukee, WI: Bruce Publishing, 1942], p. 319; republished as Laying the Foundation [Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road, 2016], p. 343)
In other words, if the Resurrection of Christ were not a historical fact, our Faith would be lacking in foundation, because the Resurrection is the ultimate proof that Christ is the Son of God and that therefore all He preached is true. To assert instead that we ought to simply believe that Christ rose from the dead — absent any rational evidence whatsoever — is to affirm the heresy of Fideism, by which is understood a “system which exaggerates the function of faith in the knowledge of truth” (Pietro Parente, ed., Dictionary of Dogmatic Theology, s.v. “fideism”).
Faith is not believing something without evidence; faith — in its most general sense — is accepting something as true on the authority of another. But in order for this acceptance on the authority of another to be virtuous and not foolish (cf. Ecclus [Sir] 19:4), we must first establish that the other is worthy of belief, i.e. that he is competent, truthful, and has actually presented testimony on the matter under consideration.
The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1909 explains:
…[A]uthority, even the authority of God, cannot be the supreme criterion of certitude, and an act of faith cannot be the primary form of human knowledge. This authority, indeed, in order to be a motive of assent, must be previously acknowledged as being certainly valid; before we believe in a proposition as revealed by God, we must first know with certitude that God exists, that He reveals such and such a proposition, and that His teaching is worthy of assent, all of which questions can and must be ultimately decided only by an act of intellectual assent based on objective evidence. Thus, fideism not only denies intellectual knowledge, but logically ruins faith itself.
…Revelation, indeed, is the supreme motive of faith in supernatural truths, yet, the existence of this motive and its validity has to be established by reason.
(Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. “Fideism”)
In other words, the popular Protestant “leap of faith” doctrine is a heresy.
The First Vatican Council clearly set forth the Catholic teaching on the reasonableness of Faith against the proto-Modernists, whose errors were mainly rooted in the false philosophy of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804):
However, in order that the “obedience” of our faith should be “consonant with reason” [cf. Rom. 12:1], God has willed that to the internal aids of the Holy Spirit there should be joined external proofs of His revelation, namely: divine facts, especially miracles and prophecies which, because they clearly show forth the omnipotence and infinite knowledge of God, are most certain signs of a divine revelation, and are suited to the intelligence of all. Wherefore, not only Moses and the prophets, but especially Christ the Lord Himself, produced many genuine miracles and prophecies; and we read concerning the apostles: “But they going forth preached everywhere: the Lord working withal and confirming the word with signs that followed” [Mark 16:20]. And again it is written: “And we have the more firm prophetical word: whereunto you do well to attend, as to a light that shineth in a dark place” [2 Pet. 1:19].
If anyone shall have said that divine revelation cannot be made credible by external signs, and for this reason men ought to be moved to faith by the internal experience alone of each one, or by private inspiration: let him be anathema.
(Vatican I, Dei Filius, Ch. 3; Denz. 1790, 1812)
It is the function of the theological discipline of apologetics to demonstrate the reasonableness of Faith. Mgr. Fenton explains:
…[I]t is the central and essential purpose of apologetics to point out the evident indications that Catholic dogma, offered as a message from God to man, has actually been revealed by God Himself. Because this teaching is put forward as mediate rather than immediate revelation, we cannot rely merely upon the experience of that one who has directly received the divine communication. We can establish the proper divine authorship of this message in the light of natural reason, only in that same way in which we can discern the authorship of any other communication which comes to us through indirect channels….
The Church herself makes a definite appeal to all of these motives of credibility. Unhesitatingly she states that her teaching is rationally acceptable as divine revelation because it is guaranteed by unmistakable signs of God’s testimony to this effect.
(Fenton, We Stand with Christ, pp. 64,66; Laying the Foundation, pp. 69,71)
The purpose of the motives of credibility is to render the act of divine Faith reasonable and prudent, rather than arbitrary or based on feeling:
The assent of faith is an act of virtue. It ought therefore to be prudent and consonant with reason. But prudence dictates that nothing be firmly believed in, unless evidence makes it credible. Therefore, the mysteries of faith which we are ordered to believe most firmly must be evidently credible.
(Rev. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., The Theological Virtues, vol. 1 [Ex Fontibus Co., 2016], p. 104)
Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself endorsed His miracles as motives of credibility for the truth of His claims and His revelation: “If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though you will not believe me, believe the works: that you may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in the Father” (Jn 10:37-38).
Pope Pius IX spells out the role of the motives of credibility in leading souls to Faith in his first encyclical letter:
Our holy religion was not invented by human reason, but was most mercifully revealed by God; therefore, one can quite easily understand that religion itself acquires all its power from the authority of God who made the revelation, and that it can never be arrived at or perfected by human reason. In order not to be deceived and go astray in a matter of such great importance, human reason should indeed carefully investigate the fact of divine revelation. Having done this, one would be definitely convinced that God has spoken and therefore would show Him rational obedience, as the Apostle very wisely teaches [Rom 13:1]. For who can possibly not know that all faith should be given to the words of God and that it is in the fullest agreement with reason itself to accept and strongly support doctrines which it has determined to have been revealed by God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived?
But how many wonderful and shining proofs are ready at hand to convince the human reason in the clearest way that the religion of Christ is divine and that “the whole principle of our doctrines has taken root from the Lord of the heavens above”; therefore nothing exists more definite, more settled or more holy than our faith, which rests on the strongest foundations. This faith, which teaches for life and points towards salvation, which casts out all vices and is the fruitful mother and nurse of the virtues, has been established by the birth, life, death, resurrection, wisdom, wonders and prophecies of Christ Jesus, its divine author and perfector! Shining forth in all directions with the light of teaching from on high and enriched with the treasures of heavenly wealth, this faith grew famed and notable by the foretellings of so many prophets, the lustre of so many miracles, the steadfastness of so many martyrs, and the glory of so many saints!
(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Qui Pluribus, nn. 7-8)
In 1855, the Sacred Congregation of the Index affirmed against Augustine Bonnetty: “The use of reason precedes faith and leads men to it by the help of revelation and of grace” (Denz. 1651). The tendency to deny the rational credibility of the Catholic Faith and drift towards Fideism, is one of the hallmarks of Modernism, and we saw this on full display when Vatican “Archbishop” Georg Ganswein heretically claimed that the existence of God could not be proved by reason.
It is important to understand, however, that the assent of divine Faith is essentially distinct from and superior to the assent given to the motives of credibility. The soul is capable of grasping the truth and the force of the motives of credibility by the light of natural reason, even unaided by grace. These motives point towards Faith but do not create it. Faith is not the sum total of the motives of credibility. Rather, by Faith we accept, with the help of God’s grace, the supernatural truths God has revealed because He has revealed them, who can neither deceive us nor be mistaken.
As Mgr. Fenton explains:
[The Church] realizes, of course, that the assent of divine faith, as the acceptance of a doctrine which is intrinsically supernatural, must be made with the aid of an intrinsically supernatural grace coming from God Himself. This essentially supernatural aid, which enables man to assent firmly to the truth of a revealed doctrine which is absolutely beyond the natural competence of any creature, actual or possible, is what the Church terms the internal help of the Holy Ghost. According to the teaching of the Vatican Council, the motives of credibility are quite distinct from these internal helps of the Holy Ghost. It is their function to render the service of our faith something reasonable and prudent.
(Fenton, We Stand with Christ, pp. 66-67; Laying the Foundation, p. 72)
In his 1907 Syllabus, Pope St. Pius X condemned the following proposition: “The assent of faith ultimately depends on an accumulation of probabilities” (Lamentabili Sane, Error no. 25; Denz. 2025).
The assent of divine Faith is a supernatural and salvific act and requires divine grace, for which reason it is a “precious gift” (Wis 3:14) and “the beginning of human salvation” (Denz. 801):
Moreover, although the assent of faith is by no means a blind movement of the intellect, nevertheless, no one can “assent to the preaching of the Gospel,” as he must to attain salvation, “without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who gives to all a sweetness in consenting to and believing in truth” [Second Council of Orange]. Wherefore, “faith” itself in itself, even if it “worketh not by charity” [cf. Gal. 5:6], is a gift of God, and its act is a work pertaining to salvation, by which man offers a free obedience to God Himself by agreeing to, and cooperating with His grace, which he could resist.
If anyone shall have said that the assent of the Christian faith is not free, but is necessarily produced by proofs from human reasoning; or, that the grace of God is necessary only for that living faith “which worketh by charity” [Gal. 5:6]: let him be anathema.
(Vatican I, Dei Filius, Ch. 3; Denz. 1791, 1814)
Thus we understand that the motives of credibility are the foundation of Faith insofar as they render our Faith reasonable and credible; they prevent Faith from being arbitrary, blind, and groundless. They can help elicit an act of Faith; they are not, however, the cause of Faith, which is “God moving man inwardly by grace” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 6, a. 1 c).
It is because our Faith is reasonable and credible that a rational inquiry can be made concerning divine truths, which is what the science of Sacred Theology concerns itself with. And because the God who revealed supernatural truth to us is the same God who endowed us with reason, Faith and reason can never be in conflict:
But, although faith is above reason, nevertheless, between faith and reason no true dissension can ever exist, since the same God, who reveals mysteries and infuses faith, has bestowed on the human soul the light of reason; moreover, God cannot deny Himself, nor ever contradict truth with truth. But, a vain appearance of such a contradiction arises chiefly from this, that either the dogmas of faith have not been understood and interpreted according to the mind of the Church, or deceitful opinions are considered as the determinations of reason. Therefore, “every assertion contrary to the truth illuminated by faith, we define to be altogether false” [Fifth Lateran Council].
(Vatican I, Dei Filius, Ch. 4; Denz. 1797)
Faith, then, is a supernatural and unmerited gift of God, not in contradiction to reason but in concert with it, perfecting it as grace perfects nature: “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man may glory” (Eph 2:8-9); “But sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you” (1 Pet 3:15).
Contrary to all this, the Modernists of the Vatican II Sect love to speak about Faith as “experience”, especially as “encounter”. If you look at the sermons and speeches given by “Pope” Francis on Faith and related matters, you will see an incessant appeal to experience. Faith is rarely ever an intellectual assent for Novus Ordos; it is usually portrayed as something akin to a feeling, an event, a process, or an encounter.
Thus, for example, we find Fr. Ratzinger writing: “The sentence ‘Jesus has risen’ … expresses that primitive experience on which all Christian faith is grounded…” (Principles of Catholic Theology, p. 184). This is the sort of thing St. Pius X had in mind when he wrote: “Tradition, as understood by the Modernists, is a communication with others of an original experience, through preaching by means of the intellectual formula” (Encyclical Pascendi, n. 15). Obviously, the dogma that Jesus rose from the dead does not express some experience; it expresses a historical fact, an event that took place in history and was testified to by those who saw or interacted with Him in consequence of that fact: “But the author of life … God hath raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses” (Acts 3:15; cf. 2 Pet 1:16).
With all this in mind, we can see how dangerous “Pope” Francis’ statement is that the Resurrection is a revealed truth but not as historically certain as Christ’s Passion and Death. It does not matter if the rest of his Apr. 19, 2017 catechesis is quite beautiful and orthodox. Pope Leo XIII warned us against the heretics who pervert the true Faith by just a single heresy: “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, n. 9).
Nor will it do to argue that Francis has admitted — if perchance he has — the Resurrection as historical fact on some other occasion. In 1794, Pope Pius VI denounced this as a tactic of deception used by those trying to undermine Catholic teaching:
[It] cannot be excused in the way that one sees it being done, under the erroneous pretext that the seemingly shocking affirmations in one place are further developed along orthodox lines in other places, and even in yet other places corrected; as if allowing for the possibility of either affirming or denying the statement, or of leaving it up to the personal inclinations of the individual – such has always been the fraudulent and daring method used by innovators to establish error. It allows for both the possibility of promoting error and of excusing it.
(Pope Pius VI, Bull Autorem Fidei, introd.)
We can see, then, that for Francis to contrast the Passion and Death of Christ with the Resurrection is doubly wrong and extremely dangerous: He thereby makes it seem as though the Resurrection were not historical fact but only accepted on Faith, thus suggesting the heresy of Fideism and depriving the Catholic religion of all rational credibility. In addition, he gives the impression that the Crucifixion and Death of Christ need not be accepted on Faith. The fact (no pun intended) of the matter is quite simply that all three doctrines — the Crucifixion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ — are equally historical and therefore knowable apart from Faith, and they are equally a matter of Faith to be accepted on the authority of God revealing.
Thus, Francis’ entire juxtaposition of the Passion with the Resurrection is highly misleading. The grounds for accepting both are entirely the same: We must accept both on the authority of human history and on the authority of God revealing, who can “neither deceive nor be deceived” (Act of Faith).
Image source: catholicnews.org.uk (Mazur)
License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0