Or: How to borrow your way out of debt…

Dr. Peter Kwasniewski on how to be a Catholic in the Vatican II Church

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As we all know, Jorge Bergoglio is making life difficult for those who believe he is the Pope yet also try to practice Catholicism. For this reason, more and more pundits are popping up that try to keep such people from either concluding that Catholicism is false (a noble endeavor, obviously) or from concluding that Francis just isn’t a valid Pope (a not-so-noble endeavor that comes with tragic consequences).

One such popular “answer man” is Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, a retired American academic who now works “as a freelance author, public speaker, editor, publisher, and composer, with the intention of dedicating his life to the articulation and defense of Catholic Tradition in all its dimensions”, according to his web site. Theologically, he embraces what may be called a soft recognize-and-resist position. We’ve critiqued him a few times on this web site before:

Dr. Kwasniewski’s latest was published yesterday at Life Site and is entitled: “How to know what is the Catholic faith when Church leaders fail as teachers.” It is fairly brief and essentially recommends ignoring the Novus Ordo junk of our day — he calls it “catholicism lite” — and instead counsels confused souls to focus on the traditional Catholic catechisms and the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas. With regard to the latter, Kwasniewski adds that “Thomists like Frank Sheed, Josef Pieper, and Peter Kreeft will also be safe guides.” Peter Kreeft!

Kreeft (b. 1937) is a conservative Modernist in the mold of John Paul II. There is no question that he has written a great many good things, and he is very enjoyable to read. However, that is precisely what makes him dangerous, for his work also contains serious error, even heresy. For example, Kreeft promotes what he calls “ecumenical jihad”, by which he means “a wake-up call to all God-fearing Christians, Jews, and Muslims to unite together in a ‘religious war’ against the common enemy of godless secular humanism, materialism, and immorality” (book description). He believes there may be sexual intercourse in Heaven, thanks to John Paul’s “Theology of the Body”. Moreover, he claims, just like “Pope” Francis, that the arch-heretic Martin Luther was right on justification: “Is it faith alone that justifies, or is it faith and good works? Very simple. No tricks. On this issue I believe Luther was simply right; and this issue is absolutely crucial. …Much of the Catholic Church has not yet caught up with Luther…” (Kreeft, Fundamentals of the Faith [San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1988], p. 290).

In short: Kreeft is not a safe guide to Catholicism in times of crisis — he is a public heretic. So why is Dr. Kwasniewski promoting this man as a “safe guide” to the Faith in times of heresy and confusion?!

With regard to catechisms, Kwasniewski appears to endorse as part of the Universal Ordinary Magisterium the John Paul II version of the Novus Ordo catechism, the so-called Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992). As for the 2018 Bergoglian update on capital punishment, however, that is something he rejects: “All catechisms before now concurred with one another, whereas our current CCC, as modified by Francis on the death penalty, stands outside of this consensus. It is for reasons like this that I oppose Francis’s errors: one does not simply cancel out the agreement of hundreds of catechisms spanning a 500-year period” (italics given).

In other words: The Pope teaches, and you decide whether it’s Catholic or not: Get out your copy of Denzinger (not the post-Vatican II one, though!), and then do whatever seems traditional to you. That is the essence of resistance theology, which is built around avoiding both the Novus Ordo religion on the one hand and the sedevacantist conclusion on the other. And so it is no surprise that there will be plenty of disagreement among people as to what to resist and to what extent. For example, Dr. Kwasniewski claims that the entire 1992 version of the Novus Ordo Catechism is fully in accord with traditional Catholic teaching. Yet there are plenty of people whom Kwasniewski would consider traditional Catholics who take issue with that idea, probably even the very clergy at his favorite indult parish.

Why is only Francis’ update on the death penalty objectionable and to be rejected? John Paul II’s own teaching on capital punishment was already a denial of the traditional teaching, which holds that “[t]he just use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this [Fifth] Commandment which prohibits murder” (Catechism of Trent). That is not the teaching of the Wojtylian Catechism, which permitted the death sentence not as a just and licit means of punishment per se but only insofar as it was necessary to protect society from the aggressor. What was the source for that novel doctrine? John Paul II’s own 1995 encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (n. 56).

The 1992 Catechism is a thoroughly Vatican II catechism, as explained here. It contains the council’s novel “elements” ecclesiology, according to which the Catholic Church exists in elements and degrees in heretical sects. This is certainly not in accord with the traditional Catholic doctrine, which holds that heretical sects “cannot in any way be said to be branches or parts of that [Catholic] Church, since they are visibly cut off from Catholic unity” (Pope Pius IX, Apostolic Letter Iam Vos Omnes). This issue was the main topic in the lively 2004 debate between Bp. Donald Sanborn and Dr. Robert Fastiggi (video here).

Dr. Kwasniewski then contrasts the Novus Ordo “Popes” with their genuine predecessors as follows: “Like Christ, their Master, the premodern popes ‘teach with authority’: you can see it in the clarity of their arguments, the unanimity of their conclusions, and the force of their proofs from Scripture and Tradition.” Conversely, then, the false popes of the Vatican II religion do not “teach with authority” — and how true that is! The problem is just that, believing them to be real Popes, Kwasniewski seems to hold that a Pope can be exercising his Magisterium and yet not be teaching with authority. Apparently he believes that the authority of the Pope does not reside in his divinely instituted primacy per se but only in the force and demonstrability of his arguments. If that were so, it would follow that any bus driver, grocery clerk, or botany student could be teaching the Faith with as much authority as the Pope if only he puts forth sufficient clarity in the argumentation, unanimity in his conclusions, and forceful enough proofs from Scripture and Tradition.

In other words, according to Kwasniewski’s theology, the Papacy of itself is nothing at all — a Pope’s teaching is only as good as the argumentation he provides for it. Thus, if we could have the argumentation without the Pope, we could just get rid of him altogether. He hasn’t been doing us much good as of late, anyway.

But what is the true Catholic doctrine on this matter? Ironically, it is Kwasniewski who emphasizes the importance of proving one’s claims with sufficient authority, the kind with which the pre-modern Popes certainly taught. Well then, let’s harken to them. How does one safely adhere to the Catholic Faith according to the true Popes?

All who defend the faith should aim to implant deeply in your faithful people the virtues of piety, veneration, and respect for this supreme See of Peter. Let the faithful recall the fact that Peter, Prince of Apostles is alive here and rules in his successors, and that his office does not fail even in an unworthy heir. Let them recall that Christ the Lord placed the impregnable foundation of his Church on this See of Peter [Mt 16:18] and gave to Peter himself the keys of the kingdom of Heaven [Mt 16:19]. Christ then prayed that his faith would not fail, and commanded Peter to strengthen his brothers in the faith [Lk 22:32]. Consequently the successor of Peter, the Roman Pontiff, holds a primacy over the whole world and is the true Vicar of Christ, head of the whole Church and father and teacher of all Christians.

Indeed one simple way to keep men professing Catholic truth is to maintain their communion with and obedience to the Roman Pontiff. For it is impossible for a man ever to reject any portion of the Catholic faith without abandoning the authority of the Roman Church. In this authority, the unalterable teaching office of this faith lives on. It was set up by the divine Redeemer and, consequently, the tradition from the Apostles has always been preserved. So it has been a common characteristic both of the ancient heretics and of the more recent Protestants — whose disunity in all their other tenets is so great — to attack the authority of the Apostolic See. But never at any time were they able by any artifice or exertion to make this See tolerate even a single one of their errors.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Nostis et Nobiscum, nn. 16-17)

This chair [of Peter] is the center of Catholic truth and unity, that is, the head, mother, and teacher of all the Churches to which all honor and obedience must be offered. Every church must agree with it because of its greater preeminence — that is, those people who are in all respects faithful….

Now you know well that the most deadly foes of the Catholic religion have always waged a fierce war, but without success, against this Chair; they are by no means ignorant of the fact that religion itself can never totter and fall while this Chair remains intact, the Chair which rests on the rock which the proud gates of hell cannot overthrow and in which there is the whole and perfect solidity of the Christian religion. Therefore, because of your special faith in the Church and special piety toward the same Chair of Peter, We exhort you to direct your constant efforts so that the faithful people of France may avoid the crafty deceptions and errors of these plotters and develop a more filial affection and obedience to this Apostolic See. Be vigilant in act and word, so that the faithful may grow in love for this Holy See, venerate it, and accept it with complete obedience; they should execute whatever the See itself teaches, determines, and decrees.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Inter Multiplices, nn. 1,7)

Nor can we pass over in silence the audacity of those who, not enduring sound doctrine, contend that “without sin and without any sacrifice of the Catholic profession assent and obedience may be refused to those judgments and decrees of the Apostolic See, whose object is declared to concern the Church’s general good and her rights and discipline, so only it does not touch the dogmata of faith and morals.” But no one can be found not clearly and distinctly to see and understand how grievously this is opposed to the Catholic dogma of the full power given from God by Christ our Lord Himself to the Roman Pontiff of feeding, ruling and guiding the Universal Church.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quanta Cura, n. 5)

So the fathers of the fourth council of Constantinople, following the footsteps of their predecessors, published this solemn profession of faith: ‘The first condition of salvation is to maintain the rule of the true faith. And since that saying of our lord Jesus Christ, You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church [Mt 16:18], cannot fail of its effect, the words spoken are confirmed by their consequences. For in the apostolic see the catholic religion has always been preserved unblemished, and sacred doctrine been held in honour. Since it is our earnest desire to be in no way separated from this faith and doctrine, we hope that we may deserve to remain in that one communion which the apostolic see preaches, for in it is the whole and true strength of the christian religion.’…

To satisfy this pastoral office, our predecessors strove unwearyingly that the saving teaching of Christ should be spread among all the peoples of the world; and with equal care they made sure that it should be kept pure and uncontaminated wherever it was received. It was for this reason that the bishops of the whole world … referred to this apostolic see those dangers especially which arose in matters concerning the faith. This was to ensure that any damage suffered by the faith should be repaired in that place above all where the faith can know no failing….

For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles. Indeed, their apostolic teaching was embraced by all the venerable fathers and reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors, for they knew very well that this see of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Saviour to the prince of his disciples: I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren [Lk 22:32].

This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this see so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine. Thus the tendency to schism is removed and the whole church is preserved in unity, and, resting on its foundation, can stand firm against the gates of hell.

(First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Ch. 4)

For any man to be able to prove his Catholic faith and affirm that he is truly a Catholic, he must be able to convince the Apostolic See of this. For this See is predominant and with it the faithful of the whole Church should agree. And the man who abandons the See of Peter can only be falsely confident that he is in the Church.

(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quartus Supra, n. 8)

To the shepherds alone was given all power to teach, to judge, to direct; on the faithful was imposed the duty of following their teaching, of submitting with docility to their judgment, and of allowing themselves to be governed, corrected, and guided by them in the way of salvation. Thus, it is an absolute necessity for the simple faithful to submit in mind and heart to their own pastors, and for the latter to submit with them to the Head and Supreme Pastor.

…[I]t is to give proof of a submission which is far from sincere to set up some kind of opposition between one Pontiff and another. Those who, faced with two differing directives, reject the present one to hold to the past, are not giving proof of obedience to the authority which has the right and duty to guide them; and in some ways they resemble those who, on receiving a condemnation, would wish to appeal to a future council, or to a Pope who is better informed.

(Pope Leo XIII, Apostolic Letter Epistola Tua)

If in the difficult times in which Our lot is cast, Catholics will give ear to Us, as it behooves them to do, they will readily see what are the duties of each one in matters of opinion as well as action. As regards opinion, whatever the Roman Pontiffs have hitherto taught, or shall hereafter teach, must be held with a firm grasp of mind, and, so often as occasion requires, must be openly professed.

(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Immortale Dei, n. 41)

Wherefore it belongs to the Pope to judge authoritatively what things the sacred oracles contain, as well as what doctrines are in harmony, and what in disagreement, with them; and also, for the same reason, to show forth what things are to be accepted as right, and what to be rejected as worthless; what it is necessary to do and what to avoid doing, in order to attain eternal salvation. For, otherwise, there would be no sure interpreter of the commands of God, nor would there be any safe guide showing man the way he should live.

(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Sapientiae Christianae, n. 24)

Union with the Roman See of Peter is … always the public criterion of a Catholic …. “You are not to be looked upon as holding the true Catholic faith if you do not teach that the faith of Rome is to be held.”

(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Satis Cognitum, nn. 12-13)

Once again we sadly have to conclude that people like Dr. Kwasniewski simply do not believe in the Papacy.

They are thus not upholding Catholic Tradition but unwittingly helping to destroy it.

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