A Lesson from Jolly Old England
The analogy of what happened in England and what happened 430 years later is uncanny and hits the nail on the head. Both Henry VIII's rebellious Declaration of Royal Supremacy and Vatican II's equally revolutionary Lumen Gentium were the 'chop' that lopped off from the True, Living Tree of Christ those who chose to stay with the branch - a severed, withered branch that cannot grow and are no longer part of the True Tree of Holy Mother Church, the very Church planted by Christ in Matthew 16: 19: "Upon this Rock I will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
"But of key importance, see the ontological role of the Declaration of Royal Supremacy and also of Lumen Gentium. It is each of these documents that changed the nature of the groups who signed them from being the Church to being something else. In the case of England it was a change from being the 'Church in England' to a brand new 'Church of England' as free to wander off into error as a severed branch of a tree is free to fall to the ground, wholly other than the Church in England. In the case of today, it was a change from being one and the same as the Mystical Body of Christ, the real Roman Catholic Church, to being a brand new 'catholic church' (more aptly named 'conciliar church') within a portion of which 'subsists' a portion of that Mystical Body of Christ which remains the authentic Roman Catholic Church."
NOTE: Readers of my book and/or my previous columns published on The Daily Catholic might note that I seem to be harping an awful lot on my theory regarding Lumen Gentium. Perhaps I repeat myself a bit. This is deliberate. The theory I have been posing is simple, quite straightforward in fact, but apparently not easy to see at first, and so there seem to remain many who do not understand it. Even many of those who fully agree with its conclusions do so not from understanding it, but merely agree because it affirms what the sensus fidelium of all knowledgeable Catholics truly in a state of Grace would have to affirm.
When I reiterate it here, and in my Lumen Gentium series, and in my book, and even touch upon it (answering some possible objections some might raise) in my article on Benedict XVI, and other places, I do so in differing manners, hoping that even if one way of speaking does not "click" with a particular reader, perhaps another way just might. Until one gets that grand "Ah hah!" experience in finally getting it, one may or may not be sympathetic to its conclusions or even how it is expressed, or even their opinion about me, but I don't care. But once one does "get" it, as some people have, the difference is unmistakable. I have yet to encounter even one person who has ever gotten it without their also seeing the truth of it.
While I persist in putting it out on the table for all to see and be edified by, interiorly I am my theory's harshest critic. I claim a lot here, finding in it a basis for Faith in the face of widespread apostasy, nevertheless I continually seek any and all possible objections to it. Though I gravely doubt that any objection could ever pose a reason to reject it whole hog, it is from responding to such attempted objections that real advancement of my theory is derived, even as responses to heresies has enabled the Church to be ever more and more clear and explicit in her creedal formulas. To all readers, please feel free to send me your questions and/or objections to my theory if you feel there is anything that has not been addressed in any of my references to it. Below I offer another analogy which should hopefully strike a note of understanding with many.
In his book, Cramner's Godly Order, Michael Davies documented quite thoroughly the disintegration of the liturgy in post-reformation England, in the newly separated schismatic "Church of England," along with the Protestant doctrinal roots of that disintegration. Although only focusing on events of the sixteenth century in England, the parallels between what has happened back then and what it is that happened now in the Novus Ordo "church" are inescapably obvious.
One finds altars turned into tables, the ancient Latin replaced little by little with the vernacular, the priest-presider facing the people instead of facing God, the same defective sacramental "forms," and even a strikingly similar corruption of the Ordination Rite. And all of this ties directly into the Protestant denials of the sinlessness of Mary, the Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, the Catholic teachings about sanctification, mortification, penance, purgatory, and so many other doctrines. Michael Davies amply proves that the changes to the liturgy did more to erode the faith of the general run of English society than any direct apologetical/catechetical approach could have ever done, even were it possible that truly persuasive arguments could have been concocted in defense of all that nonsense.
There is no sense to make of the contemporary Novus Ordo changes except to posit that the Novus Ordo seeks to teach the same irreligion as the Church of England did back then. But this article is not a study of the modernist pressures to lead souls astray through the use of the perverted new "liturgies," but rather an examination of the juridical, canonical, and ontological events that made the fall of the Church of England (and the Novus Ordo "church" today) possible, doctrinally speaking. By "doctrine" here again, I refer not to the twisted "doctrines" of the heretics in which the details of the particular liturgical perversions find their root, but rather to where the fall of the Church in/of England fits into the context of the true doctrine of the Indefectibility of the Church.
It is true that it has always been possible for some individual cleric here or there to fall by the wayside and fail to teach or practice the truth. Obviously the doctrine of the Indefectibility of the Church does not exclude the possibility of this event, as it has occurred on numerous occasions throughout Church history. What it does mean however is the fact that any such aberrations are purely localized, and take place in the greater context of the "Church as a whole" (real meaning of the word "Catholic") which is intolerant of any such error. Such an erring cleric must find himself reproved by his superiors, his peers, and even his congregation and eventually forced to recant and repent or else be "dealt with" in a severe disciplinary fashion.
Suddenly however, in England, none of that is true. Liturgical abuses, distortions, errors, and even heresies are introduced one after the other, and practically the entire British hierarchy all seem to have no problem with it at all. Did the Church just cease to exist in England? As we know, it did not. But the Church in England was indeed driven underground. How could, as it were, "all of the people" finally actually be "fooled all of the time?" For though the English Church was not the entire Church, it was an integral component of the Church, possessing the same nature as the Church at large around the world. A single cleric here or there could have gone wrong, but not the entire legitimate British hierarchy.
Something else took place, something often not taken much into account, but which was crucial in making this universal fall in England possible. In November of 1534, the clergy in England were all required to sign what was called the "Declaration of Royal Supremacy." In this signing this document, they gave their consent to the claim that the King of England also reigns over the Church, with none above him. It declared the King of England to be, in effect, a "peer" of the Pope in Rome, and its signers to be subject to him as to a Supreme Pontiff. That was all. There was nothing in this document about distorting their liturgy, or changing any of their doctrines, or in any way departing from the authentic Catholic Faith. Yet this is what made all that possible.
It was that signing itself that changed the nature and status of the British clerics who signed it. This was an ontological change on their part. In signing it they went from being a part of the Church to being their own new organization. In that moment they all became like the proverbial branch freshly lopped off the tree. It is that detachment that made it so that the Church's indefectibility no longer applied to them. Previously, as the branch of the tree in England, it drew its strength from the roots and the trunk of the Tree of the Church, and itself provided strength to the remainder of the Tree as well.
But with that "chop," that "snap," of the Declaration of Royal Supremacy, the hierarchy in England became a severed branch, no longer able to draw any support, strength, or root nourishment from the Tree in Rome, nor to provide any of its value in the opposite direction. It was that which cut off and isolated the Church of England from the Catholic Church, thus freeing it to go in directions the Church could never go. It was not necessary therefore for this Declaration of Royal Supremacy to specify any heresies or liturgical ruinations whatsoever. Nevertheless that is what opened the door to them by separating the English clerics from the Church.
That was in November of 1534. Fast-forward to another November 430 years later. On November 21, 1964, the leadership of the whole Church signed a similar document of similar impact known as Lumen Gentium. It differs only in the fact that where the former only applied to one country and as such could truly transfer each and every person who signed it from their former office in the Church to a new office, thus itself booting them out of their lawful Catholic Sees and parishes, this document applied to the whole Church, and as such could only invite everyone to a new office of its creation, an invitation which most accepted, thus abandoning their former lawful Sees and parishes, but which some few declined, thereby remaining in their lawful Sees and parishes.
And once again, it didn't matter that nothing in Vatican II ever said anything about eliminating the Latin or moving the tabernacle or letting Wiccans and Unitarians teach theology in the formerly accredited Catholic schools or any of the rest of it. We all have heard the arguments of those defending Vatican II by quoting its statements to the effect that "the use of Latin shall be retained" or that it mentions nothing of moving tabernacles to a birdhouse across the street or that it quotes numerous Catholic documents at length, and so forth which indeed it does. But this is no different from the fact that the Declaration of Royal Supremacy also said nothing of doing the same damages to the Church of England.
Another event of England at that time, seldom commented upon, is the fact that even though this detachment from the Church had taken place, one still had all the same bishops (with one heroic exception) in all the same Cathedrals, ruling over all (with some precious few exceptions, again) the same parish priests in the same parish church buildings. This was what fooled the general run of English society. After all, one could say that "Father So-and-so baptized me here in this church and he is still the priest of this church even though his Mass is now done in the vernacular and he faces the people and hasn't mentioned the doctrine of transubstantiation in quite some years." All the same men, in all the same Cathedrals, with all the same parishes presided over by all the same priests, and with all the same diocesan boundaries as had existed before, all provided a tremendously deceptive apparent continuity with the Catholic past that indeed fooled practically everyone.
The Declaration of Royal Supremacy laid no diocesan boundaries, assigned no bishops or priests to their Sees or parishes, and in fact changed absolutely nothing except the affiliation of the clerics who signed it. And yet all of the former structures of the Church were now inherited by this new organization decreed into existence in 1534. But what about the one faithful bishop who refused to be a part of this, and who then died as a martyr in the London tower, namely His Excellency Bishop John Fisher of the Diocese of Rochester? But for a couple extremely minor accidents of historical circumstance, the situation could have equaled our situation today in yet several more important aspects.
Suppose two things, 1) that England was far better at guarding its ports and borders than it in fact was, such that the likes of Father Edward Campion could never have been smuggled into England, and 2) that England was correspondingly less vigilant at combing its own countryside for clerics unwilling to sign the Declaration, such that Saint John Fisher could have escaped from his Cathedral with his life, and then went underground in hiding, instead of being caught at once, sent promptly to the tower, and subsequently executed. In such a circumstance, one could hardly insist that his jurisdiction still pertained only to the Diocese of Rochester as it had in days of former glory. Indeed, as the one remaining truly Catholic bishop in all of England the duty would fall upon him to find what few faithful priests who also avoided signing the Declaration (and maybe in addition, what few are willing to repudiate it, now that they can see what they did in signing it and that they repent of it), and be the bishop to all of them. For permanency, he would also have to look into secretly training more priests and even consecrating some bishops to help him. With the English borders and ports closed, he would obviously have to do this without any explicit mandate from Rome. And who would fault him for doing all of that?
Well, for one, the King of England and all the other clerics who had signed that Declaration and who were unwilling to repudiate it. No doubt they would have spoken of Bishop Fisher as being some kind of "breakaway" or "rebel" or even "schismatic" bishop, and his priests as being mere vagrants, illicit, and without faculties or apostolic missions. Even as things were in actual history, Fr. Campion traveled from parish to parish, from diocese to diocese, exactly as though he were some vagrant, uncanonical priest, while in fact being one of the very few truly legitimate priests of the Church. But of course with the present advantage of 20-20 hindsight we now know that any such accusations had no validity. In such a case, Bishop John Fisher (and whatever bishops he consecrates to be his auxiliaries) would still be the lawful Catholic bishops in England, and their attached clergy would be the real lawful Catholic clergy as well.
In effect, all of England would become one single diocese, and all bishops and priests who remain loyal to Rome in refusing the Declaration would equally have faculties throughout this nationwide "diocese." Furthermore, having to work secretly and underground, the training of the new priests would have to be somewhat abridged, since a full blown seminary - in the classical sense as it existed before - would be impossible, thus resulting in some priests whose training would be more in that "school of hard knocks" of persecution than in the more civilized setting of a conventional Catholic seminary. It doesn't have to require some super duper canonist to see that such a response to such historical circumstances (had they occurred) would indeed be absolutely appropriate.
So when we look at the situation today, we see so many more similarities to that of England, plus a number of additional similarities to what would have happened there had only those couple of accidental historical circumstances differed from what actually happened. We see "priests" and "bishops" possessing the same Cathedrals, ruling over the same parishes, bound by the same former diocesan boundaries, all in the name of a branch known as the Novus Ordo which has separated itself from the Tree of the Church. They denounce those who did not defect from their offices in 1964 as being without faculties, vagrant, illicit, and so forth, again without validity.
But of key importance, see the ontological role of the Declaration of Royal Supremacy and also of Lumen Gentium. It is each of these documents that changed the nature of the groups who signed them from being the Church to being something else. In the case of England it was a change from being the "Church in England" to a brand new "Church of England" as free to wander off into error as a severed branch of a tree is free to fall to the ground, wholly other than the Church in England. In the case of today, it was a change from being one and the same as the Mystical Body of Christ, the real Roman Catholic Church, to being a brand new "catholic church" (more aptly named "conciliar church") within a portion of which "subsists" a portion of that Mystical Body of Christ which remains the authentic Roman Catholic Church.
Whenever the nature ("substance") of a thing changes, it is intrinsic that its accidents will also change. The Eucharist is an unusual exception to this in that it retains its accidents of seeming like bread and wine when it is in fact the Body and Blood (and Soul and Divinity) of our Lord Jesus Christ. But even here, Eucharistic miracles demonstrate the different nature between the consecrated Host and the unconsecrated host, as does the effects of grace conveyed only by those Hosts which truly are consecrated to be the Body and Blood of our Lord. But in everything else, to change the nature of a thing is also to change its accidents. When uranium changes into lead (through the natural process of radioactive decay), its chemical properties change as well. And when a new organization is created, though the entirety of the Church's material resources be committed to it, nevertheless it remains a different organization and as such must also demonstrate different accidents, the different liturgies, doctrines, disciplines, and practices.
This is what truly lies at the heart of why it is that everything changed after Vatican II (and also in England under Henry VIII and his successors other than Mary Tudor) despite the clear desires of many even in the clergy to keep things the same. When they signed that document (Declaration of Royal Supremacy at all, or Lumen Gentium with the intent of serving wholly the new office it created for them instead of pressing on in their former Apostolically appointed offices as only a few of its signers did, they transferred off the Barque of Peter and onto another boat sailing off in another direction. That some of them should lean over the railing facing that ever more and more distant Barque of Peter, hankering for their boat to take a more parallel course, the fact remains that they are on the wrong boat, and that is their entire problem.
Griff L. Ruby
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