October 31, 2005
vol 16, no. 274

Grace and the Subsistent Superchurch

Part Three of a Series on
Clarification about Graces outside the Church

Airtight logic on what the authors and signers of Lumen Gentium really intended. No ifs, no is, no subsists, no buts about it!

      "This also authoritatively answers the question, sometimes put to us at odd hours, of where our jurisdiction, for example to hear confessions or witness marriages, actually comes from. We, the real subsistent Superchurch, the visible Mystical Body of Christ, the real Roman Catholic Church, simply continue to possess the jurisdiction we have always had since the birth of our New Covenant at Pentecost in 33 A. D. We have no need of "supplied jurisdiction" (which we certainly would have had if, per impossible, the present situation or anything like it could somehow have arisen without "subsists in"); we already have something far better. And we have been formally, publicly, and explicitly delegated jurisdiction by no less or other than by the very selfsame document that also brought about such a tremendous dissolution of the Church's visible structures, reducing them to the absolute bare minimum."

    Let us dive straight in with something written by another one of my correspondents:

    "In the order of ens reale (real being), things can exist in either a substantial or an accidental way. Anything existing accidentally exists in and of a substantially existing thing. When I talk of a red apple, redness is an accident of the substance "apple." We do not see redness floating around by itself, it is entirely dependant upon the substantial existence of the apple. It seems clear to me that what the Council Fathers intended (though I do disagree with the way they said it - they should have said is) was the idea that, although the Church of Christ "subsists in" or exists in a substantial way in the Catholic Church, we also find accidental traces of the Church of Christ outside the visible bounds of the Catholic Church as well. But, just as any accident is totally dependant upon the substance whose accident it is, so too, any of these accidental traces are dependant upon the substantial existence of the Church of Christ i.e. the Catholic Church. The documents even state this - they refer to the fact that any grace outside the Church has its source in the Catholic Church."

    OK, there are several problems in this passage, not the least of which is getting the definition of "subsists" absolutely backwards. Let us refer to the correct definition: "Subsists" is defined as "that perfection whereby a being is capable of existing in itself." (Catholic Encyclopaedic Dictionary, Donald Attwater - General Editor, New York, The Macmillan Company, (c. 1941), pg. 507). While everything that exists, exists (obviously!), there are only some very few and special things that exist in this special mode of existence known as subsistence. And the definition makes it quite clear that if something subsists, then its existence is in no way dependent upon anyone or anything else. All of its sources of food or power or whatever it could ever need are already entirely contained within itself.

    In the above quote from my correspondent, the subsisting Church is equated with the redness of an apple, and the thing subsisted in is equated with the apple itself. That interpretation gives more reality to a mere human-made organization than there is to the Mystical Body of Christ, complete with its unique capacity to save souls. Furthermore, that illustration even breaks down on the fact that other fruits in the basket could also possess the same exact shade of red as the apple, and most interestingly, would doubtless continue to do so even if the apple were altogether removed.

    No, if anything it is the other way around; it is as given in the Catholic Encyclopaedic Dictionary. It is the thing that does the subsisting which exists without depending on any "apple" for its existence or reality. To "subsist" therefore is to be something far more foundational, basic, and fundamental, that "substratum" upon which the existence of other things depends but which itself depends upon none of them. It is to be the "apple" itself, and not the mere redness thereof. The Church continues to exist no matter what other organizations man can create or destroy, and it necessarily always has a formal and visible reality to it. The apple continues to exist no matter what color is spray-painted on it.

    But some things just seem to be hard to see for some. I feel as if I am having to beat a dead horse here, indeed for some it is obviously necessary for me to continue beating the poor creature until it liquefies and soaks into the ground. If that is the case, well then so be it. Let the pounding begin.

    Both of my correspondents (and apparently many others) still have trouble seeing just what's wrong with trying to pretend that "subsists in" could in any way be any form of "is," maybe very badly stated as my above quoted correspondent stated (he got that right anyway, very badly stated indeed, whatever it is saying in any case), but couldn't one somehow shoehorn one phrase into the other word? No you can't, not even with an infinite amount of mental gymnastics. There simply is no way to "get there from here."

    Go back to the original teaching of the Church: The Mystical Body of Christ IS the Roman Catholic Church. This is what is known as absolute identity. By the same sort of absolute identity, one can say that Jesus Christ IS the Son of God, or "3" IS "three." The mode of expression varies, but the thing referred to is the exact selfsame identical thing by whichever way it is referred to. In nearly every context, one can therefore substitute one expression for the other.

    So, for example, if one says that "Jesus Christ was born of a virgin," then one has also said that "The Son of God was born of a virgin." Likewise, if one says that "The Son of God died on the Cross to pay for our sins," likewise "Jesus Christ died on the Cross to pay for our sins." You see here how "the Son of God" as an expression can be substituted in all places for "Jesus Christ," and vice versa. The only exception to that would be where one is discussing the phrase itself instead of what or who (or Who, as it is in this case) the various phrases refer to. An example of that would be "His name is Jesus," or "His title is the Son of God (among other titles, such as King of Kings, etc.)" In that one sort of example we are speaking, not of the Divine Personage Himself, but of the mere phrases being used in referring to Him. But in all other contexts, the two phrases can always be substituted one for the other.

    Now, Lumen Gentium opens up with nearly eight paragraphs describing in some considerable detail what has theologically always been referred to as "the Mystical Body of Christ." So although that particular phrase may occur only once in all that (as I write this I don't claim to have gone back and counted), and quite some paragraphs back, I will, for ease of nomenclature, and to illustrate my point, simply use the phrase "the Mystical Body of Christ" itself as a substitute for that entire seven and a half paragraphs. If the reader desires, he may substitute the entire opening section of Lumen Gentium in his mind whenever I refer herein to "the Mystical Body of Christ," and indeed at some future point herein I will ask him to do so.

    So, in effect, Lumen Gentium is saying "The Mystical Body of Christ subsists in the Roman Catholic Church." Many people still seem to think, well, what's wrong with that? Can't it still mean something true and Catholic? But recall that the de fide teaching is that the Mystical Body of Christ IS the Roman Catholic Church. It is the thing itself and not the expression for referring to it that Lumen Gentium is talking about. Therefore one expression may be substituted for the other. Let us see what happens when we do this: "The Mystical Body of Christ subsists in the Mystical Body of Christ." Yeuch! And the other way is no better: "The Roman Catholic Church subsists in the Roman Catholic Church." And if that's not enough, let's make it personal: Picture if you will, someone actually advancing the claim (as a theological truth) that "Our Lord Jesus Christ subsists in our Lord Jesus Christ." Could anything possibly be more ridiculous and absurd, and even self-contradictory, perhaps even blasphemous?

    "OK," one might say, what about saying that a person's spirit exists in his body" (or vice versa)? (Within the context of this illustration, with our human bodies and spirits, we ought to use "exists" instead of "subsists" since neither the spirit nor the body of a man subsists, in that the body is dependant upon food and water and air etc., and the spirit is likewise dependant upon God for its continued existence.) Well, maybe someone could say that. But in this case you don't have to contend with some previous teaching of the Church to the effect that "A man's spirit IS his body." Such a thing has never been taught, nor could it be. A man's spirit IS NOT his body. His body IS NOT his spirit. But either one of spirit or body can indeed "exist in" the other.

    Mr. Ferrara, in the second installment of his anti-Catholic slag piece, rightly admits that "One would never say that Mr. Smith subsists in the man who lives at 124 Maple Street." No, one wouldn't, Mr. F. And even more so, no one would ever, even then, go on to add that "however, bits and pieces of Mr. Smith also subsist in various other men and women living all up and down Maple Street, and also on Elm Street."

    Can anyone even now not get it? If the Mystical Body of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church are one and the selfsame identical entity (as the Church indeed infallibly teaches, then the Vatican II document is explicitly denying a tautology. For those who may be unfamiliar with that technical philosophical term "tautology" means anything that refers to itself, and is therefore the one thing that not even the most terminally extreme philosophical doubters would ever dare to try to refute: A table IS a table. A house IS a house. A table IS NOT a house. A table can "exist in" a house, but to say, for example, that a table IS a house, or that a house IS NOT a house, would be what I call denying a tautology.

    The denial of a tautology is what is otherwise known as a self-contradiction. But of course there are other ways to contradict oneself, just less obvious and direct. It would not surprise me if it should turn out that all heresy is self-contradictory, but just in ways that are much more indirect and not easy to recognize. On the one hand the heretic affirms that Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary but on the other he denies that Mary is sinless. If each of those claims were to be fully explored in all of their ramifications, one would have to see that either one, if taken as an absolute, together with all of the ramifications it necessarily implies, would constitute proof positive that the other is false. So some heresies may simply be more directly self-contradictory than others.

    So, now we get to the heresy question. Since the Lumen Gentium's "subsists in" statement is so blatantly self-contradictory, what therefore could have been meant by it? I understand, and can even appreciate and slightly respect the charity with which some Catholic-at-Heart Conservative Novus Ordo believers might nevertheless try to shoehorn "subsists in" into some bizarre special form of "is," but as shown above, such a interpretation is simply not grammatically possible under any circumstances. The Vatican II document, despite its many other weaknesses and ambiguities, is decisively and most decidedly unambiguous on that one point.

    But I know they try because they know that the Mystical Body of Christ is the Roman Catholic Church and they know that the Church could never deny that teaching. So they put on their rose-colored glasses and pretend that the document doesn't say what it really says and somehow just gloss over what it does say, ignoring also the implications seen in later V-2 documents that are based directly on Lumen Gentium's notion that the Mystical Body of Christ and the Catholic Church are in fact not the same thing at all but two distinct and separate entities. In a misplaced charity they don't want to think ill of the V-2 fathers, and that alone accounts for their attempt to avoid facing the obvious.

    But is it really a heresy? Others have taken that tack. Could one convict (in some sort of heresy trial, I suppose) those who promulgated "subsists in" of the crime of heresy? I can easily allow Mr. Ferrara to have his point that quite possibly the proving of personal guilt of heresy might not be attained. But if such were to be taken as an attempt to teach doctrine (rather than merely discipline), even an indirect heresy, of the sort requiring several, or even a great many, steps to see the heretical self-contradiction of, would still be proof positive that the Divine charism of infallibility did not apply to that council. It would constitute evidence of Divine authority having been lost at some previous point which must then be sought. However I have not been able to identify any such point that will hold up, and especially not any that would also explain just where the Church IS, if obviously not in the Vatican anymore.

    However, instead of proving that "subsists in" is a heresy, I have taken the opposite tack. I sought an understanding of it which would not be heretical, one which the Church could legitimately mean by such a statement. By moving the whole question out of the realm of whether "subsists in" is heretical I escape the "criminal trial" context in which the accused is innocent until proven guilty. I move the whole question into something more like a "civil trial" context, in which case I need only have a better case than the opposition. It would be like going from having to prove that some land owner is guilty of some serious crime that would warrant his land being confiscated, to merely having to show that his lease on the property has expired. In seeking a non-heretical interpretation of "subsists in" I found another understanding, a disciplinary one, and as such non-heretical.

    It does take some mental gymnastics to find that one and only way to reconcile such a statement with Catholic Truth, but not all that much. But in finding that reconciliation one also finds a number of other juridical "side effects" of great significance, including even the ability to explain just what happened to our Church, where it went, where it is to be found today, and why we can continue to trust it as much as always, at least once we have correctly ascertained just precisely what is, and what is not, the real Church today.

    For there is something else besides the heretical self-contradiction that "subsists in" could mean, and in fact does. Recall that what the V-2 fathers really wanted to do was to extend the quality of being a saving power in the world to the other churches and religions. They wanted to do this by attempting a separation between the interior, spiritual, invisible, Mystical Body aspects of the Church from the exterior, civil, legal, and visible institution which they were the leaders of. If they had been the least bit theologically savvy they would have at once realized that such a thing simply cannot be done, for the interior and exterior aspects of the Church are one and the same, necessarily and intrinsically co-extensive.

    In common grammatical usage, when one denies a tautology, one really means to use the words, or one of them, in a different sense, referring to different things. In this case it really means that they were either referring to some new and different Mystical Body of Christ or else some new and different Catholic Church (or both). I think we can exclude any further consideration of there being any question of there being a new Mystical Body of Christ, at least within the scope of Lumen Gentium itself, as it was far too well described in its opening seven and a half paragraphs. However, just as a heretic might set out only to redefine God but not to redefine Man, but later on ends up redefining Man as well, the Council first redefined only the Catholic Church as some limited thing only partially and passively "subsisted in" by the Superchurch which is the Mystical Body of Christ in Lumen Gentium, but in later documents also ended up attempting a redefiniton of the Superchurch itself to include other religions. But at first, in Lumen Gentium itself, they are only talking about a new and different "catholic church," presumably consisting of the exterior and civil and legal and material aspects of what was formerly the Catholic Church, obviously forgetting that the real, subsisting Catholic Church also necessarily has its own exterior and visible structures.

    Mankind has created many churches, even "catholic" churches. The Protestants were originally known as "Protesting Catholics," the Utrecht church still calls itself the "Old Catholic Church," and some portions of it even call themselves the "Old Roman Catholic Church," and some East Orthodox and High Church Anglicans also call themselves "catholic." So why couldn't a new "catholic church," to be subsisted in by the Mystical Body of Christ which is the real Catholic Church, be created in 1964? And the mere founding of new organizations is perfectly natural to the Church, as that happens every time a new religious order or congregation or society is founded. So the only "mental gymnastics" needed to interpret "subsists in" in a truly Catholic manner consistent with all teachings is to regard the so-called "catholic church" being subsisted in by the real Catholic Church to be some new organization they are creating, and to which Lumen Gentium is its founding "constitution," and later V-2 documents the further bylaws of that new organization alone. Now, in that understanding, there is no self-contradiction and the "subsists in" statement makes perfect sense and is fully in accord with Catholic doctrine.

    But obviously this means that the "subsistent Superchurch," as some call it, is not their organization but rather something that only partially exists within part of their organization, and also has parts of it existing elsewhere. And it is this subsistent Superchurch which is the dispenser of sanctifying Grace in the earth, this subsistent Superchurch which is essential to salvation, from outside of which no salvation can be obtained.

    But what exactly does this Superchurch consist of? For there are two such superchurches (in addition to the new Vatican institution, their new "catholic church" which is merely subsisted in by the Superchurch), one real and one fictitious. Lumen Gentium merely creates a new Vatican institution (calling it a "catholic church") but describes the Superchurch that subsists in it as merely what the Mystical Body of Christ is and has always been. It is in later documents that attempts are made to redefine the Superchurch into being all the other religions with which they get all warm and fuzzy and ecumenical with.

    All documents after Lumen Gentium are products, not of the real Catholic Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, the subsistent Superchurch, but of the mere man-made new Vatican institution which, being merely subsisted in by the Superchurch but not that Superchurch itself, possesses no infallibility and as such is perfectly capable of teaching error. So even though many of the errors that occur in all the later documents of Vatican II could probably be explained away, if one uses enough mental gymnastics, there is no obligation to do so, and nothing to stop some things within those remaining documents from being utterly beyond any possible explaining away, but irrefutably erroneous.

    So, when those remaining documents attempt to re-interpret the Superchurch as being some mish mash of East Orthodox, Protestants, Jews, Moslems, Buddhists, and so forth, none of that need be taken seriously at all. At most one sees expanded out in far more detail, what was meant by "subsists in" from which some general points may indeed be gleaned. For just as there is a fictitious "superchurch" consisting of all manner of schismatics, heretics, Jews, pagans, apostates, and infidels, there also exists the real Superchurch founded by Christ all those centuries ago, consisting exclusively of Catholics who believe and uphold all that the Church has always taught, maintaining that one and the same religion founded by Jesus Christ so long ago.

    Go back to part 2 of this three-part series and reread the extract of Unitatis Redintegratio together with my comments on the same, but this time, instead of trying to apply it to the Protestants and other schismatics and heretics that document speaks of, and who could never really be sources or channels of sanctifying Grace and infallible Truth, now try applying it to traditional Catholic orders subsisting outside the modernist's new organization. For indeed a more accurate and meaningful application of "subsists in," as a formal delegation of lawful authority and jurisdiction and faculties to traditional Catholics, would be difficult to come up with.

    I grant that such an application of Unitatis Redintegratio quotes it out of context, but as it was a subsequent document to Lumen Gentium it need not be followed or believed. But as it was also promulgated on the same day as Lumen Gentium it also reflects much of their mind set as they wrote and published Lumen Gentium, and what they really intended, in many more of its ramifications, by "subsists in." They really did intend to extend Catholic jurisdiction, the power of confecting sanctifying Grace, and infallible Truth, to religious communities and orders and congregations who are in no way answerable to their leadership and in no way obliged ever to submit to it. Though they heretically intended this to be for those non-Catholic bodies, traditional Catholics are the only possible beneficiaries of it. How fortunate, indeed Providential, that the first such document promulgated (Lumen Gentium) named no particular groups as beneficiaries. But then of course that is merely because Catholic infallibility still applied.

    It is therefore we traditional Catholics who comprise the real subsistent Superchurch, as portions of our Church subsist within the new Vatican institution (in the form of the Indult, and whatever few remaining Eastern Rites may not have as yet been corrupted) while other portions subsist outside as the SSPX, the SSPV, the CMRI, the Trento priests, and so many other orders and still other so-called "independent" clergy and their attached faithful all around the world.

    This also authoritatively answers the question, sometimes put to us at odd hours, of where our jurisdiction, for example to hear confessions or witness marriages, actually comes from. We, the real subsistent Superchurch, the visible Mystical Body of Christ, the real Roman Catholic Church, simply continue to possess the jurisdiction we have always had since the birth of our New Covenant at Pentecost in 33 A. D. We have no need of "supplied jurisdiction" (which we certainly would have had if, per impossible, the present situation or anything like it could somehow have arisen without "subsists in"); we already have something far better. And we have been formally, publicly, and explicitly delegated jurisdiction by no less or other than by the very selfsame document that also brought about such a tremendous dissolution of the Church's visible structures, reducing them to the absolute bare minimum.

    Our traditional priests and bishops are "visible elements," that is to say, hierarchical members of the Roman Catholic Church, with the power and authority to do all that is necessary for the continuance of the Church until the end of time, and the duty to evangelize the whole world. No matter how daunting that task seems, God has not given us a duty we cannot carry out. Therefore we CAN carry it out and we will. The sooner we begin working together to bring that about the sooner more souls can be saved and the sooner the present crisis can be brought to an end.

    There is therefore not the least reason to have any fears or doubts over whether or not our priest's confessions are valid and that our marriages are validly witnessed before the eyes of the Church and God and Man. And so even the modernist Vatican demonstrated when it asked no repeat marriages or confessions of those who joined it in Campos back in 2002. So we can altogether ignore the blatherings of those self-appointed armchair lay pseudo-canonists who claim that traditional clergy have no faculties and like nonsense. Even were the modernist Vatican to attempt to pass some law denying Catholic clergy faculties, their own "higher law" of Vatican II has already overruled any such thing. And there is no evidence they have ever attempted it. These lay pseudo-canonists say what they say in sheer defiance of common sense, logic, truth, and even of their own supposed authority figures, the modernists at the Vatican.

    So come to the traditional Catholic Church and receive all manner of teaching, guidance and spiritual direction, and all sacraments as befits your state of life, in the confident and serene assurance that your sins are forgiven, your marriages truly blessed, your soul prepared to meet your Maker, and your sons being made into real and valid and lawful priests of His Church, One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. "Be not afraid!" a former Vatican leader once said, and with that I can absolutely agree.

    Anyway, my having learned some of this deeper meaning of "subsists" as quoted above has been a noticeable boon to my theory and allowed me to deepen and enrich it. This is what I call theological progress on my part, and any further important theological information that can be brought to bear upon my thesis is most certainly of interest and value to me, and as already seen here, can and will result in further development and refinement of my thesis, and for that I am eternally grateful to those who have provided me with important information. I am even grateful for any serious objections as might be found, for it is in the trial by fire of such objections that my theory gains strength and stature.

    Thank you all for reading and for your inputs.

Griff L. Ruby

Griff's book is available from Books for $26.95 or can be read on-line at We at The Daily Catholic strongly urge you to share it with all you can for that could be the gentle shove that moves your friends back to where the True Faith resides forever, rooted in the Truths and Traditions of Holy Mother Church as Christ intended and promised.

    Griff Ruby's STRAIGHT STUFF
    October 31, 2005
    Volume 16, no. 274