Thursday, May 16, 2013
Vol. 24, no. 136

Definitive Definitions of the Mystical Body of Christ

    Following up part one of this series, it is time to further explore the wisdom of the brilliant late esteemed theologian Monsignor Joseph Clifford Fenton as he delineates the definitive definitions of who comprise the Mystical Body of Christ. He provides three such definitions and explains the sources and logic for such, dating back to 1602 in the clarification stemming from the counter-reformation that includes three basic types of definitions of the one and only true Church. First of all is the Communion of Saints, comprising the Church Triumphant, Church Suffering and Church Militant all joined to God through His divine Son; then the Church Militant in reference to both the Old and New Testament, and finally the Church Militant in respect to the New Covenant in the actual existence of Christ's visible Church. He emphasizes that this society, if you will, comes exclusively through the grace of God's calling one to true worship in anticipation of someday joining the saints in experiencing the Beatific Vision - our ultimate goal.

    In Catholic theology there can be many apparent contradictions that are not contradictions at all. Our Lord told Mary Magdalene not to touch Him after His Resurrection, because He had not yet ascended to His Father, yet has Thomas probe His wounds before His Ascension. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost are three Persons but one God is another apparent contradiction since 1 + 1 + 1 generally equals 3 instead of 1. The use of the term "generally" is meant to be amusing rather than relativistic. Math is a great subject because there is no gray area. Either the answer to the equation is true or it is false.

    Another apparent contradiction is the fact that the Catholic Church has definite boundaries and the fact that She has no boundaries. The boundaries are that one must be baptized, profess the faith and submit to the Pope in order to be a member of the Church. She has no boundaries in that she can be located anyplace where immortal souls are and that there are no intelligence requirements or restrictions on what age, gender or race can be a member of the Catholic Church. A third apparent contradiction, as Father Fenton will make very clear in this series is the fact that there is no salvation outside the Church and that non-members can be saved. It is this third apparent contradiction that we have been trying to clarify in these installments, begun earlier this month with On the Mystical Body of Christ ,. There are many other apparent contradictions ("all have sinned" but the Blessed Virgin Mary never sinned) that could be mentioned but that would get us off track. But an interesting link in this regard can be found at Contra Faustum, Book XI at New Advent.

    What we have hopefully learned so far is that what saves is sanctifying grace and that non-members of the Church can be in the state of sanctifying grace at the moment of death. To claim that a person who dies in a state of sanctifying grace is damned over a purported technicality would be unreasonable, but God and the Church He rules through are not unreasonable. The clear teachings on this issue will be reiterated authoritatively and infallibly in future installments.

    Some can be inwardly united to Christ, having a supernatural faith and perfect charity, and be "within" the Church, while at the same time not having the other prerequisites necessary to be actual members of that Church, such as submission to the Holy Father or Eternal Rome i.e. adhering to all that the Catholic Church binds on its faithful. Those who try to claim that those who are only inwardly united to Christ, by possessing the Theological Virtues, or for any other reason, are actual members of the Church by being members of the "soul" of the Church, do theology a disservice by making actual membership something that it is not, thereby reducing the axiom, no salvation outside the Church into a meaningless formula. For if anyone can be a member, despite not being baptized and or professing the faith, then the formula no salvation outside the Church would be meaningless because the axiom would in effect mean that there is no salvation outside the Church but everyone could be within it as bona fide members even though they are not baptized, do not profess the faith or submit to Eternal Rome.

    And what would the Church be if such were the case? It would be composed of a vast number of unprofessed Catholics. If such people were legitimate members of the Church baptism of desire would be meaningless as they would have already obtained the "membership" they desire. The unfortunate thing is that pre-Vatican 2 nihil obstat and imprimatered works have taught this. Father Fenton grants the point, holds it wholeheartedly himself, and shows that the Church herself does not teach what individual bishops have approved as not being contrary to the faith, as we will eventually see.

    Additionally we are trying to establish that it is not just any "desire" that puts one "within" the Church but a desire backed by a supernatural faith and perfect charity. Inculpable Ignorance itself neither saves nor damns anyone. A person can desire to go to New York but not do anything about it. "Boy I wish I were in New York. Oh well." Another person could desire to go to New York and do everything he can to get there. "I need to be in New York. What can I do to get there?" He might not know about planes, or where it is located, but he knows he needs to get there and does whatever he can to make it, whether he hitchhikes or asks everyone he passes in the street how to get there, or starts working so he can earn money for a ticket.

    So too, a man can desire to be in the Church, or desire to do whatever is necessary to be saved yet do nothing about it. While another can have the same desire and back up that desire by trying to the best of his ability to do what he believes is God's will. Avoiding sin to the best of his ability, studying scripture and trying to learn which Church Jesus found and where that Church is today. Such a person will not avoid "inconvenient" truths for fear that he will have to change his sinful lifestyle. Such a person only wants truth and will conform to God's will as he learns what it is, no matter how difficult this may be for him. God judges the heart, He knows our efforts, sincerity and whether we purposely engage in acts we believe to be against His will without repenting or not.

    So the following are what those who believe the infallible doctrine that non-members of the Church can be saved have in common with those who insist the card-carrying Roman Catholics and only card-carrying Catholics can possibly be saved.

    1. We accept the Dogma that there is no salvation outside the Church.

    2. We do not accept the "fact" that there are inward legitimate Catholics, real and true members of the Church, attached only to the "soul" of the Church but not the body. Those within the Church by desire have not obtained the membership they desire as there is no need to desire what you have obtained.

    3. We agree that a mere desire or wish to belong to the true Church is not enough to save anyone.

    4. We agree that invincible ignorance by itself does not save anyone.

    5. No one at all is saved by any false religion and all religions apart from the Catholic one (since the death of Christ) are false.

    6. We should agree that anyone who dies in a state of sanctifying grace obtains the Beatific Vision.

    Those who would claim that the infallible doctrine that teaches that non-members of the Church can be saved within the Church bases its teaching on false suppositions such as the reverse of the above six points need to eliminate such as legitimate objections. The baptism of blood and baptism of desire proponents, who understand what the Church teaches on the issue, agree with them on the six points above. The key point we disagree on, as far as I can tell, is that the Feeneyites insist you must be Catholic in order to be saved. That is the only thing that matters, sanctifying grace, supernatural faith and charity, invincible ignorance, not being culpable of mortal sin are all out the window, or impossible if you are not a card-carrying Catholic. If you are Catholic you can be saved, if you are not, there is no possible way you can be saved, unless you convert and are baptized before you die.

    Thus the Feeneyits have an "infallible" insight as to who is damned and who is not, with absolute assurance even though the Church herself only claims to know some who have been saved, and these are her pre-Vatican II canonized Saints. Judas the Iscariot is the only one holy Mother Church would admit to be damned with any sort of certainty. God's work is simple. On the Day of Judgment, God does not look into your heart but asks for your card. If you don't have a card that proves you are a Roman Catholic then the Hell with you. Our purpose in these articles is to prove that God is not the arbitrary Tyrant the Feeneyits, perhaps unwittingly, make Him to be.

    In the following article by Monsignor Fenton we continue to deepen our understanding of the Catholic Church. Here we explore precise definitions of the Church. The Church can be described accurately in many different ways. Like Christ Himself, the Church resides on earth and in Heaven; and as Christ Himself did, the members of His Body can suffer efficaciously for souls.

    Father begins his article below by extolling Pope Pius XII's encyclical Mystici Corporis:

    Ten years ago this month, on June 29th, 1943, to be exact, His Holiness Pope Pius XII issued the encyclical Mystici Corporis. The publication of this doctrinal instruction was providential, as any comparison between manuals of ecclesiology written prior to its appearance and the texts which have been printed during the last ten years will very easily attest. It is only fitting that Catholic theologians throughout the world should take cognizance of this anniversary, and try, on this occasion, to appreciate some of the great benefits God has granted to His kingdom on earth through this doctrinal letter of Our Lord's vicar on earth.

        The central pronouncement in the encyclical Mystici Corporis is to be found in the declaration that the expression "Mystical Body of Jesus Christ" is actually a definition of the Church. In the words of the Holy Father, "If we would define and describe this true Church of Jesus Christ - which is the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church - we shall find no expression more noble, more sublime, or more divine, than the phrase which calls it 'the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ.'"

        All of the rest of the purely doctrinal portion of the encyclical, the sections which deal with the concept of the Church as a "body," as "the body of Christ," and as "the Mystical Body of Christ," as well as the part which describes the union of the faithful with Our Lord, should thus be considered as directed towards a more perfect and detailed understanding of what is basically one of the great classical definitions of the true Church. And all of the pastoral exhortations which make up the remainder of the body of the encyclical are meant to warn the faithful against errors which would militate against their appreciation of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ and to encourage them to give to the Church the tribute of genuine, strong, and supernatural affection demanded by the bonds that join the Church and its members to Our Lord, the Head of the Mystical Body. All of this obviously revolves around the realization that the expression "Mystical body of Christ" is a real definition of the true Church of God.

        Although the Holy Father taught in his encyclical that the expression "Mystical Body of Jesus Christ" is a definition of the true Church, he neither said nor implied that it is the only genuine and accurate definition. Indeed, the literature of scholastic ecclesiology abounds in definitions of the Church, some of which have achieved the status of standard formulae over the course of the centuries. By calling attention to the fact that the expression "Mystical Body of Jesus Christ" is likewise a definition of the Church, and a definition of paramount importance and significance, our Holy Father Pope Pius XII offered to the theologians of the world the opportunity to show how the various types of definitions are mutually complementary and to explain how they combine to bring out the magnificently rich notion of the Church that is conveyed in divine supernatural revelation.

        The notion or concept of the Catholic Church, conveyed in God's supernatural message, is tremendously complex. This society is represented to us basically as the association or group within which alone we may find salvific contact with God in Jesus Christ Our Lord. It is the ecclesia sanctorum, the community or the communion of the Saints. Yet it is so constituted in this world that a man may be a member of it without actually living the divine and supernatural life of grace. It is truly a society instituted directly and immediately by Our Lord during the course of His public life in this world. At the same time, however, it is just as truly the continuation and the ultimate status here on earth of the supernatural kingdom of God which has been in existence, as the militant Church of God in Christ, since the days of our first parents. It lives as the militant company of Our Lord's disciples throughout the entire world. In the various cities and districts of the world its members gather to constitute organized individual families or households of the faith in Christ. Yet, at the same time, it is always in a condition of pilgrimage in this world and in its cities. Its ultimate and eternal home is to be found only in the courts of Heaven.

        It is precisely because of the complexity of and the wealth of meaning contained in this fundamental notion of the Catholic Church that the theologians have had to set forth many types of definitions of the Church. There are three main types of definitions which scholastic theology recognizes as applicable to the Church Militant. The first of these, the widest or most general kind of definition of the Church, applies to the entire company of those joined to God in Jesus Christ. It takes in the Church Triumphant in Heaven, the Church Suffering in Purgatory, and the Church Militant here on earth. The second variety of definition is restricted to the Church Militant, but it considers this company, not only according to its form and structure under the economy of the New Testament, but according to its conditions under the Old Dispensation also. The third type of definition explains only the Church Militant of the New Testament. Within this type there are several subdivisions, all of which contribute powerfully to the explanation of the basic notion of the Church, as this is brought out in the various names and figures used to designate the Church in the inspired books of the New Testament.

        These three basic types of definitions of the true Church of Jesus Christ have been in common use in sacred theology since the days of the great Jesuit theologian and controversialist, Gregory of Valentia (d. 1603). And, according to Gregory of Valentia, the broadest type of definition of the Church, the one which applies to this society as it lives in Heaven, in Purgatory, and on earth, is the formula describing it as "the multitude of those who have been gathered together by the grace of God's calling into the true worship of God and into the true and God-given knowledge of God, whether that knowledge be obscure, as it is in the case of the knowledge of the faith, or clear and manifest, as it is in the case of the blessed."

        There are, incidentally, certain standard definitions of the Church Triumphant, as distinct from the Church Suffering and the Church Militant. As St. Thomas Aquinas teaches "the Church, according to the status viae [the condition of those who are working towards the Beatific Vision, but who have not as yet actually arrived at it] is the congregation of the faithful (congregation fidelium). According to the status patriae, however [the condition of those who have already come to the homeland of heaven] it is the congregation of those who possess the Beatific Vision (congregation comprehendentium)." The Catechism of the Council of Trent, first published in 1566, defined the Church Triumphant as "the most glorious and happy assembly of the blessed spirits and of those who have overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil, and who enjoy eternal beatitude, free and safe from the troubles of this world." Both of these definitions obviously fit within the framework of the broadest type of definition of the Church enunciated by Gregory of Valentia.

        The most general or most inclusive type of definition, as it was formulated by Gregory of Valentia, is a description which correctly and effectively shows up the unity of all the persons who belong to the Church Triumphant, to the Church Suffering, and to the Church Militant. It speaks of all these persons as being really gathered or assembled together, that is, as constituting a genuine definite social unity. Likewise it speaks of these persons as being brought into their social unity "by the grace of God's calling." Thus it insists upon the basic fact that the assembly or congregation itself is definitely a reality of the supernatural order, something concerned, ultimately, with the intimate understanding and possession of God as He is in Himself, with the clear knowledge of the Triune God in the Beatific Vision.

        Since the unity of the social group is effected by the grace of God's calling, the adherence of any individual member, and, for that matter, of all the members, to the assembly itself is something ultimately due to a freely given and supernatural favor granted by God. There is absolutely no created intellectual nature, actual or possible, which could give its possessor the right to belong to this social unit. In other words, membership in this blessed company is not something which necessarily goes with membership in the human race or with the condition of an intellectual creature. Those who are privileged to belong to this assembly owe their blessing to the direct, supernatural, and gratuitous favor of God.

        The human beings who belong to this assembly have been called or summoned into it from out of another social entity, the fallen family of Adam. Analogously, the blessed angels who belong to the Church triumphant have been called to overcome the temptation to which they were subjected and thus to enter into the condition of eternal and supernatural glory. The same definition states the objective towards which the divine call or invitation has summoned the members of the Church, taken as a whole. This invitation is to the corporate activity of this company, considered as living and operating both in its heavenly homeland and in the place of its exile or pilgrimage. This objective is summed up in the phrase "into the true worship of God and into the true and God-given knowledge of God."

        The worship of God is basically a spiritual act, something within the general classification of justice. It consists in the payment of the debt of acknowledgement, recognition, and gratitude, which all creatures really owe to God by reason of His infinite excellence. God Himself has prescribed the outward manifestation or expression of this spiritual act for the men and women of this world, and the Church is the society to which alone this ritual of divinely authorized and divinely ordered manifest worship actually belongs. Hence the people gathered together supernaturally by God's call and by His grace are assembled for a life of worship, a life of devotion, prayer, sacrifice, and adoration in this world. This activity is meant by God to continue for all eternity in the affectionate, grateful, and ecstatic acknowledgement of God's goodness in Heaven.

        We can only understand this part of the definition when we advert to the fact that this worship of God by those who belong to the entire Church, in Heaven, in Purgatory, and on earth, is a corporate act. Obviously the service or acknowledgement of God by each of the men and angels within the entire ecclesia is his own individual act also, but the assembly itself, as such, is likewise a unit which worships God. This community worship centers around the royal and eternal sacrifice of Our Lord. The work of the Church, in Heaven, in Purgatory, and on earth, is eminently His work, His operation. Ultimately, that is why He is its eternal King.

        Finally, this definition offered by Gregory of Valentia speaks of the men and angels who belong to the Church as being called or summoned "into the true and God-given knowledge of God." It is interesting to note that most of the great scholastic theologians of earlier days limited themselves to a mention of this cognitive activity when they set out to describe in their definitions the characteristic function of the Church in Heaven and on earth. Thus, to cite only one example, the great fifteenth-century Dominican Cardinal John de Turrecremata, certainly one of the ablest and most influential ecclesiologists in all the history of Catholic theology, setting forth his own most extensive definition of the Church, designated it as "the entirety of all the faithful. Both those in the status viae and the men and angels who enjoy the Beatific Vision." Here Turrecremata uses the term "fidelis" to designate the Saints and the blessed angels in Heaven for two reasons. First, the Beatific Vision is granted only to those who finish the status viae in possession of divine and supernatural faith. Again, the Beatific Vision is the clear and perfect understanding of those realities which, in the status viae, can be apprehended with certainty only in the light of divine faith. Gregory of Valentia brought out the same truth in a slightly different way when he spoke of the "the true and God-given knowledge of God" as the objective towards which God has called His people, the members of His ecclesia, on earth and in Heaven.

        The most important fact to be garnered from the broadest type of definition of the true Church employed in the literature of Catholic theology is the truth that the blessed angels and the Saints in Heaven, together with the souls in Purgatory and the members of the Church Militant on earth, actually constitute a single definite and genuine social unit, in and through Jesus Christ Our Lord. All of these people have been empowered to call God their Father, in a special and supernatural way. All of them are brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ and of each other.

        Thus the Church Militant, in the final analysis, is not merely a society existent in this world. It is one section or part of a society which finds its true and eternal home only in the supernatural glory of Heaven. Its activity is something which is meant to find everlasting and glorious continuation in heaven. It is that section of the great brotherhood which is still in the period of trial, of struggle, of suffering, and of preparation, awaiting the fulfillment which will come only in the Beatific Vision itself.

        The second type of definition commonly employed in the literature of scholastic theology is that which considers the Church Militant alone, as distinct from the Church Triumphant and the Church Suffering, but which takes in the Church Militant as a whole, without explicitly adverting to the difference in status between the ecclesia Dei of the New Testament and that of the Old Dispensation. According to this type of definition, the Church is usually described as the congregation fidelium, the convocation or assembly of the faithful. Such was the terminology commonly employed by some of the earliest and most distinguished of the scholastic ecclesiologists, men like Moneta of Cremona (d. 1235), St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274), and Alvaro Pelay (d. 1349). The expression collection catholicorum, which Thomas Netter of Walden and other early scholastic theologians took from the Decretum of Gratian and employed as a definition of the true Church, was used as something identical in meaning with the form congregation fidelium. As a matter of fact, Turrecremata used both expressions as a definition. He likewise defined the Church militant as "the company (universitas) of the faithful, gathered together for the worship of the true God, in the profession of the one faith."

        The one faith, in terms of which the Church was defined and its members designated as "the faithful," was always faith in Our Lord. This aspect of the basic theological teaching about the Catholic Church is brought out very well in the definition offered by the Bishop of Avila, the famed Alphonsus Tostatus (d. 1455). Tostatus defined the Church as "the entire multitude of all the men believing in Christ."

        The man who has studied the history of ecclesiology during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is well aware of the controversy among theologians of that period about the actual import of the term "faithful" as it entered into the definition of the true Church. There were some (and Tostatus was of their number), who tended to define and describe the true Church in terms of the possession of the Catholic faith. There were others who, likewise setting out to define the Church in function of its membership, fashioned their definitions in such a way as to take cognizance of the fact that a man becomes and remains a member of the Church, not precisely by reason of his possession, but of his profession of the true divine faith. It is interesting to note that the definition of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ, made and explained by Pope Pius XII, carries with it the definitive resolution of this extremely important debate.

          According to the Mystici Corporis, "In Ecclesiae autem embris reapse ii soli annumerandi sunt, qui regenerationis lavacrum receperunt veramque fidem profitentur, neque a Corporis compage semet ipsos misère separarunt, vel ob gravissima admissa a legitima auctoritate seiuncti sunt".

          Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed. (English Translation from internet - not necessarily Father Fenton's translation, as here he only provides the Latin - J.G.)

        The central teaching brought out in the definitions of the Church Militant in general, prescinding from the conditions of the Old Dispensation and the New, is the fact that the faith, in the profession of which a man is designated as one of the fideles, has been essentially the same since the grace of God was first offered to men after the sin of our first parents. As the theologians of the golden age never ceased to remind their readers, the faith which was requisite for all men after the fall of Adam was always a perfectly certain acceptance of God's supernatural revelation about His Son. In the days prior to the Incarnation, the faith that was the beginning of salvation was an acceptance of the supernatural divine teaching about the Redeemer who was to come. After the manifestation of Christ Our Lord it has been and it will remain until the end of time, the certain acceptance of the divine revelation about the Redeemer who has appeared.

        During the period of the Old Alliance, new items of information were added from time to time to the revealed message itself. Since the death of the last of the Apostles, however, there have been, and until the end of time there will be, no further additions to the body of truth revealed to us by God about His Son. Nevertheless, it was true under the Old Dispensation that "Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved."

        The most important definitions of the Church, from the standpoint of theological controversy, have always been those which applied exclusively to the Church Militant of the New Testament. Classical expressions of this type of definition are the formulae employed by Dominigo Bannez and St. Robert Bellarmine. The former defined the Church Militant of the New dispensation as "the visible congregation of the baptized faithful, under one Head, Christ, in Heaven, and under His Vicar on earth." St. Robert produced what has been by all means the most widely used formula for this sort of definition when he described the Church as "the assembly of men united in the profession of the same Christian faith and in the communion of the same sacraments, under the rule of legitimate pastors, and in particular, that of the one Vicar of Christ on earth, the Roman Pontiff.

        Definitions of the type offered by Bannez and St. Robert have frequently been subject to adverse criticism by writers who have not taken the trouble to investigate the purpose of these formulae. It is sometimes objected against them that they failed to take cognizance of the really important and spiritual elements of the Church in their definitions of this society. It was this attitude towards the teachings of St. Robert Bellarmine which eventually resulted in the development of a notion of an "invisible Church" within the theological systems of otherwise acceptable Catholic writers. Consequently, it was precisely this tendency which rendered the writing of the encyclical Mystici Corporis imperative in our own day.

        The main point which the student of sacred theology must bear in mind about definitions such as those of Bannez and St. Robert is the fact that these men were engaged in the absolutely necessary task of formulating what may be called an identifying definition of God's supernatural kingdom on earth. The question which they wanted to answer most explicitly in their formulae was this: "what body of people here on earth now constitute this supernatural kingdom of God?" Their definitions answered that question with complete clarity and exactness.

        On the other hand, the entire theology of the Mystical Body is contained implicitly although still really and correctly in these definitions. Thus, when Bannez speaks of "the visible congregation of the baptized faithful," he is acknowledging that the kingdom of God on earth is made up of people who have been incorporated into Christ through the sacrament of faith. He is taking cognizance of the fact that men enter the true Church by being associated with Our Lord, dying and being buried to the old life of sin, characteristic of the "world," and rising to the new life of grace which alone should be lived in the company of Christ.

        When he speaks of men being united or joined under Our Lord, he is adverting to the fact that the essential activity of the Church, directed and supported by Our Lord, is the integral work of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. And, when he mentions subjection to the Roman Pontiff as essential to membership in the Church, he is reminding his readers the mystery of the Church in this world is to be found precisely in the fact of its visibility.

        These great theologians and apologists of another day never for a moment lost sight of the fact that the great and supernaturally merciful dispensations of God to man are to be found precisely along the line of this visibility. They never forgot that the world would never be particularly astonished or offended by the truth that an invisible God exists. What the world will not recognize is the truth that this individual man, one who worked, was tired, and was crucified, is actually the Incarnate Word of God, the Second Person of the blessed Trinity. Likewise the wor[l]d [sic] would never take a great deal of umbrage at the fact that there is some association of men with God here on earth. What astonishes and displeases it is the divinely revealed truth that this association really is the visible society it knows, the religious society over which the Bishop of Rome presides as the visible head, in his capacity as the true and authorized Vicar of Jesus Christ. This was the truth men like Bannez, Stapleton, and St. Robert Bellarmine strove to bring out in their definitions.

        The theologians of an older day knew well how to handle such definitions effectively. Thus the Dominican Vincent Contenson used what was in fact a twofold definition of the Church Militant of the New Testament. He set out explicitly to prove that the definition of the Church as "the legitimate congregation of Christ's faithful" was applied correctly only to "the Roman Church, or the congregation of Christians obedient to the Roman Pontiff. Nicholas Turlot, writing in catechetical form about the same time, towards the middle of the seventeenth century, made this procedure even more explicit.

      Q. What is the only true and legitimate Church?

      A. It is the congregation of all the baptized, professing the faith and the doctrine of Christ, which is governed by the one and supreme head and pastor after Christ on this earth, the Roman Pontiff.

      Q. What congregation is this?

      A. It is the congregation and assembly into a Church of those whom God, in His mercy and through the work of the preachers and doctors, has called together to worship Him and to possess an accurate knowledge of the eternal truths, by faith in this life, and in the next by the clear and Beatific Vision of God Himself.

        The function of these two definitions of the Church Militant of the New Testament in the writings of Contenson and of Turlot was, in the last analysis, to bring out the objective identity of the concepts of "the Roman Catholic Church" and "the true Church of Jesus Christ." The type of definition set forth by Bannez and St. Robert defined the true Church by pointing out the salient characteristics of the Roman Catholic Church. The type of definition offered by Turlot as the answer to the second of the questions cited immediately above illustrates the intimate nature of the Roman Catholic Church by indicating some of the characteristics of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ.

        Ultimately, it would seem that this was the great contribution which Pope Pius XII has made to the field of sacred theology in our time by his issuance of the encyclical Mystici Corporis ten years ago this very month. Just as men have always been prone to close their eyes to the paramount fact that the same Christ who walked the roads of Judea, and Samaria and Galilee was the Incarnate Word of God, the God Who created and Who preserves all things in the universe, they have also been tempted to overlook the outstanding truth that this visible society, with its bad members mingled with the good, is actually the kingdom of the living God on this earth.

        It is the glory of Pius XII that, in our days, he has combatted this evil tendency most effectively, and has brought out in a uniquely effective way the characteristics which belong to the Catholic Church by reason of the fact that this visible society is definable as "the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ." (JOSEPH CLIFFORD FENTON, The Catholic University of America, Washington, D. C. June, 1953)

    Oh, where are the Fr. Fentons of today? In such clear terms and relying on the inspiration and deductional logic of great theologians of the Church, he has clearly defined what the Mystical Body of Christ is and where she can be found. You'll note the Mystici Corporis is not in the Protestant churches down the street, not in the Jewish synagogues scattered throughout the cities, not in the mosques veiled in so much suspicion today, not in Mormon tabernacles, not in the Buddhist or Hindhu temples, not in the new age auditoriums, and, yes, not even in the man-made conciliar church formed at Vatican II which, by said definitions above, would not qualify for membership any more than the Anglican Church which broke away from the Mystical Body of Christ in the 16th Century. In truth, the church formed at Vatican II did the very same. I recommend reading Griff Ruby's most recent series on where the Church truly exists today.

    It is the membership in the true Church, in this Mystical Body of Christ which I will treat next before exploring further the dogmatic decree Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus - "No Salvation Outside the Church" in subsequent installments.

John Gregory

        "Catholics who remain faithful to Tradition, even if they are reduced to but a handful, they are THE TRUE CHURCH"
        Saint Athanasius, "Apostle of Tradition" AD 373

Thursday, May 16, 2013
Vol. 24, no. 136