In 1968, Francis Joseph (or "Frank" or "F. J.") Sheed published a book titled "Is It the Same Church?" Recall the times. Vatican II had just directly damaged the entire dogmatic structure of Roman Catholic belief. Everything else was crumbling into ruin faster than the things to be ruined could listed by name: from the Liturgy to the Sacraments, to how all the catechisms were being either substantially rewritten or outright replaced, and to devotions one and all being mocked and done away with or at least relegated to obscure times and places frequented only by little old ladies with a lot of time on their hands. It was a time when everything was up for grabs, and Faith itself called into question.
It was all a great mystery which brought great torment to the conscience of every serious Catholic. Here was "the Church" suddenly doing all the things God promised that His Church could never do, and doing them all with a vengeance! To the world, it was as if the lampstand of God was taken away and even all the non-Catholics were affected, losing their sense of direction. And seeing it all, having long lived before such a time, Frank Sheed also pondered the mystery, and knew that many others also pondered it. "Is It the Same Church?" written in 1967 but published in 1968, is the result.
One must bear in mind that at the time, barely any traditional Catholics had even begun to organize in even the least ways. There were, however, some few who would later become much better known and who were already beginning to see some glimmer of the truth of their era. These were men such as:
Fr. Francis E. Fenton who founded the Orthodox Roman Catholic Movement (ORCM) in 1970. By 1979, ORCM had 11 priests offering the true Mass in 16 states.
- Fr. Gommar A. De Pauw (11 October 1918 - 6 May 2005) who officially founded what he then called the "Catholic Traditionalist Movement,"
- Patrick Henry Omlor who was already investigating the question of the validity of the latest (1967) "canons" of the Mass being published as "supplementary alternatives" to the Canon as yet still being published in the Missals, and
- Eric de Saventhem who founded Una Voce.
In Francis Sheed's book, he puts out the challenge time and time again, as if daring the modernists to cross the line. But as subsequent events have unfolded, they always did cross the lines, which makes for an interesting answer to that question, per the way he poses it in his book:
What has suddenly become an issue overnight is not simply the Church's right to refuse the sacraments to people who divorce and remarry, for instance, or practice artificial birth control, but her right to give us laws at all in the field of morals. In an extreme form this means that it is for everyone to apply the general principles of divine Revelation to each situation as it confronts him. Less extreme is the view of those who accept Christian morality as it now stands, but feel that in a given instance it must be modified, that there are no moral laws - Christ's or any other - binding in every circumstance.
If the Church came to accept this view even in its less extreme form, it would really be no longer the same Church - neither the Church we have grown up in, nor the Church we find in the New Testament. (Page 27)
Well, as anyone familiar with the whole Novus Ordo approach to moral issues amply knows, such "situational ethics" are the universally accepted norm, taught in all their "seminaries" and "universities." On pages 122-123, while summarizing the whole problem posed by the rise of ecumenism, he asks again, "Is it the same Church? We may be clearer about that as our inquiry proceeds. Let us for the moment agree that it does not look quite the same, or feel quite the same."
True enough, things don't look or feel quite the same, but have that same sort of disturbing difference as is found between how a live person looks and feels, versus a corpse. Later still, he puts the question out to his readers again:
There really is a crisis of faith, though the Vatican Council did not discuss it. There are two main elements in it, the dropping out continues, perhaps at an accelerated pace. What is new is the number of Catholics who hold themselves free to differ from Pope and Council but do not drop out.
The first element, the falling away, we shall discuss at length later: we must balance against it the effect of the congregation's share in the vernacular Mass - which means that those who do stay in are closer than they have ever been to the uttered mind of the Church at its deepest. [Recall that when he was writing, the Novus Ordo "mass" had not been published as yet, so whatever vernacular would have been heard - not counting rarely-used vernacular supplements to the Missal being published right then - would have been translations, however poor, of the authentic Roman Catholic Mass.] We cannot read the future: the falling away might grow to a flood, and the Church reduced everywhere - might dwindle very much indeed. She would have to re-think her redemptive functioning. Yet she could still be the same Church.
Whereas if she accepts the presence within her of men who deny teachings to which she has committed herself, she will not. (Page 156)
And once again, we know what occurred then and ever since. Starting with Vatican II, true shepherds preserving the Faith had to leave, while hirelings and wolves defying Catholic teachings were retained and even promoted within their new organization. A "priest" could teach that the Eucharist is mere symbolism and transubstantiation a myth, and do so with absolute impunity. If Catholic-minded members of his congregation (what few remain) complain to him he just blows them off. And complaining to their "bishop" accomplishes nothing.
What has been seen since Vatican II demonstrates what a significant difference the presence of the Holy Ghost makes in the Church, and what it means for the Church to be the Mystical Body of Christ. Take away that identity with the Savior's Mystical Body, and drive away the Holy Ghost (which Vatican II did), and we see what utter disintegration results.
By Frank Sheed's own reasoning (as quoted above), despite his vain attempt to claim that it still was somehow the same Church, we see affirmed what we knew or at least suspected, namely that it most certainly is NOT the same Church!
Even many conservative Novus Ordo members would readily enough admit that it is a "different" church, for how could something so plainly different not be actually different? So very much is contained in that admission on their part! How do they not see the full implication of what that really means? Why not seek that which really IS the same Church?
But, what do we mean when we say it is not the same Church? A woman might say to the fat, lazy, balding specimen of a man (who can't be bothered to so much as rise up from the football game on TV to carry out the garbage) to which she has been unhappily married to for so many years, "You're not the man I married!" Obviously, he IS the same man, but lacking that fervent ardor he once had as a suitor when they were dating. Could that be what someone could mean when they say that it is "not the same Church"?
I suppose there might be some who would actually and seriously claim that about the Church. Perhaps they don't realize that since the Church is Christ's Mystical Body, then what that really would mean is that Jesus Christ is now somehow a "different" Christ, no longer the one Who died for our sins and seeks our sanctification. Instead, it is one who is content to sit in his easy chair and "save" us merely by proposing various schemes to redistribute worldly wealth or what not. As I recall, the Bible has something to say about a "different Jesus" and a "different Gospel" (cf. Galatians 1: 8-10). Yes, they did indeed change to a different church, and in a manner in which the real Church could never change, never has and never will, and has not changed. She cannot change.
For there is another far deeper and (in this case) far more accurate mode in which we can properly say that it is not the same church at all. Only a few years ago, a movie (based on real events that took place in Los Angeles in 1928) titled "Changeling" came out and far better illustrated our present situation, and the true meaning of saying that "it is not the same church." In it, the mother of a boy who had been kidnapped turned to the police to find her boy and return him to her. In time, the police bring her a boy whom they claim to be her missing son, but within moments it is clear that this is not her son, but some different boy.
To cover their mistake and corruption, the police, in conspiracy with the press and other various "authorities," make the problem seem to be one of getting this mother to accept the new person her son has become. They managed to make it look as if the whole issue was something that could be solved by mere counseling or therapy to reconcile the woman to her "son." When that failed, because she knew and was adamant (and had several substantial evidences that this really was some different boy she had never met before, such as dental records and the fact that this boy did not recognize her son's schoolteacher), they finally had her committed to an insane asylum.
There is another implication to this different kind of "difference": If it really had been merely a matter of the same boy having been changed so very much by his experiences while away from his mother, then the whole story would be self-contained, without any loose ends. But because a different boy was brought to her to be accepted as her son, there still exists the major loose end of where her real son is, out there somewhere. In one case, the police would have been right to call off the search, for the boy would have been found and all that remains is to help mother and son get back together. But in the other case, the search, in all justice, must go on, and the police have no right to call it off, however much they would like. He might still be alive out there, somewhere, in need of being rescued.
I personally believe it to be heretical to claim that the Church could ever become what the Novus Ordo apparatus is today. But, if there has been some sort of substitution, then it really is different from the Church, and far more importantly, something other than that substitute must be the Church. For unlike that mother's son who was in all probability already dead before the police brought her the other impostor boy (her son was never found), the Church cannot be killed. And as to the matter of that substitution, we have before us the precedent of the creation of a brand new "church of England" resulting from a simple legal transfer of auspices of Pope to King, and only the most minimal turnover of human and other resources.
The only real Catholics retaining their Faith and membership in the real Church were those who departed from the substitute "church of England," which went on to fall in a surprisingly similar manner to how the Novus Ordo apparatus fell. It stands to reason, therefore that there truly must be a remnant Church, and furthermore one that can be readily found, as our Lord promised when He said, "Seek, and ye shall find".
Besides the longer articles Griff has been writing for the DailyCatholic, he has submitted shorter articles that were published in the Traditional Catholic monthly periodical The Four Marks over the last few years. They are short articles that editor and publisher of The Four Marks Kathleen Plumb has graciously given permission to run here. We are grateful for the opportunity to share these with our readers who may not have had the opportunity to see them originally in The Four Marks since they are Griff's. The above appeared in the April 2012 issue but remains as pertinent today.
Griff's book is available from iUniverse.com Books for $26.95 or can be read on-line at www.the-pope.com We at the DailyCatholic 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.
For Griff's previous articles from his STRAIGHT STUFF features, see ARCHIVES