This series is to address the present situation of the Roman Catholic Church. Some introductory points are necessary to state and these are: first, there is no Papal authority to impose one’s conclusions as placing those who disagree under any ecclesiastical censure or penalty; secondly, there cannot be a rejection of Catholics in good faith who are misled by the Conciliar Church—we all came to the conclusion that the Conciliar Church is not the Roman Catholic Church after prayer and careful reflection by the grace of God and no one 50 years of age and older can say they were not participants of their local parish post-Vatican II (though many can say they left once the Novus Ordo Missae was introduced) and yet each held oneself as Catholic—I am not looking at refusing those who hold they are true Catholics the sacraments and this is based on the model of the Western Schism; thirdly, the recognition of validity of sacraments cannot simply be based on a complete rejection of the Conciliar Church and therefore a complete rejection of their administration of sacraments, but it must be based upon the Sacramental teaching of the Roman Catholic Church; fourthly, the preservation of the faith is absolutely necessary for the constitution of the Church as Christ founded and the faith is not an end in itself, but necessary to obtain the end for which the Church was founded, which is the salvation of souls.
It is the cessation of seeking the salvation of souls that has caused a recognition that the Conciliar (Vatican II) Church as not Roman Catholic and the leader of the Conciliar Church as not the visible head of the Roman Catholic Church. It is the removal of the center or heart of Catholic faith, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, that shocked Catholics and caused them to abandon the temple where the abomination of desolation was taking place. As Catholics stayed home, prayed the Rosary and continued to wear their Brown Scapulars they were soon able to hear of Roman Catholic clergy who retained the faith and administered the Sacraments and celebrated Holy Mass. These clergy and laity together started Mass Centers (as they would be labeled) throughout the world and so the Catholic Church continues as promised: I will be with you, all days, even to the consummation of the world (Matt. 28: 20). It has been a test of faith, a time of tribulation, of son against father and daughter against mother (cf. Luke 12:53); but one knows we ought to obey God, rather than men (Acts 5:29).
In continuing, the Church must be One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. I believe in one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church. (Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed).
a. The Church is One.
The Catechism of the Council of Trent, from which source Catholics were taught throughout the world, summarizes this unity as follows:
"My dove is one, my beautiful one is one." [Cant. vi.8] So vast a multitude, scattered far and wide, is called one, for the reasons mentioned by St. Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism." [Eph. iv.5.] This Church has, also, but one ruler and one governor, the invisible one, Christ, Whom the Eternal Father "hath made head over all the Church, which is His body;" [Eph. i.22, 23] the visible one, him, who, as legitimate successor of Peter the prince of the Apostles, fills the apostolic chair.
Vatican Council Session IV (July 18, 1870:)
"The eternal Pastor and Bishop of our souls" [1 Pet. 2:25], in order to render the saving work of redemption perennial, willed to build a holy Church, in which, as in the house of the living God, all the faithful might be contained by the bond of one faith and charity. Therefore, before His glory was made manifest, "He asked the Father, not only for the Apostles but also for those who would believe through their word in Him, that all might be one, just as the Son Himself and the Father are one" [ John 17:20 f.]. Thus, then, as He sent the apostles, whom He had selected from the world for Himself, as He himself had been sent by the Father [ John 20:21], so in His Church He wished the pastors and the doctors to be "even to the consummation of the world" [ Matt. 28:20]. But, that the episcopacy itself might be one and undivided, and that the entire multitude of the faithful through priests closely connected with one another might be preserved in the unity of faith and communion, placing the blessed Peter over the other apostles He established in him the perpetual principle and visible foundation of both unities, upon whose strength the eternal temple might be erected, and the sublimity of the Church to be raised to heaven might rise in the firmness of this faith. [Cf. St. Leo the Great, serm. 4 de natali ipsius c. 2] And, since the gates of hell, to overthrow the Church, if this were possible, arise from all sides with ever greater hatred against its divinely established foundation, We judge it to be necessary for the protection, safety, and increase of the Catholic flock, with the approbation of the Council, to set forth the doctrine on the institution, perpetuity, and nature of the Sacred Apostolic Primacy, in which the strength and solidarity of the whole Church consist, to be believed and held by all the faithful, according to the ancient and continual faith of the universal Church, and to proscribe and condemn the contrary errors, so pernicious to the Lord’s flock. (Dogmatic Constitution I on the Church of Christ, Preamble; cf. D 1821)
To preserve that unity, a visible head is necessary:
Again, Optatus of Milevis says: "It cannot be ascribed to ignorance on your part, knowing, as you do, that the episcopal chair, in which, as head of all the Apostles, Peter sat, was, first, fixed by him in the city of Rome, that in him alone may be preserved the unity of the Church; and that the other Apostles may not claim each a chair for himself; so that, now, he, who erects another, in opposition to this single chair, is a schismatic and a prevaricator." [Optat. Initio lib. 2. Ad Parmen.]
In the next place, St. Basil has these words: "Peter is made the foundation, because he says: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God: and hears in reply that he is a rock; but although a rock, he is not such a rock as Christ, for in himself Christ is, truly, an immoveable rock, but Peter, only by virtue of that rock; for God bestows his dignities on others: He is a priest, and he makes priests; a rock, and he makes a rock: what belongs to himself, he bestows on his servants.: [Basil. Hom. 29. Quae est de paenit.]
Lastly, St. Ambrose says: "Should any one object, that the Church is content with one head and one spouse, Jesus Christ, and requires no other, the answer is obvious; for, as we deem Christ not only the author of all the Sacraments, but, also, their invisible minister; (he it is who baptises, he it is who absolves, although men are appointed by him the external ministers of the sacraments) so has he placed over his Church, which he governs by his invisible spirit, a man to be his vicar, and the minister of his power: a visible Church requires a visible head, and, therefore, does the Saviour appoint Peter head and pastor of all the faithful, when, in the most ample terms, he commits to his care the feeding of all his sheep; [45 John 21:15.] desiring that he, who was to succeed him, should be invested with the very same power of ruling and governing the entire Church." (Rom. Cat. I, ix)
The unity is in Faith (and Hope):
Leo XIII in Satis Cognitum:
The heavenly doctrine of Christ, although for the most part committed to writing by divine inspiration, could not unite the minds of men if left to the human intellect alone. It would, for this very reason, be subject to various and contradictory interpretations. This is so, not only because of the nature of the doctrine itself and of the mysteries it involves, but also because of the divergencies of the human mind and of the disturbing element of conflicting passions. From a variety of interpretations a variety of beliefs is necessarily begotten; hence come controversies, dissensions and wranglings such as have arisen in the past, even in the first ages of the Church. Irenaeus writes of heretics as follows: "Admitting the sacred Scriptures they distort the interpretations" (Lib. iii., cap. 12, n. 12).
And Augustine: "Heresies have arisen, and certain perverse views ensnaring souls and precipitating them into the abyss only when the Scriptures, good in themselves, are not properly understood" (In Evang. Joan., tract 18:, cap. 5, n. 1). Besides Holy Writ it was absolutely necessary to insure this union of men’s minds - to effect and preserve unity of ideas - that there should be another principle. This the wisdom of God requires: for He could not have willed that the faith should be one if He did not provide means sufficient for the preservation of this unity; and this Holy Writ clearly sets forth as We shall presently point out. Assuredly the infinite power of God is not bound by anything, all things obey it as so many passive instruments. In regard to this external principle, therefore, we must inquire which one of all the means in His power Christ did actually adopt. For this purpose it is necessary to recall in thought the institution of Christianity. (Par. 6-7)
Again, the Roman Catechism (ibid.):
Pius IX in his Allocution, Ubi primum to the Consistory, December 17, 1847:
Monsignor Van Noort provides this outline:
He then provides the Scriptural texts that prove our Lord and the Apostles demand that everyone profess the faith preached by the apostles and their successors: Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-17; Gal. 1:8; I Cor. 1:10; Eph. 4:5, 13-14; Tit. 3:10-11. Next, he draws from early Christianity:
According to St. Justin, real Christians are "disciples of the genuine and unsullied doctrine of Jesus Christ," and are "one mind, one congregation, one Church." On the contrary, "those who claim to be Christians but do not hold His doctrine" are heretics.’ Hegesippus stigmatizes as heretics those "who have, each of them, privately introduced their own pet opinions," because "by introducing strange doctrine . . . they have rent asunder the unity of the Church." [Cited in Eusebius' History of the Church, 4. 21.] St. Irenaeus: "Just as the sun is one and the same all throughout the world, so too the preaching of the truth shines everywhere and enlightens all who desire to arrive at a knowledge of the truth... for the universal Church has the one and the same faith all throughout the world." [Adversus haereses i. 10. 2-3].
St. Augustine lists eighty-eight heresies, and then concludes: "There may be or there may arise other heresies, but if anyone espouses one of them, he will not be a Catholic Christian." [Liber de haeresibus concl.]
Van Noort then defines unity of faith:
The Unity is also in Communion (Charity)
"That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, as we also are one: I in them, and thou in me; that they may be made perfect in one: and the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast also loved me." (John 17:21-23)
Ludwig Ott in Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma:
This consists, on the one hand, in the subjection of the members of the Church to the authority of the bishops and of the Pope (unity of government or hierarchical unity); on the other hand, in the binding of the members among themselves to a social unity by participation in the same cult and in the same means of grace (unity of cult or liturgical unity). The unity both of faith and of communion is guaranteed by the Primacy of the Pope, the Supreme Teacher and Pastor of the Church (centrum unitatis: D 1960). One is cut off from the unity of Faith by heresy and from the unity of communion by schism. (Part 2, chapt. 3, p. 15; cf. Noort, op. cit., p. 128)
It can be summed up in the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas, in his work, The Apostles’ Creed:
The unity of the Church arises from three sources:
(2) the unity of hope. All are strengthened in one hope of arriving at eternal life. Hence, the Apostle says: "One body and one Spirit, as you are called in one hope of your calling" [Ephesians 4:4];
(3) the unity of charity. All are joined together in the love of God, and to each other in mutual love: "And the glory which You hast given Me, I have given them; that they may be one, as We also are one" [Jn 17:22]. It is clear that this is a true love when the members are solicitous for one another and sympathetic towards each other: "We should in every way grow up in Him who is the head, Christ. From whom the whole body, being joined and fit together, by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and builds itself up in charity" [Eph 4:15-16]. This is because each one ought to make use of the grace God grants him, and be of service to his neighbor. No one ought to be indifferent to the Church, or allow himself to be cut off and expelled from it; for there is but one Church in which men are saved, just as outside of the ark of Noah no one could be saved. (Art. ix.)
In the previous section a review of the Church’s teaching on possessing the mark of being one was provided. The other marks, holy, catholic and apostolic will now be examined to clarify that the understanding Sede Vacantist bishops and priests have is not erroneous.