And immediately as he had made an end of speaking, the earth broke asunder under their feet:85 And they went down alive into hell . . . and they perished from among the people. — Num. 16:31,33
The book of Numbers records the details of a rebellion violently suppressed by God Himself. Its principal leaders were Core, Dathan, Abiron, and Hon, whose crime consisted in rejecting the divinely established authority invested in Moses and Aaron. “Let it be enough for you, that all the multitude consisteth of holy ones, and the Lord is among them: Why lift you up yourselves above the people of the Lord?” (Num. 16:3). This was their battle cry, anticipating by some three thousand years Luther’s notion of the “priesthood of all believers.”
God showed his displeasure at the revolt when Moses called a contest between Aaron and the would-be priests of Core, two hundred fifty of them in all. Both parties presented themselves before the Tabernacle wherein was kept the Ark of the Covenant; then Core and his two hundred fifty men appeared on one side with their censers, while Aaron stood with his on the other side. After each offered incense, God showed his preference by a very Old-Testament act of divine vengeance: “And a fire coming out from the Lord, destroyed the two hundred and fifty men that offered the incense” (Num. 16:35).
Not only the leaders, but also the followers were punished: Moses commanded them to remove themselves from the camp of the rebels, but they disobeyed. “And immediately as he had made an end of speaking, the earth broke asunder under their feet: And opening her mouth, devoured them with their tents and all their substance. And they went down alive into hell, the ground closing upon them, and they perished from among the people” (Num. 16:31,33).
God wanted this event to be remembered. He commanded that the two hundred fifty smoking censers lying on the charred ground before the Tabernacle be pounded into plates and hung on the altar of the tabernacle as a perpetual memorial. The sin was variously recalled in subsequent passages of Scripture as “the sedition of Core” (Num. 26:9), “the contradiction of Core” (Jude 11), and elsewhere simply as “envy” and “wrath” (Ecclus. 45:22).
As he did with the sin of Oza in rashly touching the ark (2 Kings 6:6-7) and Onan’s “detestable” act of contraception (Gen. 38:9-10), God brought down instant and severe judgment on Core and his followers to show His particular hatred for their sin.
What, then, was the sin of Core and his followers? A footnote in the Douay-Rheims Bible gives us the answer: “The crime of these men, which was punished in so remarkable a manner, was that of schism, and of rebellion against the authority established by God in the church; and their pretending to the priesthood without being lawfully called and sent: the same is the case of all modern sectaries.” In agreement with this, St.Thomas Aquinas refers to this episode in the section of his Summa Theologica that treats schism (S. Th. II IIae Q. 39 Art. 2).
So what is the nature of this sin which God hates so much? Who is guilty of it? And how does it apply to the Church of the New Testament?
What is it?
The Code of Canon Law distinguishes schism from the sins of heresy and apostasy: “Heresy is the obstinate denial or doubt, after baptism, of a truth which must be believed by divine and catholic faith. Apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian [ sic ] faith. Schism is the withdrawal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion with the members of the Church subject to him” (Canon 751). 1
The word comes from the Greek schisma , meaning rent or division. It was used in Apostolic times to refer to sins against the unity of the Church. Thus, St. Paul writes: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing and that there be no schisms among you: but that you be perfect in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). And elsewhere: “For first of all I hear that when you come together in the church, there are schisms among you. And in part I believe it” (1 Cor. 11:18).
While heresy and schism are very much related, they are different in their essence, since each violates a different virtue. Heresy is a sin against faith, while schism is a sin against the virtue of charity. St. Thomas puts it this way: “Heresy and schism are distinguished in respect of those things to which each is opposed essentially and directly. For heresy is essentially opposed to faith, while schism is essentially opposed to the unity of ecclesiastical charity. Wherefore, just as faith and charity are different virtues, although whoever lacks faith lacks charity, so too schism and heresy are different vices, although whoever is a heretic is also a schismatic, but not conversely” (S. Th. II IIae Q. 39 Art. 1).
The distinction of St. Thomas was not original. Two of the great Latin Fathers had drawn the same conclusion. “Between heresy and schism,” explains St. Jerome, “there is this difference, that heresy perverts dogma, while schism, by rebellion against the bishop, separates from the Church. Nevertheless there is no schism which does not trump up a heresy to justify its departure from the Church” (In Ep. ad Tit. , iii, 10).
St. Augustine tells us: “By false doctrines concerning God heretics wound faith, by iniquitous dissensions schismatics deviate from fraternal charity, although they believe what we believe” (De fide et symbolo , ix).
The apparent divergence between these two doctors’ statements can be easily reconciled. Schism does not necessarily imply heresy; thus St. Augustine is not all wrong in saying that “schismatics85 believe what we believe.” On the other hand, there are few schisms of any significant duration which maintain orthodoxy for very long; hence St. Jerome’s statement: “there is no schism which does not trump up a heresy to justify its departure from the Church.”
Perhaps the best way to understand schism is to contrast it with what God has revealed in the Scriptures concerning the divine unity of the Church: “Other sheep I have that are not of this fold” said our Lord: “them also I must bring, and there shall be one fold and one Shepherd” (John 10:16). Our Lord prayed to His Father in the garden: “Holy Father, keep them in thy name, whom thou hast given me: that they may be one, as we also are” (John 17:11).
This unity of the Church is a theme dear to the heart of the Apostle Paul, who was powerfully impressed with it when struck down on the road to Damascus. When our Lord sternly interrogated him — “Why persecutest thou me ?”(Acts 9:4) — Jesus had long since ascended into heaven. It was the Church St. Paul was persecuting, as he himself later said: “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Cor. 15:9). Saul of Tarsus understood the meaning behind the question of Jesus of Nazareth: If persecuting the Church means persecuting Christ, then there exists a unity between Christ and his followers far greater and more intimate than that which exists between any other leader and his subjects. The mystery we touch upon here is commonly called the doctrine of the mystical body of Christ. It finds various expressions in the writings of the Apostle to the Gentiles:
“You are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).
“We being many are one body” (1 Cor 10:17).
“One body and one Spirit: as you are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all” (Eph. 4:4-6).
“For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, as also Christ doth the church: Because we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones” (Eph. 5:29-30).
This doctrine saturates St. Paul’s writings, frequently occurring in incidental expressions, such as the sublime prepositional phrase “in Christ,” which occurs 164 times in his fourteen canonical epistles.
To break this unity, so clearly willed by Christ and so instilled in the Church by the Apostolic preaching, is to sin gravely against divine charity.
Institutional Church “vs.” Spiritual Church
One of the errors rampant in both Protestant and liberal Catholic circles is the false distinction between the “institutional” Church and the “real” Church, which (they say) is a purely spiritual entity. Since the spiritual reality they speak of is by its nature invisible, there really is no possibility of schism in their erroneous system. This error is so common, giving its adherents a very nebulous concept of Church unity, that the very notion of schism has become virtually unknown to the masses. Such fuzzy thinking is certainly not scriptural. The Church as the “city seated on a mountain” (Mt. 5:14) is clearly something visible. So, too, is that ecclesiastical authority, invested in men, which one rejects at the terrible expense of rejecting Christ (Luke 10:16; Acts 5:1-11).
In 1943, Pius XII eloquently described and refuted this error: “We deplore and condemn the pernicious error of those who dream of an imaginary Church, a kind of society that finds its origin and growth in charity, to which, somewhat contemptuously, they oppose another, which they call juridical. But this distinction which they introduce is false: for they fail to understand that the reason which led our Divine Redeemer to give to the community of man He founded the constitution of a Society, perfect of its kind and containing all the juridical and social elements — namely, that He might perpetuate on earth the saving work of Redemption — was also the reason why He willed it to be enriched with the heavenly gifts of the Paraclete. 85 There can, then, be no real opposition or conflict between the invisible mission of the Holy Spirit and the juridical commission of Ruler and Teacher received from Christ, since they mutually complement and perfect each other — as do the body and soul in man — and proceed from our one Redeemer who not only said as He breathed on the Apostles ‘Receive ye the Holy Spirit,’ [John 20:22] but also clearly commanded: ‘As the Father hath sent me, I also send you’; [John 20:21] and again: ‘He that heareth you heareth me.’ [Luke 10:16]” ( Mystici Corporis , 65).
The truth Pope Pius so beautifully states here is in perfect accord with the picture given us in Holy Scripture. In his description of the primitive unity of the Church after Pentecost, St. Luke presents the spiritual and hierarchical elements perfectly conjoined: “They were persevering in the doctrine of the apostles [hierarchy], and in the communication of the breaking of bread , [the Mass, sacraments] and in prayers ” (Acts 2:42).
We may go further and say that nowhere in Holy Scripture is there a distinction made between a visible and an invisible Church, between the “spiritual” Church and the “institutional” Church. That the very opposite is the case may be illustrated in the preaching and writings of the Apostle to the Gentiles. The same St. Paul who speaks of the Church as a mystical, spiritual reality brought into being and built up by charity and interior grace, also speaks of the Church as a visible, juridical, and hierarchical institution. For his treatment of the invisible, interior elements, the reader can read his sublime descriptions in the fourth and fifth chapters of Ephesians. For the external, visible elements we point out the following:
“Take heed to yourselves and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops, to rule the Church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).
“And God indeed hath set some in the church; first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly doctors: after that miracles: then the graces of healings, helps, governments, kinds of tongues, interpretations of speeches” (1 Cor. 12:28).
“But if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (1 Tim. 3:5).
In the above passages, it is evident that there are rulers who govern the Church by the exercise of visible offices. These same rulers — bishops — are placed there by the Holy Ghost, that invisible Spirit who keeps the Church united. Hence we see that these elements are flip sides of the same divinely minted coin. Since the Church is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), founded “upon this rock” (Matt. 16:18), “purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28), and against which “the gates of hell shall not prevail” (Matt. 16:18), it is guaranteed by Christ its founder both to teach God’s truth and to be one until the consummation of the world.
Fathers against Schism
The nebulous thinking about Church unity we impugn was far from the minds of the Fathers of the Church. Consistent with the doctrine of Holy Scripture, they believed in the Church as a tangible reality in which one simply is or is not a member. Therefore, they believed that schism was possible — and not only possible, but sinful enough to keep people out of heaven. “Do not err, my brethren,” said St. Ignatius of Antioch in the first century. “If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If any one walks according to a strange opinion, he agrees not with the passion [of Christ].” 2
For his part, St. Augustine acknowledges that non-Catholics can have faith and sacraments but are nonetheless outside the Church, consequently, out of the way of salvation: “A man cannot have salvation except in the Catholic Church. Outside the Catholic Church he can have everything except salvation. He can have honor, he can have Sacraments, he can sing Allelulia, he can answer Amen, he can possess the Gospel, he can preach faith in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: but never except in the Catholic Church will he be able to find salvation.” 3
The references to schism and its punishment are plentiful in the writings of the Fathers, but we will limit ourselves to one more passage, this one from the third-century classic on the subject, St. Cyprian’s On the Unity of the Church : “The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has borne for the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother. If any one could escape who was outside the ark of Noah, then he also may escape who shall be outside of the Church. 85 He who does not hold this unity does not hold God’s law, does not hold the faith of the Father and the Son, does not hold life and salvation.” 4
The Fathers are very clear that schism is no ticket to heaven. Their teaching was solemnly defined by the Church at the Council of Florence: “The Holy Roman Church believes, professes, and preaches that no one remaining outside the Catholic Church, not just pagans, but also Jews or heretics or schismatics, can become partakers of eternal life; but they will go to the ‘everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Matt.25:41), unless before the end of life they are joined to the Church.” 5
Ecumenism: Rotten to the Core
Regular readers of our publication know that the editors of From the Housetops are not fans of ecumenism. The phenomenon of the ecumenical movement has a direct bearing on the subject of schism. Ecumenism, which we may define as an effort to achieve Christian unity without seeking the conversion of non-Catholics, is not the unity willed by the Holy Ghost. It is nowhere in Scripture or Tradition. Prior to recent times, the position of the Holy See regarding it was consistently and starkly negative. For instance, in his 1928 encyclical on “The Promotion of True Religious Unity,” Mortalium Animos , Pope Pius XI called the pan-Christian movement (the neologism, “ecumenism,” was not yet coined), “an error so great that it would destroy utterly the foundations of the Catholic Faith.”
Protestants, working for “Christian unity” within their own circles did so by uniting behind what they called “Fundamental Articles” on which all had to agree, while certain doctrines of little consequence (whatever those are) were considered open for debate. As J. Forget points out in the 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia , “this distinction, wholly unknown prior to the sixteenth century, and repugnant to the very conception of Divine faith, is condemned by Scripture, and, for want of a clear line of demarcation, authorizes the most monstrous divergences. The indispensable unity of faith extends to all the truths revealed by God and transmitted by the Apostles.”
For these reasons, and for all the manifold reasons listed above in defense of true Christian unity against schism, we conclude that ecumenism — which seeks a unity other than that within Christ’s one true Church — is not only not from the Holy Ghost, but constitutes a series of grave sins against charity.
Schisms in History
Having discussed the nature of schism, and contrasted the orthodox teachings on it with the modernist errors, we will make the concept more concrete by naming names. In the above-mentioned article, The Catholic Encyclopedia catalogs twenty-three major historical schisms. The first of these is the schism mentioned by St. Paul in the early Church of Corinth (1 Cor. 1:10 ff., 3:4 ff., and 11:18 ff.). Others on the list include the Novatian schism in the third century, the Meletian and Donatist schisms in the fourth, that of Acacius in the fifth, the schism of Aquilea in the sixth, the Anglican schism of the sixteenth century, and the “German Catholics” of the nineteenth. Last on that list was the schism which produced the Old Catholic Church, a sect officially formed in 1871 in protest against the definition of papal infallibility from Vatican I. But by far, the most famous of historical schisms, because it is the largest and the most enduring, is the Eastern Schism, begun in 870 by Photius, but consummated in 1054 by Michael Cerularius, both Patriarchs of Constantinople. It is this schism which produced the various communions collectively known by the name of “Orthodoxy.” 6
That the Church has always regarded these sects as schismatic is historically undeniable. References to them as “dissidents,” “schismatics,” and suchlike is common in Catholic literature prior to the age of liberalism in which we live. And while the apparent name-calling may appear mean spirited, the reader should keep in mind that these labels are expressive of truth and that they were used by great apostles of Church unity in every age (e.g., St. Josaphat, the seventeenth-century Ukranian martyr-monk who shed his blood for the conversion of Byzantine schismatics; St. Andrew Bobola, a Jesuit of the same era who was martyred for the same cause; in the early Church, St. Augustine, and practically all the Fathers with him; and saintly popes such as Bl. Pius IX and St. Pius X).
Some astute readers who favor the reforms of the last forty years may find it ironic that a Catholic traditionalist is writing an article on the sin of schism while being guilty of it himself, since he rejects much of the Vatican II reform as heresy and/or novelty. Besides ecumenism which we inveighed against several paragraphs ago, there are the new Mass and other liturgical rites, the new liberal teaching on religious liberty, the heretical notion that one may be saved outside the Church (condemned as “indifferentism” by Pope Gregory XVI), and other glaring innovations in doctrine and practice, all of which have the blessing of the pope and the bishops. Are we traditionalists schismatic for rejecting these things?
As we said above, schism is defined in the Code of Canon Law as “the withdrawal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion with the members of the Church subject to him.” To take umbrage with papal acts, to refuse to obey a certain command, and even to accuse the Holy Father himself of heresy, are not the same as withdrawing submission to him. This would be so even if one were to do these things wrongly. If one judged the Sovereign Pontiff rashly, he would be guilty of a sin against justice. To voice the rash judgment to others would be the sin of calumny and possibly scandal, both sins against charity. And if one improperly disobeyed a just command, he would be guilty of disobedience, another sin against justice. But none of these sins constitutes schism.
If the charge of schism does not apply to one who is unjustly resisting the pope in these matters, what about a just resistance of the Roman Pontiff?
That the pope can err while not defining in matters of faith and morals for the universal Church, and that he may be resisted when he seeks to impose his error on the faithful, is something saints and theologians have taught. Readers are referred to the article “Loyal Catholic Resistance” in From the Housetops , No. 58, for proofs of this. One citation will suffice for our purposes, a passage from St. Robert Bellarmine: “Just as it is lawful to resist the pope that attacks the body, it is also lawful to resist the one who attacks the soul or who disturbs civil order, or, above all, who attempts to destroy the Church . I say that it is lawful to resist him by not doing what he orders and preventing his will from being executed” ( De Romano Pontifice , Lib . II, Ch. 29).
Let us make it very clear: Traditionalists are not schismatic when they reject the novelties of the Vatican II and post-Vatican II regimes, and even when they disobey direct orders from the hierarchy acting according to those novelties. Before this issue became a subject of polemics, there was theological clarity in the larger question at hand, admirably summarized by the Dominican theologians Father John A. McHugh and Father Charles J. Callan in their much-respected two-volume Moral Theology :
“Schism is a separation from unity, that is, from fellowship in the mystical body of Christ (1 Cor. XII). It is a refusal to recognize the authority of the head of the Church, or to communicate with those subject to him. Thus, schism differs from disobedience to the head of the Church or to particular prelates in the Church, for one may disobey orders and still recognize the authority of him who gives the orders .” 7
After noting that the pope is the keystone of the unity of the Church, they go on to say, “The mere fact that a man is in rebellion against his bishop does not make him a schismatic, if he continues to acknowledge subjection to the Holy See .” 8
They then go on to list three ways one can reject a decision or command of the pope:
“(a) The reason for rejecting the decision may be the thing commanded , and not the one who gave the command, as when a person refuses to keep a fast or make a restitution commanded by the Pope, because he considers it too difficult. In this case the person is guilty of disobedience, but not of schism, even though he persists in his refusal; for he rejects a commandment of the Church, not the head of the Church.
“(b) The reason for rejecting the command may be the one who gave the command, considered, as a private individual . As the Pope in his personal relations is not above human weakness, he may be swayed by hatred, prejudice or impulsiveness in issuing commands to or forming judgments about individual subjects. Hence, if we suppose that it is reasonably certain that a Pope is unfavorable to an individual, and that the latter accordingly is unwilling to have a case in which he is concerned fall under the immediate decision of that Pope, neither schism nor any other sin is committed; for it is natural that the person should wish to protect his own interests against unfairness.
“(c) The reason for rejecting the Pope’s judgment may be the one who gave the command considered in his official capacity as Pope . In this case the person is guilty of schism, since he disobeys, not because the thing ordered is difficult or because he fears that the individual will be unjust, but because he does not wish to recognize the authority of Pope in him who issued the judgment.” 9
Now, if an individual resisted the Holy Father’s decision or command because he regarded it to be contrary to the law of God or the teachings of the Church, his act would fall into category “a” above, a rejection based on ” the thing commanded .” He is not thereby guilty of schism. The traditionalist rejection of the modern novelties endorsed by the hierarchy is based precisely on this line of reasoning — at least in the case of the present author and his school of thought. Therefore, there is no schism on our part.
As for the charge of disobedience, it is not directly relevant to the present study; the reader is referred once again to “Loyal Catholic Resistance” in From the Housetops , No. 58.
The Law of Praying
While the accusations of schism leveled against us by our “conservative” brethren are ill-founded, we readily grant the irony of the situation: that in defending the Church’s traditional teaching on schism we are forced to take exception to the words and deeds of those whose authority we are upholding.
Perhaps nowhere else is this irony more painful than in what was done to the prayer life of Catholics in order to change their thinking. The ancient axiom of St. Prosper of Aquitaine — lex orandi lex credendi, “the law of praying is the law of believing” — was well known to the liberal innovators who gave us the new Mass. One part of their dirty work was to obliterate the traditional teaching on schism.
To get a little glimpse of how this was done, we refer to Father Anthony Cekada’s masterful little study entitled The Problems with the Prayers of the Modern Mass . In it, the author studies the changes to the propers of the Mass (those parts that change from day to day in the different Masses of the temporal and sanctoral cycle). The reader will acquire an idea of the scope of these changes by reading the following passage, which debunks the theory that the Missal of Pope Paul VI only “touched up” or “enriched” its ancient predecessor:
“The statistics, however, tell a different story: The traditional Missal contains 1182 orations. About 760 of those were dropped entirely. Of the approximately 36% which remained, the revisers altered over half of them before introducing them into the new Missal. Thus, only some 17% of the orations from the old Missal made it untouched into the new Missal.” 10
Among its accomplishments, the book gives the lie to the absurd notion that the liturgical revolutionaries were restoring the Mass to its ancient purity by weeding out medieval accretions. The author illustrates how Catholic doctrine was systematically purged from the Mass in six areas: “negative theology,” detachment from the world, prayers for the departed (e.g., the removal of the word “soul” from the Requiem Mass!), ecumenism, the merits of the saints, and miracles. While the destruction apparent in all these categories is well documented in the book, what interests us here is the fourth area, ecumenism. It is there that the subject of schism is addressed or, as we will see, avoided.
“Needless to say, allusions to the existence of heresy are gone. Our faith is no longer the ‘true faith’ for which St. Fidelis of Singmaringen was martyred by Swiss Protestants, and it is no longer acceptable to mention that St. Irenaeus ‘overcame heresy by the truth of his doctrine.’ The petitions in the orations to St. Robert Bellarmine and St. Peter Canisius (called, during the Protestant revolt, ‘the Hammer of Heretics’) to bring those in error back to the unity of the Church and to salvation have been dropped, said Father Braga, 11 as reflections of an age characterized by ‘intransigence and a spirit of conquest.’” 12
The book gives many comparisons of old and new orations for the same feast. The changes in the collect for the feast of St. Pius V are illuminating:
Old text: “O God, who for the overthrowing of the enemies of Thy Church and for the restoration of the beauty of Thy worship, didst choose blessed Pius as supreme Pontiff; grant that we may be defended by his patronage and cleave to Thy service, that overcoming the snares of our enemies, we may rejoice in Thy eternal peace.”
New text: “O God, who raised up in Thy Church blessed Pius as Pope, to protect the faith and render worship more worthy, grant by his intercession that we may share in Thy mysteries with lively faith and fruitful charity.”
The concept of “overcoming the snares of our enemies” is foreign to the new religion of the modernist reformers, so they removed it from their new liturgy. It is reminiscent of a conversation our superior had with Cardinal (then Bishop) John Wright, a putative “conservative.” When the prelate proposed that “the Church no longer has enemies,” Brother Francis retorted that we can therefore no longer obey Our Lord’s command to pray for our enemies. Here we see how, despite his often sickly sweet veneer, the liberal lacks charity, which St. Paul says “rejoiceth with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). This liberal lex credendi of Cardinal Wright’s made its way into the lex orandi of the new Missal.
While studying Fr. Cekada’s book, I recalled that the beautiful prayers for the feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury are very much of the non-politically correct variety. With a curiosity to see what happened to these orations, I took my trusty Fr. Lasance Missal (published in 1945) and compared it with a 1974 Novus Ordo Sacramentary we have in our library. The prayers in the old Missal include these:
The Secret Prayer: “We offer sacrifice unto Thee, O Lord, on the solemnity of blessed Augustine, Thy Bishop and confessor, humbly beseeching that the sheep which have gone astray may return to the one fold and be nourished with this food of salvation .85 ”
The Postcommunion: “Refresh-ed with the victim of salvation, we supplicate Thee, O Lord, that, through the intercessory patronage of blessed Augustine, it may always and everywhere be offered to Thy name .85″
Now, the astute reader will pick up on the fact that the Church availed herself of the feast of England’s great Apostle in order to pray for her return to the fold. Because the Anglicans lost both the theology of sacrifice and the power to offer it, we who assist at the Traditional Rite pray for them to return to the source of the apostolic succession they lost. Further, there is reference to “sheep which have gone astray,” something which constitutes a “no-no” these days. These prayers were dropped entirely from the new text. Instead, the new Missal refers us to the Common of Pastors, where the celebrant may choose either the prayers for a missionary or for a bishop. What was offensive to the Anglicans, praying for their conversion, was dropped from the feast, apparently smacking of “intransigence and a spirit of conquest.”
In the new rite, the only prayer for the Mass of St. Augustine not found in the Common is the Opening Prayer, which is still proper to England’s apostle: “Father, by the preaching of St. Augustine of Canterbury, you led the people of England to the gospel. May the fruits of his work continue in your Church. Grant this through Our Lord Jesus Christ.85”
Besides the banality of the language (which could in part be because of a bad translation), the prayer isn’t offensive. But let’s compare it to the oration it replaced: “O God, Who didst vouchsafe to illumine the English people with the light of the true faith by the preaching and miracles of blessed Augustine, Thy confessor and bishop, grant that, by his intercession, the hearts of those who err may return to the unity of the truth and that we may be of one mind in Thy will . Through our Lord….”
Besides nixing St. Augustine’s miracles (things of the past!), the liberals who fabricated the new rite omitted the part of the prayer beseeching the return of those who err.
One of the most offensive acts of violence the reformers did was to strip the Good Friday liturgy. The beautiful “Solemn Prayers,” among the most ancient in the Roman Missal, were rewritten so as to be inoffensive to non-Catholics and to be more in tune with modern man. Here, the reform touches directly on our subject:
“The Oration for Heretics and Schismatics has been abolished. The traditional text prays for their deliverance from error and the wiles of the devil, their repentance, their return to the unity of the truth and the removal of the evil of heresy from their hearts. In its place the revisers substituted a vague oration for the Unity of Christians.85
“The ancient prayers were changed, said Archbishop Bugnini in his memoirs, because they ‘sounded rather bad’ in the ecumenical climate of Vatican II, and because ‘no one should find a motive for spiritual discomfort in the prayer of the Church’ — no one, perhaps, but those who still believe in praying that the world be converted to the truth of the Catholic faith.” 13
Another area where lex orandi lex credendi applies is in the rite for the reception of converts. The old text — going back to the Council of Trent, with a small addition from Vatican I — contained a renunciation of heresy and schism, as well as an explicit profession that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. All this was dropped.
In addition to the official public prayers of the Church, many popular prayers have been stripped of references to schism. The Raccolta , or Handbook of Indulgences (the Church’s official catalogue of indulgenced prayers) has been denuded of its rich prayers for the conversion of heretics and schismatics. [One of these deleted prayers, which is beautifully expressive of the Church’s maternal solicitude, has been salvaged by St. Benedict Center and promoted on the back cover of this journal for the reader’s pious employment.]
Many approved prayers, such as Divine Mercy devotion, have been re-worded so as to remove even the word “schism.” A look at the web site of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, the official promoters of the devotion in this country, reveals a curious admission of their editorial hatchet job on prayers they believe to have been transmitted by Our Lord Himself to St. Faustina. The prayer for the fifth day of the Divine Mercy Novena reads as follows in the modern edition:
“Today bring to Me the souls of those who have separated themselves from My Church,* and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. During My bitter Passion they tore at My Body and Heart, that is, My Church. As they return to unity with the Church, My wounds heal and in this way they alleviate My Passion.”
The asterisk leads the reader to this footnote, below the prayer:
“Our Lord’s original words here were ‘heretics and schismatics,’ since He spoke to Saint Faustina within the context of her times. As of the Second Vatican Council, Church authorities have seen fit not to use those designations in accordance with the explanation given in the Council’s Decree on Ecumenism (n.3). Every pope since the Council has reaffirmed that usage. Saint Faustina herself, her heart always in harmony with the mind of the Church, most certainly would have agreed.”
The same liberal editors replaced the word “pagans” with the inaccurate phrase “those who do not believe in God,” explaining that, “Since the pontificate of Pope John XXIII, the Church has seen fit to replace this term with clearer and more appropriate terminology.”
Do we really need to comment on the effrontery of replacing Our Lord’s words with “more appropriate terminology”?
A study in itself would be the Chair of Unity Octave, a devotion given to the Church by the great convert and founder of the Friars of the Atonement, Father Paul Wattson. The Octave took place from the feast of St. Peter’s Chair at Rome (January 18) to that of the conversion of St. Paul (January 25). While still an Anglican, Father Paul observed these eight days as a special time to pray for Church unity. In his own case, the prayer was answered by his conversion to the Catholic Faith. Eventually, the Octave received the blessing of the Church and became a prayer for the conversion of non-Catholics.
Included in the older form of the Chair of Unity devotions were prayers for the conversion of various non-Catholic people: European Protestants, Anglicans, American Protestants, Jews, etc. One day (January 19) was reserved for “Oriental Separatists” (i.e., the Greek Orthodox and their partners in schism). The new and ever-changing versions of these prayers bear a totally different character. Indeed, from being an Octave dedicated to praying for people to enter the Catholic Church, in its new form (now called the “Week of Prayer”), it has become an ecumenical love feast.
Gone from the new “Week of Prayer” are treasures like this hymn from an older version of the Octave’s devotions, which alludes poetically to “the Magi of the East” while praying for the return of Eastern Schismatics:
Once more thy guiding star place in the sky,
And lead, lead back the Magi of the East
To that One See on earth, whence thou on high
Dost speak to all, the greatest and the least;
Communion with the Apostolic See
Will banish schism in true unity. 14
The reader who has endurance in reading saccharine-sweet prayers written in the worst of taste is invited to view a sample of the banalities which have replaced the prayers from which we excerpted this beautiful hymn. 15
The Father of the Church who gave us the axiom we’ve been dwelling upon, St. Prosper of Aquitaine, coined it in his controversy with the semi-Pelagians, who held that God’s grace was necessary neither for one’s first movement towards conversion nor for final perseverance. The precise point St. Prosper made in his lex orandi passage bears a close relation to our topic:
“According to Prosper of Aquitaine, legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi , which is to say, ‘the law of prayer determines the law of belief’ (Prosper used the equivalent term lex supplicandi in place of lex orandi ). Prosper treats the church’s prayer as an authoritative source for theology in arguing that salvation must come entirely at God’s initiative since in the liturgy the church prayed for the conversion of infidels, Jews, heretics, schismatics and the lapsed who would not seek the true faith on their own.” 16
The same phrase turns up in an official document of the Holy See, Indiculus , which was a compilation of all the authoritative statements of the popes on the subject of grace. It is believed that this document was edited by St. Prosper himself, as he was Pope St. Celestine’s secretary at the time. Here is the relevant passage, as contained in Denzinger’s:
“Let us be mindful also of the sacraments of priestly public prayer, which handed down by the Apostles are uniformly celebrated in the whole world and in every Catholic Church, in order that the law of supplication may support the law of believing .
“For when the leaders of the holy nations perform the office of ambassador entrusted to them, they plead the cause of the human race before the divine Clemency, and while the whole Church laments with them, they ask and pray that the faith may be granted to infidels; that idolaters may be delivered from the errors of their impiety; that the veil of their hearts may be removed and the light of truth be visible to the Jews; that heretics may come to their senses through a comprehension of the Catholic faith; that schismatics may receive the spirit of renewed charity ; that the remedy of repentance may be bestowed upon the lapsed; that finally after the catechumens have been led to the sacraments of regeneration, the royal court of heavenly mercy may be opened to them.” 17
The editors of Denzinger’s inserted a footnote stating that the entirety of chapter eight of this decree agrees with St. Prosper’s De vocatione omnium gentium , where the argument first appeared. They also refer the reader to the ancient Solemn Prayers we described above as having been excised from the new Missal. Doubtless, St. Prosper had heard these prayers on Good Friday, as liturgical historians date them back to the earliest persecutions. He probably had them in mind when he wrote this passage.
Is it not amazing that the ancient principle the modernists used in their liturgical revolt specifically referenced something they have excised from the liturgy?
Indeed, if one is going to change the way Catholics believe, he must change the way they pray. With all this demolition of liturgical and popular prayers, is it any wonder that the very concept of schism is virtually unknown by Catholics today?
The Core Issue
In the back of the Roman Missal, both the traditional one and its 1970 counterfeit, there are Masses to be offered on special occasions (requiem Masses, Masses for peace, for good crops, for the election of a pope, on the occasion of a religious profession, etc.). The Traditional Missal had a “Mass for the Healing of Schism” which has been replaced in the new rite with a Mass for the Unity of Christians. The changes are as abominable as the ones we related above. However, rather than end on a polemical note, we prefer to cite this Mass so that our readers will be inspired to practice their beliefs by authentic and earnest prayers for the ending of schism. If enough souls pray with the true mind of the Church, God will surely hear our prayer:
“O God, Who settest straight what has gone astray, and gatherest together what is scattered, and keepest what Thou hast gathered together, we beseech Thee in Thy mercy to pour down on Christian people the grace of union with Thee, that putting aside disunion and attaching themselves to the true shepherd of Thy Church, they may be able to render Thee due service.”
The Glories of the Byzantine Liturgy . . .
. . . but offered by schismatic Russian Orthodox priests. Hear the great Bishop, Confessor and Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine, 354-430, in a sermon to the people of Caesarea:
No man can find salvation save in the Catholic Church. Outside the Catholic Church he can find everything except salvation. He can have dignities, he can have the Sacraments, can sing “Alleluia,” answer “Amen,” accept the Gospels, have faith in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, and preach it, too, but never except in the Catholic Church can he find salvation.
The Center of Church Unity
St. Optatus (d. c. 387): “ Peter the head of all the Apostles; to him He first gave the episcopal see of Rome, in which sole see unity should be preserved for all; he is therefore a sinner and a schismatic who would erect another see in opposition to it. (De schism. Don . , ii, 2)
St. Ambrose (d. 397): We must have recourse to your clemency, beseeching you not to let the head of all the Roman world, the Roman Church, and the most holy Apostolic Faith be disturbed; for thence all derive the rights of the Catholic communion. (Epistle, xi, 4)
St. Jerome (d. 420): I who follow no guide save Christ am in communion with Your Holiness, that is with the chair of Peter. I know that on this rock the Church is built. Whosoever partakes of the Lamb outside this house commits a sacrilege. Whosoever does not gather with you, scatters: in other words whosoever is not with Christ is with Antichrist. (Epistle, xv, 2)
1 In its Canon 1325.2, the 1917 Code tells us what a schismatic is: “If one, after the reception of baptism, while retaining the name of Christian, pertinaciously… refuses submission to the Supreme Pontiff or rejects communion with the members of the Church subject to the latter, he is a schismatic.”
2 Ignatius of Antioch (d. ca. A.D. 110), To the Philadelphians, 3 in Coxe Cleveland A, ed., The Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325 [ANF], 10 volumes (Buffalo and New York, 1884-86), I: 80.
3 St. Augustine, Discourse to the People of the Church at Caesarea, Migne, PL, 43, 689, 698; cf. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. III, p. 130.
4 Cyprian, On the Unity of the Church, 5 (A.D. 256), in ANF, V: 423.
5 Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441.
6 For the history of this schism, see “Schism in the East” by Brother David Mary in From the Housetops, No. 45.
7 McHugh, John A., O.P. and Callan, Charles J., O.P., revised and enlarged by Farrell, Edward P., O.P., Moral Theology, a Complete Course, Joseph F. Wagner, Inc. New York, 1958, page 552 (emphasis ours).
8 Ibid., pg. 554 (italics ours).
9 Ibid., pgs. 554-555 (italics in original).
10 Rev. Anthony Cekada, The Problems with the Prayers of the Modern Mass, Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., Rockford, 1991, pg. 9.
11 One of the architects of the new orations. Father Braga was the assistant to Father (later Archbishop) Annibale Bugnini, the Secretary of Consilium, the commission set up by Pope Paul VI to implement the liturgical changes.
12 The Problems with the Prayers of the Modern Mass, pg. 23.
13 Ibid., pg. 25.
14 Taken from the Confraternity of Sts. Peter and Paul’s web site .
15 Some of them are found in The Week of Prayer .
16 Charles R. Hohenstein, “‘Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi’: Cautionary Notes “. Cf. Prosper of Aquitaine, De vocatione omnium gentium, 1, 12: PL 51, 664C.
17 Indiculus , chapter 8; Denz., n. 246 (old edition, n. 139), emphasis ours.