Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Six Components of Liberal Catholicism that Seek to Destroy the Church: Part 1

Eminent American theologian Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton wrote an enlightening article in the American Ecclesiastical Review (1958) titled “The Components of Liberal Catholicism”. Despite its apparance before the Second Vatican Council, Msgr. Fenton appropriately presented, as in prophetic fasion, the coming attack on the Church from within. Msgr. Fenton summarizes liberal Catholicism into six main categories which together pose the greatest threat to the Church in our modern times:
  1. Religious Indifferentism
  2. False concepts of human freedom
  3. Advocacy of the separation of Church and state
  4. Minimism
  5. Subjectivism
  6. The evolution of at least some dogmatic teachings of the Church.

Starting with this post, I will explore each of these areas and highlight why these principles, although present in our world, are sinister and not of God.  Blessed Pope Pius IX went so far to say, "Liberal Catholics are the worst enemies of the Church." And our Lord Himself has said that the lukewarm (e.g. liberal Catholics) are more egregious to him even than hardened sinners, as they do Him the greatest injustice to Him (e.g. Revelations 3:16)

Through the Sacraments of the Catholic Church, our Blessed Lord has provided us with the means to reach Heaven


A fundamental error with modernism and those who adhere to it (i.e. liberal Catholics), is that they refuse to embrace extra ecclesiam nulla salus ("outside of the Church there is no salvation"). Pope Innocent III declared at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215: "There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved." His Holiness Innocent III unequivocally declared that all men must belong to the Church founded by our Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved. Period. Subsequently, Pope Boniface VIII made the matter even more clear when in 1302 he unequivocally declared, "We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff." (Unam Sanctam, 1302.) Read those words carefully: absolutely necessary.

And these remarks are not the only ones pronounced by the Holy Catholic Church. As I've written previously in Can Non Catholics be saved?, The Church continues to teach that outside of the Church there is no salvation. Period. Oh, then but what about the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd Edition) and the statements of Paul VI and his successors? Some might object and say that the Church has changed its position. But this can not be so. Liberal Catholics fail to understand that the Church is unchanging in matters of Faith and Doctrine. If it is true that in the past salvation was possible only for Catholics and if this is not true now, then the Faith has changed. But the Faith can not change. "Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." If the Church changed this matter it would be a liar and, as the Bride of Christ, it would seem that Christ Himself has lied to those in times past.

So then, what are we to do? Has the Church changed? Has the Faith changed? And, if so, then Christ is not unchanging. Stop. The simple answer is that the Church in Her glory and perfect Truth has not changed. Salvation is still only possible to those within the barque of Peter. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd Edition) in paragraph 1260, states, "Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved." But herein enters the problem with the 2nd Edition of the Catechism - unlike the unequivocal teachings of the Holy Fathers of times past, the teachings in the Catechism are vague and unclear. Just what does the Catechism mean by "ignorant of the Gospel" and what is "seeking truth"? Some would argue that all men seek the truth since all men by their nature are inclined to know the Truth. Therefore, it would seem that all men are saved since the Catechism states that all men who seek the truth are saved. What is worse and most dangerous for the Church and the salvation of mankind is that clergy are lured into this argument and accept it without evaluating the soundness of the premises in the argument.

Let's look at what do we mean by "Truth" and "ignorance." What is the truth (Quid est veritas?). We, if we are grounded in sound catechesis, we will declare that Jesus Christ is the sole way, Truth, and life (cf. John 14:6). And what is "ignorance." The Church has clarified this to describe "invincible ignorance," which unlike "ignorance" has a rather precise meaning.

Invincible ignorance refers to the state of persons (such as pagans and infants) who are ignorant of the Gospel message because they have not yet had an opportunity to hear it. The first Pope to use the term officially seems to have been Blessed Pope Pius IX in the allocution Singulari Quadam (9 December 1854) and the encyclicals Singulari Quidem (17 March 1856) and Quanto Conficiamur Moerore (10 August 1863). The term, however, is far older than that. St. Thomas Aquinas uses the term "invincible ignorance" in his Summa Theologica, which has been a foundation for the Thomistic Philosophy on which the Church's teachings are based. In short, invincible ignorance only applies to those who, through no fault of their own, were ignorant that the Church existed - people who were ignorant of the fact that there was a Jesus Christ.

Yet, in our modern era, with missionaries preaching around the world and with a globalization of the world, people in diverse places have been connected through technology in ways never before possible. People around the world have the ability to read this blog now with only an Internet connection. What does this mean? It means that with access to such a wide variety of information, it is highly unlikely that many people even exist who are invincibly ignorant and have never heard of our Lord or the Church.

It was Archbishop Sheen that said, "There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church but there are millions who hate what they mistakenly believe it to be." Some would counter that because these millions are ignorant of what the Church really is that they can still be saved. Rather, now that we have clarified invincible ignorance, we can assert that these people - though ignorant - are not invincibly ignorant because they have access to the Gospel.

In fact the Church has always and continues to profess that these souls of the invincibly ignorant are spiritually united to the Church so, nonetheless, they are still saved through the Church. Outside of the Church there is no salvation. Those who teach this doctrine false - both clergy and laity - do great harm for souls and possibly have prevented souls from converting, thus rejecting salvation. This error of liberal Catholics must be countered. It must be faught. This false teaching is one of the six principles that seek to undermine the Church and is none other than an attack by the devil, which has polluted the minds of even ordained members of the Church. Let us with charity fight this error of our times that is undoubtedly leading souls straight to hell.

Further complicating the matter, in our times even the Holy Father of recent memory (John Paul II) caused great scandal to the Faithful with his aapperance at Assisi and many of his statements, where he seemed to indicate, at least through example, that those of other faiths can be saved. While I will not at this time examine this error (that is for Part 3), it nonetheless only illustrates how deep this error has sunk into seminaries over the past century so that now even members of the hierarchy of the Church seemingly sin against what the timeless Church has always taught.

To support religious indifferentism, in essense, violates the First Commandment since, by such support, we deny that there is One God, through whom salvation alone comes.

True Inculturation: Kenya, 1937

True incultration is the answer. We do not force our Lord and the Faith to conform to our cultures.  Rather, we all conform to our Lord Jesus Christ.


While I do not unequivocally endorse all of the statements by Michal Semin, Director of St. Joseph Institute (Prague), I do agree with his statements concerning this issue when he states, "Many traditionally-minded Catholics are loosing, due to their mental or emotional embracement of the motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, which to a certain degree liberalizes the use of the 1962 Missal, their awareness about the doctrinal nature of the crisis in which we are living today. Even if the motu proprio would provide a healing in the field of Catholic liturgy, which is debatable, one cannot forget that lex credendic precedes lex orandi. The main battlefield is in the field of doctrine, not liturgy..."

5 comment(s):

del_button August 18, 2011 at 1:04 PM
Nick said...

I am not a "liberal" Catholic, but neither am I a carved in stone traditionalist. Clearly, the Church HAS changed its teachings on some things over centuries, and these are changes that you no doubt embrace. In the early Church for example, marriage wasn't treated as a Christian vocation, but as legalized fornication, and some of the Fathers railed against it. Couples, married in civil ceremonies, could request a Church blessing, but that was it.

The earth is no longer believed to be flat,or at the center of creation, yet the Church once taught that it was, and to suggest otherwise was a punishable, sinful offense.

Jesus and the first Christians didn't have Bibles, or many of the Church teachings that we now have, yet were they not the Church? If the Holy Spirit moved the Church to change and reevaluate things in the past, can it not be said to do so now? Must every prompting in this direction be viewed as coming from the Devil and not from God?

Martin Luther once said that reason and intellect were enemies of faith which must be utterly crushed and destroyed. Some Orthodox monks believe this still. The western Church however exalted reason and intellect as the gifts from God that they are, and used them to magnify and explain faith, and to understand the human mind and the natural world around us. Doing so need not mean that we become whacko, left wing pseudo-Catholics, but neither must it mean that our living faith must be reduced to a rule book of things unchanging. Jesus WAS change, and the Church that came from Him was born of Spirit. The promptings of that Spirit are with us still, as He said, and it was by listening to those promptings that the Church evolved as it did.

del_button August 18, 2011 at 8:58 PM
Matthew said...

Nick, you bring up a lot of points. I'll try to address them systematically and generally at this time without getting into too much detail.

When you say, "the Church HAS changed its teachings on things over centuries," what do you mean by "things"? Do you mean eternal doctrines of the Faith that are enduring and timeless? If so, the Church has never changed its teachings on matters of Faith and Doctrine that are defined. The Church has changed its view on areas like history or science but these are not matters that concern the Church's primary mission of salvation. Changing views on history does not change the Church. Changing views on history do not mean that the Church is not divine or unchanging. When we say that the Church is both unchanging and timeless, we mean that the Faith which it teaches is timeless and eternal and unchanging. As the scriptures state, Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

The Church does allow some of its teachings to develop (not evolve) over time. It's like an acorn that over time changes from an acorn into a tree. It does not evolve but it develops. In such a way, the teachings of the Church on marriage change in that they develop. There is no break. There is no evolution in the sense.

It is false to say that saying that the Earth was flat was a "punishable, sinful offense." Galileo was punished because of disobedience in publishing materials which he promised to the Pope that he would not yet publish due to the enemies of the Church rising at that time. Publishing anything that might hurt the Church would only add fuel to the fire of the heretics.

The claim that Galileo discovered the earth was round, when up to then it was thought to be flat, is ludicrous; centuries before Galileo, St. Thomas Aquinas casually mentioned that it can be scientifically proven that the earth is round (terra est rotunda) [S.T. I, Q. 1, Art. 1, reply obj. 2]. (For more about Galileo, you might start with the 1909 Catholic Encyclopedia article about him. Also, some years ago, the now-defunct Catholic Dossier magazine had an entire issue on the Galileo controversies--well worth reading, I believe, if you can find it.)

Heliocentrism was advocated by Copernicus, a Catholic cleric, and that the Church never condemed him. In fact, the popes of the time were very interested in having the Copernican theory investigated further. Galileo was even commissioned by the pope, who was his friend (I forget which one), to write a volume about competing theories on the matter.

The difference between Copernicus and Galileo was that Copernicus presented heliocentrism as purely theoretical because technology at the time did not allow him to make a case against the contemporary understanding of Scripture. Galileo, on the other hand, attempted to portray heliocentrism as absolute truth without any ability to prove it which was his ultimate undoing.

You also say "the First Christians didn't have Bibles..." Of course they did not but they still believed the universal set of truths that the Church taught. Were the apostles taught all the truths of salvation by our Lord at once? No. Similarly, the Faith became more clear to the Early Church over time.

"If the Holy Spirit moved the Church to change and reevaluate things" The Holy Ghost does not move the Church to change or "reevaluate." Again, doctrines develop not change. The Church is not a democracy that stops and takes a vote and reevaluates matters of doctrine and then comes up with a decision.

"Jesus WAS change" This is heretical. Our Lord Jesus Christ is God. He is the 2nd Person of the Blessed Trinity. God can not change. Since Jesus is God, He can not change. To say that Jesus is change is heresy against the nature of God.

del_button March 3, 2013 at 10:23 AM
Anonymous said...

Matthew, seriously. Spell Check, Please.

del_button June 15, 2013 at 5:53 PM
Anonymous said...

I am trying to locate a scanned copy of "The Components of Liberal Catholicism" by Fr. Fenton from the July 1958 issue of American Ecclesiastical Review. Do you have a copy that can be emailed?

del_button April 6, 2016 at 12:32 PM
CoolBreeze said...

In regard to Galileo I would add that his "proof" for heliocentricity - the earth's dual motion as it travels around the sun being the cause of the tides - was and remains incorrect. The competing and correct theory (concerning the tides) existed in his day. Neither theory could be scientifically proven/disproven since humanity lacked the means to do so.

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