The document below was issued by a small group of cardinals and bishops, who claim to be reaffirming the teaching of the Catholic Church. Article and link to full text is here. This is my paragraph by paragraph commentary on the document. Each comment is preceded by a tilde ~ , while each of the 40 paragraphs is numbered. Part 1 reviews paragraphs 1 to 11.
“The Church of the living God – the pillar and the bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15)
Declaration of the truths relating to some of the most common errors in the life of the Church of our time
The Fundamentals of Faith
1. The right meaning of the expressions ‘living tradition,’ ‘living Magisterium,’ ‘hermeneutic of continuity,’ and ‘development of doctrine’ includes the truth that whatever new insights may be expressed regarding the deposit of faith, nevertheless they cannot be contrary to what the Church has always proposed in the same dogma, in the same sense, and in the same meaning (see First Vatican Council, Dei Filius, sess. 3, c. 4: “in eodem dogmate, eodem sensu, eademque sententia”).
~ True. Yet sometimes the meaning of past dogmas is a matter of some dispute, and it falls to the living Magisterium to settle all such questions. Then, too, if there is no magisterial decision on a theological question, it remains for the Magisterium to answer definitively at some point in the future.
2. “The meaning of dogmatic formulas remains ever true and constant in the Church, even when it is expressed with greater clarity or more developed. The faithful therefore must shun the opinion, first, that dogmatic formulas (or some category of them) cannot signify truth in a determinate way, but can only offer changeable approximations to it, which to a certain extent distort or alter it; secondly, that these formulas signify the truth only in an indeterminate way, this truth being like a goal that is constantly being sought by means of such approximations. Those who hold such an opinion do not avoid dogmatic relativism and they corrupt the concept of the Church’s infallibility relative to the truth to be taught or held in a determinate way.” (Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration “Mysterium Ecclesiae” in defense of the Catholic doctrine on the Church against certain errors of the present day, 5).
3. “The Kingdom of God begun here below in the Church of Christ is not of this world whose form is passing, and its proper growth cannot be confounded with the progress of civilization, of science or of human technology, but it consists in an ever more profound knowledge of the unfathomable riches of Christ, an ever stronger hope in eternal blessings, an ever more ardent response to the love of God, and an ever more generous bestowal of grace and holiness among men. The deep solicitude of the Church, the Spouse of Christ, for the needs of men, for their joys and hopes, their griefs and efforts, is therefore nothing other than her great desire to be present to them, in order to illuminate them with the light of Christ and to gather them all in Him, their only Savior. This solicitude can never mean that the Church conforms herself to the things of this world, or that she lessens the ardor of her longing of her Lord and of the eternal Kingdom” (Paul VI, Apostolic letter Solemni hac liturgia (Credo of the People of God), 27). The opinion is, therefore, erroneous that says that God is glorified principally by the very fact of the progress in the temporal and earthly condition of the human race.
~ Earthly life contains good things from God, especially in the loving, merciful, and just treatment which human persons have for one another. Temporal progress is a good, in so far as it benefits the children of God. But of course this is not the principle way that God is glorified.
4. After the institution of the New and Everlasting Covenant in Jesus Christ, no one may be saved by obedience to the law of Moses alone without faith in Christ as true God and the only Savior of humankind (see Rom 3:28; Gal 2:16).
~ This assertion is problematic. First, prior to the New Covenant, no one was saved by obedience to the law of Moses. They were saved by an implicit baptism of desire (or one of blood). The law of Moses was established and received from God, by Divine Revelation. But all who are saved have always been saved by Christ.
~ Faith alone is not sufficient to save; a person must also have true selfless love. Human persons who die in the state of grace have eternal life; the state of grace always includes love, faith, and hope. Whosoever has this type of love, which is an infused theological virtue, also always has faith and hope. But some persons have faith, but they lack love and hope, being unrepentant from actual mortal sin.
~ Also, the infused theological virtue of faith need not be accompanied by explicit faith in Jesus Christ, since the Church teaches that both those baptized as Christians and those who receive a baptism of desire are children of God by spiritual adoption (Council of Trent, Decree on Justification, chap. 4).
~ Pope Saint John Paul II: “The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all.” (Redemptoris Missio 10).
~ Pope Pius XII: “An act of love is sufficient for the adult to obtain sanctifying grace and to supply the lack of baptism.” (Address to Midwives 21a.)
5. Muslims and others who lack faith in Jesus Christ, God and man, even monotheists, cannot give to God the same adoration as Christians do, that is to say, supernatural worship in Spirit and in Truth (see Jn 4:24; Eph 2:8) of those who have received the Spirit of filial adoption (see Rom 8:15).
~ False. This assertion directly contradicts the dogma of the Council of Trent, and is heretical.
~ Council of Trent: “By these words, a description of the justification of the impious is introduced, as being a translation from the state, in which a person is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace and of the adoption of the children of God, through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Savior. And certainly [this] translation, after the promulgation of the Gospel, is not able to occur without the washing of regeneration or its desire, just as it is written: ‘unless one has been reborn by water and the Holy Spirit, he is not able to enter into the kingdom of God.’ [John 3:5]” (Decree on Justification, chap. 4).
~ Notice that those who receive a baptism of desire, which the magisterial also teaches can be implicit, also receive “the state of grace and of the adoption of the children of God….” And when this baptism of desire is implicit, the person might lack an explicit faith in Jesus Christ, yet possess love, faith, and hope with the state of grace.
~ There are three monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Saying “Muslims and others… even monotheists” is a clear reference to Judaism and nothing else. So this paragraph refers only to Muslims and Jews, since they are the only non-Christian monotheistic religions.
~ “The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church.” Therefore, one may have supernatural love, faith, and hope without explicit belief in Christ. Every Muslim and Jew who has love for God and neighbor certainly has the infused theological virtue of love, which is always accompanied by faith and hope. And according to the Council of Trent, such persons also are children of God by spiritual adoption. Therefore, they certainly are able to adore and worship God their Father, despite errors in their beliefs on faith and morals.
~ The claim that Muslims and Jews cannot give God the same supernatural adoration implies that Muslims and Jews lack supernatural love. And that claim contradicts the teaching of Redemptoris Missio and the Council of Trent. Moreover, the claim that they “lack faith in Jesus Christ” contradicts the teaching of the Church that the baptism of desire may be implicit, that is, persons who are non-Christians, who lack explicit faith in Christ, can still have supernatural love, faith, and hope.
~ Essentially, paragraph 5 necessarily implies that both Muslims and Jews do not go to Heaven, unless they repent and convert to Christianity. For all those persons and only those persons who have the state of grace, which includes supernatural love, supernatural faith, and supernatural hope, can be saved. Even persons who have supernatural faith, but have lost love and hope by unrepentant actual mortal sin, will not be saved, but will have eternal punishment (as the document itself admits). By saying that Muslims and (as is implied) Jews lack the ability to give God supernatural adoration, it is necessarily implied that they cannot receive an implicit baptism of desire. For supernatural adoration proceeds from supernatural love, from the state of grace, and from adoption as children of God — which the Church teaches Muslims and Jews may certainly possess without converting to Christianity.
~ Paragraph 5 is not only heretical, it is specifically the heresy of Feeneyism. For if even believers in a monotheistic God cannot receive an implicit baptism of desire, then only Christians are left to be saved. For non-believers and believers in monotheistic religions are in a lesser state than Muslims and Jews as regards God and faith. And, given the context of paragraph 5, paragraph 4 must be interpreted also as asserting this same heresy.
~ The signatories and authors of this document are automatically excommunicated for heresy.
6. Spiritualities and religions that promote any kind of idolatry or pantheism cannot be considered either as “seeds” or as “fruits” of the Divine Word, since they are deceptions that preclude the evangelization and eternal salvation of their adherents, as it is taught by Holy Scripture: “the god of this world has made blind the minds of those who have not faith, so that the light of the good news of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, might not be shining on them” (2 Cor 4:4).
~ Any religion which teaches love of God and neighbor certainly has a core of truth which assists believers in reaching salvation, despite other errors in beliefs on faith and morals. For all those persons and only those persons who die possessing supernatural love will be saved (and that love is always accompanied by supernatural faith and supernatural hope).
~ Some religions, unfortunately, do not provide any substantial help to their adherents on the path of salvation. Even so, such adherents can be saved by an implicit baptism of desire or a baptism of blood (or by conversion to Christianity). The selfless love of neighbor is always accompanied, at least implicitly, by the love of God.
~ It is a grave error to declare that many non-Christian religions “preclude the evangelization and eternal salvation of their adherents”. Even when a person mistakenly follows a religion which is idolatry, such as the Roman pagan religion followed by the Centurion, or the pagan religion followed by the woman of Canaan, they can be saved by an implicit baptism of desire and by perfect contrition if they sin gravely.
7. True ecumenism intends that non-Catholics should enter that unity which the Catholic Church already indestructibly possesses in virtue of the prayer of Christ, always heard by His Father, “that they may be one” (John 17:11), and which she professes in the Symbol of Faith, “I believe in one Church.” Ecumenism, therefore, may not legitimately have for its goal the establishment of a Church that does not yet exist.
~ So, there is a type of ecumenism which is true. Fine.
8. Hell exists and those who are condemned to hell for any unrepented mortal sin are eternally punished there by Divine justice (see Mt 25:46). Not only fallen angels but also human souls are damned eternally (see 2 Thess 1:9; 2 Pet 3:7). Eternally damned human beings will not be annihilated, since their souls are immortal according to the infallible teaching of the Church (see Fifth Lateran Council, sess. 8).
~ Bishop Robert Barron is a heretic for denying the above dogma. Why don’t the papal accusers point out that Barron is a teacher of heresy? Why don’t the signatories to this document address those fellow Bishops who teach heresy?
9. The religion born of faith in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God and the only Savior of humankind, is the only religion positively willed by God. The opinion is, therefore, wrong that says that just as God positively wills the diversity of the male and female sexes and the diversity of nations, so in the same way he also wills the diversity of religions.
~ This paragraph has never been taught by the Magisterium definitively. And, it is obvious that God positively willed the Jewish faith, which was established by Divine Revelation, by providence, grace, and many literal miracles. But even if they had said, “since the arrival of Christ”, the assertion would still, in my opinion, be wrong.
~ Before the fact of our sinfulness, God wants all human persons to convert to the Catholic Christian faith, which alone among all religions has the fullness of truth and all of the gifts given by Christ to save humanity. But after the fact of our sinfulness, God does positively will SOME other religions, while He permissively wills the rest of the religions. Those religions are also positively willed, after the fact of our sinfulness, which teach the love of God and neighbor, or which at least have sufficient teachings to guide their adherents to a selfless love of neighbor.
~ This paragraph implicitly makes a false accusation against Pope Francis. He does not believe, as I do, that God positively wills a plurality of religions, after the fact of our sinfulness. He explicitly stated that the plurality of religions is permissively willed by God: “why does God allow many religions? God wanted to allow this: Scolastica theologians used to refer to God’s ‘voluntas permissiva’.” Yet conservatives continue to accuse him of this alleged error, despite knowing that he has directly and explicitly said otherwise. They are bearing false witness.
~ No one is saying “just as God positively wills the diversity of the male and female sexes and the diversity of nations, so in the same way he also wills the diversity of religions.” Rather, that is the argument of the papal accusers. The document “Human Fraternity“, signed by Pope Francis, states: “The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings.” It does not say that God wills each thing in the list in the same way (positively). Rather, it says that each thing is the list is willed by divine wisdom, the same wisdom which created us. So the accusation does not stand. Moreover, as the story of the Tower of Babel teaches us, the diversity of religions is permissively willed by God. So why mention the diversity of sexes and nations, and ignore the diversity of languages?
10. “Our [Christian] religion effectively establishes with God an authentic and living relationship which the other religions do not succeed in doing, even though they have, as it were, their arms stretched out towards heaven” (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 53).
~ Whether or not that assertion is true depends on its interpretation. Given the errors expressed in paragraphs 4 and 5, which constitute abject heresy on salvation, the intent behind the above paragraph is suspect. Certainly, salvation is accessible to persons who, without culpability to the extent of actual mortal sin, fail to convert to Christianity. And certainly non-Christians can have supernatural love, faith, and hope, at least by an implicit baptism of desire. Such persons are children of God by spiritual adoption, and therefore have an authentic and living relationship with God — despite substantial errors on faith and morals which impede that relationship by degrees.
11. The gift of free will with which God the Creator endowed the human person grants man the natural right to choose only the good and the true. No human person has, therefore, a natural right to offend God in choosing the moral evil of sin, the religious error of idolatry, blasphemy, or a false religion.
~ Is not heresy a false religion? Then why does this very document assert heresy, while proposing that no one has such a right? It is one of the worst misuses of religion to divinize and dogmatize one’s own understanding, while condemning the understanding of everyone else.
~ Canon law states: “748 n. 1. All persons are bound to seek the truth in those things which regard God and his Church and by virtue of divine law are bound by the obligation and possess the right of embracing and observing the truth which they have come to know.”
~ That law implies that persons have a right to adhere to what they, even mistakenly, believe to be truths of faith and morals. For they have the natural right to use and follow their conscience. If a person has a sincere but mistaken conscience regarding a belief of faith or morals, they possess the natural right — and even an obligation — to adhere to that belief, even when they are mistaken. Canon law asserts this right of conscience. Paragraph 11 contradicts Canon law.
~ A person may literally be sent to Hell, if he or she rejects a sincere but mistaken judgment of conscience on a grave matter, and thereby commits an actual mortal sin — even if the chosen act was not sinful and was only mistakenly thought to be so.
The document has 40 paragraphs, the above article reviews the first 11. More on this topic in future posts.
The Voris-Schneider Connection
The errors on salvation in the “Declaration of Truths” document closely resemble the errors in this interview between Michael Voris and Bishop Athanasius Schneider:
Bishop Schneider: “It has to be clarified, because there is, there are two substantial different levels, substantial different levels, because we as Catholics we can adore, we do adore God always as Trinity, God Father, God Son and the Holy Spirit. Our adoration is an adoration of Faith, supernatural Faith, and to worship God as creator only or as one God only, you have not to, there is no need of Faith, it is sufficient the use of your reason. This is a dogma of the first Vatican council, that every human person is able only by his reason, natural light of reason, natural, without the light of faith to recognize the existence of one God as creator and consequently to worship him according to his knowledge of natural reason, and these are the Muslims, they have no supernatural faith and therefore have no supernatural act of worship, and even the Jews, who rejected Jesus as God, as Trinity they rejected Him, have no faith and therefore their worship is also natural, not supernatural.”
So the heresy expressed in n. 5 is the work of Bishop Schneider. But notice that the interview explicitly condemns Jews as supposedly not able to worship God with supernatural faith and supernatural love, whereas n. 5 implies but does not name the Jews. (The Jews are the only other monotheistic religion aside from Christianity and Islam.) So Schneider perhaps wrote something more severe than n. 5 and another author, perhaps Cardinal Burke, changed the language so that the Jews were not explicitly named.
Now, as I discussed in a previous post, Michael Voris plagiarized from his interview with Bishop Schneider for his video here:
My discussion of Voris’ plagiarism:
So the “Declaration of Truths” document incorporates a heresy from Bishop Athanasisus Schneider, which has been adopted by Michael Voris and Church Militant. It is similar to the heresy of Feeneyism, which denies that non-Christians can be saved.
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