Editor’s note: The following is the text of a talk given by His Excellency Bishop Athanasius Schneider in Milton Keynes, England on Sunday, November 26. Entitled the “Beauty and immutability of the Catholic Faith,” Bishop Schneider also presented his recently published catechism “Credo” during the event. The text of his talk is published here with direct permission of Bishop Schneider.
(LifeSiteNews) –– I would like to encourage you to be proud of our Catholic faith, which is the most precious and the most beautiful gift, which God granted us. The Catholic Faith is indeed not the private property of the pastor of a parish, nor of the bishop of a diocese and not even of the Pope. The Catholic Faith is greater, it precedes and transcends the pastors of the Church, because they are the first ones who have to obey to the Faith exemplarily and to transmit it integrally to the faithful. The Catholic faith belong to all times, to all places and to all generations of Catholic, starting with the Apostles and going through all the fathers and doctors of the Church and all the saints we know.
The Catholic faith cannot admit a change or a rupture, or a reinterpretation into another signification than it had been constantly believed and taught throughout two thousand years. Nowadays we can state the introduction of some changes and ruptures in the presentation of the truth regarding doctrine and morals.
To hide and mask such changes there are used seductive expressions such as paradigm swift or hermeneutic of continuity even when the obvious sense of the changes contradicts the constant believe and practice of the Church. In such situations you should say: I know my Catholic Faith, I will not permit to be confused. For the sake of this Faith I am ready to die. The Church has to fulfill her primary mission of proclaiming the truth bearing in mind that she will be always persecuted.
There is a fact, which must last until the end of the time: it is the preservation of the Church through the time, without mixture in its doctrine, without alteration in its hierarchy. A thousand great human things have been created, developed and fallen into decadence. The Church is still standing; God supports it directly, and every man of good faith, able to apply the laws of analogy, can read in the facts which concern it this immortal promise given to the Church to last until the end of the times, which the Church bears written by the hand of the Incarnate God on its base.
Heresies, scandals, defections, conquests, revolutions, nothing could destroy the Church; repulsed from one country, the Church advanced on another; always visible, always Catholic, always conquering and always tested.
This fact shows the raison d’etre of humanity, that is to say that the vocation of the human race is a supernatural call; that the nations on earth do not belong only to God as the Creator who created the first human family, but that they are also, as the Prophet said, the particular domain of Jesus Christ, the Man-God. Then, no more mysteries in the succession of centuries, no more inexplicable vicissitudes; everything goes to the goal, every problem solves itself with this divine fact of the Incarnation.
May the following affirmations of famous Catholic apologists give you strength, courage, joy and love for our immutable Catholic Faith.
Blessed John Henry Newman said:
The Church of God on earth will be greatly reduced, as we may well imagine, in its apparent numbers, in the times of Antichrist, by the open desertion of the powers of the world. This desertion will begin in a professed indifference to any particular form of Christianity, under the pretense of universal toleration; which toleration will proceed from no true spirit of charity and forbearance, but from a design to undermine Christianity, by multiplying and encouraging sectaries.
The pretended toleration will go far beyond a just toleration, even as it regards the different sects of Christians. For governments will pretend an indifference to all, and will give a protection in preference to none. From the toleration of the (most pestilent) heresies, they will proceed to the toleration of Mahometanism (Islam), Atheism, and at last to a positive persecution of the truth of Christianity. The merely nominal Christians will all desert the profession of the truth, when the powers of the world desert it. And this tragic event I take to be typified by the order to St. John to measure the Temple and the Altar, and leave the outer court (national, schismatic Churches, heresies) to be trodden under foot by the Gentiles.
The property of the clergy will be pillaged, the public worship insulted and vilified by these deserters of the faith they once professed, who are not called apostates because they never were in earnest in their profession. Their profession was nothing more than a compliance with fashion and public authority. In principle they were always, what they now appear to be, Gentiles.
When this general desertion of the faith takes place, then will commence the sackcloth ministry of the witnesses … They will have no support from governments, no honours, no emoluments, no immunities, but they will have that which no earthly power can take away, which they derived from Christ, who commissioned them to be His witnesses”. (British Magazine, May, 1834.)
Blessed John Henry Newman saw the special peril of the future times in the spread of the plague of infidelity and unbelief. In a sermon from 1873 he says:
Christianity is superhuman in its origin, it differs from all other religions. As man differs from quadruped, bird or reptile, so does Christianity differ from the superstitions, heresies, and philosophies which are around it. It has a theology and an ethical system of its own. This is its indestructible idea. How are we to secure and perpetuate in this world that gift from above? How are we to preserve to the Christian people this gift, so special, so divine, so easily hid or lost amid the imposing falsehoods with which the world abounds?
All times have their special trials which others have not. And so far, I will admit that there were certain specific dangers to Christians at certain other times, which do not exist in this time. Doubtless, but still admitting this, still I think that the trials which lie before us are such as would appall and make dizzy even such courageous hearts as St. Athanasius, St. Gregory I, or St. Gregory VII. And they would confess that dark as the prospect of their own day was to them severally, ours has a darkness different in kind from any that has been before it.
The special peril of the time before us is the spread of that plague of infidelity, that the Apostles and our Lord Himself have predicted as the worst calamity of the last times of the Church. And at least a shadow, a typical image of the last times is coming over the world. I do not mean to presume to say that this is the last time, but that it has had the evil prerogative of being like that more terrible season, when it is said that the elect themselves will be in danger of falling away.
A sound, accurate, complete knowledge of Catholic theology is the best weapon (after a good life) in controversy. Any child, well instructed in the catechism, is, without intending it, a real missioner. And why? Because the world is full of doubtings and uncertainty, and of inconsistent doctrine—a clear consistent idea of revealed truth, on the contrary, cannot be found outside of the Catholic Church. Consistency, completeness, is a persuasive argument for a system being true. Certainly if it be inconsistent, it is not truth. (Sermon 9. The Infidelity of the Future, Opening of St. Bernard’s Seminary, 2nd October 1873.)
Hilaire Belloc presented, already in 1938, an almost prophetical analysis of the current situation which Christianity and specifically the Catholic Church has to face and in which her mission of proclaiming the truth reveal its primary importance:
“The Modern Attack,” is a wholesale assault upon the fundamentals of the Faith, upon the very existence of the Faith. And the enemy now advancing against us is increasingly conscious of the fact that there can be no question of neutrality. The forces now opposed to the Faith design to destroy. The battle is henceforward engaged upon a definite line of cleavage, involving the survival or destruction of the Catholic Church. And all – not a portion of its philosophy.
We know, of course, that the Catholic Church cannot be destroyed…The truth is becoming every day so much more obvious that within a few years it will be universally admitted. I do not entitle the modern attack “anti-Christ” though in my heart I believe that to be the true term for it: No, I do not give it that name because it would seem for the moment exaggerated.
But the name doesn’t matter. Whether we call it “The Modern Attack” or “anti-Christ” it is all one; there is a clear issue now joined between the retention of Catholic morals, tradition, and authority on the one side, and the active effort to destroy them on the other. The modern attack will not tolerate us. It will attempt to destroy us. Nor can we tolerate it. …
That great Modern Attack (which is more than a heresy) is indifferent to self-contradiction. It merely affirms. It advances like an animal, counting on strength alone. Indeed, it may be remarked in passing that this may well be the cause of its final defeat; for hitherto reason has always overcome its opponents; and man is the master of the beast through reason. …
The Modern Attack on the Catholic Church, the most universal that she has suffered since her foundation, has so far progressed that it has already produced social, intellectual and moral forms which combined give it the savor of a religion.
But reason today is everywhere decried. The ancient process of conviction by argument and proof is replaced by reiterated affirmation; and almost all the terms which were the glory of reason carry with them now an atmosphere of contempt. See what has happened for instance to the word “logic,” to the word “controversy;” note such popular phrases as “no one yet was ever convinced by argument,” or again, “anything may be proved,” or “that may be all right in logic, but in practice it is very different.” The speech of men is becoming saturated with expressions which everywhere connote contempt for the use of the intelligence…
When reason is dethroned, not only is Faith dethroned (the two subversions go together) but every moral and legitimate activity of the human soul is dethroned at the same time. There is no God. So the words “God is Truth” which the mind of Christian Europe used as a postulate in all it did, cease to have meaning. None can analyze the rightful authority of government nor set bounds to it.
In the absence of reason, political authority reposing on mere force is boundless. And reason is thus made a victim because Humanity itself is what the Modern Attack is destroying in its false religion of humanity. Reason being the crown of man and at the same time his distinguishing mark, the Anarchs march against reason as their principle enemy…either we of the Faith shall become a small persecuted neglected island amid mankind, or we shall be able to lift at the end of the struggle the old battle-cry, “Christus Imperat!”
Lastly there is this very important and perhaps decisive consideration: though the social strength of Catholicism, in numbers certainly, and in most other factors as well, is declining throughout the world; the issue, as between Catholicism and the completely new pagan thing (the destruction of all tradition, the breaking with our inheritance), is now clearly marked. (The Great Heresies, Reprint San Francisco 2017, pp. 175ff.)
Archbishop Fulton Sheen made the following remarkable statement:
If I were not a Catholic, and were looking for the true Church in the world today, I would look for the one Church which did not get along well with the world; in other words, I would look for the Church which the world hates. My reason for doing this would be, that if Christ is in any one of the churches of the world today, He must still be hated as He was when He was on earth in the flesh. If you would find Christ today, then find the Church that does not get along with the world. Look for the Church that is hated by the world, as Christ was hated by the world.
Look for the Church, which the world rejects because it claims it is infallible, as Pilate rejected Christ because he called Himself the Truth. If the Church is unpopular with the spirit of the world, then it is unworldly, and if it is unworldly, it is other-worldly. Since it is other-worldly, it is infinitely loved and infinitely hated as was Christ Himself. (Taken from Radio Replies, Vol. 1, p. 9, Rumble & Carty, Tan Publishing, 2015.)
Juan Donoso Cortes, a Spanish Catholic writer and apologist from the nineteenth century, explained perspicaciously the unique mission by God given to the Church, which makes her indestructible:
The Catholic Church, considered as a religious institution, has exercised the same influence on society, that Catholicity, considered as a doctrine, has on the world—the same that our Lord Jesus Christ has exercised on man. This consists in the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ, His doctrine, and His Church, are but three different manifestations of one and the same thing, that is, of the divine action operating supernaturally and substantially on man and all his powers, on society and all its institutions. Our Lord Jesus Christ, Catholicity, and the Catholic Church, are one and the same word—the word of God, perpetually resounding on high.
Her doctrine is marvelous and true, because it is the doctrine taught by the great Master of all truth, and the great Worker of all wonders; and yet the world studies in the halls of error, and lends an attentive ear to the vain eloquence of miserable sophists and obscure clowns. She received from her divine Founder the power of working miracles, and she works them, she herself being a perpetual miracle; and yet the world calls her a vain and shameful superstition, and she is made a spectacle to men and nations. Her own children, beloved with such love, raise their sacrilegious hands against their tender mother, and abandon the holy hearth which protected their infancy, and seek in a new family and at a new hearth gross delights and impure loves.
Suppress for a moment in imagination that life, those truths, those prodigies, and invincible testimonies of the Church, and you shall have at one stroke suppressed all her tribulations, all her tears, all her misfortunes, and all her woes. In the truths she proclaims lies the mystery of her tribulation; in the supernatural strength she possesses lies the mystery of her victory; and those two things together explain at once her victories and her tribulations.
Ancient and modern institutions are only the expression of two different societies, because they are the expression of two different humanities. Hence, when Catholic societies prevaricate and fall, paganism immediately invades them, and ideas, customs, institutions, and the societies themselves, become pagan.
The Church acted on society in a manner analogous to that of the other political and social elements, and, besides, in a manner peculiarly her own. Considered as an institution born in time and localized in space, her influence was visible and limited, like that of other institutions localized in space and offsprings of time. Considered as a divine institution, she had in her an immense supernatural power, which, uninfluenced by the laws of time and space, acted on all and in all directions at once, quietly, secretly, and supernaturally. So true is this, that, in the critical confusion of all social elements, the Church gave something exclusively her own to all the others, while she herself preserved her absolute identity intact.
Roman society, on coming into contact with her, became, without ceasing to be Roman, something it had not been before—it became Catholic. The German peoples, without ceasing to be German, became something they had not been before—they became Catholic. Political and social institutions, without losing their proper nature, took one which was foreign to them—the Catholic nature.
In the common mass of European civilization, which, like all other civilizations, and more than other civilizations, is unity and variety at one and the same time, all other elements combined and united constituted it various, while the Church alone made it one, and, by making it one, gave it its essential character—gave it that from which is taken what is most essential in an institution—its name. European civilization was not called German, or Roman, or absolute, or feudal; it was and is called Catholic civilization.
That something supernatural, divine, and impalpable, is what has subjugated the world to truth taught by the Church, surmounted the most invincible obstacles for her, brought into subjection to her, rebel intellects and proud hearts, elevated her above human vicissitudes and secured her influence over tribes and nations. No one who does not keep in view the sovereign and divine virtue of the Church, will ever comprehend her influence, her victories, or her tribulations. (Juan Donoso Cortes, Essays on Catholicism, Liberalism, and Socialism, Considered in their Fundamental Principles, Gornahoor Press 2010, pp. 23-25.)
“True progress consists in submitting the human element which corrupts liberty, to the divine element which purifies it. Society has followed a different path in looking upon the empire of faith as dead; and in proclaiming the empire of reason and the will of man, it has made evil, which was only relative, contingent and exceptional, absolute, universal, and necessary. This period of rapid retrogression commenced in Europe with the restoration of pagan literature, which has brought about successively the restoration of pagan philosophy, religious paganism, and political paganism. At the present time the world is on the eve of the last of these restorations – that of pagan socialism.” (Juan Donoso Cortes, Letter to Montalembert, June 4, 1849, quoted by Jean Joseph Gaume, Paganism in Education. London: Charles Dolman, 1852, p. 206.)
“The day when society, forgetting the doctrinal decisions of the Church, has asked the press and the tribune, news writers and assemblies, what is truth and what is error, on that day error and truth are confounded in all intellects, society enters on the regions of shadows, and falls under the empire of fictions.” (Juan Donoso Cortes, Essays on Catholicism, Liberalism and Socialism, Considered in their Fundamental Principles, tr. William McDonald. Dublin: M.H. Gill & Son, 1879.)
“The doctrinal intolerance of the Church has saved the world from chaos. Her doctrinal intolerance has placed beyond question political, domestic, social, and religious, truths— primitive and holy truths, which are not subject to discussion, because they are the foundation of all discussions; there are truths which cannot be called into doubt for a moment without… being lost between truth and error, and the clear mirror of human reason becoming soiled and obscured.” (Ibid.).
Pope Saint Pius X stressed very realistically the necessity of the Church of the modern times to resist the false prophets:
The implacable enemy of humankind never sleeps; according to the circumstances of the time and the occurring of events he changes tactically the language, yet always ready to fight. In fact, the more the error, persecuted by the truth, is condemned to hide himself, the more one has to fear the dangerous ambushes behind which he does not hesitate to reestablish his ever fatal artillery units. Thus, we must never abandon ourselves to a false security, otherwise we will be liable to condemnations pronounced against the false prophets, who announced peace, where it wasn’t and who sang victory where all was calling us to the battle.
It is therefore necessary in all times, and specially in this time, in which there is a great conspiracy instigated directly against Our Lord Jesus Christ and against His supernatural and revealed religion, to denounce the false masters of the people, who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, seducing many intelligences, who are yielding to any wind of doctrine. We believe, therefore, that the time has come to speak. (Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Epistolae ad principes. Positiones et minutuae 157, 1907/1908, fascicolo 35.)
A Catholic bishop is bound to fulfill his public oath: “To maintain the deposit of faith, entire and incorrupt, as handed down by the apostles and professed by the Church everywhere and at all times.” (Rite of Episcopal Ordination) Therefore, I am compelled to respond to the requests of many sons and daughters of the Church who are perplexed by the widespread doctrinal confusion in the Church of our day.
I offer this work, Credo: Compendium of the Catholic Faith, to strengthen them in their faith and serve as a guide to the changeless teaching of the Church. Mindful of the episcopal duty to be a “nurturer of the Catholic and apostolic Faith” (catholicae et apostolicae fidei cultoribus) as stated in the Canon of the Mass, I also wish to bear public witness to the continuity and integrity of the Catholic and apostolic doctrine. In preparing this text, my intended audience has been chiefly God’s “little ones” — faithful Catholics who are hungry for the bread of right doctrine. It is therefore in obedience to my duty toward them, laid upon me in my episcopal consecration to preach the truth in season and out of season (see 2 Tm 4:2), that I publish this Compendium at the present time.
The teaching of the catechism is in the words of Pope Benedict XIV “the most useful of institutions for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.” (Cons. Etsi Minime) Pope Pius X, wrote as Cardinal Patriarch of Venice a letter, where he stressed the vital importance of a clear and precise catechetical instruction, since one of the deepest thirsts of the people is the thirst for truth. In 1894 Cardinal Sarto wrote:
We preach too much and teach too little. We must put aside these florid speeches and preach piously and simply to the people the truths of faith, the commandments of the Church, the teachings of the Gospel, the vices, and the virtues, because it often happens that persons well instructed in profane sciences do not know or misknow the truths of faith and know less of the catechism than idiotic children do. Think of the good of souls more than the impression you hope to make. The people thirst for truth: let them be given what they need or the salvation of their souls; and so, instructed in their own language, touched, and moved, they will weep over their faults and approach the divine Sacraments.
The Catholic Faith is greater, it precedes and transcends the popes and the bishops, because they are the first ones who must obey the Faith exemplarily and to transmit it integrally to the faithful. The Catholic Faith belong to all times, to all places and to all generations of Catholic, starting with the Apostles and going through all the fathers and doctors of the Church and all the saints we know. What should true Catholics do, if they are confused or persecuted even within the Church. Saint Vincent de Lerins, a Church Father from the 5th century, gave useful guidelines in this regard when he said:
If some new contagion seeks to infect not only an insignificant part of the Church, but the whole? Then it will be up to you to cling to antiquity, which today cannot be seduced by any fraud of novelty. He must consult and interrogate the opinions of the ancients, of those, that is to say, that, although they live in different times and places, but continue in the communion and faith of the only Catholic Church, recognized and approved authorities: and in any case it must make sure that it has been sustained, written, taught, not only by one or two of these authorities, but by all, equally, with a consent, openly, frequently, persistently. (Commonitorium, 7-8).
Juan Donoso Cortes, the great Spanish Catholic apologist from the 19th century, made the following observation: “The day when society, forgetting the doctrinal decisions of the Church, has asked the press and the tribune, news writers and assemblies, what is truth and what is error, on that day error and truth are confounded in all intellects, society enters on the regions of shadows, and falls under the empire of fictions.” (Essays on Catholicism, Liberalism and Socialism, Considered in their Fundamental Principles, tr. William McDonald. Dublin: M.H. Gill & Son, 1879).
St. John Henry Newman said: “A sound, accurate, complete knowledge of Catholic theology is the best weapon (after a good life) in controversy. Any child, well instructed in the catechism, is, without intending it, a real missioner. And why? Because the world is full of doubtings and uncertainty, and of inconsistent doctrine—a clear consistent idea of revealed truth, on the contrary, cannot be found outside of the Catholic Church. Consistency, completeness, is a persuasive argument for a system being true. Certainly, if it be inconsistent, it is not truth.” (Sermon 9. The Infidelity of the Future, Opening of St. Bernard’s Seminary, 2nd October 1873).
Today more than ever society needs a clear and consistent formulation of Catholic doctrines. As in the early days of Christianity, it is necessary for Christians to strike the unbelieving world with the unity of their principles and judgments. The Catholics must show themselves to the modern society as they really are, convinced Catholic. If churchmen and Catholics of our day flatter the modern society by speaking her language, they amuse her for a moment, then the unbelieving society will forget them; for such churchmen and Catholics will not have made a serious impression on it. Because the modern society will have recognized herself in them more or less, and as the unbelieving society has little self-confidence, she will not have confidence any more in such conformist churchmen.
The Churchmen and all those who are working in the apostolate of spreading the Catholic faith in our day, must be reminded that they must preach the same truths as did our Lord, and this includes the preaching of the mystery of Cross and the spiritual fight with God’s grace, which leads to holiness, a life in union with God. As for those who think that the New Testament has opened for us the era of a spiritual life without struggle and compromises with the spirit of the world, how wrong they are! Today there is a lot of talk about “new times,” “new order,” “reset.” But these “new times,” the authentic “reset” will be the reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat!