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st peter's keys

Bosco and I have fallen into a long and continuing on-line conversation. There is, as I recently pointed out to him an irony in the fact that he is reduced to quoting sedevacantist criticism of recent Popes to support his caricature of the Catholic Church, since it is in such bodies alone that the very things he criticise the Church for are to be found. The Church does not, as Bosco maintains, teach that Heaven will be full of Catholics; that is left to bodies such as those Bosco cites as critics of the recent opes, and is, indeed, one of the reasons for their criticism. As with Dawkins and Protestant fundamentalists, somehow those one the extremes manage to find each other so that, like drunks, they can lean on each other.

I have no idea where, other than on the Internet, Bosco finds these Catholic Churches full of statues, imagery, incense and all the elements of a Traditional Latin Mass; I’d be very happy if if could find one within 120 miles of where I live; if I want that, I’d have to go to an Anglo-Catholic Church like the one Jessica attends; my local Catholic ones, including the Cathedral, are indistinguishable from most Anglican churches. Indeed, the only real distinction is that the architecture of the latter is older and more beautiful; the 1970s was a decade of barbarous architecture, too much of which seems to consist of Catholic Churches.

As will be the case from time to time, Bosco asked a question which has wider application, hence I reproduce it here:

Say good brother, i have a question for you. Lots of devout catholics believe in no salvation outside the CC, and are upset with the way the CC has been going. Why are you correct and them wrong? Quiav doesnt agree with you on may points. Who is rite? And why should i take it that you are rite? Good brother Diamond claims to be a real catholic. What do we do in these cases….flip a coin?

My answer to him also has wider application, if only because it points up something that is, and remains an issue for many in the West – the issue of authority. I told Bosco that the answer to his question is simple – it is the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church which pronounces with authority. This is problematic for many Westerners whose instincts are democratic. Thus, for some, if the Magisterium says something with which they disagree and which they judge to be against their interpretation of Catholic teaching, then, ipso facto the Magisterium is not the real one; the same goes for Popes. But this is Protestant reasoning. It differs not one iota from the Protestant habit of taking the Book canonised by the Church and then claiming to understand it better than the Church. To think that one understands Catholic teaching better than the body which enunciates it, and to think that one is authorised to pronounce on it with the same authority as the Magisterium – indeed, with the authority which allows the Magisterium so to do, it to take unto oneself an authority one in no wise possesses.

There are a myriad ways this one plays out in real life: sometimes it is pointed out that x or y was not said ‘infallibly’ – but since when were Catholics only to obey just the infallible comments of the Magisterium? Sometimes, it is pointed out that in the past the Church said such and such, and that if it has said something different recently, that does not count; but since when has the Church operated on the basis that individuals get to choose which Magisterium they obey, that of Pius IX or Francis?

It is the case that sedevacantists claim to be Catholics, and that others described by Bosco as ‘devout’ disagree with and criticise Pope France, just as many liberal criticised his predecessor, but what of it?  Yes, we all have the right to invoke our conscience, but a properly-formed conscience will not place itself in opposition to the Magisterium; such a conscience will not claim that there is no ‘real’ Pope; such a conscience will do what Catholics are bound to do, which is to submit to the authority of their Fathers in God; it will not cast around the margins until it finds someone who agrees with its rebellion and join them. Whatever this phenomenon calls itself, it is that of the Protestant.  Christ’s Church is guided by the successor of St Peter. If there is something wrong in the direction he takes, have we so little confidence in Christ and the Holy Spirit that we think error can last? If, as Catholics, we cannot be united, then it is vain to say there are however many thousand Protestant sects; if every Catholic is his or her own Magisterium, there are about a billion Catholic Churches. There is but one, that gathered in obedience to the Bishop of Rome. If you don’t like it, say so and see if you can work to change what you do not like; but if it is the Church itself you dislike, and you want something more like an Anglican or and Orthodox one, then let that conscience take you to where it will be happy.

Only the Magisterium is qualified to speak for Rome. Yes, of course, like disobedient children or unruly sheep, we can argue the toss and  argue about whether x or y is meant; but anyone who thinks that only infallible pronouncements are to be followed, is well on the way to listening only to their own views. That leads you to the infallibility of Bosco, who alone knows who is saved, and, of course, objects to an infringement of his monopoly by the Church founded by Jesus Christ.