Archive for May, 2023

Earliest Known Images of the Apostles

Courtesy of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology

The Roman Catechism teaches the meaning of Apostolicity: “The true Church is also to be recognized from her origin, which can be traced back under the law of grace to the Apostles; for her doctrine is the truth not recently given, nor now first heard of, but delivered of old by the Apostles, and disseminated throughout the entire world. Hence no one can doubt that the impious opinions which heresy invents, opposed as they are to the doctrines taught by the Church from the days of the Apostles to the present time, are very different from the faith of the true Church. That all, therefore, might know which was the Catholic Church, the Fathers, guided by the Spirit of God, added to the Creed the word Apostolic. For the Holy Ghost, who presides over the Church, governs her by no other ministers than those of Apostolic succession. This Spirit, first imparted to the Apostles, has by the infinite goodness of God always continued in the Church. And just as this one Church cannot err in faith or morals, since it is guided by the Holy Ghost; so, on the contrary, all other societies arrogating to themselves the name of church, must necessarily, because guided by the spirit of the devil, be sunk in the most pernicious errors, both doctrinal and moral.”

The dogma of apostolicity, then, absolutely requires the Catholic Faith. 

The question is whether it absolutely requires a hierarchy. The answer is yes, insofar as it’s necessary generally throughout history. Without the hierarchy, the Church would not have survived these last 1990 years and the faith most likely would not have lasted to the present day.

However, I submit that it’s not necessary at every point in time. As long as the principle of perpetuity or potential of fulfilling the offices exist within the faith, the mark of apostolicity remains. The principle of perpetuity for the papacy was defined at the First Vatican Council. By logical extension, the same principle must apply for the existence of bishops, since the episcopal order necessarily belongs to the essential constitution of the Church. 

Apostolic succession doesn’t die out due to interregnums. An office doesn’t defect by the mere fact it is empty, but only if it can’t be filled. The transmission will always remain as long as the potential is there and according to the First Vatican Council, it will remain for the Chair of Peter.

The common opinion may be that the hierarchy will exist at every point in time, but facts outweigh a common opinion. I will examine later (in Part II) some theological works to see if they deny the possibility of our sedevacantist position or do they give general rules and understandings. For now, I will prove that apostolicity doesn’t require a hierarchy at every point in time.

The apostolic mark is a visible mark like the other three marks, viz. one, holy, and catholic. We call them marks so as to identify the true church. However, these marks matter most to us in identifying the local Catholic Church in our own communities. Knowing that the pope is Catholic or that somewhere the Catholic Church exists in the world doesn’t help us find the local Catholic Church. 

Each and every particular church and mission of the Catholic Church has all four marks or else you couldn’t identify the local Catholic Church. It shouldn’t require a Catholic to consult a theological manual to understand all the particular details of each of the four marks. A basic understanding of the marks is all that’s needed to find the Church or else only theologians and highly educated Catholics would be the only ones to actually find it.

All four marks are interconnected to the doctrine and ministry of the Church. No other church has any of the four marks as the Catholic Church defines them. If you find the Church that’s one, then you’ve also found the Church that’s holy, catholic, and apostolic.

When a pastoral office of a particular church or mission becomes vacant, the apostolic mark doesn’t disappear from that particular church or mission or else the particular church or mission would effectively disappear each time the office becomes vacant.

One might argue that the particular church without a priest is under the bishop. Therefore, the mark exists with the bishop over that church. What if the bishopric is also vacant at the same time as the church without the priest? The next step would be to point to the pope who is the head over all the Church. Well, what if the papal office is vacant at the same time as the diocese without a bishop and the church within that diocese without a priest? Does that church cease to be Catholic, since there’s no hierarchy over that particular church to point to? In the past without the internet and high speed mail, men wouldn’t know for long periods of time when the papal office is vacant anyway.

No Catholic in his right mind would say that church was no longer Catholic. What keeps the apostolic mark with this particular church, without a priest, bishop, or pope, is the faith of the people with the potential of having the office filled.

A good example is the Church in Japan. On July 24, 1587, the Chancellor of the Realm, Tokugawa Hideyoshi promulgated a ban on Catholicism. The Church went underground and eventually lost all of its pastors for the next couple of hundred years until the late 1800’s. This of course, would include papal interregnums throughout those many years. The Catholic Church existed without a hierarchy in Japan under these harshest of times for any Christian anywhere anytime.

The particular church or mission that’s connected to the Apostolic See (filled or not) is the Catholic Church, plain and simple. Again, the Church in Japan in the 16th and 17th centuries serves as one good example.

Every particular church and mission of the faithful united to the Chair of Peter has all four marks, because the marks are not dependent on the offices being filled, but only that they can be filled or the potential of being filled.

The whole Church is governed by the Chair of Peter even when the office is vacant. The proof lies in the fact that Catholics must obey and follow the laws and teachings of the Church that stem from the Office of Peter just as we are governed by Christ through His Word and Instruction. The governing would be imperfect, since the Church is in an imperfect form without a pope.

Just as the Church can be in an imperfect form without a pope, the four marks can be imperfect.  For instance, during the Great Western Schism, when three men claimed the papacy, the mark of oneness was imperfect. The oneness existed, but it was difficult to see and understand.

The Great Western Schism was a unique time in history, just as our times are today. I suspect the common and perhaps the universal opinion of the experts long before the Great Western Schism would be that such a thing would be impossible, yet it happened. A universal opinion is still an opinion, thus it is futile to use some theologian to prove that a hierarchy will exist at every moment in time. The moral unanimity opinion can’t be proved and the numerical unanimity opinion proves nothing.

It was the universal (numerical) opinion, including that of popes, that a true pope could be legitimately deposed. This is proved by the fact that popes were deposed and not a single theologian said it was illegitimate at that time. This universal opinion was eventually defined to be false at the First Vatican Council, which reiterated the teaching of Pope St. Nicholas I, in his epistle (8), Proposueramus quidem, (865 A.D.) to Emperor Michael III on the Immunity and Independence of the Church: “Neither by Augustus, nor by all the clergy, nor by religious, nor by the people will the judge be judged… ‘The first seat will not be judged by anyone.’”

The apostolic mark exists in potentiality when it comes to the filling of offices for Apostolic succession, but exists fully in apostolicity in doctrine, which is guaranteed by apostolicity in mission. Since the mission remains with the potentiality of the filling of office, and the Church is one body morally in law and doctrine with the highest office, the mark is still visible and perhaps more visible than the mark of oneness during the time of the Great Western Schism. It’s not hard to find the real Church, which holds to the Apostolic Faith in its entirety, but it will take some effort to find it.

A government or hierarchy without apostolicity of faith is not and can not be of the Church of Christ. This necessarily excludes the Eastern Orthodox and the Vatican 2 religion because both religions can’t trace its faith back to the Apostles.

The Eastern Orthodox churches reject the papacy and the Vatican 2 church not only doesn’t have the four marks, it rejects them as the Catholic Church has defined them. This is demonstrated in Missing the Marks: The Church of Vatican 2.

The Vatican 2 religion also rejects the ecclesiology of the return to the Catholic Church, the Syllabus of Errors, and the condemnation of women serving the sanctuary and holding public offices. It rejects the death penalty as an intrinsically evil practice because according to the head of the Vatican 2 religion, it attacks the inviolability and the dignity of the person. 

Apostolicity absolutely requires the Apostolic Faith, but not the hierarchy at all times. Apostolic succession doesn’t cease for the papacy when the office is vacant even for a long time. There’s no reason to think it’s stopped now. Apostolicity remains with the Chair of Peter regardless.

According to the Vatican 2 religion, material apostolic succession as found in the Eastern Orthodox churches is all that’s needed to maintain the Church of Christ. There’s no question that sedevacantism has material apostolic succession with the current bishops. Therefore, if a Vatican 2 apologist appeals to an opinion that formal apostolic succession is necessary, they would be going against their own popes who taught the opposite.

The position of sedevacantism does not say the hierarchy has died out, just as the papal office has not died out due to the vacancy. For it to die out, it would take the inability to ever fill the office. As long as Catholic bishops exist, the potential of having offices exist. Thus, apostolic succession remains and the hierarchy has not died out and it will not die out, lest the gates of hell prevail.

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