Benedict XV an
+ + + + +
the Papacy of Benedict XV
Is Defended, Not Because He Was Necessarily
a Good Pope or Privately Orthodox, But For the Sake
of Upholding the Office of St. Peter and Showing Those
Who Call Themselves Catholic How We Are to Judge
the Charge of Heresy, as Well as Know How We
Are to Treat Men, Leaders & Nations Who
Are Outside the Most Holy Roman
COMPOSED & EDITED JUNE TO JULY 2009.
+ + + + +
“Remember your prelates who have spoken the word of God to you; whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation, Jesus Christ, yestreday, and to day; and the same for ever.” (Hebrews 13:7-8 DRC)
“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to his disciples, saying: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees have sitten on the chair of Moses. All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do: but according to their works do ye not; for they say, and do not.’” (Matthew 23:1-3 DRC)
“And Peter said to him: ‘Lord, dost thou speak this parable to us, or likewise to all?’ And the Lord said: ‘Who (thinkest thou) is the faithful and wise steward, whom his lord setteth over his family, to give them their measure of wheat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom when his lord shall come, he shall find so doing. Verily I say to you, he will set him over all that he possesseth. But if that servant shall say in his heart: “My lord is long a coming”; and shall begin to strike the menservants and maidservants, and to eat and to drink and be drunk: the lord of that servant will come in the day that he hopeth not, and at the hour when he knoweth not, and shall separate him, and shall appoint him his portion with unbelievers.’” (Luke 12:41-46 DRC)
“Before thou inquire, blame no man: and when thou hast inquired, reprove justly… And believe not every word. There is one, that slippeth with the tongue, but not from his heart. For who is there that hath not offended with his tongue? Admonish thy neighbour before thou threaten him.” (Ecclesiasticus 11:7, 19:16-17 DRC)
“A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid: knowing that he, that is such a one, is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned by his own judgment.” (Titus 3:10-11 DRC)
+ + + + +
Intended by the Author of This Book
for the Greater Glory of the Adorable Triune Catholic God,
for the Worship of
the Sacred Heart of King Jesus Christ of
for the Praise of the Immaculate Heart of Queen Mary, the Blessed Ever-
Virgin Mother of God,
unto the Protection & Propagation of the Holy Roman Catholic Church &
Her Most Precious Heavenly Dogmas,
under the Euphonious Patronage of St. Cecilia, the Eloquent Patronage
of St. Catherine
Ven. Mariana de Jesus Torres, Virgins &
“Domine, non est
exaltatum cor meum, neque elati
sunt oculi mei. Neque ambulavi
in magnis, neque in mirabilibus super me. Si non humiliter sentiebam, sed exaltavi animam
meam; sicut ablactatus est
super matre sua, ita retributio in anima mea. Speret
St. Francis Xavier, Patron of Catholic Missioners, Ss. Catherine of Alexandria & Francis of Sales, Patrons of Catholic Philosophers & Apologists, respectively, and St. Peter of Verona, the Glorious Martyr, may you be pleased to guide this arrow to its target, either unto eternal life or eternal death! “Now thanks be to God, who always maketh us to triumph in Christ Jesus, and manifesteth the odour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are the good odour of Christ unto God, in them that are saved, and in them that perish. To the one indeed the odour of death unto death: but to the others the odour of life unto life.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16b DRC)
St. Francis of Assisi, Humble Seraph of the Incarnate God, and St. Dominic the Preacher, Dogged Cherub of the Triune Deity, pray for your children that they may not fail the test but suffer the malice of the wicked gladly and so gain the Crown of Life!
+ + + + +
Part One of Was Benedict XV an Antipope? (Chapters 1-18)
+ + + + +
A NOTE TO THE READER:
This book was a long email to those who have recently accused Benedict XV --- who ruled over the Church during the early 20th century--- of being an antipope, as well as to many people associated with (if only tangentially) these accusers in some way. The accusers make many allegations, yet everything they claim is rooted in one primary charge. Namely, that he taught that all men will go to Heaven whether or not they profess the Roman Catholic Faith.
How is one to evaluate these allegations? What are the general rules for examining charges of heresy? Are there guidelines for dealing with Catholics we suspect or who are obstinate in their error?
Read on to find the answers to these questions.
Meanwhile, there are some --- both those who agree with me about Benedict XV and those who do not --- who say my defense of Benedict XV is too long. I could have said the same thing in fewer words, say they.
This is partly true and partly false.
Yes, it is true I could have chosen to say things with a lot fewer words. However, no, it is not true that it would be the same thing. In other words, what I have chosen to say is truly necessary to say in order to say everything that I deem is necessary to know so as to be able to judge Benedict XV rightly & properly. If I did not say everything I say in Benedict’s defense, then those who dare to stand in judgment of Benedict XV would not have EVERYTHING THAT THEY NEED TO KNOW so as to be able to judge Benedict intelligently, accurately & justly.
What it really boils down to is this question:
“How thorough are you going to be?”
And when I see something that is important enough & complicated enough to demand a great deal of thoroughness, then I will make it a book --- which is why I call this defense of Benedict XV a ‘book’ and why I’ve put it in the Books & Articles (B&A) section of the website. Perhaps the poor souls who first received this lengthy defense out of the blue via email felt unfairly put upon; I can certainly sympathize with them. And perhaps the brave souls who later read this lengthy defense wonder why it can’t be said a lot simpler & shorter; I sympathize with them, too. But the accusation & defense of Benedict XV is a matter of justice, and every man who dares to stand in judgment of him has stepped into a court of law whether he realizes it or not. And courts of law are not places guaranteed to need brevity & simplicity above all other things. A judge in court deciding a matter of justice must be prepared to hear everything patiently and ponder everything carefully.
If you’re not willing or able to do this, then you have no business standing in judgment of Benedict XV.
End of sentence.
Which leads me to very clearly warn those who consider themselves Catholic:
Wrongly accusing a man of being an antipope is a grievous evil, an act of schism against the Catholic Church.
Calling a pope an antipope is a horrendous evil in God’s Sight, being an act of schism against the Vicar of Christ on earth and thus also an act of rebellion, disobedience & schism against Jesus Christ Himself, not to mention against His One & Only Roman Catholic Body, too.
Therefore, my dear reader, you had better get your facts
straight and make the right decision
when it comes to submitting to men who occupy the Throne of St. Peter. It
is far too easy nowadays during the Great Apostasy, when no man occupies the
Throne of St. Peter, for those who consider themselves Catholic --- but who won’t
acquiesce to Vatican II or submit to the men who lead the false
That is one of the dangers of our present situation.
And I admonish you, dear reader:
Don’t be a fool. Don’t take a big huge leap before you take a very careful look.
And if you’re not able to look carefully --- being limited in mind, strength, time, resources or patience --- or are unwilling to do so, not having the interest, then be smart and play it safe.
Be smart and play it safe.
Nobody dared to impugn Benedict XV for formal heresy during the 1910s or 1920s when he ruled. Nor did any Catholic dare to impugn him during the 80+ years that have followed since then. It is only in the last year or two or so (depending on what sedevacantists we’re examining) that this charge has been brought forward publicly and that men have had the audacity to believe it.
All Catholics previous to now have accepted him as a pope and have never doubted his legitimacy.
Consequently, my dear soul, it is safe to accept him as such --- a legitimate pope --- in the meantime. Were this reasonable assumption to prove wrong in the long run, God will not hold the honest & simple Catholic soul responsible for mortal sin. Whereas, if you are arrogant & impatient --- as well as foolhardy & self-righteous --- then God very much will hold you responsible for a grievously mortal sin of rebellion, disobedience & schism against both Himself and His Roman Catholic Body by assuming wrongly that a real pope is a fake pope.
Because to dare to touch God’s man is to dare to touch God Himself.
Ergo, when Catholics refuse to acknowledge a legitimate pope’s legitimacy, they are as well refusing to recognize his right to command, becoming disobedient rebels. For even if such a man never did anything significant as a pope, simply their refusal to acknowledge his God-given right to command is disobedience in-and-of-itself. But since it is not just a mere man that they disrespect --- a legitimate pope being the representative of Our Creator on earth and the visible head of His Body, the Catholic Church --- then they, by refusing to call a man ‘pope’, who really is a pope, also disrespect God Almighty, flouting His Authority.
This is dead wrong, and it is why being foolish & headstrong about this subject is mortally perilous. It is why I have troubled to lose sleep, exhaust my strength and invite the vicious ire of others upon myself in order to defend the Supreme Throne of St. Peter & his rightful successors by composing this book. Heaven willing, I shall write an article that sums everything up, and ties together what has already been said in Was Benedict XV an Antipope?
Until then, my dear reader, “Be ye therefore wise as serpents and simple as doves.” (Matthew 10:16b DRC) To be “wise as serpents” takes patience & time. It is why Was Benedict XV an Antipope? seems so complicated & long to most people. Yet if you have not the ability or interest to be “wise as serpents” regarding Benedict XV, then at least be “simple as doves.” Which is why I’ve said to just take it on trust, following the lead of every Catholic for the past 95 years, that Benedict XV was a legitimate pope.
In any case, you have been fairly warned.
For if men who consider themselves Catholic but refuse to acknowledge the rightfulness of Benedict XV’s papacy, also refusing to read --- or, rather, to read carefully & thoroughly --- what I have written to defend his reputation for public orthodoxy, then, like my name’s sake, I say to them:
“Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles.”
That is to say, I have acquitted myself of my responsibility in God’s Sight. Henceforth I shall bother only with those who are humbler and earnestly desire to know the truth, irregardless of what their prejudices may be to start with. Such men will dare to look, and examine the evidence, cautiously sifting for the truth. They are who I aim for.
Lastly, please bear in mind the following things:
First, nothing in this epistle has been changed from the original other than a few typos corrected and a couple of paragraphs inserted in chapter eighteen to make a particular point even stronger (not to mention a few lines added to chapter twenty-seven so as to avoid a potential misunderstanding, as well as a few words added in chapters ten & eleven for the same reason), some chapter headings put into place and a date of transmission added. Second, I have kept the names of the accusers & other recipients hidden in order to protect their privacy for the time being; should later events require them to be identified publicly, then I shall adjust the text accordingly. And third, should you want a synoptic perspective of all the chapters & topics of the book, then refer again to the webpage you just came from that hyperlinks the two separate parts that I divide this book into --- each of the individual chapters of Was Benedict XV an Antipope? and brief descriptions of their contents are listed in order on that hyperlinking page.
May anything that is true or praiseworthy in this work be attributed to the efforts of the Holy Triune God through the Immaculate Hands of the Blessed Ever-Virgin Mary. And may anything which is false or blameworthy be laid firmly in accusation at my own wayward feet.
+ + + 1. Introduction + + +
1 August 2009
My Dear Souls,
This is Paul Doughton writing, the webmaster of The Epistemologic Works site on the Internet. I am responding to an email I received, along with many other people, regarding the accusation that Benedict XV was an antipope. I am also making observations based on what has been recently posted to certain websites that uphold this allegation. Please ponder everything in this email with a just & patient mind.
To begin, know that my prejudices are against Benedict XV. Before I converted to Roman Catholicism from Protestant heresy, I had a God-given sense that Vatican II was evil. It was instinctual, and I was extremely suspicious. Likewise, after I converted to the Catholic Faith, I had a sense that Benedict XV was not to be trusted. It is instinctual, and I am extremely suspicious of him. I have often thought, prior to these charges being lodged against him publicly, that he may have been an occult (i.e., hidden) heretic.
Nevertheless, instinct alone is not sufficient to indict someone. I have therefore bided my time until I could have the liberty, or until circumstances forced my hand, to examine this matter in a complete, prudent & logical fashion. Completeness I have not yet attained. That will take a good deal more time. Prudence & logic, however, I have to offer.
+ + + 2. A Good Judge Must Hear All Sides of a Case + + +
First, then, my dear souls, realize that accusations of wrongdoing --- especially of heresy --- require a proper forum. That is to say, if it’s important enough to make an accusation against someone who is baptized and calls himself Catholic, then it’s also important enough to make sure that the charges are properly investigated, rightly weighed & exhaustively adjudicated. Simply lobbing an allegation and deciding, without reviewing all of the evidence & reasoning to the contrary, that the defendant is guilty is imprudent. It is also illogical & unjust. It is not the Catholic way to do things, and it offends the Triune God of the Church of Rome mightily.
Now, we have no functioning Hierarchy to whom we may turn at this point in time. Consequently, it is thrown into the arms of mere laymen to decide these difficult cases, judging correctly. And to whom much is given, much is required. Ergo, it behooves those who call themselves Catholic --- and despite not being priests or bishops, but with such a grave responsibility riding on one’s shoulders --- to judge very cautiously & with due deliberation. God will not fault he who, with limited ability & time, proceeds with patience, striving to render a right judgment. Whereas, for the one who proceeds impatiently, rashly judging without hearing & considering all of the evidence or reasoning --- including that which is in favor of the accused --- then He will punish severely, administering to that rash man the penalty of the crime with which the rash man sought to impugn the accused. This is the case even if the judgment made rashly turns out to be accurate. Because, whilst men sometimes conclude correct things for wrong reasons or after having gone about it in the wrong way, God still holds a man responsible for the evil he does when using wrong reasons & wrong ways. Catholics are to be patient, rational & just, not hasty, illogical & cruel.
Yet how does this apply to the recent accusation that Benedict XV is an antipope?
Neither in the email that was recently sent nor on the various websites that uphold this allegation have I seen an effort to present any evidence & reasoning to the contrary of the accusation. Perhaps the authors of these things have done so in their personal lives. I do not know. But if so, then they need to show it, giving the evidence on all sides so that everyone who reads their accusation can see that their decision against Benedict XV is rational & just. They have presented, as far as I can tell, only one side of the matter, the side that upholds their position. And while this may look persuasive at first glance, things are not always as they seem on the face of it. Closer examination frequently reveals problems & difficulties that are not readily apparent when one is hasty & impatient to condemn. After all, is not an accused man to be given the opportunity to present his side of the matter, too? Is not a defendant, in the light of God’s Justice, accorded the privilege to defend himself against those that accuse him? Did not the medieval inquisition --- against which the biases of modern men make many false & incorrect assumptions --- guarantee the accused brought before them (most of whom were charged with heresy) the chance to speak on their own behalves, or to have an advocate speak for them, thereby allowing them to exonerate themselves of the charges laid at their feet, if this was possible?
Or are judges & accusers presumed to be infallibly omniscient, having no need of time or patience to investigate things carefully & thoroughly, their minds made up rightly already without hearing anything at length in defense of the accused, and no matter how unlikely they think an argument in his defense to be?
Ergo, it is absolutely necessary for those who judge to take the time to patiently hear out all sides of the argument, and regardless of what they are inclined to think about the matter prior to hearing the accused defend himself.
This is all the more urgent when the accused is dead, and thus not able to personally defend himself. Such is the case with Benedict XV. However much I may not like the man, suspecting him of grievous evil, he has the privilege, in our forum on earth, to defend himself from the accusation laid at his feet. Yet since he can no longer do so, his flesh having returned to the dust from which it came, then it is incumbent upon us, who take on the duty to judge him, to do this for him. To wit, we must make the effort on his behalf, defending the good reputation of his name. Only then, seeking to defend him, can we conclude justly & logically, after all the facts, evidence & reasoning are presented thoroughly for both sides, that he is guilty… if, indeed, that’s what the weight of the totality of the evidence & logic actually demands.
As a result, those who denounce Benedict XV in the recent letter or on the various websites very much need to present this effort on his behalf without delay in the public forum. Yet if they have not made such an effort to defend him in private efforts of their personal lives, then they need to retract the accusation right away, which they have made public in the meantime, until they have done so satisfactorily. Whereas, on the other hand, if they have already done so privately, then they need to make this evidence & reasoning public straightaway, for everyone who calls himself Roman Catholic to read & consider. Because giving a judge in an important matter only one side of things is not adequate to convict someone of a crime, whether in the secular realm or the ecclesial realm. It is a grievous sin to leave things in such a state, having been the one to put things in this position in the first place. I thus implore those who sent the email, or who maintain the websites supporting the accusation of public heresy & resultant antipapacy against Benedict XV, to right this terrible wrong immediately.
This, then, is what I mean by a ‘proper forum’. Impressive uniforms, fancy courtrooms, arcane terminology & prestigious training are ultimately irrelevant. Not entirely so, since these things can be very useful & even necessary in many situations. Notwithstanding --- particularly in these troubled times --- what is most pertinent is a clear, sound mind and a patient & just soul. The proper forum has by now been hashed out for John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II & Benedict XVI, not to mention as well --- at least for the latter part of his purported papacy --- Pius XII. And whether the public airing of the evidence & reasoning against them was done rightly to begin with in the earlier years of the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s & ’90s, they have certainly been defended ably by those who call themselves Catholic but align themselves with the false Church of Vatican II, or who align themselves with the salvation heresy that led to the Vatican II Pseudo-Council. It is thus in this last decade starkly obvious to men of good will who take the time to study the situation thoroughly that these men were public heretics and hence antipopes. No defense over the years has been adequate to exonerate them. Hence, their referendum on earth is not what concerns us here & now.
Not so, though, with Benedict XV. Denunciation of him as a manifest heretic & consequent antipope is still a novelty. No one has openly entertained the notion before, to my knowledge. Certainly it hasn’t yet been aired adequately at the present time. And by ‘adequately’ I mean all of the facts, evidence & reasoning, for both sides, including the side that defends him against the charges. This lack on the part of the ones doing the denouncing must be redressed. It is a serious deficiency in God’s Holy & Just Sight. I beg the denouncers to take this charitable admonition to heart. I have done so publicly, in the eyes of those who received the email which carried the accusation, in order to keep this wrong from misleading or poisoning truly Catholic minds from God’s Truth, Holiness & Justice. Not to shame the denouncers --- whose identity I am trying to keep as anonymous as possible for the time being --- but to uphold God’s Justice by protecting Benedict the 15th’s reputation on earth… something he can’t do for himself now and regardless of whether or not he turns out to be, in the end, guilty of the charges made against him.
+ + + 3. The Primary Evidence Against Benedict XV + + +
Which leads to the second point, my dear souls. For as part of the effort to give the accused a chance to defend his good name, a judge must interpret the proof used against the defendant in the best possible light, if at all able to do so. As The English Catechism of 1583 states --- recently translated & explicated into the language or understanding of our times and posted to my website --- by way of explaining part of the meaning of the Eighth Commandment, wherein men are forbidden to indulge false witness against their neighbor, “It forbids you to judge rashly & prematurely, without knowing adequately the facts, or to twist & interpret the words & actions of any man in the worst possible light, so as to believe the worst about him --- because when all of the relevant facts are not known for certain (and cannot be known with enough certainty without sufficient effort, time, investigation, and the opportunity for this man to fully explain & defend himself), then we should believe the best we can about him and not the worst.” [Emphases added]
For instance, the primary evidence against Benedict XV, so far as I
can see based on the accusers’ testimony, is a sentence in the first
paragraph of his first encyclical. Viz., “For the whole of mankind was
freed from the slavery of sin by the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ as
their ransom, and there is no one who is excluded from the benefit of this
Redemption…” [Benedict XV’s Ad beatissimi apostolorum,
Paragraph 1, as given on 1 November 1914] The accusers tout this as being in
direct opposition to the Council of Trent, which states, “But, though He
died for all, yet do not all receive the benefit of His death, but those only
unto whom the merit of His passion is communicated.” [Council of
Now, my prejudices are against Benedict XV, as I said before. Nor do I like how he is purported to have stated things as quoted just above, even if he is innocent of manifest heresy. During the Great Apostasy, such a statement is like throwing gasoline onto the fire --- and even if it’s not meant to be comprehended in a heretical way. Yet must his statement be taken as directly opposed to a sentence in the infallible decree of the Tridentine Fathers under Pope Paul the 3rd? Is there no other way to rationally comprehend his words?
Several things must be considered.
One, did he actually say these words? The accusers may not want to think it likely --- and maybe it’s not --- but all we have, thus far, is a purported copy of the encyclical’s text that was promulgated originally many, many decades ago. The same goes for the Council of Trent’s words, too, which are even older. Therefore, can we even judge properly since the words that we’re given may not actually exist in either the encyclical or the decree? Again, however unlikely the accusers may want to think it, neither they nor any of us have infallible omniscience in these matters. As a result, this possibility must be considered to give Benedict XV every benefit (no pun intended) of the doubt. If at all possible, we must get hold of earlier copies of the encyclical & decree that would substantiate or invalidate the words we suppose ourselves to have.
Two, given that the words are really there in the original text, did he actually say these words in the way he is supposed to have said them? Again, the accusers may not want to think it likely --- and maybe it’s not --- but all we have, thus far, is a purported translation of the encyclical’s text that was promulgated originally in Latin. The same goes for the Tridentine Council’s words, too. Hence, can we even judge properly since the words that we’re given may not actually be a fair & accurate translation of either the encyclical or decree? Like we have noted, however unlikely the accusers may want to think it, neither they nor any of us have infallible omniscience in these matters. Therefore, this possibility must be considered to give Benedict XV every benefit of the doubt. This is especially the case since enemies of the Church operating within Her Sanctuary could have tampered with copies & translations of the texts later on in order to advance their apostate agenda. Thus, if at all possible, we must get hold of the original Latin texts of the documents that are in question, thereby either substantiating or invalidating the words we suppose ourselves, in English, to correctly have. It would be particularly interesting --- and potentially revealing --- to see if the word “benefit” as given in both of our copies actually is the same word in the Latin originals of the two texts.
Three, given that the words are really there in the original text and translated fairly & accurately, can there be no other way to understand the words, that Benedict the 15th is said to have used, in a context that is orthodox & rational? The accusers may not like it --- although a Catholic doesn’t have to like something for it to be a doctrinally acceptable & legitimate option --- but the words, phrases & sentences of human tongues are not always limited to a single meaning. And while this can be an excuse for wickedly purposeful ambiguity, it is also, oftentimes, a perfectly acceptable & legitimate defense of the meaning or intent of one’s words. So can Benedict’s purported words in his first encyclical be interpreted in an orthodox & rational manner?
+ + + 4. Interpretive Hinges + + +
Everything hinges on what is meant by “slavery of sin” and “benefit of… [Jesus’] Redemption…” If, as the accusers seem to maintain, “slavery of sin” means one’s state of presently sinning, then, as one of the accusers insists on his website, this contradicts the Bible itself where Jesus says, “Amen, amen, I say unto you: that whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin.” (John 8:34b-d DRC) Although, when you think about it, this verse indicts good Roman Catholics as well. For who among even the best of Catholics --- only very great saints excepted --- goes a single day without at least committing some sins of veniality? Meanwhile, any transgression against God’s Commandments reveals the transgressor to be a “servant of sin” in this sense! Hence why Jesus commands His true followers to “Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48 DRC, emphases added)
But what about original sin, as one of the accusers insists on his website? If “slavery of sin” refers to this sin of originality, too, then Benedict XV could appear to contradict the Council of Florence where we are told infallibly that the only remedy for children, snatching them from the grasp of the Devil, is the Sacrament of Baptism.
Is not Benedict the 15th a manifest heretic on this account alone?
Ah, but here is where we must let Benedict XV speak on his behalf. And since he isn’t around anymore to do so for himself, we --- if we are going to deign to sit in judgment on him long after he lived on this earth --- must then, to be just, speak, or find someone else to speak, on his behalf, defending him for the words he used. Is there not something he could say to defend himself?
Think about it. His accusers presume, whether they realize it or not, that “slavery of sin” ought to mean that a chance exists to be free but is thus far refused, the one refusing thereby still enslaved and not actually freed, in opposition to Benedict’s claim. Whereas, and in contradistinction to this probably unrecognized assumption of Benedict’s accusers, there was not always an opportunity for men to be free from the hideous & inadvertent debt of sin. Prior to Christ’s Eternal Sacrifice on the Cross, this was the tragic case for all men, even those who were objectively holy & just --- or, to be more precise, who became objectively holy & just later in their lives --- in all of their thoughts, words & deeds. For instance, St. Abraham the Patriarch, he who “was called the friend of God” because he “believed God and it was reputed to him to justice” (James 2:23c, b DRC), being objectively holy & just in all of his thoughts, words & deeds at the moment of his death on earth by obeying God’s Commandments, was nevertheless denied entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven before his divine descendant, the God-Man Jesus, died upon the Cross and resurrected from the dead.
Because the Eternal Debt of Mortal Sin (including that sin which is original, and into which all men --- Jesus & Mary alone excepted --- are conceived) was not yet paid by Jesus on the Cross, and could not ever be paid by anyone apart from Him & the Sacrifice of His Precious Blood. Ergo, no man --- not even the objectively holy & just man in all of his thoughts, words & deeds --- could enter into Heaven prior to Christ’s Redemption.
This explains in the gospel Jesus’ mention of “Abraham’s bosom”. (Luke 16:22 DRC) Known also as the Limbo of the Fathers, it is the place at the edge (limbo) of Hell where just souls went after they died but before Jesus had instituted the New Covenant of His One & Only Saving Catholic Church on earth. Thus, even the good man was enslaved along with the bad in Hell (albeit, without the eternal torments of the damned), deprived of the Beatific Vision, having as of yet, before Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross, no present reality or opportunity --- only a promise for the unspecified future --- that he would be freed.
Now the situation is exactly reversed. Because Christ has come, the promise has been fulfilled, and now all men have the opportunity to save their souls, escaping the chains of Hell. Even the bad unbaptized man can avoid Hell, even at the last moment, provided he seizes the chance to renounce his sins & profess the Catholic Faith, being baptized in water with the Sacrament of Regeneration. In this rational & orthodox sense, all men do indeed benefit from Christ’s Redemption. Because even the bad unbaptized man can, given that he adequately repents at his death (and hence ceasing to be bad, of course), enter into Heaven immediately, enjoying the Beatific Vision, unencumbered by enormous temporal debts of previous actual sins. In short, even the bad have the opportunity now to escape the debt of sin --- whereas even the good were enslaved to the debt of sin prior to Christ’s Arrival & Sacrifice and no man, not even the good, could enter Heaven. Or, to put it still another way, all men indeed do presently benefit from Christ’s Redemption since all human beings do now have the opportunity to avoid Hell.
We say it once more to make it absolutely clear:
The whole human race was enslaved to the eternal debt of mortal sin prior to Christ’s Redemption, as well as to the temporal debts from all sins acquired prior to the moment of conversion which had not already been paid off. Not even the good & just man could escape this situation at that unfortunate time before Christ’s Sacrifice upon the Cross! Whereas, after His Marvelous Redemption of Unmerited Grace, all men without exception have been freed from that unavoidable slavery, having then --- and thenceforward from that singular moment --- the freedom from sin to escape its eternal debt, as well as all unpaid temporal debts acquired prior to the moment of regeneration, provided that they only seize that wonderful opportunity.
That this is logical and that the Tridentine Fathers cannot have been denying this very sensible point by what they infallibly stated in the Decree on Justification in 1547 is quite clear. For they said, in qualifying their sentence with a conjunctive clause, “…yet do not all receive the benefit of His death, but those only unto whom the merit of His passion is communicated.” In other words, they were talking about the opportunity seized, not the opportunity available. Yet in focusing on the opportunity seized, they were not then, in any of their words, intending to say that there was not a very real & objective change in humanity’s fortunes by the opportunity now become available after Christ’s Redemption. In other words, that all men --- whether Catholic or not, whether in the state of grace or not --- have benefited, in this limited but very real & amazing sense, from His Redemption, being freed from an otherwise unavoidable tyranny of sin’s enslaving debt. That is to say, all men can now escape from the “slavery of sin”, enjoying the “benefit of… [Christ’s] Redemption” by not being automatically, until their deaths & beyond --- and even if they were objectively holy & just men prior to Jesus’ Arrival --- chained in the terrible debt of mortal sin, including that which is original, and thus forbidden entrance into Heaven and the beholding of the Beatific Vision.
And this point, this defense on Benedict’s behalf, is
logical, because words, phrases & sentences do not always, in human
languages, have one --- and only one --- fair, possible & legitimate
meaning. In the case of the Council of Trent, assuming our version of their
words is accurate, the word “benefit” means the opportunity seized.
To wit, only men who receive the Sacrament of Baptism --- and who profess the
Catholic Faith adequately, provided they are beyond the age of reason and have
had sufficient time & chances to do so --- can “receive the benefit
of His death” in this sense. Whilst, in distinction from this sense, the
word “benefit” --- if this is indeed a fair representation of
what Benedict XV actually said in his first encyclical --- can also fairly,
possibly & legitimately mean the opportunity available, which
opportunity changes everything for all of mankind, both in potential and in
practice. Or is not the opening of the
+ + + 5. Two Sides of One Coin + + +
This ‘opportunity available’ meaning of the word
“benefit” in relation to Christ’s Redemption is obviously but
one side of a two-sided coin. It involves both God & men. There is
God’s Side of Things, He offering all men equally the same
opportunity. For as He stated in Sacred Scripture through His Apostle,
“I desire therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men: for kings, and for all that are in high station: that we may lead a quiet and a peaceable life in all piety and chastity. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus: who gave himself a redemption for all, a testimony in due times.” (1 Timothy 2:1-6 DRC, all emphasis added)
The other side is man’s side of things, they either accepting or rejecting His offer at the moment of their deaths (because even good Roman Catholics face their gravest assault from the devils at their deaths, the Evil One tempting them to reject God’s Mercy & Grace, if only through committing the mortal sin of ultimate despair). For as God in Sacred Scripture through the Wise Man of the Old Covenant, St. Jesus, also states:
“God made man from the beginning, and left him in the hand of his own counsel.” (Ecclesiasticus 15:14 DRC)
And through the Prophet, St. Moses, He exhorts men to use their free will rightly:
“I call heaven and earth to witness this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose therefore life, that both thou and thy seed may live…” (Deuteronomy 30:19 DRC)
And thus through another Prophet, St. Ezechiel, God says as well about men in their free will in relation to His Sovereign Will and the opportunity for salvation:
“Is it my will that a sinner should die, saith the Lord God, and not that he should be converted from his ways, and live? …For I desire not the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God, return ye and live.” (Ezechiel 18:23, 32 DRC)
Too, driving home this merciful compassion of His, God through
“For the charity of Christ presseth us: judging this, that if one died for all, then all were dead. And Christ died for all; that they also who live, may not now live to themselves, but unto him who died for them and rose again… For God indeed was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing to them their sins…” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 19a-c DRC, emphases added)
Plainly, this last biblical quote is one of the reasons for part of the Tridentine Fathers’ infallible statement that we quoted from the Decree on Justification. And St. Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians that “Christ died for all” were misinterpreted by some poor lost souls to mean that everyone goes to Heaven, regardless of whether they are Catholic --- or else why did the Council of Trent bother clarifying them with an infallible statement which delineates, exactly, who can truly enter Heaven?
The point is, the verses above from
And I have bothered citing the verses above because, in all humble
honesty, we must concede that
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus: who gave himself a redemption for all, a testimony in due times.” (1 Timothy 2:3-6 DRC, all emphasis added)
Meanwhile, the quote from 2 Corinthians is, in some ways, even more susceptible to such a misunderstanding:
“And Christ died for all; that they also who live, may not now live to themselves, but unto him who died for them and rose again… For God indeed was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing to them their sins…” (2 Corinthians 5:15, 19a-c DRC, emphases added)
Which is why, of course, the Tridentine Fathers, in uttering their Decree on Justification, used St. Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 5:15 to straighten out the matter in the minds of those who would both call themselves Catholic and actually save their souls into the Kingdom of Heaven at the end. They therefore made the distinction between opportunity available and opportunity seized infallibly stark. Nevertheless, in doing so, they did not then render the aspect of opportunity available, rightly understood, wrong or heretical. For if they had, then St. Paul himself could be accused of salvation heresy by what he said in writing to Bishop St. Timothy or the Corinthian Catholics, not making this distinction exhaustively clear by the words that he chose to use!
Think about it carefully. Put your prejudices to the side for a moment --- for several moments --- and ponder justly. “…God our Saviour… will have all men to be saved,” “…Christ Jesus… gave himself a redemption for all,” “Christ died for all…” and “…God indeed was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing to them their sins…” are plainly statements that, misinterpreted as they were not meant to be understood and pulled out of their proper biblical context, can be taken to imply that everyone is saved by Jesus’ shedding of blood and regardless of whether the person is Roman Catholic or in the state of mortal sin. This is especially vivid to me, given that I was once an Evangelic Protestant and heard these verses wielded in a way that, while not necessarily arguing for a totally universalist heresy, were obviously meant to slander the Roman Catholic Church & Her Exclusive Ability to Save, as well as uphold the notion that a man’s sin cannot presently damn him due to what Jesus performed on the Cross.
Now, if St. Paul, who was the first auxiliary bishop of Rome
alongside St. Peter the 1st Supreme Bishop of Rome, properly
speaking --- and the most marvelous missionary that the Catholic Church has
ever seen, to boot --- can write something which can be easily taken out of
context & misinterpreted, seeming to uphold universalist
heresy, then how is it that a later Bishop of Rome (namely, Benedict XV) could
not fare likewise? Ought we not, then, to give Benedict XV every benefit of the
doubt, striving mightily to interpret his words in an orthodox & rational
fashion? For if
+ + + 6. How to Hang a Pope With His Own Words + + +
Indeed, we have just such an example from another claimant to the Throne of St. Peter in recent times. For in defending salvation heresy under the guise of an orthodox catholicity, what do modernists often do? Correct --- they frequently invoke the memory & words of a pope who has the reputation of being very ‘conservative’ & ‘traditional’. To wit, Pope Pius the Ninth. And what is their favorite encyclical of his to quote? There is a trio from which they draw. Yet only Singulari quidem comes close to truly giving them what they so badly want… papal justification for the idea that ‘ignorance’ can let anyone into Heaven without profession of the Catholic Faith. For he apparently said:
“Outside of the Church, nobody can hope for life or salvation unless he is excused through ignorance beyond his control.” [Pius IX in Singulari quidem, Paragraph 7, as given on 17 March 1856, emphases added]
There is no way to get around this. Taken at face value, in isolation from his other words --- whether in this encyclical or in other documents of his --- Pius IX seems clearly to imply (“…unless he is excused through ignorance beyond his control…”) that ignorance makes exceptions to the rule (“Outside of the Church, nobody can hope for life or salvation…”). In short, he seems to defy all of the infallible statements of the Catholic Church prior to his papacy concerning the exclusiveness of salvation via the Catholic Church, especially when it comes to them closing off all possibility of ‘exceptions’ to this rule of Singular Salvation through the Catholic Body of Jesus Christ.
Yet if we are not willing to throw Pius the Ninth onto the trash heap for a very careless or questionable statement, then why should we be the more eager to do so with Benedict the Fifteenth? And, of course, there is a way to defend & salvage Pius IX’s reputation. For either, one, his text has been misrepresented (altered or mistranslated), or, two, his statement is only meant to be understood as talking about baptized children prior to sufficient attainment of the use of reason who are raised in a false religion (who are, strictly speaking, not actually ‘outside’ the Catholic Church, being members of Jesus’ Body, but have the superficial appearance of being outside the Church due to their upbringing & religious surroundings).
This is the more poignant, given that Pius IX obviously upheld the Salvation Dogma very pointedly & repeatedly throughout his papal career. Indeed, in the very same paragraph of the questionable statement he also says:
“The Church clearly declares that the only hope of
salvation for mankind is placed in the Christian faith, which teaches the
truth, scatters the darkness of ignorance by the splendor of its light, and
works through love. This hope of salvation is placed in the Catholic
Church which, in preserving the true worship, is the solid home of this
faith and the
And elsewhere in the same encyclical he says:
“Saturate them with the doctrine of Catholic truth more accurately each day. Teach them that just as there is only one God, one Christ, one Holy Spirit, so there is also only one truth which is divinely revealed. There is only one divine faith which is the beginning of salvation for mankind and the basis of all justification, the faith by which the just person lives and without which it is impossible to please God and to come to the community of His children. There is only one true, holy, Catholic church, which is the Apostolic Roman Church. There is only one See founded in Peter by the word of the Lord, outside of which we cannot find either true faith or eternal salvation. He who does not have the Church for a mother cannot have God for a father, and whoever abandons the See of Peter on which the Church is established trusts falsely that he is in the Church.” [Pius IX in Singulari quidem, Paragraph 4, as given on 17 March 1856, emphases added]
So that, taken in complete context, we see how it is not just or fair to interpret Pius IX’s words apart from his apparent intent, which intent is made utterly clear in his words both elsewhere in the paragraph from which his questionable or careless words are drawn, and also in other paragraphs of the encyclical that we have been looking at in some detail, Singulari quidem.
Yet can we do the same with Benedict XV and his encyclical, Ad beatissimi apostolorum?
As a matter of fact, we can.
And here is another example of where his accusers have failed to present all sides of the issue, including the side that defends Benedict XV. For if you look carefully at Benedict the Fifteenth’s first encyclical, even in the very paragraph from which the statement is drawn that his accusers use to try to hang him with, as well as the paragraph following, you find him saying this:
“For the whole of mankind was freed from the slavery of sin by the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ as their ransom, and there is no one who is excluded from the benefit of this Redemption: hence the Divine Pastor has one part of the human race already happily sheltered within the fold, the others He declares He will lovingly urge to enter therein: ‘and other sheep I have, that are not of this fold; them also must I bring, and they shall hear my voice.’ [John 10:16]
“We make no secret, Venerable Brethren, that the first sentiment we felt in our heart, prompted certainly by the goodness of God, was the inexpressible yearning of a loving desire for the salvation of all mankind, and in assuming the Pontificate our sincere wish was that of Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, when about to die on the Cross: ‘Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, whom Thou hast given me.’ [John 17:11]” [Benedict XV in Ad beatissimi apostolorum, Paragraphs 1 & 2, as given on 1 November 1914, all emphasis added]
My dear souls, please ruminate very carefully, setting aside whatever prejudices you already have against Benedict XV. In the first paragraph of Ad beatissimi apostolorum he speaks, immediately following the clause that his accusers use against him, of “one part of the human race already happily sheltered within the fold…” This “fold” is obviously the Catholic Church, and the “one part of the human race already happily sheltered” there is obviously those human beings who are Catholic. Whereupon Benedict quotes from Jesus Himself, talking about “other sheep [that] I have, that are not of this fold; them also must I bring, and they shall hear my voice.” These, plainly, are those souls that are not yet Catholic, who need to be converted to the Catholic Faith, whereby they will “hear” Jesus’ “voice.” Which is why, then, Benedict says, too, right before this, that “the Divine Pastor” (Jesus Christ) has “others” whom “He will lovingly urge to enter therein…” To wit, that Jesus desires the entrance of non-Catholic souls into the Roman Catholic Church, urging them to do so!
And the next paragraph --- Paragraph 2 of his first encyclical --- merely reinforces this. For he states plainly, “We make no secret, Venerable Brethren, that the first sentiment we felt in our heart, prompted certainly by the goodness of God, was the inexpressible yearning of a loving desire for the salvation of all mankind…” In other words, Benedict the 15th, too, wants men to become Roman Catholic, entering the Catholic Church. In fact, why would he bother saying he is “yearning” for this “salvation of all mankind” if, in reality --- and as he is imagined by his accusers to see it, being a universalist heretic, say they --- he firmly believes that all of mankind is going to Heaven for sure, and whether or not they’re Catholic?
Why on earth would Benedict XV, if he’s a universalist heretic like his accusers allege and certain that everybody is going to Heaven regardless of being Catholic, even bother “yearning” for “the salvation of all mankind”, when, in fact, there can be no doubt in his mind --- given that he’s a universalist heretic who’s sure everyone’s going to Heaven --- that all of mankind is saved and hence his “yearning” is a useless waste of emotion? It’s like yearning for water to be wet… water is always wet, regardless!
There’s no sense “yearning” for something, as if it might not happen, when you’re supposed to be absolutely sure it’s going to happen in spite of what anyone says or does.
Do you see?
+ + + 7. Universally Speaking + + +
Ah, but are we then to accuse Benedict XV of universalist heresy, simply because he expresses a
wish for “all mankind” to receive salvation? Then we must accuse
“I desire therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men: for kings, and for all that are in high station: that we may lead a quiet and a peaceable life in all piety and chastity. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus: who gave himself a redemption for all, a testimony in due times.” (1 Timothy 2:1-6 DRC, emphases added)
As well, we must accuse the First Pope, St. Peter, of the same universalist heresy, and --- by
implication of the Divine Authorship of Sacred Scripture --- God Himself again.
For the Triune Catholic God through
“But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of the ungodly men. But of this one thing be not ignorant, my beloved, that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord delayeth not his promise, as some imagine, but dealeth patiently for your sake, not willing that any should perish, but that all should return to penance.” (2 Peter 3:7-9 DRC, all emphasis added)
Consequently, we cannot impugn Benedict XV for universalist heresy merely because he expresses the wish that all mankind end up being saved. Indeed, in the very sentence that expresses this wish, he again makes a distinction between those who are not yet within the Roman Catholic “fold” of Jesus Christ, and those that are already within this Catholic “fold”, the latter being those souls over whom Benedict XV must keep watch, having been newly elected as their supreme earthly pastor: “…and in assuming the Pontificate our sincere wish was that of Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, when about to die on the Cross: ‘Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, whom Thou hast given me.’ [John 17:11]”
+ + + 8. St. Athanasius, Pray for Us! + + +
Yet do we doubt that Benedict the Fifteenth intended to make a distinction between those that are within the Catholic Church and those that are not, or do we continue to suspect that he meant to publicly state that those who are outside the Roman Catholic Fold can hope to save their immortal souls?
Then we examine his words further on within his inaugural encyclical:
“It is, moreover, Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as ‘profane novelties of words,’ out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: ‘This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved.’ [Athanasian Creed, Article 40]. There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim ‘Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,’ only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself.” [Benedict XV in Ad beatissimi apostolorum, Paragraph 24, as given on 1 November 1914, emphases added]
My dear souls, this is the clinching evidence on Benedict’s behalf. He quotes from the Athanasian Creed --- which, as any real Catholic nowadays during the Great Apostasy knows, is the most ancient & clear infallible statement of the Catholic Church upholding the teaching of ‘no Salvation outside the Catholic Faith’ --- and makes it his own words, expressing it as his own personal position. And he could not have chosen a more incisive quote regarding the necessity of Catholic Faith for a man’s salvation.
He could not have chosen a more incisive quote than this famous infallible statement from an ancient creed that has upheld the holy dogma of ‘no Salvation outside the Catholic Church’ with such stark clarity that people outside the Roman Catholic Religion have hated it more than any other major creed that the Church of Eternal Rome has ever produced or sanctioned.
Yet it does not end there. For Benedict XV also made the utterly true & correct observation that the Faith of “Catholicism… does not admit of [does not allow or permit] more or less [i.e., there is no such thing as ‘more Catholic’ or ‘less Catholic’ when it comes to who is a member of the Catholic Church], but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected.” [Benedict XV in Ad beatissimi apostolorum, Paragraph 24, as given on 1 November 1914, all emphasis added]
This is utterly correct & true. That is to say, a man is either truly Catholic by virtue of his upholding & professing the whole Catholic Faith or else he is not actually Catholic because he fails to uphold & profess the whole Catholic Faith in its entirety of dogmas & commandments. As a matter of fact, this is exactly what we have seen occur in the past century or two, especially in the last fifty years. For quite a few people today call themselves by the name of ‘catholic’ while in reality they are nothing of the sort. And not necessarily because they do not hold any dogma or commandment of the Catholic Church correctly (such people often hold 90% or more of the Catholic Faith rightly), but, rather, because they do not uphold & profess all of the dogmas & commandments of the Catholic Church correctly.
For whilst it is also true that a man does not have to be a learned theologian or instantaneously know absolutely everything in tiny detail about the Catholic Faith to uphold & profess this Faith adequately --- there being ‘deeper dogmas’ that he could, if only for a time, know inadequately, simultaneously & humbly resolved to uphold & profess something should it become known to him as a part of the Catholic Faith later on in his life --- it is nevertheless true that a man of sufficient mind & understanding must have at least the rudiments of Catholic Faith thoroughly learned & comprehended so as to profess & uphold them properly as a whole. To wit, he must comprehend adequately the Creed of the Apostles as explained to us in some simple yet good catechism that goes into enough detail that Right Religion can be distinguished in belief from the tenets of those who are heretics or schismatics, who mangle the One True Faith of Roman Catholicism, outside of which no human being can ever hope to save his precious & immortal soul.
Which reminds us, incidentally, of something else that the Athanasian Creed declares near the beginning of its holy words, paralleling the quote from Article 40 that Benedict XV cited in his encyclical right after the his statement about “Catholicism” having to “be held as a whole or as a whole rejected.” For the Athanasian Creed also states:
“Whosoever wishes to be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic faith. Which unless everyone keeps whole and undefiled, without doubt he will perish everlastingly.” [Athanasian Creed, Articles 1 & 2, emphases added]
And so we see that, aside from Article 40 of the Athanasian Creed that Benedict XV quoted directly from, he also intentionally, albeit indirectly, referred to Article 2 of the Athanasian Creed, noting that a man must hold this Catholic Faith as a whole… or else, as the Athanasian Creed so clearly states, “without doubt he will perish everlastingly.” Which, of course, is evidence all the more on the side of Benedict the 15th’s public profession of orthodoxy at this point in time of his purported papacy.
Viz., that Benedict did not state --- publicly, at least --- that any individual can ever hope to save his soul, entering Heaven, without professing the Catholic Faith “whole and undefiled.”
Yet we continue with a last bit of observation on Benedict’s behalf. For he says as well in his encyclical, right after the direct quote from the famous & infallible statement from the Athanasian Creed, “There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim ‘Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,’ only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself.” [Benedict XV in Ad beatissimi apostolorum, Paragraph 24, as given on 1 November 1914, emphases added]
There is no ducking the implications of this sentence. Benedict says, quite rightly, that a man who calls himself Catholic can “proclaim ‘Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,’” which is an entirely correct equation of the term ‘Catholicism’ with the term ‘Christianity’. Yet he then administers the coup de grâce. For he says, too, “…only let him endeavour [work hard] to be in reality what he calls himself.”
How can this be anything but an orthodox sentiment?
That is to say, how could any real Catholic quarrel with his insistence that a true Christian, who is Catholic, call himself Christian & Catholic just so long as he works hard to make sure that he is “in reality what he calls himself…”?
St. Athanasius, pray for us! That those of us who dare to call ourselves Christian & Catholic might truly be what we have the audacity to proclaim.
Therefore, given a truly rational & orthodox way to comprehend his words about “the whole of mankind” being “freed from the slavery of sin” and “no one” being “excluded from the benefit of… [Christ’s] Redemption” so that their reasonably intended meaning does not contradict the apparent words & actual meaning of the words of Trent about justification, and given his plain words elsewhere in the encyclical upholding the necessity of Catholic Faith for eternal salvation, then there is no other option except to conclude that --- at the time of his first encyclical, anyway --- he was at least publicly orthodox, if not always adequately wise or completely harmless during his papacy.
We say again:
Given that there is indeed a rational & orthodox way to interpret his words about “the whole of mankind” being “freed from the slavery of sin” and “no one” being “excluded from the benefit of… [Christ’s] Redemption”, an explanation that is reasonable & fairly sure; and given his very plain words about the absolute need of holding the Roman Catholic Faith in order to gain Eternal Life: then there can be no other conclusion except that --- at the beginning of his purported papacy, anyway, and presuming he did not manifest heresy prior to his election which we have not yet discovered --- Benedict the Fifteenth was publicly orthodox, not notoriously & pertinaciously espousing heresy.
End of sentence.
+ + + 9. Slipping Down the Proverbial Slope + + +
Mind you, my dear souls, this does not mean that my hypothetical defense of Benedict the 15th’s words in his encyclical, Ad beatissimi apostolorum, is the only possible defense of his words. There may be other reasonable defenses as well, which prove his words to be orthodox & compatible with the Council of Trent in our understanding of them. Yet I needn’t cite them here, nor need I presume on your capacity, patience & interest in hearing them. One example --- the one I think correct in defending him --- is enough. Because in demonstrating this one example above as entirely rational & orthodox, not to mention likely and even reasonably sure, we make it clear that we cannot, based merely on what his accusers have brought forward thus far, then impugn him, with moral certainty on our parts, with the charge of manifest heresy.
Notwithstanding, you may say, are not Benedict’s plain words,
that his accusers bring forth, seemingly in contradiction to the plain words of
My dear souls, this still does not change anything significantly. Rational & just principles must be applied to the question of a potential heretic. We cannot convict someone hastily, nor can we be prejudiced in our sentiments, determined to find someone guilty in spite of all of the evidence to the contrary or in the light of evidence that is not strong enough.
Let me put it bluntly:
The first paragraph of Benedict XV’s first encyclical is the strongest evidence his accusers have against him --- by far. All other criticisms are incidental, being, at best, circumstantial evidence that they interpret in the worst possible light against him only because they have already convicted him, in their own minds, based on the evidence of the first paragraph. Or, to put it differently, no reasonable Catholic would use the charges brought against Benedict from elsewhere in his first encyclical, after the charge based on the first paragraph, because --- while a good Catholic could rue how he might have stated something, or fault him for taking a foolish stand --- none of these things have to be interpreted in a way that is unorthodox, i.e., against the dogmas of the Catholic Faith. They are not. It’s simply that the accusers have previously convicted him, based on what he said in paragraph one, that they then choose to condemn him for other things that he said elsewhere in the encyclical as if they were heretical, or ‘proof’ that he is heretical. In other words, having decided that he is certainly heretical based on paragraph one, they then find anything else in the encyclical that they can possibly ‘spin’ in the worst possible light to make him look bad… but not because these other things are certainly heretical, in and of themselves; rather, because his accusers want to assume that he is heretical in much that he said & did, having sentenced him already as a heretic in paragraph one. It’s like deciding someone is an ‘alien’ from outer space on the basis of one big ‘proof’, and then, after this conclusion, citing everything you think ‘odd’ about him to further ‘prove’ your case.
And, to complicate matters, Benedict XV probably said many things that are foolish & tending toward the plans of wicked or elite Jews, as well as of pernicious Freemasons or other secret societies, who wish to corrupt & enslave this apostate world. These things can easily be wielded against him as purported ‘evidence’ of his ‘heresies’. That is, they can be easily wielded against him if a person who calls himself Catholic does not actually know, not having the wisdom or patience yet, what constitutes actual & sufficient proof of manifest heresy, and what is merely foolish or imprudent or a material heresy.
Furthermore, and as I have previously stated near the beginning of this email, the matter is also complicated by the very strong possibility (in my mind) that Benedict XV was an occult heretic --- one who is hidden & private in his heresy. It almost seems paradoxical to the unlearned mind, but this possibility is not as outlandish as it superficially appears. For if men can be accused of & convicted for heresy all over the place when it is hidden, then who of any men can be free of the potential for this charge being laid at their feet? All it takes is for someone to bear animosity against you, whether deserved or not, and they will twist your words & deeds --- even your secret thoughts, which they will claim to be able to read since they suppose themselves to know you for who you ‘really are’ --- into nooses to hang you for all kinds of purported crimes or offenses. In fine, they will conduct what is nowadays called, euphemistically, a ‘witch hunt’. And while witches (true witches serving the Devil outright, if only in secret, not the ‘witch-lite’ type increasingly popular in recent times under the title of ‘wiccan’) are real, the euphemism bears merit in that, during times of mob frenzy, anybody can be accused of witchery --- or another perceived offense or crime --- when passion rules over rationality and disregards the clear but often intricate principles of dogma, morality & justice.
This is why, therefore, one who calls himself Catholic must be very, very, very careful, patient, just & wise before he goes slinging the allegation of ‘heresy’ against someone who is reputed to be a pope, and which no one else before has, apparently, ever publicly accused him of as of yet. Because if occult heresy is not very starkly distinguished from manifest heresy, and if other important but often intricate principles of dogma, morality & justice are not very cautiously & patiently followed, then who of any of the popes will be above a potential reproach? Even good popes have flaws, weaknesses & faults! And what about all of the bad popes? Yet if those who call themselves Catholic go around disposing of popes for all kinds of perceived ‘crimes’ that they interpret as ‘heresies’, then where is the guidance of infallibility? Where is the orderly rule of supreme authority? Such men are no better than Protestants, schisming into infinity!
+ + + 10. One Strike and You’re Out + + +
The point is (this being point number four in a series of five points), even if the accusers’ very strongest evidence against Benedict XV, from paragraph one of his first encyclical, could stand unchallenged (and it cannot, as I have just demonstrated) with no rational & orthodox defense on Benedict’s behalf possible, one & only one strong charge that a person is a heretic is not normally sufficient to condemn him as a manifest heretic.
Because people are fallible & ignorant.
Sometimes persons make errors in what they say, not meaning to say it or to say it the way that they said it. Sometimes a person is ignorant of a fact that would change how he says something if only he knew about it or could remember it. Yet even if a person did not ‘make an error’, intending to say exactly what he said; or even if a person is perfectly knowledgeable, remembering everything adequately, and yet still says what he says on purpose: this is not necessarily enough to convict this person of heresy no matter how much evidence we have of the single strong charge that he objectively said or did something which is offensive.
Because we as human beings are limited, in our natural powers, to judging a man’s heart by what he clearly says & does, not by what may be in his heart that is hidden to our merely natural powers of perception. And since human beings routinely do make mistakes in what they say or do, not intending to say or do something, or to come off sounding or looking like they do in an embarrassing or awkward situation, then we cannot normally presume, in our limited knowledge & abilities to perceive, to know with certainty that such a person is guilty of heresy based on only one strong charge. This is why manifest heretics, to be manifestly heretical, must be notorious & pertinacious. That is, they must display their heresy by word or deed in a way that is plainly wrong (and not disputably so, it instead being quite reasonable to argue for an orthodox interpretation), and plainly public, being seen by multiple witnesses (notorious), and they must do so repeatedly, so that it is obviously not an unintentional ‘mistake’ or ‘error’ (pertinacious). This latter criteria, pertinacity, also necessarily implies that such materially heretical words or deeds will normally be corrected & admonished in charity by fellow Catholics. Which in turn means that only after the admonishment & correction can the charge stick formally. To wit, that after such an admonishment or correction, if the one suspected of heresy continues obstinately espousing or performing heresy, then we can safely presume him to be a heretic in the deepest, most important sense of the word… a formal heretic, and hence beyond the pale.
Now, it can get much more complex than this. And no amount of ‘rules’ can make it absolutely open-and-shut as to how it should be approached in each & every single case. Life in a fallen world is too difficult to cram everything into a simple paradigm. This is why the one judging a case --- viz., a case of reputed heresy --- must be very wise, just & patient, as well as charitable. Perhaps a particular strong charge is so scandalous as to be impossible to tolerate. For instance, maybe a Catholic is witnessed by dozens of fellow Catholics to walk into a place of heretical worship with other heretics, to stay there for the entire length of the heretical service, and then come out smiling & friendly, plainly enjoying the company of the heretics. Not only that, he is heard repeatedly saying things that are blasphemous and against the dogmas of the Holy Catholic Church. Can that be overlooked as an accidental ‘mistake’ or unintentional ‘error’? Probably not. All the same, even this man must be given every opportunity to defend himself. But if he is not able to do so reasonably, then he would have to be treated severely, chastised harshly in order to provoke him, if possible, into contrition for his horrible deeds. One could not patiently wait for further incidences to arise, as if the proof were not strong enough already.
In the case of the accusers of Benedict XV, however, it is not so
cut-and-dried. It is one single statement that can appear somewhat --- on the surface
at least and if you’re determined to see it that way, being very biased --- to
contradict one single sentence (out of hundreds upon hundreds of sentences total!)
from the Council of Trent. We have already shown how his one single statement
does not have to be interpreted heretically, in contradiction to
The Council of Trent, you’ll recall, is infallible in all
of its words. A Council that, if we added up all that it said, amounts
to thousands & thousands of words. Or, as we just said
above, to hundreds upon hundreds of sentences. Consequently, even if we
can expect a good & learned pope to have studied
Yet are we then to convict him of heresy because of that single accidental statement?
Here is where charity is required. And this is why the Church has required that a heretic, to be convicted as a manifest heretic, must be pertinacious in his heresy. It normally can’t just be a ‘one time thing’. It can’t be a fluke, or an accident. It has to be on purpose. It needs to be recognized as such, including recognition by the person who commits it.
And doing so repeatedly is the kind of proof usually needed, that it is indeed intentional.
Again, things can get more complicated. For instance, to be just, we cannot string together many different heresies to convict a person of heresy. That is to say, we cannot claim the person said one thing at one time that amounts to one kind of heresy, and then claim, at another time, that he said another thing that amounts to a very different kind of heresy. That is not typically the gist of pertinacity. Pertinacity is the same heresy committed repeatedly.
Nor can we, under many circumstances at least, consider a heresy
pertinacious without the person being warned & admonished in charity by a
fellow Catholic. For example, let’s say a Catholic doesn’t fully
comprehend a deeper dogma beyond the minimum catechism that is necessary to
make an adult truly Catholic in his profession. Then let’s say that he
repeatedly makes statements that are in contradiction to this deeper dogma. But
let’s say he has good will, not intending to do this, wanting instead
always to uphold what
Patently not. He professes the minimum that is necessary to make him Catholic to begin with. He has not yet had an opportunity to learn about this deeper dogma correctly. Ergo, without proper admonishment in charity for his soul, he will not, chances are, have a good enough reason to investigate further. Once galvanized by a charitable admonishment, though, he will then, if of good will as we have postulated, discover his error --- his material heresy --- and correct it, begging pardon of his fellow Catholics that he may have misled or scandalized them unintentionally. Such a man is not pertinacious in his heresy even if he commits it repeatedly. Because once appraised of his objective offense, he makes amends for the better, upholding the Church’s Truth. His ignorance, in this very limited case, was, in a sense, close to invincible, until made surely vincible by an admonishment. Then he did what was right, professing & upholding the truth of the deeper dogma.
All of this to say, that, even if Benedict XV were objectively
guilty of a heretical statement in paragraph one of his first encyclical ---
and despite all that I have said reasonably in his defense --- this by itself
is not normally enough to convict him of formal heresy. It needs to be
pertinacious, the same heresy repeatedly, clearly & inarguably
professed or upheld by him in word or deed over a course of time. Then, and only
then, can we convict him of being a manifest heretic. Until that moment, we would
have to suppose him, out of charity for human frailty, to have said what
he said accidentally & unintentionally, not meaning to commit heresy,
not intending to contradict the Council of
+ + + 11. Time to Repent + + +
But this then leads us to the final of five direct points concerning his accusers’ charge of heresy in paragraph one of his encyclical, Ad beatissimi apostolorum. Because what if --- again, for the sake of argument --- his statement in paragraph one of his first encyclical really is heretical, and what if he really was pertinacious in espousing this same heresy elsewhere and despite charitable rebukes to the contrary from fellow Catholics?
My dear souls, we still have some big obstacles to overcome.
Because we would have to investigate carefully and determine
whether or not Benedict XV ever was properly admonished by fellow Catholics for
his ostensible heresy. Did he have a chance to figure out that he was espousing
heresy by, as his accusers would claim, contradicting the words of one sentence
out of hundreds upon hundreds of sentences in the Council of Trent? Or did his
fellow Catholics, who were in close enough contact with him in the vicinity of
If an honest mistake, then he is still not pertinacious in his supposed heresy.
Yet let us then say that we investigate carefully and find that was admonished.
We would then have to determine if he had sufficient time to repudiate his heresy. Now, I am not learned enough at the present moment --- and I remember only vaguely from my previous studies --- to be sure what, exactly, is the prescribed period of time for those obviously espousing heresy, and having been charitably rebuked for such espousal of heresy, to repudiate the heresy they have been espousing. If my information is correct, the Inquisition routinely gave such persons a period of six months to come clean. I.e., to publicly & gravely reject the heresy that they have been espousing. Should they do so, repudiating the heresy, then their punishment is mild, if any, and they do not invoke, by their actions, the full censure of the Authority of the Church against them. That is to say, they are not considered to be formal heretics and cast out of the Communion of the Holy Roman Body of Christ. Whereas, if they do not repudiate their heresy after a period of six months, then they are considered to be wholly pertinacious --- to wit, stubborn & obstinate --- and the full censure of the Authority of the Church comes upon their heads, excommunicating them from the Roman Catholic Body of Christ and turning them over, when in a truly Catholic country, to the civil authority to punish corporeally.
The heart of what I’m saying?
To be just in God’s Sight, there must be a period of time wherein the man who is espousing heresy can correct himself, cleansing himself of the odium of the crime before he is punished severely for the guilt thereof.
“A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid: knowing that he, that is such an one, is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned by his own judgment.” (Titus 3:10-11 DRC, emphases added)
An obvious heretic must be admonished twice --- once to begin with after it is clear, from careful investigation of all sides of the matter, including the side that defends him, that he is espousing heresy, and another time after the period of time is done that was given him to repudiate his heresy, assuming he hasn’t done so, and so confirm his judgment, punishing him with excommunication --- before he can be officially thrown out of the Visible Body of the Catholic Church for his crime.
If this principle is not followed, then Catholics cannot simply assume, without meticulous investigation & consideration of all the other pertinent facts, dogmas, morality & justice, that the heretic is summarily & automatically excommunicated.
Why is this important to the case against Benedict XV?
Because even if, for the sake of argument, we were to say that Benedict was notoriously & pertinaciously espousing a particular heresy, Catholics would still have to find out, presuming he had been properly & charitably admonished by his fellow Catholics for this particular heresy (an admonishment that applies as well to superiors, even to a supreme authority, since inferiors are always obliged, within the Church, to respectfully admonish their superior for a transgression against the Faith, that is to say, for violating the first three of the Ten Commandments, the ones concerning right conduct in matters of dogma), when, precisely, this period of time during the two official admonishments commenced & ended.
Yet why is this relevant?
Let’s say Benedict the 15th was only admonished toward the close of his life. Accordingly, near his death. And let’s say that the first of two admonishments took place a mere three months prior to dying. Would he, then, have had enough time to repudiate his supposed heresy?
Plainly not. Not if six months is the correct disciplinary rule to follow in allowing a person espousing heresy to repudiate his heresy, thereby avoiding the full censure of the Authority of the Church against him, excommunicating him from the Body of Christ.
Consequently, if that were the case, Benedict the Fifteenth would still not be a formal heretic in the public forum, having lost his papal office.
End of sentence.
+ + + 12. The Difference Between Now & Then + + +
Now, once again, it can get more complicated than this. And, clearly, sometimes a heretic might need to be --- and can be --- formally recognized as a heretic even if he did not go through the entire formal process of admonishment & censuring, resulting in an official excommunication (or as official as it can be when, as it is during the Great Apostasy, a hierarchy is not functioning and the remnant of laity must do the job).
This is the case with the recent antipopes. I.e., John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI (XVI, not XV!). Yet ponder carefully. John XXIII’s heresy was too novel & unexpected, and, perhaps, real Catholics too few & unprepared, for him to be rebuked in any significantly direct way, that I am aware of, while he was still alive. Even so, the very next antipope, Paul VI, was publicly confronted & formally admonished for at least some of his blatant & public heresies by an apparent inferior of his, who, if my memory serves me, was an abbot of some French monastery. Unfortunately, at such an early point in the Great Apostasy, real Catholics either did not exist temporarily or were too blinded by the confusion of the times to know exactly what to do. Hence, fully proper responses were not carried out at this early date during the Great Apostasy’s outward eruption into the public sphere of human awareness.
Nonetheless, think about it. If such an action could still be carried out at such an evil & confusing point in time --- a time obviously even more evil & confusing in the 1960s than the already evil & confusing time of Benedict the 15th in the 1910s --- then why couldn’t such an action (public admonishment of a superior for trespass of the first three of the Ten Commandments) be carried out during Benedict the 15th’s reign?
Assuming Benedict XV wasn’t ever publicly admonished as a heretic, I’ll tell you why:
Because it wasn’t anywhere so near as blatant & obvious (if, indeed, manifest heresy existed in Benedict XV) as was the heresy of Paul VI or other recent antipopes.
In short, contradicting one of hundreds upon hundreds of sentences
from the Council of
Meanwhile, the heresy of the Vatican II antipopes is vivid & stark. If nothing else, they defied the holy dogma of ‘no Salvation outside the Church’ repeatedly & plainly, there being no other possible way to interpret their numerous public words on the matter in an orthodox & rational sense. They also kowtowed to the perfidious Jews, calling them ‘brothers’ in a religious sense and obviously implying that they were on the way to Heaven in their false, apostate & talmudic religion of the Devil.
Thus far, I am not aware that Benedict XV did any of these blatant or outlandish things. His primary statement, my dear souls, that his accusers try to hang him with, as if it must contradict the Tridentine Council, is easily enough explained in a rational & orthodox way, not to mention that he upheld clearly the holy dogma of ‘no Salvation outside the Church’ by both directly & indirectly referring to the wonderful Athanasian Creed, making its infallible words his own personal words & public position regarding the Dogma of Exclusive Salvation in the Roman Catholic Church.
[Webmaster’s Note: If the reader who considers himself Catholic is here satisfied that Benedict XV has been adequately defended for the time being against the attacks of those who accuse him of being a formal heretic and thus an antipope, then you may stop here. Everything beyond this point in Was Benedict XV an Antipope? might seem needlessly repetitive, or at least tediously long. Nevertheless, if the reader still has doubts --- or is openly disbelieving that the legitimacy of his papacy has been successfully defended --- then you are duty bound in God’s Sight to read further until the end of this book. This is especially true if you have been exposed to the various slanders that his accusers have lobbed against him, oftentimes in a ridiculously illogical fashion. Because in the remainder of this book we address many of the later ‘proofs’ that the accusers dredged up against him from his various documents, imagining that these things are sufficient to indict him. And you, my very dear reader, are not all-knowing or never-wrong. Therefore, to avoid the snare of ignorance or mistakenness upon your part, you must look at all of the evidence & reasoning carefully (not to mention thoroughly!) found within this book in order to make a just judgment. Anything less than this kind of caution & thoroughness is arrogant & stupid, as well as impatient & foolhardy. You will risk damnation of your soul if you insist on being this way. I beg you to not commit this mortal folly.]
+ + + 13. St. Athanasius Redux + + +
Still, his accusers go into more detail, especially more recently. One of them ridicules the notion that Benedict XV’s quote from the Athanasian Creed amounts to an affirmation of the Salvation Dogma. Yet even he the accuser, by inference, admits that this truly is an affirmation by Benedict XV when he remarks that it is a common technique of heretics to cloak their heresies by quoting orthodox teachings. Well, then, which is it? Was Benedict XV affirming the Salvation Dogma by his quote of the Athanasian Creed or was he not? You can’t have it both ways… even if you think he was merely ‘cloaking’ his heresy by quoting an orthodox teaching, you can’t then deny that the man you accuse of being a heretic is affirming the orthodox teaching by quoting it!
We see, therefore, how we cannot rely on passions & prejudices to convict someone of heresy. Benedict XV, however much we may not like him or mistrust him, objectively quoted from the Athanasian Creed, making its words in defense of the Salvation Dogma his own. He may have been doing it to ‘cloak’ a heresy, whether that heresy be hidden & occult or clear & manifest. Yet we cannot presume his heresy to be clear & manifest by summarily dismissing hard & obvious evidence in favor of his public orthodoxy with the wave of a prejudiced hand. That does not constitute sufficient & just proof of clear & manifest heresy in the Court of Divine & Ecclesial Law.
+ + + 14. The War to ‘End’ All Wars + + +
Notwithstanding, this particular accuser goes further. He quotes from elsewhere in Benedict XV’s inaugural encyclical to try to indict him. For instance:
“Our Lord Jesus Christ… teaches all men, without distinction of nationality or of language, or of ideas… And… as He was hanging from the cross, He poured out His blood over us all, whence being as it were compacted and fitly joined together in one body ...” [Benedict XV in Ad beatissimi apostolorum, Paragraph 6, as given on 1 November 1914]
The quote above is almost precisely word-for-word how the accuser frames it, short of the bold emphasis & underlining that he uses. However, a fuller quote of Benedict’s words from this part of his encyclical is in order:
“Our Lord Jesus Christ came down from
Heaven for the very purpose of restoring amongst men the
Now, I did not recite this large quote to weary your ears. Nor did I recite it because I so love what Benedict said and how he said. Had I been in his shoes, I would have said the paragraph above a lot differently. Nevertheless, is he guilty of a clear & manifest heresy?
No, because everything he said can be interpreted in a rational & orthodox sense.
Everything he said in that paragraph can be interpreted in a rational & orthodox sense.
He may have said a lot that was, in my opinion, careless or foolish. He even says one thing, quoting Sacred Scripture, that I am convinced is a misinterpretation of the Bible. All the same, this misinterpretation, in itself, is not a heresy! Yet we move on.
To begin with, realize that, when Benedict XV wrote this
encyclical, men had embarked on what was, in the memory of modern folks at
least, the worst war by far that the world had ever yet seen. Responding to
this terrible war was the whole thrust of his encyclical. Not only that, but
I have. And when I did, something struck me immensely. Everywhere I
went by bicycle (for I toured through northwestern
Why? Why is World War I so much more commemorated in
Because far more men of
Indeed, so many young European men died during World War I that --- literally --- an entire generation was wiped out.
Coming back to colleges after World War I had ended, entire classes of students had been eradicated, with no or few survivors. Not a city, not a village, not even the people of the tiniest hamlet were left untouched in their grief for the dead that they contributed to the war that was to end all wars.
That’s why monuments to the fallen soldiers of World War I exist everywhere you go in Europe, in lopsided disproportion to the fallen soldiers of any other war to afflict the continent of Europe in modern recollection.
This is the war that Benedict the 15th faced. It was unprecedented, and it was horribly deadly. For not only was its gigantic scope unheard of prior to his time, but its weapons & armaments were new & ghastly. Guns, bombs, tanks, submarines, poisonous gases… all of them were either a novelty or else expanded greatly in their mortal peril.
My dear souls, you may not want to admit it --- or maybe you are unaware --- but Catholics are not to take glee in the gore & suffering of war. There are just wars, and such wars must often be fought by real & good Catholics. There are also wars that God permits to afflict people because of their sins and rebellion against the Catholic Faith. Nonetheless, a man who calls himself Catholic is not then to revel in the tragedy of war, as if it is perfectly ‘good’ for untold numbers of human beings to die, or that enormous quantities of human souls are descending into the Pit of Hell as a result of it. Imprecatory psalms exist in the Bible, it is true, where the psalmist exults in the death of God’s enemies via the sword, yet this is not then to be taken as the constant standard by which those who consider themselves Catholic are to act toward people --- even bad people who are not Catholic, or who wickedly persecute the Church --- and gleefully rejoice in their punishment. To the contrary, it is the normal course of events that Catholics should pray for peace both inside nations and between nations… if only for the sake of patience, that more souls might do penance and enter, or practice better, the Catholic Faith. War may come regardless; that is in the Hands of the Triune Catholic God, Creator of All That Exists. Roman Catholics normally, however, are to beseech Him for His Mercy & Pardon.
This is beyond contesting. I need not laboriously back it up with authoritative Church pronouncements or quotes from the lives & writings of the saints. Be you truly Catholic, and be you familiar enough with the words of Catholic leaders or Catholic holy men down through the centuries, then you know that this is the truth.
Consequently, the mere fact of Benedict XV bemoaning the terrible
war that he and everyone else in
We say it again:
Europe at that time was still dominantly Catholic, the overwhelming number of souls having been baptized as infants and the great majority of them having been raised to profess the Catholic Faith.
Granted, Catholicism was in recession everywhere one looked, as it
still is today, and under the ceaseless attacks of perfidious Jews & evil
Masons, but the fact remains that most men in great sections of
What does this mean?
It means, my dear souls, that a pope has an awesome burden on his shoulders in such a perilous situation.
His flock, however poorly Catholic they may have been, was being ripped apart by a deadly & destructive war, and the rest of the people of Europe, whilst not a part of his flock and in rebellion against him, were, nevertheless, most of them under his spiritual jurisdiction by reason of the Seal of Baptism that they bore.
Now, what would you do in his position, my dear souls? Sit back and gloat that wanton sinners are getting their just desserts? Then you are probably not good Catholics, if in reality you are Catholic to begin with. Or would you stand aloof and wait quietly to see what would happen? Then you would be a rather rotten pope. Because what shepherd fails to be concerned for his sheep, whether the harm done to them is corporeal or spiritual? The good shepherd protects his flock, body & soul!
+ + + 15. Who Is My Brother? + + +
This is the terrible & hideous situation that Benedict the Fifteenth faced. Wayward shepherd though he may have been in many things, we cannot pretend to know his heart well enough to claim that his multitudinous expressions of concern for those hurt by the World War were phony. We must take his horror & concern as real. Hence why he would exhort his flock of Catholics (for that’s who his first encyclical was aimed toward, via the priestly leaders of the Church that he addressed) to seek peace, reminding them of Jesus’ admonition to love one another as brothers. And while it’s true that calling an obvious heretic or schismatic a ‘brother’ can be foolish, it is not automatically heretical. Because as long as one does not fall into the trap of believing that such a man is a member of the Catholic Church, and as long as one professes that there is no Salvation outside the Catholic Body of Jesus Christ, then one can use this word without intending --- or actually committing --- an act of heresy.
Think about it.
Are all men created by God? Yes they are. Is God, then, the Father of all men in that sense? Yes, He is. Does this mean, though, that such creatures of God, whether Catholic or not, can go to Heaven? No, it does not. It just means that, in a very real & correct sense, all men truly are ‘brothers’ in this sense. Should this be a common way to talk about most men, who are outside the Catholic Church? Not in my opinion. I think it’s dangerous, if only because almost everyone nowadays, whether Catholic or not, will misinterpret it. Could Benedict XV, assuming he was a heretic, have meant it in a wrong sense? That’s possible. But if he was as intelligent as I think he was, then he certainly wouldn’t push it too far at that earlier date, saying something that could never be interpreted in a way that doesn’t violate orthodoxy.
And that gets to the nitty gritty of this
paragraph from his first encyclical. Because in talking about “brotherly
love” --- and presuming we have an accurate copy or translation of his
words --- he was collapsing three things into one. He was talking about the
Will of God that all men should become Catholic, entering Jesus’ Body as
fellow brothers within the Church. And is it God’s Will that men should
be at peace with one another as brothers? Yes, it is. So this is not heretical.
Benedict XV was also talking about those who truly are Catholic, who must love
one another as brothers if they are to obey their Master, Jesus Christ. And
were not most citizens of the nations at war in
Yes, it was!
Again, think about it. Should Catholics fight & kill each other?
Only rarely is this justified. Indeed, if you answered with an unqualified ‘yes’ to that last question, then, my dear souls, you have a serious problem. Because in nearly all cases where two Catholic nations have fought one another, we can be sure that at least one of those nations is in grievous sin. And if Catholics find themselves, within a nation that is not thoroughly Catholic or ruled by Catholic leaders, on opposite sides of a war, they must know for an absolute & morally certain fact that they are engaged in a just war before taking to the field and possibly killing fellow Catholics in the enemy army.
Now can you understand why a pope would wring his hands in dire distress over the fact of a war of such unprecedented death & brutality amongst those who are Catholic, or who are, at least, baptized validly?
Yet Benedict XV, as well, in collapsing three things together, talks inferentially about men being brothers because of their common creation at the Hands of God. This is not obvious in the paragraph itself, but it becomes obvious reading the rest of the encyclical. And while this kind of talk is, as I said, in my opinion often dangerous to do, especially nowadays, it is not, all by itself, heretical. It is the truth and, although men are separated into warring camps, spiritually speaking, Catholics cannot use this as a lousy excuse to hate everyone else. For are not, strictly speaking, the men who are outside the Catholic Church the enemies of those who are inside the Catholic Church? Yes, they are. Those outside are children of the Devil, and they oppose what the Catholic Church teaches. Ergo, they cannot help but be the foes of those who are truly Catholic. Howsobeit, what did Jesus Christ command His followers, Roman Catholics, to do in regard to their foes?
“You have heard that it hath been said, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thy enemy.’ But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: that you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust.’ For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have? Do not even the publicans [great sinners] do this? And if you salute [greet courteously] your brethren only, what do you more? Do not also the heathens [those outside the Church] this? Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48 DRC, emphases & annotations added)
And, well, what do you know? This quote from Sacred Scripture doesn’t just drive the point home about Roman Catholics loving their foes despite them still being, really and truly, their foes, but as well incorporates part of a verse that Benedict XV himself used in the quote from paragraph six of his first encyclical that we have been discussing! To wit, “…who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45b-c DRC)
The point is, Catholics can’t go around acting like they don’t ever have to be amicable toward those who aren’t Catholic, these latter poor souls being on the way to Hell in their position outside the Catholic Church. For unless one becomes a hermitic monk, one must interact, to a certain degree at least, with people who are not good or who are not in the Catholic Church and thus not a brother, in the deepest sense of the word, to he who is truly & excellently Catholic.
Yet does this mean that a Catholic is entitled to treat the wicked person disrespectfully or to always shun the person who is not Catholic?
No, it does not.
Sometimes a Catholic may have to severely & even harshly reprimand a wicked man or person who is not Catholic, even avoiding him to a certain extent --- such a situation requires wisdom to know when the time is at hand. But this does not then mean that a Catholic is justified in going around acting rudely to his fellow human beings, howsoever wicked they may be, or necessarily shunning entirely those who are not Catholic. This is not to be his normal mode.
+ + + 16. Peace & Obedience + + +
So what was a Catholic to do in the
midst of World War I? Great numbers of his fellow Europeans were still
Catholic. Wicked Jews and their Masonic puppets had taken over the governments
No, because we have free will. And we
are required to work for those things that are objectively good. Peace
between nations is an objective good. The peace cannot be ultimate or
lasting if the nations are not Catholic, or are not good Catholics; all the
same, this does not take away from the fact that such peace is still a temporal
& temporary peace, which is objectively good. Even though ancient
Christians were surrounded by pagans and oppressed by their pagan rulers, they
did not then refuse to pray for the peace of the
“I desire therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men: for kings, and for all that are in high station: that we may lead a quiet and a peaceable life in all piety and chastity.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2 DRC, emphases added)
And how is a Catholic to lead “a quiet and a peaceable
life” if his country is torn up by brutal, deadly & all-encompassing
“Let every soul be subject to higher powers [rulers]: for there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God. Therefore he that resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that resist, purchase to themselves [get for themselves] damnation… Render therefore to all men their dues [what you are supposed to do for them]. Tribute [tax], to whom tribute is due: custom, to whom custom: fear [obedience], to whom fear: honour, to whom honour. Owe no man any thing, but to love one another. For he that loveth his neighbour, hath fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:1-2, 7-8 DRC, all emphasis & annotation added)
So, unless a ruler commands us to sin, we are to obey them in everything… including those rulers that are evil. Because even those rulers, being evil, are only in power since God permits it. If, therefore, Catholics suffer from evil rulers, it is either to perfect them or to punish them. In either case, God permits it --- and the ruler’s power is thus from God. What’s more, the Catholic is to owe no one anything, the sole exception being the debt “…to love one another. For he that loveth his neighbour, hath fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8 DRC)
Ah, so the Holy Ghost through
“Admonish them to be subject to princes and powers, to obey at a word, to be ready to every good work. To speak evil of no man, not to be litigious [quarrelsome or always ready to go to court against somebody], but gentle: shewing mildness towards all men. For we ourselves also were some time [at one time] unwise, incredulous [not believing in the Catholic Faith], erring, slaves to divers desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.” (Titus 3:1-3 DRC, emphases & annotations added)
Again, unless a ruler commands us to sin, we are to obey. Moreover,
the Catholic is to be kind & gentle to everyone, not quarrelsome
& feisty. He is to show “mildness towards all men.” (Titus 3:2c
DRC) Not some men, or Catholics solely, or only the people
he likes and gets along with easily, but all human beings. Why? Because he himself once was foolish, unbelieving, astray, sinful,
nasty & filled with hate. Consequently, he should show mercy to
those who are still in the wicked state that he is no longer in --- presuming,
of course, that he is now a good Catholic. As
“Be ye subject therefore to every human creature for God’s sake: whether it be to the king as excelling [for being the supreme authority in a country]; or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of the good: for so is the will of God, that by doing well you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men… Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” (1 Peter 2:13-15, 17 DRC, all emphasis & annotation added)
It is a repetitive motif, is it not? We are to obey our rulers in everything except sin. Indeed, the Catholic is to be “…subject… to every human creature for God’s sake…” (1 Peter 2:13a DRC, emphasis added) Why? Because the real Catholic is to be humble, not considering himself better or more valuable or worthier than another. And he is to think of the needs & desires --- provided they are not intrinsically wicked, of course --- of others as equal in importance to his own needs & desires, if not more so. As a matter of fact, this kind of good & considerate behaviour silences those who are foolish & antagonistic toward the Catholic Faith.
For how can their lies about Catholics or Catholicism be held in the face of those Catholics who, by their intrepid holiness & charity, prove them so very wrong?
Furthermore, a Catholic is to honor all men. Not some, or Catholics solely, or only the people he likes and gets along with easily, but all human beings. Even the really evil ones. For, although St. Peter then uses the term ‘brotherhood’ in its more customary sense for Roman Catholics --- meaning those who are their fellow Catholics, being sibling members of the Body of Christ --- even those who are not Catholic are to be treated with respect & charity by those who are truly Catholic. This is what, in this context, the phrase ‘honor all men’ means. The Roman Catholic is to love his enemy, doing good to him who does evil to the member of Christ’s Catholic Body.
Where is all this headed?
+ + + 17. Acts of Corporeal Mercy + + +
My dear souls, you may not know it, but the accusers imply that it
is automatically wrong to seek peace between nations by holding conferences or
making institutions to promote understanding & amicableness among different
countries. They insist this because they note that no peace can be lasting
& substantial if it is not rooted in the One True Religion of the Catholic
Faith. This is true. It is also true, though, that Catholics are not
thereby divinely or ecclesially commanded to refuse
to cooperate in all efforts to promote peace between nations merely because
those nations are not Catholic. Or would an ancient Catholic have been in
grave sin simply because a pagan emperor used him to arrange a treaty of peace
Obviously not. Therefore, exhorting the Catholic flock to love their fellow human beings and, after the end of World War I, to cooperate with international efforts to avoid another such hideous war from ever happening again is not intrinsically evil or heretical. There are some wars that a good man has to fight because it is morally urgent & just; provided that he fights this kind of war rightly, it is good and not necessarily to be avoided. But World War I was, for the most part, not this kind of war. It was a tangle of greed, pride, hatred & dishonorable means of fighting. To avoid wars like these is sensible. And, as a Catholic, to cooperate in efforts to avoid wars like these would be an act of corporeal mercy. In doing so, Catholics could be loving their neighbors, loving their foes, honoring all men, and subjecting themselves to their secular authorities --- those in charge of the nations that they lived within, who sought such measures, at least in part, to avoid hostilities like the Great War in the future.
Those authorities were surely Masonic & evil men. Benedict XV himself may have been a secret Mason & an occult heretic. It doesn’t matter. Because God permits them to rule. Hence, unless they command us to sin, then we are to obey them & cooperate. And in encouraging Catholics to love their fellow human beings and, later, after the war, to join in with efforts to prevent another such devastating war --- which are not intrinsically sinful endeavours --- Benedict XV is not, by this alone, then ‘proven’ to be a heretic and made manifest as such. His heresy, if he had it and it was hidden away, would have to be revealed by something more than this for it to be indisputably manifest, i.e., notorious & pertinacious. We can rue his foolishness, or deprecate his political naiveté --- if, indeed, that’s what it was --- but we cannot, based merely on the fact that he promoted cooperation between nations to ensure no more ghastly wars like World War I occurring in the future, accuse him of ‘heresy’. That charge, to the best of my ability to know thus far, is not supported indisputably by his behaviour during & after World War I.
A situation, by the way, that is not applicable to our era 90 years
later. Because now the devices of the enemies of the Church are inescapably
laid out more bare in public sight for any to see who
have eyes to see. Thus, in encouraging wholesale cooperation with the United
Nations, the antipopes of the last half century are not exculpated similarly.
The United Nations clearly strives for more than just ‘peace’
between nations. It is a starkly diabolical tool to incite all sorts of evils
in the various countries of men, all the way from fornication, adultery,
abortion & sodomy to feminism, religious indifferentism & a new global
paganism. The efforts at the end of World War I, that
culminated in the
But it doesn’t matter. Because we’re not judging
Benedict XV on what we think his secret motives were. Au contraire, we
are to judge him on what we can know that he could know at that earlier
date, at face value. To wit, without invoking conspiracy
theories that are merely that --- theories. As such, we have to
take him at face value, assuming him to have had the best of intentions for his
efforts. We have to presume that he only wanted to avoid any more devastating
wars like the one that he lived through & witnessed first hand in
+ + + 18. The Truly Universal (Catholic!) Church + + +
Leading us to the pith of the one accuser’s allegations against Benedict XV in the sixth paragraph of his first encyclical. For he faults Benedict for saying:
“Our Lord Jesus Christ… teaches all men, without distinction of nationality or of language, or of ideas… And… as He was hanging from the cross, He poured out His blood over us all, whence being as it were compacted and fitly joined together in one body ...” [Benedict XV in Ad beatissimi apostolorum, Paragraph 6, as given on 1 November 1914]
And we pointed out how none of this has to be interpreted in a way that is not rational & orthodox. For how is it that Jesus Christ does not teach “all men”? Is not His Church to go “…into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature…”? (Mark 16:15 DRC, emphases added) And is not ‘preaching the Gospel’ an act of teaching, in order to convert souls? And are not the members of the Catholic Church --- those who convert to profession of the Catholic Faith --- drawn from all parts of the world, there not being a single human creature denied entrance into the Uniquely Catholic Body of Jesus Christ merely because he is of a particular race, language or nationality? And are not such converts catechized, i.e., taught thoroughly the rudiments of the Catholic Faith, being those dogmas that are absolutely necessary to know in order to be Catholic in the first place? Furthermore, cannot such men, from all parts of the world, hold certain ideas that are neither dictated by the Church nor forbidden by the Church, that may, though, conflict with other such permissible ideas held by other men elsewhere in the world who are Catholic?
Yes, they can. Ergo, Benedict the Fifteenth’s words in question thus far are not automatically & inarguably heretical. To the contrary, they can be easily interpreted in a manner that is both wholly rational & completely orthodox. Yet we go on.
For how is it that Jesus did not pour out His Blood “over us all”? Benedict XV can be interpreted here to be talking about all men whether or not Catholic, in which case we summon up the explanation that sufficed for explaining his statement in the first paragraph, whereby he stated that all men are freed from the slavery of sin and benefit from the Redemption of Christ. To wit, that men during the New Covenant of Jesus no longer have to languish in the Limbo of the Fathers in Hell prior to admission into Heaven, despite being obedient to God’s Commandments, and no longer have to bear the terrible debt of their sins after conversion, which were accumulated before their conversion, including the mortal debt of original sin. In this limited yet very real sense, all men are indeed benefiting from the Blood & Redemption of Jesus even without yet being Catholic. Because an opportunity is opened to all of mankind that never existed prior to Christ’s shedding of His Blood & accomplishing His Redemption. And are not all men invited to enter Christ’s Catholic Body, is not His Church truly universal (the meaning of the word ‘catholic’!) in that it embraces all converts from wherever they might be in the world? Then, indeed, did Jesus pour out His Blood upon us all.
Or else Benedict XV can be interpreted here to be talking about all men who are Roman Catholic. That is to say, his words at this point can be taken as talking about only those who are Catholic. Which, in fact, makes a lot of sense --- for was not his first encyclical openly addressed solely to Catholic leaders throughout the world and thus, by inference, to any others who are Roman Catholic?
Truly, it makes more than just a lot of sense… it makes perfect sense. For not only was his encyclical addressed to Catholics, but when you read the entirety of Paragraph 6 --- and not just the highly edited version given by the accuser --- it’s plain to the unbiased reader how he is speaking about Roman Catholics, and hence why he says at the end of this paragraph, “And finally, as He was hanging from the cross, He poured out His blood over us all, whence being as it were compacted and fitly joined together in one body, we should love one another, with a love like that which one member bears to another in the same body.” [Benedict XV in Ad beatissimi apostolorum, Paragraph 6, as given on 1 November 1914] For what is this “one body” if not the Roman Catholic Church, the Singular Body of Jesus Christ? When elsewhere in the encyclical Benedict reveals his wholly orthodox stance regarding ‘no Salvation outside the Church’ by quoting explicitly from one of the most pertinent parts of the Athanasian Creed, then how can we sensibly doubt that “one body” means anything other than Jesus’ Catholic Body?
Do you see?
Then why must we assume him to be saying, by “over us all,” that he’s speaking about the whole human race, whether or not they are in the Roman Catholic Church? It’s just as possible, and utterly reasonable, to presume that “all” means ‘all of us Catholics, which is to whom I happen to be talking’.
In either case, his statement is understandable in rational & orthodox terms.
We say once more:
In either case, his statement is understandable in rational & orthodox terms.
+ + +
Part Two of Was Benedict XV an Antipope? (Chapters 19-36)
+ + +
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