St John Vianney on the Priesthood

CHAPTER 9: Catechism on the Priesthood

My children, we have come to the Sacrament of Orders. It is a Sacrament which seems to relate to no one among you, and which yet relates to everyone. This Sacrament raises man up to God. What is a priest! A man who holds the place of God – a man who is invested with all the powers of God. “Go,” said Our Lord to the priest; “as My Father sent Me, I send you. All power has been given Me in Heaven and on earth. Go then, teach all nations…. He who listens to you, listens to Me; he who despises you despises Me.” When the priest remits sins, he does not say, “God pardons you”; he says, “I absolve you.” At the Consecration, he does not say, “This is the Body of Our Lord;” he says, “This is My Body.”

St. Bernard tells us that everything has come to us through Mary; and we may also say that everything has come to us through the priest; yes, all happiness, all graces, all heavenly gifts. If we had not the Sacrament of Orders, we should not have Our Lord. Who placed Him there, in that tabernacle? It was the priest. Who was it that received your soul, on its entrance into life? The priest. Who nourishes it, to give it strength to make its pilgrimage? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, by washing that soul, for the last time, in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest – always the priest. And if that soul comes to the point of death, who will raise it up, who will restore it to calmness and peace? Again the priest. You cannot recall one single blessing from God without finding, side by side with this recollection, the image of the priest.

Go to confession to the Blessed Virgin, or to an angel; will they absolve you? No. Will they give you the Body and Blood of Our Lord? No. The Holy Virgin cannot make her Divine Son descend into the Host. You might have two hundred angels there, but they could not absolve you. A priest, however simple he may be, can do it; he can say to you, “Go in peace; I pardon you.” Oh, how great is a priest! The priest will not understand the greatness of his office till he is in Heaven. If he understood it on earth, he would die, not of fear, but of love. The other benefits of God would be of no avail to us without the priest. What would be the use of a house full of gold, if you had nobody to open you the door! The priest has the key of the heavenly treasures; it is he who opens the door; he is the steward of the good God, the distributor of His wealth. Without the priest, the Death and Passion of Our Lord would be of no avail. Look at the heathens: what has it availed them that Our Lord has died? Alas! they can have no share in the blessings of Redemption, while they have no priests to apply His Blood to their souls!

The priest is not a priest for himself; he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments to himself. He is not for himself, he is for you. After God, the priest is everything. Leave a parish twenty years without priests; they will worship beasts. If the missionary Father and I were to go away, you would say, “What can we do in this church? there is no Mass; Our Lord is no longer there: we may as well pray at home.” When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because where there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice there is no religion.

When the bell calls you to church, if you were asked, “Where are you going?” you might answer, “I am going to feed my soul.” If someone were to ask you, pointing to the tabernacle, “What is that golden door?” “That is our storehouse, where the true Food of our souls is kept.” “Who has the key? Who lays in the provisions? Who makes ready the feast, and who serves the table?” “The priest.” “And what is the Food?” “The precious Body and Blood of Our Lord.” O God! O God! how You have loved us! See the power of the priest; out of a piece of bread the word of a priest makes a God. It is more than creating the world…. Someone said, “Does St. Philomena, then, obey the Cure of Ars?” Indeed, she may well obey him, since God obeys him. If I were to meet a priest and an angel, I should salute the priest before I saluted the angel. The latter is the friend of God; but the priest holds His place. St. Teresa kissed the ground where a priest had passed. When you see a priest, you should say, “There is he who made me a child of God, and opened Heaven to me by holy Baptism; he who purified me after I had sinned; who gives nourishment to my soul.” At the sight of a church tower, you may say, “What is there in that place?” “The Body of Our Lord.” “Why is He there?” “Because a priest has been there, and has said holy Mass.”

What joy did the Apostles feel after the Resurrection of Our Lord, at seeing the Master whom they had loved so much! The priest must feel the same joy, at seeing Our Lord whom he holds in his hands. Great value is attached to objects which have been laid in the drinking cup of the Blessed Virgin and of the Child Jesus, at Loreto. But the fingers of the priest, that have touched the adorable Flesh of Jesus Christ, that have been plunged into the chalice which contained His Blood, into the pyx where His Body has lain, are they not still more precious? The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus. When you see the priest, think of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

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41 Responses to St John Vianney on the Priesthood

  1. toadspittle says:

    .
    Very appropriate illustrations on this series. Charming.

    “St. Bernard tells us that everything has come to us through Mary; and we may also say that everything has come to us through the priest;” Can they both be right? What about Christ? Through all three is also right, no doubt. The Holy Ghost? Yes? No?
    Bit like a bucket chain, possibly?

    “At the Consecration, he (the priest) does not say, “This is the Body of Our Lord;” he says, “This is My Body.” “
    Anyone else find their head spinning? Isn’t the priest reciting Christ’s words?

    “Look at the heathens: what has it availed them that Our Lord has died? Alas! they can have no share in the blessings of Redemption,”

    Cripes! (as Jabba says) is this true or not? Toad is now raising this question every other day, it seems.
    Who actually qualifies for Heaven – and who does not? Surely someone out there knows?

    It’s not a matter of life and death to be sure. But still..

    (Why so few priests, i,e. qualified men, on here?)

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  2. toadspittle says:

    .

    Fr. John will put us all bang to rights!

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  3. Jerry says:

    Look at the heathens: what has it availed them that Our Lord has died? Alas! they can have no share in the blessings of Redemption,”

    That isn’t correct from a Catholic viewpoint Toad. Extra ecclesiam, nulla salus, which the church affirms, has often been poorly interpreted and misunderstood in its meaning.

    Catholic answers has an ok summary:

    http://archive.catholic.com/thisrock/2005/0512fea3.asp

    Of great interest is this compilation of documents relating to the excommunication of Fr Leonard Feeney, who taught, against the Church, that only baptised catholics can attain salvation:

    http://www.romancatholicism.org/feeney-condemnations.htm

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  4. toadspittle says:

    .
    Well why is CP&S running this Vianny stuff, if some of what he says is not accurate according to Catholic belief.?
    Plain wrong, in fact. Confusing.
    Toad must be thick.

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  5. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    This Vianney stuff, Mon Senor Toad, is being run because it EXCITES AND INCITES the ‘Great Unwashed’ to comment, thus “adding to the gaiety of nations”.

    As a graduate of Grub Street, you are aware that we should never let accuracy get in the way of a good story.

    I see that Kathleen’s recent outburst that you were “thick” has hurt you deeply. I’m sure she didn’t mean it.

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  6. bwr47 says:

    I was hoping that someone more qualified than I am might have added further light to these comments. Jerry has done that to an extent, but TS and WEW ask why CP&S would continue to publicise the words of John Vianney.

    For what they are worth, here are a few thoughts that occur to me.

    1. When an individual is proclaimed a saint, it does not mean that every word he has spoken or written is infallible. It is therefore possible that JV may have been mistaken in some of what he said.
    2. Even if that is so, it is evident from these and other writings that JV has some fantastic insights into our Catholic faith. I understand that the intention is to have a reading per day throughout Lent, so you ain’t seen nothing yet. What we gain if we read them will far outweigh any issues such as this one.
    3. Whether or not JV was in fact correct depends on a number of factors. For a start, it may depend on what exactly we mean by “heathens”. We are dealing with a translation, of course, and I do not know what the original French word was. My understanding, though, is that the Church accepts that those who are in ignorance can be saved but that someone who deliberately and resolutely rejected the truth, in full knowledge thereof, could not be saved. So with which category of heathen are we dealing here?
    4. To address Toad’s first plaintive croak, asking who actually qualifies for Heaven, I believe that we do not in fact know, and I suggest that it is not in reality an appropriate question to ask. In the end, we entrust ourselves to God’s mercy and it is not for us to pre-judge how God will act in that moment when we come face to face.
    5. What we do know is that God has built his Church on the rock of Peter and that within that Church can be found all that is necessary for salvation, including in particular the sacraments of the Eucharist and of reconciliation. No priest, no sacraments – that is the key point that JV is making.
    6. If we are not members of that Church because of ignorance, then the Church teaches that we may still be saved. But if we knowingly turn from God’s appointed Church, the stakes are very high.
    7. The message that comes through again and again in the Old Testament is “I will be your God if you will be My people”. We have that free will, but if we deliberately turn from God then we should not presume that we will be saved.

    I, for one, find John Vianney to be a priest who offers the most amazing insights and it is a shame to get too hung up on the one concept. As far as the salvation of others is concerned, we leave it to God’s mercy. As far as we are concerned, we have the choice. As Mr Meerkat would say, “Simples”.

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  7. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    A lovely, thoughtful post, BW.

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  8. Jerry says:

    Great post bwr47. And as you say being a saint does not make one infallible. Francis Xavier wept for the Japanese who would suffer damnation on account of never hearing of Christ, after his plans for a mission there were disrupted. Now he was an authentic saint, but the theology behind his despair was not sound. As can be seen in various authoritative documents. The collection of pronouncements from the Holy Office regarding Feeney that I posted above are good for a quick overview.

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  9. Jerry says:

    I, for one, find John Vianney to be a priest who offers the most amazing insights and it is a shame to get too hung up on the one concept

    Fair enough, but Toads question deserved an answer, since, whether it was or not, Vianney’s remark was on the face of it problematic.

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  10. toadspittle says:

    .
    “To address Toad’s first plaintive croak, asking who actually qualifies for Heaven, I believe that we do not in fact know, and I suggest that it is not in reality an appropriate question to ask. In the end, we entrust ourselves to God’s mercy and it is not for us to pre-judge how God will act in that moment when we come face to face.”

    Well, Bwr47, (Toad thinks he used to drive one in the 60’s! Very poor suspension!) Sincere thanks for your answer. It seems to boil down to the above. It strikes Toad as somwhat odd that people should be so keen to go somewhere (Heaven) which they admit to knowing so little about. Contrariwise for Hell.
    The “appropriateness” of the question is a matter of opinion of course. Toad would have thought, that for believers, it was of infinite appropriateness. Oh, well.

    And yes, it would appear that God works in many stwange ways..etc… not for us to get too nosy, etc … leave it all to Him, etc… all come out in the wash, etc… shut up and get on with it…etc.

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  11. bwr47 says:

    Thanks for the various responses to my comments. And yes, Toad, it is alas not just the suspension that is getting a bit creaky.

    On reflection, I would not have said that it was an inappropriate question to have asked, but rather that we should not press it too far and get too hung up on that one aspect, when there is so much that is valuable in his teaching.

    As for heaven and hell, our minds cannot get beyond images of what they are like, but if we had even an inkling of the reality, we could not wish hell on anyone.

    Anyway, it is back to the day job now.

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  12. Jerry says:

    One positive thing about the feeney case is that the obvious abhorrance felt by the Holy Office etc toward is cruel view of salvation belies ome of the stereotypes about the pre-VII Church being legalistic and harsh etc

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  13. Jerry says:

    Apologies, the comment above lacks an H and an S respectively in obvious places 🙂

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  14. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    BWs comment in his lines 6 & 7 “our minds cannot get beyond images of what they are like” and “we have no inkling” etc…. Precisely.

    This is just what Toad is talking about…..where there is “so little known that it is odd ” that it should be discussed with such confidence.

    Toad did not get an answer to his question…and I do not question (nor object) why JVs words are publicised; I merely offer one possibility, though it is true that I find JV to be a very troubled person..

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  15. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    BW says about salvation that “if we knowingly turn from God’s appointed church, the stakes are very high”.

    He then says “we do not know who qualifies for heaven” and follows by saying that to question this is “inappropriate”.

    Perhaps all a tad contradictory?

    Presumably this means that the billions of Hindus, Jains, Muslims, Protestants, Jews etc risk the probability of losing salvation and may not ask the reason why.

    A bit of a puzzle, all this….Did God create all these billions only to exclude them? I don’t really think so, but like Manuel from Barcelona, “I know nothing”.

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  16. kathleen says:

    I see that Kathleen’s recent outburst that you were “thick” has hurt you deeply. I’m sure she didn’t mean it.”

    Toad and I kissed and made up days ago over that one Mr. W. ‘Course I didn’t mean it – Toad knows that.

    And as to the beautiful love song of the Cure d’Ars on the priesthood, I can only say how wistful I feel. Too many people nowadays do not give their priests the love and respect they deserve. Running a parish full of all types of people, among whom they often need to ‘keep the peace’ must be very challenging. And trying to attend to all the needs of their flock when they are so over-worked, while finding time for their own needs for silence and prayer…… must be extremely difficult. Priests are often unjustly criticized for being obedient sons of the Church….. or for any small human failing, as though this were a far worse crime coming from a priest rather than a layman. All this must be so very stressful and discouraging for a man who has given up so much to save souls.

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  17. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Kathleen – I know well that your slapping around of Toad was in fun. Or I wouldn’t have referred to it.

    It’s a common practice among
    friends.

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  18. Jerry says:

    A bit of a puzzle, all this….Did God create all these billions only to exclude them? I don’t really think so, but like Manuel from Barcelona, “I know nothing”.

    For goodness sake Whippy. God did no such thing. Nor does the Church teach that he did.

    To quote JPII
    “The Church is the sacrament of salvation for all humankind, and her activity is not limited only to those who accept her message” (RM 20)

    All Salvation is through christ and his Church, but not limited by the ‘visible’ boundaries of the church.

    The necessity of the Church for salvation does not entail the limitation of salvation to her visible members.

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  19. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Yes Jerry, but there are other statements on salvation which contradict JPIIs words.

    It came up some time ago on CP&S.

    In this article alone we read “everything has to come to us through the priest; yes all heavenly gifts”.
    “you cannot recall one single blessing of God without…the image of the priest”….
    “the heathens …can have no share in the Blessings of Redemption”. And so on.

    So where can we find those priests without whom there is no share in Redemption? Not in Islam, Hinduism and so on.

    The general drift is that if you know of the Church and don’t accept its teachings then you can forget your chance at Heaven. If you, a ‘heathen’ have never heard the Word, then there’s a chance you won’t be excluded.

    So you will forgive me disagreeing with you, or at least pointing out that there’s some policy mismatch going on….

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  20. Jerry says:

    Whippy, I tend to be rather light-hearted about a lot of issues relating to catholicism. I’m a rather lapsed Catholic, as must be obvious. But this is serious stuff to me. Feeneyism would lead to the conclusion that the Church is cruelly disposed to the world in which it subsists. And I believe that the Church is slandered by his assertions.

    John Vianney, was a good, kind, and saintly man. But he was not in any sense an authority on the theology of the Catholic Church. Due to his intellectual limitations it was a great and heroic struggle for him to even be accepted for ordination. — And that doesn’t mater — he was a true saint. But his reflections cannot be quoted as if they represent authoritative teaching.

    It is indeed Catholic teaching that you put your soul in grave danger if you fully recognise the truth of the Catholic faith, and then proceed to reject it, with full knowledge of its truth. But the church recognises that every individual finds themselves immersed in the world, there are a myriad reasons, emotional, psychological, intellectual etc, why someone migh not come to full acceptance of the Church. — I know of a middle-aged man who, having been abused as a child cannot make eye contact with someone wearing a clerical collar without being overcome by shaking and panic. His seperation fro the Church is worlds away from the kind of rejection which is defined as culppable.

    The general drift is that if you know of the Church and don’t accept its teachings then you can forget your chance at Heaven. If you, a ‘heathen’ have never heard the Word, then there’s a chance you won’t be excluded.

    The Church recognises that knowledge, acceptance, and rejection are all conditioned by the circumstances in which an individual finds themselves. And that is why the Church leaves salvation up to God, and does not pre-judge.

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  21. kathleen says:

    Salvation comes through the Catholic Church. The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism explains: ‘For it is through Christ’s Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, that we believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the People of God.’ (C.C.C. # 816)

    So what happens to those who are ignorant of Christ and His Church?
    While affirming that “Outside the Church there is no salvation,” (C.C.C. # 846), the Catechism of the Catholic Church further states, “This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
    ‘Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.'” (C.C.C. # 847)

    This is more or less what Jerry and bwr47 have been explaining.

    It is as Raven said on another thread: we should do all in our power, by word, deed and prayer, to spread the Faith so that all men might know the message of Salvation that Our Lord Jesus Christ came to bring to all mankind. The fullness of the Faith is only found in the Holy Catholic Church.

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  22. Jerry says:

    Kathleen, thanks for putting much better than I am able to.

    As I see it, it would distort the nature of the Church to imagine it as a group of people who attain salvation while the rest of humanity fall into hell. The Church (if it is anything worthwhile) is Christ’s salvific action continuing through history. Theologian Hans Balthasar described it as the yeast plunged into the dough. The purpose of the yeast is to transform the whole. — And not to make more yeast, but to transform the whole into bread

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  23. kathleen says:

    Slight change of subject, but still relevant to the topic above on the Holy Priesthood…… There is a marvellous new book out by a priest from the Vocations Director of the Savannah diocese (Georgia, USA), Fr. Brett Brannen: ‘To Save a Thousand Souls’.
    http://www.vianneyvocations.com/tosaveathousandsouls/praise-brannen
    The book is written for young men who might be discerning a vocation to the Priesthood, but it’s a great read for all Catholics who want to know more about their priests and their ministry.

    As a small anecdote: I met a young Fr. Brett Brannen in Spain about twenty years ago. He was staying there for a month whilst perfecting his Spanish. Although he had only been a priest for three years at the time, his passion and zeal for the Priesthood was just so inspiring. I always felt he would do just that, save a thousand souls, or probably many many more. May God Bless him and all holy priests.

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  24. kathleen says:

    Thanks Jerry. Yes, I quite agree with you: “… it would distort the nature of the Church to imagine it as a group of people who attain salvation while the rest of humanity fall into hell

    This would be a total contrast to our knowledge of God as All Loving, All Merciful and Just.

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  25. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Thanks Jerry and Kathleen for your informative posts.

    Yet, when reading over them, I am forced to conclude again that there IS contradiction on this, as I asserted. I think that based on what you have both said above, that you actually agree with what I said in 09.37 – ie knowingly rejecting Church teaching results in exclusion from heaven, for “salvation comes through the Catholic Church” (K).

    There are certainly caveats, cautions and qualifications in your accounts of salvation via the Church – these may cloud the issue even further. Compare Kathleen’s last sentence in bold, for example, compared to her first phrase in bold, as well as Jerry’s last three lines of 10.09. Meaning begins to slide. If it were a secular issue, lawyers would be rubbing their hands.

    I accept Jerry’s comments on St JV to a degree, and that the words of saints are not to be taken as definitive (yet more confusion). BW says “he may have been mistaken”…. and what a can of worms that opens. (Especially as I feel that he was a very troubled and troubling man, allowing for historical context)

    I agree with Jerry in 10.44 that it would be a distortion to believe that some may achieve salvation while others go down. Tho’ better and more concisely expressed than my view, it’s what I implied.

    To return to an example; today millions of Hindus have heard of the Church’s teachings (indeed St Thomas arrived in South India nearly 2000 years ago). Yet they remain Hindus. Ergo, they will not enter Heaven, except for Kathleen’s CCC no.847. Or Jerry’s “fully recognise the truth of the Catholic faith” etc. Or…..

    It is clear that the issue is unclear.

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  26. toadspittle says:

    .

    Toad supposes, after reading this – the question is why God allowed so many billions of people to live and die never knowing Jesus through no fault of their own? Wouldn’t it be more logical just to let everyone know from the get-go? Why can’t everyone get a go at the fullness? Oh, well.

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  27. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    The Mad Mullah, fresh from a decapitation event, has put his webbed finger on it. Others have mused that the hand we have been dealt seems a bit inefficient. Why were we ushered out of Eden in this fallen state? Why all this stress when we could have been sorted, as MM says, “from the get-go”? It’s like having your leg broken before a race.

    And its no good looking for hints from those Hindus and Buddhists – they also have their version of stress called re-incarnation, even tho’ we don’t remember our past lives, and ignoring the fact that the population is growing fast – leaving a surplus for souls to inhabit*. The Muslims have their difficulties before they reach those perfumed garden oases, replete with totty. No mention though, of gardens for the ladies, replete with muscley chaps.

    So we need some Redemptive answers here.

    * I forgot that you can come back as a cockroach and the like, so there’s lots of space. Actually I’d come back as a cat in a nice house, as a reward for a good life. But it’s NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Tiddles.

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  28. kathleen says:

    Admittedly Toad and Mr. Whippy, you raise some tricky questions. No one can give you a black and white answer to them because “the Lord moves in mysterious ways” and we really do not know what happens after death to men’s immortal souls. (Hence the necessity to pray incessantly for the dead.)
    I would go back to repeating bwr47’s perceptive words above: “As far as the salvation of others is concerned, we leave it to God’s mercy. As far as we are concerned, we have the choice.”

    As to those “who hear the word and reject it”, Jerry also made a very good point in his comment at 10:09 today. He mentioned a middle aged man who had suffered abuse as a child (presumably by a cleric), and who had rejected the Church as a result. Should he deserve Hell for doing so? Of course not. It is quite obvious that what he rejects is not Our Lord Jesus Christ and His teaching, or even the Holy Catholic Church, only a distortion of it, a symbol of all his shame and suffering.
    This is an example of the many who appear to reject the Catholic Church, but in reality what they are rejecting is a false image of it. Those who willingly and knowingly distort the image of the Church are the ones who ought to worry about their salvation……. and that could apply to all of us who have been baptised and blessed with the knowledge of Truth!

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  29. toadspittle says:

    .
    “As I see it, it would distort the nature of the Church to imagine it as a group of people who attain salvation while the rest of humanity fall into hell.”

    ..Jerry puts it neatly into the old nutshell, and Toad absolutely agrees – that that is exactly what a great many Catholics did imagine, including some very influential saints and “Doctors” of the Church.
    And “distorting” the image of the Church, is exactly what it has done, and it is exactly what Toad was taught in London in 1956 – and if Toad has a “distorted” image of the Church this is one of the major reasons why.
    Moreover it is very likely what several people who read CP&S still believe, he suspects.
    Be nice to hear from them.
    (If it cuts any ice, Sir Anthony Kenny seems to exactly agree with Toad. And he ain’t chopped liver.)

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  30. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    A thoughful response Kathleen and one which makes you think that in many important matters, you have to follow your conscience (with all its faults), because guidance is sometimes unclear. This is inevitable I’d say. Life never works out according to the rules.

    Nice one Kathleen.

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  31. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Lots more “cutting” and “chopping” from the green Mighty Mullah here aka effendi Toad, who has recently been fascinated by beheading, and who has uttered grim yet kindly warnings to myself and Jabba, on this very topic.

    I do hope his dogs are safe with a responsible person.
    What has brought on this interest, I muse?

    We may never be told.

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  32. toadspittle says:

    .
    Strangely prophetic words, Mr. W.

    Toad is off to Malaga and Segovia, via Toledo (Not the Ohio one) for a week, and his dogs are in excellent hands.
    But he will still fret a bit. And not comment a lot.

    ( More commendable honesty from Kathleen, to be sure.)

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  33. toadspittle says:

    .
    “…the Lord moves in mysterious ways…” Kathleen tells us, and what interests Toad is that he can’t remember this little “blast from his past” ever being trundled creakingly out on CP&S before – which is surprising, considering. (Although Bmw47 tapdanced around it a few days back.)

    Unfortunately, this statement must be regarded objectively as a total failure of any kind of intellectual, moral, logical, or ethical standpoint whatsoever. It “explains” and excuses every conceivable existential horror – utterly mindlessly. We mentally throw in the towel.
    There’s no point in thinking seriously about anything following that.
    Game, set, and match to God. (No smiley face.) What would the Jesuits say?

    Or is Toad simply wrong?

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  34. Jerry says:

    Kathleen, Whippy, Toad, et al.

    I’ve been thinking about this. A conversation about hell and damnation can easily derail and become and become polemical. But since this has been very civil and stimulating I’ll have one more crack at putting my understanding of the issue across. This is what I believe to be a Catholic understanding of what it means to “reject the Church”. — But its just my thoughts, some expert can come along and tell me its hogwash

    Firstly, to return to the begininng, when Saint John Vianney said:

    Look at the heathens: what has it availed them that Our Lord has died? Alas! they can have no share in the blessings of Redemption

    It’s important to remember that his intent was not to focus attention on the fate (which he doesn’t strictly specify) of the heathen. His intent was to inspire joy in his listeners in the fact that they are so blessed as to live in the Church of Christ. — The joy of being in the Church, not speculation about the fate of those outside, is his primary concern.

    Secondly, the Church finds itself plunged into history, inextricably entangled in human affairs. It is not of the world, but it is in the world. And so, although in its very nature the Church is Christ in the world, and reveals the face of Christ to the world, from the persective of each individul person, a thousand things can obscure that face. By analogy, the sun is what it always is, but is experienced differently under different circumstances. For one man it is hidden on the other side of the world, and it is night. For another it is hidden behind a cloud, another sees its light but only partially as it is rising, another stands basked in sunlight. But the sun is always the sun.

    So, rejection of the Church isn’t just a person looking at the Church in its entirety and turning away. It is always rejection conditioned by circumstance. Every human being is formed by their own contingent history. And what looks like culpable rejection may be no such thing.

    Now the key thing for me is this: since the visible Church and the individual responding to it are both immersed in contingent history, when we consider the issue of final damnation, response to the visible Church cannot be the final criteria. What counts is the response to the reality the Church in its true self presents. This might give the wrong impression that this is to say that it doesn’t matter if you’re in the Church or not. It matters a great deal, and it provides the objective means and guidance to salvation. But it is not the criterion of damnation.

    My personal view is that a person who truly understood the reality of the Church in their very depths, believed, and utterly rejected it for truly culpable reasons is likely to be such a rare beast that we me might wonder if more than a tiny number can have ever existed.

    Hans Urs Von Balthasar is very interesting on all this. He stayed within Catholic teaching by rejecting universalism — (we know that all will be saved) and argued in great depth that every Christian has strong and reasonable grounds for a rational hope that all might be saved.

    Here’s a link to his book at ignatius press:

    http://www.ignatius.com/Products/DWH-P/dare-we-hope.aspx

    You can look inside on the amazon website.

    Here is a link to Benedict XVI giving his thoughts on Balthasar (who died in 1988)

    http://www.ignatius.com/promotions/balthasarbooks/benedictpraiseshub.asp

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  35. Jerry says:

    Toad supposes, after reading this – the question is why God allowed so many billions of people to live and die never knowing Jesus through no fault of their own? Wouldn’t it be more logical just to let everyone know from the get-go? Why can’t everyone get a go at the fullness? Oh, well.

    The structure of the Christian claims is that God, the absolute, enters into relationship with humanity, even to the point of death and abandonment on the cross and on easter saturday. — Since human beings live in time and space and contingency, for God to encounter humanity decisively God must enter into history. And this entails particularity, a particular time and place. Old testament Judaism and Christianity are both historical religions for this reason, they are about an encounter with God. Not about an abstract God that has no relationship with humanity.

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  36. toadspittle says:

    .

    “My personal view is that a person who truly understood the reality of the Church in their very depths, believed, and utterly rejected it for truly culpable reasons is likely to be such a rare beast that we me might wonder if more than a tiny number can have ever existed. ” ..says Jerry. Beautifully put, as is the whole comment. Toad diffidently suggests that the sentence above more or less says: “To hate God, you’d have to believe in Him utterly, admit His infinite goodness, and then say no.”

    This does not negate the fact that St. Augustine roundly damned virtually the entire human race, starting with people who put smiley faces on the end of their comments. 🙂

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  37. Jerry says:

    Toad diffidently suggests that the sentence above more or less says: “To hate God, you’d have to believe in Him utterly, admit His infinite goodness, and then say no.”

    Well, yeah!

    Like

  38. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    I must chew a little on Jerry’s post, tho’ I cannot hope to equal its thoughtfulness.

    As for Senor Toad, I hope he has a nice time down there in Malaga, leaving Toadspittle Towers and his dawgs with a Responsible Person.

    I myself may soon be passing near St John Vianney’s pied a terre in Ars, and if possible will have a word there….he may give me a clip round the ear of course…..

    Like

  39. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Tho’ he is probably “up to speed” on this, may I suggest to El Toad that in Toledo he calls in to the Museo/casa El Greco ?

    Like

  40. kathleen says:

    Jerry…… (sorry, I was too busy to look into CP&S yesterday)
    Many thanks for your brilliant, insightful comment of 5:13am yesterday. You truly have gone to the heart of the matter we have all been discussing on this post. I cannot disagree with any of it.
    Hard to believe you are a somewhat “lapsed” Catholic, as you say 😉

    I look forward to reading the books you link to here.

    Like

  41. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    A few words leading from your 5 star post….

    Jerry, in your first quote of 05.13 – “Alas look at the heathens….they can have no share in the blessings of redemption”. For me this is an example of how worrying are the words of St. JV. This is hubris, it is schadenfreude, and encourages a kind of spiritual smugness which is unjustified. Nor do I think it is correct that the heathen will have no share etc. We have seen that the Church hedges its bets on this, making provision for such ‘heathens’. And I cannot believe in such a harsh and unloving God; it makes no sense at all. St. JV led a life of such harshness and lack of love towards the body he was given that I think it has negatively affected his outlook, as it would anyone. Interesting that in his immense efforts to attempt to subjugate the body, it was his bed which caught fire. ‘Devils’ it was said, and I’m sure that answer has something in it.

    You refer to the Christian claims that “God the Absolute, enters into a relationship with humanity” and that “God must enter into history” – more reasons why the “heathen” in all its forms has a place in heaven. The ‘heathen’ was not historically placed where he was to then be denied redemption. A tad unfair, I’d say.

    Kathleen is right with her remarks on lapsed Catholics! But as they said where I was brought up, “Once a Catholic, always a Catholic” .And we know what the Jesuits said.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

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