by Pauly Fongemie




Cultural Catholics
Modernists [Liberals]
Neo-Catholics [Conservatives]
Cultic movements


Living the Faith in Exile
The Danger of Human Respect
Christian Hope v. Optimism
Consecration to Mary
The Secret of Mary
Prayer: The Indispensible Means of Salavation
Daily Offering
Acts of Faith, Hope and Love
The Five First Saturdays of Reparation
The Rosary
The Traditional Mass
Frequent Confession and Daily Examen
Trust in the Two Hearts
The Passion of Christ: the Servant is not Greater than His Master
The Communion of Saints
Devotion to and for the Holy Souls
The 7 Deadly Forms of Idleness and their Remedies
Prayer for Daily Neglects
Reading for Spiritual Nourishment and Knowledge
Home Schooling
Excerpts from St. Paul's Epistles


Over the course of a typical month Catholic Tradition receives many letters, most of which pertain to: Requests for prayer, thank you notes of appreciation, letters of complaint or correction, queries about where to locate documentation or a book or image, and assistance, in locating information about a specific Marian shrine or a dogma of the Faith; always the most heart-wrenching are those letters that concern what has been titled "The Crisis of Faith". We treat every letter in each category as unique and try to answer each one as best as we know how.  The first and last kind of letters are growing in number and urgency. The purpose of this exposition is in response to the last type of plea for help. It was prompted by a letter we received around Christmas time a few years ago which so encapsulated most of the letters of this kind that are sent to us that we asked for and received permission from the writer to quote from her letter, but we will not provide her name:

Please help me.  I'm 33 years old and have been a devoted Catholic since I was 17.  I've defended the faith and the magisterium all this time.  Lately it seems all hell is breaking loose around me and I'm clinging to Jesus Christ and His holy Mother because I don't know what else to believe.

I'm a busy mother, trying to be faithful to what I've always thought the Church taught.  Sometimes it seems I'm the only one in the parish who really believes.  I honestly don't fit in at all, and I'm wondering why.  All of a sudden I've been called anti-Christ by some Protestant neighbors, by the Church that calls John Paul II an anti-pope, and says they're the true Catholic Church.  In my search for truth I've come across a Church that seems to say they're loyal to the magesterium but that have apparently been separated from the Catholic Church of Rome as I've always known it.

Before we begin an examination of the spiritual and emotional turmoil experienced by this young Catholic mother, we need to define terms, as is made evident from her use of the word "Church" to describe a body of people calling the Roman pontiff an anti-pope and the claim of another body of Catholics that they are the True Church while being separated from Rome.

There is only one true Church of Jesus Christ, the Holy Catholic Church, a perfect society with a perfectly constituted hierarchy and a perfect Sacramental system. The Catholic Church is the Mystical Body of Christ on earth and as such is of Divine origin and established by Christ as necessary for the salvation of men. Any other "Church" is really a sect. Every other sect claiming to be the Church or a Church was founded by a human person breaking away from another sect that originally broke away from the Catholic Church. The only Church is the Catholic Church founded by Jesus Christ, Who is God, a Divine Person, not a human person. It has identifiable marks as sure signs of its existence and authority which are explained on the next page.

The Church teaches:

Now, no individual may judge the Roman Pontiff without incurring grave mortal sin. A Catholic has the right and even the duty to judge all papal decrees in the light of Sacred Tradition which may not be violated. But he must refrain from judging the Pontiff himself, who is not entirely co-equivalent with his actions and decrees. On the necessity for upholding Tradition:


Every Catholic has the right and even the duty "to make known to the sacred pastors" his concerns about policies and actions [or the lack thereof] by the hierarchy that harm the faith, provided he is not using this means to dissent from the Magisterium and Tradition and to spread that dissent [Revised Code of Canon Law, § 212, nos. 1-3]. Thus a Catholic has no right to advocate birth control and request the Church change unalterable doctrine. He has the moral duty, within his ability and state in life, to urge his pastor, his bishop and even the Pope to teach a moral doctrine more forcefully and more frequently, such as when he knows his fellow Catholics are using birth control [by their own admission] and receiving Holy Communion every Sunday anyway. He does not judge the heart of these Catholics who may be sincerely ignorant, he judges the situation that the doctrine is not being effectively promulgated.

And just as no Catholic has the right to dissent on matters of faith or doctrine, he has no right to disassociate himself from the unity of the Church [see citation from Cantate Domino above]. The meaning of the excerpt from Cantate Domino is that no Catholic who formally separates himself from the Church can be saved as long as he remains outside. [A justified person who is seeking salvation but who is not yet a Catholic may be, but that is known only to God. As Blessed Pope Pius IX taught, we can have hope, but not a great hope.]

Thus, we know that we can and must uphold Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium, and that the Church has provided the means without leaving the unity of the Church. If that means should appear to fail in some part,  due to human weakness and sin, we cannot change the rules, but must endure the privations and failures as a chastisement from God for our own good, that is in reparation for our sins and those of others, even though in strictly human terms, it is difficult to comprehend and accept the situation. But we can be confident that God will provide the necessary graces to endure this form of dry martyrdom or spiritual night time.

Canons 213 and following further elaborate on the boundaries of Catholics to associate with other Catholics for certain purposes and their obligations as lay members. You are referred to the Code of Canon Law, available on the internet or at Catholic book shops. Catholics can form pious associations and other such groups to foster the faith but they may not form another "Church" or call themselves a "Church".

We know from the history of the Church that there have been bad prelates and even bad Popes and that some of the Pontiffs have been subsequently declared anti-popes by a council or the whole hierarchy united with the reigning Pope at the time of the declaration. But until that should occur no one individual Catholic, no matter how many others he joins with, whether priest or laity, can make this declaration, nor can any group of Catholics. This is what is known as the mortal sin of sedevacantism, that is the declaration that the Chair of Peter is empty or vacant [other than temporary of course, meaning the Pope has died and a new Pope has not been selected yet, which is not what we mean by the sin of sedevacantism]. To cause scandal and confusion by saying there is no Pope is a grave matter because it can incite others to become frightened and or lose their faith. This is because we have not been given this authority by Christ. If a Pontiff or a Council under a Pontiff would make such a declaration, they have the authority from Christ to do so and would not sin. No one else has this right from Christ. Before we continue we ought to address a related situation, one that occurred as part of the Great Schism when the Pontiffs reigned not from Rome but from France. There were as many as three claimants to the Papal throne at any given time. Catholics had to choose which Pope was the valid one so as to follow him, and since even Saints have imperfect intellects and powers of  judgment this was a task fraught with confusion and perhaps fear or dread. An example was the case of St. Catherine of Siena and St. Vincent Ferrer, the former given the grace to know the rightful claimant and the call from God to urge him back to Rome, the latter not given the grace and so deciding for an anti-pope. Now both Saints acted in good faith and with all the ability given to them by God. They did not sin in this matter. Now since there were more than one claimant, there was no decision rendered that said the papal seat was vacant, so there was no sedevacantism involved per se. Of course by deciding for one over the other, by necessity one was in essence deciding another was the anti-pope, but this was not a sin because only one valid Pope can be at any given time and we are bound to know the Shepherd as best as we can. The act of saying that one "Pope" must not be valid while the other is, is what is called an act of the secondary effect, that is, the intent was to follow the Vicar of Christ and submit to his authority, and to do so meant deciding on which one. The intent was for the Pontiff, the rightful one, not so much as against the other. At no time did these Saints say, there is no Pontiff at all. They could not as they had no authority to do so and knew it and were faithful to their vocations. At no time did they give in to the temptation to throw up their hands in disgust, saying "how can I decide, what a mess, there must not be any Pope at all!" It is important to make this distinction so as to not let Satan confuse us with facts out of context, so as to lead us astray. Satan is the Father of lies, but he depends on the truth, that is part of it, to deceive us. If he used but only lies we would see through him immediately, even with our dim intellects.

To say we must not be sedevacantists [the Pope is an anti-pope and therefore there is no Pope] is not to say we must accept as dogma every action of every Pope. This is the opposite error called papal idolatry. Popes have made errors of judgment and policy without ever formally making an error on doctrine and imposing that erroneous belief under pain of sin on the whole Church. Church-wide policies that are injurious to the faith have taken place and do happen even now, but these are human prudential decisions that do not fall in the ambit of the protection of the Holy Spirit.

What does Christ say and what has the Church taught throughout the ages from the very beginning [Scripture and Tradition] on this matter? And what has Pope John Paul II said more recently? And others, such as eminent theologians faithful to Tradition and the Magisterium?

And He said to His disciples: It is impossible that scandals should not come: but woe to him through whom they come.

------------St. Luke 17: 1

God is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able: but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it.

------------St. Paul, 1 Cor. 10: 13

One must be realistic and acknowledge with a deep and pained sentiment that a great part of today's Christians feel lost, confused, perplexed, and even disillusioned: ideas contradicting the revealed and unchanging Truth have been spread far and wide; outright heresies in the dogmatic and moral fields have been disseminated; creating doubt, confusion, and rebellion; even the liturgy has been altered.  Immersed in intellectual and moral "relativism" and therefore in permissiveness, Christians are tempted by atheism, agnosticism, a vaguely moralistic illuminism, a sociological Christianity, without defined dogmas and without objective morality.

------------Pope John Paul II, "Allocution to the Religious and Priests Participating in the First Italian National Congress on Missions to the People for the 80s," L' Osservatore Romano, Feb. 7, 1981.

We must be faithful to the Church even when Her hierarchy, through a mysterious divine permission, is failing so dramatically. Her infallibility is by no means in doubt, nor is the promise of Christ that "the gates of Hell shall not prevail against Her." However, this promise does not mean there will not be times of darkness. If the Son of God Himself endured death and the sepulcher, how would His Spouse not be called to undergo a similar or rather analogous trial? . . . What mysterious trials of annihilation still await Her? We cannot know what they will be in detail, but what we can know with certainty is that these trials will come. And we can even say they have already started.

------------Fr. Joseph de Sainte-Marie, O.C.D., "Réfléxions Sur le Problème de la Messe Aujourd'hui dans l'Eglise," in La Pensee Catholique, July-Aug. 1974, pp. 25-21.

We frankly acknowledge that God permits this persecution of His Church [the Protestant Revolt] on account of the sins of men, and especially of prelates and clergy; of a surety the Lord's arm is not shortened that He cannot save us, but our sins separate us from Him, so that He does not hear. Holy Scripture declares aloud that the sins of the people are the outcome of the sins of the priesthood; therefore, as Chrysostom declares, when our Savior wished to cleanse the city of Jerusalem of its sickness, He went first to the Temple to punish the sins of the priests before those of others, like a good physician who heals a disease at its roots. We know well that for many years things deserving of abhorrence have gathered round the Holy See; sacred things have been misused, ordinances transgressed, so that in everything there has been a change for the worse. Thus it is not surprising that the malady has crept down from the head to the members, from the Popes to the hierarchy.

    We all, prelates and clergy, have gone astray from the right way, and for long there is none that has done good; no, not one Therefore, in our name, give promises that we shall use all diligence to reform before all things the Roman Curia, whence, perhaps, all these evils have had their origin; thus healing will begin at the source of sickness.

------------Pope Adrian VI, in a September 1, 1522, letter to the Imperial Diet of Nuremberg.

          I exhort you not to let yourself be too much troubled by scandals, which indeed were foretold precisely so that when they happen we may remember that they were foretold and not be disconcerted. For the Lord Himself foretold them in the Gospel. "Woe to the world because of scandals. For it must needs be that scandals come: but nevertheless, woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh" (Matt. 18: 7) Thus, there are those who hold the office of shepherds that they may watch over Christ's sheep; and there are those who hold it for the sake of temporal honors and worldly advantages. These two kinds of pastors, always dying and giving place to others, will both be perpetuated in the bosom of the Catholic Church till time ends and the Lord comes to judgment.

------------Saint Augustine writing to Felicia, a virgin who grieved over the scandals then plaguing the Church in Epist. 208, 2 and 5.

"The smoke of Satan has entered into the temple of God through some crack An adverse power has intervened. His name is the devil, the mysterious being to which Saint Peter also alludes in his Epistle."

------------Pope Paul VI, "Resistite fortes in fide," Insegnamenti de Paolo VI, Vol. 6, p. 188.

In addition to these exhortations of the Popes, Church Fathers, and Christ Himself there is the matter of the Papal Oath. Until 1978, this oath was taken as recorded in Church records, by every Sovereign Pontiff of the Catholic Church since Pope Saint Agatho in 678. Many believe it was even taken by several predecessors of St. Agatho. Who composed it is not known. What is known is that at least 185 Supreme Pontiffs took this solemn oath over the past 1300 years. In this oath, the Vicar of Christ vows to never contradict the Deposit of Faith, or change or innovate anything that has been handed down to him.

Now you may ask, if Christ promises the Church the safeguard of the Holy Spirit's protection against formal error [infallibility], why was this oath even deemed necessary? By asking the question you have actually answered it. Because every Pope is under the effects of Original Sin and is imperfect, no matter how holy he may be. The protection of infallibility is only for the declaration on matters of faith and doctrine promulgated to the whole Church for all to believe and accept under pain of sin. This special protection is not promised to a Pope's ordinary decrees, speeches to groups of academics and others, imprudent judgments in everyday matters, among other non-infallible acts. Recall that at the Council of Jerusalem, the first Church council, St. Paul had to rebuke, that is correct St. Peter, the first Pope, in public as Peter was in error over a matter concerning the Jews. So the possibility that Popes can make mistakes in judgment, even big ones, is not only real but has actually occurred from the beginning.

Just as you and I do not need to take an oath promising to get wet when it rains if we do not wear proper clothing because it would be ridiculous on the face of it since it is an impossibility and redundant, the Pope does not need to take an oath promising to teach infallibly since it would be impossible not to do so as the Holy Spirit guides him when he is defining doctrine or teaching once again to a new generation that which has always been taught by the Church, on faith and morals.

You and I made a promise at our Confirmation, and took vows when we married, precisely because even those two Sacraments cannot protect us completely from the weaknesses of the effects of Original Sin. And this is why the papal oath was devised, to help the Pontiff remain faithful to the Deposit of Faith, to safeguard it in his ordinary decrees and governing actions, lest that by imprudent actions or careless words he might give scandal by appearing to contradict this Deposit of Faith, or by laxity fail to defend it.

 St. Vincent of Lerins wrote:

"But some one will say, why then does Providence very often permit certain distinguished in the Church, to broach novelties to Catholics? . . . Because the Lord your God trieth you, that it may be made manifest whether you love Him or not in all your heart, and in all your soul.  . . ."

------------Adv. Hæres., n. xi. xii.


   "I vow to change nothing of the received Tradition, and nothing thereof I have found before me guarded by my God-pleasing predecessors, to encroach upon, to alter, or to permit any innovation therein;

   To the contrary: with glowing affection as her truly faithful student and successor, to safeguard reverently the passed-on good, with my whole strength and utmost effort;

   To cleanse all that is in contradiction to the canonical order, should such appear; to guard the Holy Canons and Decrees of our Popes as if they were the divine ordinance of Heaven, because I am conscious of Thee, Whose place I take through the Grace of God, Whose Vicarship I possess with Thy support, being subject to severest accounting before Thy Divine Tribunal over all that I shall confess;

   I swear to God Almighty and the Savior Jesus Christ that I will keep whatever has been revealed through Christ and His Successors and whatever the first councils and my predecessors have defined and declared.

   I will keep without sacrifice to itself the discipline and the rite of the Church. I will put outside the Church whoever dares to go against this oath, may it be somebody else or I.

   If I should undertake to act in anything of contrary sense, or should permit that it will be executed, Thou willst not be merciful to me on the dreadful Day of Divine Justice.

   Accordingly, without exclusion, We subject to severest excommunication anyone ----- be it Ourselves or be it another ----- who would dare to undertake anything new in contradiction to this constituted evangelic Tradition and the purity of the orthodox Faith and the Christian religion, or would seek to change anything by his opposing efforts, or would agree with those who undertake such a blasphemous venture."

      This sacred oath was taken for 1300 years up until October 1978. The question must be asked: Why then, did John Paul II not follow his predecessors and take this sacred papal coronation oath? He is the first since the 7th century and before to not do so. Why? We cannot know for certain, but we can observe the results.

Because of this failure on the part of Pope John Paul II, some in the Church question his holding the Papal office. The oath in of itself is not intrinsically necessary to a papal coronation, but the oath is indicative that the Church has for over a thousand years considered it a practical necessity as an aid to the Pontiff and a sign of his willingness to uphold Tradition.

To be shocked by the Pope's failure is one thing, to pronounce and proclaim sedevacantism is quite another and a source of scandal itself. Ever since Vatican II, the first and only non-dogmatic council ever convened, one that had so many contradictory canons that help to establish a spirit of modernism and liberalism, such shocks and sources of confusion and scandal have rocked the Church, somewhat like the crisis engendered by the Arian heresy of the third and fourth centuries. But Christ has told us that scandals will come but to be not scandalized by them. To call the Pontiff an anti-pope is to give in to scandal. Avoid these individuals and groups where possible [since the wheat and tares grow side by side it may not always be actually possible to do so].

So now, my dear sister in Christ, we have arrived at the heart of your question [s]. Before we begin to address your most valid concerns, I exhort you to read again the above definitions of terms and the examples of responses, etc. There is one caveat: I am not a prophet, a Saint or mystic, just a simple lay woman striving the same as you. All I can offer you are my prayers, my heart, my experience and my study at the feet of those more learned than I am. The one thing I am certain of is that I am not worthy to be the one to respond to you, a faithful daughter of the Church, a faithful servant of Christ, and faithful child of Mary, Mother of the Savior and Holy Mother Church. But you have asked and I must do my best to answer.

I have divided Catholic Tradition's response to you into 3 parts, just click on on the number or the underlined subtitle:


Our Lady of Fatima and the Consecration of Russia


Understanding the Necessity of Holding to Tradition