Vatican II and the erroneous notion of Membership in the Church


(The Notion of “Communion”)


A.   Vatican II’s Ecclesiology

      Cardinal Billot’s deep analysis of the body of the Catholic Church is very important in our present consideration.

The very error of Vatican II and John Paul II is the lack of exclusive identification of the Mystical Body of Christ with the body of the Catholic Church.

Vatican II sees the Mystical Body of Christ as “all those who profess to be Christian”:

“That Church, Holy and Catholic, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, is made up of the faithful who are organically united in the Holy Spirit through the same faith, the same sacraments, and the same government and who, combining into various groups held together by a hierarchy, form separate Churches or rites.” (Decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 2)

(Note that there is absolutely nothing in this definition which would exclude either the Orthodox or the Protestants.)

This Mystical Body, furthermore, has been scandalously torn into many pieces over the centuries:

“From her very beginnings there arose in this one and only Church of God certain rifts, which the apostle strongly censures as damnable. But in subsequent centuries more widespread disagreements appeared and quite large Communities [sic] became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church — developments for which, at times, men of both sides were to blame.” (Decree Unitatis Redintegratio, 3)

But “the Spirit of Christ” remains in these separated “ecclesial bodies,” and uses them as means of sanctification:

“But the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them [these separated Churches and Communities] as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church.” (ibid.)

It is therefore the duty of these bodies to come together, just as a dismembered human body ought to be sewn together by surgeons, in order that the Mystical Body of Christ be no longer “split up.” (ibid.)

Thus in the Vatican II view, the Mystical Body of Christ is much broader than the body of the Roman Catholic Church. By analogy to a human body, the Mystical Body would be the whole body of Christ, whereas the body of the Roman Catholic Church (or that of the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Greek Orthodox or Anglican, for that matter), is a member of this great Mystical Body of Christ. Just as the human soul is completely in the whole body and completely in each of its parts, so the Spirit of Christ, in this Vatican II ecclesiology, is completely in the whole Mystical Body and completely in each of its parts. Therefore, all the parts are truly the Body of Christ. They should break down their differences so that the communion among them is no longer “partial” but “full”:

“...multiple efforts are being expended through prayer, word, and action to attain that fullness of unity which Jesus Christ desires.” (ibid., 4)

This false doctrine can be further seen in the following passages:

From Vatican II:

“This Church [the sole Church of Christ], constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him.” (Lumen Gentium, 8)

“Such division [of Christian communions] openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages that most holy cause, the preaching of the gospel to every creature.” (Unitatis Redintegratio, 1)

“Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible confines. Since these are gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, they are forces impelling towards Catholic unity.” (Lumen Gentium, 8)

All those, who in faith look towards Jesus, the author of salvation and the principle of unity and peace, God has gathered together and established as the Church, that it may be for each and everyone the visible sacrament of this saving unity.” (Lumen Gentium, 9)

“The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honoured by the name of Christian, but who do not however profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter these Christians are indeed in some real way joined to us in the Holy Spirit for, by his gifts and graces, his sanctifying power is also active in them and he has strengthened some of them even to the shedding of their blood.” (Lumen Gentium, 14)


From the 1983 Code of Canon Law:

Can. 204 § 1 Christ’s faithful are those who, since they are incorporated into Christ through baptism, are constituted the people of God. For this reason they participate in their own way in the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ.  They are called, each according to his or her particular condition, to exercise the mission which God entrusted to the Church to fulfil in the world

       § 2 This Church, established and ordered in this world as a society, subsists in the catholic [sic] Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him.

Can 205  Those baptized are in full communion with the catholic [sic] Church here on earth who are joined with Christ in his visible body, through the bonds of profession of faith, the sacraments and ecclesiastical governance.

Can. 844 § 1  Catholic ministers may lawfully administer the sacraments only to catholic [sic] members of Christ’s faithful who equally may lawfully receive them only from catholic [sic] ministers, except as provided in §§ 2, 3 and 4 of this canon and in can. 861 § 2 [emphasis mine].

From these passages, which are by no means exhaustive, we see the image emerge of the Vatican II ecclesiology:

- the “Superchurch,” i.e., “Christ’s faithful”, “the People of God,” the Church of Christ, composed of “all those who look in faith towards Jesus,” and which has been split up scandalously into various Churches, in which are found many elements of sanctification and truth, which are used by the Spirit of Christ as means of salvation. This Church of Christ “subsists in” (notice it does not say is) the Roman Catholic Church, which is joined in many ways to other Christians who do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety (read Protestants).

      - Also this Superchurch is distinguished against the catholic [small “c” — sic] Church, which is the Superchurch subsisting in an organization on earth.  In Canons 825 and 844, there is a distinction made of catholic [sic] members of Christ’s faithful versus Christ’s faithful  (christifideles catholici vs. christifideles, the latter being used most often).

- Careful reading of this Code reveals very astute wording of the canons in such a fashion that no one could strictly identify Christ’s faithful with the members of the body of the Catholic Church. Rather it becomes very clear that Eastern schismatics and Protestants are considered to be members of “Christ’s faithful” and members of the Church, since they are baptized, and “constituted the people of God.” Notice that no mention is made of impeding the effect of baptism through adhering to heretical or schismatic sects, the public profession of heresy, or by exclusion by competent ecclesiastical authority.  Rather, if you are baptized, you are part of the People of God, Christ’s faithful, the Church.

      Absolute proof that “Christ’s faithful” (christifideles) refers to all who claim the name Christian, regardless of sect, can be seen from Canon 923:

Christ’s faithful may participate in the eucharistic Sacrifice and receive holy communion in any catholic rite, without prejudice to the provisions of can. 844.”

When one checks out Canon 844, it is the “eucharistic hospitality” canon! It is the canon which makes a distinction between the christifideles catholici and your ordinary christifideles, and defines the restrictions (the few which exist) on intercommunion. The conclusion is that christifideles of Canon 923 refers to all “Christians” who may participate in the “eucharistic sacrifice” and “holy communion,” as long as they observe the distinctions and restrictions of Canon 844.

This conclusion reveals that the 1983 Code of Canon Law is a veritable constitution for an ecumenical Church, in which carefully worded texts have retained the gravely erroneous ecclesiology of Vatican II.


B. A Note on Communicatio in Sacris

      A further confirmation of the gravely erroneous nature of the Vatican II ecclesiology is the fact that communicatio in sacris is permitted between Catholics and non-Catholics.

This was always considered to be a mortal sin, and made one suspect of heresy. It was considered to be a grave sin because it was seen to be a sign of adherence to a false sect. The only time in which it was permitted was in danger of death, and this only because the extreme urgency of the moment and provided this act does not imply any adherence to a false sect.

Vatican II, however, has changed all this. Already in the 1960’s the Council authorized intercommunion with the Orthodox:

Eastern Christians who are separated in good faith from the Catholic Church, if they ask of their own accord and have the right dispositions, may be granted the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and the anointing of the sick. Furthermore, Catholics may ask for these same sacraments from those non-catholic ministers whose Churches possess valid sacraments, as often as necessity or a genuine spiritual benefit recommends such a course of action, and when access to a Catholic priest is physically or morally impossible.” (Decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 27)

      The 1983 Code has gone a step further, and permits the same access to “Catholic” sacraments to Protestants, and vice-versa. (Canon 844). This intercommunion is significant, especially with regard to the Holy Eucharist, since, by its very nature, this sacrament is the sign of the Church’s unity.  It is one more confirmation of the fact that Vatican II (and the popes after the Council) teach that there is unity between the Roman Catholic Church and non-catholic sects.

      Communicatio in sacris has always been abhorrent to the Roman Catholic Church, for the very reason that it is a sign of adherence to a false sect.

Saint Ignatius of Antioch warns against the use of a non-catholic Eucharist:

“Take care, then, to use one Eucharist, so that whatever you do, you do according to God: For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup in the union of his blood; one altar, as there is one bishop, with the presbytery and my fellow servants, the deacons.” (Epist. ad Philadelphenses, n. 4)


C.   John Paul II’s Ecclesiology

      The ecclesiology of John Paul II goes a step beyond Vatican II. While the Council seems to draw the line of the Mystical Body around those “who in faith look towards Jesus” — whatever that means — he is ready to sign up the entire human race in the Mystical Body by the fact, as he says, that all are united to Christ by means of the Incarnation. (Cf.

With this principle, Catholics are “in communion” not only with the Anglicans and the Orthodox, but with everything: Moslems, Buddhists, Hindus, spiritists, Jews, etc.

Vatican II’s idea of the Church leads to heresy, since it identifies sects of heretics with the Mystical Body of Christ. John Paul II’s ecclesiology leads to apostasy, since it identifies organized religions of pagans and idolaters with the Mystical Body of Christ.

The truth is that in no way are pagans and idolaters, as pagans and idolaters, united to the Mystical Body of Christ. If, by some mystery of Providence and Predestination, they are united to the Soul of the Church, and by desire to its Body, it is in spite of their paganism and idolatry. It is due to an invincible ignorance of their error. Far from giving their rituals and beliefs credence by participating in them, the Church must vigorously condemn these false religions as works of the devil.

Such has been the constant attitude of the Catholic Church throughout the ages. To recognize these pagan and idolatrous bodies to the level of being per se living members of the Mystical Body of Christ is nothing less than the abandonment of the name of Christian altogether, which is the very definition of apostasy.

While John Paul II retains the name of both Christian and Catholic, his notion of the Mystical Body of Christ and of the Catholic Church is grievously erroneous inasmuch as it includes pagans and idolaters.

It is no different from Freemasonry, in which the “brothers” each profess to be “Christians”, but at the same time profess a fundamental unity with every other religion on the face of the earth, as somehow resolved into a great unity of the Craft. But the Church has always considered Freemasons to be apostates, and not merely heretics.


D.  The New Ecclesiology Condemned by Pope Pius XII

This error of the Mystical Body extending beyond the body of the Catholic Church, is a theory which was much touted in theological circles in the 1950’s. The theory—or, better yet, the heresy—is this: that there is a “Superchurch” which consists of all men of good will, no matter what their religious profession, who are united to Christ by virtue of His Incarnation, (as if the similarity of nature between Christ and ourselves were enough to create a Mystical Body with Him as the Head and the human race as its members).

This Superchurch is the one, true Church, and it “subsists” in diverse “churches” or “ecclesial communities”, which all, to a greater or lesser extent, share in the truth of Christ.

This heresy reduces the body of the Catholic Church to a mere moral person, that is, an ecclesiastical corporation with a certain natural structure, governed by certain natural laws, with a certain natural unity. Unity of faith is reduced to an obedience to “church order,” which is to say, an external observance of the faith rules of the day, by which the church is preserved in order.[1][35] This reduces the notion of orthodoxy to a purely legal observance of the prevailing theology of the day.

Those familiar with Modernism see its ugly face in this theory and practice.

Pope Pius XII condemned this theory in his encyclical Mystici Corporis  in 1943:

“Therefore we deplore and condemn the pernicious error of those who dream of some kind of a false Church, a sort of society nourished and formed by charity, to which — not without disdain — they oppose another society which they call juridical.”

He then declares that the Church as a juridical society was set up by Christ precisely in order to bring about sanctification:

“But it is useless to introduce this distinction: they do not understand that for this very reason the Divine Redeemer willed the assembly of men set up by Him to be an organized society perfect in its kind, and equipped with all the juridical and social elements, to perpetuate on this earth the saving work of the Redemption, and to attain this end He willed that it should be enriched by the Holy Ghost with supernatural gifts and benefits.

Therefore there cannot be any opposition or repugnance worthy of the name between what is called the invisible mission of the Holy Ghost, and the juridical function, received from Christ, of the Pastors and the Doctors; for — as in us the body and the soul — they complete and perfect one another, and they proceed from one and the same Saviour, who not only said as He imparted the Divine Spirit, ‘Receive the Holy Ghost,’ but also clearly gave the order, ‘As the Father has sent me, so I also send you,’ and again, ‘He that heareth you, heareth Me.’

In Humani Generis, the same Pope condemned the idea that somehow the Mystical Body of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church are not one and the same thing:

“Some say they are not bound by the doctrine, explained in Our Encyclical Letter [Mystici Corporis] of a few years ago, and based on the sources of revelation, which teaches that the Mystical Body of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church are one and the same thing. Some reduce to a meaningless formula the necessity of belonging to the true Church in order to gain eternal salvation.”

      This theory of distinguishing the body of the Catholic Church from the Mystical Body of Christ can be found expounded in an article published in the Nouvelle Revue Théologique of 1948, a Jesuit publication. The author of the article, a Fr. Morel, OFM Cap., proposes the doctrine that the Mystical Body of Christ is an invisible, spiritual society which is composed of everyone who is in the state of grace, be they Hindus, Catholics, Jews, Moslems, Protestants, etc. It has a much greater extension than the Roman Catholic Church. Catholics, the author contends are eminent members of the Mystical Body, whereas the others are simple members of the Mystical Body. The Roman Catholic Church is merely the Mystical Body par excellence, because it has the seven sacraments and the Magisterium, and because it is to this that they are drawn by their implicit desire. Fr. Morel states that faith and grace can be had outside of the Roman Church.

      The critical error here is not to say that there may be sanctified souls outside of the visible confines of the Roman Catholic Church, but to oppose or even distinguish the body of the Roman Catholic Church from the Mystical Body of Christ. For, as we shall see, there can be no sanctification outside of the visible confines of the Roman Catholic Church unless there is an order to — at least an implicit desire to belong to — the body of the Roman Catholic Church. The new ecclesiology, however, erroneously distinguishes the Roman Catholic Body from the Mystical Body, as if there is some ecclesial body which extends beyond the body of the Roman Catholic Church.

      This is exactly the error of Vatican II, John Paul II, and the New Code of Canon Law. The “Roman Catholic Church,” in this system, is reduced to a mere moral structure, a society of which the members are bound together by authority. It is seen as merely an integral part of the Mystical Body of Christ, for it is possible, according to this theory, to belong to the Mystical Body of Christ without belonging to the Roman Catholic Church. This utterly destroys the dogma of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus. For the truth of the matter is this, that he who is outside of the visible confines of the Roman Catholic Church, but who is in the state of sanctifying grace, is sanctified by means of his belonging in re to the soul of the Roman Catholic Church, and in voto to the body of the Roman Catholic Church. He cannot be sanctified unless he is in some way united to the body of the Church.

Cardinal Billot says concerning the sanctification of those outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church:

No one has or can have this very habitual grace if in no way at all they adhere to the visible body of the Church, because then they would lack the means which are necessary for salvation, and which are therefore necessary for justification and grace which, per se, salvation follows. (ibid., p. 332)

      He goes on to say that an in voto adherence to the body of the Church is sufficient, as long as certain conditions are met. He concludes that all the just belong to the soul of the Church, but that those who belong to the body in re are primarily and more properly of the soul of the Church, because these are the ones by which the Church is designated, whereas the others (the members in voto) are merely reduced to the members in re as something accessory is reduced to that to which it is attached. Thus the truth remains clear that the Roman Catholic Church, body and soul, is identified with the Mystical Body of Christ, and that one cannot belong to one without belonging, in some way, to the other.

      How does this Catholic doctrine is different compared with the doctrine of Vatican II and John Paul II?

The essential difference is that the conciliar doctrine does not identify exclusively the body of the Roman Catholic Church with the Mystical Body of Christ, but merely as a corporate body, a moral person, in which the Mystical Body — the Superchurch — subsists. It is something like the way the soul animates the human body. It is found completely in all of its parts, that is, in the liver, the heart, the stomach, the bowel. So the Mystical Body animates the body of the catholic [sic] Church, but it also animates the bodies of many other “churches and ecclesial communities.” According to this heresy, therefore, the true Church of Christ — the Superchurch, the Mystical Body — can be found in many “churches.”

According to John Paul II, all human beings (n.b. not only the just but all) belong to the Superchurch-Mystical-Body-of-Christ by virtue of the Incarnation. They manifest their religious experiences in varying ways and form religions, which, in most cases, enjoy a human structure and have a corporate body. The best, the most eminent, of all of these corporate religious bodies is the “Roman Catholic Church” because it has “fullness.” Thus to pass from the worship of the Great Thumb to the “Roman Catholic Church” is analogous to trading in your Chevrolet and buying a Cadillac. They differ only in quality, but they both are and accomplish essentially the same thing. In this system, therefore, the body of the Catholic Church loses its exclusive role of causing instrumentally the sanctification of souls. The body of the Catholic Church has this power to cause the sanctification of souls precisely because it is, exclusively, the Mystical Body, that is, a body endowed with supernatural powers from Christ. The identification of the Mystical Body with ecclesial bodies other than the body of the Roman Catholic Church, as if they were all parts of a whole, is to ruin the Catholic Church’s nature as the one, true Church of Christ. It denatures the Catholic Church, for it makes it only an incomplete body of Christ, a body which, for its perfection, needs to be united in communion with other ecclesial bodies.

Cardinal Ratzinger, in a recent document, said: “This [the separation of Churches] in turn also injures the Catholic Church, called by the Lord to become for all ‘one flock’ with ‘one shepherd’, in that it hinders the complete fulfilment of her universality in history.” [2]

Vatican II had said the same thing yet more explicitly:

Nevertheless, the divisions among Christians prevent the Church from effecting the fullness of catholicity proper to her in those of her sons who, though joined to her by baptism, are yet separated from full communion with her. Furthermore, the Church herself finds it more difficult to express in actual life her full catholicity in all its aspects.[3]

In other words, the liver is not much good without the heart, nor the stomach without the bowel.

      One sees that this notion sets up the basis for a full mystical communion and a partial corporate communion with all religions. For all religions are members of the “Mystical Body” through Christ’s incarnation; they are therefore all united to a certain extent in this great body, but are divided by their differences in corporate structures, disciplines, worship, and dogmas.

      The consequences are quite logical: all such organizations should recognize the existence of the Mystical-Body-of-Christ-Superchurch, and should strive to break down the administrative, dogmatic, and disciplinary obstacles between them, so that, one day, the Superchurch and the corporate body can be one and the same. Ecumenism is the practical consequence of this doctrine, as well as a notion of communion which is radically different from the Catholic notion.


E.   Explanation and Critique of Partial Communion

      Vatican II and JP 2 have elaborated a notion of partial communion of heretics and schismatics and even pagans with the Catholic Church. It can be found in the decrees of Vatican II, in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, and passim in the speeches of Wojtyla. Is there any basis for this notion in Catholic doctrine?

      Understood in the manner in which Vatican II and JP 2 understand it, the answer is no. Understood in a completely different manner, after the teaching of St. Augustine, the answer is yes.

      First let us look at the traditional doctrine. The Church teaches that if a person is justified, his justification can only happen by means of the Catholic Church, since outside the Church there is no salvation. Pope Pius IX solemnly declared in an allocution to Cardinals in 1854: “Tenendum quippe ex fide est, extra Apostolicam Romanam Ecclesiam salvum fieri neminem posse.” Nevertheless it is a fact that the internal grace of illumination and movement is distributed more widely than the visible confines of the Apostolic Roman Church, since otherwise conversion to the true Church would be impossible, since it cannot take place without grace. Thus the Jansenist doctrine, Extra Ecclesiam nulla conceditur gratia, is condemned. These graces, however, conceded outside the visible confines of the Church, have as their end the conversion of the recipient to the true Church. Cardinal Franzelin states the doctrine very clearly:

Sicut ergo gratiæ extra Ecclesiam conceduntur ad formanda membra Ecclesiæ, si homines cooperari voluerint, ita gratiæ eædem omnes verissime dici possunt donari intuitu Ecclesiæ.  Quicumque igitur extra corpus Ecclesiæ ad fidem et ad charitatem perducuntur, atque ita videntur salvari posse extra Ecclesiam, re ipsa ad supernaturales illas dispositiones et consequenter ad iustificationem et salutem non perveniunt nisi per verbum Ecclesiæ tamquam custodis depositi et per gratiam Ecclesiæ non quidem tamquam dispensatricis sed tamquam proximi finis, pro quo et cuius intuitu a Deo gratiæ conceduntur.[4]

 Commonly theologians will say that this interior justification of a man outside the visible boundaries of the Church makes him belong to the soul of the Church actu and to the body of the Church in voto, at least implicito. Thus there is a basis for saying that there is a membership secundum quid in the Church, or an incomplete membership in the Church. Cardinal Franzelin:

...valet distinctio, ut aliud sit simpliciter pertinere ad Ecclesiam et esse tamquam membrum in corpore Ecclesiæ, tamquam civem in visibili regno Dei, atque rursum aliud sit secundum quid, et ut Augustinus loquitur, ex aliqua parte pertinere, ad hanc Ecclesiam et ad hoc regnum Dei in terris.[5]

The references from Saint Augustine are the following:

Sic etiam qui se ipsos a societate separantes, caritate violata, unitatis vinculum rumpunt, si nihil faciunt eorum quæ in illa [prima][6] societate acceperunt, in omnibus separati sunt : et ideo quem sibi sociaverint, si venire ad Ecclesiam voluerit, debet omnia quæ non accepit accipere. Si vero nonnulla eadem faciunt, non se in eis separaverunt; ex ea parte in texturæ compage detinentur,  in cetera scissi sunt. Proinde si quem sibi sociaverint, ex ea parte nectitur Ecclesiæ,  in qua nec illi separati sunt : et ideo si venire ad Ecclesiam voluerit, in eo sanatur ubi laniatus errabat : ubi vero sanus connectebatur, non curatur, sed agnoscitur; ne cum sana curare volumus, potius vulneremus. Itaque illi quod baptizant, sanant a vulnere idololatriæ vel infidelitatis; sed gravius feriunt vulnere schismatis.[7]

Est una Ecclesia, quæ sola catholica nominatur, et quidquid suum habet in communionibus diversorum a sua unitate separatis, per hoc quod suum in eis habet, ipsa utique generat, non illæ. Neque enim separatio earum generat, sed quod secum de ista tenuerunt; quod si et hoc dimittunt, omnino non generant. Hæc itaque in omnibus generat, cuius sacramenta retinentur, unde possit tale aliquid ubicumque generari; quamvis non omnes quos generat, ad eius pertineant unitatem, quæ usque in finem perseverantes salvabit...Sed qui superbiunt et legitimæ matri non adiunguntur, similes sunt Ismaeli, de quo dictum est, eiice ancillam et filium eius; non enim heres erit filius ancillæ cum filio meo Isaac. Qui autem pacifice diligunt legitimam patris sui coniugem, cuius legitimo iure generati sunt, similes sunt filiis Iacob, quamvis de ancillis natis sed tamen eandem hereditatem sumentibus.[8]

Therefore the Catholic Church, according to Saint Augustine, generates her own natural children in non-catholic sects, for as long as those sects retain something of what is Catholic. Neque separatio earum generat, sed quod secum de ista tenuerunt; quod si et hoc dimittunt, omnino non generant. For this reason, theologians commonly teach that infants validly baptized in non-catholic sects belong to both the body and soul of the Catholic Church, without distinction. They are considered to leave the body of the Catholic Church when they reach the age of reason and are presumed by the Church to voluntarily adhere to the heresy or schism. The Church makes no judgment about their interior dispositions, i.e., whether they continue to belong to the soul of the Church or not. If, through invincible ignorance of the true Faith, they recognize their false mother — the non-catholic sect, to use the image of St. Augustine — as their true mother, they would then continue to belong to the soul of the Church, and in voto to the body, as the interior grace of God would necessarily incline them to His true Church. On the other hand, qui superbiunt, that is, if they, through evil morals or culpable negligence of the truth, side with their false mother over the true, known as true, then they become outcasts, and in no way are said to belong to the Catholic Church. 

      That heretics in good faith belong to the Church incompletely and secundum quid is further supported by these words of Saint Augustine to a Donatist:

Qui sententiam suam quamvis falsam atque perversam nulla pertinaci animositate defendunt, et præsertim quam non audacia præsumptionis suæ pepererunt, sed a seductis atque in errorem lapsis parentibus acceperunt, quærunt autem cauta sollicitudine veritatem, corrigi parati, cum invenerint, nequaquam sunt inter hæreticos deputandi. Tales ergo vos nisi esse crederem, nullas fortasse vobis litteras mitterem.[9]

The doctrine of an incomplete membership in the Church is also supported by De Groot, O.P.:

Hæretici et schismatici, si bona fide  errent, sunt ecclesiæ membra incomplete; perfecte, si cum fide caritatem servaverint, imperfecte, si fidem solam. Nam huiusmodi hæretici et schismatici, ecclesiæ, cui explicite obedirent, si instruerentur, adhærent implicite.[10]

Similar statements can be found in St. Thomas,[11] St. Robert Bellarmine,[12] Billuart,[13] Billot,[14] and others. About this kind of partial or imperfect membership in and communion with the Catholic Church there is no substantial dispute.

      The variety of “partial communion” promoted by Vatican II and JP 2, however, is utterly different and alien to the Roman Catholic Church. Far from underlining this traditional doctrine about non-catholics erring in good faith, and their possible membership in the soul of the Church and in voto membership in its body, the Council and its sequaces  are speaking about partial communion with the non-catholic sects themselves. They are not referring to well-meaning but unfortunate individuals who are caught up, through no fault of their own, in these false religions, but to the very schismatic and heretical organizations themselves. They are not speaking about an invisible communion which may exist in certain non-catholics as individuals with the Catholic Church, because they have the virtue of faith and charity, which communion, as Cardinal Billot says, is not membership in the Church in its proper sense. Rather Vatican II and JP 2 are speaking about an ecclesial communion of church to church. In a speech to the Roman Curia on June 28, 1981, upon his return from Africa (where he participated in who-knows-what), JP 2 made this statement:

In these truly plenary gatherings, the ecclesial communities of different countries make real the fundamental second chapter of Lumen Gentium which treats of the numerous “spheres” of belonging to the Church as People of God and of the bond which exists with it, even on the part of those who do not yet form a part of it.

This is communion in its proper sense, that is, communion as it refers to the body of the Church. To assert that there is even a partial communion between the Roman Catholic Church and non-catholic sects is overtly heretical, since it is directly contrary to the Church’s teaching :

Pope Pius IX: None [of these different religious societies among themselves and separated from the Catholic Church], not even taken as a whole, constitutes in  any way and are not that one, Catholic Church founded and made by Our Lord and which He wished to create. Further, one cannot say in any way that these societies are either members  or parts of that same Church, because they are visibly separated from Catholic Unity.[15]

Pope Leo XIII:  Jesus Christ never conceived of nor instituted a Church formed of many communities which were brought together  by certain general traits — but which would be distinct one from another and not bound together among themselves by ties which make the Church one and indivisible — since we clearly profess in the Creed of our Faith: “I believe in one...Church.”[16]

Pope Pius XI: It is absurd and ridiculous to say that the Mystical Body can be formed out of separated and disjunct members.[17]

Pope Pius XI: It is to depart from divine truth to imagine that a Church which one can neither see nor touch, which would be nothing more than spiritual in which numerous Christian communities would be united by an invisible bond, even though they are divided in faith.[18]

The notion of partial communion is also contrary to the four marks of the Church: its unity, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity.

      Partial communion with non-catholic sects is contrary to her unity, since unity is broken by adherence to condemned doctrines or by repudiation of papal authority. The fact that there should be certain doctrines in common does not form a bond, for the unity of faith is not merely a unity de facto, but de iure, that is, it is based on the universal acceptance of the teaching of the Catholic Church as the proximate rule of faith. No non-catholic sect so regards the Catholic magisterium, and therefore, on this point alone, there is no unity. Furthermore, all non-catholic sects repudiate papal authority as the supreme authority of Christ’s Church, and there is no partial bond here either. Rather the very principle of the Church’s unitas regiminis  is utterly ruined by the rejection of papal authority.

      Partial communion with non-catholics sects is furthermore contrary to the Church’s holiness, since it places the Church in union with sects which teach unholy doctrines, and who have unholy founders, and which, in most cases, do not have the means of sanctifying their “faithful.” Those who do retain valid sacraments, such as the Greek Orthodox, cannot be said thereby to he holy churches, since these sacraments belong to the Roman Catholic Church, and have been shamelessly and sacrilegiously stolen from her. Cardinal Mazzella:

Sacramenta illa, quæ retinent hæretici in sua secta, sunt veluti spolia, quæ ab Ecclesia discedentes secum asportarunt, sed quæ ad hanc pertinent: potest servus fugitivus pecuniam domini sui secum auferre; potest miles vexillum Imperatoris asportare: at sicut isti propterea non sunt se familia aut exercitu, ita nec hæretici de Ecclesia.[19]

Furthermore, their founders are not noted for holiness, particularly “let-the-maid-come-in” Martin Luther, and Henry VIII, that rotting mass of syphilis.

Partial communion is contrary to the Church’s catholicity, since, as all apologists clearly explain, no non-catholic sect is catholic, since they are confined to a certain place or time, and, lacking unity, cannot be catholic, since catholicity presupposes unity. Again Cardinal Mazzella:

Societates enim schismaticorum certe non sunt Ecclesia universalis: cum numquam ubique fuerint difusæ; neque haberi possunt uti pars Ecclesiæ universalis; cum initio schismatis ab illa vel ipsæ discesserint, vel expulsæ fuerint, ac separatæ maneant.[20]

Fr. De Groot explains why it is impossible that non-catholic sects have catholicity:

Hoc enim maximi momenti est, quod diximus: et ubique una. Et sane, si unitas desideretur, non est ecclesia catholica, sed ecclesiæ conspiciuntur, catholicitate fucata damnatæ; nulla ergo catholcitas materialis prodest, sed formalis requiritur. Quare S. Thomas: “unum — inquit — et idem est quod creditur a cunctis fidelibus: unde universalis seu catholica dicitur.” In Ephes. IV. lect. II. Et quoniam fidei unitas rectore uno sublato cogitari non potest, luce clarius est, catholicitatis notam a centro quodam unitatis ecclesiasticæ dependere.[21]

      Finally partial communion is contrary to the Church’s apostolicity. For to be apostolic, the material succession of bishops — the pure succession to and possession of the see — is not sufficient, but rather formal succession is necessary, which is the enjoyment of the power of Christ to rule the church, which can only come from him to whom it was confided: St. Peter and his legitimate successor.

      Furthermore to assert, as Vatican II and JP 2 boldly do, that the Holy Ghost uses these non-catholic sects as means of salvation is directly contrary to the Catholic dogma that outside the Church there is no salvation. Wojtyla states in Redemptor Hominis:

Does it not sometimes happen that the firm belief of the followers of the non-Christian religions — a belief that is also an effect of the Spirit of truth operating outside the visible confines of the Mystical Body — can make Christians ashamed?[22]

and in Cathechesi Tradendæ:

It is extremely important to give a correct and fair presentation of the other Churches and ecclesial communities, that the Spirit of Christ does not refrain from using them as means of salvation.[23]

This wicked doctrine is clearly heretical for it contradicts the teaching of Pope Pius IX who, in the Syllabus, condemned the proposition,

“Man may, in the observance of any religion whatever, find the way of eternal salvation, and arrive at eternal salvation.”[24]

and in Singulari Quadam (Dec. 9, 1854):

Tenendum quippe ex fide est extra Apostolicam Romanam Ecclesiam salvum fieri neminem posse, hanc esse unicam salutis arcam, hanc qui non fuerit ingressus, diluvio periturum.

      In summary, this theory — this heresy — of partial communion asserts that there is an ecclesial bond among all of the “communities” of the baptized, and a full communion among those baptized who are incorporated visibly into the “catholic” [sic] organization. This theory is heretical because it separates the Mystical Body of Christ from the body of the Catholic Church, as if you could somehow be attached to Christ by means of anything else but the Roman Catholic Church, body and soul. It must be remembered that even those who are sanctified outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church are sanctified by belonging in re to the soul of the Catholic Church and in voto to the body of the Catholic Church. Thus there is no “Church” which is in any way different from the body of the Catholic Church.  There is no “People of God” which is not identified with the body of the Roman Catholic Church, no “Christ’s faithful” to be found outside of the visible confines of the Roman Catholic Church, since the Church makes no judgment about the interior good will or invincible ignorance of heretics, but rather legally presumes them to be formally what they profess to be —  heretics. “In foro externo omnes, qui plenum rationis usum adepti adhuc perstiterunt in secta hæretica, ab Ecclesia præsumuntur et habentur hæretici.”[25] As heretics, and as sects of heretics, they are outside of the Roman Catholic Church, which is one and the same as, and exclusively identified with the Mystical Body of Christ, the People of God, and Christ’s faithful.


F.   The Branch Theory

      The Vatican II ecclesiology is really no different from that proposed by the Anglicans in the nineteenth century, known as the “Branch Theory.” This theory held that the “Universal Church” consisted of three branches: the Roman Catholic, the Orthodox, and the Anglicans. Although not in communion with each other, they are, nonetheless, all part of the “Universal Church.” These Anglicans identify the “Universal Church” with the Mystical Body of Christ, which, as such, has no visible regimen, and therefore no visible head. They thus will not identify any one existing “Church” exclusively with the Mystical Body or “Universal Church.” Cardinal Mazzella quotes an Anglican by the name of Litton, who sounds just like Ratzinger:

Ecclesiæ particulares, aliter separatæ, unum sunt propter communem relationem ad unam veram Ecclesiam, seu Corpus Christi mysticum, et coniunctione cum ea.[26]

According to the Cardinal, they say that the unitas regiminis of the Catholic Church is better, and possibly even falls under precept, but is in no way essential, and can therefore be absent, without detriment to being the Church. When schism occurs within this “Universal Church,” that is, when one church breaks off from another, as in the case of the Orthodox and the Anglicans with regard to the Roman Catholic Church, the separation is not total and perfect, nor is it even a separation from the Roman Catholic Church inasmuch as it is true, but only inasmuch as it has been corrupted in the area of faith or morals. Therefore, there remains, according to this theory, an essential communion, in those things which are true and right, whereas communion is rejected in the area of erroneous doctrine, in superstitious worship, or tyrannical rule.[27]

      Parenthetically, this Protestant idea of being in communion with what is right, and not in communion with what is wrong is exactly the position of Fr. Schmidberger’s group with regard to JP 2. They therefore accept certain New Church doctrines and disciplines, while rejecting others. They are in communion with JP 2 when he talks like a Catholic, and not in communion with him when he talks like a non-catholic.

The Branch Theory was condemned by the Church. In 1857 a society was founded in London called the Association for Promoting the Union of Christendom. In 1864, the Holy Office issued a letter forbidding Catholics to take part in it. In the letter Cardinal Patrizi mentioned that the members of the group are called upon to say prayers and offer “masses” for the intention that the three “Christianæ communiones, utpote quæ, prout supponitur, Ecclesiam Catholicam omnes simul iam constituunt, ad unum corpus efformandum tandem aliquando coeant.”[28] 

Overwhelmed with grief by the blow, 198 Anglican divines wrote to Cardinal Patrizi asking him to reconsider, saying that they were asking nothing else from God than that “ecumenical intercommunion which existed before the schism of East and West.”

His Eminence responded on November 8, 1865:

“Id porro Sacra Congregatio vobis contigisse vehementer dolet existimantibus, ad veram Jesu Christi Ecclesiam pertinere, tamquam partes, Christianos illos cœtus, qui sacerdotii et catholici nominis hæreditatem habere se iactant, licet sint ab Apostolica Petri Sede divisi ac separati. Qua opinione nihil est, quod magis a genuina catholicæ Ecclesiæ notione abhorreat. Catholica enim Ecclesia...ea est quæ super unum Petrum ædificata in unum connexum corpus atque compactum unitate fidei et caritatis assurgit.” Beautiful!

      This same condemnation was included in the schema on the Church which was distributed to the Council Fathers at Vatican I: [29]

Canon IV  Si quis dixerit, veram Ecclesiam non esse unum in se corpus, sed ex variis dissitisque christiani nominis societatibus constare, per easque diffusam esse; aut varias societates ab invicem fidei professione dissidentes atue communione sejunctas, tamquam membra vel partes unam et universalem constituere Christi Ecclesiam; anathema sit.



[1] This idea can be seen in practice in the “disciplining” of “rebellious theologians” such as Hans Küng. They are not removed from membership in the Mystical Body of Christ due to their voluntary and public denial or doubt of truths revealed by God, having the effect of removing them from the unity of faith of the Catholic Church, but rather are merely told that they are “out of order” in their teachings, and cannot be considered a “catholic theologian.” It is simply to say that they are not “in the mainstream.” They continue, however, to be members of the church—the Conciliar Church—but they are not allowed to function as theologians.

[2] Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of the Church understood as Communion. (May 28, 1992)

[3] Decree  Unitatis Redintegratio, 4.

[4] op. cit., p. 428.

[5] ibid., p. 403.

[6] In this case, the holy Doctor is referring to the Catholic Church.

[7] De Baptismo, l. I c. 8. The word sanum here refers to the valid administration of the sacraments among the Donatists.

[8] ibid., l. I c. 10 n. 14.

[9] Ep. 43.

[10] op. cit., p. 75-76.

[11] “Adulti prius credentes in Christum sunt ei incorporati mentaliter; sed postmodum, cum baptizantur, incorporantur ei quodammodo corporaliter, scilicet per visibile sacramentum, since cuius proposito nec mentaliter incorporari potuissent.” IIIa  q. 69, a. 5 ad 1um.

[12] Speaking of catechumens, he says that they pertain to the Church not “actu et proprie, sed tantum in potentia, quomodo homo conceptus sed nondum formatus et natus non dicitur homo nisi in potentia.” De Ecclesia militante,  lib. III c. 3.

[13] He says that catechumens  “non sunt re et proprie in Ecclesia,” but, when they possess the virtue of charity, they are in the Church “proxime et in voto,” “inchoative et ut aspirantes....., et ideo salvari possunt.” De regulis fidei, dissert. 3, a. 2, §  3.

[14] “Apparet deinde, omnes iustos, ubicumque in mundo exsistant, de eadem Ecclesiæ anima esse;...Apparet demum, eos primo et magis proprie esse de anima, qui de corpore non solum voto, sed re etiam exsistunt; nam ipsi sunt a quibus  simpliciter Ecclesia  denominatur, dum alii ad eos reducuntur sicut accesorium ad principale. “op. cit., p 332.

[15] Apostolic Letter Jam vos omnes, September 13, 1868.

[16] Satis Cognitum.

[17] Mortalium Animos.

[18] ibid.

[19] op. cit., p. 470.

[20] ibid., p. 473.

[21] De Groot, op. cit., p. 173.

[22] § 6, 3.

[23] § 32.

[24] § 16.

[25] Franzelin, op. cit., p. 406.

[26] op. cit., p. 340.

[27] ibid, p. 495. “Quoad unitatem vero regiminis, dicunt eam, quæ a Catholicis adstruitur, perfectiorem quidem esse, et fortasse cadere sub præcepto; minime vero essentialem:  adeoque deficere posse, quin deficiat ipsa Ecclesia. Hinc docent obligationem servandi communionem cum Ecclesia, sicut et alias quasdam graves obligationes ex præcepto positivo, posse quandoque ob gravem circumstantiarum mutationem cessare; imo non tantum licitum, sed etiam obligatorium esse posse huic vel illi particulari ecclesiæ, vel ecclesiarum collectioni, a communione totius Ecclesiæ (seu, ut dicunt anglice, “the rest of the Church”) se subducere. Tunc, aiunt, separatio non est totalis et perfecta, neque est ab Ecclesia quatenus vera; sed quatenus fide aut moribus, aut utrisque corrupta. Manet communio essentialis, in iis scilicet quæ vera et recta sunt; reiiciuntur tamen ea quæ in doctrina sunt erronea, in cultu superstitiosa, in regimine tyrannica.”

[28]Epistola S. Romanæ et Universalis Inquisitionis,  data die 16 Sept. 1864.

[29] But never voted upon, due to the Franco-Prussian War and the invasion of Garibaldi.