Above: Vatican City – Jan 5. 2023: Pope Francis presided over the funeral for his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Vatican Media.
A Voice from the Pews
We know now that the culmination of the Francis Papacy will occur in October of this year (regardless of whether he is still around to see it). That is when the Synod on Synodality will take place. This has been building for nearly 11 years.
Back when the working document for the Synod was released, Father Gerald Murray, writing for The Catholic Thing on June 24, 2023, predicted the outcome:
a make-believe, delusional religion of self-worship in which God is relegated to the role of the Divine Affirmer of whatever each one decides to believe.
The question for us pew-sitters is, do we wish to remain in a “make-believe, delusional religion?” It’s a trick question. The church that Father Murray envisions is not the Catholic Church. It is an institution that looks for all the world like the Catholic Church, but is not. It is the “ape of the Church” that then-monsignor Fulton J. Sheen foresaw in 1947.
Archbishop Viganò expressed a similar view at the Catholic Identity Conference in Pittsburgh in October, 2020. He said, “we have witnessed the eclipse of the true Church by an anti-church,” a church which he called “an infernal forgery.” He went so far as to observe that we may be seeing the prophecy of Fulton Sheen coming true before our very eyes.
Archbishop Viganò made it clear that there are not two Catholic Churches. “Obviously, there are not two Churches, something that would be impossible, blasphemous and heretical.” To continue his eclipse metaphor, the one true Catholic Church is still there, but we cannot see it. It is blocked from our view by something else.
In addition, for those critics of Trads out there who foolishly think rhetoric like this is “schismatic,” please listen to one of the heroes of Vatican II, who said something similar way back in 1967:
It is clear that the Church is facing a grave crisis. Under the name of “the new Church,” “the post-Conciliar Church,” a different Church from that of Jesus Christ is now trying to establish itself: an anthropocentric society threatened with immanentist apostasy which is allowing itself to be swept along in a movement of general abdication under the pretext of renewal, ecumenism or adaptation.
So where is the real Catholic Church, the one that is eclipsed? The one that is being aped? The one that we will never leave? At some point, no doubt, it will again become visible. In the meantime, however, we must take charge of our own salvation and discern the true Church as best we can.
Religion is a matter of faith and morals. The doctrines and dogmas of the Faith do not change. The precepts of morality do not evolve. They are taught, preserved and handed down from one generation to the next. Who would assent today to the tenets of a religion that could change tomorrow? Find sources that contain what the true Church has always taught about the things that matter for your own salvation, namely, death, judgment, heaven and hell.
Religion is also a matter of worship. In Catholicism, worship most commonly takes place at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Sacrifice is the most ancient and most fundamental element of worship. During the Mass, a validly-ordained priest brings Jesus Christ Himself to the altar and offers Him as a sacrifice to Almighty God. That’s it; that’s the core of Catholic worship. Everything else is ancillary: the homily, the readings, even Communion. The true Catholic Church is found where worship centers around the Mass as a sacrifice.
With so much at stake, we want to be confident in our tools. Here are some tools that I have found helpful in discerning the genuine Catholic Church.
The Baltimore Catechism. How often do we hear about Catholics who are “poorly catechized,” meaning Catholics who do not know the basics of their Faith? I suspect that they have never been exposed to the Baltimore Catechism. In the 1950s, this was our religion textbook. Because of its question-and-answer format, it is easily dismissed as “Catholicism for children.” In fact, it is theology in easy-to-consume morsels.
The Douay-Rheims Bible. There is no “best” version or translation of the Bible. Unless you can read Greek and Hebrew, however, you are going to have to rely on someone’s translation of the Bible in order to read it. Legitimate principles of translation will give a particular tone to any given version. However, some versions have been created with an agenda to slant the translation for a particular purpose.The Douay-Rheims Bible is a translation of the Latin Vulgate, which itself is a translation from the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. It, too, has a backstory, but it predates modern influences.
The Rosary. This is perhaps the most basic tool in the tool kit. The prayers of the rosary begin with The Apostles’ Creed. (You can find that in the Baltimore Catechism.) Say the Creed slowly and absorb the articles of your Faith. Each decade of the rosary begins with the Our Father and is comprised of 10 Hail Marys. These are the most basic prayers in Catholicism. (You can find them in the Baltimore Catechism as well.) When you meditate on the “mysteries” of the Rosary, you re-live the foundational events of Christianity. For best results, recite daily.
Catholic Bible Dictionary by Dr. Scott Hahn. When I have questions about some aspect of the Faith, this is the first place I go. Dr. Hahn did the research so we don’t have to. He is one of the most famous converts to Catholicism. If you have a question, it is likely that he had it first and found the answer.
Fulton Sheen videos. Bishop Sheen had a popular weekly network telecast in the 1950s. He continued on television for several years thereafter. Most episodes are available on YouTube. His message resonated with audiences then and it rings true today. Rediscover America’s bishop and learn his lessons for life.
Christus Vincit: Christ’s Triumph over the Darkness of the Age, by Bishop Athanasius Schneider. The book could have been subtitled, “Clarity and hope in the days of tribulation.” If the Baltimore Catechism is too simplistic for your tastes, there is an appendix containing a “Declaration of Truths” about the Catholic Faith that may be more to your liking. Read this book and be reaffirmed that your search for the real Catholic Church is not in vain.
The institutional Catholic Church has gone off the rails. But the Catholic Church, founded by Jesus Christ, is indefectible, meaning it will last until the end of time. (That too is in the Baltimore Catechism.) What matters for us, living in this particular time, is not so much the state of the Church, but rather the state of our souls. The resources listed above will help you know and keep your Catholic Faith until the Church reappears.
 Henri de Lubac, Témoinage Chrétrien (Paris, 1967) in Dietrich von Hildebrand, Trojan Horse in the City of God (Sophia: 1993), 8.