Does the Catholic Church Change?
The Church consists of two things, doctrines and laws.
Doctrines consists of those things of Faith or Morals, which Jesus taught the Apostles to be taught to us until the end of time. Jesus commissioned the Apostles: “Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
The Church on occasion must define that something is a doctrine of Faith or Morals, when it is attacked by heretics or otherwise needs to be clarified. This is done by the Pope. He does so personally through issuing a decree or by convening a Council to decide matters of Faith or Morals. The Council of Trent covered many areas called into question during the Protestant Revolt. The first such Council of the Church was held at Nicea the last at the Vatican.
Not everything in a Council or coming from the Pope considers matters of Faith and Morals. Often Councils and the Popes issue regulations for the good order of the Church. These concern the laws of the Church, which are enacted for the good of the Church. The First Vatican Council desired that Canon Law be organized, and a commission was formed, which ended with the issuance of the Code of Canon Law in 1917 under Pope Benedict XV. Prior to that the laws of the Church were not contained in one place.
In the catechism we study our duties under some of the laws of the Church in the Commandments of the Church. For instance, Catholics have a duty to assist at Mass on Sundays and other Holy Days of Obligation. These other Holy Days of Obligation vary by country. It is our duty to inform ourselves of our obligations in this regard.
Since the promulgation of the Code of Canon Law in 1917, the Eucharistic fast was modified by Pope Pius XII to allow for the celebration of Mass in the evening. Also the fast laws of the Church have changed over the centuries. At the time of Saint Thomas Aquinas, he could ask if three in the afternoon was the appropriate time for a Catholic’s meal on a fast day, for only one meal was permitted on fast days. Also the quality of food allowed on fast days has been relaxed due to the needs of the faithful.
We must focus on doctrine rather than law in determining if something is happening detrimental to the Church.
Is the Catholic Church of Today the Same As It Was a Century Ago?
The answer to this is quite simple, the Catholic Church appears to have changed radically from what it was only a century ago. Some of these changes are mere changes in laws and customs. Although they may be undesirable, they do not necessarily signal a change that indicates the Great Apostasy may have begun or be close.
For instance Communion is only a matter of law, not doctrine. The same is true of receiving Holy Communion under both kinds. This was done in the past. In fact, in order to refute a heresy, it was ordered that Communion be received under both kinds.
And so, the Church appears different. In fact, some churches appear radically different, but this does not necessarily mean there is a problem. Those who focus on these points are missing the point.
Do Catholics Believe What Catholics Believed A Century Ago?
And this is the important question.
“After a 2010 Pew Forum study found that 45 percent of Catholics didn’t know the church’s teaching on the real presence, this new study finds the number to actually be 50 percent. And yet, 63 percent of Catholics personally believe that the bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ at the consecration–including 17 percent who had no idea that the church actually teaches that this is true.” 1
Only a little less than two thirds of Catholics actually believe in the doctrine of the Real Presence. Of that over a third that don’t half of them are ignorant of the Church’s teaching on the subject. This is a serious matter.
In the United States 67% of those who claim to be Catholics support gay marriage. 2
“Previous polling has reported that 82 percent of American Catholics say birth control is “morally acceptable,” and 98 percent of U.S. Catholic women of childbearing age have used contraception at some point while they’ve been sexually active.” 3
“In 1972, 39% of adult Catholics responded that premarital sex was “always wrong.” That went up to 54% of Catholics who attended Mass at least once a week. In 2008, 14% of Catholics responded that premarital sex is “always wrong.” Among Catholics attending Mass at least once a week, 30% responded as such. Put another way – 70% of Church-going Catholics do not believe the Bible or Christian teaching on sexuality. Among Catholics who do not go to Mass the number is even higher at 86%.” 4
We could go no, but there are a lot of Catholics who no longer believe all of the truths of the Catholic Faith. Many may do so in ignorance, but their salvation is in danger as the Cure of Ars warned us: “We shall find out at the day of judgment that the greater number of Christians who are lost were damned because they did not know their own religion.”
End of the Twentieth Century
We saw above a number of private prophecies indicating that a crisis in the Church would occur sometime near the end of the Twentieth Century. We have already seen that many who claim to be Catholic have lost the Faith by believing something contrary to the Faith.
There has been much speculation on the Third Secret of Fatima, but this is not the place to go into this matter deeply. One thing we are certain of is that it would become clearer in 1960. This confirms the other matters.
And so the question is, did something happen to the Catholic Church in the last part of the Twentieth Century? There answer is something did happen. In fact, there are a series of events that occurred.
The first event is the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican called in 1959 by John XXIII, which opened at the end of 1962 and continued for three years. During after this Council a series of changes as they came to be called were implemented in the spirit of Vatican II. At the same time we saw many distressing things happen. First of all Catholics began changing their opinions on matters of faith and morals. We have seen the results of a few of these things above. Secondly church attendance and vocations suffered greatly. In other words we can trace a crisis to the 1960’s and specifically to Vatican II and its aftermath.
Some of these were radical changes in practices in the Church. Although some of them may be inadvisable, this is not the important point. In fact, some of the changes that were attributed to the spirit of Vatican II were and are against the very teachings of Vatican II.
The Traditionalist Movement
As a result of the radical changes implemented in the spirit of Vatican II, a number of Catholics reacted by leaving the Church created in the spirit of Vatican II in order to attempt retain the traditions of the Church. The main things they hold in common is retaining the traditions of the Church in doctrine and practice, although the various Traditionalist groups differ on minor points.
More recently there has been a movement in the Church that flowed from the spirit of Vatican II to restore the liturgical traditions in worship as well as to return to the more traditional methods of teaching the Faith, that were in use prior to Vatican II. In outward appearance this movement worships in the same manner as the Traditionalists do and in fact is considered a part of the Traditionalist Movement by some.
The Traditionalist Movement holds fast to the Faith on the major points rejected by many mainstream Catholics, especially on pre-marital sex, abortion, divorce, birth control, the Real Presence, etc.
Has the Great Apostasy Begun?
Remember Pope Saint Pius X feared that the Antichrist had already been born. So he also feared that the revolt was near. We have seen private prophecies, which seem to indicate that a crisis would begin a half century ago or so. We have seen circumstantial evidence to support this contention. Other warnings could be cited from the Popes and others that a crisis may be coming. However, is this the Great Apostasy or not?
The simple answer is not yet. We know that at some time in history there will be a revolt at some time in history and Antichrist will come on the scene. Jesus warned: “For nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and famines. These things are the beginning of sorrows.” (Mark 13:8)
So far we have not shown apostasy, but only heresy. True heresy is one of the worst evils in the world, since it is a sin against Faith and thus against the First Commandment and Almighty God directly.
It is the opinion of this author that what we are seeing may be the beginning of sorrows and that the worst is yet to come. In the next section we will analyze Vatican II itself and see if it signaled the beginning of sorrows or not.