Our Faith

Author: Archbishop John Charles McQuaid


Archbishop John Charles McQuaid of Dublin

We print below excerpts from a recent Pastoral Letter of His Grace, the Archbishop of Dublin, Most Rev. John Charles McQuaid.

This year we celebrate the Year of Faith, by direction of the Holy Father, Pope Paul VI. It is the purpose of the Pope that, by devoting attention to the virtue of Faith, we should accomplish the renewal so urgently advocated by the Second Vatican Council.

That renewal is chiefly one of the soul. It calls for an appreciation of our position before God as creatures, the fundamental attitude of man as such. It exacts a full acceptance of Jesus Christ, God made Man, born of the Virgin Mary, our sole Redeemer. It demands a life transformed by the grace that has been merited by Jesus Christ and infused into our souls by God the Holy Ghost. It is based on the revelation of God proposed for our assent by the only Church that God made Man Himself has founded, the Catholic Church. It judges things temporal in the light of that Church's teaching. It aims, in the pursuit of our daily avocations, at the attainment of the eternal life with God that Jesus Christ has revealed and won for us, by His death and resurrection.

Reform means change of inner life

Such a spiritual renewal can have its origin only in the one, true Faith. The emphasis on reform that springs from merely human considerations can deflect one completely from the genuine aims of the Vatican Council. Many have chosen to make reform consist, not in a change of their inner life, but in a concern for the outer life of social framework and activity. It is so much more easy for us to devote ourselves to external things than to undertake with vigour an interior change, in submission to the Faith of Jesus Christ. Thus, many are preoccupied with accidental structures, particularly, in the Church. The supernatural structure of their own life would not seem to have at all the same interest for them as the deficiencies that they profess to discover in the members of the Church, especially her rulers, the Bishops. Far from returning to a humble, assiduous study of God's Word in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, many have sought to put forward unusual and personal explanations of accepted doctrine. Terms consecrated by definition of the Church have been wrested from their traditional and obvious meaning. Faltering human theories are being substituted for the unerring, constant teaching of the Church, to which alone her Divine Founder promised unfailing guidance. To seek to set forth authentic doctrine in language that is understood by each succeeding age is the perennial mission of the Church. To be allowed to assist in that mission is a sacred privilege, but it surely calls for lowly submission to the teaching authority of Jesus Christ within His Church. It equally demands a disciplined study of the science of Theology.

The Reformation struck at the heart of the Faith

It is not a renewal in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council to exchange the certain teaching of the Church of Christ for the partial vision of a private judgement. One may not tamper with the doctrine of the Church. Some knowledge of how the tragic revolt (which is incorrectly called the Reformation), succeeded in breaking the unity of the Church could help in preventing many modern publicists from again wounding gravely the Church of Christ. That rupture was one of essential doctrine, not merely of ecclesiastical discipline or rites or structure. It is not to be explained as taking its origin from zealous reaction against abuses of discipline or sinful lives of many prelates. Undoubtedly there existed both these abuses and scandalous example. What is being forgotten is that from a very early date, Martin Luther's revolt struck at the very heart of the Faith, when he wrote that the cure for the Church's ills was the rejection of her whole system of accepted doctrine. Shortly after, he dared to assert that the teaching authority of the Church had corrupted the doctrine of Christ for a thousand years. Jesus Christ had promised His Apostles and their successors: "The Spirit of Truth shall abide with you and shall be in you." Had that authority been corrupt in doctrine for a single instant, the Word of God made Man, Truth itself, would have at once been falsified. All the teaching of our Faith is based on God Himself who revealed His Truth, and established one Church to guarantee to all men till the end of time the uncorrupted purity of His revelation.

One common cause of confusion and error is the failure to understand the virtue and the act of divine Faith, as the Church has explained them. It is thought that one must accept only what one fully understands. It is believed, or vaguely felt, that the act of assent in Faith is not altogether reasonable or is only a process of human reasoning. In particular, it is not understood that the belief of divine Faith is concerned with revealed truths that do not bear in themselves the evidence of their truth…

Christ is truly God

Faith is chiefly a new light of God in Jesus Christ. It is scarcely credible that anyone calling himself a child of the Church could even think that the central position of God made Man could have altered in our Faith. If Jesus Christ has promised to His teaching Church "the Spirit of Truth who should bring to mind all things whatsoever He had said", one can conceive the progress of the Church only as an insight of deeper penetration into "the mystery of Christ."...

Nothing could be more clear in the Sacred Scripture than the position of Jesus Christ. He is God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, who has condescended to assume our human nature into personal union with Himself. He has existed from eternity. He and the Father are one in nature...

Perpetual virginity of God's Mother

Only by Revelation have we learned the manner of God's entrance into our world. "The Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us." "Thou shalt conceive in thy womb, said the Angel to Mary, and shalt bring forth a Son and thou shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of David His Father and He shall reign in the house of Jacob forever." "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow Thee. And therefore the Holy One Who shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." "How have I merited, exclaimed St. Elizabeth, that the Mother of my God should come to me?" On such plain texts is based the unbroken tradition of the Church that Mary "the Mother of Jesus" is the ever-Virgin Mother of God made Man.

One can excuse the writers who now cast doubt on the perpetual virginity of God's Mother from not having examined all the testimony of the ancient Fathers, all the Liturgies, the main Theologians, all the Councils of the Church. One may not excuse the ignorance that passes over or explains away the daily teaching of the Sacred Liturgy in Holy Mass. If the Roman Missal is the chief fount of Sacred Liturgy, it is equally the authentic voice of the Church's doctrine that the Mother of Jesus is His Virgin Mother. And if any Catholic, learned or unlearned, wishes to discover the genuine teaching of the one, true Church he has but to ask the question: what is the authentic teaching of the See of Peter?

Original sin called in question

We believe that, in reverence for God the Son who should be born of her, Mary, by a singular exemption of God's favour, was preserved from contracting the stain of original sin. Today that sin of Adam is also being called into question. "As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive." It is to Mary, Mother of Jesus, that we owe the Sole Redeemer Who has expiated the personal sin of Adam and made us by His grace "sons, heirs also, heirs indeed of God and joint heirs with Christ." A first man committed a personal fault in refusing obedience to God and thereby involved all human kind. The state of sin, in which, as a result, mankind is born cannot have influenced the sin of Adam, for it is but the product of Adam's sin, as an effect in the product of its cause. No more can that state of sin, which is a condition of our human nature, be in any sense regarded as the actual sins deliberately committed by men in their earthly life. Original sin is that sin which, by reason of the personal sin of a first man, Adam, from our birth deprives the soul of sanctifying grace and the supernatural friendship of God. In St. Paul, the sin of Adam is the universal cause of the state of sin in which all men are born, as the victory of Jesus Christ is the universal cause of our restoration to the state of grace...

Catholic teaching on the Eucharist

We believe that He Who has come and died on the Cross and risen again is still in our midst in the Blessed Eucharist. This is the unfailing Faith of the Church since Jesus Christ at the Last Supper instituted the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and gave only to His Apostles and to those whom they should set aside in sacred ordination, the power to renew His offering of that Sacrifice. We believe that in the Mass Jesus Christ by the words of consecration is made present really, truly and substantially, under the sign of bread and wine. We believe that thus is renewed, by the hands of His Ministers, His offering of Himself to God in adoration, in atonement, in thanksgiving and entreaty for all graces. We believe that in Holy Communion we truly receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, God made Man, under the appearance of bread and wine. We believe that He is to be adored, under the appearance of bread, when, in the tabernacles of our altars, He awaits the visit of His faithful people, as truly as He received the people of Palestine during His life on earth. This is indeed the "mystery of Faith" for which He carefully prepared His hearers, and which later He fulfilled at the Last Supper, on the night before He died.

Authority in the Church

If in our day this doctrine of the Real Presence, received with unquestioning Faith by all the Church until the revolt of the sixteenth century, should once again be called into doubt, we need not wonder that the presence of Christ in the teaching authority of His Church should be doubted, and denied and, at times, unworthily reviled.

All authority is from God, and exists for unity in the pursuit of a common good of a society. There is this that is completely singular in the government of the Church of Christ: Christ Himself gave to His Church its essential form of government. It is He who established Peter as the Head and His Apostles, under Peter, as the college of its rulers. He who built His Church on Peter as the rock of its foundation, decreed that to Peter should succeed as Head the Bishop of Rome and to the Apostles should succeed the Bishops, each in the diocese allotted him by the Chief Pastor of the Church. Thus to the People of God has been given a hierarchy with power of Christ to teach, to sanctify, to govern and by this service unify the minds and wills of all members of the Church for their common good, their attainment of eternal life.

When, therefore, a Bishop, in union with the Pope and all the Bishops of the Church, in virtue of his pastoral office, declares to his flock the authentic doctrine of the Church, it is as if Jesus Christ were teaching once again on earth. To him are owed the reverence and submission that are due to one who, by God's appointment declares, in the person of Christ, the revealed truth of God. It is the Faith alone that allows us to accept that "the Holy Ghost has appointed the Bishops to rule the Church of God." It is charity, enlightened only by Faith, that induces the members of the Church freely to obey and, thereby, in the wisdom of unity, pursue their own salvation and the good of all the Church...

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
27 June 1968, page 6

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