Lesson VIII – What cannot and what can be reformed in the Catholic Church
Q. What follows from the fact that the holy Roman Catholic Church can never be destroyed by any created power?
A. That it would be the sin of heresy for any one to say that a reform of the doctrine or the constitution of the Roman Catholic Church could ever become necessary.
Q. Can anyone change the doctrine of Jesus Christ, or the articles of faith, the commandments, or the sacraments?
A. To think so and to attempt to do so would be as foolish as it would be for one to attempt to reform the visible world and the laws which God has established to preserve and maintain it.
Q. Could some new doctrine, new commandment, or new sacrament be added; or could some of the articles of faith, some of the commandments, or some of the sacraments be left out?
A. By no means.
Q. Why not?
A. Because not even the Apostles themselves had power from Christ to add to, or leave out, any portion of Christ’s doctrine.
Q. How do we know this?
A. Because Jesus Christ said to the Apostles: “Go and teach all nations, teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Matt. xxviii. 19, 20.
Q. In what other words has our Blessed Saviour assured us that His holy doctrine will never suffer any change?
A. In these words: “Amen, I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled.” Matt. v. 18. “Heaven and earth shall pass, but my words shall not pass.” Matt. xxiv. 35.
Q. What does St. Paul say to assure us that nothing whatsoever can be added to, or left out of the doctrine of Jesus Christ?
A. He says: But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we said before so now I say again: if any one preach to you a gospel besides that which you have received, let him be accursed.” Gal. i. 8, 9.
Q. Is there nothing in the Catholic Church that may be reformed?
A. Nothing in the doctrine which was delivered to her from the beginning to teach, but the manners of such of her pastors and children as fail to live up to her teachings, may and ought to be reformed.
Q. May Priests and even Bishops, nay, even a Pope, fail to live up to Christ’s holy doctrine?
A. They may, indeed; and certain periods of the lives of some of them have been very disedifying.
Q. How can we easily account for this?
A. Because one can know and teach the true doctrine of Christ without practising it.
Q. What, then, is the answer to those who object to our religion because the lives of certain pastors of the Church have been disedifying?
A. The lives of the scribes and the Pharisees were very disedifying. Nevertheless our blessed Saviour told the multitudes and His disciples that “they have sitten on the chair of Moses. All things, therefore, whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do: but according to their works do ye not: for they say and do not.” Matt. xxiii. 2.
Q. Does the Lord make use of apostate Catholics, such as Martin Luther, Calvin, John Knox, Henry VIII., King of England, to reform the manners of the people?
A. The thought is absurd. The lives of those men were evil, and it is only the devil that makes use of them to pervert the people still more. The Lord makes use of His saints, such as a St. Francis of Assisium, a St. Dominick, a St. Ignatius, a St. Alphonsus, to convert the people and reform their evil manners by explaining to them the truths of faith, the commandments, and the necessity of receiving the sacraments with proper dispositions, and by setting them in their own lives the loftiest example of faith, purity, and all Christian virtues.
Q. Is it possible to reform men in any other way?
A. Since the coming of the Redeemer it has never been heard that men were reformed and made virtuous by any other means than those which Jesus Christ left to His Church.