John Vennari has done us the inestimable favor of reprinting in the January 2013 issue of Catholic Family News, an article by the late Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton. The article is entitled: "The Meaning of the Name - 'Church'." This article was originally published in the American Ecclessiastical Review of October, 1954. It may not have seemed terribly relevant to most priests and bishops at that time in the "golden age" of the Church in Hollywood, especially, but it is mind-shatteringly relevant today when the Jewish people of Old Testament times - who were fully intended by God to be the Catholic Christians of today. Yes, they still are the Chosen People, but no longer as they. Now it is we Catholic Christians - who alone of all so-called Christians are the elect, the Chosen People of God, continuing but also fulfilling all the prophecies of the Old Law. As Our Divine Lord said of Himself, "I came not to destroy but to fulfill...that having life they may have it more abundantly..."
What I find most intriguing about Msgr. Fenton's analysis of the name Church - (ecclesia, social unit) is the fact, historically documented, that the designation of Church as a social unit is continuous throughout the Old Testament and the New. Here is a quotation from Msgr. Fenton: "It is because of the nature of the "Church" or the ecclesia, as a social unit, which has been in existence since the days of our first parents as the congregatio fidelium in Christo, that we hail the Macabees and the other heroes of the Old Testament as our brethren. The Israel of God is and has been the ecclesia, the Church. The Church of the New Testament is the continuation of the Israel of the Old Testament. It is the religious unit to which the prophets and the patriarchs of the Old Testament belonged. Their exploits belong to the history of the Church..." Elsewhere in this article, Msgr. Fenton alludes to the four marks of the Church that are named in the Nicene Creed - Et Unam Sanctam, Catholicam et Apostolicam, Ecclesiam. Msgr. Fenton affirms that the intention of those early theologians who composed the Nicene Creed was to designate this One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic organization as the actual object of faith - the true ecclesia, the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God on earth according to the new dispensation and the necessity of the Church for salvation...the one and only supernatural kingdom of God on this earth....
Msgr. Fenton's point is that any number of souls in the state of grace said to constitute an "invisible church" cannot be the means of salvation founded by Jesus Christ. This one and only supernatural social unit in existence since Adam and Eve, although in an incomplete and imperfect state, is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church - present in the world today as the fulfillment and continuation of the Israel, the chosen, the elect of God - constituting His Kingdom on this earth, there is no other!
What this doctrinal-dogmatic identification of the Church accomplishes is not only the exaltation of the truly supernatural nature of the types, such as Abel, Abraham and Melchisdech, as figured in the prayer Supra quae propitio after the Consecration of the Mass, not to mention Deborah, Judith and Queen Esther as types of Mary Immaculate, conquerer of all heresies - but it most emphatically confirms the historical veracity of the biblical chronology of not more than 10,000 years and even more precisely - the traditional 6,000 years. This chronological accuracy obviously obliterates the long ages of uniformitarian geology and its fictional "fossil record" of evolution. It also vindicates the literal Six Days of Genesis One - which are necessary to be consistent with the Six Days of the 10 commandments given in Exodus 20. This doctrinal-dogmatic "proof" is of the highest degree of certitude - even higher than the empirical evidences of C14 dating! Believe it or not!
As for the Catholic contribution today, in the presence of the domination of the synthesis of all heresies that is evolutionary modernism - it seems quite obvious to me that the Church militant is either dormant or dead in the tomb with the Sacred Body of Christ still substantially united to the Word of God in the Most Blessed Trinity. Yes, Our Lord is with us, but are we with Him? Who, besides a few isolated individuals, is fighting the heresy of evolutionism in the empirical sciences? Who, besides the Protestant "fundamentalist" creationists? The burden has fallen upon them because God's Word does not return to Him void (Isaiah 50). The Catholic contribution resides mainly in our exceedingly rich tradition of Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics, which in the medieval sythesis of theological doctrine sheds light on the lower empirical data accumulating rapidly since the 16th century, and at the same time gave the necessary natural support to the supernatural order of Divine Grace and theology which draws its doctrines directly and indirectly from the words of Holy Scripture.
Certain presumptious theologians of today hailing mostly from the Franciscan tradition boast of some fictional - newly discovered - "biblical" theology! May God have mercy on their vanity in such a vain and empty boast that implicitly betrays their own inheritance. For how can a Theological Summa such as that of St. Thomas, fail to recognize fully the legacy of Platonism that came into the church with the immensely rich theology of St. Augustine? Any reading of the Summa cannot fail to recognize St. Thomas' devotion to St. Augustine. Indeed it could be demonstrated that the Summa of St. Thomas is the best place to find a truly Catholic interpretation of the Platonism of St. Augustine.
But the real Catholic contribution required today by the corrosive domination of evolutionary modernism consists not only in the specific doctrines of the metaphysics of being, as opposed to becoming, but also and even more importantly, I believe in the cosmic vision of the entire universe in its hierarchical and material-formal shape - which is spherical, with earth the one body at rest in the center, while all else, from the physical, inanimate Kingdom of the Elements to the Nine Choirs of purely spiritual substances, the angels, with all forms of plant, animal and human beings in between, stable and thriving in and around the ever nourishing elemental constituents of the earth. All of this is revealed in ever increasing detail as the Holy Spirit gives light to those who seek in Truth, in the narration of Genesis 1-3, and then in Genesis 6-11. These chapters reveal the Creation in perfection of a world that suffered disaster when Adam fell and an even more geophysical and cosmic catastrophe when God sent the universal deluge as a punishment for the sins of the Canaanites and the pride they had taken in their technology, which they put to the most cruel usages, as Genesis 6, verses 5-13 clearly indicates. Some translations use the term violence while the Douay-Rheims reiterates iniquity.
The parallel with today is inescapable. Pope Pius the XII noted it. And yet, most Catholics seem quite ignorant of the historical events of Genesis 1-11 and their importance for us today. Herein resides the yet to be Catholic contribution.
It is all too often objected that the bible is not a textbook of science! Of course not! The mode of discourse of Holy Scripture is that of a Divine Rhetoric. This is asserted by St. Peter (or St. Paul) when he said that all scripture is given to us for our instruction. That is a rhetorical purpose. And so it works out in practice. We interpret the words of Holy Scripture because they are not written in the mode of scientific discourse but of Divine Rhetoric - always directed to our minds and hearts to enlighten our intellect and direct and strengthen our wills. Our minds to see the truth and our wills to act accordingly. Even the so-called wisdom and "poetic" books have a rhetorical purpose in our practical lives. I believe the narration of the Creation of all things in Six Literal Days just as revealed in Genesis 1-3, is given to us specifically as a shield of truth against the gross heresy of evolutionary modernism that would have us to be made in the image of the Beast - rather than of our infinitely good and merciful Triune God.
The Catholic cosmology and anthropology revealed to us in the first five books of the bible - known as the Pentateuch, are certainly intended by God to be our special protection against the "operation of error" spoken of by St. Paul in 2 Thessalonians, chapter two. This operation of error is being sent by God upon those who have not loved the Truth of God's Divine Revelation, but accepted instead the fabulous fictions of a false science of molecules to man's.
Where are the apostles of Creation? I believe they must be reserved for the Age of Mary. Today we have only apostles of division!