The Simple Gospel

Our Patristics professor in seminary said something that I will never forget. He said: “Don’t read the Scriptures with a higher IQ than who it was written for.” I’m going to keep coming back to this line, “Don’t read the Scriptures with a higher IQ than who it was written for,” so I need to explain first what it does not mean.

My professor was a very intellectual man, so he was not saying that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was created to trick peasant-doofuses into becoming Christians or later that Catholicism would become the opium of the illiterate-masses. Nor did he mean that the Deposit of the Faith was transmitted by Christ to a group of shallow fishermen who went forward to find the most deceivable people to baptize. 

While re-reading Acts of the Apostles, I recently discovered that the Apostles were actually not sloppy in their original observance of Judaism (despite how Protestant movies often portray them as saccharine-sweet modern used car-salesmen.) The opposite is true, in fact, as is found in Acts of the Apostles. Despite his impetuosity and fast tongue to Our Lord (even after Christ’s Resurrection!) consider below how St. Peter has an insistence on how he has always adhered to Mosaic law:

The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.—Acts 10:9-16

The idea of Don’t read the Scriptures with a higher IQ than who it was written for also does not also does not mean that the infinite orthodox interpretations of the Sacred Scriptures are immediately obvious to even the greatest of theologians. Both scientists and theologians define simple as “nothing lacking and nothing superfluous.” Thus, God Himself is simple, nothing lacking but nothing superfluous.  But God is not simplistic. So also, the Sacred Scriptures. It has been said that the Gospel of John is easy enough for a child to play in but deep enough for a theologian to drown in.  So, my prof’s line Don’t read the Scriptures with a higher IQ than who it was written for does not mean we don’t need theologians who will go deep into typology.  

Indeed, we need holy theologians, but not legalistic scribes.

I believe that if Satan tricked the religious leaders of the first century towards a religious attitude so legalistic to the right that they would not recognize the first coming of Christ, it would equally be the perfect trick of Satan to trick the religious leaders before the second coming of Christ to adopt a religious attitude so legalistic to the left that they would not recognize the time of Christ’ second return.

Indeed, theologians today are more legalistic than they have ever been in the history of the Church since the first century scribes. Here’s a few examples:

  1. Many young men have been told by priests that (based on a seriously ambiguous line in the new Catechism) that if they have the habit of masturbation, that very habit reduces culpability and it is thus not a mortal sin. Those guys go on sinning into their own marriages and thus endanger their marriages and salvation.  I hope someone will come and tell them that loopholes don’t save; only Jesus Christ saves.  This is the Simple Gospel. But if they listen to that modern confessor…. Loophole theologian: 1. Soul won for Jesus: 0.
  2. Almost every tribunal in the USA doles out endless declarations of nullity (annulments) based on a Canon in the Code of Canon Law that says if a couple had “lack of due discretion” in their time of engagement, that marriage might not be valid.  Well, guess what:  That is every vocation, including my priesthood.  Did I have “due discretion” of the priesthood before I ended up in this mess?  No, but I’m still a priest. Now, I have no problem with “lack of form” annulments, but the “lack of due discretion” thing is for new Pharisees and scribes to manipulate without any end.  I often tease families with five or ten kids that I could get them an annulment under “lack of due discretion” despite having 7 kids!  The couple then laughs nervously at me when I say this. But I mean it: Through this legal loophole, tens of thousands of American marriages (which God has put together) have been sundered apart by modern day legalistic scribes who essentially say: “Better to declare it null through ‘lack of due discretion’ so as to get them ‘out of sin’ as they’re already in bed with their new squeezes.” Satan via gentle scribes: 1. Marriage: 0.
  3. Under the clause “Those who through no fault of their own do not know the Catholic Faith can still be saved,” we have actually created an entire effeminate army of theologians, priests and bishops who essentially teach that everyone is saved, barring major malice in their hearts to God at the very last breath of their lives. If you try to argue with such theologians, they (much like first century Pharisees) will have a loophole (usually quoting Lumen Gentium) as to why every non-Catholic will be saved as long as they didn’t know about the Catholic Church—and even then—could anyone really reject Jesus if they saw His loving face? I mean: Could anyone really commit a mortal sin with full knowledge and full consent of the will if they knew God? Of course not! Therefore, everyone is saved. Satan via liberal legalism: 1. International missionary congregations: 0.

Yes, I realize that it is ironic that a Traditional Latin Mass priest is saying most modern theologians and tribunal officers are mostly Pharisees and scribes.  But I believe in a Simple Gospel with no loopholes. It’s not because I’m mean or less merciful, but precisely because I believe the Cross of Jesus Christ does not need any loopholes to have power! I explained many of these modern legalistic errors more in-depth in this podcast, the same talk as found in this Sensus Fidelium video:

Do you see how modern day Catholic scribes (found literally everywhere in the West!) have used historically-untried but currently-universally-accepted theology to totally empty the Cross of Jesus Christ of all its power? The Gospel is very simple, and it was made for the average person to understand.  

Here is the basics of the Simple Gospel found in Scripture and Catholicism:

Jesus Christ is God who died a horrible death as a man for you and me. Christ had to be a man, so as to offer a human body for our sins done in the body. Christ had to be God for this sacrifice to be boundless and blameless. This sacrifice is perpetuated forever in the Holy Mass.  The merits of Jesus’ infinite love is transmitted by baptism and it is a totally free gift that saves us (1 Pt 3:21) but we will be judged on our actions (Mt 25:31-46.)

No loophole will save you from this:   Not a priest telling you that your mortal sin is not a sin or a Tribunal telling you that you’re not married.  Indeed, salvation only comes from Jesus Christ, “and there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”—Acts 4:12.

All through seminary, I said that Pope John Paull II was the Pope for the blue-collar man but that the old Popes like Pope St. Pius X were the over-intellectuals. The more I read these two Popes, the more I now realize that the opposite is true. Although Pope John Paul II comes to orthodox conclusions, it is only through an endless philosophical sea of anthropocentric phenomenology. Pope St. Pius X, however, simply said the faith in a way that could be understood by, say, a plumber in Chicago in the 1940s.  The great thing about perennial Catholicism is that if a plumber in Chicago in 1940 committed a mortal sin on a Friday night, he went to confession on Saturday afternoon before he went to receive Holy Communion on Sunday morning.

People might retort to my above example, “Oh, but that plumber didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ!”

My response:  Really? How do you know that? I am not so sure about that. When I was with the FSSP for six months, I will never forget an older woman who once said to me, “When I was in Catholic school, there wasn’t a tweet every time a Pope burped. The Pope was just a picture on the wall at my Catholic grade-school. We had a relationship with Jesus and Mary.” Think about that: We had a relationship with Jesus and Mary. Yes, she was referring to the 1940s. In fact, she and I weren’t even talking about having a relationship with Christ when she said that…which is why I know it came out as truth. The more and more I talk to old people, the more I don’t buy the garbage that no Catholic had a relationship with Jesus Christ before Vatican II.

Nowadays we have many Catholic celebrities who tell us to have a relationship with Jesus Christ in large stadiums with great emotions. Now, unlike most priests who offer exclusively the Traditional Latin Mass, I actually like these Catholic celebrities. I mean it. Many people on the Steubenville speaking circuit actually bring lots of young people to Jesus Christ, and sometimes there is even doctrinal content to their call to surrender.  I’m not being sarcastic. I believe the Holy Spirit very much works at these conferences. But such conferences and Catholic celebrities are only necessary because we have trashed the simple Gospel of pre-Vatican II dogma and liturgy. Yes, I actually believe that the Acts of the Apostles is the same faith that drove immigrants to build Churches like St. Francis De Sales in St. Louis (the shot at the very top of this blog post that I snapped one night while visiting there last year.)  Yes, the same Simple Gospel drove Acts of the Apostles and Polish immigrants, even if our Churches in the West happened to be bigger and more ornate than the underground Church.

Modern youth conferences (not WYD Masses, to be sure, where I have seen people committing sacrilege by making-out at Holy Mass) but the good youth conferences and mens’ conferences and women’s conferences are essentially collateral circulation.  Collateral circulation is what happens when the body creates a concessionary artery when the main artery is clogged.  In my analogy, of course, the original artery is a simple and Holy Priesthood, where the most simple priest (like St. John Vianney) could show up in any country and bring an Apostolic dogma and liturgy to a simple people.   Concessionary circulation is Steubenville conferences.  It’s fine, for a time, in this current Church crisis…but we must return to what Catholicism has always been.

What has it always been?  It has been a Simple Gospel of heaven and hell, redemption and sin.  You did not need a PhD in loopholes, I mean Canon Law, to get people to heaven.  Priests of every century would simply teach their peasants and geniuses alike the Creed, the Our Father, the 10 Commandments and the sacraments. I blogged about how easy it was to transmit traditional Catholicism to everyone (not just the elite) in The Over-Intellectualization of the Catholic Faith. Such peasants could have an IQ of 80 or 180 and still start to establish the reign of Christ the King in both their hearts and society.

For example, a simple Spanish Franciscan showing up as a missionary to pagan Mexico in the 16th century did not need any laser beams, nearly-invisible megaChurch microphones around his face or cool intro-songs with dry-ice fog to announce his entrance. That is because it was the same convicting beautiful faith that the soldiers of World War II found at Holy Mass, a catechesis in and of itself that led to not only love of God but fear of God:

Chaplain Dennis Murphy celebrates mass for the men of 65th AAA Bn., at Bolo Point, Okinawa. July 19, 1951. Nelse Einwaechter. (Army) NARA FILE # 111-SC-378561 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #: 1464

Catholic Church history has no pendulum between conservative and liberal like we were told in High Schoo.l Catholicism is Catholicism that has simply endured four major Church crises, the worst of which we are in right now. The Catholic Faith of the Desert Fathers in the 3rd century was the same as the Catholic Faith of the 13th century Franciscans and Dominicans and the same Faith as the great Doctors of the Church and international missionaries of the 16th century. There were no scribes and loopholes who emptied the power of the cross, as we sadly see today. Even the early Christians (even with all of their beautiful speaking in tongues, which I believe is a real gift) were closer to traditional Catholics today than Pentecostals.

No one can argue the facts: Traditional Catholicism made one billion Catholics, where US Catholicism has bled one million Catholics every year since the year 2000. Why should a basic blue-collar man take the faith seriously if it can be argued away by loophole-loving scribes?

So, what do you do about this in your family? The best I can do is to tell you to purchase the Catechism of Pius X. It sounds daunting and scary, but it is actually easier to read than even the Baltimore Catechism for children! The Catechism of Pope St. Pius X has no errors in it like: “Muslims…together with us…adore the one, merciful God.” While the new CCC was written for bishops to distill further down into their own pastoral needs, and whereas the Catechism of the Council of Trent was actually written for priests, the Catechism of Pius X was made for the layman:

It was recently translated into English by Aeterna Press. And while I would encourage Aeterna Press to fix up the punctuation typos (found on nearly every single page of their production) it my still my absolute go-to, gold-standard for all teaching and evangelization. I encourage anyone who reads this blog post to purchase many copies. It is only $7 on Prime and it explains the entire Catholic faith in what can be read in less than two hours. It is a total treasure of the faith in only 150 pages (with huge spaces between lines.)

Such is the simple faith of the deposit Jesus Christ handed down to the Apostles. Like the Bible, in this Catechism, you will find no loopholes, only that Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church can bring you to see the fullness of Our Father’s face in heaven. Such is the Simple Gospel found in none of the duplicitous tongues of our modern liberal scribes Pharisees, found teaching and annulling the power of the Gospel over the Western-Hemisphere.