The Penny Catechism


The best weapon the simple pewsitter can have today is to know his/her Catechism. So says Archbishop Lefebvre:

"In the Church there is no law or jurisdiction which can impose on a Christian a diminution of his faith.
All the faithful can and should resist whatever interferes with their faith, supported by the catechism of
their childhood. If they are faced with an order putting their faith in danger of corruption, there is an
overriding duty to disobey." (Open Letter to Confused Catholics : Chapter 18 : para 9)

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Jesus Christ collected a body of disciples, but also a "close corporation" of twelve men, whom He "sent" to teach and admit yet other disciples into His religion; i.e., the APOSTLES.


As My Father has sent Me, even so, I send you (John xx. 21). He that heareth you, heareth Me, and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me, and he that despiseth Me, despiseth Him that sent Me (Luke x.16). Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matt. xviii. 18).

Christ therefore guaranteed that their doctrine and rulings should be His, even as His were God's.

Again, this was necessary, if their position was to be different from that of the "Scribes and Pharisees". These could only offer their probable personal opinions about what Moses taught, and make rules which Christ called "commandments of men" (Mark vii. 8). Christ taught and legislated with GOD'S AUTHORITY and so were His Apostles to do; else their hearers would have been no better off than those of the Scribes and Pharisees.

To the Apostles, Christ gave a Head, chosen from among them yet summing up their office in himself, namely, St. Peter.

Thou art Peter (i.e., Rock), and upon this Rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. xvi. 18). To thee will I give the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matt. xviii. 18) Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you (plural) that he might sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for THEE (singular) that THY faith fail not; and, once thou art converted, confirm (establish) thy brethren (Luke xxii. 31).

In the Acts, St. Peter is seen exercising this office of Head, even over the other Apostles.

This Teaching and Governing body, with its Head, was to be a permanent institution.

Go and teach all nations, baptizing them, etc., and behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. (Matt. xxviii. 19-20).

As Christ needed official representatives, or successors, to reach places and ages which He could not, and did not, the Apostles also needed them for they were not destined to reach "all nations," nor to live for ever. In fact, if after their death authoritative teachers and legislators had ceased to exist, all future generations would have been back in the old uncertainty about God's doctrine and His will, and Christ's work would have been defeated. Therefore, the Apostles were to have successors, with an office substantially similar to theirs, just as they were successors of Christ, and held an office similar, in these points, to His. Also, it was the Church that was founded on Peter and over which he was given complete jurisdiction - not just one generation, nor one section of the Church; and what was not on that Rock was on sand and destined to fall. In order therefore to ensure:

c) UNIVERSALITY to His teaching and legislation,

Christ created a SOCIETY intended to be world-wide and world-enduring; governed by officials representing Himself in doctrine and law-making, admitting members on definite conditions of obedience of mind and action, and by a special ceremony. These officials are headed by, established and shepherded by St. Peter. In matters of doctrine they are safeguarded from telling a lie; in matters of legislation, from enforcing a wrong. God authorizes their doctrine and their law.

If then a modern institution wishes its claim to be Christ's Church to be admitted, it must reproduce at least the following elements:

A social and institutional structure

A Unity of Government, containing officials carrying on, unbrokenly, the office of the Apostles, and a Head, carrying on that of St. Peter

A doctrine uttered, and a legislation imposed, with infallible authority exercised by or derived from its Head

Identical conditions throughout of admission and membership

And the essential tendency to become world-wide, i.e., universal.

NO CHURCH, save the "Roman", even dreams of claiming to contain these elements, or even looks as if it did.

The Roman Church

The "Roman" Church, however, claims to, and in fact does, meet the criteria specified above.

She is governed by Bishops and a Pope, who descend in an unbroken line from the Apostles and St. Peter.

She teaches with authority a doctrine which is identical in all parts of herself, and in all periods of her history; and imposes an authoritative legislation on all her members.

She is super-national and inter-national and is in a true geographical sense world-wide, and able to become even more completely so.

She possesses therefore the characteristics of UNITY, APOSTOLICITY and CATHOLICITY that must be in any Church which claims to be that which Christ founded, and alone possesses them.

The Roman Church therefore claims to be infallible. By INFALLIBILITY she means that:

a) The Faith of the Believing Church, as a whole, cannot be false.
b) The Faith of the Teaching Church, expressed in certain representative or official ways, cannot be false.

These ways are:

THE EXPRESSED AGREEMENT OF THE CHURCH'S ACKNOWLEDGED TEACHERS that a doctrine is revealed, even if it be not "defined". If in the ordinary exercise of their teaching office they are officially approved in so teaching, there is a sure guarantee that their doctrine is the Church's belief, and cannot be false, though it may be inadequate.

A COUNCIL composed of a sufficiently representative number of her Bishops, whose decrees are recognized and become authoritative through their confirmation by the Pope.

The Pope speaking as Pope "ex cathedra" i.e., from the chair of Peter.

PAPAL INFALLIBILITY means therefore that:

When the Pope speaks as the successor of St. Peter, and therefore as Head of the Church and "Vicar" of Christ, and is teaching the entire Church by defining this or that to be part of the Catholic Faith as revealed by Christ, he is safeguarded from teaching falsehood.

His infallibility does NOT mean:

a) impeccability: i.e., that he cannot sin
b) omniscience: i.e., that he knows everything
c) inspiration: he is not positively inspired to teach this or that, still less to teach anything new; he is prevented from teaching, if he teaches with the intention of binding the whole Church irrevocably, anything false. It does not therefore concern his private opinions; nor even all his public pronouncements; nor his doctrine with regard to what is not part of the "Deposit of Faith," which he must guard, hand down, interpret and define.

Development of Doctrine - The Church cannot invent new doctrines, but she can understand and explain her doctrines more and more perfectly. She cannot alter their substance, but can improve their statement.

In successive periods, different doctrines have been attacked or wrongly explained, e.g., the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Sacraments. The Church thereupon examined her dogmas, stated them more accurately, and defined them more positively. What doctrines she thus dealt with depends usually on which were being attacked or misinterpreted; thus e.g., the Sacraments were more fully treated in the thirteenth century, and the Trinity and the Incarnation in the fourth and fifth. Thus doctrine grows, but dogma does not alter; theology is elaborated, but the Faith remains unchanged.

The Church does not say that there is nothing true nor good in other creeds. Indeed, what is altogether bad could not exist. She is glad when a religious system retains, or contains, any item of truth - for example, belief in the Sacraments in the "Orthodox" oriental churches; belief in the divinity of Christ among conservative Anglicans; belief in God and the value of prayer among Mohammedans. She declares that whatever is good and true anywhere, is contained in herself, in a pure and undiluted form, in logical order, and by Divine Authority able therefore to be believed in under divine sanction and with unshared certainty. She does not condemn other creeds for the truth they possses, but for the truth they have lost or have never had, or possess in a diluted form and for less good reasons.


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