[NB: In a previous iteration of this article, I had erroneously accused Fr. Nicholas Gruner of having often said the new Mass. An email from a friend implied such was not the case, and as I investigated, I could find no evidence of it. Not sure how I got that into my head, but I have retracted that statement, and excised it from the article, with my apologies to Fr. Gruner post mortem. -SJ]
The painting “Holy Russia” by Mikhail Nesterov (c. 1901 – 1906)
While the latest edition of the Eleison Comments contains much sound social and political wisdom from Russian President Vladimir Putin (which we would all be well advised to heed), it also contains some rather confusing statements regarding Putin’s alleged “Christianity” and Russia’s “holiness:”
“When everything in the world around us is being turned upside down, it should not surprise us to find the Pope talking like a Communist politician and the leader of Russia talking like a Catholic Pope. Thus one reader of these “Comments” was surprised to see them (August 5) referring to “Holy Russia,” when since 1917 it is Russia that has been spreading its errors throughout the world. But “Holy Russia” is an expression that goes much further back than the 20th century. It refers to the Russian people’s natural inclination to religion. If from 1917 to 1989 they were the spring-bed of international Communism, that is only because they served it with a religious fervour, because it was – and still is – the messianism of materialism, the main Jewish substitute religion for post-Christians (who have only themselves to blame).
But 72 years of Communism caused the Russians so much suffering that they learned their lesson and are now finding their way back to God, and their nation’s turning to Him has deserved for them from God a true statesman for their leader, who is the hope of many decent souls all over the world. Some experts in the perfidy of the New World Order are still distrustful of Vladimir Putin, which is understandable, but as Americans say, if he talks, walks and quacks like a follower of Christ, then common sense says that he is a follower of Christ. Read here a version (taken from video sub-titles) of a speech of his one year ago in Russia, and judge for yourselves if his world-vision is not Christian:—”
I would like to comment on a few of these confusing statements:
1. “But ‘Holy Russia’ is an expression that goes much further back than the 20th century.”
On the one hand, as the phrase “Holy Russia” actually predates the Russian Orthodox schism of 988, the phrase, when used, cannot always be understood to represent some kind of implicit endorsement of, or reference to Russian Orthodoxy (See this short Wikipedia entry, which claims the term had been in use as early as the 8th century, hundreds of years before the schism).
In reality, the term “Holy Russia” has carried and connoted different meanings and ideas throughout the centuries, sometimes having no religious connotations at all until fairly modern times, when it became bound up with reference to the Orthodox Church (as this interesting article points out).
Yet for all that, a Catholic bishop, speaking to a Catholic audience, is presumed to be using Catholic terminology when conjoining the words “Holy” and “Russia,” and consequently should not be surprised when Catholics instinctively wonder what precisely is “holy” about a nation and government inextricably intertwined with a “church” at war with God’s one true Church.
His Excellency tries to explain in the next sentence:
2. “It refers to the Russian people’s natural inclination to religion.”
But which religion, His Excellency does not say.
That matter is important, is it not?
A “religious inclination,” in and of itself, is not yet “holy.”
One with such an inclination may surely be en route to holiness, if such inclination directs them to the one true Church, which alone is capable of sanctifying souls (Note: I do not here deny explicit and implicit baptism of desire/blood as means of sanctification. I do say they are the exception, and not the rule, and that such exceptions could no more justify the term “Holy Russia” than they could justify “Holy China” or “Holy Guatamala”). But Russia is overwhelmingly populated with people who have not arrived at the Barque of Peter, and consequently, not being able to avail themselves of the means of sanctification through which they would receive sanctifying grace (except infants), cannot be said to be “holy” in any Catholic sense of the word.
Hence, this statement, in conjunction with the previous sentence, could be taken to imply that Russia is “holy” on the basis of its natural inclination to a schismatic sect, which is not capable of saving one single human soul (i.e., All those sanctified or justified outside the visible Church -by desire or perfect contrition- are in that same moment joined to the Catholic Church, which alone saves, and never the schismatic sect).
Therefore, it would have been good if His Excellency had further expounded upon this point, and emphasized the necessity of developing this natural inclination, which only possesses value if it leads to conversion (and without which, it can never possess holiness).
3. “…the Russians…are now finding their way back to God, and their nation’s turning to Him…”
As explained previously, “finding their way back to God” is a good thing, but it will only be “holy” when they have completed the journey, and arrived at the Catholic Church, which alone can save. We need not belabor the point.
But the same goes for “the nation’s turning to God:” They may be in the process of that turning, and it should be encouraged. But until they have completed the turn, they will not have arrived at even the possibility of holiness.
To allow that they could would seem to declare the entire nation baptized into the Church by implicit desire, but doing so would seem to relativize the necessity of finding the one true Church which always remains visible by its four marks (yes, even in today’s cisis). It would also seem to suggest that Rahner’s “anonymous Christianity” and John Paul II’s “universal salvationsim” were not wrong after all (or Lumen Gentium or Dominus Iesus, for that matter), in which case, one might be justified to a degree in asking why we are bothering to be traditionalists at all, if Vatican II was right?).
4. “…but as Americans say, if he talks, walks and quacks like a follower of Christ, then common sense says that he is a follower of Christ.”
Surely, Putin has many good qualities, and is probably the closest thing to a Christian head of state existing anywhere in the world today.
Yet for all his good and admirable qualities, we must not overlook the reality of his situation:
He is a divorced and (invalidly) remarried fornicating schismatic, who regularly receives sacraments while mired in an immoral conjugal union. Consequently, he is a public sinner and a scandal.
Yes, we are all of us sinners, to be sure, and to recognize that does not deprive us of being considered followers of Christ, so long as we confess our failings, and strive to amend our lives.
But that is not the case with Putin.
His Russian is inseparable from his Orthodoxy, and his perseverance in schism -which severs him from the mystical body of Christ- means he cannot be considered a “follower of Christ” no matter how many other good qualities he may have:
“He who has not the Church for his mother, has not Christ for his Father.” (St. Augustine).
It follows that those who have neither the Church for their mother, nor Christ for their father, have no right to arrogate to themselves the noble title of “Christian” (which is synonymous with, and limited to, “Catholic”).
Consequently, we have to conclude that whatever elements of Christianity Putin’s worldview may incorporate, he and his country can be considered neither “Holy” nor “Christian” until they are Catholic (which alone possesses the ability to sanctify, and therefore make holy).
If such were not the case, then what stops us from extending the same designation to every schismatic and heresiarch in the history of the Church: A holy Martin Luther, Calvin, and Henry VIII.
Why not then label these “holy” and “Christian?”
Going down this path leads to an open door for the “communion ecclesiology” of Journet and Congar (see here) which spawned Lumen Gentium and Dominus Iesus.
A recent article by Cornelia Ferreira noted evidence of this wrong turning in a recent statement by the World Apostolate of Fatima, which gives signs of appearing to suffer the inevitable consequences of conciliarism:
“Following the dubia Cardinal’s speech, the Vatican’s mouthpiece, the Blue Army, now called World Apostolate of Fatima (WAF), posted an appreciative article on its website in which it made a very curious suggestion:
“Perhaps now is the time to invite our Russian Orthodox brothers to join in a consecration in order to please Our Lord who told Sr. Lucia, ‘I want my whole Church [WAF’s emphasis] to acknowledge that consecration as a triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary….’”
Not surprisingly, the Blue Army considers the schismatic and heretical Russian Orthodox “brothers” with Catholics in a “whole” pan-Christian Church. This follows Lumen Gentium’s heretical teaching – now a “dogma” of the post-conciliar Church – that “the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church,” meaning the Church of Christ is actually bigger than the Catholic Church, and includes schismatic and heretical sects.” (See article here)
But according to Pope Pius XII in Mystici Corporis Christi it is exactly the opposite which is true:
“22. Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed. “For in one spirit” says the Apostle, “were we all baptized into one Body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free.” As therefore in the true Christian community there is only one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, and one Baptism, so there can be only one faith. And therefore, if a man refuse to hear the Church, let him be considered – so the Lord commands – as a heathen and a publican.  It follows that those who are divided in faith or government cannot be living in the unity of such a Body, nor can they be living the life of its one Divine Spirit.”
And in the next paragraph:
“For not every sin, however grave it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy.
If, therefore His Excellency means to teach Catholics that Russia is both “holy” and “Christian,” he would seem to be at odds with the pre-Vatican II magisterium on these points, and therefore, my instinct tells me that he was using these two terms loosely, and not theologically.
Yet, if that was the case, His Excellency should have made that clarification, as his audience would naturally understand the terms “holy” and “Christian” in the Catholic sense.
But as the use of those terms stand at present (i.e., ambiguous), we have an obligation to remind our own readers that Russia is neither “holy” nor “Christian.”