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The Blind Guides of EWTN

by Christopher A. Ferrara

Over the past 40 years tradition-minded Catholics have watched with horror as the landmarks of Catholic Tradition have been abandoned, one after the other. This abandonment has not occurred by way of any official binding pronouncement of the Church’s Magisterium, but rather through the pervasive attitude that Vatican II has somehow produced a "reorientation" of the Church.

It is hard to imagine anything more basic to Tradition than the conversion of the Jews. Christ took human form as a Jew, born of a Jewish maiden, and chose as His apostles 12 Jews whose mission was to convert, first of all, their own people and then the whole world to the one true religion established in the New Covenant of His Blood.

The first Catholic martyr, St. Stephen, was killed for his efforts to convert the Jews. The very liturgy of the Catholic Church on Good Friday spoke for century after century of the faithless Jews and pleaded with God for their conversion  —  until that liturgy, like so many other landmarks of the Faith, was suddenly abandoned after the Council.

As a major organ of the neo-Catholic establishment, Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) has cooperated in burying landmarks of the faith, even as it presents itself as a bastion of rock-solid Catholic Tradition. EWTN’s mixture of certain aspects of traditional Roman Catholicism with absolutely appalling novelties invented during the past 40 years  —  novelties that would have reduced the pre-conciliar popes to a state of apoplexy  —  is the very essence of neo-Catholicism.

It is hardly surprising then that EWTN has, along with the rest of the neo-Catholic establishment, beat a hasty retreat from the Church’s traditional call for the conversion of the Jews. Jewish conversion, you see, is lacking in post-conciliar correctness  —  that strange new attitude that has stealthily replaced so much of Catholic Tradition in the post-conciliar Church. EWTN, like the rest of the neo-Catholic establishment, serves the new attitude first and Catholic Tradition second.

Hence, in EWTN’s question and answer forum we find the following "expert" advice from Fr. Vincent Serpa in answer to a question posed by an inquiring Jew in the context of Mel Gibson’s upcoming film The Passion:

Conversion of Jews, 'The Passion' Question from Jacob on 08-14-2003:

Must I, as a Jew, convert and believe that Jesus is the Messiah and is God, or does the current Catholic church teach that I may be saved by my being a Jew? Also, isn't it a given that anti-Semitism will arise from Mel Gibson's movie?

Answer by Catholic Answers on 08-14-2003:

Dear Jacob, Would that you were given the grace to recognize Jesus as the Son of God and could join the Catholic Church. But if you honestly cannot accept Him as such, by living a life as a devout Jew, you can reach Heaven. This is what the Catholic Church teaches. AND Mel Gibson's movie, "The Passion" does NOT contradict this.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

In other words, Jews have no obligation to convert if they "sincerely" cannot bring themselves to believe that Christ is the Son of God and the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. Of course, that notion would exempt virtually every Jew on earth from the duty of conversion.

Responding to a small storm of criticism from Catholics who remember what the Church teaches about Jewish conversion, Fr. Serpa "clarified" his answer by making it even worse. He stated: "[T]hose who honestly (the key word here is "honestly") cannot see Jesus by means of the light of faith, can still be saved by that same Jesus Christ, even though they do not realize it  —  providing that they seek God and try in their actions to do His will, etc. as above."

Here the "expert" Fr. Serpa hopelessly mangles the Church’s teaching on invincible ignorance. He misapplies the concept of invincible ignorance of Christ and His Gospel to Jews who know of Him yet, according to Serpa, cannot "see" Jesus by means of "the light of faith." But if they have the light of faith, and if they know of Jesus, then they cannot be invincibly ignorant, for their faith would lead them to accept the Jesus of whom they know. That is exactly what the Apostles did, and what every Jewish convert since their time has done.

Now one cannot have faith without the supernatural grace of faith bestowed by God. But here Fr. Serpa thus posits a "light of faith"  —  a grace bestowed by God  —  according to which one knows of Jesus but "honestly" does not accept him. This is a monstrous distortion of the very notion of the supernatural gift of faith.

As Our Lord Himself declares in Sacred Scripture: "[N]o one knoweth the Son but the Father: neither doth anyone know the Father, but the Son, and He to whom it shall please the Son to reveal Him." (Matt. 11:27) Yet Fr. Serpa would have us believe that present-day Jews can really know the Father, can really have the light of faith, while "honestly" rejecting the revelation of Christ  —  even if they know of that revelation. And if that were true of the Jews, it would be true of anyone else in the world  —  all men could "honestly" reject the Gospel, even if they have heard it.

Fr. Serpa thus dispenses with the entire mission of the Holy Catholic Church, whether he realizes it or not. For if even those who have heard the Gospel can be saved while "honestly" rejecting the Gospel, why preach the Gospel at all? All of these "honest" people can simply hear the Gospel after they have died and gone to Heaven. They do not need the Gospel to be saved here on earth; the truth does not set them free, as Our Lord taught. No, they are free without the Gospel, according to Fr. Serpa.

But Our Lord could not have been clearer: "Go forth and preach the Gospel to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost…. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved. He who believes not shall be condemned." Our Lord did not say what Fr. Serpa teaches: "He who honestly cannot believe shall be saved anyway." For God will give all truly honest men who know of His Son the grace to believe in the Son. Fr. Serpa implicitly denies the very efficacy of God’s grace, reducing conversion to a Pelagian exercise in human self-persuasion.

Our experience of the past 40 years shows us that the real problem in the Church today is not overt modernists, who are easy to identify and expose, but the vast neo-Catholic establishment, posing as the "mainstream" of Roman Catholicism, with its multiform corruption of the traditional faith in both practice and belief. The devil’s momentary triumph in the post-conciliar epoch  —  inevitably to become his final defeat  —  consists of a shift of the great body of Catholics toward latitudinarianism and indifferentism, which is now passed off as Catholic theology by "experts" such as Fr. Serpa.

In short, the rise of neo-Catholicism is the post-conciliar crisis in the Church. It is a crisis as great as  —  if not greater than  —  the Arian crisis that also overcame the greater part of the Church in the 4th Century. To appreciate this we need only consider that EWTN is now considered an exemplar of Catholic orthodoxy, when, as we can see here, it is providing the very blind guides Our Lord warned us not to follow, lest we end up in a pit.