How is the Church “visibly united in faith,” according to this twentieth-century master of ecclesiology?

“This unity consists principally in the common profession of the same faith.”

Tradivox Catechism Review
Part I: How can we find the teaching of the universal ordinary magisterium?
Part II: What do the catechisms tell us about heretics and the Church?
Part III: How is the Church “visibly united in faith,” according to Cardinal Billot?
Part IV: Why is it essential that the Church is visibly united in faith?
Part V: What sort of heresy results in being outside the Church?
Part VI: What is the difference between an excommunicate and an open heretic?

Obj. I: Are we obliged to believe every person who calls himself a Catholic?
Obj. II: Should mistaken Catholics be called “material heretics”?
Obj. III: What is the state of a Catholic who submits to a false magisterium?

Photo by Mike Kenneally on Unsplash

In this essay I will begin explaining the following two points:

  1. The Church is, among other things, a visible unity of Faith; she is a visible society which is visibly one, or united, in faith.
  2. Membership of the Church requires, among other things, a profession of the faith.

In a previous essay, a part of the Tradivox Catechism series review, we saw that we can use the body of local catechisms to prove that these points, along with two others about heresy and excommunication, are at least “Catholic doctrine.” All these points are contained, at least implicitly, in Pope Pius XII’s famous description of who is a member of the Church in his encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi:

“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 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.”[1] (emphasis added)

But what do these points really mean?

In both this piece and the next, I will be explaining them, by drawing on the writings of Louis Cardinal Billot.

Billot was a professor at the Gregorian University in Rome, a consultor to the Holy Office and one of the most significant theologians in recent decades. He was remembered in laudatory terms by Pius XII,[2] and praised by Cardinal Merry del Val[3] and Archbishop Lefebvre.[4]

Fr Henri le Floch – the Rector of the French Seminary in Rome whilst Archbishop Lefebvre was a seminarian – said of Cardinal Billot’s works:

“They form a temple of sacred science, where treasures are accumulated; one might also say an ‘arsenal’ where, for the present and for the future, the defenders of truth will find weapons in the intellectual patrimony that he has constituted and in the principle of development that he has laid down.

“His doctrine and his method are more necessary than ever, if we wish to save minds from the deluge of errors or sterile opinions under which they are submerged.”[5]

It is from Cardinal Billot’s temple, treasury, and arsenal that I shall be drawing my weapons for this explanation.

See below for the books in Tradivox series
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Click here for The WM Review Reading List (with direct links for US and UK readers).

Tradivox Catechism Series – Titles Available (click to expand)

Tradivox I – Three shorter catechisms. (UK readers)

  • Bishop Edmund Bonner – An Honest Godley Instruction. A foundational text written by a bishop who repented under Queen Mary, returned to the Catholic Church and died a confessor under Elizabeth I (1556)
  • Fr Laurence Vaux – A Catechisme of Christian Doctrine (1567)
  • Fr Diego de Ledesma – The Christian Doctrine (1573)

Tradivox II – Three seventeenth-century catechisms. (UK readers)

  • St Robert Bellarmine SJ – A Shorte Catechisme. This consists mostly of restored woodcuts. (1614)
  • Fr Henry Turberville – The Douay Catechism, or An Abridgement of the Christian Doctrine. Very polemically ordered towards catechising Catholics against Protestantism, with many Scripture references and details on the Mass. (1649)
  • Fr Thomas Vincent Sadler – The Childes Catechism. Written for parents. (1678)

Tradivox III – three texts by Bishop Richard Challoner, reviser of the Douay-Rheims Bible and Vicar Apostolic of London during a period of oppressive penal laws. (UK readers)

  • An Abridgement of Christian Doctrine. A synopsis of the Douay Catechism. (1759)
  • The Catholic Christian Instructed. A longer, very annotated work with a lot of focus on worship and the sacraments. (1737)
  • The Grounds of Catholick Doctrine. A simple Q&A catechism based on the Tridentine Profession of Faith (1752)

Tradivox IV: Three significant Irish catechisms, comparable to the Penny or Baltimore Catechisms (UK readers)

  • The Most Rev. Dr James Butler’s Catechism. Approved for national use by all of the Irish bishops, serving Irish Catholics for 150 years at home and in Canada and the USA. (1775)
  • The Catechism Ordered by the National Synod of Maynooth. (1884)
  • The Shorter Catechism Extracted [from the above]. (1891)

Tradivox V: Two by Irish priests in the 1700s. (UK readers)

  • Fr Andrew Donlevy – The Catechism, or Christian Doctrine, By Way of Question and Answer. The oldest major Irish catechetical manuscript. (1742)
  • Fr Thomas Burke OP – A Catechism Moral and Controversial. Written for more advanced audiences, with practical and apologetic notes. (1752)

Tradivox VI: Aquinas, Pecham, and Pagula (UK readers).

  • St Thomas Aquinas – The Catechetical Instructions. An arrangement of other Opuscula in catechetical form. (ca. 1260)
  • Archbishop John Pecham (of Canterbury) – Ignorantia Sacerdotum. Product of the Council of Lambeth. (1281)
  • Quinque Verba – pocket manual to “remedy the ignorance of simple priests.” (1300)
  • William of Pagula – Oculus Sacerdotis – a chapter, frequently excerpted and circulated at the time, from Pagula’s large guide for priests. (1320)

Tradivox VII: The Catechism of the Council of Trent (UK readers)

Tradivox VIII: Pope St Pius X and Frassinetti (UK readers)

Tradivox IX: St Peter Canisius (UK readers)

Tradivox X: Gaume (UK readers) – Jan 2023

Other texts have not been confirmed, but the following are mentioned on the website. They may be intended for publication, or just for the online database.

  • Doulye – A Brief Instruction. (1604)
  • Perry – A Full Course of Instructions for the Use of Catechists.(1847)
  • Fr F.X. Weninger SJ – Manual of the Catholic Doctrine (1867)
  • Baltimore Catechism (1891)
  • Thomas J. O’Brien – An Advanced Catechism of Catholic Faith and Practice (1902)
  • Deharbe’s Large Catechism (1921)
  • Bishop Hay – Abridgement of Christian Doctrine (1800)

Explanation of the points

1. The Church is, among other things, a visible unity of Faith; she is a visible society which is visibly one, or united, in faith.

As we know from the Creed, the Church is “one”. Christ established one, and only one, true Church – the visible, hierarchical Roman Catholic Church, which is his “Mystical Body.”

But the unicity or uniqueness of the Church is just one aspect of her “oneness.” In addition to this uniqueness, she is united, and Cardinal Billot writes:

“This unity consists principally in the common profession of the same faith, taught by a social magisterium.”[6] (emphasis added)

In the collection of catechism extracts, including those from the Tradivox series, we saw explanations of the Church’s unity along such lines – for example, the 1649 Douay Catechism:

“All her members live under one evangelical law, obey the same supreme head, and profess the same faith even to the least article, and use the same sacraments and Sacrifice.”[7] (Emphasis added)

The Church is, in her very self, a unity of faith and charity (or “communion”) – she is the congregation of baptized men, who are united in their profession of the same faith, and who are ordered as a particular, visible and hierarchical society.

Her unity is often expressed as being a unity in government, faith and communion, and Billot explains the relationship between these three:

“The unity of government is in reality the principle that generates and preserves the other two – one of which concerns the intelligence and the other the will.”[8]

This is why St Thomas Aquinas writes:

“The Church, on earth, is the congregation [concerning communion and will] of the faithful [concerning faith and intelligence].”[9] (Emphasis added)

While unity of government may be the principle of the other two, Billot teaches that it is not the most important of the three. We saw above that he teaches that the Church’s unity consists “principally” in a united profession of faith, and elsewhere he states directly:

“[T]he unity of communion supposes, in the society of believers, the unity of faith. This is the most important aspect of the note of unity, and requires a little more explanation.”[10]

To summarise, the unity of government is ordered towards producing and preserving unity of faith and communion, of which faith is the most important.

Threefold unity of faith

A religious society can enjoy a unity in faith in these three ways:

  1. Unity in doctrine taught
  2. Unity in doctrine believed
  3. Unity in external profession of this doctrine taught and believed.[11]

In some ways, the most fundamental of the three is that of profession. Everyone is called to profess the faith, while only some are called to teach it; and in any case, one can hardly teach what one does not profess.

Teaching and profession – unlike internal belief – are “visible,” external things. Billot continues, observing that a unity of faith cannot refer solely (or even primarily) to the internal, invisible virtue of faith:

“[T]his unity [of faith] is offered to us, exactly like the other two, as a visible fact, that is, in the form of the external profession of faith. Of itself and most of the time, this external profession necessarily corresponds to the interior faith, even if by accident and rarely it is possible that it does not correspond to it.”[12]

If the Church’s “unity” consisted in such an invisible virtue, she would essentially be invisible, and we would be unable to identify her true members.

Therefore, the Church’s visible unity of faith consists primarily in the profession of faith by her members, and in the magisterium which determines this profession.

In an encyclical on the unity of the Church, Leo XIII taught:

“[F]aith itself – that is assent given to the first and supreme truth – though residing essentially in the intellect, must be manifested by outward profession. […]

“Besides, all who profess Christianity allow that there can be but one faith.”[13]

This external unity pertains to the Church “by definition.” It is a part of her nature, and it is not an ideal yet to be attained: this latter error was rejected by Pius XI in his 1928 encyclical Mortalium Animos.[14] Vatican I teaches the same doctrine.[15]

It also follows that whether an organisation is united or divided is an observable, visible, and ascertainable fact – and that the true Church is not made up of groups professing different faiths. Pius XII teaches:

“[I]t is not enough that the Body of the Church should be an unbroken unity; it must also be something definite and perceptible to the senses as Our predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII, in his Encyclical Satis Cognitum asserts: ‘the Church is visible because she is a body.’

“Hence they err in a matter of divine truth, who imagine the Church to be invisible, intangible, a something merely ‘pneumatological’ as they say, by which many Christian communities, though they differ from each other in their profession of faith, are united by an invisible bond.”[16]

The role of the magisterium

Billot writes that, in a primary sense, the unity of faith depends on the exercise of the Church’s teaching authority:

“[T]his unity of faith corresponds first of all to the unity which depends, as of its own principle, on a public magisterium; for this is what the unity of a society requires by definition.”[17]

This unity is thus manifested in this primary sense by the actual, visible submission of all the faithful to the teaching authority of the magisterium.

This unity is also manifested in a secondary sense – though perhaps more obvious to us – through the external profession of all the dogmas of the Catholic religion, by all the faithful:

“Secondly, this unity of faith corresponds to the unity that is established around all the articles of faith.”[18]

The content of the profession of faith is given to us by Vatican I:

“All those things are to be believed with divine and Catholic faith which are contained in the Word of God, written or handed down, and are proposed by the Church either by a solemn judgment or by her ordinary and universal magisterium to be believed as divinely revealed.”[19]

As well as detailing the truths to be believed, this text also shows the importance of the Church’s proposition of these truths through the magisterium.

Can we be more precise about the points to which the text from Vatican I refers? Dom Charles Augustine, in his commentary on Canon 1323, which incorporates this text into the 1917 Code of Canon Law, tells us that it includes those matters of faith or morals which are:

  • Solemnly defined by a general council or the Roman Pontiff
  • Clearly and undoubtedly contained in Scripture or tradition
  • Proposed by the universal discipline and practice of the Church
  • Held unanimously by the Fathers and theologians.[20]

Having grasped the object of the profession of faith, let’s return to Billot. He writes:

“[T]his unity of faith of which we speak is finally equivalent to a single fact: the fact that all the members of society agree in professing unanimously, and explicitly, any other revealed truth, as soon as the magisterium has given a definition of it and has made an explicit proposal of it; for these faithful all recognize that they depend on this magisterium when it comes to professing their faith.”[21]

This unity of faith is also manifested by the absence of any acts, words, deeds or omissions which are positively contrary to these primary and secondary senses.

Some objections – disputes and mistakes

What about theological disputes in the Church? We can note in passing that an “accidental” or “tertiary” sense of this unity, in the profession all those things which are taught authoritatively, although not as divinely revealed. This “accidental” unity seems to be capable of degrees of perfection, with such variations enhancing or obscuring the Church’s true unity of faith, and thus the credibility of her claims and her visibility in the world. The “baseline” of this accidental unity and how far it can be obscured are interesting questions, but not what we have in view in this essay.

But in relation to the objection: theological disputes pertain to open questions, rather than disputes about authoritative teaching – and Billot states that the position of the magisterium means that such disputes do not jeopardise the external unity of faith:

“On the side of the ‘Church Taught’, the principle of unity makes its ever-present force felt above all if one observes that, when doctrine gives rise to very serious disputes, to the point that the parties in dispute set themselves sharply against one another, it is sufficient for the See of Rome to publish its decision for everyone to consider the dispute resolved: the ardour of the dispute gives way to a unanimous submission and agreement.”[22]

In other words, all parties are united – visibly, at least until they prove otherwise – in their readiness to submit to the decision of the magisterium.

What about mistakes made in good faith, or mere mis-speaking? As noted, the profession of faith pertains to all of the Church’s dogma. Billot explains further:

“[T]he unity of faith must depend on the nature of faith. Now, the essential definition of theological faith implies that the act of faith relates, without distinction, to each and every truth revealed by God – since the motive for this act, which is divine authority, extends equally to each and every one of them.

“Therefore, if one rejects any one of these truths, one rejects all the others; and it is impossible to believe in Divine Revelation when it affirms that God is one and triune if one does not believe in it when it says that Abraham had two sons. […]

“All these conclusions follow from the essential nature of the divine faith; and all that can be said of the unity of faith must conform to it, since this unity is nothing other than a property of faith, considered in so far as it is exercised by all the believers who form a society.”[23]

Therefore, the dependence of the profession of faith on the magisterium also accounts for such innocent mistakes. The apparent disunity arising from such mistakes is more than overshadowed by the continuing unity in real, visible submission, even by those who are mistaken.

So, just as it can be possible to retain the virtue of faith in an implicit way, despite being ignorant or mistaken regarding certain dogmas, so too it is possible to retain membership and an integral profession through an actual, visible and united submission to the magisterium, despite some degree of externalised mistakes and public mis-speaking.

This is wholly different from those who openly dispute defined dogma, e.g. saying things like: “I know that the Church teaches the doctrine of transubstantiation, but I believe that the Holy Eucharist is just a symbol.”[24] If manifested openly, such an act is incompatible with the profession of faith, due to its open rejection of dogma and its open rejection of the magisterium.

Such open rejection is, of course, extremely widespread today – and it can be difficult to see how the Church is still united. I have provided several essays about this problem and its solutions at the end of this one.

In the meantime, let’s look more closely at what it means “to profess” the faith.

2. Membership of the Church requires, among other things, an external profession of the faith.

Many of the catechisms in the previous part refer to the profession of faith, sometimes using the word “confession” to signify the same thing. But what exactly do these words mean?


“Professing the faith” can mean different things in different contexts. We should be cautious, and not apply the wrong meaning to the wrong context.

For instance, one makes a formal profession of faith when becoming a Catholic, or when assuming certain offices in the Church. Some persons talk as if such occasional, formal acts – or even the mere claim to be a Catholic, or the recitation of the Creed on Sundays – can “override” every other word or action a person might say.

But such individual acts are not what is meant in this context. On the contrary, as a criterion of membership, “professing the faith” implies a state, or something of constancy.

It is feasible that someone could make an insincere formal profession, whilst making his departure from the faith clear on other occasions. As Pope St Pius X described this intentional strategy of the modernists:

“[I]n their books you find some things which might well be expressed by a Catholic, but in the next page you find other things which might have been dictated by a rationalist.”[25]

In this context, professing the faith certainly does not only refer to something done on occasions – and it is something integral, and therefore incompatible with the open profession of heresy at other times.

For reasons that should be clear, this applies even more strongly to the idea that “professing the faith” means “professing to believe the faith” or “professing to be Catholic.” We should give the benefit of the doubt, and interpret someone’s actions in light of such claims as far as is possible – but mere claims cannot override clear evidence of their own falsity. I will address this point in further detail in due course.

Positive professions

However, one is not obliged to go around reciting all the Creeds of the Church at all times. As an example, The Douay Catechism states that Catholics are obliged to make an open profession faith “as often as God’s honour, our own, or our neighbour’s good requires it.”[26] Canon 1325 §1 expresses this reality in very similar terms:

“The faithful of Christ are bound to profess their faith whenever their silence, evasiveness, or manner of acting encompasses an implied denial of the faith, contempt for religion, injury to God, or scandal for a neighbor.”[27]

St Thomas explains further:

“It is not necessary for salvation to confess one’s faith at all times and in all places, but [it is] in certain places and at certain times – namely when by omitting to do so, we would deprive God of due honor, or our neighbor of a service that we ought to render him.

“For instance, if a man, on being asked about his faith, were to remain silent, so as to make people believe either that he is without faith, or that the faith is false, or so as to turn others away from the faith.”[28]

St Thomas is discussing sin, and what is necessary for salvation. Nonetheless, his comments also shed light on the requirements for membership of the Church, and for when one has an obligation to make an external profession of faith.

In the context of membership, one part of “professing the faith” is fulfilling such obligations.

Personal responsibility for one’s actions

But does every failure to fulfil such obligations constitute a departure from the profession of faith? What if a person fails due to extreme pressure or fear, but still professes the faith internally?

We can answer this with four points.

First, internal acts have no relevance to the Church’s visible unity of faith. Perhaps external pressures could remove moral culpability, but the question is whether a man’s acts constitute a visible failure to profess the faith (or a rejection of it).[29]

Second, the possibility of pressure which is so obvious as to nullify such a failure (or denial) does not mean that a man’s responsibility can never be clear and morally certain.

Third, without some reason to think otherwise, men should generally be considered to be responsible for their own actions.

Fourth, we can and often must act on judgments based on such presumptions. As St Robert Bellarmine teaches:

“[M]en are not bound to, or cannot scrutinize hearts; but when they see someone acting in a heretical way, they simply judge that he is a heretic, and they condemn him as a heretic.”[30]

We should give the benefit of the doubt in as many cases as possible. But it is one thing to discuss clear evidence of external pressure – it is another to hypothesise about secret pressure, which (if even true) would do nothing to mitigate or distinguish what would otherwise be a clear, visible failure to profess the faith when obliged to do so. Such an idea is an implicit denial of the Church’s visible unity of faith.

Avoiding things contrary to the profession of faith

The profession of faith also includes not saying or doing anything openly contrary or incompatible with the profession of faith. To understand this, let’s recall that baptism makes someone a member of the Church, providing that there is no “obstacle in the baptized person” impeding this effect.[31] Here is Billot’s formulation, showing that as criterion for membership, the profession of faith is in some sense negative rather than positive:

“The first condition [for baptism making someone a member of the Church] is that the social bond of the unity of Faith not be broken by formal heresy or even by merely material heresy.”[32]

As implied by Canon 1325, one professes the faith through a certain “manner of acting.” This can include frequenting the sacraments and the Mass, and worshiping God in an orthodox, traditional manner. Of the latter, Pius XII taught:

“The worship [the Church] offers to God, all good and great, is a continuous profession of Catholic faith and a continuous exercise of hope and charity […] In the sacred liturgy we profess the Catholic faith explicitly and openly […] The entire liturgy, therefore, has the Catholic faith for its content, inasmuch as it bears public witness to the faith of the Church.”[33] (emphasis added)

Likewise, acts and omissions can constitute the denial of the faith when they are clearly incompatible with professing the faith. This has nothing to do with the moral value of an act, per se – but rather, we could say, it refers to the “meaning” of certain acts or states which are incompatible with the unity of the Church. This refers to all public acts and omissions, and not just acts of teaching or governing.

The canonist Dom Charles Augustine explains further:

“[O]ne’s conduct, or ratio agendi, may imply a denial of the faith. To this class belong certain acts which are indifferent in themselves, but become wrong by the end for which they are performed, or by their object or accompanying circumstances. 

“Thus eating meat is in itself an indifferent act, but may become sinful through either or all of three concomitant adjuncts. Thus to eat or prepare meat in odium fidei, in contempt of religion, is a grievous sin because the end is sacrilegious, and may amount to a denial of the faith, if the meat is taken as a signum protestativum of apostasy. If the act is performed merely for economy’s sake, without any religious motive, no denial is involved.”[34]

The avoidance of such acts and omissions can in itself be a part of the profession of faith.

We can see this in stark terms when we recall how “The Lapsed” were treated in the bloody Decian persecution of the third century. The historian Darras writes:

“There were several degrees of apostasy: these timid Christians were classed in three different categories, which were termed the thurificati, sacrificati, libellatici. The thurificati had only offered incense to the idols. The sacrificati had sacrificed to the false gods, or eaten immolated viands.

“The libellatici had gone to the magistrates, declaring that, as Christians, they were not permitted to offer sacrifice, but they offered money in order to procure an exemption from this ceremony. Through avarice or humanity, the proconsuls and governors gave them then a billet (libellum), purporting that they had renounced Jesus Christ, and sacrificed to the gods of the empire, even through they had done no such thing. These billets were read publicly, and their bearers were left in peace.

“All who belonged to these three categories were, without distinction, named lapsi (fallen), and for each of them canonical penances were appointed.”[35] (Line breaks added)

Despite extreme pressure, and despite not actually offering incense, the public libellatici’s actions were nonetheless treated as visible departures from the profession of faith.

But having established what is meant by the profession of faith, and recalling that the Church is, by definition, united in this profession, let’s take a pause and continue this discussion in the next part.

In that next part, we will consider the reason stated by Our Lord for bestowing the note of unity on his Church, especially in relation to her visibility and credibility, and we will see why unity is so fundamental to her very existence itself.

Some further reading:

E. Sylvester Berry, The Church of Christ

Charles Augustine, A Commentary On The New Code Of Canon Law, Volume 6

Henry Turberville, The Douay Catechism or An Abridgement of the Christian Doctrine

Tradivox Catechism Review
Part I: How can we find the teaching of the universal ordinary magisterium?
Part II: What do the catechisms tell us about heretics and the Church?
Part III: How is the Church “visibly united in faith,” according to Cardinal Billot?
Part IV: Why is it essential that the Church is visibly united in faith?
Part V: What sort of heresy results in being outside the Church?
Part VI: What is the difference between an excommunicate and an open heretic?

Obj. I: Are we obliged to believe every person who calls himself a Catholic?
Obj. II: Should mistaken Catholics be called “material heretics”?
Obj. III: What is the state of a Catholic who submits to a false magisterium?


The contrast between this ecclesiology and the apparent facts of our day can be very troubling for some. For more on this topic of the Church’s unity – along with a solution to the problems posed by what appears to be a breakdown of this unity (found primarily in Part III of the series, and the essay on Archbishop Lefebvre) see below:

The Visible Unity of the Church

Part I – The visible unity of the Church in her profession of faith, and problems faced today.
Part II – Further authorities establishing beyond any doubt the meaning of this teaching.
Part III – Hypothesis reconciling the teaching of the Church with apparently contradictory facts of the crisis.

A Note for Confused Catholics – Apologetics and Dogmatic Theology
Archbishop Lefebvre and the Conciliar Church – Visibility, the Four Marks and Membership
Notes on the Nature of Heresy – in light of the unity of the Church

En français
l’Unité visible – I: Pour les catholiques, que signifie croire « en l’Église, Une, Sainte, Catholique et Apostolique » ?


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[1] Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, 1943, available at 22

[2] In 1953, Pope Pius XII said of him in an allocution to the Gregorian University: “Let us gladly recall our teachers such as Louis Billot, to name one, who, with spiritual distinction and intellectual acumen, incited us to venerate the sacred studies and love the dignity of the priesthood.” Quoted in Fr Dominique Bourmaud, An Anti-Liberal Theologian, The Angelus May 2016, available at

[3] Cardinal Merry del Val called him “the honour of the Church and of France.” Quoted ina letter to Mgr Sevin, Archbishop of Lyon in 1913. Quoted in Henri le Floch, Le Cardinal Billot – Lumière de la Théologie, 1946, p 45. Excerpt translated by The WM Review

[4] Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre called “an eminent and extraordinary professor” and said that “[h]is books of theology are magnificent.” The Little Story of My Long Life, Sisters of the Society of Saint Pius X, Browerville, MN, 2002, p 30

[5] Le Floch 10

[6] Louis Cardinal Billot, Tractatus de Ecclesia Christi, Tomus Prior, Prati ex Officina Libraria Giachetti, Filii et soc, 1909, p 146. Translated with DeepL from the French translation by l L’Abbé Jean-Michel Gleize SSPX, published as L’Église I – Sa divine institution et ses notes, Courrier de Rome, Versailles, 2009, n. 208.

[7] Henry Turberville, The Douay Catechism or An Abridgement of the Christian Doctrine, published 1649. In Tradivox II, Sophia Institute Press, 2021, Q3 p 132

[8] Billot 146, Gleize n. 208

[9] St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Benziger Bros, 1947. III q8 a 4.

[10] Billot 148, Gleize n. 212

[11] E. Sylvester Berry, The Church of Christ, B. Herder Book Co. London 1927. p 94.

[12] Billot 148, Gleize n. 212

[13] Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Satis Cognitum, 1896, n. 3-6, available at

[14] “For they are of the opinion that the unity of faith and government, which is a note of the one true Church of Christ, has hardly up to the present time existed, and does not to-day exist.” Pius XI, Mortalium Animos, 1928,  n. 6:

[15] “The eternal shepherd and guardian of our souls, in order to render permanent the saving work of redemption, determined to build a church in which, as in the house of the living God, all the faithful should be linked by the bond of one faith and charity.” Vatican I, Pastor aeternus Session 4, 1870 no. 1. Available at:

[16] Pius XII, MCC n. 14

[17] Billot 150 n. 215

[18] Billot 150, Gleize n. 215

[19] Vatican I, Dei Filius, Ch. 3, “Concerning Faith”, Dz 1792, trans. John Daly

[20] “[A]s § 3 intimates, there may be doubt as to what is declared or defined either by the universal teaching Church or by means of papal ex cathedra definitions. Therefore the theologians have laid down certain rules, which we will briefly restate. a) What has been solemnly defined, either by a general council or by the Supreme Pontiff, is certainly de fide; but not all the historical or theological assertions which accompany a papal decision (for instance, the Bull “ Ineffabilis”) are de fide. b) What is clearly and undoubtedly contained in Holy Scripture and Tradition as a matter of faith or morals, must be believed, although individual errors are not entirely excluded; c) What the universal and approved practice and discipline proposes as connected with faith and morals must also be believed (“Lex orandi, lex credendi”). d) What the Holy Fathers and the theologians hold unanimously as a matter of faith and morals, is also de fide. There may be some doubt as to the form of infallible decisions. A test for genuine ex cathedra definitions has been found in the following formulas: (1) if those who assert the contrary are declared heretics; (2) if the terms “si quis” is used with “anathema” following; (3) if it is declared that the doctrine in question must be firmly believed by all the faithful as a dogma. If after the application of these rules a solid doubt remains, the utterance is not infallibly binding, as is evident from our text.” Charles Augustine, A Commentary On The New Code Of Canon Law, Volume 6, Herder Book Co., St Louis MO, 1918, pp 325-6. Available at Internet Archive.

[21] Billot 149-50, Gleize n. 213

[22] Billot 161-2, Gleize n. 231-2

[23] Billot 149, Gleize n. 212.

[24] Gregory A. Smith, ‘Just one-third of U.S. Catholics agree with their church that Eucharist is body, blood of Christ’, in Pew Research Center News, August 5, 2019. Available at

[25] Pope St Pius X, Encyclical Pascendi Dominic Gregis, 1907, n. 18. Available at

[26] Henry Turberville, The Douay Catechism or An Abridgement of the Christian Doctrine, published 1649. In Tradivox II, Sophia Institute Press, 2021, Q3 p 111.

[27] The 1917 or Pio-Benedictine Code of Canon Law, in English Translation with Extensive Scholarly Apparatus, trans. Dr Edward Peters, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2001

[28] ST II-II Q3 A2. 

[29] St Robert Bellarmine, whilst acknowledging that the myth of St Marcellinus sacrificing to idols may never have happened, wrote: “I believe, however, that he did not ipso facto lose the pontificate, because it is sufficiently certain to all that he sacrificed to idols only out of fear. You can add to this what St. Augustine in his book on baptism in chapter 16 against Petilian says, namely, that Marcellinus was innocent, and none of the ancient historians mention this moral fault.” in St Robert Bellarmine, Controversies of the Christian Religion, trans. Fr Kenneth Baker SJ, Keep the Faith Press, USA, 2016, p 979

[30] St Robert Bellarmine 983.

[31] Billot 298, trans. Fr Larrabee

[32] Billot 291, trans Fr Larrabee.

[33] Pius XII, Encyclical Mediator Dei, 1947, n. 47. The theologian Berry also says that the rites of the Church “in fact are, outward professions of faith.” 98.

[34] Augustine 332

[35] J.E. Darras, A General History of the Catholic Church, Vol I. P.J. Kennedy, New York, 1898, p 241

One thought on “How is the Church “visibly united in faith,” according to this twentieth-century master of ecclesiology?

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