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Who is Catholic in the Catholic Church?

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
In rooms next to the Church of Piety in Salvador, Capuchin monks rented space to a boutique that sells unisex objects, including bikinis.

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A sections of the building opening to the square was rented to a bikini shop in the Church of Piety in Salvador, Bahia

As one can imagine, the initiative caused a scandal among the church-goers. Friar Benjamin Capelli explained that the rent from the shop would guarantee more income for the assistance works of the parish.

Perhaps sensing the inconsistency of this rationale – since the immorality of the means is not justified by the licitness of the end, Friar Bruno Rossi added another argument: “I only regret that some of our brothers, certainly firm and well-grounded in the faith, are so easily scandalized and nurture such childish prejudices. It is interesting and symptomatic that austere traditional brothers like the Capuchins have not perceived the inconvenience of the business. Is it finally time to overturn some false preconceptions?”

These facts were taken from a news report in the Jornal do Brasil of December 5, 1974, exactly one month ago.

To my knowledge, the information is correct. I would be very happy if someone would write to tell me the report was not true. I assure my readers I will let them know should the fact be wrong. I doubt, however, that this will happen. And thus I go forward with my commentary.

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Dominicans nuns in France walk amid semi-nude beach-goers

Some months ago when I published a notice about a convent of religious in Spain who were making bikinis, this caused an understandable shock to readers. And, even though no one dared to deny such an extraordinary report, there were still some who expressed doubts: such a scandal simply could not happen.

Now an analogous case erupts in Salvador – for there is not that much difference between making bikinis and selling them.

However, in the Spanish case – unlike that in Salvador – the majority of people drew the correct conclusions.

One of these is obvious. From its founding to our days, the Church considered nudism with horror. Now, the bikini is one of the most aggressive manifestations of nudism. Yet today we have church establishments making and selling bikinis. From this one must deduce one of the following:
  1. Either Catholic Morals has completely changed, and then the Church is not infallible or divine, or

  2. These Church entities, by affirming the legitimacy of the bikini – either implicitly or ostensively, have adulterated the teaching of the Church and, in doing so, have excluded themselves from the Church.
Now, since the first hypothesis is completely unacceptable, the second imposes itself.

We should not fear facing the truth straightforwardly. This topic – of nudism – raises a question that goes far beyond the case of the two “bikini-ist” convents.

It is absolutely impossible for the use of the bikini and other forms of sexual aggressive clothing to become so common unless there were spiritual directors granting absolution to persons who, given their way of dressing, should not receive it. To those directors, the question must also be asked: If you believe that Church Morals have changed, how can you call yourselves Catholics? And if your permit your penitents to wear the bikini, with what right do you present yourselves as Catholic priests?

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The question extends to many other topics...

Obviously, the question extends itself further. Regarding the persons of the feminine sex who participate in this nudism, many of them learned in Catechism classes that Catholic Morals do not change. If, however, they think that they changed, how can they admit the infallibility and divinity of the Church?

And if they think that they did not change, how can they call themselves Catholics?

But, someone will object, to wear the bikini is a sin against the 6th or 9th Commandment, depending on the case. A person does not sin against the Faith by violating one of these Commandments. Therefore, your argument is baseless.

Obviously, I do not claim that whoever makes or sells bikinis – or wears them – sins against the Faith. But whoever affirms – implicitly or explicitly – that the Morals of the Church have changed, such person sins against the Faith.

From this comes a question that can be asked not only on this matter, but also regarding how one responds to Communism and diverse other topics: Who is still a Roman apostolic Catholic in this immense magma of 600 million people – Cardinals, Bishops, priests, religious and laity – habitually considered members of the one indestructible Church of God?


Let us look, for example, at the following phrase: “Cursed be he who has more fear of danger than of evil!” (1)

Is it not true that this phrase gives shows keen insight?

What this phrase says is this: When a man faces a danger and he flees from it, he does wrong, he is cursed. When a man’s moral sense is so blunted that he fears danger more than sin, he is cursed.

For example, a man goes to fight in a just war. I know men who go to war only to look well before their family and friends. So, instead of going to war to fight for a just cause, a man goes to please the public opinion around him. Then, once he is at war, he realizes the real danger of losing his life or of becoming handicapped for the rest of his days. Fearing these dangers, he arranges a way to flee his duties and desert the battlefield.

That man, who feared the danger more than he loved his honor, will forever be considered a coward. This is a social curse. He feared danger more than he feared the evil caused by the enemy and more than the evil of dishonor.

Another example: A man is sightseeing with his wife and children. As the family enters an isolated area, some bandits appear and threaten them. The father flees to save his own skin, leaving his wife and children unprotected. This man feared that danger more that than he loved his family. Anyone who hears about his flight justly despises him. He incurred a social curse.

When the bandits appeared, he should have thought: “No matter what will happen, I cannot leave my wife and children unprotected. Therefore, I have to attack these bandits, whom I fear, before it is too late.” Even if he does not succeed, he will be regarded as a man who accomplished his duty. He will be respected.

This saying is of Machiavelli is so concise, so elevated, so true and formulated with such grandeur that it could be in Scriptures.

These are the insights that even completely corrupted persons can sometimes have. I am reading a book of quotes of famous authors, and it is surprising to find that one can find some lines made by the worse and even anti-Catholic authors that are as inspired as those of good Catholics. Thus, we can see that even the former are still touched by moments of grace and appelas of their conscience. Or perhaps the grace works as remorse in the depths of those souls. They resist the grace, but, from time to time, some truth like this appears.

Another of Machiavelli’s phrases is the following: “No one risks his whole fortune without risking all his forces.” (2)

In other words, the true fortune of the man is that for which he gives all his reserves and forces. When he does not risk everything for something, that thing is not his true treasure; it is not his true love. This follows a line in the Gospel, “Where your treasure is, there is your heart.” That is to say, you give everything you can for the thing that you love as your treasure.

It is very interesting for us to apply this phrase to ourselves and measure our own souls, to see if we are giving everything for the Cause of Our Lady, to see how much effort we are making for Her Cause. Afterwards, we should consider how much effort we make for other objectives. Finally, we can compare how much we give for them and how much we give for the Cause of Our Lady.

We should consider as well the partitions that at times we set up in our heart. How much care we take for the little things of the moment… For example, to appear well dressed and coiffeured, how much care we take in studying how prominent persons look in order to imitate them and appear well-placed also. How much care for these things! However, for the Cause of Our Lady, what effort do we expend?

In fact, a whole book could be written describing these vain efforts.

Another example is health. How many sacrifices persons are willing to make for their health? They submit themselves to poundings, tortures and diets. They undergo this not just for health, but also for beauty. There are rich ladies who, situated in such wealth and such bounty, nonetheless eat no more than what a starving beggar does. And this is only so that they do not become less beautiful… Do they not make this a kind of religion? They could call themselves religious sisters of the Diet. But if the Church imposes a fast on them, how would they react? Once again, where they expend their great efforts, there also lie their hearts.

Thus, whenever we turn our efforts in a certain direction, we should always ask ourselves, “Am I doing this for Our Lady?” And we will discover enormous cracks and fissures in our souls.

Here, then, is a suggestion for an examination of conscience for each one of us.

  1. Footnote 1
  2. Footnote 2
  3. Footnote 3
  4. Footnote 4
Published in Folha de Sao Paulo, January 5, 1975
Posted October 8, 2013

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