Friday, April 15, 2011

Questions from a reader

The following is an excerpt from an email I received today.

I’ve been hearing people say all the following:

1. That calling heretics and schismatics “Christians,” and “Christian Societies” and “Christian denominations” and “Children” or “wayward Sons” (of the church or the pope) and “Brothers” or “Brethren” and that God is “their Father,” were not at all heresies until after Vatican I, and that it was ok to use these terms before the council, is this true? Or were they heresies even before Vatican I (I’ve heard of priests and laymembers who talked that way even before Vatican I)? If they were not at all heresies, can you please show me as many quotes and sources to prove this? If they were all heresies (or are just some of them heresies?) please send me as many quotes and sources as you can find that can prove this. It sounds wrong for some reason. To me it all sounds heretical but since I am not sure, I’m asking you. What answers should I give these people since they are saying that all these words are ok to use to describe heretics and schismatics, those outside the Catholic Church and enemies of the name Christian (that is what Trent called them)?

2. Can heretics and schismatics glory in the name of Christian? I’ve heard some people say that also, that heretics and schismatics glory in the name of “Christian.” I try to tell them that they (heretics and schismatics) are not Christian so they can’t glory in or bear the name of Christian, since they are not Christians. People have said that John XXIII said it so it is ok.

3. Also what are we to do if a person writes traditional like a Catholic and then writes a heresy (or something that can be interpreted as heresy) and then writes traditional again (in the same writings) where it seems that the person corrected themselves? Is the person a heretic or do we ignore what sounded like a heresy simply because the person corrected themselves in other writings (at a later date) or sometimes in the same writing? Wasn’t this method used by heretics before and has it not been condemned? Do we condemn the writing as heretical anyway and without condemning the person who wrote it as a heretic? I’ve seen plenty of people do this for Pius XII and Leo XIII and Benedict XV in that they admit they spoke heresy but still confess these men to be their popes simply because these men then “corrected” themselves at a later date or within the same writings. As for this language that talks traditional, then ambiguose or heretical and then traditional, I know there have been plenty of priests and bishops who have done this as well. I think even Adolphe Tanquerey, did this also. I also have had people ask me what to do in such a situation. Do you call the person a heretic? In the case of a man who claims to be the pope (such as Pius XII and others) would such a man be a heretic? Or would only that part of the letter be heretical and not the man?

4. When was the first time that the church taught that those who die in the sole state of original sin go to hellfire? I thought The Council of Carthage (17th) taught this quite explicitly with the reference to Matt. 25:41 (or do I have the wrong translation?), when saying, “For he who lacks the right part will without doubt run into the left.” Are not those on the left the Goats (which include those who were not baptized) from Matt. 25:32 and will they not depart into everlasting fire as taught in Matt. 25:41? 

It seems that Carthage first taught that those who die in original sin alone go to hell fire and then the Council of Basel-Florence only repeated what the Council of Carthage said when the Council of Basel-Florence said “Those not living within the Catholic Church…will depart into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels [Matt. 25:41].” Is there more proof from any other council or infallible pronouncement or definition that proves that those who die in the sole state of original sin go to hell fire? Is there any other definition that says that everyone in hell is in hellfire or the burning lake of fire? It seems to me by all means that the Council of Carthage (17th) and the Council of Florence along with those bible verses and the other saints proves that all those who die outside of the Church go to hell fire.

5. Didn’t the Council of Carthage also teach that “without baptism” a person “cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven” and “unless a man be born again of water and the holy Ghost, he shall not enter into the kingdom of God [John 3:5]?” Was this dogmatic? Did any popes agree with this councils definition and if so then what definitions?

Dear reader, thank you for the questions. They are indeed excellent questions, and should be answered publicly, since there is no doubt there are others wondering about these very same things. May God grant me the grace to answer rightly.

Please read also:
Can Corrupters of Faith Worship the true God?

Something needs to be clearly stated so as to eliminate any possible confusion in the practical application of the explanations that follow:

If ANY man calls heretics or schismatics Christians, with the MEANING and INTENTION to imply, directly or indirectly, that heretics or schismatics either worship the true God, or that they remain children of God, or that they have even the remotest chance of salvation in the state they are in, then he is heretical, pure and simple; he does not profess the universally held doctrine of the Church that ALL heretics and schismatics are outside the Church and are INCAPABLE of attaining heaven and will go into the eternal fires of Hell unless they are joined to the Church before the end of their lives.

If the man who is teaching such things is a priest, he is a notorious, public and manifest heretic and sins every singe time he effects the Eucharist, and he is not eve able to absolve sins in the confessional.  It IS mortal sin, the mortal sin of SCHISM to partake of the sacraments with such a man, and no pretended ignorance will be of any avail to exonerate you.  If you are found guilty of this before the judgment seat of Christ, then you will share the fate the Church has long warned of for this terrible sin.

Again, if your priest publicly claims that there is ANY CHANCE ABOVE ZERO for heretics or schismatics to be saved as heretics or schismatics (without converting to the Catholic religion) then he is a heretic and religious communion with him must be avoided, under pain of 1) immediate separation from Christ and 2) eternal damnation after death.

Furthermore, if his meaning and intention is unclear, THEN YOU MUST DETERMINE BY INQUIRY WHAT HE MEANS AND HAVE HIM PUBLICLY PROFESS IT.  Is your priest there to hide things from you or to instruct you in religion?  If he will not do the latter, then heed Christ:

St. John 3:20: "For every one that doth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, that his works may not be reproved."

And Pope Alexander VII:

Pope Alexander VII, Decrees of Sept. 24, 1665: "Although it is evidently established by you that Peter is a heretic, you are not bound to denounce [him], if you cannot prove it." - CONDEMNED

(Also take note of the quotation presented further below by Pope Pius VI)

1. Can heretics call themselves (or bear the name of) Christians?

In the first session of the Council of Trent, one of the stated goals of the Council was "the depression and extinction of the enemies of the Christian name". By this, of course, were meant the heretics who had raised themselves up against the teachings of the Church (which are the teachings of God). These heretics also called themselves Christians. They often even called themselves Catholics!

But men can bear something that they have stolen, that is, they can deceitfully show forth something as their own, which is truly not theirs at all.  A robber can bear the expensive cloak he took from his victim, a spy can bear the identification (i.e. the name) of a high official from the enemy country, and heretics and schismatics can bear the name Christian.  But all do so fraudulently and under false pretenses.  In all cases above, they can bear what they have stolen (i.e. they have the power, though they lie by doing so), but they MAY NOT bear what they have stolen (i.e. it is not permitted to them, either by the Natural Law in the first case, the law of the land in the second case and Divine and Ecclesiastical Law in the third case).

But using the name of Christian to describe a person can have a number of connotations, depending on the MEANING and INTENTION ascribed to it. It can mean unbaptized individuals who have natural faith, having been led by the grace of the Holy Ghost to believe that Jesus is the Christ of God, AND who also gather with the true disciples and apostles of Jesus. In other words, in this sense a catechumen, who meets the two aforementioned conditions, can be called a Christian.

In fact we find this usage of the term in the early Church:

First Council of Constantinople (AD 381): "But Eunomians, who are baptised in a single immersion, Montanists (called Phrygians here), Sabellians, who teach the identity of Father and Son and make certain other difficulties, and all other sects — since there are many here, not least those who originate in the country of the Galatians — we receive all who wish to leave them and embrace orthodoxy as we do Greeks. On the first day we make Christians of them, on the second catechumens, on the third we exorcise them by breathing three times into their faces and their ears, and thus we catechise them and make them spend time in the church and listen to the scriptures; and then we baptise them."

Note that the Council Fathers refer to people who were part of sects that professed heresy, and say that they (once they convert) are to be made Christians.  They are made Christians even before catechesis.  It follows, then, that Christian means "follower of Jesus Christ and His true apostles", by the fact that they are seeking out the Catholic Church, and her lawful clergy, for their instruction on Jesus Christ, the God-man.  But no heretics are Christians.

But when a man has already been baptized, even if he does not hold the true Faith, his soul nevertheless is imprinted with the indelible character that distinguishes him as a Christian. The question this brings up is as follows:

If he has the character of a Christian, then why do we not call Him a Christian?

We do not call an imposter who has stolen the throne a king, and neither do we call a heretic, who has stolen something that is proper to the Church (Baptism and the character) a Christian. But those who have been baptized in infancy are made Catholic by the very fact of a valid baptism. They are infused with the habit of faith, but since they are yet incapable of making acts of the will, this habit is passive, and cannot be tainted by their false belief system or adherence to a sect, since, being as yet incapable of reason, they cannot have any beliefs; being incapable of reasoned acts of free will, they cannot voluntarily yield or deny submission to a superior, and thus cannot be said to adhere to a sect.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa, III, Q.68, art. 9, Reply to Obj. 3: "Just as a child, when he is being baptized, believes not by himself but by others, so is he examined not by himself but through others, and these in answer confess the Church's faith in the child's stead, who is aggregated to this faith by the sacrament of faith. And the child acquires a good conscience in himself, not indeed as to the act, but as to the habit, by sanctifying grace."

Despite that they are made Catholic in Baptism, the Church nevertheless rightly forbids all children of heretics from being baptized save in the danger of death alone. The reason for this is because the indelible character of Baptism eternally binds a man to the observance of the law of God.

Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session 7, Canon 7, ex cathedra: "If any one saith, that the baptized are, by baptism itself, made debtors but to faith alone, and not to the observance of the whole law of Christ; let him be anathema."

A child who grows up and dies in heresy is not only separated from God's truth, and condemned on this account, but suffers even still greater torments in hell, for the responsibility in which he always failed, that is, his responsibility to obey the Church.  But there is no certainty that he will necessarily remain in heresy, and so no certainty that he will be damned (unless he does remain in heresy).

HOWEVER, a non-baptized child who dies as such WILL be condemned, since Baptism is the ONLY way to prevent it.  Thus it is lawful to baptizing such a child in danger of death only, in order to avoid avoid absolutely certain damnation.  (It is recommended to read about Edgardo Mortara on this point, to learn how the Church would treat such a case, if the child happened to survive the danger.)

However, once the child is capable of making an act of the will, he must do just that to retain what he has been given. He must make an act of the will towards God, or he has not preserved his habit of faith, and moreover his parents, by their evil example, will have ingrained in him the habits of heresy and immorality, which will effectively disable making such an act.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, Q. 5, Art. 4: "...[C]onsider faith from the point of view of its participation by the subject, this happens in two ways, since the act of faith proceeds both from the intellect and from the will..."

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa TheologicaII-II, Q. 10, Art. 12: "For children baptized before coming to the use of reason, afterwards when they come to perfect age, might easily be persuaded by their parents to renounce what they had unknowingly embraced; and this would be detrimental to the faith."

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I-II, Q. 103, Art. 4: "All ceremonies are professions of faith, in which the interior worship of God consists. Now man can make profession of his inward faith, by deeds as well as by words: and in either profession, if he make a false declaration, he sins mortally."

Or, if he makes no profession whatsoever, he is not Catholic, as he does not hold the Catholic Faith, whole and undefiled.

Now getting back to the question of whether a heretic (with the use of reason and free will) can rightly call himself a Christian: No he certainly cannot! He does have the indelible character, he believes, by natural reason, in a being that bears a resemblance to Jesus Christ and to the true God of the Catholic Church, but by his errors and heresies, and the sect he belongs to he has believed a lie, and partaken at the table of devils.

Since there is no falsehood in God, it follows that by believing in lies about God, one cannot be said to believe in God at all, but in something other than God. Therefore, heretics do not believe in Jesus Christ, but they believe in a "jesus christ" of their own invention, or one foisted upon them by evil parents, evil government or evil spirits.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, Q. 10, Art. 3: "Every sin consists formally in aversion from God, as stated above (I-II, 71, 6; I-II, 73, 3). Hence the more a sin severs man from God, the graver it is. Now man is more than ever separated from God by unbelief, because he has not even true knowledge of God: and by false knowledge of God, man does not approach Him, but is severed from Him. Nor is it possible for one who has a false opinion of God, to know Him in any way at all, because the object of his opinion is not God." 

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise 1: "The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother."

All the Baptized Become Catholics

Visible communion in the Church consists of external acts and profession.  The internal forum cannot bind a Catholic to avoid a man who believes heresy, since the former is incapable of reading the latter's heart, at least not without an external manifestation of the things thereof (St. Matthew 15:18, etc.).

As such, every Baptism in water, in the form of the Church, performed with the intention to do what the Church does is both valid and Catholic; even if performed by a heretical minister upon a man who believes heresy, it makes him a Catholic.

If the man thus baptized (say, in a Lutheran "church") remained for the rest of the ceremony, his membership in the Church Catholic would thereby be obliterated by heresy and schism (i.e. by his external and public acts of false worship and public manifestations of heretical belief). However, if he was miraculously graced by God with the proper dispositions (according to Trent), and if God singularly favoured him with a great grace to see that his sect was not the Church, and he ran screaming from the abominable place immediately upon being signed with the character, and sought out the true Catholic Church and her pastors, then he would be Catholic.

This is analogous to how each individual soul is created perfect and holy by God, and yet instantly contracts the taint of original sin upon its infusion into the body (which happens at the very moment of the souls creation).  The "schismatichumen", for lack of a better word, though made a (dead, through want of the necessary dispositions for justification) member of the true Catholic Church by his true Catholic baptism, is immediately infused into a body tainted with heresy and schism.

This is the only position that makes sense and is consistent with Catholic doctrine concerning ignorance and with dogmatic definitions.  Otherwise, we have multiple dogmatic definitions  (including those that follow) contradicting each other, but we know this is impossible.

Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Session 8, ex cathedra: "Holy Baptism holds the first place among all the sacraments, for it is the gate of the spiritual life; through it we become members of Christ and of the body of the Church."

Pope Julius III, Council of Trent, Session 14, Chapter 2, ex cathedra: "...the Church exercises judgment on no one who has not entered therein through the gate of baptism."

Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session 7, Canon 7, 8, ex cathedra: "If any one saith, that the baptized are, by baptism itself, made debtors but to faith alone, and not to the observance of the whole law of Christ; let him be anathema.

"If any one saith, that the baptized are freed from all the precepts, whether written or transmitted, of holy Church, in such wise that they are not bound to observe them, unless they have chosen of their own accord to submit themselves thereunto; let him be anathema"

Evidently the Church exercises judgment on all who have entered the Her through baptism, and does so by imposing upon them the observance of the whole law of Christ, the precepts of which they are not freed.  This is easily seen in the practice of the popes, who have frequently commanded heretics and schismatics in papal Bulls.

Now this does not make heretics and schismatics members of the Church, but fallen away members,  formerly members, who have been separated from her ipso facto of their external, public and false profession of heresy and adherence to a sect.

Conclusion: Therefore, anyone baptized who has fallen away from the Church, though he was once truly Christian (even if only in infancy, or if only momentarily at His baptism) he is no longer so.  Such people may rightly be called "fallen away Christians" or "wayward sons", not that they are in fact currently Christians or sons, but noting what they had once been, by the grace of God, and currently are no longer, by their own sins against faith and rejection of grace.  The same would apply to nations which once were subject to the Church.  Various sects also can trace their history back to a point where they were Catholic, and as such, the men in these sects themselves may also be generally termed as "wayward sons".  No man, nation or institution that calls itself Christian is truthful if it professes heresy or is separated from the unity of Faith as transmitted by Christ and the Apostles and safeguarded by the legitimate successors of St. Peter.

Lastly, schism is not a denial of a doctrine of faith (not a sin against faith), but the unjust refusal to recognize the Catholicity of legitimate Catholics or the authority of legitimate Catholic clergy (particularly the pope) and is a sin against charity and obedience.  Recognizing, however, that there are some who claim legitimacy and rejecting them on account of their manifest external and public defects, is not schism, but a Catholic's duty.

2. Can heretics "glory in the name of Christians"?

Heretics are deceived.  They believe themselves to be Christians and they glorify themselves in this belief.  To "glory in the name of Christians" is an act of the will.  It simply means that you consider yourself a Christian and you consider it a name worthy of glory, even if you do not live up to the glory of the name.  The medieval Church shows that this is a correct understanding to the expression:

Pope Alexander III, Third Lateran Council: "Cruel avarice has so seized the hearts of some that though they glory in the name of Christians they provide the Saracens with arms and wood for helmets, and become their equals or even their superiors in wickedness and supply them with arms and necessaries to attack Christians..."

Note, however, that Pope Alexander III, in the Third Lateran Council was not talking to or about heretics when he said “though they glory in the name of Christian.”  He was talking about wicked Christians and not heretics.  The only Christian is one who obeys the Catholic Church, for there is no Christianity outside of this one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.

However, the context of the expression also helps to uncover the intention behind its utterance.  In the above case, we clearly see that those men are said to "glory", but that they do so hypocritically.  Some rightly glory in the name of Christian (saints, for example) and some wrongly and fraudulently (heretics and those obstinate in any mortal sin).  In any case where the term is used to imply that some glory rightly in the name of Christians, who are evidently not in the Church, then it is a fraud of heretics.

3. Proper Response to Problematic Writing

When a person treats of theological matters in writing, he must be as precise and clear as his subject will allow.  The higher the authority of the writer, the greater will be the impact of his writings on the faithful.  As such, he is held to a more rigorous standard in the eyes of God, and of course, the eyes of the whole Church.

There have been saints who have taught things that were incorrect (though not yet condemned as herteical), and there are also saints, such as the great Alphonsus Liguori, who have heretical teachings attributed to them, which were heretical during the lifetime of the saint.

On this matter, it should be understood by all readers that heresy was always false, but not necessarily always heresy, and that a man, through faulty reasoning, can come to an incorrect conclusion on certain dogmatic matters, without committing the sin of heresy, that is, without the will to oppose the Church.

As such, if a man recognized by the Church as a saint is found to have taught something that was then heretical (or has such a teaching attributed to him), then (since a canonization is a disciplinary law binding on all the Church) we must presume that the forum of the canonization has found the saint free from such teachings, or at least free from the guilt of any formal heresy.

However, when someone who claims spiritual authority has taught something heretical, is no longer alive to admonish, and has not been publicly and formally absolved or declared free from subjective guilt by a legitimate authority (like a saint is in canonization), then we must prudently mark that person as a heretic.  If he claims to be the pope, it makes no difference.  We do not have to read his heart, all we have to do is heed the admonishments of the Church and of Scripture:

Galatians 1:8: "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema."

It says nothing of rebuking, admonishing, reading his heart, etc.  It simply says if "we" (an apostle or one who claims to be such) or an angel (or one who claims to be such) teach anything different from the Gospel, that is, different from the revelations of God to His Church, let him be anathema.  See then, the greater responsibility of the clergy (especially the highest clergy, the pope), that St. Paul does not grant them the "benefit of the doubt"!

Pope Pius VIAuctorem Fidei (condemning the errors of the Synod of Pistoia), 1794: "[The Ancient Doctors] knew the capacity of innovators in the art of deception. In order not to shock the ears of Catholics, they sought to hide the subtleties of their tortuous maneuvers by the use of seemingly innocuous words such as would allow them to insinuate error into souls in the most gentle manner. Once the truth had been compromised, they could, by means of slight changes or additions in phraseology, distort the confession of the faith which is necessary for our salvation, and lead the faithful by subtle errors to their eternal damnation. This manner of dissimulating and lying is vicious, regardless of the circumstances under which it is used. For very good reasons it can never be tolerated in a synod of which the principal glory consists above all in teaching the truth with clarity and excluding all danger of error.

"Morever, if all this is sinful, it cannot be excused in the way that one sees it being done, under the erroneous pretext that the seemingly shocking affirmations in one place are further developed along orthodox lines in other places, and even in yet other places corrected; as if allowing for the possibility of either affirming or denying the statement, or of leaving it up the personal inclinations of the individual – such has always been the fraudulent and daring method used by innovators to establish error. It allows for both the possibility of promoting error and of excusing it.

"It is as if the innovators pretended that they always intended to present the alternative passages, especially to those of simple faith who eventually come to know only some part of the conclusions of such discussions which are published in the common language for everyone's use. Or again, as if the same faithful had the ability on examining such documents to judge such matters for themselves without getting confused and avoiding all risk of error. It is a most reprehensible technique for the insinuation of doctrinal errors and one condemned long ago by Our predecessor Saint Celestine who found it used in the writings of Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople, and which he exposed in order to condemn it with the greatest possible severity. Once these texts were examined carefully, the impostor was exposed and confounded, for he expressed himself in a plethora of words, mixing true things with others that were obscure; mixing at times one with the other in such a way that he was also able to confess those things which were denied while at the same time possessing a basis for denying those very sentences which he confessed.

"In order to expose such snares, something which becomes necessary with a certain frequency in every century, no other method is required than the following: Whenever it becomes necessary to expose statements which disguise some suspected error or danger under the veil of ambiguity, one must denounce the perverse meaning under which the error opposed to Catholic truth is camouflaged."

4./5. Council of Carthage, Limbo, Baptism

Lastly, the Council of Carthage professed the truths that even infants are condemned to the hell of the damned to be eternally tormented by fire if they depart this life without Baptism, and that there is no salvation without Baptism. But this Council came to be known as the "Code of Canons of the African Church", not the Universal Church. Even Pope St. Zosimus' approval of it did not meet the criteria set forth by the Vatican Council to be infallible (that it had to be binding on all Christians, not just a subset thereof).  Later definitions, however, profess the same doctrine and also meet the criteria for infallible definitions of faith.

To learn more about Baptism and Limbo, please read also:
Baptism of Desire and Trent's Decree Concerning Original Sin
Limbo of Infants Without Fire is Heretical

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