Image Hosted by

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Catholic Church and Heresy

I actually had no desire to write this post. However, the subject came up, and I said I would – thus I must. It will be lengthy.

I grew up catholic, a parishioner at The Church of the Blessed Sacrament. I voluntarily left the Church at the age of 21, after my salvation through the grace of God. I left not because I thought the Catholic Church was evil or some nonsense, but simply because the truth that had set me free was never truly visible in my time in the Church. My view was, and remains, that so many things have been added to the good news of the kingdom of God that the good news is largely obscured.

On the other hand, I cringe when I see fundamentalist types call the Catholic Church the anti-Christ. I also can’t go along with Dr. Albert Mohler when he calls it a ‘false church’. It is impossible to separate my emotions from my logic on the subject, so I don’t’ bother trying.

However, what I can do is use the history of the church, scripture and tradition to describe the relationship between the church and heresy, and answer – is the Catholic Church heretical? I will address these areas:

1) Jesus Christ and the Trinity
2) Mary and the Saints
3) The Sacraments
4) Scripture and Tradition
5) Redemption

I will be as brief as possible for each one – some will only be a couple of sentences. Keep in mind the theological triage from two posts ago – heresy is only found in the first order issues.

1) Jesus Christ and the Trinity. (First Order)

The Catholic Church has held from its earliest days that Jesus Christ was the incarnate Son of God, fully human and fully God. While ecclesiastical synods were required to deal with the various doctrinal issues surrounding the deity and humanity of Christ, the church has remained true to its first principles. The doctrine of the Trinity, though longer in fully developing, has also been remarkable unchanged since the beginning of the church. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one, yet separately three. It is a doctrine that, once you mature, you realize you cannot comprehend. (Wouldn’t a God easily understood in every fashion be, well, not a God?) While full understanding is not required, scriptural evidence and the writings of the early fathers are available to establish the doctrine.

2) Mary and the Saints (Second Order). John over at the CPF put it thus: Catholics ask for Mary or the saints' intercession with the Lord for our prayers and needs; Catholics practice a devotion to Mary rather than a worship of Mary; we believe that she is the mother of God, and that the Lord can not refuse Mary's intercession on any prayer or request. We seek to model our lives in the mold and footsteps of the lives of the saints; the saints are excellent examples and models of living a Christian life. This modeling of a Christian lifestyle in the mold of a saint's behavior is akin to a child-aged athlete seeking to model their athletic talents after a professional sports star's athletic seek to 'learn from the best'.

The saints are not taught to be worshipped, but rather revered. Unfortunately, prayer to the saints is also taught in CCD, and it is wholly unnecessary. What keeps this difference in doctrine from being a first order issue is its scope – prayer to the saints is never invoked as a method of salvation, but is instead a method of intercession. The church, for reasons I have yet to come across in my church history class, ignores the clear statement of the First Epistle to Timothy, Chapter 2: For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. 1 Tim 2:5 (KJV)

There is no scriptural authority that states that Mary has any greater “pull” with God than any other saint, living or dead. Furthermore, there is no scriptural authority that compels us to pray to any saint who has gone before us. As the current belief holds, the saint prayed to does have to go through Christ for the prayer to be answered, and thus a level of deity is not placed upon the saints. While I would hold that this practice is in error, was not in evidence in the first two centuries of the church, and I cannot justify, it does not attack the central doctrines of Christianity, and thus is not heretical.

Oddly enough, the Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus in 431 was held due a concern that Mary was being held in too high regard by Nestorius, a leader in the church, who argued against certain language in the Statement of Faith. Nestorius was right in his concern, bur wrong in his theology. Unfortunately, his defeat may have been the beginning of the Mariology we see today.

3) The Sacraments (First, Second and Third Order)

There are seven sacraments: Baptism, Confession, Eucharist, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Matrimony, and Last Rites. Matrimony and Holy Orders should not cause any issues. Confirmation is not necessary for salvation, but is declared to bestow some spiritual gifts upon the recipient. As there is scriptural precedent for the Holy Spirit being given through a ritual, this practice is not counter to scripture. It is essentially non-scriptural, however, in that we assume far more to connect this rite to an act of the apostles.

Baptism, Confession, the Eucharist and Last Rites have scriptural precedent and present scriptural challenges. St. James exhorts us to confess our faults to one another, yet it is nowhere described as a requirement to communion or prerequisite for any action, physical or spiritual. We are told that confession and repentance are required, yet this is a confession and repentance to God, not to man. Thus, a ritual places another separation between God and man, just as ‘Mary and the saints’ do. The practice of confession and penance is not seen until established as a church doctrine by St. Ambrose in the late fourth century. While Church textbooks attempt to identify the doctrine in earlier writings by St. Cyprian (mid-third century) and Tertullian (late second century), one could only find that doctrine there if it was assumed beforehand.

The Eucharist echoes Christ’s words that “This is my body…this is my blood.” The doctrine of transubstantiation is mystical, odd, and altogether unnecessary. However, if we stay true to the scriptures we cannot say that declaring that the host becomes the body and blood of Christ is difficult to refute – thus I do not! Last Rites are an echo of St. James again: Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. James 5:14-15 (KJV) . While we may put justified emphasis upon the requirement for repentance and faith for ultimate salvation, the scripture is clear – we can pray for those who are among us for the forgiveness of their sins. I am not sure if the Catholic Church performs last rites on non-Catholics, but I doubt it. This would seem to meet scriptural precedent.

Baptism present our first identified heresy. Catholic statements about the effects of baptism (example) are exquisite examples of taking verses, and actually, only parts of verses, out of context to justify a position. There is no place where baptism is considered to be an act which results in forgiveness of sin in the Scriptures. Read those quoted verses in Acts in their entirety, and you will see. Repentance, faith, grace and the power of God can are considered as critical to salvation – but baptism is not. What baptism must be is a requirement to demonstrate one’s faith, not the act of remission of sin itself. Thus, by claiming that a physical act by one man toward another confers salvation, the Catholic Church embraces heresy. We know that by the time of Augustine that this heresy had fully taken hold in the church, but cannot determine exactly why - except to note that practices outlive ideas, and the practice of baptism continued in places and times when the doctrine was changing. This doctrine ignores the thief on the cross, who had faith, but no baptism, and was redeemed (Lk 23:40-43). Baptism is important – but has neither scriptural authority nor the authority of the doctrine of the early church (before 250 AD).

4) Scripture and Tradition (First and Second Order).

The problem with Tradition is that the term has changed meaning. In Irenaeus’ writings, (early 100’s) he uses tradition to mean the doctrines held by the church since its inception, as evidenced by the unbroken line of bishops who, being selected by the body of their respective congregations, held to those doctrines. What it has become to mean is the doctrines that have been held by the church since some random time in the past (random because the doctrines differ in their time of inception) and currently declared to be authoritative by the non-elected bishops who are in power. In the early church, tradition was evident because one could not become a bishop unless they held to the beliefs of their fathers. Now, bishops declare to us what the doctrines are. While I do not imply that the leaders of the Catholic church are willy-nilly making up doctrines, I do specify that doctrines have been added and changed in opposition to scripture and the early church fathers. Furthermore, the tradition of the fathers was never one which trumped scripture, merely one which accompanied it and explained it. It there was a conflict, scripture prevailed. That is no longer the case, as the Church leaders tell us what prevails.

Most of the church traditions do not contradict scripture or interfere with the gospel. However, placing the directive of men, no matter how holy or learned they may be, ahead of scriptures is heretical and inherently Gnostic. Thus, heresy was developed out of a manner of discourse which heretofore prevented heresy. It is not the only case.

5) Redemption. (First Order)

The Catholic Church does not claim that redemption comes from any other than Christ Jesus. Salvation is also described as an act which begins and ends with God through Christ.

Unfortunately, and most heretical, is the assertion that one only comes to that salvation through Christ by being Catholic. Despite the corruption and debauchery engaged in by the Catholic Church leaders in past years, despite the abhorrent practices such as the sale of indulgences and convening of Crusades, the Catholic Church still maintains that its leadership is infallible. All men are fallible, and all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. To claim that we must be subject to a specific group of men to be in Christ is honestly the worst heresy of all.

I encourage readers to reference New Advent. It is an exhaustive encyclopedia of things Catholic, from a Catholic perspective. They have a lot of great articles on the saints and the development of various doctrines. They also do not hold back. Consider their opinion of Protestants (non-Catholics).

An honest assessment:

The [first] objective [or formal] principle proclaims the canonical Scriptures, especially the New Testament to be the only infallible source and rule of faith and practice, and asserts the right of private interpretation of the same, in distinction from the Roman Catholic view, which declares the Bible and tradition to be co-ordinate sources and rule of faith, and makes tradition, especially the decrees of popes and councils, the only legitimate and infallible interpreter of the Bible. In its extreme form Chillingworth expressed this principle of the Reformation in the well-known formula, "The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible, is the religion of Protestants." Protestantism, however, by no means despises or rejects church authority as such, but only subordinates it to, and measures its value by, the Bible, and believes in a progressive interpretation of the Bible through the expanding and deepening consciousness of Christendom. Hence, besides having its own symbols or standards of public doctrine, it retained all the articles of the ancient creeds and a large amount of disciplinary and ritual tradition, and rejected only those doctrines and ceremonies for which no clear warrant was found in the Bible and which seemed to contradict its letter or spirit.

The subjective principle of the Reformation is justification by faith alone, or, rather, by free grace through faith operative in good works. It has reference to the personal appropriation of the Christian salvation, and aims to give all glory to Christ, by declaring that the sinner is justified before God (i.e. is acquitted of guilt, and declared righteous) solely on the ground of the all-sufficient merits of Christ as apprehended by a living faith, in opposition to the theory — then prevalent, and substantially sanctioned by the Council of Trent — which makes faith and good works co-ordinate sources of justification, laying the chief stress upon works. Protestantism does not depreciate good works; but it denies their value as sources or conditions of justification, and insists on them as the necessary fruits of faith, and evidence of justification.

Is followed by a brutal attack:

The open Bible and the open mind on its interpretation are rather a lure to entice the masses, by flattering their pride and deceiving their ignorance, than a workable principle of faith… How many Christians are made by the tons of Testaments distributed by missionaries to the heathen? What religion could even a well-schooled man extract from the Bible if he had nought but his brain and his book to guide him?... Present-day Protestantism, therefore, may be compared with Gnosticism, Manichæism, the Renaissance, eighteenth-century Philosophism, in so far as these were virulent attacks on Christianity, aiming at nothing less than its destruction. It has achieved important victories in a kind of civil war between orthodoxy and unbelief within the Protestant pale; it is no mean enemy at the gate of the Catholic Church… The ideas on which the Reformers built their system of justification, except perhaps fiduciary faith, were by no means really original. They had been conceived long before either by heretics of the earlier centuries or by isolated Catholic theologians and had been quietly scattered as the seed of future heresies. … Catholicism numbers some 270 millions of adherents, all professing the same Faith, using the same sacraments, living under the same discipline; Protestantism claims roundly 100 millions of Christians, products of the Gospel and the fancies of a hundred reformers, people constantly bewailing their "unhappy divisions" and vainly crying for a union which is only possible under that very central authority, protestation against which is their only common denominator.”

You’ll find, alongside the lives of the saints we should emulate, numerous red herring arguments against Protestantism and salvation by grace.

The Catholic church was the bastion against heresy for nearly 300 years. When it changed the authority of tradition from something that was evident in the unbroken doctrines of the bishops to something that came from the mouths of the bishops, regardless of prior doctrine, and that their doctrines would be infallible, the church became the heresy it fought for so long – replacing a reliance upon scripture as primary authority with a “knowledge” that only the priestly class could teach us.

Where are the heretics? They are among us. Pray for them.


  • I'll be honest, I did not read the whole thing but will read it later. My initial thoughts: We ALL came from the same tree.

    By Blogger Teresa, at 11/09/2005 01:57:00 PM  

  • That may be entirely true Teresa - but the question is, who is "ALL"?

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 11/09/2005 02:31:00 PM  

  • A thoughtful reader, Marty, send me an email with a comment that he would have posted if he had a blogger account. Here it is in full:

    You wrote, "The church, for reasons I have yet to come across in my
    church history class, ignores the clear statement of the First Epistle
    to Timothy, Chapter 2: For there is one God, and one mediator between
    God and men, the man Christ Jesus. 1 Tim 2:5 (KJV)"

    The Church does not ignore it, but you seem to have missed the first
    four verses of that chapter: "I exhort therefore, that, first of all,
    supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for
    all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead
    a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is
    good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all
    men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."
    1 Tim 2:1-4 (KJV)

    See also, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another,
    that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man
    availeth much." James 5:16 (KJV)

    The saints in Heaven are unquestionably righteous men so their prayer
    availeth much.

    St. Paul asked others to pray for him. For example, "Now I beseech you,
    brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the
    Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me;
    That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and
    that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the
    saints; That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may
    with you be refreshed." Romans 15:30-32 (KJV)

    "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; Withal
    praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance,
    to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I
    may make it manifest, as I ought to speak." Colossians 4:2-4 (KJV)

    "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free
    course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be
    delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith."
    2 Thes. 3:1-2 (KJV)

    If the interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:5 you use to oppose asking the
    saints in Heaven to pray for us were correct, St. Paul and St. James
    would have been wrong in all of those passages. Since they wrote under
    the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it seems more likely that your
    interpretatio of 1 Timothy 2:5 is incorrect. Your interpretation also
    would forbid all prayer requests to other Christians here on Earth today.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 11/10/2005 10:43:00 AM  

  • What Marty has shown is is the common method (myself included) of proof-texting. That is, we have a position on an issue, and look for verses to support it. What is very difficult for any of us to do is to read those verses without our presuppositions.

    Why I speak with more "authority" than some is my Catholic background. I had been taught to pray to the saints so that they could pray for us. On the other hand, I have never heard a sermon which said this was wrong. I arrived at my conclusion years ago having only heard one side of the discussion - and came to the opposite conclusion.

    Marty, in many points we agree - that the verses cited are ler guidance to seek the prayers of righteous saints in our behalf. What you deign from them, that I cannot, is some implication that we are to pray to saints in heaven to pray for us.

    These are written epistles to live human beings. "Pray for one another." [You should make] prayers for all men." "[You] strive together in your prayers for me." "[You] continue in prayer." "[You] pray for us."

    There is not even a hint of "Pray to departed saints to intercede for us."

    We can certainly agree that there is no explicit command or even event in the scriptures where a believer prays to a dead person so that the dead person can pray for us(recognizing that the saints who have died are alive in heaven, but they are still "dead" to us). Furthermore, I have yet to discover such a command or instance in the first two hundred years of the church.

    Our faith is an historical, fact-based faith. Something as critical as whether we can pray to the Lord of Lords or must instead intreat another to do it for us is important enough to be based upon historical precedent and scripture or discarded entirely.

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 11/10/2005 10:56:00 AM  

  • Hi Hammer,

    I'm not sure why anyone would even believe that a dead person can hear a prayer regardless of whether on not the dead person is a recognized saint.

    By Blogger David M. Smith, at 11/10/2005 12:46:00 PM  

  • There are a few points in there that want addressing.

    First, to take up the question you've been addressing of prayer to the saints. I've not heard anyone raise an objection to the idea that it is OK to ask living friends to pray for us. The issue, then, isn't about asking others to pray for us (or intercede for us), so it's not an issue of "Christ is the one mediator between God and man". The question is more about the nature of the dead in Christ. Are they "dead and gone", as some Protestant theologies have it, or are they "the communion of saints in heaven", the "cloud of witnesses"? If we believe, as Roman Catholics, Orthodox and many Protestants do, that the dead in Christ are alive with Christ, is there any total block to our asking them to intercede for us in the same way we ask the living? In other words, it's not the simple issue it might appear. Rather, it's a question of how we see life after death - not a question of mediation between us and God.

    Second, confession. It's interesting that the objection to Catholic Confession is always that the act of confession ought to be shared among the body. But I know of very, very few Protestants who practice any kind of corporate confession, and even fewer where this isn't a public breast-beating instead of a private act of humility. Instead of condemning RC Confession, wouldn't it be more consistent to say "Yes, that's great, but couldn't we do it even better?"

    Third, Tradition. The first thing to say here is that you misrepresent Tradition, in that you imply that the Church was correct for three centuries, then heretical for a thousand years, then the Protestants came along and sorted everything out again. The problem is that this is vastly oversimplistic and misses much of the point. The only prerequisite for Tradition is a belief that God didn't stop speaking once the Bible was written. If we accept that then we can no longer discount Tradition in principle. The only remaining task is discernment of which traditions (small t) are valuable and which are not. Which is quite different from deeming the whole exercise to be heresy!

    Also, on this topic, saying "placing the directive of men, no matter how holy or learned they may be, ahead of scriptures is heretical and inherently Gnostic" is to misuse the term "Gnostic". This has a very specific meaning, and has nothing to do with placing "the directive of men...ahead of Scriptures" - although such a practice would be heresy, it need by no means be Gnostic.

    Finally, the issue of salvation within the church and infallibility. All churches have historically held that one must be within the Church to be saved. It is only very recently that this idea has been relaxed. Even then, it is only by virtue of reusing the ancient division between the Church Visible and the Church Invisible - so one must still be within the Church Invisible to be saved! The only question for RCs, then, is what constitutes the Church. And it is not true that the RC Church regards all non-Catholics as damned. They recognise many other denominations as followers of Christ - it's just that they think we're wrong! It is not (officially) the Catholic position that one must be Catholic to be saved, so that's a straw man.

    The infallibility question is similar. Papal infallibility is a very recent doctrine, having only been made official about a hundred years ago. Even then, the Pope is only thought to be infallible when speaking ex cathedra, or in official mode. He's as capable of error as anyone else when not acting in this specific role. However, I agree that it's a bad and unhelpful doctrine, although I don't think I'd go as far as to call it heresy (in that I believe that someone can accept it and still be saved). It's also important to note that this is not a universally accepted RC position, although it is the official one!

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 11/10/2005 03:36:00 PM  

  • John,
    Thanks for your throughtful comments. One reason I trynot to do a post with so many issues is that our comments can become to drawn out.

    I end my portion of "praying to Mary and the saints" with how I started - it's a doctrinal issue I disagree with, and want no part of it, yet I do not consider it heretical, because it does not interfere explicitly with salvation per se. That said, if I can go directly to Christ, why would I want to go through someone else first? He is no respecter of persons, after all.

    I don't think confession as practiced is great. That's why I didn't say so! I acknowledge that your observations on the issue are similar to my feelings on it, and I have no quarrel with you here.

    My definition of tradition, excepting the dates (since they hadn't happened yet!) is exactly the same of the church fathers when defining heresy. I define it just as they did - which was how I opened the series. If I am wrong on the definition of heresy, then so were they.

    I also deny that I have misconstrued Tradition in any fashion, as it is also the same as that put forth by Ignatius, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr and Tertullian - the doctrines held to by the successions of bishops to their time. Soon after the days of Tertullian (and really, during), tradition began to change. There is a difference between development and alteration here that is critical to the idea. Tradition can no more change than the scriptures can. It is one thing to say that Justin Martyr did not have a fully developed doctrine of the Trinity, but he was still in line with tradition, but to imply that Thomas Aquinas was following in the same tradition when he states that baptism has salvific powers when it was not so in the first three centuries is another thing entirely.

    "And it is not true that the RC Church regards all non-Catholics as damned. They recognise many other denominations as followers of Christ - it's just that they think we're wrong! It is not (officially) the Catholic position that one must be Catholic to be saved, so that's a straw man."
    Please re-read the declarations about Protestants that I copied from New Advent. I had the same thoughts as you before I looked into it. The "branches of the same tree" idea is soundly rejected there. I don't know if it reflects the true position of the RC church or not, but the only catholic site that gets more hits is the Vatican. If the RC church burned heretics - is that how they treated their brothers in Christ?

    I did not address papal infallibilty, because the issue is that the RC church holds themselves to be infallible, and the scriptures to be ,um, not infallible. Thus, any teaching by the RC church is always correct, whether it agrees with cripture or not. TEaching your kids the Lord's Prayer in English in the 16th century? Evil sedition! Burnings! Does that sound like infallibility to you?

    Thus, it IS gnosticism, which, aside from its mystical elements that are irrelevant to the discussion, places the human being's knowledge above the scriptures - the very heresy the Roman Catholic Church is engaged in.

    I am surprised you made some factual errors on this one, John. We disagree on opinions often, but seldom facts. I encourage you to look again into the areas we disagree upon - specifically church vs. scriptural authority and infallibility, the nature of tradition, and gnosticism.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 11/10/2005 04:04:00 PM  

  • Some references you can use, John, to determine what the RC church holds as true:

    The Council of Trent - justification through faith, eternal security, many more protestant precepts - followers are declared anathema, as are any who disagree with the requirement for the sacrements unto salvation, etc)
    Vatican 1 (in which it is stated that all who come to the catholic faith must swear to belief in everything proscribed at the council of Trent, as well as doctrinal statemnet sof the truth of indulginces, purgatory, and noting that outside the catholic faith none can be saved).
    Vatican 2 (in which we find Protestants now called "separated bretheren" - quite a change from anathema, indeed. Aren't they supposed to be infallible?)

    Read the orignals, brother. There is enlightenment in them. After you check those out, swing by, which has a great library of the early church fathers, and see what they said.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 11/10/2005 04:33:00 PM  

  • I hate it that I can't preview with the 'Word Art Verification'. Unfortunately, I hate spambots more, so it stays, and I continue to look like a moron when I don't proofread.


    By Blogger Hammertime, at 11/10/2005 04:34:00 PM  

  • I think that part of the problem here is the use of language. "Tradition" has many uses, and we're talking about slightly different things. So, to use Tradition only in the sense of Tertullian is too limiting - not least because that's not how it's used in the churches today. It can mean either hewing closely to received wisdom passing back to the founders of the church, or standing in the living community of faith that is learning from God all the time. These two are, of course, related if we believe that (a) the early church was not wrong about important stuff and (b) God is the same now as then. The principle of continuing revelation must be allowed unless we believe that God said everything important and then stopped talking. Not that any subsequent revelation can run counter to the Bible, but it can cause us to change our interpretation of the Bible (as in the positions of women, slaves etc.).

    No church is free of Tradition that adds to the teachings of the early church, and this is a Good Thing. We must interpret those teachings and apply them to ourselves, and there are many ways to do this - some better than others, I'm sure, but there is no One True Interpretation.

    I don't know about New Advent, but the RC Church does recognise other denominations officially as Christian brothers and sisters (although they do call us "erring" :-). For example, the Church of England has good relationships with Rome, as do the Orthodox churches these days (IIRC).

    Infallibility only exists in the RC Church in the peron of the Pope speaking ex cathedra. It resides nowhere else. They're wrong, of course, but the idea is far more limited than you're making it out to be.

    When it comes to the old argument about justification by faith/works, it's a bit of a red herring. It's fairly well established that there is no real difference between Catholic and Protestant teaching on this one beyond language and emphasis. Because, when the Protestant says "justification by faith alone", she means "faith that produces works". And when the Catholic says "justification by works", she means "works that spring from faith". It's emphasis and sloganeering only.

    Anyhow, enought for this evening :-)

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 11/10/2005 04:49:00 PM  

  • Please check out those references, John. I think you'll find your ideas of the RC Church misplaced.

    In the end, I treat my anglican brothers as brother, and my catholic brothers as brothers. One can be a Catholic christian - but I have become convinced, after reading the Council of Trent, Vatican I, and the church fathers, that the Roman Catholic Church stopped being Christian long ago.

    "Talk" to you soon!

    Peace in Christ (no Latin for me!), or perhaps, irene en christos (greek instead!)

    ...then again, Tertullian did write in Latin...

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 11/10/2005 04:59:00 PM  

  • Hammertime,

    Thank you for posting my comment in its entirety. Because I want to make a number of comments I have gotten a Blogger account, although my blog is likely to remain Under Construction for a long time. To make it easier for me and, I hope, others, I'm going to write a number of posts on specific points rather than write one long, comprehensive reply.

    You say I engaged in "proof-texting". In a sense that is true, but the term has connotations of taking texts out of context and otherwise misusing them, which I have not done. As you recognize, the point on which we differ is not whether we can ask other people to pray for us -- we both agree that the texts I quoted support that practice -- but whether we can ask the saints in Heaven to pray for us. Since 1 Timothy 2:5 says, "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," not "there is one God and one mediator between Heaven and Earth," it is irrelevant to the point we are discussing. I know, from repeated personal experience on the net and elsewhere, that Protestants frequently quote it in discussions like this, but that seems to be because they want a text to support their objection to the Catholic practice, and that's the closest they can get. In other words, there is no scriptural argument against the Catholic (and Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox) practice of asking the saints in Heaven to pray for us.

    You say, "Our faith is an historical, fact-based faith. Something as critical as whether we can pray to the Lord of Lords or must instead entreat another to do it for us is important enough to be based upon historical precedent and scripture or discarded entirely." How did that word "or" get in there? Catholics pray to God directly and ask the saints and other Catholics here on Earth to pray for us both in the Mass and in our private prayers. Here is a link to the text of the traditional Latin Mass in both Latin and English: The two columns make reading it a little cumbersome, but anyone who reads the English column will see that most of the prayers are addressed to God, but in the prayer beginning:
    "R: Confiteor Deo omnipotenti, R: I confess to almighty God," the priest and then the altar boys or the entire congregation pray to God, pray to various saints, and ask others at the Mass to pray for them.

    David M. Smith said, "I'm not sure why anyone would even believe that a dead person can hear a prayer regardless of whether on not the dead person is a recognized saint." We believe it because the Church has always taught it. The dead people are dead in this world's terms but they live in Christ, and Christ has conquered death. As for how the saints in Heaven can know of our prayers, God makes our prayers known to them. Why does He do so? Because, as the passages I quoted in my first posting show, He wants us to pray for one another. There are scriptural texts which tell of created beings in Heaven knowing of events on Earth. Jesus said, "I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. ... Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." (Luke 15:7,10) That means the angels in Heaven know about sinners on Earth who repent. Consider also, "And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints." (Rev. 5:8) and "And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand" (Rev. 8:3-4) And, "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, " (Hebrews 12:1) (All quotations are from the King James Version unless otherwise noted.)

    An essays on the Catacombs in Rome says of some inscriptions there, "'O Saint Sixtus, remember Aurelius Repentinus in your prayers'. 'O Saintly Souls, remember Marcianus, Severus and all our brothers'. These are the invocations and the names of Christians from the time of the persecutions."

    Another web site says of inscriptions, "That the invocation of the saints was a practice of the early Church is proved by the numerous inscriptions of the tombs of the Roman catacombs preserved to this day. We read there, for instance, on the tomb of Sabbatius, a martyr, 'Sabbatius, O pious soul, pray and intercede for your brethren and associates!' On another tomb is inscribed, 'Allicius, thy spirit is blessed; pray for thy parents!' And again, 'Jovianus, live in God, and pray for us!'"

    By Blogger Marty Helgesen, at 11/13/2005 01:19:00 AM  

  • Hammertime,

    You wrote, "Despite the corruption and debauchery engaged in by the Catholic Church leaders in past years, despite the abhorrent practices such as the sale of indulgences and convening of Crusades, the Catholic Church still maintains that its leadership is infallible. All men are fallible, and all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. To claim that we must be subject to a specific group of men to be in Christ is honestly the worst heresy of all."

    The word "infallible" is a technical term. It does not mean perfect. It does not mean impeccable (sinless). The sinfulness of Church leaders does not justify rejecting their teachings or defying their commands. "Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not." (Matt 23:1-3 King James Version.) Moses' seat, of course, not a piece of furniture but a symbol of authority. The Today's English Version -- the Good News for Modern Man translation -- translates that passage as, "The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees are the authorized interpreters of Moses' Law. So you must obey and follow everything they tell you to do; do not, however, imitate their actions, because they don't practice what they preach."

    Also, Jesus said to the Seventy disciples He sent out, "He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me." (Luke 10:16, King James)

    From the earliest centuries it was recognized that the bishops of the Church, as the successors of the Apostles, could exercise the infallible teaching authority of the Church. That is why the doctrinal definitions of General Councils, such as Nicea, Constantinople, Chalcedon and Ephesus, were infallible. Administrative and policy decisions were not. It was widely believed that the Pope, as the successor of St. Peter, could exercise the infallible teaching authority of the Church by himself, apart from a General Council. This belief was formally defined by the First Vatican Council in 1870. That's all the term "papal infallibility" means. It does not mean the Pope is perfect, sinless, or incapable of making mistakes in administrative policy. Also, infallibility is not inspiration. The Pope still has to decide what is the correct doctrine by himself, although he will pray for God's help and God may well give it. However, if he decides on an incorrect interpretation of God's revelation God will prevent him from defining it. God could do that in any number of ways including enlightening the Pope to the correct doctrine or replacing him with a new Pope.

    By Blogger Marty Helgesen, at 11/13/2005 01:24:00 AM  

  • You wrote, "I did not address papal infallibilty, because the issue is that the RC church holds themselves to be infallible, and the scriptures to be ,um, not infallible. Thus, any teaching by the RC church is always correct, whether it agrees with cripture or not. TEaching your kids the Lord's Prayer in English in the 16th century? Evil sedition! Burnings! Does that sound like infallibility to you?"

    A little later you wrote, "Vatican 1 (in which it is stated that all who come to the catholic faith must swear to belief in everything proscribed at the council of Trent, as well as doctrinal statemnet sof the truth of indulginces, purgatory, and noting that outside the catholic faith none can be saved).
    "Vatican 2 (in which we find Protestants now called 'separated bretheren' - quite a change from anathema, indeed. Aren't they supposed to be infallible?)"

    The Catholic Church teaches that the scriptures are not merely infallible but inspired. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says,

    II. Inspiration and Truth of Sacred Scripture
    God is the author of Sacred Scripture. "The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit."69

    "For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself."70

    God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. "To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more."71

    The inspired books teach the truth. "Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures."72

    Still, the Christian faith is not a "religion of the book." Christianity is the religion of the "Word" of God, a word which is "not a written and mute word, but the Word which is incarnate and living."73 If the Scriptures are not to remain a dead letter, Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, must, through the Holy Spirit, "open [our] minds to understand the Scriptures."74

    The official teachings of the Catholic Church are correct because they agree with Scripture. If you think they do not, either you do not understand the Bible correctly or you do not understand the teachings of the Church correctly.

    You seem to say that the Church condemned teaching children the Lord's Prayer in English in the 16th Century. I have no idea what you have in mind, but there obviously is some misunderstanding. While the upper classes knew Latin most people did not and prayed in their everyday languages. There were many translations of the Bible or of parts of the Bible into vernacular languages centuries before the beginning of Protestantism. St. Jerome's translation of the Bible into Latin is known as the "Vulgate" because at that time the educated upper classes spoke Greek. Latin was the everyday language of the vulgus, the common people.

    As for the statement that outside the Catholic Church no one can be saved, there has been no change in doctrine, just a change in emphasis. In 1854, several years before Vatican I Pope Pius IX said, "We must hold as of the faith, that out of the Apostolic Roman Church there is no salvation; that she is the only ark of safety, and whosoever is not in her perishes in the deluge; we must also, on the other hand, recognize with certainty that those who are invincible in ignorance of the true religion are not guilty for this in the eyes of the Lord. And who would presume to mark out the limits of this ignorance according to the character and diversity of peoples, countries, minds and the rest?"

    In other words, people who are culpably outside the Church cannot be saved. People who through no fault of their own do not realize that God wants them to be Catholic are not excluded from Heaven. Incidentally because some people don't realize that the word "ignorant" is not the same as the word "stupid" I should point out that "ignorant" means lacking knowledge. Until 1930 all of the greatest minds in human history were totally ignorant of the existence of the planet Pluto because it wasn't discovered until that year.

    By Blogger Marty Helgesen, at 11/13/2005 01:25:00 AM  

<< Home