Category Archives: Heresy

Christian accord, Acts 1:14 – Salvation

“All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14).


-by Douglas Beaumont, Catholic Answers, Dr. Beaumont earned a Ph.D. in theology from North-West University and an M.A. in apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary, where he taught for many years before coming into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2014.

Is “Faith Alone” enough?

The Protestant Reformation was launched when a Catholic priest named Martin Luther thought he’d discovered something in the Bible that the Church had been missing for centuries. That discovery was salvation by faith alone—that is, apart from doing good works. This core Reformation doctrine of sola fide is a major dividing line between Catholics and Protestants.

Just like sola scriptura, this doctrine ends up dividing Protestants from each other just as much (and sometimes even more) as it divides them from Catholics. Over the years, “faith alone” has come to mean different things to different Protestants.

There are some (known as Free Grace Protestants) who have taken the principle so far that they believe even apostates can be completely confident in their salvation. At the other end of the spectrum are legalistic or Fundamentalist groups that, while giving lip service to salvation by faith alone, nevertheless demand a severe lifestyle from their members.

Nor is the debate over salvation by faith alone limited to extreme fringe groups. In fact, it began in the sixteenth century and shows no signs of letting up in the twenty-first. A recent book from one of the most popular Evangelical publishers devoted over 300 pages to an academic debate between five scholars on the nature of justification (one was a Catholic)

And justification is only the beginning. Similar debate books have been written about sanctification, pluralism, eternal security, law and gospel, and other related topics. And so as we seek accord, we will look to see if the principles that allow Protestants who disagree over salvation nonetheless to identify with one another and to worship together might call for the embrace of Catholics as well.

Are You Saved?

Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification

Although Christians sometimes think of salvation in fairly simple terms (going to heaven instead of hell), anyone who spends much time thinking or talking about the subject will quickly discover that there are numerous shades of meaning.

Nearly all Christians, even those who speak of salvation as if it occurred whole and entire at a single point in time, with no potential to ever be lost, recognize that God’s work in people typically involves a process that is extended over time.

In the Evangelical tradition that I came from, we thought of salvation in three basic stages: 1) justification, which was the point at which someone received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and thus was guaranteed heaven, 2) sanctification, which was the process by which God transformed the individual’s life from one of sin to sainthood, and 3) glorification, which was the final, complete transformation into perfection that occurred once someone entered eternal life in heaven.

Stages of Salvation

Where we differ, where we agree

Although this threefold process is described differently among Protestant traditions, most affirm something like it. A critical feature of this theology is that during each stage, the causes of and effects on one’s salvation can differ. For example, whereas the initial stage of salvation (“ justification”) might be considered a one-way act of God based on faith alone, resulting in heaven or hell, the second stage (“sanctification”) may rely heavily on the actions of the individual and only affect one’s degree of reward or punishment.

The importance of these salvation “stages” is that although Protestants will often speak of salvation as a single moment in time with everlasting effects, most agree that there is more to the story. Sola fide, in most Protestant minds, refers only to one’s initial justification. This happens to coincide nicely with the Catholic view of baptism—it is entirely faith-based, distinct from a person’s works, and instantly brings us into a saving relationship with God.

For many Protestants, the parallels break down after that because the Church teaches that saving grace can be lost or increased via works (“faith working through love” per Galatians 5:6)—but there are Protestants who teach something similar to this as well. In the end, the differences some- times come down more to terminology and fine-grained distinctions than to entirely different salvation plans as is often believed.

Finding Common Ground

We often are not as far apart as we think

In Principle Protestants Agree: Salvation is in some sense a process involving various stages, each with different requirements and effects.

In Particular Catholicism Affirms: Salvation is an ongoing process with different requirements at different stages that can increase, decrease, eradicate, or regain God’s saving grace in our lives.”

Love, and Christian accord, harmony, peace, love, and deep, true affection,
Matthew

Sep 16 – Will the real St Cyprian (~200-258AD), Bishop & Martyr, please stand up!


-by Fr Ray Ryland (1921-2014), for Catholic Answers, was an Episcopal priest who converted to Catholicism in 1963. Married and a father of five, he was ordained a Catholic priest in 1983 under the pastoral provision granted by the Vatican for the admittance of married Anglican priests to the Catholic priesthood.

“For centuries, Eastern Orthodox theologians have tried to put their brand on Cyprian of Carthage, who was martyred in 258. They have hailed him as chief exponent of the Eastern theory of national churches totally independent of Roman control. From the twelfth century onward, Byzantine writers opposing Catholic ecclesiology “found their strongest argument in the ecclesiology of Cyprian.”

Cyprian is also a favorite of Anglican apologists in their arguments against the papacy. One of them has said that defenders of the Church of England’s break with Rome can base their entire case on the writings of Cyprian. To a Catholic it seems risky, at best, for Anglicans to base their whole apologetic on one interpretation of a few passages from the writings of one saint—especially since, as we shall see, Cyprian always submitted to papal authority.

Both Orthodox and Anglicans contend that Cyprian was a non-papal Catholic, a third-century “episcopalian.” Cyprian held that each bishop is completely in charge of his own diocese and with all other bishops shares responsibility for the unity of the Church. Thus far he was on solid Catholic ground. But then he entered on less solid ground. Cyprian claimed that the unity of the Church is to be preserved by all the bishops unanimously holding the true faith. He never told us what is to be done when bishops disagree over doctrine. He did say that when bishops disagree in matters not involving doctrine, they must simply agree to disagree.

Where did Cyprian fit the pope into the picture? He laid great emphasis on Matthew 16: the naming of Peter as “rock,” the promise to build the Church on Peter, the gift to Peter of the keys of the kingdom. He taught that the Church was founded on Peter and also on the other apostles, insofar as they constitute a body under the headship of Peter. Scholars (both Catholic and non-Catholic) are divided over the connection Cyprian saw between the Church’s episcopate and the successors of Peter.

Cyprian was headstrong. He apparently did not see the anarchical consequences of his theory of the independence of bishops. His favorite and almost only teacher was Tertullian, who died a heretic. The lack of clarity in Cyprian’s writings may also be due to his having been rushed from baptism into the episcopate in only two years, with little theological preparation.

Cyprian’s position has offered scope for the arguments of Eastern Orthodox Christians, who argue that the authority of the pope did not exist in the early centuries, but was a later development not based on any divine authority.

Nicolas Afanassieff assures us that the first Christians had no idea “that there could be a power over the local churches” and certainly no idea that such power might belong to an individual (the bishop of Rome). He solemnly recalls as “historical fact” that at least in the first three centuries every local church (diocese) was totally independent of any other church or any other bishop. In earlier articles I have shown this claim to be erroneous. In the first century, Pope Clement exercised authority in the name of Jesus Christ to settle a schism in the church at Corinth. No one questioned the Pope’s exercise of authority. Indeed, the Corinthians welcomed it. For many decades in their liturgy the Corinthians read from Clement’s letter to them. In the second century Pope Victor threatened to excommunicate large sections of the Church in the East if they did not observe Easter according to the practice of Rome. Though some decried the wisdom of his declared intention, no one questioned his authority. Eventually his will prevailed throughout the Church.

Now we turn to Cyprian himself—mainstay, we are told, of the anti-papal ecclesiology of Eastern Orthodoxy. To determine what Cyprian really believed about universal papal jurisdiction, we have to move beyond the ambiguities of his writings and examine his dealings with the papacy. His actions not only speak more loudly than his words; they also speak much more clearly.

MARTYR’S CERTIFICATES

In his own diocese Cyprian had to deal with a widespread threat to the Church’s discipline. Confessors (those being punished by the state for not renouncing the faith) and martyrs awaiting execution were usurping the authority of the bishop.

Under intense persecution by the Roman government, many Christians had lapsed or apostatized, thereby coming under the Church’s ban. After the persecution abated, the lapsed who repented would obtain from the martyrs and confessors certificates requesting the bishop to reduce or cancel the punishment due them. It was the bishop’s responsibility to evaluate the sincerity of the penitents. The bishop also had to decide what effect the confessors’ and martyrs’ certificates should have on the penance of the lapsed.

(Note this fact. What the Catholic Church teaches today about “indulgences” she was teaching and practicing in Cyprian’s time. The granting of indulgences is made possible by the solidarity of the Mystical Body of Christ. By virtue of that solidarity, the sufferings of some members of the Body have the power to lessen the punishment of other members of the Body. This is precisely what the martyrs’ and confessors’ certificates were intended to do.)

Imprudent confessors were ignoring the bishop and, on their own authority, freeing the lapsed from the prescribed penance. Cyprian believed, rightly, that this irregular procedure threatened the whole of the Church’s discipline. He wrote letters to several persons about this problem and sent copies of all the letters to Rome, asking the Roman clergy to consider what he had written.

He addressed the Roman clergy rather than the pope because there had been no incumbent in the see of Peter for a couple of years: After the martyrdom of Pope Fabian (250), active government persecution had prevented the election of his successor. Yet Cyprian showed deference to the see of Peter even when it was vacant. He would take no final action with regard to reconciling the lapsed and apostates without consulting with Rome.

During the persecution, Cyprian himself had gone into hiding. Some of his people criticized his action and sent their complaint to the Roman clergy. (Why would Carthaginians take this matter to Rome, if the local churches were absolutely independent, as Eastern apologists assert?) The Roman clergy wrote to Cyprian and asked for an explanation. Did Cyprian indignantly reject their request and assert his complete independence as a bishop? No. On the contrary, he sent the Roman clergy a defense of his conduct.

Still another action on the part of the Roman clergy, when the see of Peter was vacant, reflects the primacy of Rome. In a letter to Cyprian’s archdeacon (bypassing Cyprian, bishop of the diocese), the Roman clergy told the Carthaginian clergy how they should deal with the lapsed. Did Cyprian condemn this action as interference infringing on his autonomous jurisdiction? Not at all. He wrote the Roman clergy that he had read their letter and in practice would uphold their opinion.

Schismatics from Carthage went to Rome to join the schism of Novatian there. Cyprian denounced the wickedness of the Novatians in Rome and spoke scornfully of the Carthaginian schismatics who had gone to Rome, “the chair of Peter and to the principal [or ruling] church, whence episcopal unity has taken its rise.”

Obviously Cyprian did not regard his own see, Carthage, as “the” or “a” chair of Peter. He said the schismatics who went to Rome were going to “the chair of Peter.”

“SOVEREIGN RULING”

This “chair of Peter,” said Cyprian, is “the principal Church.” Irenaeus had used these same words about Rome. Tertullian had defined the phrase to mean “that which is over anything, as the soul presides over and rules the body.” Cyprian called Tertullian his “master” and read his writings every day. We can assume that he followed his master in using “principal” to mean “sovereign ruling.”

Speaking of the schismatics who had gone to Rome, Cyprian said, in effect, “They are wasting their time!” Not only is Rome the source of the Church’s unity (“whence episcopal unity has taken its rise”), the schismatics are wasting their time because the Romans—the “chair of Peter,” the pope—are “they to whom faithlessness can have no access.” This is an astonishing statement—astonishing, that is, outside the context of papal infallibility. But we must assume that Cyprian meant what he said.

In practice Cyprian contradicted his own teaching about the independence of each bishop. When Marcion, bishop of Arles, left the Church’s communion and joined the schismatic Novatians, the bishops of the province wrote to the pope asking him to take action. (If they were independent of Rome, why did they not take action themselves?) The action required was for the pope to excommunicate Marcion and appoint a replacement. For unknown reasons, the pope delayed his response. Faustinus, bishop of Lyons, wrote to Cyprian about the matter, seeking his advice.

Cyprian thereupon wrote to the pope, urging him to take action. His letter implies that the pope was the one—the only one—to set matters straight in Arles. He urged the pope to write “letters of plenary authority [literally ‘most full letters’] by means of which, Marcion being excommunicated, another may be substituted in his place.”

Regardless of what Cyprian may have written about the independence of each bishop, here he clearly recognized the authority of the pope to remove and install bishops (for good cause) anywhere in the world.

BAPTISM BY HERETICS

It was Cyprian’s struggle with Pope Stephen over the subject of baptism by heretics which has most endeared Cyprian to Eastern Orthodox and Anglican apologists. It is also that.aspect of Cyprian’s career that caused the Donatists (fourth-century heretics) to claim him as patron saint of their position. Repeatedly to their chief opponent, Augustine, the Donatists quoted Cyprian. Augustine acknowledged Cyprian’s error, but emphasized Cyprian’s refusal to break with Rome.

In his conflict with the schismatic Novatians, Cyprian drew the erroneous conclusion that baptism by heretics is invalid, contrary to the Church’s teaching. By the force of his personality and of at least three African councils that he dominated, Cyprian lined up the bishops of Africa behind his position. Rejection of heretical baptism was an innovation that found wide support in the East.

On this issue, as on others, Cyprian’s thinking was confused. On the one hand he insisted that each bishop was perfectly free to decide whether to accept or reject baptism by heretics, since the issue was not doctrinal. At the same time, in vehemently expounding his position he invoked weighty dogmatic considerations. Cyprian sent Pope Stephen a report of the African synods, explaining that he and the synods had not laid down any law binding all the African bishops. He sent the report because he believed that the Pope should be consulted, even though this was not a doctrinal issue

The issue was whether persons outside the Church’s unity could baptize validly. Stephen ruled that they could, if they used the proper form. Persons who were baptized by heretics and who repented and returned to the Church were to be received by the laying-on of hands. Stephen’s answer to Cyprian makes it plain that his ruling is not a definition of faith, yet Stephen forbade rebaptism of those who had received heretical baptism and decreed excommunication for those who performed rebaptisms.

In his reply to Cyprian’s report, Stephen reminded Cyprian that he (Stephen) was successor of Peter, whom Cyprian had extolled in his writing on unity and on whom Jesus Christ had founded his Church. Stephen further reminded Cyprian that he (Stephen) held the chair of Peter, about which Cyprian had written enthusiastically. Finally, Stephen called for Cyprian’s obedience.

Immediately upon receiving Stephen’s reply, Cyprian dispatched legates to Rome to try to persuade the Pope to change his ruling. It was a most inopportune time for Cyprian to do this. The Pope was then contending with schismatic Novatians who were rebaptizing Catholics who joined them. The African legates would probably have been identified in people’s minds with the Novatians. This would have lent the eminent name of Cyprian to a heretical group.

So, for the good of the Church and of Cyprian, Stephen refused to receive the legates, ordering them not to spend a single night in Rome. When the legates returned to Carthage, Cyprian sent messengers to the East to enlist support for his cause of rebaptism. He wrote to Firmilian, bishop of Cappadocia and partisan of Cyprian’s cause. Firmilian responded to Cyprian’s letter, and Stephen’s ruling, in a letter filled with indignation and bitterness. Yet Firmilian’s letter itself implicitly recognized the Pope’s authority. Firmilian expressed no indignation over Stephen’s emphasizing his role as Peter’s successor and his claim to what we call universal jurisdiction.

If Stephen’s claim had not been universally accepted, Firmilian’s ultimate weapon against the despised ruling would have been to deny and reject papal authority. That weapon was not available to him, so all he could do was fulminate in bitterest terms.

There is no evidence that either Cyprian or Firmilian was excommunicated. Did Cyprian accept Stephen’s decision and stop rebaptizing those who had received baptism from heretical hands? Jerome says the African bishops corrected their decision to rebaptize and “issued a new decree.” Augustine says the Easterners followed the Pope’s directive: “they rescinded their judgment, by which they had decided that it was right to agree with Cyprian and that African council.” In another place he writes that the Easterners “corrected” their judgment about rebaptism.

Anti-papal apologist John Meyendorff asserts that this event was simply a regional reaction against incipient Roman centralization. There was nothing “incipient” about what Meyendorff calls Roman centralization, but which Catholics call papal universal jurisdiction. That jurisdiction had been exercised since the first century, as has been shown. Furthermore, the controversy was not about centralization at all, but about sacramental and ecclesiological issues of the deepest import.

Eastern and Anglican apologists who rely on Cyprian’s controversy with Pope Stephen to support their case for independent national churches forget or ignore the key fact: Cyprian never even questioned, much less denied, the Pope’s authority to make his ruling and its penalty for non-observance. He only opposed the content of the ruling. Cyprian’s insistence on rebaptism was attractive to many minds. It seemed to safeguard Catholic truth by drawing a sharp line between orthodoxy and heresy. But papal universal jurisdiction and papal teaching authority made all the difference.

In this controversy, “it needs only a few lines from the pen of the Pope to overthrow all that scaffolding of texts and syllogisms. The partisans of innovation may resist as they please, write letter after letter, assemble councils; five lines from the sovereign Pontiff will become the rule of conduct for the universal Church. Eastern and African bishops, all those who at first had rallied round the contrary opinion, will retrace their steps, and the whole Catholic world will follow the decision of the Bishop of Rome.”

Eastern opponents of the papacy are mistaken in their reliance on Cyprian as the mainstay of their apologetic. Cyprian repeatedly deferred to the supreme authority of the bishop of Rome. In at least one instance he begged for the exercise of that authority. With regard to heretical baptism, he opposed a pope’s ruling but never questioned papal authority. The Eastern churches today recognize that Cyprian’s teaching was wrong and that the pope—as usual—was right.”

Love,
Matthew

1. John Meyendorff, Orthodoxy and Catholicity (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1966), 12.

2. St. Cyprian, The Lapsed: The Unity of the Catholic Church (Westminster, Maryland: Newman Press, 1957), chapters 4 and 5.

3. Nicolas Afanassieff, “The Church Which Presides in Love” in John Meyendorff, The Primacy of Peter (Leighton Buzzad, Bedfordshire: Faith Press, 1973), 83, 73.

4. Quoted by Luke Rivington, The Primitive Church and the See of Peter (London: Longmans, Green, 1894), 58.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid., 71.

7. John Meyendorff, The Byzantine Legacy in the Orthodox Church (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1982), 221.

8. Rivington, 115f.

Sep 16 – Sts Cornelius (d. 253 AD), Pope & Cyprian (~200-258 AD), Father of the Church, Bishops & Martyrs – The Difficult Way of Mercy



(inset)
-SS. Cornelius and Cyprian from The Hours of Catherine of Cleves; on Pierpont Morgan Library. The Netherlands, Utrecht, ca. 1440, 7 1/2 x 5 1/8 inches (192 x 130 mm). Cornelius, holding a horn (cornus in Latin—a pun on his name), and Cyprian, with the sword of his martyrdom, share a feast. Birdcages, executed in silver and gold, comprise the delightful border. They may allude to Cornelius as patron saint of pets or to an interest of Catherine.

Suffrages

Suffrages are short prayers to individual saints. As protectors of medieval people, saints were their doctor in plague, their midwife at childbirth, their guardian when traveling, and their nurse during toothache. If the Virgin was the figure to whom one addressed the all-important petition for intercession with the Lord for eternal salvation, it was from saints that one sought more basic or temporal kinds of help.  Please click on the images for greater detail.


-by Br Cyril Stola, OP

“Sacrifice or I’ll make you sacrifice.” Such was the choice that the Emperor Decius enjoined upon third century Christians. In response, some Christians refused, suffering torture or martyrdom. Others fled, losing their property. Far more, however, offered sacrifice to Roman idols or bought documents that said they did. These Christians “lapsed” (lapsi, the lapsi): their actions broke the first commandment and denied Christ, who said, “whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before My Father Who is in heaven” (Matt 10:33).

After 18 months, the Decian persecution ended, and many of the lapsed wanted to return to the Church. Today’s martyrs, Pope Cornelius and Bishop Cyprian of Carthage, responded to them with compassion. St. Cyprian preached, “My heart bleeds with each one of you, I share the weight of your sorrow and distress … when my brethren fell, my heart was struck and I fell at their side” (The Lapsed). He saw the persecution as a trial for the Church. The lapsed had failed this trial, and they needed healing in order to regain communion with God. Cornelius and Cyprian desired the reconciliation of the lapsed, but two different forces impeded that goal.

The laxist party raised the first obstacle. They immediately permitted all the lapsed to receive the Eucharist. This admittance, however, achieved no reconciliation. Jesus gives us a remedy—penance—for the festering wound of mortal sin, and the Eucharist cannot help those with that wound. Cyprian comments that laxist indulgence “does not mean the granting of reconciliation but its frustration, it does not restore men to communion but bars them from it and from salvation.” As Saint Paul teaches, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons” (1 Cor 10:21). “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27).

The laxists substituted their own standards of mercy for God’s standard of mercy, revealed to us through scripture. Despite their well-meaning intention, their approach nonetheless exalted their judgment over God’s judgment. Cyprian knew that the Eucharist is neither a mere reward for good behavior nor a mark of elite status. It is communion with Jesus. Grave sin in the soul thwarts this communion, and Cyprian saw the reason for the necessity of penance: it provides an opportunity for glory. “He who has made such satisfaction to God, he who by his repentance and shame for his sin, draws from the bitterness of his fall a fresh fund of valor and loyalty, shall by the help he has won from the Lord, rejoice the heart of the Church whom he has so lately pained; he will earn not merely God’s forgiveness, but His crown.”

The other threat to reconciliation arose from Novatian, who set himself up as anti-Pope against Cornelius and led many into schism. Novatian and his followers also replaced God’s standards of mercy for their own. They were rigorists and refused to absolve the lapsed. Novatian “did what the Lord did not even grant to the apostles”: he endeavored “to separate the chaff from the wheat” (St. Cyprian, Letter 51). Even Saint Peter lapsed when he denied Christ three times, yet he made a threefold reparation and Jesus forgave him. God is a merciful Father. He desires all to be saved and reconciled to himself, and all who stand in the way of that reconciliation betray him.

In these conflicts, Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian were faithful to their call to be merciful shepherds. They testify to true mercy, mercy which neither ignores the damage sin causes nor despairs of its healing. By reconciling people to the Eucharist, Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian cultivated communion in the Church. By their life and martyrdom, they now live in the fullest communion with God. We share that communion with them at every Mass.

God our Father,
in Saints Cornelius and Cyprian
you have given your people an inspiring example
of dedication to the pastoral ministry
and constant witness to Christ in their suffering.
May their prayers and faith give us courage
to work for the unity of your Church.
Amen.”

Love, Lord have mercy on me, for I am a sinful man,
Matthew

The Heresy of Jansenism & Cancel-Culture


-Abbess Angelique Arnauld, S.O.Cist., (1591-1661), a champion of the heresy of Jansenism.  Please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Shaun Blanchard, PhD


-plan of Port-Royal-des-Champs, after an engraving by Louise-Magdeleine Horthemels, c. 1710, please click on the image for greater detail.

“…The epicenter of Jansenism was the convent of Port-Royal des Champs (outside Paris), a formally lax establishment, which had been overhauled by the formidable abbess Angélique Arnauld (1591–1661).[1] Mére Angélique was serious about reform, because she had imbibed the rigorist Christocentric renewal currents coming from the circles of Pierre de Bérulle (1575–1629), and two men she knew personally: François de Sales (1567–1622) and the Abbé Saint-Cyran (1581–1643). The latter, a very close friend of Jansen, eventually became the spiritual godfather of the nuns of Port-Royal… [Ed. The scientist and philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623–62) was a convert to the early Jansenist cause.]

…Closely connected with the Jansenist desire to defend the “truth” about grace and predestination in the face of Jesuit “novelty” was their concern for protecting the Eucharist from profanation. It was this debate that gained a great deal of popular attention and thrust Pascal into the spotlight. The pastoral (or lax) opinion championed by many Jesuits was that attrition was sufficient for absolution in the confessional—that is, one needed only to seek forgiveness because one feared divine wrath.

The rigorist position, which Jansenists argued was the practice of the Early Church and sufficiently clear in patristic sources, was that only contrition—that is, love of God and sorrow for having offended him—sufficed for absolution. This debate sparked Pascal’s famous Provincial Letters, which ridiculed the lengths to which Jesuitical “casuistry” would go to lessen the weight of sin or excuse it entirely. Pascal’s brilliantly entertaining satirical letters might have been unfair to the many good and devoted Jesuit pastors, but they certainly described some real problems in French society…

…King Louis XIV [decided]to act decisively. The divine-right monarch had never liked Jansenists. They stank of a stubborn individualism, a spirit of inquiry, and a questioning of his absolutism. It was especially irksome that a group of women (the indomitable nuns of Port-Royal) continued to defy not only successive archbishops in Paris and popes in Rome, but even the Sun King in Versailles.

Louis XIV had had enough of this, and he finally demolished Port-Royal (literally) in 1711, and scattered the surviving sisters into different houses…Nevertheless, the women of Port-Royal were exemplars of female Catholic bravery and scholarship; these learned and devout women tenaciously asserted their right to read scripture and the Church Fathers and participate in theological debates.[5]”


-nuns being forcibly removed from Port-Royal des Champs abbey, please click on the image for greater detail.


-a solitary surviving chapel from Port-Royal des Champs abbey, and Mere Angelique’s tomb, amid the ruins of Porty-Royal des Champs abbey.


-by Fr Christopher Pietraszko, is a priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of London, Ontario, Canada

“There is a close connection between cancel-culture and the heresy of Jansenism. Jansenism’s error was to myopically assess the work of grace, and perhaps over-simplify it.  As a result grace was seen as to not abound, or to be extended to all people sufficiently. As a result, a Puritan-like attitude arose, where if something was corrupt, the whole thing would be thrown out. Any slight imperfection meant the whole thing was abject and worthy of condemnation.

Looking upon the past with a cavalier attitude will only come back to haunt ourselves as the next generation sees our own blindness, and throws us into the same gutter.

Recognizing that the world is corrupted is honest. Throwing it away is reckless. Why? Because of a very sound doctrine that teaches us that evil is always adhering to something good, and by uprooting the evil, we also uproot the good. Christ Himself taught us this with the parable of the weeds and the grain. The middle way is to seek to redeem what is broken, to heal what is wounded, to distinguish carefully and diligently between what is unjust and what is just.

This tendency towards Jansenism is not only seen in secular society, but I’ve observed it as well within attitudes towards canceling the Novus Ordo, or the TLM, or the Pope, or the Bishops, or adhering to sacred obedience. It’s a sneaky trap that transcends all political categories and seeks to uproot the good with the bad. It doesn’t enjoy the hard work of discernment, and flippantly and in an often fraudulent (fallacious) way, doesn’t distinguish between the good and the evil. It reacts and throws the whole thing out.

If there was ever a heresy so close to Calvin’s “total depravity” this is it. God teaches to do something different. He wants what is dysfunctional and imperfect to enter a process of sanctification. He builds off what is already good, to undermine the ravages of what is already evil. He does not flip a switch of grace and make one perfect in an instant, but rather slowly unfolds a path before us that saved, is saving, and will save us.”

Love, His grace, His transformation, His sanctification of us, was, is, will be,
Matthew

[1] F. Ellen Weaver, The Evolution of the Reform of Port Royal: From the Rule of Cîteaux to Jansenism (Paris: Beauchesne, 1978); Louis Cognet, La Réforme de Port Royal (Paris: Sulliver, 1950).

[5] Among many excellent studies see Daniella Kostroun, Feminism, Absolutism, and Jansenism: Louis XIV and the Port-Royal Nuns (Cambridge: CUP, 2011); John J. Conley, SJ, The Other Pascals: The Philosophy of Jacqueline Pascal, Gilberte Pascal Périer, and Marguerite Périer (South Bend, IN: Notre Dame, 2019).

Neo-Universalism – is Hell real?


-“The Harrowing of Hell”, by Jacob van Swanenburg, a teacher of the young Rembrandt, ca 1586-1638, oil on copper, H: 48.8 cm (19.2 in); W: 71.1 cm (27.9 in), last sold Christies, London 24 April 2009, $75,906, please click on the image for greater detail.


(imma binging on Netflix’s “Lucifer”, where they mos def believe in Hell)  Please click on the image for greater detail.

-from Catholic Answers

“In recent years there has arisen a movement that might be called “neo-universalism,” according to which it may be that all men, without exception, go to heaven. Advocates of this movement often say things like, “The Church does not teach that anyone is in hell,” and they cite statements from Church leaders and documents which sound—taken out of context—as if they teach this. If one reads the documents carefully, it is clear that the Church is not saying that no one at all is in hell,  but that it has not taught that any particular human mortal who has lived can be known to be in hell.  It is simply unknown, up to the present moment, as God has not chosen to reveal it to the Church Militant.  Known only to the Churches Penitent and Triumphant.

The doctrine of hell is so frightening that numerous heretical sects end up denying the reality of an eternal hell. The Unitarian-Universalists, the Seventh-day Adventists, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Christadelphians, the Christian Scientists, the Religious Scientists, the New Agers, and the Mormons—all have rejected or modified the doctrine of hell so radically that it is no longer a serious threat (Ed. or truth, as the Lord teaches). In recent decades, this decay has even invaded mainstream Evangelicalism, and a number of major Evangelical figures have advocated the view that there is no eternal hell—the wicked will simply be annihilated.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire.’ The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in Whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs” (CCC 1035).

In his 1994 book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Pope St John Paul II wrote that too often “preachers, catechists, teachers . . . no longer have the courage to preach the threat of hell” (p. 183).

Concerning the reality of hell, the pope says, “In point of fact, the ancient councils rejected the theory . . . according to which the world would be regenerated after destruction, and every creature would be saved; a theory which abolished hell. . . . [T]he words of Christ are unequivocal. In Matthew’s Gospel he speaks clearly of those who will go to eternal punishment (cf. Matt. 25:46). [But] who will these be? The Church has never made any pronouncement in this regard” (pp. 185–6).

Thus the issue that some will go to hell is decided, but the issue of who in particular will go to hell is undecided (Ed. or unknown, in our case, to us).

The early Church Fathers were also absolutely firm on the reality of an eternal hell, as the following quotes show.

Ignatius of Antioch

“Corrupters of families will not inherit the kingdom of God. And if they who do these things according to the flesh suffer death, how much more if a man corrupt by evil teaching the faith of God for the sake of which Jesus Christ was crucified? A man become so foul will depart into unquenchable fire: and so will anyone who listens to him” (Letter to the Ephesians 16:1–2 [A.D. 110]).

Second Clement

“If we do the will of Christ, we shall obtain rest; but if not, if we neglect His commandments, nothing will rescue us from eternal punishment” (Second Clement 5:5 [A.D. 150]).

“But when they see how those who have sinned and who have denied Jesus by their words or by their deeds are punished with terrible torture in unquenchable fire, the righteous, who have done good, and who have endured tortures and have hated the luxuries of life, will give glory to their God saying, ‘There shall be hope for him that has served God with all his heart!’” (ibid., 17:7).

Justin Martyr

“No more is it possible for the evildoer, the avaricious, and the treacherous to hide from God than it is for the virtuous. Every man will receive the eternal punishment or reward which his actions deserve. Indeed, if all men recognized this, no one would choose evil even for a short time, knowing that he would incur the eternal sentence of fire” (First Apology 12 [A.D. 151]).

“We have been taught that only they may aim at immortality who have lived a holy and virtuous life near to God. We believe that they who live wickedly and do not repent will be punished in everlasting fire” (ibid., 21).

“[Jesus] shall come from the heavens in glory with His angelic host, when He shall raise the bodies of all the men who ever lived. Then He will clothe the worthy in immortality; but the wicked, clothed in eternal sensibility, He will commit to the eternal fire, along with the evil demons” (ibid., 52).

The Martyrdom of Polycarp

“Fixing their minds on the grace of Christ, [the martyrs] despised worldly tortures and purchased eternal life with but a single hour. To them, the fire of their cruel torturers was cold. They kept before their eyes their escape from the eternal and unquenchable fire” (Martyrdom of Polycarp 2:3 [A.D. 155]).

Mathetes

“When you know what is the true life, that of heaven; when you despise the merely apparent death, which is temporal; when you fear the death which is real, and which is reserved for those who will be condemned to the everlasting fire, the fire which will punish even to the end those who are delivered to it, then you will condemn the deceit and error of the world” (Letter to Diognetus 10:7 [A.D. 160]).

Athenagoras

“[W]e [Christians] are persuaded that when we are removed from this present life we shall live another life, better than the present one. . . . Then we shall abide near God and with God, changeless and free from suffering in the soul . . . or if we fall with the rest [of mankind], a worse one and in fire; for God has not made us as sheep or beasts of burden, a mere incidental work, that we should perish and be annihilated” (Plea for the Christians 31 [A.D. 177]).

Theophilus of Antioch

“ [God] will examine everything and will judge justly, granting recompense to each according to merit. To those who seek immortality by the patient exercise of good works, he will give everlasting life, joy, peace, rest, and all good things. . . . For the unbelievers and for the contemptuous, and for those who do not submit to the truth but assent to iniquity, when they have been involved in adulteries, and fornications, and homosexualities, and avarice, and in lawless idolatries, there will be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish; and in the end, such men as these will be detained in everlasting fire” (To Autolycus 1:14 [A.D. 181]).

Irenaeus

“[God will] send the spiritual forces of wickedness, and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, and the impious, unjust, lawless, and blasphemous among men into everlasting fire” (Against Heresies 1:10:1 [A.D. 189]).

“The penalty increases for those who do not believe the Word of God and despise his coming. . . . [I]t is not merely temporal, but eternal. To whomsoever the Lord shall say, ‘Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire,’ they will be damned forever” (ibid., 4:28:2).

Tertullian

“After the present age is ended he will judge his worshipers for a reward of eternal life and the godless for a fire equally perpetual and unending” (Apology 18:3 [A.D. 197]).

“Then will the entire race of men be restored to receive its just deserts according to what it has merited in this period of good and evil, and thereafter to have these paid out in an immeasurable and unending eternity. . . . The worshipers of God shall always be with God, clothed in the proper substance of eternity. But the godless and those who have not turned wholly to God will be punished in fire equally unending” (ibid., 44:12–13).

Hippolytus

“To those who have done well, everlasting enjoyment shall be given; while to the lovers of evil shall be given eternal punishment. The unquenchable and unending fire awaits these latter, and a certain fiery worm which does not die and which does not waste the body but continually bursts forth from the body with unceasing pain. No sleep will give them rest; no night will soothe them; no death will deliver them from punishment; no appeal of interceding friends will profit them” (Against the Greeks 3 [A.D. 212]).

Minucius Felix

“I am not ignorant of the fact that many, in the consciousness of what they deserve, would rather hope than actually believe that there is nothing for them after death. They would prefer to be annihilated rather than be restored for punishment. . . . Nor is there either measure nor end to these torments” (Octavius 34:12–5:3 [A.D. 226]).

Cyprian of Carthage

“An ever-burning Gehenna and the punishment of being devoured by living flames will consume the condemned; nor will there be any way in which the tormented can ever have respite or be at an end. Souls along with their bodies will be preserved for suffering in unlimited agonies. . . . The grief at punishment will then be without the fruit of repentance; weeping will be useless, and prayer ineffectual. Too late will they believe in eternal punishment, who would not believe in eternal life” (To Demetrian 24 [A.D. 252]).

Lactantius

“[T]he sacred writings inform us in what manner the wicked are to undergo punishment. For because they have committed sins in their bodies, they will again be clothed with flesh, that they may make atonement in their bodies; and yet it will not be that flesh with which God clothed man, like this our earthly body, but indestructible, and abiding forever, that it may be able to hold out against tortures and everlasting fire. . . . The same divine fire, therefore, with one and the same force and power, will both burn the wicked and will form them again, and will replace as much as it shall consume of their bodies, and will supply itself with eternal nourishment” (Divine Institutes 7:21 [A.D. 307]).

Cyril of Jerusalem

“We shall be raised therefore, all with our bodies eternal, but not all with bodies alike: for if a man is righteous, he will receive a heavenly body, that he may be able worthily to hold converse with angels; but if a man is a sinner, he shall receive an eternal body, fitted to endure the penalties of sins, that he may burn eternally in fire, nor ever be consumed. And righteously will God assign this portion to either company; for we do nothing without the body. We blaspheme with the mouth, and with the mouth we pray. With the body we commit fornication, and with the body we keep chastity. With the hand we rob, and by the hand we bestow alms; and the rest in like manner. Since then the body has been our minister in all things, it shall also share with us in the future the fruits of the past” (Catechetical Lectures 18:19 [A.D. 350]).

NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004

Love & truth,
Matthew

New Age


-by Michelle Arnold, Catholic Answers

New Age is a term that encompasses a broad spectrum of spiritual, philosophical, and theological thought developing in the West since the eighteenth century, mainly in counterpoint to (if not in direct reaction against) the rationalism of the Enlightenment. New Age suggests that adherents are seeking to usher in a new phase in human history (i.e., a “new age” or new epoch) through their spiritual practices and their philosophical and theological developments of traditional Western religious thought and practice.

It’s important to note, though, that these practitioners aren’t necessarily members of a specific religious institution or involved with an organized religious movement. Rather, the ideology is brought into existing belief systems and social structures. We might say that it’s more personal than institutional. In Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life, a 2003 document from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the New Age movement is described as “a loose network of practitioners whose approach is to think globally but act locally”:

“Because [the New Age movement] is spread across cultures, in phenomena as varied as music, films, seminars, workshops, retreats, therapies, and many more activities and events, it is much more diffuse and informal, though some religious or para-religious groups consciously incorporate New Age elements, and it has been suggested that New Age has been a source of ideas for various religious and para-religious sects.”

Although there are earlier antecedents going back to the Enlightenment, much of New Age thought owes its origin to the Theosophy movement of the mid- to late nineteenth century. Theosophy is an esoteric religion that was formulated mainly by the Russian occultist philosopher Helena Blavatsky. In much the same way that Scientology was created from the writings of L. Ron Hubbard, so Theosophy was the brainchild of Madame Blavatsky, as she was called.

According to the Theosophical Society of America, which continues to promulgate Madame Blavatsky’s work, Blavatsky “traveled all over the world in search of wisdom about life and the reason for human existence. Eventually, Blavatsky brought the spiritual wisdom of the East and that of the ancient Western mysteries to the modern West, where they were virtually unknown.”

Basically, Theosophy is the pursuit of “knowledge of the Real, both in the universe and in human beings, by means of a holistic spiritual practice that includes study, meditation, and service.” Adherents of Blavatsky’s ideas believe, among other things, that “there are no mechanical laws,” “human consciousness is in essence identical with the ultimate Reality,” and that there is a “gradual unfolding of this Reality within us [that] takes place over a long period of time through reincarnation, which is one aspect of the cyclic law that is seen everywhere in nature.”

Many modern followers of New Age practices probably have never heard of Blavatsky and don’t consider themselves to be her disciples. But the roots of many New Age ideas, including a belief that reality is defined by human consciousness and a belief in human development through reincarnation, can be traced to Blavatsky’s works. In fact, some historians credit Blavatsky with popularizing modern occultism in toto, and all that sprang from it. Her biographer Gary Lachman observed that he “discovered that many of the paths I traced led back to Blavatsky. It seemed clear that practically everyone . . . owed something to her.”

Although Blavatsky may be considered by many scholars to be “the mother of modern spirituality,” what we know in Western society today as the New Age movement got its start in the countercultural movement of the 1960s. Music historian Andrew Grant Jackson traced the origins of the twentieth century movement to the popularity of the Beatles.

“It was George Harrison’s songs espousing Hindu philosophy and featuring Indian musicians, and the Beatles’ study of Transcendental Meditation, that truly kick-started [in the U.S.] the human potential movement of the 1970s (rebranded New Age in the 1980s). In this way, the musicians helped expand the freedom of religion that the United States was founded on to encompass options outside the Judeo-Christian tradition.”

Because the New Age movement is highly individualistic and its adherents are found both within and outside traditional religion, the movement has been uniquely dependent on the commercial success and visibility of its gurus. From the 1980s onward, starting with the bestselling books of actress Shirley MacLaine, many of the fads of the New Age movement have been driven as much by Madison Avenue as they have been by spiritual ideals, a phenomenon noted in Bearer of the Water of Life as “a celebration of the sacredness of the self . . . [which] is why [the] New Age [movement] shares many of the values espoused by enterprise culture and the ‘prosperity gospel.’”

Is the New Age movement a religion? The late Jesuit theologian Fr. John Hardon defined religion as “the moral virtue by which a person is disposed to render to God the worship and service he deserves,” and noted that the word is “probably [from the] Latin religare, to tie, fasten, bind, or relegere, to gather up, treat with care.” These days, religion is often confused with philosophy or spirituality, both of which can be part of religion but are not synonyms for the word.

Many New Age adherents are members of organized religious institutions, including the Catholic Church, but the New Age movement is not institutional or organized. What adherents subscribe to is better defined as a philosophy or spirituality.

Philosophy, according to Fr. Hardon, is “the science in which natural reason, apart from divine revelation, seeks to understand all things by a knowledge of their first causes.” St. John Paul II called philosophy “one of [the] noblest of human tasks” and said it “is directly concerned with asking the question of life’s meaning and sketching an answer to it.”

New Age adherents hold to certain philosophical principles, which we’ll get into in more detail [later in the booklet]. Here, we’ll look at what the Church has said about New Age philosophy. In Bearer of the Water of Life, it is characterized this way:

“An adequate Christian discernment of New Age thought and practice cannot fail to recognize that, like second and third century Gnosticism, it represents something of a compendium of positions that the Church has identified as heterodox. John Paul II warns with regard to the “return of ancient gnostic ideas under the guise of the so-called New Age: We cannot delude ourselves that this will lead toward a renewal of religion. It is only a new way of practicing gnosticism—that attitude of the spirit that, in the name of a profound knowledge of God, results in distorting his Word and replacing it with purely human words. Gnosticism never completely abandoned the realm of Christianity. Instead, it has always existed side by side with Christianity, sometimes taking the shape of a philosophical movement, but more often assuming the characteristics of a religion or a para-religion in distinct, if not declared, conflict with all that is essentially Christian.””

Gnosticism is an ancient heresy, predating Christianity. Like the New Age movement, it was not so much institutional as it was personal, being brought into established religious movements by individuals seeking hidden knowledge. The Catholic Encyclopedia sums up gnosticism as “the doctrine of salvation by knowledge”—not public divine revelation, as understood in the Judeo-Christian tradition, but hidden knowledge revealed only to initiates (CCC 66–67).

Insofar as New Age practitioners promote avenues to hidden knowledge, it can be a form of modern gnosticism. This doesn’t necessarily mean that practitioners must be initiates in a secret society; like Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society of America, groups may be public and open. But what they claim to have is knowledge that wasn’t revealed in public divine revelation to God’s prophets and Christ’s apostles.

Spirituality is the means by which an individual relates to the transcendent. It can also refer to man’s immaterial soul, which is spirit, or [according to Fr. Hardon] “the property of being intrinsically independent of matter at least in essence and in some activities.” New Age practices generally are a form of spirituality in the first sense, that of the individual relating to the transcendent. It’s in this sense that many religious skeptics will say that they are “spiritual but not religious.” They value practices and ideologies that they believe will bring them closer to the transcendent, but they tend to spurn the obligations of conscience (doctrinal beliefs and disciplinary practices) that go with being involved in an organized religion.

In answer to whether the New Age movement is a religion, Bearer of the Water of Life states:

“The expression “New Age religion” is more controversial, so it seems best to avoid it, although New Age is often a response to people’s religious questions and needs, and its appeal is to people who are trying to discover or rediscover a spiritual dimension in their life. . . . At the heart of New Age is the belief that the time for particular religions is over, so to refer to it as a religion would run counter to its own self-understanding. However, it is quite accurate to place New Age in the broader context of esoteric religiousness, whose appeal continues to grow.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Counterfeit Christ: New Age Jesus?

“Deepak Chopra is an alternative medicine doctor and self-help advocate whose advice sounds profound but, upon closer examination, turns out to be verbose gibberish. For example, consider these two quotes:

“Attention and intention are the mechanics of manifestation.”

“Your consciousness quiets an expression of knowledge.”

The former is a real Chopra quote; the latter is just a random combination of words strung together by an online “Deepak Chopra quote generator.” It’s hard to tell them apart because Chopra’s “wisdom” consists of vague assertions about the mind creating reality combined with scientific jargon. In one article he claims, “Quantum theory implies that consciousness must exist, and that the content of the mind is the ultimate reality. If we do not look at it, the moon is gone.”

Lest you think Chopra is being merely poetic, he really believes that the most fundamental element of reality is consciousness and that we create the world around us (including the moon). He says that once we attain a high level of consciousness we can manipulate reality and accomplish incredible feats, like healing ourselves of cancer. When it comes to Jesus, Chopra promotes a common Eastern view of him as a “guru,” or someone who had achieved a level of introspective knowledge that leads to human fulfillment.

In his book The Third Christ, Chopra says, “Jesus did not physically descend from God’s dwelling place above the clouds, nor did he return to sit at the right hand of a literal throne. What made Jesus the Son of God was the fact that he has achieved God-consciousness.” So Jesus is God in the sense that we are all “God,” or that we all have the spark of “God-consciousness” within us, waiting to be actualized. That’s why Chopra tells us, “Jesus intended to save the world” not by dying for our sins but, “by showing others the path to God-consciousness.”

Man wearing Jesus Christ costume smiling positive doing ok sign with hand and fingers. Successful expression.

But how can that be true if . . .
…“Guru Jesus” is Unhistorical

In his 2008 book Jesus: A Story of Enlightenment, Chopra weaves a fanciful tale to explain how Jesus became so “enlightened.” He takes advantage of the thirty years of Christ’s life between his birth and the start of his public ministry that are not described in Scripture (save for when Jesus’ parents found him in the Temple at the age of twelve) to claim that during his teens and twenties Jesus went on a journey to India, where he learned the secret of enlightenment from other wise men before returning to Galilee.

Chopra’s tale is just another in a long line of speculative stories about Christ’s “hidden years.” They go all the way back to medieval writers, who imagined a young Jesus visiting England with his traveling-tin-merchant father Joseph of Arimathea (an idea later popularized in William Blake’s 1808 poem “And did those feet in ancient time”). The claim about Jesus going to India comes from Nicolas Notovitch’s 1894 work The Life of Saint Issa, in which he claims to have seen an ancient document in a Himalayan monastery that describes how Jesus studied Buddhism in the region. But when other journalists went and visited this monastery, they learned Notovitch had never even been there. But it was a lucrative hoax for him.

In his book, Jesus Outside the New Testament, Robert Van Voorst says that when it comes to Jesus’ alleged travels to India and Tibet, they are as historically worthless as the Quran’s testimony about Jesus we discussed in the previous chapter (of the book). Chopra readily admits that there’s no evidence for his theory in the Bible. After claiming that an unknown German scholar made these claims in the 1940’s (whom Chopra may have mistaken for Notovitch) he concludes, “I went into incubation, meditation, and I allowed this story to unfold. It fits into the category of ‘religious fiction.’”

Chopra also appeals to the apocryphal Gospels, which do have gnostic themes that are similar to New Age thought, as witnesses to the “mystical Jesus.” For example, in the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus is made so say, “I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there” (77).

Some scholars claim that the Gospel of Thomas is a first-century work and so it is the most reliable of the bunch. But other scholars, including critical ones like Bart Ehrman, believe that the Gospel’s allusions to other books of the New Testament, its reliance on later Syriac renderings of those texts, and its absence of apocalyptic themes place its composition in the middle of the second century. This alone would make it far less reliable than the first-century canonical Gospels. And that leaves the Guru Jesus theory without any historical basis whatsoever.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Calvin’s reprobation & free will


-The Doctrine of Predestination explained in a Question and Answer Format from a 1589/1594 Geneva Bible, please click on the image for greater clarity

In Christianity, the doctrine that God unilaterally predestines some persons to heaven and some to hell originated with St Augustine of Hippo during the Pelagian controversy in 412 AD. Exactly the time the Catholic Church stopped adopting the teachings of Augustine as doctrine.

Pelagius and his followers taught that people are not born with original sin and can choose to be good or evil. The controversy caused Augustine to radically reinterpret the teachings of the apostle Paul, arguing that faith is a free gift from God rather than something humans can choose. Noting that not all will hear or respond to God’s offered covenant, Augustine considered that “the more general care of God for the world becomes particularised in God’s care for the elect”. He explicitly defended God’s justice in sending newborn and stillborn babies to hell although they had no personal sin. (Limbo, merely a theological idea, not a doctrine, was a Catholic “we don’t know” answer.  Realizing the necessity of baptism for salvation, but also the innocence other than original sin, but no personal sin, seems out of line logically with God’s infinite mercy and love and also His infinite Justice.  Sending the personally innocent to Hell cannot be logical or just.  Truth cannot contradict truth.)

John Calvin taught the latter part of “double predestination” had leaving the remainder of humanity to receive eternal damnation for all their sins, even their original sin. Calvin wrote the foundational work on this topic, Institutes of the Christian Religion (1539), while living in Strasbourg after his expulsion from Geneva and consulting regularly with the Reformed theologian Martin Bucer. Calvin’s belief in the uncompromised “sovereignty of God” spawned his doctrines of providence and predestination. For the world, without providence it would be “unlivable”. For individuals, without predestination “no one would be saved”.

Calvin did not accept the concept of free will, God’s superabundant gift of grace and salvation through Jesus Christ to all, if only for the asking; understanding due to free will and original sin, causing a darkness of the will, soul, and mind, that some would reject this superabundant free gift of eternal life.

Calvinists(Presbyterians) emphasize the active nature of God’s decree to choose those foreordained to eternal wrath, yet at the same time the passive nature of that foreordination.  God gives His grace to the elect, and not to the reprobate, leaving them to themselves, and their ultimate, inevitable damnation. So, you could unwittingly be tempted to argue that there really is no difference between free will and the doctrine of reprobation, but, ahem, as they say, and truly so, the devil is in the details.

This is possible because most Calvinists(Presbyterians) hold to an Infralapsarian, the Calvinist theological discipline of the logical order of God’s decrees, view of God’s decree. In that view, God, before Creation, in His mind, first decreed that the Fall would take place, before decreeing election and reprobation. So God actively chooses whom to condemn, the reprobate, but because He knows they will have a sinful nature, the way He foreordains them is to simply let them be – this is sometimes called “preterition.”

Therefore, this foreordination to wrath is passive in nature (unlike God’s active predestination of His elect where He needs to overcome their sinful nature). So, in order to make reprobation line up with free will you have to do some logical gymnastics and hoops, which Calvinism intentionally makes you do, to come out somewhere near a fruitless effort to seem like free will, tadah; but, it’s really not.

Calvinists hold that even if their scheme is characterized as a form of determinism, it is one which insists upon the free agency and moral responsibility of the individual. How, this editor does not know.

Additionally, Calvinists(Presbyterians) hold that the will is in bondage to sin and therefore unable to actualize its true freedom. Hence, an individual whose will is enslaved to sin cannot choose to serve God. Since Calvinists(Presbyterians) further hold that salvation is by grace apart from good works (sola gratia) and since they view making a choice to trust God (free will/faith) as an action or work, they maintain that the act of choosing cannot be the difference between salvation and damnation, as in the Arminian scheme. Rather, God must first free the individual from his enslavement to sin to a greater degree than in Arminianism, and then the regenerated heart naturally chooses the good. This work by God is sometimes called irresistible, in the sense that grace enables a person to freely cooperate, being set free from the desire to do the opposite, so that cooperation is not the cause of salvation but the other way around.  God saves the elect by fiat of grace to them only and personally, without personal choice or knowledge of the elect, and they cooperate with Him.


-by Karlo Broussard

“John Calvin is famous for teaching that God doesn’t just permit moral evil, but he positively directs sinners to sin. Of “wicked” and “obstinate” men, Calvin claimed that

“[God] bends them to execute His judgments, just as if they carried their orders engraven on their minds. And hence it appears that they are impelled by the sure appointment of God (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Bk. 1, Ch. 18, sec. 3; emphasis added).”

Notice that for Calvin sinners don’t sin merely because God allows them to do so (His permissive will). Rather, he “impels” or “bends” (forces) them to sin.

But is it even possible for God to cause someone to sin?

Consider that if God were to move us to sin he would be turning us away from him, away from our ultimate end or goal, “for man sins through wandering away from [God] who is his last end” (Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles 3.162). In other words, God would be moving us to not love Him, and if so, He would fail to will the divine goodness more than any other good (cf. Summa Theologiae I:19:9). And this failure would be due either to a lack of knowledge that He is the supreme good, or a failure in due attraction to Himself as the supreme good.

But God can’t possibly fail in knowledge that He’s the supreme good because He’s omniscient. Nor can He fail to be attracted to Himself as the highest good, for that would entail a desire for some good outside the order of reason, which is impossible because He’s perfectly good.

In fact, God can’t fail in any sense. Failure necessarily entails unactualized potential. But God is traditionally understood to be pure actuality, or pure existence itself, the very notion of which excludes the idea of unactualized potential. Therefore, God can’t fail lest He cease being God.

Since God moving us to sin would entail a failure on God’s part, and God can’t fail, it follows that God can’t move us to sin.

Now, someone may just reject this classical notion of God in order to keep the idea that God moves us to sin. But then there’s not much value in a deity that’s finite and subject to defect. This position undermines the very divine sovereignty that folks like Calvin seek to preserve in asserting that God moves us to sin.

The desire to preserve God’s sovereignty is laudable. But there’s another way to preserve it that doesn’t require us to give up divine perfection.

St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that God gives some people the assistance of grace that leads them to glory in heaven (an assistance that doesn’t violate human freedom), while He permits others to fall into sin, the consequence of which is deprivation of further graces ordered to salvation (SCG 3.163). And since this is all “ordered from eternity by His wisdom,” so Aquinas reasons, “it follows of necessity that the aforesaid distinction among men has been ordered by God from eternity.”

The preordination of some to be moved to their last end is called predestination. The permissive decree to not uphold someone in the good and allow that person to sin is called reprobation. On this account, both predestination and reprobation belong to God’s providence.

Nothing is lost. God’s nature as pure actuality is preserved because there’s no unrealized potential. He remains the source of all good because those who attain final glory do so because of God’s grace. God’s sovereignty is preserved because not even sin escapes his divine plan, since from all eternity He wills to permit it. Nor is God’s innocence lost because He doesn’t move us to do evil.

Now, someone might object: “This account doesn’t protect divine innocence any more than Calvin’s system, since God could have given the grace to prevent someone from sinning if He wanted to do so.”

First of all, God is not bound in justice to give us what is not our due. In the words of Rev. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, “It is natural [Ed. according God’s will, the natural law, natural revelation] that what is defectible should sometimes fail.”

As finite creatures made in God’s image who are given the gift of freedom, our final end is in Him—not in ourselves. We must therefore direct ourselves to our final end by an act of free will, in collaboration with God’s grace. But that entails the possibility to sin. So, for God to preserve us from sin by grace would be for Him to give us something over and above what’s due to us as finite rational beings. And since God is not bound in justice to himself to give us what’s not due to our nature, it follows that God is not unjust for permitting us to sin.

Now, this doesn’t mean those whom God permits to fall into sin don’t have a chance at salvation. Aquinas teaches that God “for his part, is prepared to give graces to all” (SCG 3.159). He quotes 1 Timothy 2:4 for biblical support: “[God]…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” And how does He do this?

“The common and wonted course of justification is that God moves the soul interiorly and that man is converted to God, first by an imperfect conversion, that it may afterwards become perfect (ST I-II:113:10).”

God gives to all the grace that leads to an imperfect conversion, and because this grace has the potential to lead to further good acts meritorious of salvation, there’s a real chance at salvation: “the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery” (Gaudium et Spes 22).

With regard to the grace needed to perform more-perfect acts, like a more perfect act of conversion, God only withholds it if man resists the order that the first grace has to the more perfect act. Again, Aquinas writes,

“But those alone are deprived of grace, who place in themselves an obstacle to grace: thus he who shuts his eyes while the sun is shining is to be blamed if an accident occurs, although he is unable to see unless the sun’s light enable him to do so (SCG 3.159).”

This allows Aquinas to conclude that “God does not cause grace not to be supplied to someone; rather, those not supplied with grace offer an obstacle to grace” (De Malo q. III, a. 1, ad 8).

God does permit us to sin, but this doesn’t count against God’s goodness because He’s not bound in justice to Himself to prevent us from sinning.  [Ed. His knowledge that we will sin, and that some will be damned, and even whom, does not prevent, or interrupt our free will.  Knowing something does not effect or alter or change or impel a result of the consequence of free will. cf Augustine.  Also, God knows every combination that can happen, so, in that way, God is omniscient.  When we think of God knows the future, we fail in understanding and imagination that as only one possible thread existing preemptive and future.]

As to why God doesn’t rescue every man from sin, and allows some to fall into it, it’s a mystery. As Aquinas says, it “has no reason, except the divine will” (ST I:23:5 ad 3).

So, for anyone who wants to hold to the idea that God moves us to sin, as Calvin believed, he must hold an idea of God as a finite being who is subject to error. The view articulated by Aquinas doesn’t require this of us. It preserves God’s perfection and his divine sovereignty by allowing both predestination and reprobation to be part of God’s providence without having to say God moves us to sin.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Excommunicating the Queen


-Elizabeth Tudor, please click on the image for greater detail.

Although excommunication has a softer tone now, and is interpreted as medicinal, currently, it was not always so.  It was always hoped the impenitent would return to the faith in true sorrow and penance, but if not, for a monarch, especially at the time of Elizabeth I, it absolved all her subjects from allegiance to her and her laws.  It also excommunicated all those who did obey the monarch’s laws and commands.

Excommunication is a great disgrace to Catholics. An excommunicated person was not to be dealt with, as it was believed that they were unchristian and would go to hell. Even until as recently as 1983, shunning was at least on the books, the tolerati, with whom the faithful were allowed some measure of social or business interaction, and the vitandi, literally, “to be avoided”. the faithful were not to associate with them “except in the case of husband and wife, parents, children, servants, subjects”, and in general unless there was some reasonable excusing cause.


-by Steve Weidenkopf


-Mary Tudor

“The day, long feared by Catholics, had arrived. Beloved Queen Mary’s five-year reign ended with her death while she was hearing Mass on November 17, 1558.

The daughter of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon proved a brave ruler, who deemed it God’s will to see the Catholic Faith openly practiced in the kingdom once more. Although her father, in order to be free of his wife, had taken the initial step of controlling the Church in England, the crown did not embrace heretical doctrine until the rule of her half-brother Edward VI (son of Henry and Jane Seymour).

Edward’s reign marked the expunging of the Faith and the use of force and penalties to impose the Protestant heresy on the Catholic people of England. But Edward was a sickly boy and his reign ended after six years. The men at the royal court responsible for implementing Protestant teaching and worship on the people, chief among them Thomas Cranmer, were brought to justice under Mary’s reign.

The Catholic Church flourished during the time of the beloved queen (the later moniker “bloody” associated with her name, applied by Protestant historians, is a travesty of charity) but fear always lurked behind the scenes. The queen was not married when she assumed the throne at the age of thirty-seven, but that was soon remedied with nuptials to Prince Philip of Spain. Sadly, the union produced no heir, which fueled the fear that Mary’s Protestant half-sister Elizabeth Tudor (daughter of King Henry and Anne Boleyn) would assume the throne upon Mary’s death.

English Catholics believed the legitimate heir to the English crown was Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots (r. 1542–1567) because of her Catholic faith and relationship to the Tudor line (she was the granddaughter of Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII’s sister). However, political intrigue, not the least of which was the religious revolution in Scotland unleashed by the Protestant revolutionary, John Knox, prevented Mary Stuart from assuming the English throne.

Raised Protestant, Elizabeth spent much of her forty-five years upon the throne violently suppressing the Catholic Faith in England. One of the longest reigning monarchs in English history, Elizabeth is widely known as “Good Queen Bess”—a strong, independent, intelligent “Virgin Queen” who led her people into an era of unprecedented prosperity and represented the strong Protestantism of her people.

This narrative is, as Catholic historian Hilaire Belloc aptly described, “a monstrous scaffolding of poisonous nonsense.” In reality, Elizabeth was a figurehead monarch controlled behind the scenes by powerful men, who had been enriched by the dissolution of the Catholic monasteries under Henry and had an economic incentive to prevent the permanent restoration of the Catholic Faith in England.

English Catholics during the time of Elizabeth suffered greatly under the first state-sanctioned persecution of the Catholic Church since the Roman Empire. The first salvos in a long legislative campaign to eradicate the Catholic faith in England began in 1559, when Elizabeth was declared the Chief Governor of all Spiritual and Ecclesiastical Affairs in England by the Act of Supremacy, which required all clergy and university professors to take an oath of loyalty to her as head of the Church. Refusal to take the oath resulted in confiscation of property, imprisonment, and the possibility of the death penalty.

Another piece of legislation, the Act of Uniformity, restored Protestant worship in England and required every citizen to attend Church of England services; refusal to do so was punished by heavy fines. This legislation also declared it a crime to believe the pope is the head of the Church in England. Other anti-Catholic legislation passed during Elizabeth’s reign included a law that made conversion to the Catholic Faith a treasonous act punishable by death. When Jesuit missionaries arrived in the embattled nation to minister to the underground Church, laws were passed making it a criminal offense (aiding and abetting rebellion) to harbor or assist a Jesuit priest.

The attack on the Church in Elizabethan England required a response, especially if the Faith was to survive, even underground. William Cardinal Allen soon recognized the need for Englishmen to be trained abroad for the priesthood and then sent back to England, so in 1568 he established a seminary across the Channel in Douai (now part of France) known as the English College. Once ordained, the seminary’s graduates would return home clandestinely to care for the persecuted faithful.

One such priest, Cuthbert Mayne (1544–1577), [Ed. a former Anglican priest who had converted to Catholicism] arrived secretly in England on April 24, 1576. He ministered to the underground Church for just over a year until he was arrested on June 8, 1577 and sentenced to death. He was given the opportunity to save his life by recanting his Catholic faith by swearing on a Bible that Elizabeth was the head of the Church. Fr. Mayne took the Bible made the sign of the cross and said, “The Queen never was, nor is, nor ever shall be the head of the Church!” He was executed in the horrific manner of being hanged, drawn, and quartered and was the first of many martyred priests in Elizabethan England.

The popes had watched with great concern the persecution of the Church and supported efforts to minister to the underground Catholics in England. Eventually, one pope believed it was time for a radical response.


-Pope St Pius V, please click on the image for greater detail.

Upon his election to the papacy, Michele Cardinal Ghislieri took the name Pius V. Racked by the Protestant Revolution throughout Europe, the Church needed a vigorous response. Although the Catholic Reformation had begun under his predecessors, it was Pope St. Pius V (r. 1566–1572) who implemented the great Reform and set the Church on the path of restoration and recovery. A holy Dominican and former head of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in Rome, Pius was resolute in providing relief to the embattled Catholics in England. Elizabeth had been on the throne for twelve years and the efforts of previous pontiffs working with secular rulers to alleviate the sufferings of English Catholics had proved lacking. So, Pius V decided it was time to excommunicate the queen and call for her overthrow.

On April 27, 1570, Pius promulgated the bull Regnans in Excelsis, in which the “pretended queen of England and the servant of crime” was excommunicated for embracing the “errors of heretics.” The bull outlined the persecution of Catholics under Elizabeth and declared her deposed. All loyalty due her as monarch was revoked. Pius hoped the bull would spark a revolt in England and lead to Elizabeth’s overthrow.

This was not the first time a pontiff had excommunicated a secular ruler and called for a revolution. As with many previous examples, however, this effort failed to achieve its goal and even backfired. It was exploited by Elizabeth and her advisors, chiefly William Cecil (1520–1598), as “proof” that one could not be both Catholic and a loyal Englishman. During the following thirty-three years of Elizabeth’s reign, the Church saw six more pontificates. She continued her bloody persecution of Catholics in England, but the Faith would persevere as a result of the blood of the martyrs.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Scientism

“Versions of scientism have been present in Western thinking for centuries, but our contemporary form has clear roots in the logical positivism of A.J. Ayer and his ideological allies in the Vienna Circle of the 1920s and 1930s. These theorists defended the view that the meaningfulness of a proposition is a function of that proposition’s verifiability or at least falsifiability. That is to say, a claim is meaningful if and only if its truth or falsity can be determined through empirical observation. Thus, the assertions that five hundred people attended a lecture I gave last month or that the earth revolves around the sun are meaningful statements, precisely because observation could either confirm or deny them. Religious propositions, however, such as “God exists,” “God’s will is being realized in this situation,” or “the soul shall live forever,” are not so much false (though Ayer and his colleagues think they are false) but meaningless, no more than expressions of the feelings and hopes of those who articulate them. One accordingly might smile at them or frown at them disapprovingly, but one would never endeavor to argue about them.

Now, problems with this scientistic or positivistic method abound, but the most fundamental difficulty is that the entire program rests squarely upon a contradiction. The principle is that the only meaningful statements are those that can be confirmed through empirical observation and experimentation; and yet, that very principle is not confirmable in such a manner. Where or how does one observe or experimentally verify the assertion that meaningfulness is reducible to that which can be observed through the senses? In point of fact, scientism itself is not scientific but rather philosophical, for it is a rational intuition regarding the epistemological order. Fair enough—but the one thing you are not permitted to accomplish through a philosophical proposal is to exclude philosophical proposals from the category of meaningfulness! Logical positivism, and its contemporary cousin scientism, cut off the branch on which they are sitting; or, to shift the metaphor, they are quite obviously hoisted on their own petard.

A second crucial problem with this proposal is that it stands athwart the practically universal consensus that there are indeed nonscientific paths to knowledge. Who can seriously doubt that philosophy, literature, drama, poetry, painting, and mysticism are not only uplifting and entertaining but also truth-bearing? Hamlet provides no real insight into human psychology and motivation? Dante’s Divine Comedy conveys no truths about politics, art, sin, or religious aspiration? The Waste Land tells us nothing intellectually substantive about the human heart? Plato’s dialogues shed no real light on ethics, justice, and the good life? One would have to be extremely narrow-minded to think so.

I should like to linger with the example of Plato for a moment. The man who effectively founded the discipline of philosophy in the West understood, as did many other sages and mystics of both the East and West, the beguiling quality of what is given to sense experience. What we can see, touch, taste, hear, and experience directly is so immediately and indisputably there that we can remain completely under its spell. Mind you, Plato did not think that the sensible order is unreal. But he did indeed intuit that there are dimensions of reality that are greater, richer, and more abiding. And he further realized that, in order to gain access to that realm, one must go through a sort of intellectual and spiritual training, or if I might state it more bluntly, a discipline by which one is wrenched away from one’s preoccupation with the physical and the sensual. Pierre Hadot pointed out that Plato was proposing not so much a doctrine (though a set of teachings can be distilled from his writings) but rather a bios or an entire way of life,14 something akin to monasticism. The famous dialogues are literary records of the process.

Central to Plato’s discipline was conversation, the asking and answering of questions, designed to tease all the participants into a consciousness of the abiding things that lie behind and beyond immediate experience. The literary device that best delineates this progressive illumination is the allegory of the cave15 found in book seven of the Republic. Everyone who has passed through a Philosophy 101 course undoubtedly remembers the main points of the story. A group of prisoners are chained deep inside a cave, compelled by their bonds to face the wall of the cavern on which flicker shadows cast by puppets, which are manipulated by people whom the prisoners cannot see. One of the captives manages to free himself. He turns around and sees the extraordinarily substantive objects, which are the source of the two-dimensional shades that he had taken to be the whole of reality. In time, he wanders past the puppets and makes his way to the mouth of the cave. Venturing outside, he is first overwhelmed by the brightness of the sunlight, but as his eyes adjust, he sees the people, trees, animals, and objects of which the puppets within the cave, he realizes, are but simulacra. Finally, he catches a fleeting glimpse of the sun, in whose light those splendid things appear.

This compelling little tale—which has been mimicked from Dante’s Divine Comedy to Fahrenheit 451 and The Matrix—is the account of a hero’s journey from limited to unrestricted consciousness, from a preoccupation with the immediate to a consideration of the eternal. The flickering shadows and the insubstantial puppets represent the world of sense experience. What subsists in space and time—what can be verified through the senses—is necessarily fleeting, evanescent. Plants, animals, human beings, subatomic particles, and even the stars and planets all come into being and pass out of being. However, a philosophically disciplined conversation discloses that these passing realities are conditioned by a formal dimension of being, represented by the substantive objects and figures outside the cave. Followed all the way to the end, the philosophical quest conduces toward the knowledge of the absolute source from which even the formal feature of being comes—namely, the Good itself—symbolized by the overwhelming beauty of the sun.

Obviously, the spelling out of this process would take us far beyond the purview of this book and into the full complexity of Plato’s philosophy. But I might give some flavor of the Platonic approach with one simple example. When a person comes to grasp a mathematical truth, say that 2+3=5, she has, in a very real sense, stepped into another world. As mentioned, everything in sense experience is fleeting, and therefore our knowledge of this realm is extremely limited, unsure, and time-conditioned. It is indeed like watching shadows flicker on a wall. But two and three equal five anytime, anywhere, and in any possible world. To see two things juxtaposed with three things so as to form a conglomerate of five is something any animal could do; but to grasp the principle that two and three are five is to enter a qualitatively higher realm of existence and thought. The commonness of the experience—any first grader can have it—should not blind us to the surpassing significance of it. It is like stepping out of a cave into the light. And the mathematical, for Plato, is but the first step on the way toward properly philosophical perception of the structuring elements of reality.

Plato’s best-known pupil, Aristotle, followed the dialogic discipline and came to these deeper perceptions, though he expressed the progress more prosaically than his master. In his mature writings, Aristotle would speak of three different degrees of knowledge: physics, mathematics, and metaphysics. The first studies matter in motion; the second explores numeric and geometrical abstractions; and the third looks into “being as being”—that is to say, the elements that make something not only material or mobile but existent. Aristotle doesn’t despise physics for a moment (in fact, it could be credibly argued that he is the father of the discipline), but he insists that the mind pushes past what physics can deliver. As a young man, he had experienced the intoxication of escaping from the cave, and he had no interest in limiting himself to that narrow space.

All of which brings me back to scientism. I reverence the sciences and I benefit daily from the technologies that they’ve made possible. Moreover, my life has quite literally been saved at least twice by medical interventions that would have been unthinkable before the rise of the modern physical sciences. But even the most advanced, complex, and practically beneficial science is, in Platonic terms, a gazing at shadows on the wall of the cave. It is a useful and beautiful exercise of the mind indeed, but it is a concentration on reality at a relatively low level of intensity. I rarely agree with the well-known atheist Bertrand Russell, but I have always resonated with his comment that mathematics is one of the doors to mysticism and religion. Though he meant that in a reductive and dismissive way, I would affirm its veracity in the Platonic sense: the understanding of a mathematical truth is a first step out of mere sensuality and toward the properly transcendent. The contemporary philosopher Charles Taylor speaks of the “buffered self”16 as one of the marks of our secular, post-religious culture. By this he means a self sealed off from any contact with the transcendent. Scientism is the official philosophy of the buffered self. Blowing some holes in that barrier and letting in some light is a propaedeutic to having a real argument about religion.”

-Barron, Robert. Arguing Religion: A Bishop Speaks at Facebook and Google (pp. 18-26). Word on Fire. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

14 a bios or an entire way of life: See Pierre Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault, ed. Arnold I. Davidson (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 1995).
15 the allegory of the cave: Plato, Republic, trans. G.M.A. Grube, rev. by C.D.C. Reeve (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1992), 186-191.
16 the “buffered self”: See Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007).