Category Archives: Heresy

What is Moral Therapeutic Deism?

OPs_overcoming_heresy
-The Dominican Order Overcoming Heresy, 1750 (oil on canvas), by Mattia Bortoloni, 1750, Musee des Beaux-Arts, Pau, France

R_Albert_Mohler
-by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

“When Christian Smith and his fellow researchers with the National Study of Youth and Religion at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took a close look at the religious beliefs held by American teenagers, they found that the faith held and described by most adolescents came down to something the researchers identified as “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.”

As described by Smith and his team, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism consists of beliefs like these:
1. “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.”
2. “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.”
3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.”
4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.”
5. “Good people go to heaven when they die.”

(Sound familiar? Sounds nice, its just…its not Christianity! Certainly NOT Catholicism!))

That, in sum, is the creed to which much adolescent faith can be reduced. After conducting more than 3,000 interviews with American adolescents, the researchers reported that, when it came to the most crucial questions of faith and beliefs, many adolescents responded with a shrug and “whatever.”

As a matter of fact, the researchers, whose report is summarized in Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Eyes of American Teenagers by Christian Smith with Melinda Lundquist Denton, found that American teenagers are incredibly inarticulate about their religious beliefs, and most are virtually unable to offer any serious theological understanding. As Smith reports, “To the extent that the teens we interviewed did manage to articulate what they understood and believed religiously, it became clear that most religious teenagers either do not really comprehend what their own religious traditions say they are supposed to believe, or they do understand it and simply do not care to believe it. Either way, it is apparent that most religiously affiliated U.S. teens are not particularly interested in espousing and upholding the beliefs of their faith traditions, or that their communities of faith are failing in attempts to educate their youth, or both.”

As the researchers explained, “For most teens, nobody has to do anything in life, including anything to do with religion. ‘Whatever’ is just fine, if that’s what a person wants.”

The casual “whatever” that marks so much of the American moral and theological landscapes–adolescent and otherwise–is a substitute for serious and responsible thinking. More importantly, it is a verbal cover for an embrace of relativism. Accordingly, “most religious teenager’s opinions and views–one can hardly call them worldviews–are vague, limited, and often quite at variance with the actual teachings of their own religion.”

The kind of responses found among many teenagers indicates a vast emptiness at the heart of their understanding. When a teenager says, “I believe there is a God and stuff,” this hardly represents a profound theological commitment.

Amazingly, teenagers are not inarticulate in general. As the researchers found, “Many teenagers know abundant details about the lives of favorite musicians and television stars or about what it takes to get into a good college, but most are not very clear on who Moses and Jesus were.” The obvious conclusion: “This suggests that a strong, visible, salient, or intentional faith is not operating in the foreground of most teenager’s lives.”

One other aspect of this study deserves attention at this point. The researchers, who conducted thousands of hours of interviews with a carefully identified spectrum of teenagers, discovered that for many of these teens, the interview itself was the first time they had ever discussed a theological question with an adult. What does this say about our churches? What does this say about this generation of parents?

In the end, this study indicates that American teenagers are heavily influenced by the ideology of individualism that has so profoundly shaped the larger culture. This bleeds over into a reflexive non-judgmentalism and a reluctance to suggest that anyone might actually be wrong in matters of faith and belief. Yet, these teenagers are unable to live with a full-blown relativism.

The researchers note that many responses fall along very moralistic lines–but they reserve their most non-judgmental attitudes for matters of theological conviction and belief. Some go so far as to suggest that there are no “right” answers in matters of doctrine and theological conviction.

The “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” that these researchers identify as the most fundamental faith posture and belief system of American teenagers appears, in a larger sense, to reflect the culture as a whole. Clearly, this generalized conception of a belief system is what appears to characterize the beliefs of vast millions of Americans, both young and old.

This is an important missiological observation–a point of analysis that goes far beyond sociology. As Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton explained, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism “is about inculcating a moralistic approach to life. It teaches that central to living a good and happy life is being a good, moral person. That means being nice, kind, pleasant, respectful, responsible, at work on self-improvement, taking care of one’s health, and doing one’s best to be successful.” In a very real sense, that appears to be true of the faith commitment, insofar as this can be described as a faith commitment, held by a large percentage of Americans. These individuals, whatever their age, believe that religion should be centered in being “nice”–a posture that many believe is directly violated by assertions of strong theological conviction.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is also “about providing therapeutic benefits to its adherents.” As the researchers explained, “This is not a religion of repentance from sin, of keeping the Sabbath, of living as a servant of sovereign divinity, of steadfastly saying one’s prayers, of faithfully observing high holy days, of building character through suffering, of basking in God’s love and grace, of spending oneself in gratitude and love for the cause of social justice, et cetera. Rather, what appears to be the actual dominant religion among U.S. teenagers is centrally about feeling good, happy, secure, at peace. It is about attaining subjective well-being, being able to resolve problems, and getting along amiably with other people.”

In addition, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism presents a unique understanding of God. As Smith explains, this amorphous faith “is about belief in a particular kind of God: one who exists, created the world, and defines our general moral order, but not one who is particularly personally involved in one’s affairs–especially affairs in which one would prefer not to have God involved. Most of the time, the God of this faith keeps a safe distance.”

Smith and his colleagues recognize that the deity behind Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is very much like the deistic God of the 18th-century philosophers. This is not the God who thunders from the mountain, nor a God who will serve as judge. This undemanding deity is more interested in solving our problems and in making people happy. “In short, God is something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist: he is always on call, takes care of any problems that arise, professionally helps his people to feel better about themselves, and does not become too personally involved in the process.”

Obviously, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is not an organized faith. This belief system has no denominational headquarters and no mailing address. Nevertheless, it has millions and millions of devotees across the United States and other advanced cultures, where subtle cultural shifts have produced a context in which belief in such an undemanding deity makes sense. Furthermore, this deity does not challenge the most basic self-centered assumptions of our postmodern age. Particularly when it comes to so-called “lifestyle” issues, this God is exceedingly tolerant and this religion is radically undemanding.

As sociologists, Smith and his team suggest that this Moralistic Therapeutic Deism may now constitute something like a dominant civil religion that constitutes the belief system for the culture at large. Thus, this basic conception may be analogous to what other researchers have identified as “lived religion” as experienced by the mainstream culture.

Moving to even deeper issues, these researches claim that Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is “colonizing” Christianity itself, as this new civil religion seduces converts who never have to leave their congregations and Christian identification as they embrace this new faith and all of its undemanding dimensions.

Consider this remarkable assessment: “Other more accomplished scholars in these areas will have to examine and evaluate these possibilities in greater depth. But we can say here that we have come with some confidence to believe that a significant part of Christianity in the United States is actually [only] tenuously Christian in any sense that is seriously connected to the actual historical Christian tradition, but is rather substantially morphed into Christianity’s misbegotten step-cousin, Christian Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.”

They argue that this distortion of Christianity has taken root not only in the minds of individuals, but also “within the structures of at least some Christian organizations and institutions.”

How can you tell? “The language, and therefore experience, of Trinity, holiness, sin, grace, justification, sanctification, church, . . . and heaven and hell appear, among most Christian teenagers in the United States at the very least, to be supplanted by the language of happiness, niceness, and an earned heavenly reward.”

Does this mean that America is becoming more secularized? Not necessarily. These researchers assert that Christianity is either degenerating into a pathetic version of itself or, more significantly, Christianity is actively being colonized and displaced by a quite different religious faith.

This radical transformation of Christian theology and Christian belief replaces the sovereignty of God with the sovereignty of the self. In this therapeutic age, human problems are reduced to pathologies in need of a treatment plan. Sin is simply excluded from the picture, and doctrines as central as the wrath and justice of God are discarded as out of step with the times and unhelpful to the project of self-actualization.

All this means is that teenagers have been listening carefully. They have been observing their parents in the larger culture with diligence and insight. They understand just how little their parents really believe and just how much many of their churches and Christian institutions have accommodated themselves to the dominant culture. They sense the degree to which theological conviction has been sacrificed on the altar of individualism and a relativistic understanding of truth. They have learned from their elders that self-improvement is the one great moral imperative to which all are accountable, and they have observed the fact that the highest aspiration of those who shape this culture is to find happiness, security, and meaning in life.

This research project demands the attention of every thinking Christian. Those who are prone to dismiss sociological analysis as irrelevant will miss the point. We must now look at the United States of America as missiologists once viewed nations that had never heard the gospel. Indeed, our missiological challenge may be even greater than the confrontation with paganism, for we face a succession of generations who have transformed Christianity into something that bears no resemblance to the faith revealed in the Bible. The faith “once delivered to the saints” is no longer even known, not only by American teenagers, but by most of their parents. Millions of Americans believe they are Christians, simply because they have some historic tie to a Christian denomination or identity.

We now face the challenge of evangelizing a nation that largely considers itself Christian, overwhelmingly believes in some deity, considers itself fervently religious, but has virtually no connection to historic Christianity. Christian Smith and his colleagues have performed an enormous service for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ in identifying Moralistic Therapeutic Deism as the dominant religion of this American age. Our responsibility is to prepare the church to respond to this new religion, understanding that it represents the greatest competitor to biblical Christianity. More urgently, this study should warn us all that our failure to teach this generation of teenagers the realities and convictions of biblical Christianity will mean that their children will know even less and will be even more readily seduced by this new form of paganism. This study offers irrefutable evidence of the challenge we now face. As the motto reminds us, “Knowledge is power.”

Love, rejecting MTD,
Matthew

Moral Therapeutic Deism Heresy: the Kingdom of God is within you

st dominic
-our blessed father Dominic, scourge & hammer of heretics.

It is said there are no new heresies. I tend to agree. They are just recycled and repackaged. This one smells like Gnosticism, that old canard.

“My Kingdom is not of this world.” -Jn 18:36

“…Heaven is not a place and cannot be found on a map; rather it is where God’s will is done…”
– Pope Benedict XVI

This heresy results as too loose a translation of Luke 17:20-21.  See why doing your homework and knowing a thing or two about Scripture, languages, ancient & modern, Scripture’s variety in translation, etc., all those gruesome details is important!!!

Carelessness in translation, let alone reading or interpretation changes the WHOLE meaning, often in error!!!  CAUTION:  picking up any old thing and reading it literally is dangerous, kind readers!!!   Maybe that is why the Church was cautious about the untrained having any old thing without training in hand?  Ya think?  Maybe that is why it was why the Church determined the canon of Scripture?  Ya think?  Instead of the other way around?  Ya think? It is dangerous.  

Consult orthodox experts, please, at least for the sake of intellectual integrity, if not orthodox faith, before walking off the theological or doctrinal cliff!! IFF…you want anyone to take you seriously.

Attorneys are trained to argue both sides. Wise advice for anyone holding opinions, imho.

Scot-McKnight
-by Dr. Scott McKnight, PhD

“In the end, the God Within heresy is a kindly apocalypse: it overwhelms with niceness, tolerance, and is a make-up-your-own religion that is safe as long as you and I leave one another alone to make up our own religion for ourselves. Ross Douthat, in Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, takes direct aim at the following: Elizabeth Gilbert, Oprah Winfrey, Eckhart Tolle, Karen Armstrong, and some others like Deepak Chopra, Paulo Coehlho, James Redfield, Neale Donald Walsch, and Marianne Williamson. My read of American religion is that the God Within heresy is far more pervasive and far more threatening to Christianity than the prosperity gospel (…another heresy, no thank you Joel Osteen). These are the “spiritual but not religious” crowd, Douthat says.

How pervasive is this God Within theology/religion/spirituality? Where are you seeing it in the church? Why is it so appealing?

Douthat goes after Gilbert, famous for her book Eat, Pray, Love, a journey from a marriage, to divorce, to seeking God in the Far East at an ashram recommended by her (ex-)lover, and then finally finding love in Bali with a Brazilian man … she had arrived, and her secret is what Douthat calls the God Within. She found a voice within, a voice within her own self, it was God’s voice, it was God, it was herself. God and Self, more or less the same.

For Gilbert, all religions offer the path to the divine — and all religious teachings are “transporting metaphors” leading to the infinite — you can cherry pick your own religion, make it all up, bricolage spirituality. Here’s her creed: “God dwells within you as you yourself, exactly the way you are” (214). We are to “honor the divinity that resides within” us (215).

What does this God Within stuff believe? Four points:
1. Organized religions offer only a glimpse of God.
2. God is everywhere and within everything; it is a form of pantheism ultimately.
3. All will eventually be reconciled with God — pantheistic universalism.
4. The good life, peace, etc, is available now.

They think they are truer to Christianity and Christ than most of Christianity. Here is where it becomes not only the God Within, but even more: the Me in the God Within. The person finds his or her own voice, or God, or the Soul.

It depersonalizes God — not the Father, Son and Spirit; not Yahweh; instead it is Being, Soul of the World, Highest Thought, Supreme Love (Ed. sounds more like eastern spirituality than Christianity, methinks). He gives Karen Armstrong a good sketch too: not about propositions but about encounter. The problem is that the theologians who are colonized into this new bricolaged religion of God Within, seen in #1 above, were all fiercely dogmatic — Gregory of Nyssa, Aquinas, et al. They knew their limits, but what they knew they really knew — and held out for. The faith exists because of the Flannery O’Connors, not the Paulo Coelhos.

He gets after a point that I have found so often among this crowd, and I see it at times in some in the spiritual formation movement: baptizing egomania and divinizing selfishness (his terms). That is, it becomes about Me and what God is doing in Me and my Soul and my Own Inner Self. It’s a kind of solipsism, he says. Religion for such people is the great Self-Enabler!

Critics or prophets were Philip Rieff and Les Kolakowski and Christian Smith and Melinda Denton. Moral therapeutic deism is where this stuff leads. God is out there for Me. So just be nice.”

Love, realizing the Kingdom of God is at hand! -Mk 1:15,
Matthew

The Heresy of Deism, the Enlightenment, & the Trinity

Official_Presidential_portrait_of_Thomas_Jefferson_(by_Rembrandt_Peale,_1800)

-“Thomas Jefferson”, by Rembrandt Peale, 1800, official Presidential portrait, my favorite image of the sage of Monticello

“The hocus-pocus phantasm of a God like another Cerberus, with one body and three heads, had its birth and growth in the blood of thousands and thousands of martyrs… In fact, the Athanasian paradox that one is three, and three but one, is so incomprehensible to the human mind, that no candid man can say he has any idea of it, and how can he believe what presents no idea? He who thinks he does, only deceives himself. He proves, also, that man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without a rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such persons, gullibility which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason, and the mind becomes a wreck.”
-letter to James Smith discussing Jefferson’s hate of the doctrine of the Christian trinity, December 8 1822

As an alumnus of the University of Virginia, I am torn as a Catholic when it comes to its founder’s theology.  I really do not like Mr. Jefferson’s, as he is called on grounds, theology.  It does not ring true for me, nor many others, I confidently suspect, but it is a bellwether of Enlightenment thinking in which the USA was founded, for woe or weal, and does serve as an excellent example of Deism.

Deism/Theism

Deism combines the rejection of revelation and authority as a source of religious knowledge with the conclusion that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of a single creator of the universe.  The Trinity is only known through Scriptural revelation, hence the Deist’s denial of this divinely revealed truth.

Deism holds that God does not intervene with the functioning of the natural world but rather allows it to function according to the laws of nature.

Fides et Ratio

Catholic “Fides et Ratio”, Faith and Reason, holds that both faith, natural and revealed, should not contradict reason.  If there is an apparent contradiction, there is a requirement to go deeper in our theology or our science to more profoundly understand, and that the two systems of thought will come into alignment and congruity once again, for a time, until another apparent contradiction offers us the opportunity to go further still.

Truth is known through a combination of faith and reason. The absence of either one will diminish man’s ability to know himself, the world and God. Human reason seeks the truth, but the ultimate truth about the meaning of life cannot be found by reason alone.

To the Deist/Theist, only reason may or need be applied, the over-emphasis of reason over every other consideration.  The motivation was to move beyond the perceived “superstitious” Middle Ages.  Revelation is not a primary font, nor is historical Christianity, hence, heresy.

Trinity

“God is love.” (Jn 3:16)  It is antithetical, we know, that (the Father’s) love should remain unreciprocated.  So we know there must be a beloved (the Son).  Because there is this great love between the divine lover and the divine beloved, it is so great, it is so intense, another person is “generated” (the Holy Spirit), hence the Trinity, known from Revelation, not from reason.  Sounds like a family to me.

“My Venerable Brother Bishops, Health and the Apostolic Blessing. Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth — in a word, to know himself — so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves (cf. Ex 33:18; Ps 27:8-9; 63:2-3; Jn 14:8; 1 Jn 3:2).” –JPII, Fides et Ratio

Pope St John Paul II
Crossing the Threshold of Hope

“In prayer, then, the true protagonist is God. The protagonist is Christ, who constantly frees creation from slavery to corruption and leads it toward liberty, for the glory of the children of God. The protagonist is the Holy Spirit, who “comes to the aid of our weakness.” We begin to pray, believing that it is our own initiative that compels us to do so. Instead, we learn that it is always God’s initiative within us, just as Saint Paul has written. This initiative restores in us our true humanity; it restores in us our unique dignity. Yes, we are brought into the higher dignity of the children of God, the children of God who are the hope of all creation.

One can and must pray in many different ways, as the Bible teaches through a multitude of examples. The Book of Psalms is irreplaceable. We must pray with “inexpressible groanings” in order to enter into rhythm with the Spirit’s own entreaties. To obtain forgiveness one must implore, becoming part of the loud cries of Christ the Redeemer (cf. Heb 5:7). Through all of this one must proclaim glory. Prayer is always an opus gloriae (a work, a labor, of glory). Man is the priest of all creation. Christ conferred upon him this dignity and vocation. Creation completes its opus gloriae both by being what it is and by its duty to become what should be.”

Love,
Matthew

Grace & Catholicism – #nuffsaid

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FredNoltie
-by Fred Noltie

“It is not news to say that many Protestants claim that the Catholic Church teaches a form of salvation by merit in contrast to their own belief in salvation by grace. This claim about the Church’s teaching is of course false, as we have observed many times at this blog. A long time ago I wrote on the same subject, and it seems like a good idea to rehearse the main points I made at that time (along with, perhaps, some additions).

That about covers the gamut, I think, but it is hardly the last word from the Church on the subject. The much-maligned Council of Trent has a thing or two to say as well. By way of summary: “…it is necessary to believe that sins neither are remitted, nor ever were remitted save gratuitously by the mercy of God for Christ’s sake” (Decree on Justification, chapter IX). Furthermore, the entire seventh chapter (see previous link) of the Decree enumerates the various causes of our justification. As anyone can see, none of them are human efforts; all of them are divine.

This hardly seems necessary since Protestants have been resorting to the “legalism” canard since the sixteenth century, but for the sake of completeness it’s worth observing that the Church today still affirms salvation by grace alone.

Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God. (CCC 1996)

And: “Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him” (CCC 153).

And: “Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit” (CCC 154).

Our Protestant brothers’ claim is obviously based upon a deficit of information about the actual facts, which makes the claim invalid.”

Love,
Matthew

The Heresy of Albigensianism – Ecclesia Semper Reformanda

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-please click on the image for a larger one and more detail

weidenkopf_YOF
-by Steve Weidenkopf

“So really the beginnings of this movement, or this event, start in the latter part of the 12th Century. What happens in 1184, Pope Lucius III sends a list of heresies to Bishops throughout Christendom. And he orders them, these Bishops, to take an active role in determining the guilt of heretics. So the Pope sends a list out to all the Bishops in Christendom, saying you the Bishop must take an active role of determining the guilt of heretics within your particular diocese.

Now why that was somewhat radical or different or why that’s kind of the beginning of this movement of the Inquisition is because before that time, really the Church relied on secular rulers to be the ones who combated heresy in their regions. It wasn’t necessarily something the Church had an active role in, it was something that they just looked towards the secular lord.

Because think about it, this is a time of feudalism. There’s no real nation-states, as we understand them. There’s no police force, there’s no standing army, that kind of thing. Really the police, the army was the lord and those who were aligned to him through vassalage and the feudal system. So it was the lord’s job to protect and to govern and to police the area. But the Church soon realized this became a problem here as we moved towards the end of the 12th Century, as I’ll tell you in a minute why.

But it became a problem because you had secular rulers trying to determine whether someone was guilty of heresy. The secular ruler had no training in theology, was not a theologian, had no real understanding of whether or not what the person was saying to him was contrary to the faith or not.

So the Pope realized this and said, “We need to put a stop to that, let’s actually start to institute something.” So at least in the beginning, Lucius III said, “Okay, Bishops, it’s your responsibility to discern whether someone is guilty of heresy in your area, in your diocese or not.” Later on, in 1231, Pope Gregory IX will come along and he will formally institute procedures for what are known as the medieval inquisitors, or we can call them Papal inquisitors during this period of time. And these Papal inquisitors were charged with determining orthodox belief, whether someone was embracing heresy and whether one was a heretic or not.

And he stipulated the qualifications that these Papally appointed inquisitors had to have. They had to be over the age of 40, they had to be trained in the arts of theology and law, and they had to be distinguished in their personal life by a life of good morals, insight and respectability. And they also needed to have a basic understanding, a good understating rather, as I mentioned, of theology and Canon Law. So he places qualifications on who now can judge whether someone has actually embraced heresy or not.

So in this 13th Century and leading up until about the 15th Century, what’s important to realize is that there is no such thing as the “Inquisition” as an institution in Christendom, okay. From the 13th Century to the 15th Century, you don’t have any institutional tribunals.

What you have instead are these Papally appointed inquisitors, who would go around – they were itinerant, so they went around to different regions, and they would just kind of set up shop in a town or a major village, and they’d be there for a period of time and they would ascertain whether or not there was heresy and then they’d move on to some other place. There was no institutional Inquisition, that comes much later in the 15th Century and we’ll talk about that in more detail.

So on the timeline, as I mentioned, the 15th-16th Century through the 19th Century, we have the creation of these institutional tribunals who were usually set up in cities. They were permanent in these different cities; they were staffed and manned by trained inquisitors. And then heretics were brought to those areas, or it was centered in an urban area and it was in that city where the inquisitors worked.

And some of the more famous ones of these Inquisitions, these actual tribunals, institutional tribunals were the one in Portugal, there was one in Rome, one in Venice, some of the major Italian city-states, and then the most famous one is the Spanish Inquisition. We’ll talk more about that in detail. So the Spanish Inquisition was an institutional tribunal set up here in the 15th Century. Different, but similar in some ways, as I’ll tell you, to these medieval inquisitors that operated in the 13th Century.

Now all of these institutional tribunals that I mentioned in Portugal, in Spain, in Venice and other Italian city-states, they all are abolished by the time we get to the 19th Century. It was only one that remains and that’s the one in Rome, the Roman Inquisition. and it was known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition until the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in 1966.

The name of that office was changed to Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. So it’s an office that still exists today in the Vatican. The previous kind of more famous well-known prefect, or head of the congregation, was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who later became Benedict XVI.

So that office still exists and it still is charged, among other things, with looking at the doctrine of faith and maintaining orthodoxy throughout the Church, looking at theological writings and determining whether they are or are not orthodox or heterodox. So that’s kind of the brief timeline of these Papally appointed inquisitors and then what’s known as the Inquisitions.

So now what happens here? We saw that in 1231, Gregory IX institutes the procedures for these Papally appointed inquisitors. Why does that happen? Why Gregory IX, and the 13th Century? What is going on historically which brings that to the front?

And what’s going on is there’s a major heresy that erupts in the south of France during this time, and it’s called the Albigensian Heresy or sometimes known as Catharism, or the Cathar heresy.   (Ed. Ultimately, following Cathar dualism, inspires the “Perfecti” to starve themselves to death, so ideas have consequences, and sometimes deadly ones:  Fascism, Communism, Breathariansim, etc.  What are the consequences of American ideology?  Discuss.)

And so Catharism ravaged, it was going all throughout the south of France and it was very, very pernicious, it spread widely and I’ll tell you why in a minute here.   It was simple, and deadly/destructive.  And so, the church had to react, had to do something to prevent this spread of this heresy from wiping out society.

Now I mentioned it’s Albigensian or Catharism, Cathar actually comes from the Greek Katharos, which means clean or pure. Because those who practiced the higher end of Catharism believed that they were clean and pure and perfect in all that they were doing and how they lived and in the doctrine that they taught and that they believed.

It appears, in France, at the end of the early part of the 11th Century, it actually comes over, migrates from the east from Byzantium or the Byzantine Empire. It first kind of centered in Bulgaria and Macedonia, those areas and then it transfers over into the southern part of France. And it becomes especially numerous; it grows really around the town of Albi, in the south of France. This is where we get the word, Albigensian, from that town. The town Albi is about 45 miles east of Toulouse, so that’s the major city in the south of France.

Now it spreads for a lot of different reasons, but some of the major reasons why Catharism and Albigensian become such a huge problem is because of its rapid spread. And it spreads primarily because of the state of the clergy in the south of France. The clergy in the south of France at this time were not good, to put it succinctly.

Catholic Priests did not live their vocations. Many of them were corrupt, worldly, concerned more with riches and power and mistresses and other things. One historian has remarked that pretty much every priest in certain major areas of southern France had a mistress at this time. So it was a very bad situation for the Church as a whole. Many priests were functionally illiterate. Most of them or many of them barely knew Latin; they knew just enough Latin to say the mass, that’s it. It was a really sorry state of affairs.

And a lot of that was brought about because of the Bishops living in the south of France at the time. These were men who engaged in ecclesiastical abuses of such things as absenteeism. Meaning the bishop didn’t actually reside in his diocese, he lived someplace else. There was nepotism that was rampant in church offices in that area as well. There was also what’s called pluralism, and pluralism is basically one man being the Bishop of many different dioceses. So you could imagine if you’re the Bishop of diocese X and diocese Y, you can’t live in two places at once, so then that leads to the ecclesiastical abuses I mentioned earlier of absenteeism.

There is no Bishop, resident Bishop in this area. So things were really, really, really difficult. So difficult that Pope Innocent III, at one point remarked this about the bishops in the south of France. He said, “They were blind men, dumb dogs who could no longer bark. Men who will do anything for money. They say the good is bad and the bad is good. They turn light into darkness and darkness into light, sweet to bitter and bitter to sweet. They do not fear God nor respect man. They give Church offices to illiterate boys whose behavior is often scandalous.” And that’s the Pope writing about his own episcopacy here in the south of France. Things were really, really bad.

So it’s a ripe opportunity and a ripe environment for heresy to take root and to spread. Because one of the reasons why it spread so much was that some of the members of the Cathari I’ll talk about in a moment, called the Perfecti, they lived outwardly, very moral lives or what seemed to be very moral lives.

They seemed like they were people of charity, people of virtue and so, you know, your unsuspecting peasants can see these two examples. They see a Perfecti or somebody who’s a member of the Albigensian heresy living a virtuous life and they see their parish priest running around with a mistress, corrupt and worldly and their Bishop not even in their own diocese. And you could see why they might be attracted to one over the other because virtue, holiness attracts. So if you’re not living a holy life, then people will not be attracted to that at all.

So what is it that these Albigensians and the Cathari believed? They had some very, very interesting beliefs. They were really Gnostic in origin and what Gnosticism is, Gnosticism was of heresy in the early Church, the Church that was early on in her existence that had to do with basically this understanding of – that Gnostics had a view of the world that was dualist.  (Ed. Dualism denies Creation is good and calls God and Scripture liars, Gen 1:31, that is why dualism, or whatever it calls itself du jour, is a heresy.  Mt 7:16)

Meaning that they believed there was material properties to the world and there were spiritual properties to the world, which do exist. But they believed that the spiritual things were good and were created and made by a good God, but all the material things of the world were created by a bad God.

So you’re spirit, your soul in this Gnostic Cathari belief is a good thing, is good. But our bodies are bad, so anything that our body does is also bad. This is what the Cathari and the Gnostics believed. Then Gnosticism morphs later on in Church history into what’s called Manicheanism, something that even Saint Augustine himself was member of for a period of time before his conversion. And then it morphs later on from Gnosticism to Manicheanism to here, to Albigensianism.

So one thing when study the history of heresies throughout the Church, they never really kind of ever go away, they just morph into something different or something new. (Ed. “There are no new heresies”, so the saying goes.)  And even in our own day in age, we’re still dealing with certain teachings or certain groups that have these kind of Gnostic or dualistic tendencies, the spirit is good, matter is bad.

A few years ago, I think it was in 1998 or around there, the late ‘90s, there was a group called Heaven’s Gate, in California. They made news all throughout the world because they all committed suicide, the members of this community committed suicide en masse one night because their belief was that there was this comet coming and that the comet was real. But then behind the comet was some space ship and that what they needed to do was at a certain moment, a period of time, they had to kill themselves to free their good souls from their body to meet up with the space ship so they could go on to whatever paradise or heaven that they believed in.

So that’s Gnosticism, pure and simple. It’s Manicheanism, it’s Albigensianism again, it just continues to morph itself. So there’s nothing new that the Church has dealt with, she’s dealt with these things in the past.

So matter is bad, spirit is good, so if you turn to Jesus then, what are the Albigensians and Cathari think about Jesus? Well, they didn’t believe that He was God and they didn’t believe He was man either.

They believed that he was this phantom-like creature, some kind of spirit, pure spirit type of creature, not God Himself but definitely not inhabiting – He didn’t have a physical body, He was just a phantom or a spirit. So because of that, because He didn’t have a real body then they also believed and taught that He didn’t really suffer on the cross. There was no reason for Him to bodily suffer on the cross because He didn’t have a body in the first place.

They rejected, obviously, the Eucharist. How could a spiritual being, like Jesus, as they believed, kind of come to be in this material properties of bread and wine, although transubstantiated, but how could that happen, we don’t understand that, that’s not real. So anything that smacks of matter was bad for the Albigensians, anything that’s spiritual is good. They also believed that during His life what Jesus taught was a spiritual perfection and a spiritual release. That life was really – the purpose of life was to be free of our bodies, it was to grow deeper in our souls, grow deeper in our spirits so we could free ourselves from these horrible, evil bodies. And that’s what Jesus taught; this is what the Albigensians believed.

Jesus taught that, but after his ascension into heaven the Church then was founded and the Church garbled his message, the Church changed Jesus’ message. And we still deal with people that believe that kind of stuff today. Church changes his message and so it’s these Cathari, these Albigensians that have his authentic message. And so join us and we will give the original message of Jesus. Don’t believe what the Church is telling you, that’s biased, that’s created, that’s self-constructed. Come to us and we will give you the real liberated teachings of Jesus.

They actually believed that the Church was the creation of Satan, you know, fallen bad angel. Saint Dominic was one who actually went through the south of France and actually was given the idea by the Holy Spirit to found is order, the Order of Preachers, while he was in the south of France and fighting the Albigensian heretics really. But he came across an Albigensian who said this about the Church, he said, this Albigensian said, “The Roman Church is the Devil’s Church and her doctrines are those of demons. She is the Babylon whom Saint John called the mother of fornication and abomination. Drunk with the blood of saints and martyrs. Neither Christ, nor the apostles has established the existing order of the mass.”

So if you’re Saint Dominic, right, and you run into somebody who teaches this or believes this, obviously this is a problem for the Church. You can immediately say this is a significant issue. Not only was their teaching a problem for the Church, but what made them even more pernicious and more of a threat was the fact that the Albigensians established themselves as kind of a counter-church to the Catholic Church. They organized themselves hierarchically, so they actually had dioceses and they had Bishops along with two assistants who were the head of these kind of Albigensians diocese throughout the south of France.

So they set up again like this mirror kind of counter-church. “Come to us, we’re the true Church, the Catholic Church is this creation of Satan.” So it’s obviously a significant issue. They also had Deacons, which assisted the community and then they had what they called their priests or what I refered to before as these Perfecti, these people who took a special solemn oath to live lives really devoid of any kind of material attachment.

The Perfecti, these priests of the Albigensian Church, would participate in extreme fasting. They would not eat any form of meat, for example, either. If they were married they would abstain from marital relations because in their mind what comes from the marital act is potentially new life and that would be bad, because you would be taking a good soul and you’d be entrapping it into this bad material human body.  (Ed.  Life is bad?  Preventing birth?  Nazis said, “Unworthy of life!”  Hmmm.  Seems I’ve heard these before?  Methinks.)

So they practiced celibacy, but they also practiced other forms of sexual activity, which does not result in possible procreation. (Ed. Albigensians considered procreation was considered worse than fornication or adultery.) I won’t get into details, but that’s what they believed in. And they also believed in practice, The Perfecti, that suicide was their highest form of worship.

So I mentioned to you this Heaven’s Gate group, what they were doing, again, was nothing new, that happened before. The Perfecti eventually would kill themselves in order to free their good soul form their bad body, which you would think would not be a nice and good and effective tool for recruitment, nor would the lack of sex. But they did grow nonetheless from virtue, so virtue attracts.  (Ed. I would substitute the term “radical commitment” instead of virtue here, something to believe in, something to live or die for, I would however caution to be extremely discriminating in what you adhere towards.  ISIS recruits, so does Evil.) If you’re living a virtuous life, it’s a holy life or should be, then that will attract people to you and it did in this form as well.

Now most Cathari and most Albigensians were what we call believers. So they weren’t members of the Perfecti, they didn’t participate in the pact, the suicide worship or the extreme fasting or the extreme celibacy or other sexual activity, they were just believers. These who participated in the liturgy that the Albigensians had and were focused on helping the community, but didn’t follow the higher teachings. So how did the Church respond to this Albigensians heresy? We’ve kind of gone through what a significant threat to was to the Church and to society as a whole, so how did the Church respond?

Well initially, the Church responds through a series of local councils. So, Bishops in the area getting together and addressing this heresy. So at the council of Toulouse in 1119, the heresy was condemned, the Council of Tours in 1163 was also condemned. You had the great Saint Bernard came to the area and he preached in 1154 as well, trying to bring people back to the faith and to reject Albigensianism. But by the latter part of the 12th Century, the heresy was very widespread, was extremely widespread and very popular and so something different, something more aggressive had to occur.

And that’s where we get Pope Innocent III, probably one of the greatest Popes in medieval history, comes to the pontificate and he realizes that this is a serious issue in the south of France, we need to address it. So for four years, from 1203 to 1207, he sends a series of missionaries to the south of France again, to preach, to teach the authentic faith and to try to bring the Albigensians back, just like Saint Bernard before that.

He also reformed the Church. I mentioned to you earlier how one of the reasons why the heresy spread so much was because of the state of the clergy, the corrupt and worldly Bishops and absent Bishops. And so, he reformed the Church by deposing seven Bishops, putting in new, different men, more men who lived their vocation more appropriately.

And so he tried to work also with the local ruler, the major ruler, secular ruler in the area, Raymond of Toulouse, and tried to work with him to get him to try to step up his combat the heresy as well.

Eventually though, Raymond kind of pushed back on that. Some historians believe that his wife was actually a member of the Albigensians, might have been a Perfecti herself, so Raymond didn’t really engage in combating the heresy as much and he just kind of let it spread.

So eventually he got into trouble with the Papal legate that Pope Innocent III had sent down to talk with him, and eventually it was believed on the orders of Raymond of Toulouse that this Papal legate was murdered after a meeting. They had a meeting and the legate leaves and then the next morning he’s killed. So this really obviously upsets Innocent, and so Innocent decides to do something more radical and instead he calls a Crusade.

And this is the time of the Crusading movement, the height of the Crusading movement really. Pope Innocent the Third called more Crusades than any other Pope in the history of the Church. And so he calls a Crusade here at the south of France to try to eradicate the Albigensian heresy. And it’s a 20-year war, from 1209 to 1229, and it’s a bloody, bloody civil war, really. And I wish we had time to get into the details of the Albigensian Crusade, but I don’t. So just know that it was a very bloody civil war, it was a difficult time, and ultimately the end of the civil war was brought about through a political situation, solutions from the King of France, and it didn’t end the heresy.

When the whole purpose of the Crusade was to root out the heresy, but at the end of it, the end of these 20 years, it still was around, it still was pretty well spread and popular and so there was something else that needed to be done. So what else needed to be done was what I mentioned to you earlier, was Gregory the Ninth steps in and he establishes the procedures for those Medieval inquisitors, those Papally appointed inquisitors to go to the south of France and to deal with the situation. And so that’s what happens.

Now, before I get into telling you what goes on here in the south of France, what the Papal inquisitors and the procedures that they went though and how they tried to root out heresy, we have to take a step back and just answer the question, why is heresy bad? I mean, many of us living in the 21st Century here in the United States, you know, the land of religious freedom, religious liberty and religious toleration, and we think, well okay, so somebody believes differently than we do, why is that a bad thing? Why is this an issue? Why is the Church spending so much energy and resources on trying to deal with this and combat this?”

Reformation: Myths & Revolution

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There’s a popular version of the Protestant Reformation that goes something like this: By the sixteenth century, the Catholic Church had become thoroughly corrupted. Its doctrines were tainted by superstitions and false “traditions of men”; its leaders were depraved, forsaking the gospel to indulge their worldly greed and lust; and its practices kept Catholics living in ignorance and fear.

Only the heroism of Martin Luther and John Calvin, the story continues, was able to break the Catholic Church’s grip on power and lead the Christian world out of medieval darkness into the light of true biblical faith.

Chances are you’ve heard this story before. But it’s just a big myth, says historian Steve Weidenkopf.  We recently sat down with Professor Weidenkopf to dig even deeper into this tumultuous time in the history of the Church.

Q. You refer to a period that most people know of as the Protestant Reformation as the Protestant Revolution. Can you explain?

A.  We must recall that the history taught in our country is presented primarily through an English-Protestant perspective. That perspective presents the events of the sixteenth century in the guise of a “reformation.” This false narrative, which is extremely prevalent even among Catholics, paints the Catholic Church of the sixteenth century as an evil, oppressive, power-hungry monolith that was bent on the destruction of religious freedom. Its leaders were motivated by greed and maintained their power through the creation of superstitious practices that played on the ignorance of the masses. The heroic actions of Martin Luther and John Calvin, the false narrative maintains, freed the Christian Faith from popery and made the Scriptures accessible to all Christians. In reality, Luther and Calvin were not interested in the authentic reform of the Church but desired her complete destruction. Authentic Church reform involves the correction of abuses, the restoration of good habits, and the maintenance of the foundational aspects of the Church, such as its hierarchical structure and sacramental constitution. Any movement that seeks to destroy the Church—its organization, its sacraments, its way of life—and replace it with something new and not in conformity with apostolic tradition and history is a revolution, not a reformation. Studying the writings and lives of Luther and Calvin reveals that these men were not reformers but revolutionaries who sought the abolition of the Mass and other sacraments and the destruction of the Church’s apostolic foundations.

Q. Luther seemed to be a polarizing figure. What was happening at this time and place in history that made his teachings so attractive to so many people?

A. There is no doubt the Church was in need of reform in the sixteenth century. Many ecclesiastical abuses needed to be corrected, such as simony (the buying and selling of Church offices), nepotism, absenteeism (bishops not living in their dioceses), pluralism (bishops holding more than one diocese), and immoral clergy. Many within the Church urged the papacy to implement a comprehensive reform, and some popes attempted to do so. As an example, Pope Julius II called the Fifth Lateran Council to address these ecclesiastical abuses, but it completed its work only seven months before Luther’s 95 Theses, which was not enough time to implement its reform decrees throughout the Church. Additionally, the popes of the early sixteenth century, known as the “Renaissance Popes,” were more concerned with being secular princes than universal shepherds. The papacy suffered a significant loss of prestige during the fifteenth century, when the popes lived in Avignon, France, for seventy years. Their return to Rome was then marked by a forty-year schism (known as the Great Western Schism) of anti-popes. These papal problems, along with the ecclesiastical abuses, produced a sense of disunity in Christendom that was ripe for rebellion. Other factors that attracted people to Luther’s revolution included the political constitution of Germany, which was a collection of hundreds of small independent territories nominally controlled by the Holy Roman Emperor. A rising German nationalist movement contributed animosity toward Rome (primarily due to the heavy taxes inflicted upon German dioceses by the papacy). So, political and religious conditions were suitable for a revolution against the Church.

Q.  Do you think that reform in the Church was a resultant by-product of the Protestant Reformation/Revolution, and that some of the abuses that were pointed out resulted in reform in a positive direction?

A. Another term often used to describe the actions of the Church in the middle and late sixteenth century is the “Counter-Reformation.” Again, our history is told primarily through an English-Protestant perspective, and that term clearly illustrates that viewpoint. The very words imply the Protestant movement was an authentic reform that the Church then had to “counter” with her own reform. A more appropriate term, and one favored by many Catholic historians, is the “Catholic Reformation.” The Church did reform herself, primarily through the Council of Trent, the establishment of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), and the pontificates of Pope Paul III and Pope St. Pius V. The Church was on the path of reform before Luther and Calvin and would have ended the rampant ecclesiastical abuses without the Protestant Revolution. But I do think it’s fair to say the actions of Luther and Calvin focused the Church’s attention on the need for reform and provided a sense of urgency.

Q. The number of Protestant denominations is now very large and getting larger. Is it fair to say that the Protestant Revolution continues even today? If so, why?

A.  I think that’s a fair statement. The fundamental nature of Protestantism centers religious authority in the individual instead of in the Church (or, more specifically, the magisterium). The insistence on individual interpretation of the Scriptures, which is a foundational tenet of Protestantism, means there will always be competing and contrasting teachings embraced by rival groups.

Q. How soon after the teachings of Luther and Calvin were formulated did other Protestant denominations begin to branch off because of doctrinal differences?

A. Differences among Protestants were present at the very beginning of the movement. Both Luther and Calvin dealt with severe critics of their teachings as well as splinter groups that advocated a radical departure from the Protestant Revolution. Luther debated the Swiss revolutionary Ulrich Zwingli at the Colloquy of Marburg in 1529, only twelve years after the publication of his 95 Theses. Zwingli disagreed with Luther on the nature of the Eucharist and other teachings, and both men detested each other. The Anabaptists violently captured the city of Muenster in 1534, where they destroyed the city’s Catholic churches, established a commune, and engaged in polygamy. Based on its interpretation of Scripture, this group rejected the validity of infant baptism in opposition to the teachings of Luther and the Church. John Calvin famously ordered the execution of the Spaniard Michael Servetus, who vehemently disagreed with Calvin’s teachings contained in his book The Institutes of the Christian Religion. Protestantism is a revolutionary movement, and like most such movements in history it spawned violence, destruction, and disunity, which have greatly impacted Church and European history for the past five hundred years.

Q. Besides being one of the fathers of the Reformation, is it fair to say that Luther was also the father of anti-Catholic rhetoric?

A. Actually, anti-Catholic rhetoric is as old as the Church itself. One can find clear examples of it in the early Church in the writings of various pagan Roman authors who wrote anti-Catholic tracts and pamphlets urging Romans not to convert to the Faith. Earlier “proto-Protestants” such as John Wyclif in England and Jan Hus in Bohemia attacked the Church and her teachings with vitriol. Luther, however, took anti-Catholic rhetoric to a new level in his writings when he referred to the Church as the “whore of Babylon” and the pope as the “anti-Christ.” Luther’s writings are full of hateful, sarcastic, and venomous attacks against the sacramental nature of the Church, her hierarchical organization, many of her pious practices, and even her embrace of Aristotelian philosophy in the writing of St. Thomas Aquinas. In fact, Luther called for the ban of Aristotle’s works in his 1520 treatise An Appeal to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, writing that the “blind heathen” [Aristotle] was sent by God as “a plague” on the Church “on account of our sins.”

In The Real Story of the Reformation, Weidenkopf dismantles the mythical narrative about the two pivotal figures of the Protestant Reformation—or rather, Revolution, because what they wrought was not a reform of the Church but a radical break from it. He replaces that narrative with a true account of Luther and Calvin’s ideas, their actions and character, and their disastrous legacy for the modern world.”

Love,
Matthew

The Heresy/Schism of Montanism

Tertullian
-Tertullian, (155-240 AD), a famous Montanist, and early Christian writer

It has nothing to do with the state of Montana. It is a heresy or, better yet, a schism caused by the prophet, Montanus, and two prophetesses, Maximilla and Prisca (Priscilla) in Phrygia during the late second century.

As witnessed in the Acts of the Apostles, the exterior gifts of the Holy Spirit (e.g. praying in tongues & prophecy) were common in the infant Church. But St. Paul already in his First Epistle to the Corinthians warns Christians that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit are not as important as the interior gifts of sanctity. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels,… And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries… but have not love, I am nothing”. [1 Cor. 13:1-2] Such exterior gifts need to be tempered by humility and obedience to the Church, since Satan can more easily counterfeit them.

Montanus became a convert to Christianity around A.D. 170. He lived in Asia Minor, and, prior to his conversion, he was a priest in an Asiatic cult called Cybele. He claimed that he had the gift of prophecy, prophesying in an ecstatic state. Eusebius, a church historian born around A.D. 260-270, wrote the following of Montanus: “In his lust for leadership, he became obsessed and would suddenly fall into frenzy and convulsions. He began to be ecstatic and speak and talk strangely, and prophesied contrary to that which was the custom from the beginning of the church. Those who heard him were convinced that he was possessed. They rebuked him and forbade him to speak, remembering the warning of the Lord Jesus to be watchful because false prophets would come” (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 5.16.1). Montanus was joined by two women, Priscilla and Maximilla, who also claimed to have the gift of prophecy and also prophesied in an ecstatic state.

It was not the idea of prophecy that caused a great disturbance in the church. It was the manner in which they prophesied. They had departed from the biblical norms of prophecy, both in content and in the manner in which they expressed their prophesies. They as a trio believed that they had received revelation from the Lord while being in an ecstatic state. This style of prophesying was likened to the same irrational, ecstatic prophetic style that was a part of Montanus’ life prior to his conversion when he was a priest of Cybele.

Unfortunately Montanus and his followers, called Montanists, did not remain loyal to the Church but broke away. At first, their prophecies were not heretical but simply extravagant. The early prophecies called for penance and strict fasts on certain days. But unlike the prophets of the Old Testament who spoke as messengers of God: “Thus says the Lord”, Montanus claimed to be possessed by God and spoke as God: “I am the Lord God omnipotent, who has descended into man.”

These prophecies also occurred during mad ecstasies. This concerned certain holy Churchmen, who tried to exorcise them. Later Montanus claimed that Christ’s redemption was still not complete; therefore, God possessed him in order to fulfill the salvation for all men. The Montanists highly valued chastity, virginity and martyrdom. They also disapproved of second marriages. Due to their emotional and rigorous nature, they attracted Christians, who thought that the Church was too secular and lax. Due to his extreme personality, the famous Tertullian also joined them and defended their cause. The sect survived the death of Montanus for a few centuries, but eventually became small and secret before disappearing altogether.

Montanists did not believe those who had denied the faith during persecution should be readmitted, in contrast to the Catholic position that through contrition and sincere penance, unity with the Church for the apostate could be restored.

brianjohnzuelke
-by Br Brian John Zuelke, OP

“…Montanism was an early Church heresy that sought to live a more pure Christian life in opposition to what was perceived as the “worldliness” of the mainstream Church.

Montanus and his followers were disturbed by what they perceived to be a lack of charismatic gifts within the Church, from gifts of healing to ecstatic prophecy to speaking-in-tongues. They blamed this lack of “charismata” on the moral laxity of the Church, a moral laxity which tends to arise as a natural consequence of the Church’s “settling down” in the world.

They sought to recapture the zeal and moral purity of the Apostolic Church, an era when the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit flourished. They believed a new age was upon them which would see the flourishing of the charismatic gifts… but only for the “pure.”

In turn, the “institutional Church” was viewed with suspicion and derided for having sold out to the world. As Montanism matured, its radicalism gave rise to heretical doctrines concerning the Trinity — a sort of modalism, (Ed. Modalism/Sabellianism is a type of heresy which denies the Nicene Trinity.  It rather proposes only one God who acts in three modes, but does not recognize those modes as three distinct Persons) in the end — and schismatic attitudes towards the Church. It was not violently suppressed: it simply fizzled-out.

…In our own new age of “new evangelization,” do we sometimes look at the “institutional Church” of episcopacy and Pope as a hindrance rather than a gift in spreading the gospel? Are we keen for miraculous events and new prophecy which will lead us out of the doldrums we find ourselves in?

Are we over-zealous at times for an exciting, “Spirit-filled” Church which has little time for the slow, patient work of conversion that Pope Francis seems to favor in Evangelii Gaudium (see n. 222ff)?

In fact, this age of new evangelization calls us to a new unity within the Church, that all may work together to mission ad extra and renewal ad intra.”

Love,
Matthew

Jul 6 – Jan Hus, (1369-1415), Heretic, “John the Baptist of the Reformation”

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-from Anderson, C. Colt, Ph.D.. The Great Catholic Reformers: From Gregory the Great to Dorothy Day (Kindle Locations 1808-1816,1937-2040). Kindle Edition.

“Wearing a paper crown painted with three horrible devils about to greedily tear a soul to pieces and inscribed with the words, “This is a heresiarch,” the rector of the University of Prague was led to the stake on July 6, 1415. During his time as rector, Jan Hus had spearheaded the Czech reform movement. As he was stripped of his clothes and chained, Hus reportedly said, “The Lord Jesus Christ, my Redeemer and Savior, was bound by a harder and heavier chain. And I, a miserable wretch, am not ashamed to bear being bound by this one.”‘ After they had piled the wood up to his chin and lit the fire, Hus proclaimed that he had always been a faithful Catholic adhering to Scripture and Tradition. As we shall see, his claims of innocence were certain evidence of his guilt under the peculiar logic employed by the Inquisition.

Having affirmed his faithfulness, Hus began to sing, “Christ, you are the Son of the living God, have mercy on us; Christ, you are the Son of God, have mercy on me…” until the flames blew into his face. Peter of Mladonovice, an eyewitness to the event and a supporter of Hus, reported that Hus continued to move his lips in prayer though he could produce no sound. After the fire died down, the soldiers broke his bones and found his heart, which had not been fully consumed. They skewered his heart with a spit, rebuilt the fire, and reduced Hus’s heart and bones to ash….

Hus had all the charm and tact of an outraged goose. Since Hus means goose in Czech, his enemies made sport of him as the “Bohemian Goose.” Regardless of his lack of political acumen, Hus was a good theologian who was deeply committed to reform on a local level. He was not the type of man who would try to solve an international crisis like the Great Schism, though he did consider the implications of schism in his more academic writings.

Hus was five years old when the Great Schism began. He decided early on to pursue a clerical career because it afforded him an opportunity to escape poverty, which was a motivation that he was ashamed of later in life. The clerical establishment in Prague was already undergoing reform prior to the Great Schism. The struggles between the reformers and their opponents were formative for the young cleric.

Emperor Charles IV (1316-78), who was also king of the Bohemians, brought reformers to Prague to address the deplorable conditions in the 1360s. Charles had studied under Pierre Roger, who became Pope Clement VI (1342-52). He was a pious and knowledgeable ruler who cared about the spiritual lives of his subjects. Conrad Waldhauser, a famous Augustinian Canon, was recruited to clean up the situation. Waldhauser started a preaching campaign that brought the people back to Masses and he insisted on the moral reform of the people and the clergy. Almost immediately the Dominicans brought charges against the reformer for exposing the faults of the clergy among other things, but Waldhauser was able to clear himself in Rome.

What were the conditions in Bohemia at the time? Most of the priests who held the best offices were Germans. The Czech clergy, who were systemically excluded from the better schools, largely held rural benefices and tended to have substandard educations. Many Czech priests were keeping concubines, had problems with alcohol, and were using their positions to extort and swindle people out of their property. Prostitution, alcoholism, gambling, and violence were major problems facing the people of Bohemia.

The reformers began a series of initiatives to turn things around. More Czechs like Jan Hits were afforded an opportunity to study at the University of Prague. There was an effort to see to it that the Czech clergy would receive some of the better positions in the Prague diocese. As one might imagine, the policy embittered the German clergy in Bohemia. Finally, there were innovations in the liturgy that helped to spark a religious revival in Bohemia. The clergy began to preach in the language of the people, to incorporate folk songs that people could sing into the liturgy, and to provide people with vernacular Bibles. Special chapels, like the Bethlehem Chapel in Prague, were set up for vernacular preaching.

One of Charles’s last acts was to see to it that he had a reformer, Jan of Jenstejn, installed as archbishop of Prague. Archbishop Jan (1378-96) ordained Hus. When Hus was twenty, Archbishop Jan came into conflict with the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Wenceslas IV (r. 1378-1419), who was Charles IV’s son. Unlike his father, Wenceslas was neither pious nor particularly knowledgeable. Wenceslas became emperor and king of Bohemia at the age of seventeen. His reputation was that of a vain and impulsive playboy. He was so disliked that there was an attempt to assassinate him in 1393. This was also the period when he decided to wage war on Archbishop Jan.

When one of Wenceslas’s administrators was excommunicated by Archbishop Jan in 1393, the emperor retaliated by dividing the archdiocese from a territory that was going to have both a new monastery and bishopric. By claiming these benefices, Wenceslas could sell them to the highest bidder and keep the money for himself; but the archbishop refused to recognize the legitimacy of the move and installed a new prior in the monastery before the emperor could act. Wenceslas was furious and had four principal officials of the archdiocese tortured in response. One official died from the torture.

Shocked by the audacity of Wenceslas, Archbishop Jan appealed to the Roman pope, Boniface IX (1389-1404). Boniface refused to hear the charges against the emperor. The Roman pope was afraid that he might drive the emperor to change his allegiance to the Avignon pope by disciplining him. Disillusioned by the pope’s refusal to protect the clergy of Bohemia from a tyrant, Archbishop Jan resigned his office in protest in 1396, which was the same year that Hus received his MA degree. Archbishop Zbynek, who succeeded Jan of Jenstejn, was much less scrupulous from the outset. He scandalized his clergy by buying his office.

The reformers had challenges within the University of Prague as well. The university was dominated by the German faculty. The Germans were solidly in the philosophical camp of nominalism, so the Bohemians chose to adhere to a strict realist philosophy. Due to the moral rigorism and realist commitments of the Bohemian clergy, they came to appreciate the works of the English reformer John Wyclif (1324-84). As the works of Wyclif came under attack, the Czechs found themselves defending his writings against the German theologians. Wyclif had gained symbolic value for the Czech reformers, and Hus can be seen as trying to salvage as much as he could from the English theologian as part of his polemics with the anti-reformers. This was, to say the least, something of a strategic and rhetorical blunder.

Before the controversy over Wyclif broke out, Hus grew famous as a fiery preacher. By 1402 he had been named as the rector and preacher of the Bethlehem Chapel, which was seen as the center of the reform movement. He preached some three thousand sermons in the course of his career. One of the favorite themes in his early sermons was that only faith formed in love, or faith expressed in works of charity, is saving faith.’ In 1405 and again in 1407, Hus was invited to preach to the clergy. On both occasions he emphasized the duties of the clergy and denounced clerical impurity.28 While he used very strong language on these occasions, he was not denouncing the clergy to the laity. Even so, his enemies remembered these sermons and used them against him.

Since 1403 the German masters at the university had been attacking the Czech masters by charging them with the heresy of Wyclifism, which was a vague accusation because it associated the Czech clergy with a series of disparate statements extracted from the writings of John Wyclif. The charges presented against the reformers did not have much effect initially. One reason was that the teachings of Wyclif had not ever been condemned by a council. Twenty-four of Wyclif’s propositions had been condemned by a synod in London in 1382, but this does not mean that he had the status of a heretic. It was common for a theologian to have some points that were seen as erroneous and still be seen as a valuable source on other issues. When the German masters at the University of Prague expanded the suspect propositions to forty-five, it still only represented forty-five statements out of volumes of work.

The anti-reformers at the university focused the debate on eucharistic theology. Hus’s opponents knew that Wyclif’s denial of the doctrine of transubstantiation was in clear opposition to defined doctrine. The German masters wove several propositions important to the Czech reform movement into a list that included Wyclif’s most clearly heretical statements. The strategy worked. Though Hus would eventually defend only five of Wyclif’s articles as having an orthodox meaning, his opponents were able to convince people that he had denied transubstantiation. Events in 1408 pushed this dispute out of the university and onto the stage of international affairs.

After several years of efforts, the German masters at the University of Prague had convinced the Roman pope, Gregory XII (1406-15), that there were problems with heresy in Bohemia. King Wenceslas, who had been deposed as emperor in 1400, was anxious to satisfy Gregory XII that he had purged the land of any heresy. Under pressure from the king, Archbishop Zbynek decided to move against the reformers. Hus was incensed and began to preach more publicly about heresy, simony, and the moral faults of the unreformed clergy. By September 1409, a group of clergy led by the German Dominicans charged Hus with making severe and critical statements about simony and the lives of the clergy. Hus easily defended himself and wrote a treatise explaining why it is permissible to speak charitably against the vices of the clergy, De arguendo clero pro concione.

After the Council of Pisa elected Pope Alexander V in June 1409, the archbishop was under increasing pressure to withdraw his obedience from Pope Gregory XII. When Alexander V started proceedings against Zbynek, the archbishop crumbled and switched his allegiance. As a concession, Archbishop Zbynek managed to obtain a bull from Alexander in December that condemned the forty-five articles and that forbade all preaching outside of diocesan and monastic churches. This last provision was aimed at Hus and the Bethlehem Chapel. Hus defied the bull and continued to preach. Alexander V died before he could act against Hus.

Once again, international affairs would intrude upon the work of the Czech reformers. After King Ladislas of Naples drove the Pisan Pope John XXIII out of Rome in 1411, Pope John XXIII issued a bull authorizing the sale of indulgences to support a crusade against Ladislas. The bull stated:

And also by apostolic authority granted me, I absolve you from all sins, if you are truly contrite and confess them to God and me. If you cannot personally take up the project [of joining the crusade], but wish to bring a contribution according to your ability in compliance with my and the commissioner’s terms in defense and aid of the above-named project I grant and concede you the fullest remission of all your sins, including punishment and guilt.

In order to bring in the support of secular rulers who were already wavering in their commitments to the Pisan papacy, John XXIII also had a provision that would give them a percentage of the revenues.

When Hus decided to oppose the bull authorizing the sale of indulgences, he must have suspected he would alienate his last powerful supporter, King Wenceslas. Hus’s zeal impelled him to throw caution to the wind and to publicly oppose the bull. He preached against the indulgences and held public disputations. Hus argued that it was improper for Christians to give money for the purpose of killing other Christians and that the pope and the clergy should not be fighting with the material sword or engaging in warfare. He also opposed the way the bull seemed to imply that no repentance was necessary for forgiveness. His critiques were perfectly orthodox on these points.

Wenceslas was furious and enlisted the aid of Hus’s opponents at the University of Prague to draft a series of articles that forbade preaching against the indulgences. Hus defended his opposition to the indulgences by citing the provision in canon law that whatever is contrary to the law of Christ is heretical and should not be obeyed.32 In a letter written in May 1412, Hus explained his actions:

‘As to my not obeying the wrong commands of my superiors, while offering no resistance to power which is of the Lord God, that I have been taught by the scriptures, and above all by the word and deed of the apostles who, against the will of the chief priests preached our Lord Jesus Christ’ saying that “we ought to obey God rather than rather than people.’

Like Gerson, Hus cited Acts 5:29 to show that the commands of superiors must be subjected to God’s law as expressed in scripture. To save the people of Prague from an impending papal interdict, which would have suspended all sacramental ministry as long as the people supported Hus, he voluntarily went into exile.

While Hus was in exile from Prague, he began to write a small tract called The Six Errors. He said he wanted it to be a shield for the people from the errors that the unreformed clergy were teaching in order to deny any accountability for their crimes. Some of the clergy were arguing that since a priest creates God’s body at the Eucharist, then a priest is the Father of God. As such, even a priest in mortal sin, which would include actions like simony or murder, cannot be called a servant of the devil. The antireformers used the eucharistic service of the priesthood to claim that the worst priest is better than the most virtuous member of the laity. According to Hus, these insane priests went so far as to exalt themselves over the Virgin Mary because she only bore Christ once whereas they create God repeatedly during the Masses they celebrate.

The second error had to do with the teaching that one must believe or have faith in Mary, the saints, and the pope. Hus argued that one must only believe in God and in what has been revealed in scriptures. The focus of his argument was on the claim that people had to believe in the pope. After discussing the high devotion that is due to Mary, he explained that we do not have faith in Mary. If we do not have faith in Mary, he reasoned, then it does not seem appropriate to have faith in the pope. Hus pointed to two scriptural passages to justify his position. The first was Peter’s denial of Christ (Matt 26:69-75), which was both apostasy and perjury; and the second was Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to identify themselves as belonging to Jesus Christ rather than to Peter, Paul, or Apollos (1 Cor 1:11-17). The first example proved that Peter can be wrong and the second demonstrated we should only believe in Christ. To shore up his argument, Hus cited statements from both the Venerable Bede and Augustine to demonstrate his continuity with the church’s tradition.”

The third, fourth, and fifth errors all had to do with the authority of the clergy. The third error was that a priest forgives sins by his own will rather than acting as a minister proclaiming God’s forgiveness. This teaching would mean that a priest would have almost absolute power over his people’s eternal salvation as a matter of his own whims. The fourth error naturally flows from the third: One should always obey his or her ecclesiastical superiors. Hus responded by teaching the Czech people that they must evaluate the commands of their clergy in light of the teaching of the scriptures, which Hus used in a sense that would include traditional materials like Augustine or creeds. If a command violates the teaching of scripture, he advised people to disobey. The claim that the church can excommunicate people for any reason the authorities might give was the fifth error. Hus argued that the church could only excommunicate people for mortal sin.

The sixth error was at the heart of the various problems in the Bohemian clergy. Hus claimed that priests and bishops were preaching that they could legitimately buy and sell offices in the church. Others justified the idea that ecclesiastical offices could be granted or received for political purposes. Hus argued that the only reason for anyone to be admitted into holy orders was to serve the common good .  In each case, he cited scriptural authorities and traditional theologians like Augustine and Gregory the Great. To provide a permanent shield against these errors for the laity, Hus inscribed The Six Errors in Czech on the walls of the Bethlehem Chapel.

The Six Errors represents the heart of Hus’s reform agenda. He was retrieving a reform theme that runs through the writings of Gregory the Great, Peter Damian, and Pope Gregory VII: The clergy are accountable to their neighbors as well as to God. The test was whether or not the clergy were following the law of Christ and serving the common good. Gerson’s reform agenda was fundamentally similar to Hus’s, but Hus was teaching laypeople to be discerning when it came to the lives and demands of the clergy. Hus’s denial that the clergy are more a part of the church than the laity, his rejection of the claim that priests and bishops should be regarded as holy simply because of their offices, his argument that tithes should be freewill offerings, and his defense of the idea that civil authorities may legitimately deprive bishops and priests of their possessions certainly set men like Jean Gerson against him.”

Other aspects of Hus’s theology were even more provocative for Gerson’s ecclesiastical colleagues. For example, they were offended by his argument that the church should not put heretics to death because Christ did not execute people. Instead, Hus advocated following the rule laid down in Matthew 18:15-17, which advised shunning those who sin against the community as publicans or Gentiles. He also cited the examples of Augustine and the fathers who willingly entered into discourse with heretics and schismatics in order to persuade them to reconcile themselves to the church. Gerson’s colleagues at the Council of Constance were also more than a little upset to find that Hus had compared the guilt of the clergymen who turned innocent people over to the secular arm for execution to the guilt of the priests, scribes, and Pharisees who turned Christ over to Pilate.”

In the end, the council members were not moved by Hus’s arguments, and the trial of Jan Hus was a foregone conclusion from the outset. Hus found himself inextricably caught in the peculiarities of inquisitorial logic. Even so, he could have saved himself but refused to do so. By all accounts, the council members were hoping Hus would recant so that they would not have to execute him. Perhaps Hus was naive, but he failed to see that the bishops and lower clergy were not willing to reform their behavior. The problems associated with the bishops and lower clergy, including their accountability to the laity, would only begin to be addressed after the cataclysmic events of the Protestant Reformation. The focus at Constance was resolving the Great Schism and preventing new schisms in the future, and anyone who stood in the way would be sacrificed for restoring unity.”

JanHusBBQ

Love,
Matthew

Nov 10 – Pope St Leo the Great, (400-461 AD), Doctor of the Church, “Christian, remember your dignity!”

Priest_celebrating_Mass_at_Altar_of_Leo_I_in_St._Peter's_Basilica

-priest celebrating Mass at the altar of St Leo the Great, St Peter’s basilica

“Christian, recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember Who is your head and of Whose body you are a member. Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the Kingdom of God.” -CCC 1691, St. Leo the Great, Sermo 22 in nat. Dom., 3:PL 54,192C.

Pope Saint Leo I, known as “St. Leo the Great,” was involved in the fourth ecumenical council, which helped prevent the spread of error and heresy on Christ’s divine and human natures.

St. Leo intervened for the safety of the Church in the West as well, persuading Attila the Hun to turn back from Rome.

Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians also maintain a devotion to the memory of Pope St. Leo the Great. Churches of the Byzantine tradition celebrate his feast day on Feb. 18.

“As the nickname soon attributed to him by tradition suggests,” Pope Benedict XVI said in a 2008 general audience on the saint, “he was truly one of the greatest pontiffs to have honored the Roman See and made a very important contribution to strengthening its authority and prestige.”

Leo’s origins are obscure and his date of birth unknown. His ancestors are said to have come from Tuscany, though the future pope may have been born in that region or in Rome itself. He became a deacon in Rome in approximately 430, during the pontificate of Pope Celestine I.

During this time, central authority was beginning to decline in the Western portion of the Roman Empire. At some point between 432 and 440, during the reign of Pope St. Celestine’s successor Pope Sixtus III, the Roman Emperor Valentinian III commissioned Leo to travel to the region of Gaul and settle a dispute between military and civil officials.

Pope Sixtus III died in 440 and, like his predecessor Celestine, was canonized as a saint. Leo, away on his diplomatic mission at the time of the Pope’s death, was chosen to be the next Bishop of Rome. Reigning for over two decades, he sought to preserve the unity of the Church in its profession of faith, and to ensure the safety of his people against frequent barbarian invasions.

Leo used his authority, in both doctrinal and disciplinary matters, against a number of heresies troubling the Western church – including Pelagianism (involving the denial of Original Sin) and Manichaeanism (a gnostic system that saw matter as evil). In this same period, many Eastern Christians had begun arguing about the relationship between Jesus’ humanity and divinity.

As early as 445 AD, Leo had intervened in this dispute in the East, which threatened to split the churches of Alexandria and Constantinople. Its eventual resolution was, in fact, rejected in some quarters – leading to the present-day split between Eastern Orthodoxy and the so-called “non-Chalcedonian churches” which accept only three ecumenical councils.

As the fifth-century Christological controversy continued, the Pope urged the gathering of an ecumenical council to resolve the matter. At the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Pope’s teaching was received as authoritative by the Eastern bishops, who proclaimed: “Peter has spoken through the mouth of Leo.”

Leo’s teaching confirmed that Christ’s eternal divine personhood and nature did not absorb or negate the human nature that he assumed in time through the Incarnation. Instead, “the proper character of both natures was maintained and came together in a single person.”

“So without leaving his Father’s glory behind, the Son of God comes down from His heavenly throne and enters the depths of our world,” the Pope taught. “While remaining pre-existent, He begins to exist in time. The Lord of the universe veiled His measureless majesty and took on a servant’s form. The God who knew no suffering did not despise becoming a suffering man, and, deathless as He is, to be subject to the laws of death.” (Ed: …by His own choice, out of love for us.)

In 452 AD, one year after the Council of Chalcedon, Pope Leo led a delegation which successfully negotiated with the barbarian king Attila to prevent an invasion of Rome. When the Vandal leader Genseric occupied Rome in 455, the Pope confronted him, unarmed, and obtained a guarantee of safety for many of the city’s inhabitants and the churches to which they had fled.

Pope St. Leo the Great died on Nov. 10, 461. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XIV in 1754. A large collection of his writings and sermons survives, and can be read in translation today.

Leoattila-Raphael

-Raphael’s The Meeting between Leo the Great and Attila depicts Leo, escorted by Saint Peter and Saint Paul, meeting with the Hun king outside Rome, 1514, fresco, 500 cm × 750 cm (200 in × 300 in), Apostolic Palace, Vatican City, Rome.  It is reported that when Attila met Leo, he saw Peter and Paul accompanying Leo, when no one else could, and it was for this reason he spared the city. (Please click on the image for greater detail.)

Herrera_mozo_San_León_magno_Lienzo._Óvalo._164_x_105_cm._Museo_del_Prado

Saint Leo Magnus by Francisco Herrera the Younger, in the Prado Museum, Madrid

“Peter has spoken by the mouth of Leo.” – Council of Chalcedon

“Virtue is nothing without the trial of temptation, for there is no conflict without an enemy, no victory without strife.” – Pope Saint Leo the Great

“Although the universal Church of God is constituted of distinct orders of members, still, in spite of the many parts of its holy body, the Church subsists as an integral whole, just as the Apostle says: “We are all one in Christ,” nor is anyone separated from the office of another in such a way that a lower group has no connection with the head.

In the unity of faith and baptism, our community is then undivided. There is a common dignity as the apostle Peter says in these words: “And you are built up as living stones into spiritual houses, a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” And again: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of election.” For all, regenerated in Christ, as made kings by the sign of the cross. They are consecrated priests by the oil of the Holy Spirit, so that beyond the special service of our ministry as priests, all spiritual and mature Christians know that they are a royal race and are sharers in the office of the priesthood. For what is more king-like than to find yourself ruler over your body after having surrendered your soul to God? And what is more priestly than to promise the Lord a pure conscience and to offer him in love unblemished victims on the altar of one’s heart?” – from a sermon by Pope Saint Leo the Great

“God decreed that all nations should be saved in Christ. Dear friends, now that we have received instruction in this revelation of God‘s grace, let us celebrate with spiritual joy the day of our first harvesting, of the first calling of the Gentiles. Let us give thanks to the merciful God, “who has made us worthy,” in the words of the Apostle, “to share the position of the saints in light; who has rescued us from the power of darkness, and brought us into the kingdom of this beloved Son.” This came to be fulfilled, as we know, from the time when the star beckoned the three wise men out of their distant country and led them to recognize and adore the King of heaven and earth. The obedience of the star calls us to imitate its humble service: to be servants, as best we can, of the grace that invites all men to find Christ.” – from a sermon by Pope Saint Leo the Great

Hymn

Troparion (Tone 3)

You were the Church’s instrument
in strengthening the teaching of true doctrine;
you shone forth from the West like a sun dispelling the errors of the heretics.
Righteous Leo, entreat Christ God to grant us His great mercy.

Troparion (Tone 8)

O Champion of Orthodoxy, and teacher of holiness,
The enlightenment of the universe and the inspired glory of true believers.
O most wise Father Leo, your teachings are as music of the Holy Spirit for us!
Pray that Christ our God may save our souls!

Kontakion (Tone 3)

Seated upon the throne of the priesthood, glorious Leo,
you shut the mouths of the spiritual lions.
With divinely inspired teachings of the honored Trinity,
you shed the light of the knowledge of God upon your flock.
Therefore, you are glorified as a divine initiate of the grace of God.

“The way to rest is through toil, the way to life is through death” -Pope St. Leo the Great

Love,
Matthew

Oct 17 – The Heresy of Gnosticism

ignatius2
-St Ignatius of Antioch (35-108 AD)

Even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, bringing swift destruction on themselves.” ~2 Peter 2:1

The Catholic Church makes a distinction between ‘material’ (Ed: “in reality, as a ‘matter’ of real fact”) and ‘formal’ heresy. Material heresy means in effect “holding erroneous doctrines through no fault of one´s own” as occurs with people brought up in non-Catholic communities, i.e. through ignorance, or accident of birth, and “is neither a crime nor a sin”.

The material heretic is ready and willing to be corrected, and assent, were the truth made plain to them.  BIG EXAMPLE:  ignorant, or less than perfectly trained, catechists, i.e. yours truly.  There are many scholarly types on the distribution for this blog for just this reason!  🙂 I rely on them to keep me, a) humble, and b) on the straight and narrow! We ignorants mean well, but we just don’t know better when the Internet is feeding us nonsense.  🙂  Thank goodness for copy/paste, or is it the work of the devil?  🙂  Thank you, auditors!!!!

Formal (Ed: knowing the truth, that it is held to be the truth by the Church, as a formal matter of dogma, and willfully rejecting it) heresy is “the willful and persistent adherence to an error in matters of faith”.   The formal heretic refuses to be corrected.  One must be baptized in order to be a heretic.  Those unbaptized are under the category “other”.

The Church holds that since God created Creation and deemed it “good” (Gen 1:31), it cannot, intrinsically, be evil, as some heresies have held.  For Catholics, the “glass is half-full”.  Heresies go by many names, through many ages.  They persist even into our modern world under guise.  It is said, “there are no new heresies”.  Bad thinking leads to bad action.  Some have suggested  modern forms of Gnosticism are Scientology and Freemasonry.


-by Br Isaac Augustine Morales, OP (Br Isaac received a doctorate in New Testament from Duke University and taught in the Department of Theology at Marquette University for four years before joining the Order.)

“From the earliest days, the Church has faced the perennial temptation to deny the goodness of material creation in general and of the human body in particular. The Platonic notion of the body as a “prison” from which the soul must escape has cropped up repeatedly throughout the Church’s history, only to be condemned every time someone proposed it.

We see one particular form of this error, the denial that Jesus really took on flesh and blood, reflected in the New Testament, and it is condemned in no uncertain terms: “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 Jn 7). What is it that drives this temptation? And what makes the idea derived from it so pernicious that St. John calls those who embrace it “antichrist”?

The answer to the first question stems from two factors: the majesty of God and the messiness of creation. In the early centuries, God was seen as totally other than creation, in the words of 1 Timothy, “immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Tim 1:17). God transcends the world and, unlike us, is not subject to change, to corruption, to pain and suffering, to anything that belongs to this world. Contrast this picture of an ineffable God with creation, particularly after the fall: we are born, we grow old, we suffer, we die. To many it seemed unfitting for God to experience birth and to have His diapers changed, much less to endure the shame and torture of one of the cruelest forms of execution ever devised by men. This is one aspect of the scandal of the Incarnation: that the God who transcends creation has joined Himself so fully to it that he knows first-hand our challenges and our trials.

St. Ignatius of Antioch, whom the Church commemorates today, meditated on this mystery as he was being led to Rome for his own execution, and he condemns the denial of Christ’s real flesh and blood as forcefully as the Second Letter of John. In one of his letters Ignatius explains the importance of Christ’s actual flesh and blood:

But if, as some that are without God, that is, the unbelieving, say, that He only seemed to suffer (they themselves only seeming to exist), then why am I in bonds? Why do I long to be exposed to the wild beasts? Do I therefore die in vain? Am I not then guilty of falsehood against [the cross of] the Lord?

There are at least two dangers in this denial of Christ’s real humanity and suffering: it empties Christian suffering of its purpose, and it implies deception on God’s part. To take the latter point first, if Jesus only appeared to be human and to suffer – if his looks are deceiving – then the Gospels lie to us. Jesus has nothing in common with us, and His life was a mere show – and a fraudulent One at that.

Closer to home for Ignatius, Jesus’ actual suffering in the flesh was closely bound up with his own impending martyrdom. In some mysterious way, Christ’s suffering takes up and incorporates the suffering of the members of his body:

By [the cross] He calls you through His passion, as being His members. The head, therefore, cannot be born by itself, without its members; God, who is [the Savior] Himself, having promised their union.

In His suffering and death, Christ manifests His solidarity with the human race, showing Himself to be a God who knows our trials not in some distant, indifferent way, but personally and experientially.

If the sole purpose of the Incarnation were Christ’s solidarity with us in our suffering, then Christianity would be little more than divinely sanctioned masochism. But for Ignatius, suffering – both Christ’s and ours – is not an end in itself, but rather a bridge to eternal life. It is by our suffering that we participate in Christ’s own sacrifice and through it come to the glory of His Resurrection. This is why one can rightly call a death at the jaws of lions a happy and peaceful one. The peace comes from the sure hope that death does not have the final victory – Christ has conquered it through the Resurrection.

Most of us are probably not ready to offer our bodies to the lions as Ignatius did, but we must remember that it was not on the basis of his own strength that he faced his death. He drew strength from feeding on Christ’s own Eucharistic flesh and blood, which he called the “medicine of immortality.” By feeding on this medicine we too can be strengthened to face our own trials and, God willing, pass through a happy death to the glory of the Resurrection.”

Love,
Matthew