Sunday, March 05, 2006

Check Please. On the Futility of Catholic Apologetics

Here’s one of those oddities of Roman Catholic history, as found in this link to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia:

By a decree of Alexander IV (1254-1261) inserted in "Sextus Decretalium", Lib. V, c. ii, and still in force, all laymen are forbidden, under threat of excommunication to dispute publicly or privately with heretics on the Catholic Faith.

The text reads: "Inhibemus quoque, ne cuiquam laicæ personæ liceat publice vel privatim de fide catholicâ disputare. Qui vero contra fecerit, excommunicationis laqueo innodetur."

The translation:

We furthermore forbid any lay person to engage in dispute, either private or public, concerning the Catholic Faith. Whosoever shall act contrary to this decree, let him be bound in the fetters of excommunication.”

Now- the times have changed, and Protestants are not normally considered “heretics” by Roman Catholic apologists. We are considered “separated brethren” or something to that effect. Interesting though, during the Reformation period the new Protestants were popularly considered heretics.

But since Protestants are supposedly not heretics anymore- I have to wonder why there is a need for Roman Catholic apologetics. What’s the point? Why do Catholic apologetics? Why spend so much time writing against the Reformation or Protestants? It seems time could be spent better elsewhere.

I've been in more than a few discussion with Roman Catholics. Very few wish to call me a heretic. I tried one time to appeal to Galatians 1:6-9-

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!"

I've asked- Isn't Justification by faith alone considered "another gospel" to a Roman Catholic? Why not condemn me a heretic?

The answer:The only way I could be deemed a heretic was if I knew the Roman Catholic Church was the true church- and still I denied her truth. But since I remain convinced the Roman Catholic Church does not teach the truth and is a false church, i'm not a heretic, but rather, seperated brethren- due to my ignorance- even though I adhere to faith alone, and believe that it is the Gospel- and I condemn as anathema any system that would deny it.

Now apply Catholic apologist logic to the Scriptures, and church history. What happens? It's not possible to consistently apply this logic to the Scriptures and church history. It certainly doesn't seem to fit with Paul's emphatic plea in Galatians 1. It also doesn't seem to fit with what the Council of Trent declared:

Canon 9- If Anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema."

Even the Catholic Encyclopedia grips it:

"The doctrine of justification by faith alone was considered by Luther and his followers as an incontrovertible dogma, as the foundation rock of the Reformation, as an "article by which the Church must stand or fall" (articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesia), and which of itself would have been a sufficient cause for beginning the Reformation, as the Smalkaldic Articles emphatically declare. Thus we need not wonder when later on we see Lutheran theologians declaring that the Sola-Fides doctrine, as the principium materiale of Protestantism, deserves to be placed side by side with the doctrine of Sola-Scriptura ("Bible alone", with the exclusion of Tradition) as its principium formale -- two maxims in which the contrast between Protestant and Catholic teaching reaches its highest point. Since, however, neither maxim can be found in the Bible, every Catholic is forced to conclude that Protestantism from its very beginning and foundation is based on self-deception."

Source: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08573a.htm

I don't know how many Roman Catholics read this blog- i'm assuming very few. But, i'd like to know if i'm a heretic, or just confused, according to their personal interpretation of the Roman Catholic faith.

5 comments:

RyanL said...

Answer: You're a heretic.

Further research required: Difference between "material heresy" and "formal heresy".

God Bless,
RyanL

James Swan said...

Hi Ryan,

Thanks for stopping by. Perhaps you could enlighten me- let me know if Paul is speaking of material or formal heresy in Galatians 1.

Secondly,

The Council of Florence, the 17th Ecumenical (and hence “infallible”) Council of the Roman Catholic Church, said the following:

It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart "into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church. (Denzinger 714).

source:http://aomin.org/YouTell.html

Anonymous said...

To be a heretic you need to claim to be Catholic. Someone outside the church can never be a heretic. They need to be evangelized. They may understand the truth to some extent but have not embraced the fullness of truth in the church.

When someone inside the church teaches someting contrary to the tradition of the church that is heresy. It is probably better for the clergy to deal with such a person. Laymen should not go around labeling other church memebers heretics. Are you suggesting Catholic Apologists do that? I would not mind a few examples.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church can come close to convicting someone of heresy. It is such a clear statement of Catholic teaching that it is often easy to see when someone teaches contrary to it. Still it is the church who should make the final judgement as to what is actually against heresy.

James Swan said...

Hello Anonymous,

Thanks for stopping by. Re-read Galatians 1, and then compare it with what you've written:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

Paul does not make the distinctions you suggest. I ask you, compare what you've said to sacred scripture. Do I trust the authority of the Catechism or the authority of Paul? Paul says anyone teaching a perversion of the gospel is condemned. If the Catholic Church really has the gospel, and I embrace sola fide, I am eternally condemned. The opposite is likewise true. If sola fide is correct, the RCC is condemned.

Ree said...

I read your link from the Catholic Encyclopedia, and it seems to me that the issue is not about whether the person disputing against Roman Catholic doctrine can officially be deemed a heretic or not before one can know whether this prohibition applies, but whether or not the theological point he's contending for is officially regarded as heresy. I mean, isn't the point of the prohibition to keep the untrained layman (and/or the public onlookers) from being influenced by the arguments of the one espousing heresy?

It seems apparent that most of the RC participants on internet discussion boards and blogs are in violation of this prohibition, and ought to be subject to excommunication. So much for the obedient Catholics vs. the rebellious Protestants.