Catholic View of Salvation and Works

Ok, I know this is a classic issue between Catholics and Protestants, and I won’t lie…I am very conflicted on this.

I understand that the Catholic position is that one must have faith worked out through charity and love. In other words, to be saved, a Catholic must have faith, but mental assent of the identity of Christ is not enough for salvation. Salvation also depends on our working our faith out through love (meaning there are “acts” of faith).

I also understand that the traditional Protestant understanding of faith as expressed by Martin Luther is that true faith is more than just mental assent…it’s a faith that creates in every Christian a “new creature,” a creature that will act as Christ commanded. Thus, true faith leads to particular works.

As recent talks between Lutherans and Catholics in Germany have shown, the differences on these points are not nearly as large as so many once though - the language is just different.

However, where I think things are in fact really different is this…The Catholic Church says that in order to be saved, one must act in love and charity. This really isn’t much different from the Lutheran position since their view of faith includes many of these same acts. The problem arises when one must identify what is and what is not something that must be done.

Lutherans and Catholics all agree on what Jesus said constitutes a Christian life, but what about all of the “extras” that the Catholic Church has decreed over the years. For instance, contraception, which Jesus didn’t say anything about, has been declared a mortal sin by the Catholic Church. So if someone believes wholly and completely in Jesus Christ, lives his or her life just as Jesus describes in the Bible, and is one of the greatest people of all time, but uses contraception because he or she genuinely believes its not a sin…that person is dying with mortal sin and, under Catholic theology, is going to hell. That does seem to deny what the Bible says about the role of faith in salvation. One could believe wholly and completely but still be damned because they disagree with the Church’s understanding of what is and what is not a mortal sin.

Now, I realize that issues regarding infallibility, authority, and all the rest play a part in all of this. If a Catholic believes in church infallibility, then the Church cannot be wrong about what is and what is not a mortal sin, so in that sense, none of this would matter to the Catholic. But to the Protestant, who starts out rejecting that authority, this argument does not at all work.

How can Catholics explain this problem to Protestants? If a Christian truly believes with all of his heart but rejects certain Church teachings as being wrong…can he or she be saved? Doesn’t a view of Catholic salvation make faith in the Church more important than faith in Jesus?

I am looking for an honest, thoughtful dialogue on the issues here…Just trying to understand how to approach this.

Everything that the Catholic Church teaches is what Jesus Himself teaches. Nothing has been “made up” or added as an “extra” as you have unfortunately contended. That is why we must believe in and follow everything that the Church teaches, because it was all revealed by God, Who can neither decieve nor be deceived.

May God bless you and lead you to the Truths of Catholicism! :slight_smile:

Considered as an act (actus justificationis), justification is the work of God alone, presupposing, however, on the part of the adult the process of justification and the cooperation of his free will with God’s preventing and helping grace (gratia praeveniens et cooperans). Considered as a state or habit (habitus justificationis), it denotes the continued possession of a quality inherent in the soul, which theologians aptly term sanctifying grace.

The Council of Trent (Sess. VI, cap. vi, and can. xii) decrees that not the fiduciary faith, but a real mental act of faith, consisting of a firm belief in all revealed truths makes up the faith of justification and the “beginning, foundation, and source” of justification. What did the Reformers with Luther understand by fiduciary faith? They understood thereby not the first or fundamental deposition or preparation for the (active) justification, but merely the spiritual grasp (instrumentum) with which we seize and lay hold of the external justice of Christ and with it, as with a mantle of grace, cover our sins (which still continue to exist interiorly) in the infallible, certain belief (fiducia) that God, for the sake of Christ, will no longer hold our sin against us. Hereby the seat of justifying faith is transferred from the intellect to the will; and faith itself, in as far as it still abides in the intellect, is converted into a certain belief in one’s own justification.

The Council of Trent (Sess. VI, can. ix) decrees that over and above the faith which formally dwells in the intellect, other acts of predisposition, arising from the will, such as fear, hope, love, contrition, and good resolution, are necessary for the reception of the grace of justification. This definition was made by the council as against the second fundamental error of Protestantism, namely that “faith alone justifies”.

According to Luther, the faith that justifies is not a firm belief in God’s revealed truths and promises (fides theoretica, dogmatica), but is the infallible conviction (fides fiducialis, fiducia) that God for the sake of Christ will no longer impute to us our sins, but will consider and treat us, as if we were really just and holy, although in our inner selves we remain the same sinners as before. Cf. Solid. Declar. III, sec. 15: “Through the obedience of Christ by faith the just are so declared and reputed, although by reason of their corrupt nature they still are and remain, sinners as long as they bear this mortal body.”

Luther for many times applauded good works, but recognized them only as necessary concomitants, not as efficient dispositions, for justification. Luther was surprised to find himself by his unprecedented doctrine in direct contradiction to the Bible, therefore he rejected the Epistle of St. James as “of straw” and into the text of St. Paul to the Romans (3:28) he boldly inserted the word “alone”. This was not in the spirit of the Apostle’s teaching, for nowhere does St. Paul teach that faith alone (without charity) will bring justification, even though we should accept as also Pauline the text given in a different context, that supernatural faith alone justifies but the fruitless works of the Jewish Law do not. In this statement St. Paul emphasizes the fact that grace is purely gratuitous; that no merely natural good works can merit grace; but he does not state that no other acts in their nature and purport predisposing are necessary for justification over and above the requisite faith.

If Luther’s interpretation were allowed to stand, then St. Paul would come into direct contradiction not only with St. James (ii, 24 sqq.), but also with himself; for, except St. John, the favourite Apostle, he is the most outspoken of all Apostles in proclaiming the necessity and excellence of charity over faith in the matter of justification (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1 sqq.). Whenever faith justifies it is not faith alone, but faith made operative and replenished by charity (cf. Galatians 5:6, “fides, quae per caritatem operatur”). In the plainest language the Apostle St. James says this: “ex operibus justificatur homo, et non ex fide tantum” (James 2:2); and here, by works, he does not understand the pagan good works to which St. Paul refers in the Epistle to the Romans, or the works done in fulfilment of the Jewish Law, but the works of salvation made possible by the operation of supernatural grace, which was recognized by St. Augustine (lib. LXXXIII, Q. lxxvi n. 2).

In conformity with this interpretation and with this only is the tenor of the Scriptural doctrine, namely, that over and above faith other acts are necessary for justification, such as fear (Ecclus., i, 28), and hope (Romans 8:24), charity (Luke 7:47), penance with contrition (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38; 3:19), almsgiving (Daniel 4:24; Tob., xii, 9). Without charity and the works of charity faith is dead. Faith receives life only from and through charity (James 2:2). Only to dead faith (fides informis) is the doctrine applied: “Faith alone does not justify”.

On the other hand, faith informed by charity (fides formata) has the power of justification. St. Augustine (On the Holy Trinity XV.18) expresses it thus: “Sine caritate quippe fides potest quidem esse, sed non et prodesse.” We see that from the very beginning the Church has taught that not only faith but that a sincere conversion of heart effected by charity and contrition is also requisite for justification–witness the regular method of administering baptism and the discipline of penance in the early Church.

Martin Luther and Calvin taught very logically that a sinner is justified by fiduciary faith, in such a way, however, that sin is not absolutely removed or wiped out, but merely covered up or not held against the sinner. According to the teaching of the Catholic Church, however, in active justification an actual and real forgiveness of sins takes place so that the sin is really removed from the soul, not only original sin by baptism but also mortal sin by the sacrament of penance. This view is entirely consonant with the teaching of Holy Scripture, for the Biblical expressions: “blotting out” as applied to sin (Ps 1:3; Isaiah 43:25; 44:22; Acts 3:19), “exhausting” (Hebrews 9:28), “taking away” [2 Samuel 12:13; 1 Chronicles 21:8; Mich., vii, 18; Ps 10:15 and 102:12], cannot be reconciled with the idea of a mere covering up of sin which is supposed to continue its existence in a covert manner. Other Biblical expressions are just as irreconcilable with this Lutheran idea, for instance, the expression of “cleansing” and “washing away” the mire of sin (Ps 1:4, 9; Isaiah 1:18; Ezekiel 36:25; 1 Cor 6:11; Revelation 1:5), that of coming “from death to life” (Col. ii., 13; 1 John 3:14); the removal from darkness to light (Eph 5:9).

In the Protestant system, however, remission of sin is no real forgiveness, no blotting out of guilt. The person to be justified seizes by means of the fiduciary faith the exterior justice of Christ, and therewith covers his sins; this exterior justice is imputed to him as if it were his own, and he stands before God as having an outward justification, but in his inner self he remains the same sinner as of old. Sin is merely cloaked and concealed by the imputed merits of Christ; God no longer imputes it, whilst in reality it continues under cover its miserable existence till the hour of death. Thus there exist in man side by side two hostile brothers as it were — the one just and the other unjust; the one a saint, the other a sinner. In a man who is at once sinful and just, half holy and half unholy, we cannot possibly recognize a masterpiece of God’s omnipotence, but only a wretched caricature, the deformity of which is exaggerated all the more by the violent introduction of the justice of Christ.

The logical consequences which follow from this system, and which have been deduced by the Reformers themselves, are indeed appalling to Catholics: it would follow that, since the justice of Christ is always and ever the same, every person justified, from the ordinary everyday person to the apostles to the Blessed Virgin, would possess precisely the same justification and would have, in degree and kind, the same holiness and justice.

The Catholic idea maintains that the formal cause of justification does not consist in an exterior imputation of the justice of Christ, but in a real, interior sanctification effected by grace, which abounds in the soul and makes it permanently holy before God.

Although the sinner is justified by the justice of Christ, inasmuch as the Redeemer has merited for him the grace of justification (causa meritoria), nevertheless he is formally justified and made holy by his own personal justice and holiness (causa formalis).

Only this inner, immanent sanctification of the sinner can be intended where there is mention of passing to a new life (Eph 2:5; Col 2:13; 1 John 3:14); renovation in spirit (Eph 4:23 sq.); supernatural likeness to God (Romans 8:29; 2 Cor 3:18; 2 Peter 1:4) a new creation (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15); rebirth in God (John 3:5; Titus 3:5; James 1:18), etc., all of which designations not only imply a setting aside of sin, but express as well a permanent state of holiness. All of these terms express not an aid to action, but rather a form of being; and this appears also from the fact that the grace of justification is described as being “poured forth in our hearts” (Romans 5:5); as “the spirit of adoption of sons” of God (Romans 8:15); as the “spirit, born of the spirit” (John 3:6); making us “conformable to the image of the Son” (Romans 8:28); as a participation in the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4); the abiding seed in us (1 John 3:9), and so on.

The ideas on which the Reformers built their system of justification, except perhaps fiduciary faith, were by no means original. They had been conceived long before either by heretics of the earlier centuries or by isolated Catholic theologians. It was especially the representatives of Antinomianism during the Apostolic times who welcomed the idea that faith alone suffices for justification. For this reason St. Augustine (De fide et operibus, xiv) was of the opinion that the Apostles James, Peter, John, and Jude had directed their Epistles against the Antinomians of that time, who claimed to have taken their doctrines — so dangerous to morality — from the writings of St. Paul.

It cannot be denied that in the Middle Ages there were a few Catholic theologians among the Nominalists (Occam, Durandus, Gabriel Biel), who went so far in exaggerating the value of good works in the matter of justification that the efficiency and dignity of Divine grace was unduly relegated to the background. Denifle and Weiss have shown that Martin Luther was acquainted almost exclusively with the theology of these Nominalists, which he naturally and justly found repugnant, and that the “Summa” of Aquinas and the works of other great theologians were practically unknown to him.

We have an authentic explanation of the Catholic doctrine in the “Decretum de justificatione” of the Sixth Session (13 Jan., 1547) of the Council of Trent, which in sixteen chapters and thirty-three canons gives in the clearest manner all necessary information about the process, causes, effects, and qualities of justification.

Sanctifying Grace

We must understand things for what they are, because we worship in spirit and truth.

God gave sexuality to male and female with a complementary procreative and unitive purpose. The two become one flesh, and new life arises. The covenant between male and female, holy matrimony, bears four distinct marks in order to be true: it is free, faithful, fruitful, and lifelong.

If I am forced to marry, it is not a valid marriage - thus the free exchange of vows.

If I marry but I am unfaithful to my wife, I am violating the covenant.

If I marry, but then I dump my wife, I am violating the covenant (and Christ made this very clear, that what God has united, man must not divide).

If I marry, but then I use my spouse’s body as a pleasure tool or merely to pursue the unitive purpose, artificially and unnaturally rendering the marital embrace fruitless, I am violating the covenant. God commanded man and woman to “be fruitful and multiply”. He condemned the sin of Onan (Genesis 38) which is the first form of contraception in human history. Contraception was in fact labeled as “evil” and worthy of death - that is to say, a mortal sin, in our modern understanding of the divine law.

Concerning the procreative and unitive purposes of holy matrimony, we have no problem accepting that if the unitive purpose is trespassed, we are committing a great evil - this is what we term rape, where one of the two is not consenting to uniting and is forced to do so. However, fewer are able to accept that it is also a great evil to trespass the procreative purpose. But it is. The Church is witness and sign of contradiction, because it has never allowed the pagan culture or the makers of schism to distort her teaching on this matter. Ever since the apostolic age she bears witness to the fullness of the Christian moral teaching.

This is not a logical argument, and it is also factually incorrect. Let me address the latter.

Factually incorrect, because one of the conditions that the Church ever since the age of the apostles and Church Fathers attributed to a sin in order to be mortal is that it must be committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent. Someone who was never taught that contraception is a grave sin and engages in it is committing a sin on grave matter, but not a mortal sin. A mortal sin requires knowing the evil and choosing to commit it. Under such circumstance, the soul would not break its covenant with God and would not lose grace. She would be saved, but as if through fire - to use the words of Paul.

Let’s rephrase the sentence correctly then:

Yes, of course. No matter how good a person may be, if that person commits even one mortal sin with full knowledge and deliberate consent, that person has condemned herself. But the person must know the sin is grave and still decide to commit it.

Faith is believing what God has revealed based on the authority of the revealer. We do this because God is the author of truth and we are not: He knows better than us. To reject something God has revealed is the ultimate act of pride and shows a lack of faith in God. This sin is called heresy and it is incompatible with faith.

So, how do we know what God has revealed, so that we can believe Him and obey Him? How do you even know what Jesus’ words are? His revelation is handed down by the Church. Even if you believe the Bible is God’s revelation, you believe it because someone else told you it was and you believed them. But even the idea that the Bible contains God’s revelations can ultimately traced back to the Church’s testimony. Even if you reject the authority of the Church, you need to accept some other human beings testimony to know these things, even if only your own (ie you personally just decide the Gospels are true and fully self-sufficent without testimony from any other human–highly unlikely, but possible I guess).

Since none of us are the Apostles, we all must receive God’s revelation through some human mediation (as even the Bible itself says, “faith comes through hearing.”).

As such, we all have to place our faith in a human being or human beings in order to place our faith in God. This is why it reasonably follows that the Church must be infallible, or faith would be impossible–it would be impossible to know what God revealed 2000 years ago.

Regarding the issue of contraception, where did you get the idea that it is not a sin? Who told you? Did you come up with this idea yourself? What credibility does that source have for their contention that God does not judge it to be a sin?

The Church has always taught that it is sin in God’s judgment and its credibility is its consistency and lineage as one society with its foundation by the Apostles. Even groups that have broken away from this Church retained the belief that contraception is a sin. It has only been very recently that some changed this teaching.

Who’s testimony should you believe–the testimony of a Church that has existed since the Apostles and has always taught this doctrine or a group that made up a contrary doctrine less than 100 years ago? The first one seems more credible to me.

As for sincerely getting something wrong, that is not an act of pride or heresy. If without sin on your part you searched for the truth with reasonable diligence, but are ignorant or mistaken about what God has revealed, and you are unconditionally willing to believe what God has revealed and would surely correct your beliefs no matter the cost if you learned they were in error, then you do have faith.

In that case, you are intending to believe as God’s Church believes (since God’s Church believes the word of God), and, in the words of Pope Innocent IV who summed it up nicely: “In that case, the faith of the Church replaces his opinion, though his opinion is false, it is not his faith, but his faith is the faith of the Church.” (Innocent IV, Commentaria in quinque libros decretalia, Ad liber I).

One who is opposing the Church needs to really examine their conscience and make sure they have good reason to think that the testimony they accept instead is faithful to what God revealed 2000 years ago.

Starting out by rejecting authority is to start out on erroneous premises, and that immediately invalidates the arguments that follow.

To begin with, let us recall that Paul speaks of the Church of the living God as the “pillar and foundation of the truth” in 1 Timothy 3:15.

In Matthew 16:18-19 Jesus says that He will build His Church. In Mathew 18 the Lord states:

If your brother sins…go and tell him…between you and him alone…If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you…if he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile

This already suffices to prove that the true, apostolic Church must be visible, authoritative, and perpetual. To the ancient law of the two witnesses, Christ adds a greater authority, that of the Church. This assumes that at all times in all places his disciples will be able to follow his word.

Scripture is clear that the Church has authority – in Mt 28:18-20 Jesus delegates His power to the apostles. The authority to perform specific acts is given in other passages – Jn 20:23 (the power to forgive sin), I Cor 11:23-24 (the power to offer sacrifice, the Eucharist), Lk 10:16 (the power to speak with Christ’s voice), Mt 18:18 (the power to legislate) and Mt 18:17 (the power to discipline).

From a perspective of pure common sense and logic, what would be the point of founding a Church (which Christ clearly wanted to do) without giving her authority? If the Church has no power, what what is she? She becomes a collection of believers with no power to enforce laws or discipline those who are dissident – anyone could claim to be a member of her even if they denied all the tenets of her laws and beliefs.

The Church is often described as bearing four “marks” - One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. These have been incorporated into our Credo, 1200 years before the ‘reformation’ took place.

  • the Church is unified, single and one. Whenever Jesus speaks of the Church (or uses a metaphor such as flock or His body) He speaks in the singular. Additionally, the Scripture tells us to avoid divisions of all sorts – Romans 15:5, 16:17, 1 Cor 1:10, Phil 2:2. Jesus prays that “all may be one” - Jn 17:17-23.Other verses which show the fact that the Church must be one are; John 10:16, 17:23, Ephesians 4:3-6, I Corinthians 12:13, Romans 12:5 and Colossians 3:15.

  • if Jesus specifically founded something (as is shown above) and He intended it (or her) to have the authority to act in His place on Earth, how could it not be holy? The understanding of this mark is rooted on the fact that Jesus is married to the Church (Ephesians 5:22-32, Revelation 19:7, 21:2), on the teaching that marriage makes man and wife one flesh, and on the constant references in Scripture that the Church is Jesus’ Christ’s mystical body. The Church is therefore set apart, consecrated, holy (although individual members of the Church are not impeccable).

  • “Catholic” means both “universal” and “according to the wholeness”. Only one Church is not split into geographically local groups, instead found on every continent and in virtually every country in the world, having consistent theological teachings across all individual places of worship, holding on to the Deposit of Faith of Scripture and Tradition, whole and unchanged - and is constantly expanding (18 million new faithful were baptized between 2010 and 2011), gathering within herself the vast majority of all Christians (1.2 billion).

  • Apostolic means that the Church claims genuine descent from the apostles who were selected and chosen by Jesus Christ. In John 15:16 we see that Jesus chose men to be His apostles and in John 20:21 He gave them a special mission. The book of Acts (the story of the early Church) is full of examples of men being appointed to the office of priest by other priests (this is apostolic succession) – Acts 1:20 and 1:25-26 are the first example of apostolic succession, but this is followed by Acts 14:23. Saint Paul speaks of the creation of priests – giving instructions to do it in Titus 1:5 and II Timothy 2:2, and giving instructions to not do it too readily in I Timothy 5:22 (this passage refers to the laying on of hands – I Timothy 4:14 makes it clear that this is the means by which the priesthood is to be passed on). The Catholic Church has a legitimate apostolic succession (with over 5,000 bishops, 500,000 priests, 40,000 deacons).

Logic tells us that the Church which has authority, is visible, is apostolic and which was founded specifically by God as the ordinary means of salvation has to be perpetual – would God create a Church which had all these characteristics which would only last for a few years or centuries?

Once again, both logic and Scripture show that the Church must be infallible in matters of religious teaching – if the Church must be perpetual, then she has to never teach something wrong. If this weren’t the case, then Christ’s promise that the Church would be perpetual would be incorrect. John 16:13 says that the Church will be guided by the Holy Spirit to all truth, and John 14:26 once again reaffirms this. The Church will “speak with Christ’s own voice” according to Luke 10:16 and the apostles speak with the voice of the Holy Spirit in Acts 15:28.

When it is shown that the Church must possess the four marks she does, that she possess authority, and that she is perpetual, it is completely necessary for her to be visible and identifiable! How else would people be able to find the Church if she were invisible?

I understand that’s the teaching…but you’ll never convince Protestants with that view.

This is, obviously, a very strong response…and I understand your position quite well after reading it.

I think there are several logical flaws in it (mostly having to do with church infallibility), but since they really don’t directly address the topic at hand, I won’t get into them here…

Regarding justification, I absolutely understand your point, but I think you are still missing mine. You suggested that it would be “impossible” for someone to truly have real faith, love, and charity and also commit a mortal sin because a person who truly has all those qualification could only disobey the Church in ignorance, which of course is excused if it is genuine.

However, this argument ASSUMES the Church is infallible and cannot be wrong on issues of faith and morals (and presumably worship)…But this is a very large assumption. Trying to make that case to the Protestant is incredibly difficult to do. And this is ultimately the point. If you start with the assumption the Church is infallible, all of your arguments flow nicely. But if you don’t believe in church infallibility, it crumbles to pieces, because if the Church can be wrong, then it’s possible a person could have real faith, charity, and love and yet still not obey the Church’s commands because of a genuine belief the Church is wrong.

Now, you are arguing the Church is infallible, and I have heard all of the arguments under the sun for that claim, and cannot for the life of me find any validity in it. There are more than enough examples of Church councils passing “infallible” resolutions that virtually no Catholic today would support. Just read the decrees from the Fourth Lateran Council; it’s full of things virtually all Catholics would reject (such as its treatment of the Jews, extermination of heretics, etc.).

I guess this issue of justification then all comes down to that in the end. If the Church is fallible, then its position on what constitutes a mortal sin would need to change to account for the possibility of error. Since the Church believes error is impossible, there is no need to worry about such things.

First of all…Contraception is just an example. I am not trying to argue that contraception is or is not a sin. There are numerous issues I could have picked that many people disagree with.

Second…The argument you make that the Church has ALWAYS taught these things is misguided. Some truths, absolutely yes…Others…No. I’ll give you an example: How long was Jesus’ ministry? Was it one year? Three years? more than ten years? I can produce numerous church fathers that give wildly different accounts, and many of them swear that they are getting their information from the Apostles. Irenaeus, for instance, says that Jesus lived to be in his 40s, and swears this comes from the Apostles, and not just St. John. How can something so simple as the length of Jesus’ ministry be confused? If Church tradition is so trustworthy, why is it that it can’t even provide an answer to this simple question?

I think Church tradition is VERY important, but to say it is AS RELIABLE as scripture is simply not true. Even if we are to consider ACCURATE tradition to be on the same level as scripture, and I don’t have any problem with that, then it still cannot be argued that something that has been written down is as reliable as something that has been passed down by word of mouth.

You build into your argument the assumption that the Church must NEVER teach anything that’s incorrect regarding faith and morals. And the truth is…you base this on what? Tradition? So you are assuming tradition is infallible and then using tradition as the support for your argument stating why tradition is infallible? That’s circular reasoning and it doesn’t work. You can point to scripture and say, “The Gates of Hell shall not prevail” against the Church…but does that mean the Church never can teach a fallacy? Doesn’t prevailing imply a victory in total, not every little point? In other words, did the South prevail against the North in the Civil War? No. But did the South win some battles? Yes. The idea that this one passage of scripture suggests infallibility is really bewildering. If I ask you: How do you know that this passage equates to church infallibility? You will say in response, “Church tradition,” and then we are right back where we started. Church tradition says church tradition is infallible…but that is a circular argument.

I have no problem with the idea of Church authority…but infallibility is a completely different ballgame.

Catholics are not trying to convince our Protestant brethren; we are trying to spread the Word of God. Whether Protestants (or anyone else) choose to believe, it’s up to them. We do our part and God does His.

Well, this is your problem right here. If you do not accept the fact and the Truth that the Holy Catholic Church is the “pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), then you will never be able to believe the Truth of Christ that she teaches. And to not believe that the Catholic Church is the One, True Church of God (which it is) is just simply wrong when Christ clearly founded it on Peter and there has been an endless apostolic succession since him. Once you have faith in the Church that Jesus gave you for the preservation of His teachings, only then you will be able to believe in the fullness of the Truth. I hope that you do! Otherwise, no argument for anything that the Holy Catholic Church teaches will ever get through to you.

May God bless you and lead you to the Truths of Catholicism! :slight_smile:

That’s a fair point.

I think at this point…the thread should be closed so another thread can address church infallibility, which is apparently the problem.

Alrighty! See you on the next one! :stuck_out_tongue:

How do you know that Scripture is the revealed word of God? How do you know its not just a bunch of bunk some guys made up or that it hasn’t been corrupted along the way, like the Mormons and Muslims claim? You only know this because of the Church’s tradition that says so. If tradition can be corrupted, how do you this one hasn’t been? If you’re going to accept this tradition, why not the rest? On what basis do you pick that one and others, but reject some others? You’ve stated why you think our system is bad, but not why yours is any better. I can’t see how it can be anything but much worse.

Along those lines, we also do not hold to a circular argument like you claim–ie the infallible Church proves the inerrant Bible and the inerrant Bible proves the infallible Church. This article explains that the actual argument we make is different and how that argument is a “spiral” beginning with Jesus.

The examples of unreliability you brought up also don’t really work. The Church has not judged the specific length of Jesus’ ministry to belong to the content of revelation. As we both agree, revelation can only be known by faith–it can’t be figured out any other way–and that is why it mus be infallibly and permanently preserved. We just disagree on how that is accomplished.

Concerning the Fourth Lateran Council, no one would argue that civil laws requiring Jews to differentiate themselves from Christians is part of God’s revelation and Lateran IV didn’t claim it was at all. It was a civil decision made for what all thought would aid toward civil peace at the time of mutual suspicion between mutually hostile groups. Regarding the canon on the extermination of heretics, it is also clearly not given by the Council as a revealed truth. Again, it was civil law related to specific heretics at a specific time.


continued from above…

Just to add to my post about Lateran IV, back in the 1800s the Archbishop of New York, John Hughes, and a Presbyterian Minister, John Breckinridge, had a debate about this very thing–this is how Hughes answered him:

[quote=Archbishop Hughes]We must now turn to the Council of Lateran. The errors of the Albigenses were referred to, and condemned in the first and second canons. The object of the third canon, now in question, was to check the spread of those errors, and the progress of slaughter and desolation, which the Albigenses, on every opportunity, for two hundred years before, had not ceased to perpetrate. It was also to maintain the rights of sovereigns against the factious lords, who encouraged the excesses of the ‘Albigenses, for their own political purposes. Besides the bishops and abbots, there were at the council ambassadors representing the temporal sovereigns of Germany, Constantinople, England, France, Hungary, Arragon, Sicily, Jerusalem and Cyprus; besides those of many other inferior states. Now the wording of the canon shows its limitation; first, to the Albigensian heretics alone; and, secondly, to the "secular powers present’’ at the council. The gentleman on a former occasion thought it advisable, in making the quotation, to suppress the word “present.” Having been exposed for this, he now inserts it, and thereby mars his whole purpose, which was to extend the meaning of the text to all secular powers, whether absent or present. Now the fact is, that so far from its being the doctrine of the Catholic Church, and so far from its being an enactment of universal approbation, it never was put in force against any other heretics besides the Albigenses, nor even against them, except in the departments of the three counts mentioned above, who encouraged the outrages of these enemies of the human species. Its origin was owing to the crimes of those against whom it was specifically and exclusively enacted.

Let any man apply the doctrines of the Albigenses, simply on two points, viz. the tenet that the devil was the creator of the visible world ; and that, in order to avoid co-operation with the devil in continuing his work, the faithful should take measures by which the human race should come to an end ; and then say whether those errors were merely speculative. They were, on the contrary, pregnant with destruction to society. Was it persecution, or rather, was it not self-preservation, to arrest those errors? We shall see presently, however, that these men, like the Calvinists in France at a later period, took up the sword of sedition, and wielded it against the government under which they lived. We shall see, that long before the canon of Lateran was passed, their course was marked with plunder, rapine, bloodshed. And if so, it follows that their crimes against society springing from their doctrines, constitute the true reason of the severity of the enactment against them.

Their existence was known from the year 1022. If, then, the extermination of heretics had been a doctrine of the Catholic Church, why were they not exterminated from the first? If it was not a doctrine of the church in 1022, it was not a doctrine in 1215; for the gentleman himself admits and proclaims that our doctrines never change. Why then did not the Catholics exterminate them at once ? Is it that they were not able ? No : for at first the heresy had but few supporters. But why were they afterwards persecuted ? The reason is, that in the interval they had proceeded to sustain and propagate their infernal principles, by violence. They had placed themselves under the patronage of factious and rebellious barons, and had fought in pitched battles against their sovereigns. In the former controversy, the gentleman garbled the twenty-seventh canon of the third Council of Lateran, to show that these poor heretics were condemned to awful penalties, for nothing at all but protesting against the errors of the Church of Rome. This he did by quoting the beginning and conclusion of the canon, and, without indicating any omission, suppressing the crimes of these proto-martyrs of Calvinism. It was proved, by the very document from which he quoted, that these lambs of the Albigensian fold were “exercising such cruelty on the Christians, (ie. the Catholics) that they paid no respect to churches or monastaries, spared neither virgins nor widows, neither old nor young, neither sex nor age, but after the manner of pagans destroyed and desolated every thing.”

Pope Benedict XVI on Faith and Works in Paul:

(Two audiences from the Year of St. Paul) (begins a bit down)

and one from a few years earlier:

That’s a very nice quote…Unfortunately, it doesn’t really resolve the issue or deal with the complicated nature of the issue, such as WHY the rebellion included violence in the first place. I realize that many Catholics desperately want to defend every decision the Church has ever made…but that was a bad one and it’s not hard to imagine why it would be and the repercussions of such a decision. It’s not nearly as Hughes describes, where this one evil group doing violent and evil things couldn’t be controlled, so, reluctantly, the Church decides to have them removed…No. History shows it was far more complicated than that. Further, basic logic does the same thing. If this group was so out-of-control and violent, why would these kingdoms need to be told by the Church to have them removed from their lands in the first place??? The kings of those regions already had all the justification they needed if violence was truly the issue. Hughes’ explanation doesn’t even make sense.

Here is just a brief account (granted, from Wikipedia) that displays the complex nature of the event. You’ll notice that at the end, the remaining Cathars were burned or hanged if they refused to recant their religious beliefs.

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