I wonder how many people there are in the whole world, now living, who could confidently recite from memory all the Council’s rulings, around 170 of them (sixty-something “decrees” and over a hundred “canons”) that emerged as the final outcome of close to eight years’ work (1545–1549, 1551–1552 and 1562–1563).
Nevertheless, from time to time you come across a finger-wagging Calvinist, full of sound and fury (either genuine or feigned) shrilly denouncing the “heresies of the Council of Trent.” It invariably turns out that the object of his righteous anger is a single ruling, formally known as “Session VI, Canon 9,” which shoots down the Reformed doctrine of justification by faith alone, sometimes shortened to sola fide. The full text of the ruling goes like this:
“If anyone shall say that the wicked man is justified by faith alone, meaning that no other thing is required to cooperate for obtaining the grace of justification, and that it is not necessary for him to be prepared and disposed by the movement of his will, let him be anathema.”
The Catholic reply to this false accusation of “heresy” is not hard to find. It’s clearly set out in chap. 2 of the Epistle of James, where over and over again we read the same warning: .
Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (v. 17)
Faith apart from works is useless (v. 20)
You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (v.24)
Was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works? (v. 25)
Faith apart from works is dead (v. 26)