As some of you may have noticed, I have spent a bit of time, here and there, exploring matters pertaining to religious coercion and the Catholic Church. And now here is a thread in which I will explore the smoking gun. First, here is the smoking gun.
The smoking gun can be found at the Council of Trent. For those who don’t know, Trent is the Church council that was held in the wake of the Protestant Reformation. Its purpose was to formally codify and promulgate Catholic doctrine with the full weight of Magisterial authority behind it in order to give a definitive and unchanging answer to all the issues that Protestantism raised. In this description, I am attempting to use language that implies both the iteration of teachings in opposition to Protestant doctrines as well as the implementation of Catholic reforms, which were not necessarily counter to the Reformation.
Getting back to the smoking gun, though. From the Council of Trent, Session 7, On the Sacraments. Here’s one link that lets you see the whole thing. thecounciloftrent.com/ch7.htm
It begins with descriptions of the sacraments in general; our smoking gun is found in the portion that deals specifically with baptism. To begin with a little bit of context, let’s look at the Canon just previous to the smoking gun.
From the portion On Baptism: “CANON XIII.-If any one saith, that little children, for that they have not actual faith, are not, after having received baptism, to be reckoned amongst the faithful; and that, for this cause, they are to be rebaptized when they have attained to years of discretion; or, that it is better that the baptism of such be omitted, than that, while not believing by their own act, they should be baptized in the faith alone of the Church; let him be anathema.”
Ok, so that’s infant baptism. Despite not having “actual faith” or “years of discretion,” an infant baptism is all the things that any other baptism is. And immediately following this, we come to the smoking gun.
From the Council of Trent, Session 7, the portion On Baptism:
“CANON XIV.-If any one saith, that those who have been thus baptized when children, are, when they have grown up, to be asked whether they will ratify what their sponsors promised in their names when they were baptized; and that, in case they answer that they will not, they are to be left to their own will; and are not to be compelled meanwhile to a Christian life by any other penalty, save that they be excluded from the participation of the Eucharist, and of the other sacraments, until they repent; let him be anathema.”
That is the smoking gun. That is religious coercion. As if it’s not enough that infants are ushered into Catholic membership through the promise of their sponsors (and evidently that really was not enough for the Trent Magisterium), when cradle Catholics come of age, they shall not be left to their own free will. You might think their only penalty for abandoning the Church would be exclusions from the sacramental life of the Church, but no- they are to be compelled by other penalties as well, by no means shall you just allow them to leave like that, you must get behind the idea that you should compel such a person with penalties other than a basic lack of membership. And if you don’t support that you are anathema.
This most certainly is Church teaching. It is a big, huge, major council. This is Trent. And at Trent, that particular Magisterium saw fit to throw their authority behind the idea that cradle Catholics don’t just get the choice to leave- compel them with penalties, do not let them freely choose to go, coerce them to stay in spite of what they would prefer to do.
This is the smoking gun. It is Trent. It is an anathema stated with Magisterial authority. As such, it is permanent. It cannot be unsaid, nor was it ever supposed to be.
So I have a few questions about this. Starting with: Why did that particular Magisterium see fit to guarantee grounds for a certain type of religious coercion? What was it so important to them? And continuing with: What does it say about the Catholic Church in the modern day, considering how no one knows about his particular anathema and everyone basically violates it whenever someone close to them chooses to leave the Catholic Church?
A personal question for all of you, if I may. I assume you know some cradle Catholics who wound up leaving the Church at least for a time, yes? Did you ever, ever, ever in your life considering compelling them to stay through the use of some penalty or punishment? Did it ever occur to you? And now that you know about this particular anathema- would you even remotely consider doing such a thing? I don’t know exactly what kind of penalty you might see fit to impose, but the upshot is that a cradle Catholic wants to leave the Church and you arrange something that forces them not to, despite the fact that they would like to.
This is the smoking gun. Let’s have an in depth discussion, shall we?