Monday, May 30, 2005

Is Justification a one-time legal imputation only?

In a conversation I had with a Calvinist seminarian, a disagreement with regard to what Scripture teaches regarding justification occurred. The Calvinist seminarian insisted upon justification being a one-time legal imputation of one's sins. I asserted that Scripture describes it as an ongoing process of faithfulness when faced with recurring tribulation, where one actually, truly becomes righteous through faithfulness or the obedience of faith.

Here's some excerpts of our conversation. It's lengthy, but it gives a good appreciation of the Calvinist versus Catholic understanding of Justification...

Calvinist seminarian:

"If you hold to a fatally defective view of justification, you are not a Christian whether you have been baptized or not. ... I keep wondering - are any Catholic apologists out there ever going to debate the actual Protestant view of justification?"


I just read this by Robert Sungenis, and I thought it made sense to me:

"Has any Catholic theologian ever contested that dikaiow and its derivatives are totally void or incapable of being used in a legal sense? No, never. There were various instances in which the Greeks used the word in legal contexts. Paul could have done the same thing, if he desired to do so. But that just begs the question: DID he do so? Take the word "marriage," for example. Is that a legal term or a personal term? It can be either, depending on the context in which it is placed. When applying for a marriage license, or when in divorce court, the word "marriage" becomes very legal, does it not? But when a husband loves his wife (as opposed to merely giving her food, clothing and shelter) is "marriage" merely a legal term? No, certainly not. It takes on a whole new meaning that law knows nothing about, for law can't love. Only people who make a personal commitment of trust and care can love each other."
The forensic legalistic view of Justification is just as foreign to the Catholic faith as is a purely legalistic view of marriage.

I like how Scott Hahn, a convert to Catholicism and a former Calvinist seminary professor, describes the Catholic view of Justification:

justification from a Catholic perspective is divine sonship. It's standing in God's family. ... Justification, then, understood in the Catholic way, involves both the imputation of legal righteousness as the Protestants believe, but also the infusion of Christ's life and grace as the divine son so that in Christ we become at justification living, breathing sons of God, not just legally but actually. That's what the grace of the Father does for His children. In other words we hold with the Protestants that justification involves a legal decree, a divine word, that we are just, but unlike the Protestants and contrary to their position, we believe that that word of justification goes forth in power. In other words, God does what he declares. In the very act of declaring us just he makes us just because His Word is omnipotent, it's all-powerful. Isaiah 55:11: "So shall my Word go forth from my mouth. It shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose." ... The point is that whatever God declares, He does by declaring it to be, because the Word of God is the living and active Christ himself. When we're declared just, God does what he declares. ... So it's like a father who gives and fills his children with all that he has and is. ... First John, chapter 3, verse 7: "Little children, let no one deceive you, he who does right is righteous as He is righteous." ...

[Protestant] John Murray ... argues ... "Adoption is only a judicial act." We're not really made children of God, we're simply declared children legally. That's not the Catholic view.

Calvinist seminarian:

Abraham was justified by faith before he was circumcised. This will be a critical statement for my opponent to deal with, for if he says (as all Roman Catholics I have dialogued about this with have) that James chapter two is teaching that Abraham was ‘justified’ in exactly the same sense (when he offered Isaac) as Paul does here, we are faced with a diametric contradiction to Paul’s express teaching in this passage. When Abraham offered Isaac in Genesis 22, that was years after he was circumcised. Paul leaves no room for doubt about when Abraham was justified before God, "not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised." That is, in my opinion, the ultimate problem with the standard Roman Catholic interpretation of James 2:24. ... Most Catholic apologists will argue that Abraham was actually justified before God in both instances, i.e. when he believed the promise of Yahweh in Genesis 15:6 and also in Genesis 22 when he was about to offer up Isaac as a burnt offering. Were this the case, Paul simply could not have argued the way he does in Romans chapter 4. ... Dave, Paul says Abraham was justified not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. Now, had you been standing there you would have said, "No Paul, it was both while uncircumcised and while circumcised." How do you deal with that?


The point made by Robert Sungenis with regard to Abraham's justification is compelling (cf. Not by Faith Alone, p. 231ff):

Heb 11:8 "By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going."

By faith Abraham ... obeyed. There wasn't merely a one-time assent of the intellect alone, but a continuous assent of the intellect and continuous willing action. Abraham continuously sought God's will instead of his own and God rewarded that faithfulness continuously justifying Abraham.

Paul couples action to faith when he speaks of the "obedience of faith." Scripture elsewhere describes this obedience as deeds or works. The works are not merely the works of the Torah that Paul is arguing against, or any similar works that attempt to OBLIGATE God. The obedience of faith that Abraham demonstrates are works that are quite different. They are the works that James says justifies, what Paul calls "faith working in love."

Abraham had faith which obeyed. This is often understood more clearly as "faithfulness." Obeying God because of a loving faith in God, not as an attempt to obligate God as in a legal contract. Abraham had this kind of faith in Genesis 12, according to the Epistle of Hebrews, ch. 11. Was he justified by that faith as early as Genesis 12? Yes. [when he was as of yet, uncircumcised].

Abraham had faith, acted in faith, thereby earnestly sought to do God's will. God rewards those who act faithfully.

Heb 11:6 "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."

Paul in Heb 11 speaks of others who demonstrated God-pleasing faith: Abel, Enoch, and Noah (Heb 11:4-7). Such God-pleasing faithfulness is what justifies, and it is clear that Abraham had it in Gen 12. We can reach no other conclusion that Abraham had faith that justified him in Gen 12.

Paul describes Abraham's faith in Gen 15 in precisely the same way (Heb 11:11), giving us further evidence that Abraham was justified in Gen 12. [see also Heb 11:17 and Gen 22]. As Sungenis points out, this brings the Protestant idea of justification as a one-time act into question.

Reformed [Calvinist] theologian R.C. Sproul states:
Reformation theology insists that regeneration that changes the heart of the sinner must precede faith. (Faith Alone, p. 87)
Abraham had faith in Gen 12, according the Hebrews 11. Therefore, he must have been regenerated prior to that, in the Reformed view, right?

However, Gen 15:6 states "Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness." [see also Gen 22]

1) Was Abraham justified by the faith which he certainly had in Gen 12, or by the faith he had in Gen 15? [or Gen 22], Or ...

2) Did Abraham ALREADY demonstrate that he had God-pleasing justifying faith way back in Gen 12, but his continued faithfulness (obedience of faith, or faith working in charity) was efficacious towards continued justification (as a process, not a one-time event)?

I think it was the latter.

Calvinist seminarian:

It is one of the most common errors of beginning bible students to take a single word (in this instance, "faith"), assign a meaning to it in isolation, and then ram that into every single context in which it is used. The whole argument of Abraham being justified three times, Gen 12, 15, 22 that Sungenis uses completely ignores the interpretation that the inspired apostles give of those very texts. Abraham did not "believe in Yahweh" such that he was justified until Genesis 15:6 when God took him out and showed him the stars, etc... That is where we find that phrase, "Abraham believed in Yahweh and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." Not in Genesis 12 or 22 - that is Sungenis taking the word "faith" from Hebrews 11, saying it has to be the same kind of faith in Romans 4, string that all together and then we have the Catholic doctrine of justification being a process. And again, you just find yourselves arguing against the apostles themselves.

There are many kinds of faith.... God called Abraham to leave his father's house and in faith, Abraham obeyed. Why do you take this to mean, this means he believed in the Lord just as in Genesis 15:6. Moses tells us Abraham was justified Genesiseis 15:6, not Genesis 12.... you're making an interpretation and applications the text itself does not make.... Abraham had the gospel preached to him in Genesis 12 but he did not believe unto his own justification until Genesis 15:6 ... The parable of the sower in Matthew 13 presents four kinds of faith


Actually, Paul himself equated the faith referred to in Heb 11:8 (Gen 12) as the same as the faith referred to in Heb 11:11 (Gen 15), as the same kind of faith spoken of throughout Heb 11, as the same kind of faith by which "men of old gained approval." (Heb 11:2)

Nowhere in Heb 11 is there a discussion of differing "kinds of faith." Your interpretation is, how did you put it, "transparently eisegetical."

Heb 11:3 "By faith we [Christians] understand ..."
Heb 11:4 "By faith Abel offered to God ..."
Heb 11:5 "By faith Enoch was taken up ...
Heb 11:7 "By faith, Noah ... in reverence prepared an ark ..."
Heb 11:8 "By faith Abraham ... obeyed by going out to a place ... " [cf. Gen 12]
Heb 11:9 "By faith [Abraham] lived as an alien in the land of promise ..."
Heb 11:11 "By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive ... [cf. Gen 15]
Heb 11:17 "By faith Abraham ... offered up Isaac" [cf. Gen 22]
Heb 11:20 "By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau ..."
Heb 11:21 "By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph ..."
Heb 11:22 "By faith Joseph ... made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel ..."
Heb 22:23 "By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents ..."
Heb 22:24 "By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter ..."
Heb 22:27 "By faith [Moses] left Egypt ..."
Heb 22:28 "By faith [Moses] kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood ..."
Heb 22:29 "By faith they passed through the Red Sea ..."
Heb 22:30 "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down ..."
Heb 22:31 "By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish ..."
Heb 22:32 "By faith [Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets] conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness ..."

All ONE kind of faith ... a justifying faith by which these men of old gained approval, by which we Christians understand. All the same faith described as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Heb 11:1)

Heb 11 described just ONE kind of faith. James describes the faith of demons. That's two kinds.

[Matthew 13] presented ONE kind of faith and four different responses to that faith.

... I understand you to mean you believe you are justified because you have "hope" in the satisfaction earned by Jesus, right? Am I correct in equating that hope to fiduciary faith? If so, when did you begin to have this fiduciary faith? Were you regenerated prior to that faith? Were you justified simultaneous to having that faith or was it after having that faith? If after, when?

Calvinist seminarian:

"Am I correct in equating that hope to fiduciary faith?" Yes.

"If so, when did you begin to have this fiduciary faith?" I think about 4 or 5 yrs old.

"Were you regenerated prior to that faith?" Yes.

"Were you justified simultaneous to having that faith or was it after having that faith? If after, when?" Whatever Paul meant when he said, "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law" - Romans 3:28. If you want to say it was simultaneous, or right after, that's fine. ... Faith is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9, Philippians 1:29) to the sinner. We believe to the saving of our souls, but that desire comes *only* from God when he takes out the heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh in regeneration. Hence, all of the glory for all of it, regeneration, faith, repentance, and everything else is to be given to God alone - not just for making it possible, as you believe, but for actually accomplishing it unilaterally.


"... as you believe" : If you promise to refrain from telling me what I believe, I will promise to refrain from telling you what you believe. I'm of the opinion that I understand what I believe better than you do, and that you understand what you believe better than I do.

Is it possible that you have faith, but are not justified? If not, then how did Abraham have faith in Gen 12, but was not justified until some time later in Gen 15? If Abraham, by faith obeyed God, but didn't have justifying faith, how do you know that you don't have the same kind of less-than-justifying faith that Abraham supposedly had in Gen 12? How do you know when the less-than-justifying faith becomes justifying faith?

Calvinist seminarian:

"Is it possible that you have faith, but are not justified?" Not faith in the gospel, no. As I demonstrated from the verse in Genesis 15 leading up to Genesis 15:6, Abraham did not have faith in God's promise (i.e. the gospel according to Galatians 3:8) until that moment.

"If not, then how did Abraham have faith in Gen 12, but was not justified until some time later in Gen 15?" Abraham did not believe the gospel in Genesis 12. It was not until Genesis 15:6 that he did so, hence he was not justified until then. It is possible to do things 'by faith' as Abraham did, but not to have faith in the gospel. Reading Genesis 12 through 15:6 bears that out clearly.

"How do you know when the less-than-justifying faith becomes justifying faith?" When it actually trusts and relies in hope against hope upon the promise of God. This is very simple, straightforward, and clear in these passages in Genesis 12 and 15 we've been discussing.


Reformed [Calvinist] theologian C.H. Spurgeon, seems to be equating Abraham's faith of Gen 12 to the faith we Christians ought to have. He doesn't seem to think that Abraham's Gen 12 faith is a different kind of faith than saving faith, does he?


C.H. Spurgeon, The Obedience of Faith, A Sermon (No. 2195), August 21st, 1890,

"By faith Abraham when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went."—Hebrews 11:8.

The part of the text to which I shall call your attention lies in these words, "By faith Abraham obeyed." Obedience—what a blessing it would be if we were all trained to it by the Holy Spirit!...

The obedience of faith springs from a principle within, and not from compulsion without. It is sustained by the mind's soberest reasoning and the heart's warmest passion. ...

Yes, this is a chief ingredient of heaven—that we shall see the face of our Lord, and serve him day and night in his temple. Meanwhile, the more fully we obey at this present, the nearer we shall be to his temple-gate. May the Holy Spirit work in us, so that, by faith—like Abraham—we may obey ! ...

"For by faith Abraham obeyed." In every case where the father of the faithful obeyed, it was the result of his faith; and in every case in which you and I shall render true obedience, it will be the product of our faith. ...

Have I that faith which leads me to obey my God?—for obedience, if it be of the kind we are speaking of, is faith in action—faith walking with God, or, shall I say, walking before the Lord in the land of the living? ...

Let us consider, secondly, THE KIND OF OBEDIENCE WHICH FAITH PRODUCES. This I shall illustrate from the whole of the verse. Genuine faith in God creates a prompt obedience. "By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed." There was an immediate response to the command. Delayed obedience is disobedience. I wish some Christians, who put off duty, would remember this.... remember that the obedience which comes of true faith is often bound to be altogether unreckoning and implicit; for it is written, "He went out, not knowing whither he went." God bade Abraham journey, and he moved his camp at once.

C. H. Spurgeon seems to assert that Abraham in Gen 12 had a faith that was a "genuine faith in God" and a "true faith." It doesn't seem he contends, as you do, that it is a less-than-justifying faith, does it?

BTW, read the entire sermon. It's looooooooong, but very good.

God comes down to walk with men who obey. If they walk with him, he walks with them. The Lord can only have fellowship with his servants as they obey. Obedience is heaven in us, and it is the preface of our being in heaven. Obedient faith is the way to eternal life—nay, it is eternal life revealing itself. (ibid)

According to Reformed [Calvinist] theologian C.H. Spurgeon, Abraham had "genuine faith in God" and a "true faith" in Gen 12. Yet, you say that he didn't. I think you are wrong. However, let's pretend you are right ...

How do you know that you, like Abraham in Gen 12, only THINK you trust the Lord, and that later, like Abraham in Gen 15 you might actually show that you DON'T TRUST the Lord as much as you previously thought?

You said you know you have justifying faith: "When it actually trusts and relies in hope against hope upon the promise of God."

That's a lot of nice words that basically says "I just know," right? You have "faith in your faith."

If I've understood you correctly, when one PERCEIVES that they have "trust" that "relies in hope against hope upon the promise of God" then you REALLY KNOW THAT YOU HAVE THE RIGHT KIND OF FAITH THAT JUSTIFIES. Yet, I submit, as did [your own Calvinist theologian] C.H. Spurgeon, that Abraham had "genuine faith" in Gen 12, which is exactly that "trust" that relied upon the promise of God.

If you read Gen 12 without knowledge of Gen 15, you would likely have concluded the same thing. I submit that our lives are like that. We don't know the Ch. 15 of our lives when we are still in Ch. 12. We don't know what kind of fear or temptation that will make us doubt, make us stumble. And so you cannot know if in YOUR "Chapter 15" you won't react the same way that Abraham did. You certainly have the faith that Abraham had in Gen 12, because you trust the Lord explicitly, like Abraham did and you are obedient to what you think the Lord has revealed to you. Wonderful. Yet you think you are justified, but can't really explain why, other than reiterating your FAITH in your FAITH.

Peter absolutely trusted the Lord before the passion, right? At least Peter, like you and I, KNEW with all our heart that we trust the Lord. Jesus even testified that Peter had faith that was given to him by God above, and He gave him the keys to the kingdom as a result. Jesus also changed his name from Simon to Kepha (Rock), just as God changed Abram's name to Abraham. Jesus says explicitly that Peter had faith when Jesus prays that Peter's faith may not fail. What happened? Peter denied Jesus three times.

Is it your opinion that before the passion, Peter did not have the kind of faith he needed for salvation? Why did Jesus pray that HIS FAITH, the kind that he in fact had at that moment, WOULD NOT FAIL??? Wouldn't it have been more appropriate for Jesus to pray that Peter have a different KIND of faith, the kind of faith that you insist that Abraham didn't have in Gen 12, but did have in Gen 15?

The question remains, how do you know that you don't have the same kind of faith that Peter had before the passion, and that Abraham had in Gen 12?

I'm certain if you asked these gentleman before they stumbled if they would ever stumble in their faith, they would have emphatically denied it. In fact, Peter did deny that he would deny Christ. He was as confident in his faith as you are as confident in yours.

I contend that these men had, as your own Reformed theologian C. H. Spurgeon puts it, "genuine faith," but that like ALL MEN, we might still stumble. That doesn't make it a DIFFERENT KIND of faith, just different DEGREES of faith. There are men of "little faith" as Jesus described his disciples, and there are men of "great faith" as Jesus described the centurion. Yet it's really just one kind of faith, unless we are speaking of the kind of faith of demons that James mentions.

You cannot know if you are a man of little or great faith, I think. The disciples no doubt thought they would never become "offended" (Gk 'skandalizo') in the Lord, but they would ALL do so, according to Jesus. Note that "skandalizo" is the word used to describe the Pharisee's reaction to Jesus' message. It is also the word used to describe the seed that falls upon stony ground in the parable of the seed. You can have true faith, but become skandalizo in times of tribulation. Peter and the apostles show us this. But what else do they show us (and this is the important point)? That we can, as Peter, the rock, become "turned back" (Gk 'epistrepho') to the Lord. Just as that other man called rock, Abraham did in Gen 15.


Unfortunately, the Calvinist seminarian didn't (or couldn't) answer my last response to him. He was probably a little nervous about his thesis contradicting the Calvinist theologian, C.H. Spurgeon. It seems evident to me the Calvinist notion of "eternal security" unravels if there are some "kinds" of faith that does not justify and some kinds that do. Where's the eternal security in that?

God bless,

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Where is your infallible list of infallible pronouncements?

Often Protestants will ask, "Where is your infallible list of infallible pronouncements?"

The problem is they view our Church as if it was like theirs. It isn't.

Protestant scholars have referred to Scripture as a "fallible list of infallible books." It's quite absurd, but that's how some Protestants see it. They often charge that we are not much different, asserting the view that Catholicism rests upon a "fallible list of infallible dogmas." What they do not understand is, unlike their situation where they don't have anyone to ask that can answer authoritatively to remove all doubt, we do. We have a living magisterium. We have the benefit of two-way communication.

If theologians wonder whether a teaching is infallible, they just send a dubium to the Roman Pontiff. The Pope then sends a Resondsum ad dubium removing any doubt. Here's an example regarding the ordination of women:

We do not define what the Bible says, or what the Church teaches based upon the opinions of the Taught Church. We have a living Teaching Church. We don't need to rely solely upon our clever exegesis of ancient Scriptural and magisterial texts to determine what the Teaching Church is teaching. We can simply ask.

So, whether a dogma is infallibly defined, or merely a certain doctrine (yet less-than-absolute certain), we owe our religious submission of mind and will. Whether a dogma is understood as infallible or not is irrelevent, except for dogmatic theologians (and Protestants, appearantly). Faithful Catholics are to submit to their superiors whether they speak infallibly or not. Nonetheless, if we want to know if a doctrine is infallible, just ask the Pope.

Hebrews 13:17 "Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account, that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow, for that would be of no advantage to you."

Pauline Mass or Traditional Latin Mass?

I attended the indult traditional Latin Mass (1962 Roman Missal) at St. Joseph's some time back to learn more about the traditional Latin liturgy. I found it difficult to follow, even with a missal in hand, but the overarching order of the Mass was quite similar, so that helped. A Catholic with an attention deficit problem would have been lost. There was no responses by the parishoners. The altar boys said the responses instead. I've heard from many pre-Vatican II Catholics that often Catholics got into the habit of simply saying their private devotions during the Mass (eg. the Rosary). I don't suppose this was the optimum level of participation in the Sacred Liturgy that the Church was going for.

I believe the Traditional Latin Mass can be likened to "solid food," catechetically speaking, and if you're not ready for solid food, the catechetical value is non-digestable. The Pauline Mass of Vatican II is more like "milk" in comparison. Yet, from my perspective, most of the Catholics in the pews could not digest "solid food" which is precisely why we needed the "milk" the Pauline Mass offers. In both cases, the supernatural and salvific grace of the Blessed Sacrament is the same.

We probably have all heard about how bad the Catholic Church has gotten after Vatican II, as though Vatican II ruined a perfectly wonderful Church. Yet, since a significant number of the priests involved in the sexual abuse scandal were raised, catechized, attended seminary, and were ordained prior to Vatican II, I believe blaming Vatican II for the "smoke of satan" that has entered the Church is rather absurd. Consider also the orthodoxy--or lack thereof--of those such as Fr. Charles Curran and Fr. Hans Kung. I don't suppose the kind of "orthodoxy" that the Traditional Latin Mass established in these kinds of dissenting priests is something to brag about. Nor did the "solid food" of the traditional Latin Mass prevent the bishops and other priests and nuns from leaving the priesthood and religious life when Humanae Vitae was promulgated by Paul VI in 1968 (some marrying just weeks after leaving the priesthood). No, I suspect the heresy of modernism to have been rather well established within the Catholic Church prior to Vatican II. Blaming Vatican II as a cause for the continued effect of modernism in the Church, while popular among my traditionalist friends, is rather unconvincing. The most we can say is that Vatican II, sadly, didn't put an end to modernism. Yet, Nicea didn't put an end to Arianism. But at least Nicea tried. I don't believe Vatican II even tried to put an end to modernism, and I think it should have.

Some interesting statistics to consider regarding the Catholic Church of the past 100 years...

From the Catholic Encyclopedia(1909) "Statistics of Religions", Table VIII:

In 1909, Catholics comprised 18.7% of the world population. Non-Catholic Christians comprised 20.8% of the world population.

Ratio of Catholic/Non-Catholic Christians: 0.900

From Encyclopedia Britannica's "Adherents of All Religions by Six Continents - Mid- 1995":

In 1995, Catholics comprised 16.9% of the world population.Non-Catholic Christians comprised 16.8% of the world population.

Ratio of Catholic/Non-Catholic Christians: 1.008

It's seems all of Christianity has dropped 5.8% as a percentage of the earth's population in the past 100 years. In the same period, Catholicism has dropped 1.8% as a percentage of world population, while Greek/Oriental Orthodox have dropped 4.9%.

In other words, the drop in Catholicism is significantly smaller than both Orthodoxy and non-Catholic Christianity overall.

Why the drop in Catholicism? Catholics having less children than they used to? Doesn't seem as big a drop as I would have guessed over the past 100 years.

However, the ratio of Catholic/Non-Catholic Christians has increased over the past 100 years.

Do you think Vatican II has had an effect in converting some non-Catholic Christians to Catholicism? Wasn't that the intent?

Now, if we could next tackle the modernism problem, I think we would make St. Pius X smile upon us from heaven.

God bless,


The Bible kept from ordinary Catholics?

A Protestant said to me with regard to Luther omitting books from the Bible, "Even if [Luther] did leave some books out, 90% is better than the 0% they were getting." His implication was that the Catholic Church was somehow keeping the Bible from the people or discouraging the study of Sacred Scripture. I have heard this polemic in the past and wanted to provide source evidence that shows how absurd this claim really is. Observe...

Martin Luther himself admitted:

"We are obliged to yield many things to the Papists [Catholics]--that they possess the Word of God which we received from them, otherwise we should have known nothing at all about it." (Commentary on St. John, ch. 16)

The Church had translated the Bible into the venacular languages of the world centuries prior to Martin Luther. In fact there were approx. 18 editions of the Bible in German before Luther's translation. The Church has been constant in it's teaching that "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." (St. Jerome)

St. John Chrysostom (344/354 -407 AD)

"This is what has ruined everything, your thinking that the reading of scripture is for monks only, when you need it more than they do. Those who are placed in the world, and who receive wounds every day have the most need of medicine. So, far worse even than not reading the scriptures is the idea that they are superfluous. Such things were invented by the devil." (St. John’s Second Homily on Matthew)

Pope St. Gregory I (died 604 AD)

"The Emperor of heaven, the Lord of men and of angels, has sent you His epistles for your life’s advantage—and yet you neglect to read them eagerly. Study them, I beg you, and meditate daily on the words of your Creator. Learn the heart of God in the words of God, that you may sigh more eagerly for things eternal, that your soul may be kindled with greater longings for heavenly joys." (Letters, 5, 46)

St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153 AD)

"The person who thirsts for God eagerly studies and meditates on the inspired Word, knowing that there, he is certain to find the One for whom he thirsts."

St. Bonaventure (1221-1274 AD)

In his day, there where no public schools and only the wealthy could afford private tutors. Therefore, most people could not read or write. St. Bonaventure had composed a copy of "Biblia Pauperum" which means the "Bible of the poor." It contained a collection of pictures illustrating the important events of the Old Testament. It also contained parallel scenes in the New Testament and it showed how the Old Testament prefigured and was fulfilled in the Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

St. Teresa of Avila (1515 -1582 AD)

"all the harm that comes to the world comes from its not knowing the truths of Scripture in clarity and truth... To me it seemed I had always believed this, and that all the faithful believed it."
The publisher of the Cologne [German] Bible [1480] writes:

"All Christians should read the Bible with piety and reverence, praying the Holy Ghost, who is the inspirer of the Scriptures, to enable them to understand . . . The learned should make use of the Latin translation of St. Jerome; but the unlearned and simple folk, whether laymen or clergy . . . should read the German translations now supplied, and thus arm themselves against the enemy of our salvation."

The publisher of the Koberger Vulgate of 1477 stated:

"The Holy Scriptures excel all the learning of the world . . . All believers should watch zealously and exert themselves unremittingly to understand the contents of these most useful and exalted writings, and to retain them in the memory. Holy Scripture is that beautiful garden of Paradise in which the leaves of the commandments grow green, the branches of evangelical counsel sprout . . ."

The translators of the Protestant King James Version, in their 'Preface,' refer to previous translations:

"Much about that time [1360], even our King Richard the Second's days, John Trevisa translated [Scripture] into English, and many English Bibles in written hand are yet to be seen that divers translated, as it is very probable, in that age. . . So that, to have the Scriptures in the mother tongue is not a quaint conceit lately taken up . . . but hath been . . . put in practice of old, even from the first times of the conversion of any nation."
In another place, Martin Luther laments...
"Since the downfall of Popery and the cessation of excommunications and spiritual penalties, the people have learned to despise the word of God. They no longer care for the churches; they have ceased to fear and honor God...After throwing off the yoke of the Pope, everyone wishes to live as he pleases. [They say] 'we will spend the day like Lutherans. Drunkenness has come upon us like a deluge.' If God had not closed my eyes, and if I had foreseen these scandals, I would never have begun to teach the gospel." (WL 6, 920)

Luther confesses...
"I confess... that I am more negligent than I was under the Pope and there is now nowhere such an amount of earnestness under the Gospel, as was fomerly seen among monks and priests." (WL 9. 1311)

In a letter to Zwingli, Luther writes...
"If the world last long it will be again necessary, on account of the different interpretations of Scripture which now exist, that to preserve the unity of faith we should receive the Councils and decrees and fly to them for refuge." (Contra Zuingli et Oecol. cited in "Sola Scriptura: A Blueprint For Anarchy" by Patrick Madrid)
God bless,


Sunday, May 22, 2005

Why America magazine is counter-magisterial

The following article by Fr. Richard P. McBrien is just one example of why America magazine is, in my view, counter-magisterial.

Why I Shall Not Seek a Mandate
By Richard P. McBrien

The article gives a soap-box to stand upon to those, like Fr. McBrien, who openly oppose canon law and contradict doctrinal teachings. Catholic canon law states, Can. 812 "Those who teach theological disciplines in any institutes of higher studies whatsoever must have a mandate from the competent ecclesiastical authority." Fr. McBrien, in the article above, tells us why he is choosing to violate canon law. I, on the other hand, have the strange view that our Catholic priests ought to obey their superiors. Call me traditionalist, but that's how it ought to be. Catholic canon law is not something that priests can merely choose not to obey.

My beef with America magazine is that it has decided to give a public voice to lousy priests and dissidents such as Fr. McBrien. America's editor, Fr. Thomas Reese has resigned, reportably due to complaints about his magazine by U.S. bishops. I pray that the magazine will decide that it best serves the Catholic Church by always teaching in accord with the lawful pastors of the Church. Perhaps an article on religiosum voluntatis et intellectus obsequium should be their next project. Or maybe an article on this declaration from Vatican I...

First Vatican Council, Session 4 (18 July 1870):

Wherefore we teach and declare that, by divine ordinance, the Roman Church possesses a pre-eminence of ordinary power over every other Church, and that this jurisdictional power of the Roman Pontiff is both episcopal and immediate. Both clergy and faithful, of whatever rite and dignity, both singly and collectively, are bound to submit to this power by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, and this not only in matters concerning faith and morals, but also in those which regard the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Luther and the New Testament

From Protestant apologist, James Swan (TertiumQuid at Catholic Answers Forum ( ):

I pointed out that Steve Ray made a comment about Melanchthon stopping Luther from removing books from the Bible, and how Ray provided no documentation for this. ... here we find Henry G. Graham making a similar undocumented assertion:

"Even in regard to the New Testament it required all the powers of resistance on the part of the more conservative Reformers to prevent Luther from flinging out the Epistle of St. James as unworthy to remain within the volume of Holy Scripture – ‘an Epistle of straw’ he called it, ‘with no character of the Gospel in it’. In the same way, and almost to the same degree, he dishonored the Epistle of St. Jude and the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the beautiful Apocalypse of St. John, declaring they were not on the same footing as the rest of the books, and did not contain the same amount of Gospel (i.e., his Gospel)." ...

Ray infers that Luther wanted to create his own canon, while most scholars recognize Luther holds to a “canon within a canon” [see Roland Bainton, Studies on the Reformation (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963) 5]. Paul Althaus explains that Luther “allows the canon to stand as it was established by the ancient church. But he makes distinctions within the canon” [See Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), 83].

The fathers of Lutheranism, for centuries, understood Luther's view of the canon much the same way as Steve Ray and Henry G. Graham. I think the reason the Graham and Ray may not have included documentation of their claim, is that it is a well-established fact taught within Lutheranism. Why document the obvious? Yet, it appears from the sources you cite, revisionism has made such facts less obvious to all. But for sake of documentation, consider the following from Lutheran theologian, Francis Pieper ...

Francis Piper (1950) , a Lutheran theologian, wrote of Luther's view of the antilegomena:

"he will not class them with the 'right certain chief books of the New Testament.'" (Pieper, Francis, "The Witness of History for Scripture (Homologoumena and Antilegomena)," Christian Dogmatics, Vol. I [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1950], pp. 330-38,)
Lutheran's admit that this means that Luther personally did not consider such books (eg. Hebrews, Revelation, James, Jude) as canonical, and that every person can come to their own judgment on the matter. This remained Lutheran teaching for centuries. In fact, several years ago in a discussion with a Protestant, I quoted from the Epistle of James. He told me that he rejected that epistle as not in his Bible. Where'd he get that idea?

Francis Pieper continues to explain:
the fathers of the Missouri Synod recognized the distinction between the homologoumena and the antilegomena. They did, however, leave it to the individual to form his own views regarding any of the antilegomena, for they were divided in their opinion regarding, e.g., the Apocalypse. In the second volume of Lehre und Wehre (1856, p. 204 ff.) the question regarding the homologoumena and the antilegomena is thoroughly ventilated in the article entitled: “Is He Who does Not Receive or Regard as Canonical All Books Contained in the Collection of the New Testament to be Declared a Heretic or Dangerous False Teacher?” Walther writes:

"What induces us to discuss this question is the fact that Pastor Roebbelen in connection with the glosses on the Revelation of St. John published in the Lutheraner also stated that with Luther he does not regard the Apocalypse as canonical. "
So it seems that per Lutheranism, one can simply pick and choose what chapters and verses of Sacred Scripture they consider canonical, and which parts are not Divinely inspired and so not worthy of our belief.

Pastor Roebbelen was a Lutheran minister in the 19th century, who rejected the Apocalypse as canonical, citing Luther as his authority. The Lutheran Pieper continues to cite from the Lutheran theologian, Walther:
we believe that it is not stamp an otherwise unimpeachable theologian as a dangerous false teacher, who renders the very Word of God suspect ... This would be thoroughly un-Lutheran. For our dear fathers in the faith, with hardly an exception till after the time of the Formula of Concord, regarded and declared all or at least some of the antilegomena as not belonging to the canon (ibid)
Quoting from the Lutheran theologian, Chemnitz, Pieper wrote:

"This entire dispute, then, resolves itself into the question whether it is certain and indubitable that these books are the divinely inspired Scriptures. The entire antiquity responds that this is not certain, but has been doubtful because of the contradiction of so many." (ibid)
It is certain to Catholics. Nevertheless, when Catholic writers say that Luther did not include these books within his personal canon, they do so based upon the centuries of assertions by Lutheran theologians.

God bless,


Saturday, May 07, 2005

Was Catholic moral doctrine on slavery erroneous?

According to an instruction of the Holy Office of the Catholic Church,

"Slavery itself, considered as such in its essential nature, is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law, and there can be several just titles of slavery and these are referred to by approved theologians and commentators of the sacred canons. It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given. The purchaser should carefully examine whether the slave who is put up for sale has been justly or unjustly deprived of his liberty, and that the vendor should do nothing which might endanger the life, virtue, or Catholic faith of the slave." (20, June 1866)
Yet, Vatican II asserted:

"Coming down to practical and particularly urgent consequences, this council lays stress on reverence for man; everyone must consider his every neighbor without exception as another self, taking into account first of all His life and the means necessary to living it with dignity ... whatever insults human dignity, such as...slavery...where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed." (Gaudium et spes, 27)
Has the Catholic Church reversed here moral doctrine on slavery?

Citing these texts, some assert the Catholic Church was erroneous with regard to her past moral doctrine on slavery, so they conclude that she may also be erroneous with regard to her moral doctrine on other things, like contraception, abortion, divorce and remarriage, etc. This thesis is especially popular among dissenting Catholics and others who oppose the teachings of the Catholic magisterium.

For example, Fr. Philip S. Kaufman's book Why You Can Disagree and Remain a Faithful Catholic argued this thesis:

Fr. Kaufman wrote:

"One of the clearest cases of erroneous moral teaching is the Roman magisterium's authoritative approval of slavery.... there were Popes who worked against slavery, but even they didn't change the official teaching that slavery was moral.... The erroneous doctrine so firmly held and promulgated by the Roman magisterium for so many centuries was implicitly corrected by the Roman magisterium in 1891. However, the correction by Pope Leo was so mute that some of the biggest men in moral theology...still taught the morality of slavery down to the middle of the present century. The common Catholic teaching on slavery was not officially corrected until Vatican II in 1965. [Lumen gentium §27, 29]" (Fr. Philip S. Kaufman, Why You Can Disagree and Remain a Faithful Catholic, Crossroad Classic, Reprint edition, September 25, 1995, ch. 3, p. 48)

[Note: Fr. Kaufman cites Lumen Gentium 27, but that document doesn't address slavery at all. I believe Fr. Kaufman meant to reference Gaudium et Spes, 27, which I've quoted above. It is noteworthy that Fr. Kaufman's book does not carry a Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur of the Catholic Church.]
Likewise, a recent book review in America, a weekly Catholic publication states:

"[John T. Noonan] identifies three areas where change in moral principles has undeniably occurred in the course of church history: slavery, usury and religious liberty.... human slavery ... was regarded as morally acceptable from the time of St. Paul and Philemon down through the fathers of the church and a host of popes and moralists up until its official, long overdue condemation by the Second Vatican Council, which declared slavery to be intrinsically evil." (Hary J. Byrne, America, "A Church That Can and Cannot Change: The Development of Catholic Moral Teaching By John T. Noonan Jr.," 25 April 2005)
Is Fr. Kaufman, Mr. Noonan and others correct in their thesis? Is slavery a clear case of "erroneous doctrine so firmly held and promulgated by the Roman magisterium?"

The following article which does have the Imprimatur of the Catholic Church (November 3, 1999), disagrees:

Slavery and the Catholic Church

Most of the information found in the above article can also be found in the book,
The Popes and Slavery by Fr. Joel S. Panzer (Alba House, 1996), which like the article above, does have the Imprimatur of the Catholic Church.

The article above rightly distinguishes between the various forms of slavery that has existed throughout human history, stating:

"... there are different forms of slavery. Even though repugnant to our modern sensitivity, servitude is not always unjust, such as penal servitude for convicted criminals or servitude freely chosen for personal financial reasons. These forms are called just-title servitude. The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which brought an end to racial slavery in the U.S., does allow for just-title servitude to punish criminals: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." Even today we can see prisoners picking up litter along interstates and highways accompanied by armed guards. Also the 1949 Geneva Conventions allow for detaining power to use the labor of war prisoners under very limiting circumstances (Panzer, p. 3). However, such circumstances are very rare today. During biblical times, a man could voluntarily sell himself into slavery in order to pay off his debts (Deut. 15:12-18). But such slaves were to be freed on the seventh year or the Jubilee year (Lev. 25:54). The Church tolerated just-title servitude for a time because it is not wrong in itself, though it can be seriously abused. The Popes did, however, consistently oppose racial slavery which completely lacks any moral justification."
Another Catholic text on ethics which contradicts the above thesis is from Fr. Martin D. O'Keefe, S.J., Known from the Things that Are - Fundamental Theory of the Moral Life, Imprimatur (1984):

"Slavery presents the risk of moral evil in many ways (chiefly in that it presents the potential for multiple abuse); but one cannot say that, as an institution, it is intrinsically evil.... It is possible for certain forms of slavery to be moral...a life sentence in a penitentiary is a form of slavery, after all. And the sort of indentured service by which the ancestors of many Americans arrived in this country was certainly moral enough, even though in some cases perhaps harsh.... it should also be said that the sort of slavery of blacks that was common in this country in past centuries was morally evil" (Fr. Martin D. O'Keefe, S.J., Known from the Things that Are - Fundamental Theory of the Moral Life, Gonzaga University, 1985,pg. 225)
According to the pope who convened Vatican II, and also the episcopacy present at Vatican II, and the teaching of the living magisterium after Vatican II, the Vatican II council taught in accord with past Catholic doctrines. Vatican II was pastoral, in that it presented historical doctrines of Catholicism in a manner relevant and expedient to contemporary society, but remained in continuity with those doctrines. Dissenting Catholics and others opposed to the teachings of the magisterium would have us believe otherwise, asserting that Vatican II contradicted doctrines of the past. Their argument is unconvincing, however.

According to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI:

"There are many accounts [of Vatican II] which give the impression that from Vatican II onward everything has been changed, and what preceded it has no value or, at best, has value only in the light of Vatican II. The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely PASTORAL council; and yet so many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of super-dogma which takes away the importance of all the rest...The one way in which Vatican II can be made plausible is to present it as it is; one part of the unbroken, the unique Tradition of the Church and of her faith." (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, given July 13, 1988, in Santiago, Chile before that nation's bishops)
In Catholic moral theology, the moral licitness of slavery is comparative to capital punishment. There is such a thing as "just capital punishment" according to Catholic doctrine, just as certainly in today's Catholicism as in past Catholicism. Catholic moral doctrine has not contradicted itself. What has changed is the pastoral approach, because of the unjust practical considerations in capital punishment as implemented in contemporary society.

Theoretically, capital punishment is not immoral according to Catholic doctrine. Yet, it's practice is pastorally opposed by the Church because it is rarely justified in practice. Likewise with "just war theory." Theoretically, Catholic doctrine holds that war can be justified under certain conditions. "There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. ... a time of war, and a time of peace" (Eccl 3:1,8). Yet, because of the unjust practical considerations in how war is conducted in contemporary society, the Church pastorally opposes war.

There are forms of slavery that are always intrinsically evil (eg. chattel slavery). Yet, there are forms of slavery that are just. For instance, God Himself justly imposed slavery upon the people of Israel by their Babylonian captivity. According to John Paul II, "The Second Book of Chronicles reminds us that the deportation to Babylon was a punishment inflicted by Yahweh on his people for their grave sins, especially that of idolatry. Nonetheless, the period of slavery was meant for their repentance and conversion" (John Paul II, Homily at St Gaudentius Parish , 9 March 1997). According to some theorists, Catholicism has finally, since Vatican II, condemned all forms of slavery as immoral. Even such forms of just-servitude as imposed by God within Sacred Scripture is now considerd immoral by the Church. Can such a thesis be taken seriously?

It seems clear that the theoretical existence of "just slavery" is still maintained by Catholic doctrine, even after Vatican II, though in practice it is opposed to slavery because of the risk to abuse. Three sources I've cited above draw this same conclusion, each of which carry the Imprimatur of the Catholic Church. Thus, similar to to the Church's doctrine on capital punishment, the Church's doctrine on slavery can, in theory, be morally licit, but in practice, it is rarely justified. Certain forms of slavery are intrinsically evil (e.g., chattel slavery) where it is contrary to justice and human dignity. The condemnations of slavery, consistently held by the popes and by Vatican II are a condemnation of chattel slavery in all its forms, not a condemnation of just-title servitude.

According to Catholic author Mark Brumley, in his article entitled Let My People Go (This Rock: July/August 1999),
"there are circumstances in which a person can justly be compelled to servitude against his will. Prisoners of war or criminals, for example, can justly lose their circumstantial freedom and be forced into servitude, within certain limits. Moreover, people can also "sell" their labor for a period of time (indentured servitude). These forms of servitude or slavery differ in kind from what we are calling chattel slavery. While prisoners of war and criminals can lose their freedom against their will, they do not become mere property of their captors, even when such imprisonment is just. They still possess basic, inalienable human rights and may not justly be subjected to certain forms of punishment-torture, for example. Similarly, indentured servants "sell" their labor, not their inalienable rights, and may not contract to provide services which are immoral. Moreover, they freely agree to exchange their labor for some benefit such as transportation, food, lodging, et cetera. Consequently, their servitude is not involuntary. The Second Vatican Council condemned slavery (i.e., chattel slavery)"

According to the Protestant magazine Christianity Today, "The Truth About the Catholic Church and Slavery - The problem wasn't that the leadership was silent, it's that almost nobody listened" by Rodney Stark, 7/18/2003:

"Some Catholic writers claim that it was not until 1890 that the Roman Catholic Church repudiated slavery. A British priest has charged that this did not occur until 1965. Nonsense!" (

The article continues to describe the constant opposition to unjust slavery by the popes since ancient times.

So, what of this claim by Hary Byrn of America magazine:

"human slavery ... was regarded as morally acceptable from the time of St. Paul and Philemon down through the fathers of the church and a host of popes and moralists up until its official, long overdue condemation by the Second Vatican Council, which declared slavery to be intrinsically evil"
Is it true? Was human slavery morally acceptable until Vatican II? I don't find this claim to be supported by the evidence of history. Never was chattel slavery considered morally acceptable.

For example, racial slavery began in large-scale during the 15th century and was formally condemned as early as 1435. Pope Eugene IV in 1435 wrote to Bishop Ferdinand of Lanzarote in his Bull, Sicut Dudum:
"...They [the Spanish] have deprived the natives [of the Canary Islands] of their property or turned it to their own use, and have subjected some of the inhabitants of said islands to perpetual slavery, sold them to other persons and committed other various illicit and evil deeds against them... We order and command all and each of the faithful of each sex that, within the space of fifteen days of the publication of these letters in the place where they live, that they restore to their earlier liberty all and each person of either sex who were once residents of said Canary Islands...who have been made subject to slavery. These people are to be totally and perpetually free and are to be let go without the exaction or reception of any money... [Panzer, p. 8]
Pope Eugene condemned the kind of chattel slavery practiced in the Canary Islands, calling such deeds "illicit and evil."

Furthermore, a century later, Pope Paul III in 1537 issued a Bull against slavery, entitled Sublimis Deus, to the universal Church. He wrote against the practice of the Spanish and Portuguese who were colonizing South America:
"The exalted God loved the human race so much that He created man in such a condition that he was not only a sharer in good as are other creatures, but also that he would be able to reach and see face to face the inaccessible and invisible Supreme Good... Seeing this and envying it, the enemy of the human race, who always opposes all good men so that the race may perish, has thought up a way, unheard of before now, by which he might impede the saving word of God from being preached to the nations. He (Satan) has stirred up some of his allies who, desiring to satisfy their own avarice, are presuming to assert far and wide that the reduced to our service like brute animals, under the pretext that they are lacking the Catholic faith. And they reduce them to slavery, treating them with afflictions they would scarcely use with brute animals... by our Apostolic Authority decree and declare by these present letters that the same Indians and all other peoples - even though they are outside the faith - ...should not be deprived of their liberty... Rather they are to be able to use and enjoy this liberty and this ownership of property freely and licitly, and are not to be reduced to slavery..." [Ibid., pp.79-81]
Papal condemnations of slavery were repeated by Popes Gregory XIV (1591), Urban VIII (1639), Innocent XI (1686), Benedict XIV (1741), and Piux VII (1815).

In 1839, Pope Gregory XVI issued a Bull, entitled In Supremo, which also clearly condemned racial slavery:
"We, by apostolic authority, warn and strongly exhort in the Lord faithful Christians of every condition that no one in the future dare bother unjustly, despoil of their possessions, or reduce to slavery Indians, Blacks or other such peoples." [Ibid., pp.101]
This shows that unjust slavery is clearly condemned prior to Vatican II, contrary opinions notwithstanding. Dissenting theorists will cite the practice of some, even leaders within the Church as though it proved the doctrine of the Church. This is as absurd as citing adulterous practice of Christians, even pastors, as though it were an indication of professed doctrine.

So why do Fr. Kaufman and John Noonan, et. al., assert a contrary thesis? Because they want it to be true so as to justify their sinful dissent with such moral doctrines of the Church on contraception, etc.

One need only read Fr. Kaufman's book to understand that he has an agenda of opposition to traditional Catholic doctrine. He promotes dissent in the Church for a reason, in the hopes the the Church will change her doctrines into something more agreeable to his erroneous theological perspective. His scholarship is hardly without bias against Catholic tradition. For example, he quotes from Fr. Charles Curran's views on abortion, stating, "in the case of abortion there can arrive circumstances in which the abortion is justified" (Kaufman, 145).

But what of John Noonan? Isn't he a Catholic scholar? MSgr. George A. Kelly, in his book Keeping the Church Catholic with John Paul II, writes about John Noonan:
"Noonan was a good man and a solid scholar. His book Contraception is a classic of its kind and deserves the praise it has received.... Noonan himself affirmed in 1965 that no Catholic theologian had ever approved contraception.... Noonan's brilliant two-hour lecture to [Pope Paul VI's Birth Control Commission] on the opening day highlighted the source of the Catholic teaching which developed from Gospel thinking.... Certainly, as Noonan indicated, the Church erected walls against the family evils of that day, high walls around the sacredness of indissoluble marriage and of the right to life, especially of the unborn. The absolute exclusion of contraception was on of those protective walls." (p. 37-38)
Noonan's research also established Pius XI's solemn statement in Casti Connubii as the capstone of the universal teaching of the church from the very beginning. (Kelly, 34). Nonetheless, Mr. Noonan questions the absolute necessity of this teaching which has forever been Catholic doctrine. He is a friend of Patrick and Patricia Crowley of the Christian Family Movement, public opponents of the teachings of Paul VI in Humanae Vitae against contraception (Kelly, 32). Patricia Crowley stated (1988), "I'll never forgive the Church for Humanae Vitae." (Kelly, 48). John Noonan, the detached scholar of 1964, by 1966 was a central figure in marshalling political forces against Casti Connubii (Kelly, 50). After Humanae Vitae was promulgated, John Noonan held a press conference (Oct 1, 1968) to express the opinion of lay members of the papal commission that Paul VI's opinion was his personal opinion, nothing more (Kelly, 50). Yet, compare this to what Noonan wrote earlier, "Never had it been admitted by a Catholic theologian that complete sexual intercourse might be had in which by deliberation, procreation was excluded." (John Noonan, Contraception, 438). It seems clear that Noonan is the one changing his "personal opinion" as to what was certainly Catholic doctrine, universally held forever and by all since the advent of Christianity. As for the Catholic Church ...
“The teaching Church does not invent her doctrines; she is a witness, a custodian, an interpreter, a transmitter. As regards the truth of Christian marriage, she can be called conservative, uncompromising. To those who would urge her to make her faith easier, more in keeping with the tastes of the changing mentality of the times, she answers with the apostles, we cannot do so." (Paul VI, General Audience, 12 Jan 1972)
Casti Connubili and Humanae Vitae are far from mere "personal opinion" which do not demand Catholic consent. They are papal encyclicals. Before Paul VI, Pius XII asserted the authority of papal encyclicals in this way:
"Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: "He who heareth you, heareth me";[3] and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians." (Humani Generis (1950), par. 20).
What is expounded in Encyclical Letters is not mere "personal opinion" as Noonan asserts, but is the ordinary teaching of the Vicar of Christ, which demands consent.

God bless,


Thursday, May 05, 2005

Books by Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger)

  1. Introduction to Christianity by Joseph Ratzinger, J.R. Foster (Translator)
  2. Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977 by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Paperback)
  3. God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, et al
  4. God and the World: A Conversation With Peter Seewald by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, et al
  5. The Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, John Saward (Translator)
  6. Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church by Joseph Ratzinger
  7. Truth And Tolerance: Christian Belief And World Religions by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Henry Taylor (Translator)
  8. In the Beginning...: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall (Resourcement) by Joseph Ratzinger, Boniface Ramsey (Translator)
  9. Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Millennium: An Interview With Peter Seewald by Joseph Ratzinger, Adrian Walker (Translator)
  10. Many Religions, One Covenant: Israel, the Church, and the World by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Foreword by Scott Hahn
  11. Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Adrian Walker (Translator)
  12. Behold the Pierced One by Joseph Ratzinger
  13. The End of Time?: The Provocation of Talking about God by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Editor), et al
  14. Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Joseph Ratzinger, Christoph Schonborn
  15. Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life (Dogmatic Theology, Vol 9) by Joseph Ratzinger (Paperback)
  16. The Nature and Mission of Theology: Essays to Orient Theology in Today's Debates by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
  17. Pilgrim Fellowship Of Faith: The Church As Communion by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
  18. Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
  19. Gospel, Catechesis, Catechism: Sidelights on the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
  20. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Sister Irene Grassl (Editor)
  21. Mary: God's Yes to Man : Pope John Paul II Encyclical Letter : Mother of the Redeemer by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
  22. Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
  23. Principles of Christian Morality by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, et al.
  24. Journey Towards Easter: Retreat Given in the Vatican in the Presence of Pope John Paul II by Joseph Ratzinger
  25. A Turning Point for Europe?: The Church in the Modern World-Assessment and Forecast by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Brian McNeil (Translator)
  26. Agape, pax, orthodoxy, orthopraxis. : An article from: Catholic Insight [HTML] by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
  27. Seek That Which Is Above by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
  28. To Look on Christ: Exercises in Faith, Hope, and Love by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
  29. Eucharist, communion and solidarity part II. : An article from: Catholic Insight [HTML] by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
  30. God of Jesus Christ by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
  31. New document extends reach of infallibility. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith document that accompanied Pope John Paul II's letter that cla ... : An article from: National Catholic Reporter [HTML] by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
  32. Instruction on Certain Aspects of the Theology of Liberation by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Alberto Bovone

Internal forum solution instead of an annulment?

Q: I've heard that instead of receiving an annulment, there's an "internal forum solution" that allows re-married Catholics to continue receiving the Sacraments without having to get an annulment of their prior marriage(s). Is this true?

Yes, and no. There is an internal forum solution, but it is probably not what you might think it is.

Firstly, the "external forum" is the annulment process in this case. The "internal forum" is the confessional process. The internal forum cannot oppose canon law or the teachings of the magisterium. Nor can the internal forum oppose a ruling or judgment of the external forum.

So why do some Catholics, including many priests, counsel other Catholics of this supposed "internal forum" solution for re-married Catholics? Because the Catholic Church has taught that there exists an internal forum solution. But that solution is very specific, and has conditions.

Under the papacy of Pope Paul VI, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's document of April 11, 1973, which addressed the Diocesan Bishops and censured the admittance of invalidly married persons to the sacraments, stated in the final paragraph:

"With regard to admission to the sacraments, the local ordinaries will also please, on the one hand, stress the observance of the current discipline of the church while, on the other hand, take care that pastors of souls follow up with particular solicitude those who are living in an irregular union and, in addition to other correct means, use the approved practice of the Church in the internal forum."
Not any "internal forum solution" will due. It is to be the "approved practice of the Church." So, what is the approved "internal forum" practice?

On March 21, 1975, the same Sacred Congregation explained the phrase "the approved practice of the Church in the internal forum" in the following way:

"The couples may be allowed to receive the sacraments on two conditions, that they try to live according to the demands of Christian moral principles and that they receive the sacraments in churches in which they are not known so that they will not create any scandal."
Now, if you have not been granted an annulment, then you are presumed to be still married to another. Canon 1085 §2 states: "Even if the prior marriage is invalid or dissolved for any reason, it is not on that account permitted to contract another before the nullity or dissolution of the prior marriage is established legitimately and certainly." Even if one is subjectively certain of the invalidity of their prior marriage, they may not licitly re-marry without an annulment. A Catholic who married illicitly may not receive of the Sacraments. For example, Catholics in merely civil marriages, have married illicitly according to canon law. Even if this is their first marriage, if it is merely civil, they cannot be licitly admitted to the Sacraments until they "regularize their situation in the light of Christian principle" (see Familiaris Consortio , par. 82). So, to live in accord with Christian moral principles has a very specific meaning, which includes submitting to Catholic canon law.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger states, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church Concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by the Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful, 14 Sep 1994
"The faithful who persist in such a situation [divorced and remarried, without annulment] may receive Holy Communion only after obtaining sacramental absolution [internal forum], which may be given only "to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when for serious reasons, for example, for the children's upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they 'take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples'"(8). In such a case they may receive Holy Communion as long as they respect the obligation to avoid giving scandal."
This is in accord with, and in fact quotes from Pope John Paul II's 1982 Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, which states:
"Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist [internal forum solution], can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children's upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they "take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples."
So, yes, there is an internal forum solution, and it is:

1) You are first obliged to repent of your past sin.
2) Next, you are obliged to separate. But for serious reasons, you can remain together if you live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.
3) You are obliged to receive sacramental absolution in the Sacrament of Penance.
4) You are obliged to receive Holy Communion so as to avoid giving scandal (eg. where your irregular marriage is unknown)

If someone, even a priest, suggests an "internal forum solution" other than that described by the magisterial teachings above, their solution is invalid. Apart from the internal forum solution or an annulment (external forum solution), re-married Catholics must refrain from receiving the Holy Sacraments.

God bless,


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

How the Bible came to be--a primer

Catholic, Orthodox and Protestants all believe the Bible is the Word of God. Yet, Protestants have a 66-book Bible, Catholics have a 73-book Bible and Orthdox have greater than 73 books in their Bible.

Catholics have seven OT books not found in most Protestant Bibles (1 and 2 Maccabees, Sirach, Wisdom, Baruch, Tobit, and Judith), as well as more chapters and verses in the Books of Daniel and Esther. Catholics refer to these as deuterocanonical not apocryphal. Catholics use the term apocryphal to refer to other Christian writings that were not canonized in the 4th century (e.g. 3 & 4 Maccabees) but have historical value. It's important to understand these terms from a Catholic perspective because Protestants use this term differently. For Protestants, the term apocryphal often includes the apocryphal books from a Catholic viewpoint, plus the Catholic deuterocanonical texts.

Orthodoxy holds all the Catholic Bible to be the inspired word of God. Thus, only Protestantism differs with the rest of Christianity on this point.

Here's how I understand how the Bible came to be ...

In the first century, sacred scripture was not standard throughout the Jewish communities. The Samaritans and Sadduccees held to only the 1st five books--the Torah. These Jewish sects were "scripture only" in their practice. The Pharisees held to scripture and tradition. Consequently, their list of sacred texts was larger (and continuing to grow) compared to the Samaritans and Sadduccees. The Essenes had some sacred texts in common with the others, however, they had some sacred texts that was unique to only their sect as well. The Alexandrian Jews (and other Greek speaking Jews) had a list of sacred texts which included books that differed from the above sects as well--called the Septuagint. This text was written and collected from the 3rd centuries BC to the 1st century BC. However, it contained many more books than were canonized by the Catholic Church in the 4th century. So, the often asserted claim that "they were really only included as Christian Scripture because they were included in the Septuagint" is not accurate, in my opinion. Some of the books were included, some were not. This shows evidence of discernment (and no doubt, much prayer) before the definitive Christian canon was established.

Most Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox scholars agree that the text used by the first century Christians was most likely the Greek translation--the Septuagint. This is because most of the literate world at that time, where east met west, used Greek as their written form of communication. The nations which were to be evangelized by the apostles would respond better to sacred writings which were in the vernacular (at least written vernacular) of a large part of the world--Greek.

It is important to note that the Christians of the first century were not "scripture-only" Christians. Like the Pharisees, the 1st century Christians held to scripture and tradition (see Paul's writings, a Pharisee convert to Christ). There's also other biblical evidence for this, however, one example is Jesus' participated in Feast of Dedication (aka Hannukah; Jn 10:22-23). This feast is nowhere described in the Hebrew bible, but is found described in 2 Maccabees. Also, take a look at this verse Matt 2:23. The prophecy "He shall be called a 'Nazarene'" can be found nowhere in the Old Testament. I doubt Matthew made it up, either. He is likely to be including oral tradition, presumably known to his audience (as he finds no need to explain where this prophecy came from). There are other examples. However, I won't go into detail here.

While the Christians were evangelizing the world in the first century (rather successfully), they used the Jewish Greek translation to do so, supplemented with the oral Christian tradition of of the 1st century written and/or translated into Greek. The Jews didn't like this very much. After the Jews got there butts kicked by the Romans about 70 AD, it looked rather obvious to all that Judaism was finished. However, a group of Pharisees relocated to Jamnia and set out to reform Judaism. About 98 AD, they declared what was definitively (in their opinion) to be the Hebrew canon and what was not. Probably due partly from a spirit of reform and partly from the desire to oppose Christianity, the Pharisees decided to only include sacred books which they believed were originally written in Hebrew prior to 400 BC. The Pharisees rejected the books found in the Alexandrian canon, as well as the Christian books being "passed off" as the word of God in the first century. However, even among Jews, disputes continued as to the true canon (especially among Alexandrian Jews).

Ironically, many Protestants often cite Jamnia as the authority for their canon of the Old Testament. Why would Christians use the authority of this Council of Pharisees as their authority over the tradition of the ancient Christian Church? This is especially ironic since the decision of the Pharisees was likely to have been at least partly motivated by their opposition to Christianity. Catholics tend to favor the tradition of the ancient Christian Church over the council of Jamnia in determining canonicity of the Old Testament.

The 1st century Christians, obviously, DID NOT recognize the authority of the Pharisees. This didn't change when it came to the Council held in Jamnia ~98 AD. The ancient Christian Church continued to use the Septuagint--the sacred texts accepted by the apostles--as the word of God. However, each Christian Church began to develop their own unique notion of what was considered sacred text (much like the Jews of the Diaspora). Additionally, as Christianity expanded, various Greek translations were being used which did not have the same books.

By About ... 95 AD - Paul's epistles were used in public worship along with Book of Acts

65-100 AD - Oral tradition of Christ, written in the Gospels. Subsequently became widely used by Christians community.

110 - 105 AD - Epistles written by other Apostles (such as James, Peter, John, Jude) also read at public worship.

150 AD - Gospels gathered together, standardized.

180 AD - Gospels, Epistles combined into one collection

From the 2nd to the 4th centuries, many other Christian Gospels and letters were written to attempt to supplement and revise what the canonical gospels tell us of Jesus' birth, life, teaching, death, and resurrection. Examples include "The Gospel of Hebrews," "The Gospel of Mary," "The Gospel of James," "The Gospel of Peter," and "The Gospel of Thomas."

From the 2nd to the 4th century, this lack of standardization within the Old and New Testaments became problematic with regard to doctrine.

140 AD Marcion, an influential Christian teacher, published heretical ideas with his list of "sacred" books that rejected all Jewish scriptures as having nothing to do with Christianity. This made church leaders aware of the need for a church-authorized list. 180 AD - Muratorian Fragment - a fragment of a list of inspired books which included Gospels, Paul's letters, Acts, Jude, John and Revelation. This fragment, mutilated at the beginning and end, was discovered and published in 1720. This 85-line Latin manuscript is considered to have come from the Church in Rome around the end of the 2nd century. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark are not mentioned, although the "third book of the Gospels" comes from Luke, the "fourth book" from John. The list does not include a third letter of John, but does include the Book of Wisdom.

200 AD - Gnosticism, a heresy which used Christian terminology to gain acceptance, threatened orthodox Christian beliefs. These Gnostics wrote Gospels and other texts of their own which have similarity to the sacred writings, however, were quite twisted to support their heretical claims. To guard against it, the Church called sacred only those books 1) written by Apostles or those close to them and 2) used in public worship. However, there still existed disputes as to what book should be recognized as falling into these two criteria.

early 3rd century - Origen, a priest and scholar, and early bishop of Alexandria, discussed the issue; listed books as 1) acknowledged (universally used and accepted), 2) disputed (but accepted by some), and 3) rejected (declared ordinary vice God-inspired). Origen described the Shephard of Hermas as "a work which seems to me very useful, and, as I believe, divinely inspired" (Comm. in Rom. 10.31, written about 244-6). He also included Baruch and the Maccabees in his Old Testament, and accepted the larger Book of Daniel, contrasting it to the one used by the Hebrews of his day. In his letter to Africanus, Origen stated: "I paid particular attention to the interpretation of the Seventy [i.e. the Septuagint, which contain all the deuterocanonicals] , lest I might to be found to accredit any forgery to the Churches which are under heaven" (Origen, To Africanus, 5 (ante A.D. 254), in Philip Schaff's ANF, IV:387).

In the early 3rd century, many other Church leaders in addition to Origen also began to offer their opinion as to what was apocryphal (Greek for "hidden" or "not genuine") books as separate in significance as compared to other books considered inspired by God.

Prior to the end of the 4th century, many faithful Christians still considered various texts as sacred scripture in one part of the Christianized world which was not considered sacred scripture in other parts. For example, the letters to Corinth from Clement I, Bishop of Rome (~80 AD) were considered sacred scripture and read as such in the Corinthian liturgy. Likewise, the Didache (~70 AD) was listed as sacred scripture by at least two heads of the Catechetical School in Alexandria (2nd and 3rd centuries), and presumably by the Christians of that region. For more info on this, see references below.

382 AD - Pope Damasus decrees for the universal Church, what books are in the Bible. This papal decree stated:

The Decree of Pope St. Damasus I, Council of Rome. 382 A.D....

"It is likewise decreed: Now, indeed, we must treat of the divine Scriptures: what the universal Catholic Church accepts and what she must shun. The list of the Old Testament begins: Genesis, one book; Exodus, one book: Leviticus, one book; Numbers, one book; Deuteronomy, one book; Jesus Nave, one book; of Judges, one book; Ruth, one book; of Kings, four books; Paralipomenon, two books; One Hundred and Fifty Psalms, one book; of Solomon, three books: Proverbs, one book; ecclesiastes, one book; Canticle of Canticles, one book; likewise, Wisdom, one book; Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), one book; Likewise, the list of the Prophets: Isaiah, one book; Jeremias, one book [included Baruch]; along with Cinoth, that is, his Lamentations; Ezechiel, one book; Daniel, one book; Osee, one book; Amos, one book; Micheas, one book; Joel, one book; Abdias, one book; Jonas, one book; Nahum, one book; Habacuc, one book; Sophonias, one book; Aggeus, one book; Zacharias, one book; Malachias, one book. Likewise, the list of histories: Job, one book; Tobias, one book; Esdras, two books; Esther, one book; Judith, one book; of Maccabees, two books.

Likewise, the list of the Scriptures of the New and Eternal Testament, which the holy and Catholic Church receives: of the Gospels, one book according to Matthew, one book according to Mark, one book according to Luke, one book according to John. The Epistles of the Apostle Paul, fourteen in number: one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Ephesians, two to the Thessalonians, one to the Galatians, one to the Philippians, one to the Colossians, two to Timothy, one to Titus one to
Philemon, one to the Hebrews. Likewise, one book of the Apocalypse of John. And the Acts of the Apostles, one book. Likewise, the canonical epistles, seven in number: of the Apostle Peter, two Epistles; of the Apostle James, one Epistle; of the Apostle John, one Epistle; of the other John, a Presbyter, two Epistles; of the Apostle Jude the Zealot, one Epistle. Thus concludes the canon of the New Testament. "

This is the first canon of Christian history that explicitly decrees the books that are to be accepted as divine Scripture for the universal Catholic Church. This same canon is what the Catholic Church continues to use today.

When examining the question of what books were originally included in the Old Testament canon, it is important to note that some of the books of the Bible have been known by more than one name. Sirach is also known as Ecclesiasticus, 1 and 2 Chronicles as 1 and 2 Paralipomenon, Ezra and Nehemiah as 1 and 2 Esdras, and 1 and 2 Samuel with 1 and 2 Kings as 1, 2, 3, and 4 Kings—that is, 1 and 2 Samuel are named 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Kings are named 3 and 4 Kings. The history and use of these designations is explained more fully in Scripture reference works.

This decree of Pope Damasus to the universal Church was more than just a canon of a local synod. It established what ought to be accepted by the "universal Catholic Church." It was not definitive but it was binding. "Definitive" in Catholic lingo means "immutable." Binding means it was canon law, and as such, you were obliged to obey it. This list was subsequently affirmed by several local synods and Ecumenical (General or worldwide) councils in the past 20 centuries. This canon list is the same list used by the Catholic Church today. Because it was not difinitive, Catholics could disagree with the canon without charge of heresy, yet they were bound by it. Despite the opinion of some, the consistent judgment of the Church was that the above canon were to be included as Sacred Scritpure.

According to the Protestant source, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (2nd ed., edited by F.L. Cross & E.A. Livingstone, Oxford Univ. Press, 1983, p.232):

"A council probably held at Rome in 382 under St. Damasus gave a complete list of the canonical books of both the Old Testament and the New Testament (also known as the 'Gelasian Decree' because it was reproduced by Gelasius in 495), which is identical with the list given at Trent."

This same Bible was canonized in Hippo (393) and Carthage (397).

According to Protestant scholar Philip Schaff,

"The council of Hippo in 393, and the third (according to another reckoning the sixth) council of Carthage in 397, under the influence of Augustine, who attended both, fixed the catholic canon of the Holy Scriptures, including the Apocrypha of the Old Testament.... The New Testament canon is the same as ours. This decision of the transmarine church however, was subject to ratification; and the concurrence of the Roman see it received when Innocent I and Gelasius I a.d. 414) repeated the same index of biblical books. This canon remained undisturbed till the sixteenth century, and was sanctioned by the council of Trent at its fourth session." (Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, Vol. III, Ch 9)
Ironically, many Protestant cite there very Catholic synods as their support for the canonicity of the New Testament. However, these same synods also listed the Old Testament books in the very same canon as accepted by Catholicism, but which are rejected by these Protestant groups.
Shortly after his decree, Pope Damasus commissioned Jerome to complete the Latin Vulgate, which includes the same list of books. Vulgate being latin for "vulgar" or "venacular" language, as the Latin was increasingly coming to replace Greek as the written vernacular language of at least the western world.

Middle Ages - Reformation Protestants rejected 7 books of the earlier Canons and called them Apocrypha. Some Protestant actually claim that the Catholics added the 7 books. Even a cursory study of canon history should be sufficient to refute such claims, however.

The reduced canon was no doubt influenced by Martin Luther's writings. However, Luther also considered non-canonical the following NT books: James, Hebrews, Jude, and Revelations. For over 100 years, these books were not accepted as God-inspired by Lutherans (however, other Protestant denominations accepted them into their NT). By at least 1700, these NT books came to be accepted as canonical by all Protestants.

Eastern Orthodox Churches - 1672 Synod of Jerusalem, accepted the Alexandrian Canon (Septuagint LXX), which consists of the Roman Catholic Canon, plus additional books depending upon which LXX translation is used. For example, the Russian Orthodox Tradition or the Slavonic Bible includes 2 Edras, whereas the Greek Orthodox Tradition of the Septuagint does not. This lack of uniform use continues to this day.

The Anglican Church - admit reservations over the Deuterocanonical books, but remained committed to retaining them within the general category of Holy Scripture, that is, as both sacred and canonical.

To the fourth century belong the earliest extant Biblical manuscripts of anything but fragmentary size.

The Codex Vaticanus, a fourth century manuscript (fragment), includes all of the Catholic Canon except 1 & 2 Maccabees

The Codex Sinaiticus, another fourth century manuscript, the portions extant are: several verses from Gen., xxiii and xxiv, and from Num., v, vi, vii; I Par., ix, 27-xix, 17; Esdras, ix,9 to end; Nehemias, Esther, Tobias, Judith, Joel, Abdias, Jonas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggeus, Zacharias, Malachias, Isaias, Jeremias, Lamentations, i, 1-ii, 20; I Machabees, IV Machabees (apocryphal, while the canonical II Machabees and the apocryphal III Machabees were never contained in this codex). The New Testament included the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepard of Hermas.

The Codex Alexandrinus, a 5th century manuscript the portions extant contain the Bible of the Catholic Canon. It also includes III and IV Machabees, and to the New Testament are added the Epistle of St. Clement of Rome and the homily which passed under the title of II Epistle of Clement.

Note that the Church continued to translate, study, and reference apocryphal books as well as the canonical books. However, the Church, consistently upheld as canonical only those books established by the decree of Pope Damasus in 382 AD, and continues to do so today.

What about Bible Translations?

The Church also translated the Bible into other vernacular languages of the world, hundreds of years prior to the Protestant Reformation. Bishop Aldhelm of Sherbourne translated the Psalms into Old English around 709. Venerable Bede, a monk at Jarrow, translated a portion of the Gospel of John. Even on the day of his death (AD 735) the saint was still busy in his attempt.

By 900 AD all of the Gospels and most of the Old Testament had been translated into Old English.

From the 11th to the 14th Centuries, French or the Anglo-Norman dialect took over as the written language among academic circles, while English was confined to the lower classes (most of which could not read). The Bible renderings during the twelfth, thirteenth, and early fourteenth centuries were in French, whether they were made in England or brought over from France.

Before the middle of the fourteenth century the entire Old Testament and a great part of the New Testament had been translated into the Anglo-Norman dialect of the period . As to English work, we may note two transcripts of the West-Saxon Gospels during the course of the eleventh century and some copies of the same Gospels into the Kentish dialect made in the twelfth century.

The thirteenth century is an absolute blank as far as our knowledge of its English Bible study is concerned. The English which emerged about the middle and during the second half of the fourteenth century was practically a new language, so that both the Old English versions which might have remained, and the French versions hitherto in use, failed to fulfil their purpose.

France, Spain, Italy, Bohemia, and Holland possessed the Bible in the vernacular before the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s; in Germany the Scriptures were printed in 1466, and seventeen editions had left the press before the version written by Luther.

You should also read the story of Saints Cyril and Methodius from the year 866 and the period immediately following. St. Cyril is credited with having invented or adapted a special alphabet which now bears his name (Cyrillic) in order to express the sounds of the Slavonic language, as spoken by the Bulgars and Moravians of his day. Later on St. Methodius translated the entire Bible into Slavonic and his disciples afterwards added other works of the Greek saints and the canon law.

Admittedly, there have been attempts by the Catholic Church to suppress the unauthorized translations of the Bible into the vernacular language. The Church was afraid of the proliferation of Biblical inaccuracies with each translation. If you think this is not a valid concern, read about the Jehovah's Witness version of the Bible here:

Stumpers for Jehovah's Witnesses
Are They Awake on the Watchtower

The use of St. Jerome's Latin Vulgate (which in Latin means 'common language') was resisted for many years as being unreliable. Reading from the Vulgate in the ancient Church actually was the source of riots. Over time, the Vulgate gained acceptance and became the standard for the Catholic Church.

So, when you hear someone tell you that Catholics never translated the Bible into the vernacular languages of the world, it is a myth. The world would not have a Bible to read if it were not for Catholics.

Martin Luther himself conceded, "We are obliged to yield many things to the Papists [Catholics]--that they possess the Word of God which we received from them, otherwise we should have known nothing at all about it." (Martin Luther, Commentary on St. John, ch. 16)

God bless,


1. "The Witness of History for Scripture (Homologoumena and Antilegomena)" by Francis Piper (Lutheran Theologian), From Christian Dogmatics, Vol. I [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1950], pp. 330-38.)
2. Catholic Encyclopedia:
2. The Canon of the Bible
3. The Old Testament Canon
4. Table of New Testament Books Prior to Canonization
5. Bible Translations Guide
6. 5 Myths About 7 Books (Canonicity of the Deuterocanonical Books)
7. Defending the Deuterocanonicals
8. Patristic Quotations from the Deuterocanonicals (citing a Protestant source). Notice how the Fathers quoted these books along with the protocanonicals.
9. The Old Testament in the Orthodox Church
10. The Canon of Holy Scripture: An Anglican Note
11. Codex Vaticanus
12. Codex Sinaiticus
13. Codex Alexandrinus
14. Septuagint Version
15. Manuscripts of the Bible
16. Muratorian Fragment -
17. Catholic Answers Stumpers for Jehovah's Witnesses Are They Awake on the Watchtower