Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Justified by Works and not by Faith Alone

St. James teaches us in James 2:14-24:
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. 18 But some one will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe--and shudder. 20 Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, 23 and the scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness"; and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
How is it that we are justified by works and not by faith alone? How can "faith" be "completed by works" as St. James teaches us?

There are many kinds of "works." Those works which lend themselves to strengthening and therefore "completing" our faith are what are called "meritorious works." Scripture calls them "worthy deeds." Same thing.

NT Greek: "axios" (worthy, meritorious)
NT Greek: "ergon" (deeds, works)

Acts 26:20 " they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds (ergon) worthy (axios) of their repentance."


Spiritual Works of Mercy:
  • To instruct the ignorant;
  • To counsel the doubtul;
  • To admonish sinners;
  • To bear wrongs patiently;
  • To forgive offences willingly;
  • To comfort the afflicted;
  • To pray for the living and the dead.
Corporeal Works of Mercy:
  • To feed the hungry;
  • To give drink to the thirsty;
  • To clothe the naked;
  • To harbour the harbourless;
  • To visit the sick;
  • To ransom the captive;
  • To bury the dead.
There's a distinction between "meritorious works" and "natural works." To perform "meritorious works," one must already be in a "state of grace." In other words, meritorious works are not possible unless already previously justified and remain justified by God's grace. So, you can't do "meritorious works" to transition to a "state of grace," either initially or after haven fallen from grace by mortal sin.

Furthermore, natural works have no supernatural benefit. Without grace, one can perform all the natural works they desire, and yet they still will not have become justified in the eyes of God. Only by God's grace is one justified.

However, as Scripture tells us, the just can be "justified further still." Rev 22:11 "he that is just (dikaios) let him be justified (dikaioo) still (eti)".

The above translation of Rev 22:11 comes from the Douay-Rhiems Bible. Some of my Protestant friends have claimed that Rev 22:11 doesn't say that. I tell them that if they look at the original Greek, it does say precisely what is translated above.

NT Greek: "dikaios"; adjective, "righteous, just, used of him whose way of thinking, feeling, and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God"

NT Greek: "dikaioo"; verb, "to justify, to render righteous, to declare, pronounce, one to be just, righteous"

NT Greek: "eti"; adverb, "yet, more, futher, still"

So, those made just by the grace of God can indeed be given more grace, such that they are "justified still."

Meritorious works strengthen our faith. It is God working in us, with us, and for us. Nothing can cause "little faith" to grow and strengthen such that it becomes "great faith" unless God himself adds grace upon grace. He crowns his own gifts with more gifts. In this way, the just are made justified still: through the gratuitous grace received when we care for the poor, counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, pray for the living and the dead, etc. God doesn't owe this grace. Yet out of his goodness, he gives his faithful grace upon grace as they do His will. This is what St. Paul calls the "obedience of faith" (Rom 1:5; 16:26), or "faith which worketh love" (Gal 5:6). God blesses the faithful with further grace as they perform deeds worthy of their repentance.

God bless,


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

St. Robert Bellarmine and the impossibility of a heretical pope

Sedevacantists are small, radical fringe groups which emerged after Vatican II, claiming to be Catholic yet each concluding that the post-Vatican II popes teach heresy, and are therefore not valid popes; they assert that the Holy See of Rome (“Sedes”, in Latin) is “vacant”, i.e. there is no legitimate Pope [yet, they disagree among themselves as to who the last valid pope was]. Hence the name of “Sedevacantism” is given to the movement.

They often build their argument from the following quote from St. Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Catholic Church:
"A pope who is a manifest heretic automatically (per se) ceases to be pope and head, just as he ceases automatically to be a Christian and a member of the Church. Wherefore, he can be judged and punished by the Church. This is the teaching of all the ancient Fathers who teach that manifest heretics immediately lose all jurisdiction." (De Romano Pontifice, Bk II, Ch. 30)
The above text, they hope, leaves the impression that St. Robert believed and taught that the pope could become a manifest heretic. However, that is incorrect. The above quote must be understood in the context of what St. Robert Bellarmine also affirmed in the same text, in Book 4, chapter 6 of De Romano Pontifice:
Chapter 6. On the pontiff as he is a particular person.

Fourth Proposition: It is probable and can be piously believed that the highest pontiff, not only cannot err as pontiff, but also as a particular person cannot be a heretic by believing anything false contrary to the faith.

This is proved firstly because the sweet order of God's providence seems to require it. For the pontiff not only should not and cannot preach heresy, but also should always teach the truth, and he will certainly do this since the Lord commanded him to confirm his brothers, and therefore he added: I have asked for you that your faith not fail, i.e. that the preaching of the true faith not fail in your see. And how, I ask, will a heretical pontiff confirm his brothers in the faith and always preach the true faith? Surely God can force out a confession of the true faith from a heretical heart, as he once put words in the mouth of the ass Balaam; but it would be violent and not according to the custom of God's providence sweetly ordering all things.

Secondly it is proved from the result, for so far there has been no heretic, or certainly it cannot be proved of any that he was a heretic. Therefore it is a sign that this cannot happen.

See Pighius for further arguments.
(De Romano Pontifice, Bk IV, Ch. 6)
It is clear from the above, that St. Robert never believed that it is possible that the pope could be a heretic as pontiff or even as a particular person pertinaciously believe something false contrary to the faith. St. Robert is right in drawing the conclusion in his theological dispute against Cardinal Cajetan in Bk II of De Romano Pontifice, and he is also right in concluding that the pope can never be a manifest heretic in Bk IV of De Romano Pontifice.

Centuries earlier, St. Catherine of Sienna affirmed the same teaching, which is why she concluded it impossible that obedience to the Holy Father could ever be contrary to obedience to God. According to St. Catherine, Doctor of the Catholic Church:
"He left you this sweet key of obedience; for as you know He left His vicar, the Christ, on earth, whom you are all obliged to obey until death, and whoever is outside His obedience is in a state of damnation, as I have already told you in another place." (Dialogue, Treatise on Obedience)

"Even if that vicar were a devil incarnate, I must not defy him." (Letter to Bernabo Visconti)

"Divine obedience never prevents us from obedience to the Holy Father: nay, the more perfect the one, the more perfect is the other. And we ought always to be subject to his commands and obedient unto death. However indiscreet obedience to him might seem, and however it should deprive us of mental peace and consolation, we ought to obey; and I consider that to do the opposite is a great imperfection, and deceit of the devil." (Letter to Brother Antonio of Nizza).
Pope St. Pius X, also affirmed in an allocution against dissenting priests:
"And how should one love the Pope? Not merely by word nor tongue, but works and integrity. When one is loved, all of that person’s thoughts, wills, and desires are sought out for demonstrate our love to the Pope it is necessary to obey him...when we love the Pope, we do not dispute whether he commands or requires a thing, or seek to know where the strict obligation of obedience lies, or in what matter we must obey; when we love the Pope we do not say that he has not yet spoken clearly – as if he were required to speak his will in every man's ear, and to utter it not only by word of mouth but in letters and other public documents as well. Nor do we cast doubt on his orders, alleging the pretext which comes easily to the man who does not want to obey, that it is not the Pope who is commanding, but some one in his entourage. We do not limit the field in which he can and ought to exercise his authority; we do not oppose to the Pope's authority that of other persons – no matter how learned – who dissent from the Pope. For whatever may be their learning, they are not holy, for where there is holiness there cannot be dissent with the Pope." [allocution of 18 November, 1912, AAS vol. 4 (1912), 693-695. Selection from p. 695]
God bless,


Monday, January 21, 2008

What does the Catholic Church teach regarding religious liberty?

Q: What does the Catholic Church teach about "religious liberty?"
When an American hears the phrase "religious liberty" they almost instinctively presume the kind of religious liberty as defined and protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That's not what the Catholic Church meant in her Vatican II Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae.

The Catholic Church teaches that people have been given free will from God and are certainly free to either willfully assent to or dissent from the truth. So strictly speaking, all men have such a freedom understood in this sense. They are not, however, free to willfully cling to religious error without sin. Thus, both men and societies have a moral duty to the one true religion and to the one Church of Christ. To willfully deny, doubt or neglect that duty is a sin.

So, if one is speaking of absolute freedom to either accept or reject the workings of the Holy Spirit, we certainly do have such a freedom of religion. However, if one means by this that such a choice of conscience does not matter, that as long as they are sincere in their choice, they are necessarily without guilt of sin in rejecting the obligations of the one true Catholic religion, then this is incorrect.

Let's look at an example to illustrate this point...

The late MSgr. Marcel Lefebvre (although he was among those who approvingly signed Dignitatis Humanae) and Fr. Charles Curran have both asserted that Dignitatis Humanae contradicted pre-Vatican II Catholic doctrine. This is strangely ironic, because Fr. Charles Curran and MSgr. Marcel Lefebvre represent two radically opposite ends of Catholic dissent. Yet both of these men exercised "freedom of conscience" and were censured (penalized) by the Roman Pontiff for the kind of "liberty" they chose to exercise. This should exemplify that a sincere yet erroneous conscience is not necessarily free from penalty according to the mind of the Church. Thus, it doesn't follow that "freedom to error" without consequences is the new doctrine of Vatican II, as some have claimed.

Consequently, if one means by "religious liberty" that one is "free to embrace" and promulgate error without refutation, ecclesiastical censure or punishment by legitimate ecclesial authority in accord with Catholic law, then nobody has such a freedom, not even Lefebvre or Curran.

If one means by "religious liberty," freedom from "the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ" (Dignitatis Humanae, 1), then nobody has this kind of religious liberty.

If one means by "religous liberty," that freedom which is "necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God," (DH, 1), then everybody has this kind of religious liberty, which requires "immunity from coercion in civil society" (DH, 1) so they may fulfill such obligations toward God.

The kind of religious liberty which Vatican II taught is that freedom which "means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits."

So, I cannot force my Lefebvrist friends, against their will, to go to a licit Mass. They can certainly be canonically censured for not abiding by canon law, but they cannot be forced to go to a licit Mass against their will.

Likewise, the government of the U.S. cannot force Sabbatarians to worship on Sunday as opposed to Saturday (despite E.G. White's "prophecies" to the contrary). Sabbatarians have the same "immunity from coercion in civil society" in the sense that they cannot be "forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs" as Catholics. Of course, this immunity is "within due limits." So, the U.S. government can licitly force the Aryan Nations Church in Idaho from infringing upon the human rights of Jews and other minorities under the cover of "religious liberty."

Yet, religious liberty is not to be understood as liberty from truth, as "all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth." (DH, 2). Nonetheless, so long as "just public order be observed," (DH, 2) humans have the gift of free will given to them by God, and other humans cannot coerce them to act contrary to such a gift by forcing them against their will in matters religious.

So, when China hinders public teaching and witness to the Catholic faith, they violate what the Church teaches regarding religious liberty. Likewise, so long as "just public order be observed," the U.S. Government may not outlaw the public worship of Muslims, as this too would be contrary to Catholic doctrine.

There are at least two truthful kinds of religious liberty that the Catholic Church professes as Catholic doctrine. There are other kinds that have been condemned by the Church as erroneous.

Catholic doctrine affirms: 1) freedom and obligation to worship God as God intends, and 2) immunity from being forced against one's will to worship in any religion--these two kinds of religious liberty are not condemned but are in fact professed as Catholic doctrine.

What is the consequence of willful adherence to false religion?

God DOES respond to those who embrace a false religion, but he does so mostly by grace and truth, but also sometimes by punishment. The mission of the Catholic Church can indeed justly include these same responses.

Furthermore, the Catholic Church ought to be cautious about the use of the "punishment" option, as we have a history of fallible judgments when responding to perceived heresy (e.g. St. Joan of Arc). So, for the most part, grace and truth are the most prudent response to erroneous views. Among Catholics, canonical censures (and other such admonishments) are also prudent at times.

Yet, when the "due limits" of religious freedom are breached, they endanger the faithful and society. The Church or civil government can at such times exercise their lawful authority to "protect and defend" the rights of others, but must do so in accordance with justice.

For more on Catholic teaching regarding religious obligations, religious liberty and freedom of conscience, see the following references:

Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae
Paul VI

Declaration on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church, Dominus Iesus
John Paul II

Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 2106
John Paul II

Donam Veritatis, Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of Theologian
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith

Conscience and Truth
by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Syllabus of Errors
Pius IX

Quanta Cura
Pius IX

Mirari Vos
Gregory XVI

Pius IX, Vatican II and Religious Liberty
Fr. Brian W. Harrison

Vatican II and Religious Liberty, Contradiction or Continuity?
Fr. Brian W. Harrison

Archbishop Lefebvre and the Declaration on Religious Liberty
Fr. William Most

Religious Liberty - Rights versus "tolerance"
by Fr. Brian Harrison

God bless,


Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Pope and the Scientists

Kind of a "part II" to my last blog on the intolerance of those claiming to be free-thinkers, yet would protest against the free thoughts of others.

The following article is from Ignatius Press blog. It includes links to the 1990 speech of Cardinal Ratzinger which was found so offensive by the students and "academics" of La Sapienza University, Rome, Italy.

I read Cardinal Ratzinger's speech. Seems to me the "academics" at La Sapienza University need more "schoolin," as it appears that by focusing on a quote apart from the clear context, they were totally mistaken regarding Cardinal Raztinger's view.

The Ignatius Press Blog also includes a link to the address Pope Benedict was intending to give at the University. It was instead read publically by the rector of the University and received a standing ovation. The rector has extended another invitation to Pope Benedict to speak at the university.

Thursday, January 17, 2008.

The Pope and the Scientists

UPDATE #2: Father Raymond De Souza, in a column about the incident, writes: "Benedict played the situation masterfully. Had he gone, the story would have been about the rude protesters. In declining to appear before such ill-behaved supposed scholars, he focused attention on their closedmindedness. Yesterday, the entire Italian cultural and political establishment rose as one and denounced the professors and the students. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano sent Benedict a letter of support denouncing the “manifestations of intolerance” as “inadmissible” in a university dedicated to free inquiry." Read the entire column.

The entire translated text of Pope Benedict's speech meant to be given at "La Sapienza" University is available from Asia News.

Vatican Information Services has excerpts from a letter sent by "Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., yesterday ... to the rector of Rome's "La Sapienza" University, explaining the reasons for which the Pope will not participate in today's ceremony for the inauguration of that institution's academic year." It also contains parts of Benedict XVI's undelivered speech... [see MORE]

God bless,


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I won't tolerate intolerance!!!

You ever notice that those claiming to champion "tolerance" are often among the most intolerant people you ever meet? It seems the limit of tolerance from some people extends only to those who share their disdain for traditional values. Yet, for those who freely choose to hold to traditional values and exercise their right to express their beliefs, they deserve to be silenced and protested against. Here's an example, from the so-called "free thinkers" at a university who would rather censure divergent views than allow them to be freely expressed:


ZE08011503 - 2008-01-15

Pope Cancels University Visit After Protests

Some at Sapienza Claim He's Opposed to Science, But Others Differ

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 15, 2008 ( Benedict XVI canceled his visit to Rome's Sapienza University amid protests from professors and students regarding the Church's role in science.

The visit was planned for Thursday, but a group of professors and students signed a letter protesting the visit by a Pope whom they claimed is "hostile to science."

Today, the protesters occupied the rector's offices in protest.

The Vatican press office reported today that "it has been considered opportune to postpone the event," which had been planned "by invitation of the major rector."

The Holy Father will nevertheless send the discourse he had prepared, the Vatican statement added.

The protesters' letter mentioned a 1990 speech at Sapienza University that then Cardinal Ratzinger gave about the Church's 17th-century condemnation of Galileo. The signatories of the protest letter mentioned that the future Pope quoted an Austrian philosopher who said the trial was "rational and just." The protesters did not mention that Cardinal Ratzinger went on to say that he was not in agreement with the philosopher.

Renato Guarini, rector of the university, said he had awaited Benedict XVI, a theologian and professor and "messenger of peace," to live "a moment of high culture" and an "interchange of ideas that would be fruitful for the entire university community."

Giorgio Israel, a Jewish mathematician and professor at the university, noted in L'Osservatore Romano that the 1990 speech actually defended Galileo.

Cardinal Ratzinger said at that time, "Faith does not grow from a resentment and refusal of rationalism, but from its basic affirmation."

Israel lamented the contradiction of those who have opposed Benedict XVI's visit, who are purportedly defending the secularism of science, but are also negating the freedom of speech. The article in L'Osservatore Romano was published before the Vatican announced today that the Pontiff would postpone the visit.

"It is surprising," the mathematician said, "that those who have chosen as a motto Voltaire's famous phrase, 'I don’t agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,' oppose themselves to the Pope pronouncing a discourse at the university of Rome."


God bless,


Thursday, January 10, 2008

If the Church was so sure about contraception, why a study commission?

MSgr. George Kelly--a member of Paul VI's Commission for the Study of Problems of Population, Family and Birth--decribed the events of the commission and decisions leading up to Paul VI's Encyclical on the regulation of birth, Humanae Vitae: 1963, when the commission was born, the doctrine [against contraception] was taught at true and recognized as such by Catholics.... If the Catholic Church was so sure of its teaching, why a study commission?


...Pope Pius XII saw no problem in using steroids for medical purposes, i.e., to treat pathological conditions. A long Catholic tradition justified such choices. But the pill also involved gray areas, many of which scientists had not fully explored....

By 1963...Pope John XXIII responded by nominating six experts, three scientists and three theologians, to study the pill, its usefulness and its possibly morally correct usage. Although Pius XII has clearly rejected it when used directly as a sterilizing agent, studying its medical mystery seemed a sensible thing to to.... The six experts eventually disagreed...faced with a deadlocked commission, Paul VI on his ascendancy reinstituted and enlarged it...during the commission's meeting, when Paul was asked by member John Ford, S.J., "Are you ready to say that Casti Connubii can be changed?", the Pope answered a vehement "No."....

The new papal body was basically an enlarged "pill committee"--struggling to understand whether and under what circumstances steroids could be used in good conscience, even if the indirect effect would be the prevention of conception. [Fr. John Ford] was [unconcerned] about a Catholic statement from the Commission on "responsible parenthood," about which he himself had written many times....

...[John T. Noonan's] research...established Pius XI's solemn statement in Casti Connubii as the capstone of the universal teaching of the Church from the beginning.

We were further assured by the research of the French Jesuit Stanislaus de Lestapis, whose Family Planning and Modern Problems: A Catholic Analysis demonstrated how from Malthus to Marx, from England to India, from wealth to poverty, the direct link between contraception, sterilization, and abortion was inexorable....

There were other assurances. Jesuits Marcellino Zalba, as early as 1951, and John Ford, by 1963, considered the Church's position to be infallibly true.... The only open question was the morality of using the pill....

... the text of Gaudium et Spes (no. 51) as finally approved by the [Vatican II] Council Fathers read:
"In questions of birth regulation, the Sons of the Church, faithful to these principles, are forbidden to use methods disapproved by the teaching authority of the Church in it interpretation of Divine Law."
Paul VI...directed that a footnote be added in the appropriate place to the text of Gaudium et Spes.... The Pope...[placed] three references in that Footnote 14--all condemnations of contraception: one reference to a 1964 allocution of his own [note: which stated that Pius XII's norms were to be "validly retained" ("ritenersi valide") until the pope felt obliged in conscience to modify them], and one each to Pius XI's Casti Connubii (1930) and Pius XII's famous Address to Italian Midwives (1951). The mind of Paul VI could not have been clearer.

Yet, even as the final printing of the last draft of Gaudium et Spes went into production on the early morning of December 3, 1965, three days before the Council's end, while the assembled bishops waited to see what they were to vote on, someone discovered during the printing process that Paul VI's references to the condemnation of contraception by Pius XI and Pius XII had been omitted...the presses were stopped and the error corrected.... The formulation of Catholic doctrine was open to restatement, even amplification, but not correction or denial.
[MSgr. George A. Kelly, Keeping the Church Catholic with John Paul II, (Ignatius Press, 1990), pp. 30-42]
The point of the commission was not to revoke a doctrine already declared irrevocable by Pius XII. Cardinal Cicognani explicitly told MSgr. George Kelly before the commission met that no change in doctrine was possible. (Kelly, ibid., p. 36). However, once open discussion began within the Commission, the scientists were not sure how the pill worked or what its long-range effects might be and the theologians were unsure of its use in regulating monthly cycles. (Kelly, ibid., p. 38). Consequently, those with an agenda to revoke the constant teaching of the Church dominated the discussion.

Thanks be to God for Paul VI, who never intending to revoke Catholic doctrine, studied the commission's split decision not with the eyes of a politician, but with the eyes of the successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ, holding fast to what has been taught everywhere, always, and by all faithful Catholics, but perhaps is considered unpopular in the world.

Paul VI would later affirm:
“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)
God bless,