The Catholic Dogma
Refutation of the False Assertions of Reverends S. O. Cronin and Young.
How S. O. comments on the following questions and answers contained in Familiar Explanation.
"Question. Have Protestants any faith in Christ? Answer. They never had. Q. Why not? Ans. Because there never lived such a Christ as they imagine and believe in. Q. In what kind of a Christ do they believe? Ans. In such a one of whom they can make a liar with impunity, whose doctrines they can interpret as they please, and who does not care what a man believes, provided he be an honest man before the public. (Italics ours). Q. Will such a faith in such a Christ save Protestants? Ans. No sensible man will assert such an absurdity. Q. What will Christ say to them on the day of judgment? Ans. I know you not, because you never knew me: Q. Are Protestants willing to confess their sins to a Catholic bishop or priest, who alone has power from Christ to forgive sins? ‘Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them.' Ans. No; for they generally have an utter aversion to confession, and therefore their sins will not be forgiven them throughout all eternity. Q. What follows from this? Ans. That they die in their sins and are damned."
The comment which Bishop Coxe has made on these questions and answers is said to have given occasion to "the most prominent priest of the U. S. to put his own comment on the same questions and answers.
There are rules for interpreting Holy Scripture; there are rules for interpreting laws and the last will of a man; and there are rules for interpreting an author's doctrine. One of these rules is to understand well the status quaestionis and give it in plain words. This the most prominent priest of the U. S. has purposely ignored.
Another rule to interpret an author's doctrine is that, if an author has published a small work, and has written at large on the same subject, we must interpret his small work according to what he says in his large work and in the latest edition of his work. Now, what bishop, what priest, what Catholic editor of a newspaper does not know that the Rev. M. Muller, C.SS.R., has published nine large volumes in explanation of Catholic Doctrine. Who can believe that S. O. is not aware of this fact? Did not then charity and justice plainly tell him that, in explaining Father Muller’s small volume on Christian Doctrine, he must follow the Explanation of Christian Doctrine which Father Muller has given in his large work of Christian Doctrine?
Another rule of interpreting an author's doctrine is to explain it in connection with the context. That the Protestant Bishop Coxe has dishonestly left out all the proofs which we have given in Explanation of Christian Doctrine from pp. 10 to page 86; that he has dishonestly taken up sentences detached from the proofs preceding them, from pp. 87 to 97, and following them from pp. 98 to 116, to show that there is no salvation possible out of the Roman Catholic Church; that he has misinterpreted them, we can easily account for, because he even knows how to misquote Holy Scripture and misinterpret its meaning. All heretics have done this. Need we wonder at his dishonesty in misquoting and misinterpreting sound doctrine of a Catholic author? No Catholic wonders at this, because we all know that heresies have been maintained for some time by the same false principles from which they have sprung. We know that there are many Protestants who live in vincible or culpable ignorance of the true religion - of the true Church of Christ. Being unwilling to give up their false, human religion, they are glad to find even frivolous reasons to quiet their uneasy consciences and to remain as they are. Protestant preachers, too, know this from their own experience. Hence they quote texts from Holy Scripture to make them feel easy, such as the most prominent priest of the U. S. quotes in their favor when he says: "They (Protestants) say with us, in the language and meaning of the Apostle: ‘There is no other Name (Jesus Christ) under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved.'" In like manner, Protestant preachers will misquote and misinterpret certain Catholic authors' doctrines detached from the context, and draw from them frivolous reasons whereby to quiet the uneasy consciences of certain members of their congregations in regard to the true religion. Knowing that dishonest preachers have, in this way, taken hold of some answers detached from the context in our Familiar Explanation of Christian Doctrine of the first edition, we have, more than a year ago, changed, in the second edition, those answers, though true in the sense they were given. But alas! that the dishonesty, the twisticalness and tortuosity of the minds of Protestant preachers should have been imitated by a brother priest, that he thus should have confirmed culpably and inculpably ignorant Protestants in their wrong belief; that he thus should have made Catholics, who are weak in faith, still weaker in it, and have strengthened liberal Catholics in their wrong views, is something that baffles almost all belief.
Now, to show plainly and understand well his grave errors, we must state clearly the point in question. This point is: "Out of the Roman Catholic Church there is no salvation.." Heretics are out of the Roman Catholic Church; therefore,if they die as heretics, they are lost forever.
Here the question arises, "Who is a heretic?"
The word "heretic" is derived from the Greek, and means to choose or adhere to a certain thing. Hence a baptized person, professing Christianity, and choosing for himself what to believe and what not to believe as he pleases, in obstinate opposition to any particular truth which he knows is taught by the Catholic Church as a truth revealed by God, is a heretic.
To make a person guilty of the sin of heresy, three things are required:
1. He must be baptized and profess Christianity. This distinguishes him from a Jew and idolater;
2. He must refuse to believe a truth revealed by God, and taught by the Church as so revealed;
3. He must obstinately adhere to error, preferring his own private judgment in matters of faith and morals to the infallible teaching of the Catholic Church. Hence it follows that the following persons are guilty of the sin of heresy: -
1. All those baptized persons who profess Christianity and obstinately reject a truth revealed by God and taught by the Church as so revealed;
2. Those who embrace an opinion contrary to faith, maintain it obstinately, and refuse to submit to the authority of the Catholic Church;
3. Those who wilfully doubt the truth of an article of faith, for, by such a wilful doubt, they actually question God's knowledge and truth, and to do this is to be guilty of heresy ;
4. Those who know the Catholic Church to be the only true Church, but do not embrace her faith;
5. Those who could know the Church, if they would candidly search, but who, through indifference and other culpable motives, neglect to do so;
6. Those Anglicans who know the true Church, but do not become Roman Catholics, thinking that they approach very near the Catholic Church, because their prayers and ceremonies are like many prayers and ceremonies of the Catholic Church, and because their creed is the Apostles' Creed. These are heretics in principle, for "the real character of rank heresy," says St. Thomas Aquinas, "consists in want of submission to the divine teaching authority in the Head of the Church."
Heresy, therefore, is a corruption of the true faith. "This corruption," says St. Thomas Aquinas, "takes place either by altering the truths which constitute the principal articles of faith, or by denying obstinately those which result therefrom. But, as the error of a geometrician does not affect the principles of geometry, so is the error of a person which does not affect the fundamental truths of faith, no real heresy."
Should a person have embraced an opinion which is contrary to faith, without knowing that it is opposed to faith, he is, in this case, no heretic, if he is disposed to renounce his error as soon as he comes to know the truth.
But it is false to say that only those truths are of faith which have been defined by the Church, and that therefore he only is a heretic who denies a defined truth.
A man steals a large sum of money from his neighbor. Now is that man no thief so long as the court has not pronounced him guilty of theft?
Jesus Christ has revealed to his Church a certain number of truths. She knows what those truths are. She has always believed and taught them as revealed truths. "Every revealed truth," says Cardinal Manning, "is definite and precise; nevertheless all are not defined; but the Church defined many of these truths in precise terms only when it was fit or necessary to do so; and this fitness, or necessity, arose when a revealed truth was obscured, or contested, or denied out of vincible or invincible ignorance. Those who, out of invincible ignorance, denied certain revealed truths, were excused from heresy until the Church delivered them from the ignorance of these truths by declaring and defining them in precise terms. The definition, however, adds nothing to its intrinsic certainty, for this is derived from divine Revelation; the definition adds only the extrinsic certainty of universal promulgation by the doctrinal authority of the Church, imposing obligation upon all the faithful."
No doubt, Luther, Calvin, and other heresiarchs of the sixteenth century were considered by the Church as heretics even before she had defined those truths which were denied by those impious men; and those denied truths were articles of , and believed as such just as firmly before as after their definition by the Council of Trent. "So in like manner," says Cardinal Manning, "the existence of God has always been an article of faith, and yet it was defined, only a few years ago, in the Vatican Council. Hence, all those truths are articles of faith, which are taught by the Church as revealed truths, no matter whether or not they are defined." (For instance, the Church teaches the Assumption of the Blessed Mother of God, body and soul, into heaven, in the institution of the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in her Office and holy Mass of this feast, as clearly as she could teach it by defining this truth.) "Any one, therefore, who knows that the Church teaches a truth as revealed, is bound in conscience to believe it as an article of faith; if he does not so believe it, he is a heretic before God." (Vat. Counc. by CARDINAL MANNING.)
Any one, then, who sufficiently knows the truths of the true religion and denies even but one of them, commits one of the greatest sins. To reject what we know has been revealed by God is not only to cut ourselves off from all the blessings of religion, but it is to call in question the fact that the Lord of heaven and earth is a God of Truth, and he who calls in question this Truth, offers to God the greatest insult. We believe the truths of faith because God has revealed them and proposes them by his infallible Church for our belief. Now, to believe some of these truths and reject one or more of them is as much as to say: I believe that God told the truth in this point, but not in that other. This is a horrible blasphemy. Wilful heresy, therefore, in regard even to but one sacred truth of religion, destroys all faith, attacking as it does the authority of God, who revealed the truth. If a man who poisons the food of his fellow-men is most damnable in the sight of God, how much more damnable are not those who poison the souls of men by the seed of heresy.
To take away the life of the Body is a mortal sin. Now, is it not a greater crime to rob the soul of its life - the grace of God, and lead it to everlasting perdition by false doctrines? Hence it is that Holy Scripture condemns the sin of heresy in the strongest terms.
"A man," says St. Paul, "that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid; knowing that he who is such an one is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned by his own judgment." (Tit. iii. 10.) And again he says:
"Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a Gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema, "that is, accursed. (Gal. i. 8, 9.) St. Paul also classes sects or heresies among the works of the flesh, and says that those who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God. (Gal. i. 8, 9.) St. Paul also classes sects or heresies among the works of the flesh, and says that those who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God. (Gal. i. 8, 9)
But not every one who lives in heresy is guilty of the sin of heresy. Hence we distinguish two kinds of heretics: Those who are, and those who are not, guilty of the sin of heresy. We made this distinction of heretics in our little work Familiar Explanation of Christian Doctrine, as S. O. testifies when he says: 1. It is evident that the author of Explanation "had in mind a wilful, obstinate, obdurate, God-defying, truth-rejecting, unrepentant heretic;" 2. when, from Familiar Explanation, he quotes the following question and answer:
"Q. What are we to think of the salvation of those who are out of the pale of the Church without any fault of theirs, and who never had any opportunity of knowing better? Ans. Their inculpable ignorance will not save them; but if they fear God, and live up to their conscience, God in his infinite mercy will furnish them with the necessary means of salvation, even so as to send, if needed, an angel to instruct them in the Catholic faith, rather than let them perish through inculpable ignorance."
According to this distinction of heretics we divide the doctrine of the Church on heretics into two parts. In part I. we will speak of those who are true heretics, that is, of those who are guilty of the sin of heresy and die in it; and in part II. we will speak of those who are not guilty of the sin of heresy.