Friday, July 11, 2008


Candy begins by giving a definition for anathema.

Definition of anathema: "A ban or curse pronounced with religious solemnity by ecclesiastical authority, and accompanied by excommunication. Hence: Denunciation of anything as accursed."
- Source - Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary

Normally giving a dictionary definition helps to clarify terms. However, this can be confusing with ecclesiastical terms. For example, some dictionaries define "celibacy" as refraining from sexual activity, while in the Catholic Church, someone who is celibate is someone who has taken a vow to remain unmarried. We have discussed before, how the meaning of "mediator" has changed, as well as touched on the difference between a discipline that can change, and a doctrine, which cannot. But we'll get to that in a minute.

Candy's big source of information for this article is Peter and Paul Catholic Ministries. Are they a Catholic source of information? Nope. They're passing along the same old misinformation. We've covered this before. She even quotes the canons from the Council of Trent from their website, and they are readily available from neutral sources.

An anathema is a form of what we would call today, excommunication. This is based on Scripture, specifically what St. Paul wrote in Galatians 1:8–9 and 1 Corinthians 16:22.

Peter and Paul says "An anathema on an infallible statement can never be changed, and is always binding; otherwise the statement is not infallible."

This is not true. An anathema falls under the heading of church discipline. Like the robes the priest wears, or whether or not he can marry, discipline involves things that the Church can change.

Peter and Paul continues, "As a matter of fact Vatican II referred to the Council of Trent dozens of times and quoted Trent's proclamations as authority."

This continues to confuse the two categories of doctrine and discipline. The doctrine of the Council of Trent still stands. But that does not mean that the anathemas are still in effect.

I would point you to This Rock, which has a very informative article on anathema, and explains why a Catholic with faith in Jesus would not be anathema for their view.

The anathemas of Trent and other councils were like most penalties of civil law, which only take effect through the judicial process. If the civil law prescribes imprisonment for a particular offense, those who commit it do not suddenly appear in jail. Likewise, when ecclesiastical law prescribed an anathema for a particular offense, those who committed it had to wait until the judicial process was complete before the anathema took effect.

6. Anathemas applied to all Protestants. The absurdity of this charge is obvious from the fact that anathemas did not take effect automatically. The limited number of hours in the day by itself would guarantee that only a handful of Protestants ever could have been anathematized. In practice the penalty tended to be applied only to notorious Catholic offenders who made a pretense of staying within the Catholic community.

7. Anathemas are still in place today. This is the single most common falsehood one encounters regarding anathemas in the writings of anti-Catholics. They aren’t in place today. The penalty was employed so infrequently over the course of history that it is doubtful that anyone under an anathema was alive when the new Code of Canon Law came out in 1983, when even the penalty itself was abolished.

8. The Church cannot retract its anathemas. Anti-Catholics love to repeat this falsehood for rhetorical flourish. But again, it isn’t true. The Church is free to abolish any penalty of ecclesiastical law it wants to, and it did abolish this one.
So rest assured, those of you who are Catholics who believe that we are saved by God's grace, through Jesus Christ. You are not anathema. You are just following Catholic teaching.

The Catholic Catechism states:

CCC #161: Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. "Since "without faith it is impossible to please [God]" and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life 'But he who endures to the end.'"

#169: Salvation comes from God alone

#183: "Faith is necessary for salvation. The Lord himself affirms: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mk 16:16)."

#1544: Everything that the priesthood of the Old Covenant prefigured finds its fulfillment in Christ Jesus, the "one mediator between God and men." The Christian tradition considers Melchizedek, "priest of God Most High," as a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ, the unique "high priest after the order of Melchizedek"; "holy, blameless, unstained," "by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified," that is, by the unique sacrifice of the cross.

#1741: Liberation and salvation. By his glorious Cross Christ has won salvation for all men. He redeemed them from the sin that held them in bondage. "For freedom Christ has set us free." In him we have communion with the "truth that makes us free." The Holy Spirit has been given to us and, as the Apostle teaches, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." Already we glory in the "liberty of the children of God."

#620: Our salvation flows from God's initiative of love for us, because "he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins" (1 Jn 4:10). "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself" (2 Cor 5:19).

Candy has used this argument several times lately, in her post to Angie and in comments. She seems to feel she really has us cornered. But really, she is not an expert on canon law, and by relying on anti-Catholic groups, she is just spreading false information. The Catechism is currently the standard for Catholic teaching, and by opening it, it is easy to find that our faith affirms the same belief as she holds.

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Tracy said...

Good job Kelly!!

KitKat said...

Wow, Kelly, that was fast! :) Thanks so much for this excellent post.

Elena said...

Wow Kelly that was fast!

Hey kids, I'm out of here tomorrow so I'm taking the comments OFF moderation, so play nice!!

Kelly said...

I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Then I couldn't use the computer for two hours, so it was sort of a toss up.

Sal said...

You know those commercials with the "Do Not Attempt" disclaimers at the bottom?

That goes for thinking you understand theological 'terms of art' and using them, when you don't.

Good one, Kelly.

Deeny said...

Ok Hi guys, I am coming late to this whole thing and I am am not familiar with the whole Council of Trent but this is my observation and for the most part what i see is a semantic game.

My faith is in Christ alone for my salvation for it is only by his name we are saved. Meaning my faith and my belief rest alone in Jesus and no other. That is a very true statement

But looking specifically at the anathma in qestion- I don't think it is necessarily wrong from a Biblical poin of view. My guess is (and I don't know this for an absolute fact) That this particular anathma was written to combat the Sola Fide or "Faith Alone" movement of the Protestant churches.

My understanding is the Cathlolic Church does not believe in Sola fide as such.

We are saved by GRACE ALONE and Not by Faith Alone.

This is very very Biblical- Nowhere in the Bible does it say we are saved by Faith Alone and in fact it says quite the opposite.

James 2:14-24 (New American Standard Bible)
14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. 20You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[d]? 21Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,"[e] and he was called God's friend. 24You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
25In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

The anathma is saying this exactly. It is also saying if you have just a head belief and nothing else it isn't true faith. Again It is basically saying every thing that James Chapter 2 says. Faith without works is a dead faith. And it says that if you say otherwise which would be contradicting what it says in James Chapter 2 you are an anathma.

Here is the anathma in question. Compare it to James Chapter 2

“If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ's sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema.” Sixth Session CANON XII

Maybe it is just me but I don't necessarily find offence in that. Maybe an anathma is a bit strong. But the content of the anathma says what the Bible says.

Just my vary humble observation.
Sincerely Deeny.

Kelly said...

Thanks Deeny! I was planning a future post, probably for tomorrow, where I explained what the canons that she quoted meant.

For now I'm just trying to combat that idea that any one who believes in Sola Fide is automatically condemned to hell by the Catholic Church.