|Apology of the Augsburg Confession||John Paul II and TRENT|
|“If the promise required the law and condition of our merits, it would follow that the promise is useless since we never keep the law.”
Melanchthon’s implication is clear: Therefore, the promise does not require obedience to the law as condition of final salvation.
|In this way, a close connection is made between eternal life and obedience to God’s commandments: God’s commandments show man the path of life and they lead to it. From the very lips of Jesus, the new Moses, man is once again given the commandments of the Decalogue. Jesus himself definitively confirms them and proposes them to us as the way and condition of salvation. The commandments are linked to a promise. – From Veritatis splendor, art. 12.
Perfection demands that maturity in self-giving to which human freedom is called. Jesus points out to the young man that the commandments are the first and indispensable condition for having eternal life, art. 17
The performance of good acts, commanded by the One who “alone is good”, constitutes the indispensable condition of and path to eternal blessedness: “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Mt 19:17). Jesus’ answer and his reference to the commandments also make it clear that the path to that end is marked by respect for the divine laws which safeguard human good.Only the act in conformity with the good can be a path that leads to life, art. 72.
Keeping God’s law in particular situations can be difficult, extremely difficult, but it is never impossible. This is the constant teaching of the Church’s tradition, and was expressed by the Council of Trent: “But no one, however much justified, ought to consider himself exempt from the observance of the commandments, nor should he employ that rash statement, forbidden by the Fathers under anathema, that the commandments of God are impossible of observance by one who is justified. For God does not command the impossible, but in commanding he admonishes you to do what you can and to pray for what you cannot, and he gives his aid to enable you. His commandments are not burdensome (cf. 1 Jn 5:3); his yoke is easy and his burden light (cf. Mt 11:30)”, art. 102.
Absolutely absurd to entertain offering communion to those in the state of mortal sin.
I heard at Mass today the following verse from the just man: “When evildoers assail me, to devour my flesh, my adversaries and foes, they shall stumble and fall,” I was consoled and took comfort.
For the Bible teaches us to read the Psalms as hymns of Christ, either speaking of himself or speaking in the person of a sinner. Here, Christ speaks of himself and also in the person of the victim. But let us hear this speaking in a Eucharistic key. Christ is lamenting that wicked men who have not yet repented of their malice are approaching to consume him in the Eucharistic species. This rends his heart for two reasons. First, it is sacrilege that defiles his August Sacrament. Second, it is hurtful to the very persons who do this. For this is a sacrament of union. Yet, one cannot embrace one’s friend in union when one has offended him mortally, until one first apologizes in the proper way. This proper way is repentance and reception of the Sacrament of Confession.
O Lord, spare the sinner this injustice to you and this injustice to himself. Let not the wicked devour the flesh of Christ.
|Apology of the Augsburg Confession:
Cites Romans 7:7, 7:23, etc. All on Paul’s use of “sin” for the justified. Comments: “These testimonies cannot be overthrown by sophistry. For clearly they call concupiscence sin, which nevertheless is not reckoned to those who are in Christ even though it is by nature worthy of death where it is not forgiven. This is undoubtedly what the Fathers thought.
|AUGUSTINE: … Baptism gives remission of all sins, and takes away guilt, and does not shave them off; and that the roots of all sins are not retained in the evil flesh, as if of shaved hair on the head, whence the sins may grow to be cut down again….
Concerning that concupiscence:… But although this is called sin, it is certainly so called not because it is sin, but because it is made by sin, as a writing is said to be some one’s hand because the hand has written it. But they are sins which are unlawfully done, spoken, thought, according to the lust of the flesh, or to ignorance— things which, once done, keep their doers guilty if they are not forgiven (Augustine, Against Two Epistles of the Pelagians, Chap. 13 or 27, depending on the numbering).
|TRENT / DOGMA: If any one denies, that, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted; or even asserts that the whole of that which has the true and proper nature of sin is not taken away; but says that it is only shaved off [analogy to shaving hair, which still has its roots in place] or not imputed; let him be anathema. For, in those who are born again, there is nothing that God hates; because, There is no condemnation to those who are truly buried together with Christ by baptism into death; who walk not according to the flesh, but, putting off the old man, and putting on the new who is created according to God, are made inno-[Page 24]cent, immaculate, pure, harmless, and beloved of God, heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ; so that there is nothing whatever to retard their entrance into heaven. But this holy synod confesses and is sensible, that in the baptized there remains concupiscence, or an incentive (to sin); which, whereas it is left for our exercise, cannot injure those who consent not, but resist manfully by the grace of Jesus Christ; yea, he who shall have striven lawfully shall be crowned. This concupiscence, which the apostle sometimes calls sin, the holy Synod declares that the Catholic Church has never understood it to be called sin, as being truly and properly sin in those born again, but because it is of sin, and inclines to sin. TRENT, SESSION V, CANON 5.|
Our Zeitgeist tells us that sin is not rooted in error. More precisely, it tells us that if there is intellectual error there is no culpability. Now, in particular cases, it can be that intellectual error mitigates or erases culpability. But it is universally the case that sin is rooted in intellectual error.
That error can lead to sin is clear from Wisdom. Solomon declares: “Perverse thoughts separate men from God.” This claim alone chafes against our Zeitgeist. Solomon continues: “Ungodly men … reasoned unsoundly.” Their unsound reasoning in fact resembles the materialists of today. See chap. 2 of this lofty book. Their decision to do ungodly deeds is rooted in this error: “Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist, and make use of the creation to the full as in youth.”
We have here a materialist conception of man: You are but organized dust; though, obviously, you are conscious dust; hence, you can have pleasure, if limbs will allow it; drink, then, your fill of pleasure and count not the cost.
Sound philosophy, too, shows us that intellectual error can lead to moral wrong. Even more, it shows us that all moral wrong is rooted in such error.
But then the question is put to Socrates: So, if only we can educate people, they will see truth? Is this not obviously false?
Yes, the stereotyped Socrates got it wrong. Aristotle is more incisive. I might know the law in a universal way. I know that all thievery is wrong. I know it. Really know it. But on this occasion, I am staring at the gold in my neighbor’s house. I contemplate the lowliness of my physical estate. At the gold’s glittering, greed sends roots into my heart. I seize it and count not the cost.
What happens in sin is that I judge the evil to be good for me on this occasion. I know the law in the universal sense. But in the particular sense, I strike at its heal so as to ignore its wisdom. I plunge into my plan of order, which contradicts the universal and divine sense of order.
In short, I choose to see things in a distorted light. I choose the intellectual error by which I can rejoice in the sin I am about to commit.
Hence, I am culpable for this error: “The ungodly will be punished as their reasoning deserves.”
Hence, if we are to avoid sin, then, as the Greek Catholics preach: “Wisdom! Be attentive.”
Now, if the individual sinner who sins on an occasion must ignore the universal law for the moment, so that he may enjoy his pleasure that contradicts that law, then the committed or hardened sinner must strive to re-write that universal law itself. Though he knows it habitually, he chooses not to think on it. He chooses actually to displace it with another universal law. However, since his mind cannot undo the first principles of reason itself and their immediate implications, he exists in a state of internal self-contradiction.
He declares that fornication is OK. Free sex is OK. Or unnatural sex is OK. Or masturbation is OK. Or pornography is OK.
Yet, his inward mind cannot out the law inscribed within that condemns the damned spot. So, he is at war with himself.
And if your ways contradict his set ways, he no longer tries to evade your presence and sin in secret. Rather, he attempts to write your ways as evil and his ways as good. He re-legislates. He does not flee but rather declares war on God’s eternal law. And anyone who lives in that eternal law and serves as its Icon– such a one he murders: “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions…. The very sight of him is a burden to us.”
Finally, if in history there are examples here and examples there of the individual sinner who evades God’s law; if there are examples here and there of sinners making bold against the Law of God; if there are examples here and there of groups of sinners making bold collectively against the Rule of Law…, then let us know who read the signs of the times that an all-out war is upon us. That the Church of God herself is this righteous person. That the City of Man has had enough of all residue of the universal law within this Church of God. That the City of Man surely plots the death of the Church of God, the way the ungodly plotted the death of the righteous man in Wisdom.
Shall we fear? No. But a head in the sand is in fact fear itself. We must face our future with resolution. Not that of Heidegger but that of Christ. And he promises us: The jaws of death, summoned by its demonic worshippers, shall not prevail.
Mercy cannot be understood apart from the poverty and emptiness, especially the sinfulness, of man. Mercy is the free act that sustains a needy thing. We all, as creatures, are needy. God’s creative act is the mercy that sustains us, even before we sin. We are also empty of ourselves, unfulfilled just in existing. God’s wise mercy is committed to bring to fulfillment what he began in creating us. His gentle providence leads us home.
Now that we have sinned, and inherited from Adam that primal sin called original, we require the mercy of forgiveness. But note that forgiveness is given where law is violated. What is called for is a mature reception of forgiveness. Such reception requires the recognition of the evil that one has committed. One must recognize one’s act as evil. One must reject that act. One can reject it either out of love for God above all things, or out of the fear of hell. Only the love of God is a salutary rejection, but the fear of hell ain’t all that bad. In fact, the Church teaches that it is good and not bad. The Church rejects those who condemn the fear of hell as itself evil.
Now, in order to recognize that my sinful action is evil, I must know the Law that it violates. I must recognize the Law of God’s mind as knowable by reason — natural law. And / or I must recognize God’s law given freely to men in the 10 Commandments.
But how can I know the Law unless someone helps me to know it? For fragile and weak, darkened and distorted are our minds unless God’s light shines in the darkness. Yes, yes, natural reason can in principle know the truths of natural law. In principle, but not so easily in practice. Practically speaking, we need help from above. We need the Church to shine the light of God on our minds. Thus, we are elevated above human limitations to a certain knowledge, clearer than the noonday sun, of what the good is that must be done and what the evil is that must be shunned. The paths laid out before us – the paths of life and death – we know which way we must trod in order to reach that blessed abode, where tears no longer fall upon our faces, where shadows are not cast on all our plans, where joints do not ache with age, where limbs are youthful to express the love the heart bears, were brothers dwell in peace. Ah, Lord: The blessed way you have given us in your person and your body, The Church, our true Mother on earth, our dearest homeland in this weary pilgrimage.
And when we know these paths, yet forsake the good one in pursuit of evil, when our own minds then convict us of our sin, we are cut to the heart because we know the truth clearly. We then reach out a hand, for help. And help comes near. A friend sits with us, while we weep for our own sins. A friend consoles us while we fear judgment. A friend leads us back the proper way. Not denying, not lying. Rather, our friend takes us to the channels of mercy, the confessional and the Eucharist, penance and ashes. Only then can we feel at peace, at one with ourselves in the unity restored between our soul and God.
Consider, then, what happens when no one knows the Law. When darkness prevails. When the many call Good evil and Evil good. When perversion abounds. When lies abound. When flattery is the rain, and deception the wind. When the light of the sun is man’s own construction, his aims projected outward with fiery wrath that denies the in-born natural inclinations. How, then, can a man recognize his own fault? How should he ever claim “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa” when the Law he knows not?
And why does he not know the law? Because the Bishops are silent. Yes, even Peter fails to offer a clear presentation of the true faith. Because the Priests remain silent. Because all the world that should lead to that vision of the two paths, that should cast a light upon darkening minds, so that they might be elevated towards the participation in the One True Light – because all these have gone astray. They fail to preach because it is not in season.
What, then, of the poor man who sins in ignorance? What must his friend do for him? Instead of greeting him in his own clear recognition of fault, and lifting him up towards the font of life… instead of all the finer elements of mercy, his friend must first preach to him the Law. His friend must do what the priest, the bishop, even Peter have failed to do. His friend must preach the Law so that the real sin might be laid bare. And then the friend must extend the finer elements of mercy. Etc.
But it is notoriously difficult for a sinner to undergo both aspects of his friend’s love. And it is notoriously difficult for a friend to maintain both these aspects in balance. Indeed, if the priests, and the bishops are in fact preaching contrary to the Law and the real teaching of Holy Mother Church, then this friend must in fact correct them. Correct them so as to direct the poor wandering, alienated and forgotten, trampled upon soul of the misled man who thinks that Evil is good and Good evil.
And what confusion is provoked now! The princes of the Church being corrected on the spot by some poor member of the Church for the sake of the salvation of another poor member. While the rich batten on spoil.
O great perversion. Yet, be corrected they must! For those who preach error invite correction.
Speak Truth, Ye Pastors. The Full Truth. And Nothing But the Truth.
For the law of morality is universal and exceptionless. This is the foundation and presupposition of all true Mercy. Mercy does not obstruct the law and cancel it. Now, it enables its fulfillment. Thus, if you strangle the law’s voice with your silence, you eclipse Mercy from drawing a man home. But if a man through your diligent courage knows the full truth, then the laity are free to lead him to the waters of mercy that you are charged to dispense, faithfully and lovingly. Thus, let the laity do their proper role. Let them work on the application of principles. Preach the principles.
Below is a speech I gave to some fathers and sons at a campout in Texas.
We are all men here. Boys are men in training. So yes, even you boys are men, in training. You don’t have much authority yet; you have some responsibility and perhaps some authority. But you are on the way. There is no sooner time to start training than now. Why?
Because the world needs you. Because the Church needs you.
There are some who say that men are not needed these days. Tough guys are not needed. Those who stand up for the truth are not needed. Those who defend the defenseless are not needed. Why would someone say that? Perhaps they think all is well in the world; everything is ok; nothing is harmful; no bad guys need to be put in place and shown a lesson.
You see this in some early children’s books. The sharks don’t actually eat little fish; they talk “nicely” to them. Wolves don’t actually eat lambs; they take care of them. These pictures and fuzzy feelings are nice, perhaps, for very little children. But once we wake up to reality, we know they are false. And those who keep telling these tales to older people are lying, pulling the wool over our eyes.
So let’s get back to our topic: Why does the world need you? Because it needs good men, who love the Lord God, the Father of Jesus, above all creatures and especially above self. It needs men who love the Lord with all their hearts and at all times, 24/7. It needs strong men who can make a change in the world on the basis of that love. Strength is needed because there are very strong, very numerous, and very smart enemies out there.
What kind of enemies? Four kinds. Some enemies are enemies of the country, our beloved homeland. Some enemies are enemies of the Church, our true Mother on earth, whom we esteem and obey, even before country. As St. Thomas More said, “I am the King’s good servant, but God’s first.” So, that’s two basic kinds of enemy. But each home, our homeland and our Mother the Church, has two kinds of enemies, those who are on the outside and those who are on the inside.
It’s easy to understand enemies outside. These are armies, for example, that would love to bomb America, or they are atheists and pagans who would love to see the Catholic Church destroyed. Popes have been warning us for over three centuries about various groups that want to destroy the Catholic Church. They hold secret meetings and think out how they can accomplish this. Outside enemies are easy to understand.
Harder to understand is that there are inside enemies also. An inside enemy is one who pretends to be a loyal citizen of the homeland but really is plotting treachery against all that is dear, against the homeland. These enemies have to be secret for a long time, working to change people’s minds about the homeland. There comes a time when they no longer have to be so secret. When is that? It is when no one really understands what the homeland is about. In the 1950’s, there were enemies of our homeland that had to be secret. They supported the communists. In case you don’t know, communists want to destroy all private property. For instance, they want to take your Dad’s own home and car so they no longer belong to him. Say you have a nerf gun you bought with money you made by raking leaves. The communists would say that you can’t own that gun. No one can own it. In the end, what this means is that a few people who control everything own it, and they give it to whomever they please. It would be like your Dad just taking your gun from you and never giving it back, not because you did anything wrong, not because you misused it, not because you were being annoying, not because you didn’t do your chores, but just because nothing can be yours – even after hard work.
In the 1950’s Russia – which then was called the Soviet Union – was run by communists. No private property. Yet, they expected people to do work anyway.
Well think: Would you do your chores if you could never get anything by doing them? Nothing whatsoever? Not even movie night? Not even a smile or a thank you from your Mom? I’m only giving an example here. Chores are, in fact our duty. None of us Dads gets paid for playing ball with you, for feeding you when you are little, for raking the leaves. Some things, indeed, we have to do without reward. On the other hand, rewards are helpful. If your Dad didn’t get paid, you would not eat. But he loves you and wants to feed you. Think: Would he work very hard at his job if he didn’t get paid? Not likely. Well, back in the 1950’s there were secret communists in our government. They were plotting against the very things our homeland values. They were using their office to overthrow the homeland.
Similar things can happen even in the Church. There can be Catholics who don’t really believe the whole faith. Maybe they believe part of it. Rather than confessing their sins to a priest and working to believe the whole faith, they try to change the Church to suit their own ideas. They think, for instance, that it is too crazy to say that God became man. No way. Not possible. Why would Almighty God want to become so lowly as us, who can die, who get thirsty and hungry, tired and sick, who sometimes stink and sweat – especially at camp! Rather than trusting Jesus and what he said and the Church he set up to spread over the whole world – the Catholic Church – they decide to make Jesus into their own image and likeness. If he said hard things, about loving your neighbor, they want to change them, water them down. If he said that the road is wide and easy that leads to everlasting hell, they want to change what he said and say salvation is pretty easy and just about everybody gets saved. If he said that he alone is the way to salvation, they say, “No, he is just one way; there are plenty of other ways.” If he said that we – his disciples – should spread the good news about him everywhere and patiently / lovingly hope and work so that others may accept him fully and become Catholic, they say that we should not do that but just let Muslims be Muslims and pagans be pagans and not ever speak to them, respectfully, about Jesus. Open heretics just leave the Church and set up their own. But the secret heretics don’t leave; they try to change the Church from within.
Now, Jesus did promise us that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church. But let’s think about this for one moment. He said the gates of hell would not prevail. He did not say they would not attack. And note, the “gates” signify the kingdom. What Jesus is saying in his clever way is that the kingdom of hell will march very close to the Church and try to enter her very borders in order to overthrow her. In short, he did not promise a rosy picture. All the saints knew this. He promised that the Church would endure. He also foretold that many would become traitors. He keeps his promise, but he allows what he foresees.
So, what should we do? Give up? Run away? Boys, if we run away because things get difficult, we’ll never be men. We’ll never be happy. In fact, men were meant to fight and do battle, to get strong so as to protect the weak. There is real honor in this, and also real happiness. That’s probably why you all own nerf guns and nerf swords. Because you want to do battle.
Well, let me close on a story about a great saint who did battle. His name was Athanasius. He lived in the 300’s. When he was still fairly young, he wrote a book defending our faith, defending the divinity of Jesus, true God and true man. About two years after he wrote that book, another man, a member of the Church but an enemy, an inside enemy, began to write about Jesus as well. He also wrote cool songs that people liked to sing. And in these songs and books, he said things like, “Jesus is not God” and “There was a time when there was no Son of God”. The songs were so cool that many people began singing them, all over the place. Soon, priests and bishops were also singing them. In other words, Christians were losing the faith. Catholics, lay men, priests, and even bishops, were singing things that are blasphemous, that break the second commandment. This was heresy. The man was a heretic. His name was Arius. Many of these people were powerful. There were also soldiers and military people who were on the side of this heretic.
What did Athanasius do? He helped the good bishops when they called a general meeting to straighten things out. Such a meeting is an Ecumenical Council. Many bishops gathered. They clearly taught that Arius’s idea was a heresy. They totally rejected it. They said that Jesus the Son of God is “consubstantial with the Father” which means he is true God just as the Father is true God. If you pay attention at Mass, you’ll hear the words “Consubstantial with the Father”. That’s where they come from.
Well, you’d think that after a council such as this, Arius and his followers would either leave the faith all together or else change their ways. Instead, they kept on preaching their heresy. They won over more bishops and priests and lay people. In other words, things got worse because they totally ignored the dogma that was just taught.
Thankfully, Athanasius became bishop in Egypt in a city called Alexandria. As bishop, Athanasius defended the true faith and the dogma of the council. But many people didn’t like him. They wanted him to “get along and go along” with all these cool songs and cool heretics. He stayed firm. So the people got political leaders to kick him out of the city. This happened twice. Twice he came back to the city and was restored as bishop. He was getting old. But he did not get soft. He did not cave in. He did not surrender. He loved Jesus too much. He would rather die than ever betray the One who gave him life, whose flesh he received at the Altar of Holy Mass.
His fidelity helped save the Church. How? He fought so fiercely and with such love, that many bishops began to see how awful a heresy was Arius’s idea. Meanwhile, Arius had begun to gain the emperor’s favor. When questioned by the emperor as to his beliefs, Arius swore that he accepted the Church’s faith. The emperor and his cohort then wanted Arius to be able to receive communion the next day. The local bishop, Alexander, insisted that more testing was needed. Alexander thought that Arius was lying as to his real beliefs so he could secretly foster his heresy in the Church. Well, it looked as though the emperor would pressure Alexander to give the Eucharist to Arius. What did the good bishop do? He prayed to God that God take the life of Arius, so that Arius not receive unworthily and a sacrilege not be committed. And what happened that very night? Arius got deadly sick and died.
Now I come to the saddest part of the story. If you think poor Athanasius had suffered enough, not so. Later on, the very pope himself was pressured by the emperor to do things to please the Arians. For the Arian heresy was still alive and kicking thirty years later. Well, the pope did things to please the emperor. Among the worst things he did was to depose Athanasius as bishop. Of course, the pope had the power to do this. But we can also ask whether it was the right thing to do. Rather than go soft on the Arians, Athanasius stood firm and thus lost his bishopric. He did so because he loved Jesus and his Church, even more than he loved to please men. Well, after his death, the popes recognized that Athanasius was a good and holy bishop. He is now honored as a saint and Doctor of the Church. He defended the true good of the Church in a time of great crisis. He lost everything for this. In fact, he was ultimately deposed four times. He did not lose his love for his brothers, even a love for Arius. He kept it and maintained at the same time a steadfast zeal for God and a great love for his Church and for her dogmatic teachings.
Each of us will have his own difficulties. We will each have some battle to fight, in fact many battles to fight. We must do so with great love and gentleness, but also with firmness and steadfastness. We must not cave in, go with the “cool things” just to be cool. We must honor God above all, be loyal to his Church and her dogmas even in the face of Catholics who reject them, love our homeland, our families, and every neighbor God puts next to us. We will do it. You will do it. With God’s help, we’ll do it.