Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Am I Safe from Rome's Anathemas?

A pseudonymous blogger under the penname Reginald de Piperno (RdP), responding to my opening post in my series on Trent (link to post), stated:
For example, TF claims that he is under the anathema of Trent. But unless he is or was formally Catholic, this is flatly impossible. I do not understand the seeming fondness of some Protestants for wanting to be condemned by the Catholic Church. Perhaps it is some sort of projection issue: these folks despise the Catholic Faith, and so maybe they think that naturally Catholics or the Church ought to despise them in turn. Their protests notwithstanding, it's just not so, as I've said before. This fact does not mean that Protestant error is no longer reckoned to be erroneous. On the contrary: Trent has in no way been rescinded (of course). It simply means that most Protestants today are incapable of being the subject of any Catholic anathema whatever, because they do not meet a fundamental condition: they have never been Catholic. If he wishes to say that his beliefs have been condemned by the Catholic Church, then he would get no argument from me (to the extent that his views are in fact false and actually under formal condemnation).
I answer line by line.

RdP wrote: "For example, TF claims that he is under the anathema of Trent."

Yes. It's not just a claim, there is really no reasonable doubt about it.

RdP wrote: "But unless he is or was formally Catholic, this is flatly impossible."

I don't give out my background, but I will acknowledge that I have received Trinitarian baptism with water. I think most Roman Catholics would accept that baptism as "valid" whether or not it was performed by a Roman Catholic cleric.

The Code of Canon Law states: "By baptism one is incorporated into the Church of Christ and is constituted a person in it with the duties and rights which are proper to Christians in keeping with their condition, insofar as they are in ecclesiastical communion and unless a legitimately issued sanction stands in the way." (Canon 96)

It furthermore states: "The Christian faithful are those who, inasmuch as they have been incorporated in Christ through baptism, have been constituted as the people of God. For this reason, made sharers in their own way in Christ’s priestly, prophetic, and royal function, they are called to exercise the mission which God has entrusted to the Church to fulfill in the world, in accord with the condition proper to each." (Canon 204 §1.)

Thus, despite any desire on my part to be affiliated with Rome and her prelate, I am considered by Rome's current definitions to be a "Catholic" and part of the "Christian faithful."

I am not, however, in full communion with Rome: "Those baptized are fully in the communion of the Catholic Church on this earth who are joined with Christ in its visible structure by the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical governance." (Canon 205)

RdP appears to lack this rather fundamental understanding of the scope of Rome's claims regarding herself. She claims for the pope a recognized headship over the Roman Catholic Church but an unrecognized headship over all those who have been validly baptized. That's part of the Roman Catholic Church trying to call itself the "catholic church." The "catholic church" by definition includes within it all Christians, and Rome recognizes as Christians all those who have been validly baptized.

Even if the pope did not claim to be my head, however, there is no limit in Trent's anathema as to it applying only to the Christian faithful. It says, quite plainly, "If any one saith" not "If any Roman Catholic saith" or "If any Christian saith."

RdP wrote: "I do not understand the seeming fondness of some Protestants for wanting to be condemned by the Catholic Church."

I have no particular desire either to be included within Rome's claims of jurisdiction or to be placed under her condemnation. The facts simply are what they are. I can understand that those seeking to proselytize "Protestants" might like to downplay the condemnation side (for the same reason that some "Protestant" proselytizers don't like to mention sin) but the facts remain.

RdP wrote: "Perhaps it is some sort of projection issue: these folks despise the Catholic Faith, and so maybe they think that naturally Catholics or the Church ought to despise them in turn."

One wonders whether RdP thinks that placing someone under an anathema means "despising" that person. If not, one wonders how RdP's amateurish psycho-analysis is supposed to connect to the matter at hand. It is clear that Rome is attempting to anathematize someone, and that someone is someone who says what I say. Despising or loving is not the issue under discussion.

RdP: "Their protests notwithstanding, it's just not so, as I've said before."

RdP's link is to a prior occasion on which he attempted to argue with me about whether Rome considered the Reformers to be Christians. That they did not so consider them could hardly be more clear. I am not going to re-argue that point now. Yet RdP ought to have read the sources he himself relied-upon more closely. For example, the so-called "Catholic Encyclopedia" that he himself quoted notes that: "The fact of having received valid baptism places material heretics under the jurisdiction of the Church, and if they are in good faith, they belong to the soul of the Church." (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913, volume 7, p. 261, in the sub-section of the section on Heresy entitled "Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction over Heretics.")

RdP wrote: "This fact does not mean that Protestant error is no longer reckoned to be erroneous."

"Error" sounds nicer than "heresy," doesn't it? One wonders, though, how RdP would answer the question as to whether holding a damnable heresy is still damnable?

RdP wrote: "It simply means that most Protestants today are incapable of being the subject of any Catholic anathema whatever, because they do not meet a fundamental condition: they have never been Catholic."

See above.

RdP wrote: "If he wishes to say that his beliefs have been condemned by the Catholic Church, then he would get no argument from me (to the extent that his views are in fact false and actually under formal condemnation)."

What is interesting is that Trent's anathema (at least the one I've already discussed) is not against particular beliefs, nor even against particular statements but against the people who make those statements. RdP seems to have missed this fact in his analysis.

Aside from an introductory note, the remainder of RdP's comments in his post deal with the issue of Trent's bad faith or ignorance of the Reformed position. He doesn't offer any arguments on the merits of the issue, and so I'll simply leave that alone. As to his introductory question regarding being the inspiration for the series, the answer is that he is not. Nevertheless, he may end up being implicated in the discussion, since he has done a number of relatively recent posts on the topic of Trent and Justification.

-TurretinFan

13 comments:

natamllc said...

A few things now, one, two and three, possibly four?

One, I would find it an honor to be considered anathema by the RCC.

Two, this is jesty and making light of what is obviously serious stuff; one said that after they die and so, me too, that three things will be apparent. One, I find myself in Heaven and a name place at His table. Two, I will be surprised who also has a name place at His table and three, I will be puzzled at who is absent from His table.

Three, also being Trinitarian baptized, I consider myself as much a "Protester" as the rest of them when one considers what our protest is.

Well, I won't add four then. No. I guess I will assert that if there are no anathemas, then Biblical Christianity is a farse and we ought all call it quits, eat, drink and be merry for we will soon die!

Pilgrimsarbour said...

I am wondering why at least some Catholics appear to be anxious to make Protestants understand that we are not under Rome's anathema. Is this official RCC doctrine now? Does this idea come from the top down, or do some of these online Catholic folks find Trent's proclamations too harsh?

In either case, it seems to me to represent a big change in the RCC.

Anonymous said...

You aren't under anathema TF.
-Kelly

Turretinfan said...

Mr. Hoffer:

Thanks for your comments. I would suggest you read these two prior posts regarding the misconception that the 1983 code of canon law eliminated anathema (first link)(second link).

Perhaps you have something to add that the others have overlooked in that regard.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

RdP has a follow-up post (here) which hopefully has or will be automatically linked in the "comments elsewhere" section.

Very briefly responding:

1) RdP's analysis of Canon 96 ignores the fact that the second half on which he focuses is separated from the first half by an "and."

2) "Merely ecclesiastical laws" to which RdP refers are not relevant to our discussion.

3) There doesn't seem to be much else of substance on the topic of this post, and consequently there is not much more to respond to.

4) I encourage RdP to read this, which will help better to inform him as to the relation of merely ecclesiastical laws, formal defection, and baptism (obviously, I don't approve of this work, but it is something with which canonists should be familiar)(link).

5) Likewise, the following document (same caveats) may help him understand the different (by way of example) between divine law and merely ecclesiastical law (link).

Pilgrimsarbour said...

I should add that having been born and raised Catholic, I am most certainly under the anathema of Trent. Am I not correct?

Turretinfan said...

PA:

Plainly, some of these folks think you are not. Canon law has been making it harder and harder to defect, as outlined in that second article I commended to RdP.

-TurretinFan

Paul Hoffer said...

Hello Mr. Fan: I have read the articles you linked to and offer this response. I apologize that I can not provide you with more details as my father is facing some serious surgery it is preoccupying my thoughts at the moment. (Please keep him in your prayers) However, out of courtesy to you and your readers, I offer the following.

It is important to understand that the use of the word anathema in the former canon law, conciliar documents, and papal decrees may have different connotations than its usages in the Scriptures. Further, the term excommunication is not always equated with anathema. Its usage in the canon law as I understand it was to denote certain form or type of excommunication in the Catholic Church reserved as a penalty for only the most serious canonical offenses. Thus, an anathema was a penalty that could have been imposed as a consequence of the issuance of a decree of excommunication in certain circumstances, but such a penalty was not generally imposed as the penalty in a decree of excommunication. The procedure for imposing the anathema as a sanction was settled upon sometime in the 1300's.

Whenever a canon law tribunal issues a decree of excommunication, the decree sets forth not only findings of fact and the evidence considered, and the offense that the member of the Church was found to have violated, but also the terms of how that individual can get back into good standing with the Catholic Church. Excommunications are considered medicinal as well as punitive. Furthermore, there are various degrees of excommunication that a decree cold impose. Remember that excommunication really means to exclude a member from receiving the benefits of full communion with the Church. Thus, a decree of excommunication could allow an individual member to receive some of the sacraments and deny them the ability to receive others usually the Eucharist. A person who was subjected to the penalty of anathema incurred the most severe form of excommunication which only the Pope could impose through a solemn ritual which was performed only after that person had exhausted all levels of appeal. A person who was anathematized through such a process had to publically confess his sin, engage in sincere and objectively observable repentance for the commission of the sin and make restitution to the person harmed by the sin if possible. For example, in the case of formal material heresy, if a person had written a heretical work and published it, that person, if previously declared anathematized, would have to retract their heretical views in writing as a part of their penance. The goal of such a process was to leave no doubt for the other members of the Church that the person who was anathematized was no longer in formal communion with the Catholic Church so that other members of the Church would not be led astray by that person’s conduct. Furthermore, it gave the punished individual himself, who was excommunicated in such a manner, the means through the enunciation of objective criteria by which they could get back into the Church good graces if they so desired. I would also note that a person could not automatically incur the penalty of anathema, but had to receive the benefit of a hearing, the opportunity to hear the evidence against him and present evidence on his behalf and to confront his accusers. (For example, consider the proceedings against Arius or Pelagius. Pelagius was even acquitted by one local council)

Paul Hoffer said...

comment cont.

The 1983 Code of Canon law did away with the papal ceremony that constituted the imposition of an anathema in the sense I ascribe here. This type of penalty is no longer available as a penalty that could be imposed in the Catholic Church although I will acknowledge that the Church could bring it back if it wanted to do so. This is not to say that a person can no longer be excommunicated in the Catholic Church. It merely means that a person is not subjected to the penalty of anathema used in the disciplinary sense of the word.

In one of the articles that you asked me to read, you had difficult distinguishing between a penal law and a penalty. At the time of the founding of our country, all felonies were punishable by death. However, after the Revolutionary War, the penalty for many felonies were changed to incarceration rather than hanging. The crime was the same, those in authority had the right to modify the penalty for the commission of that crime. This situation is no different.

It is important to note that your trinitarian baptism may make you a spiritual member of the Catholic Church (as acknowledged in Lumen Gentium 14), it does not make you a formal member of the Church who could be subjected to the potential penalties found in the canon law. In contrast, the reformers certainly could have faced being excommunicated and have the penalty of anathema imposed upon them because they were all pretty much card-carrying members of the Catholic Church. However, you would not because from what you have said you were not ever formally recognized as a member of the Catholic Church. You would have had to be formally recognized as a member of the Catholic Church in order to formally defect from it. Such recognition ordinarily comes through the receipt of the sacrament of confirmation.

In regards to Messrs. LLC and PilgrimsArbour who I understand were once formal members of the Catholic Church, they still would not be subject to the penalty of excommunication unless certain criteria were first met. These criteria are found here: “ http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/intrptxt/documents/rc_pc_intrptxt_doc_20060313_actus-formalis_en.html .” Most people who leave the Church do not bother to go through ALL of the formalities set forth in this curial document and thus would not be subjected to the penalty of excommunication as most people do not go through the hassle of complying with the third prong. They leave the Church for a number of reasons aside from doctrinal grounds (Mr. LLC claims that he never once was given a Bible to read while he was a Catholic–since my family had one in practically every room of our home, I had the opportunity to go to Mass frequently, sometimes everyday for weeks at a time, to hear the Word of God proclaimed and at my Catholic school we started off the day with daily readings from the Scriptures and ended it with prayer, I was blessed not to suffer that deprivation of grace) and start going to another without much fanfare or hullabaloo. Even if these gentlemen did go through all of the formalities and were declared to have left the Church by an actus formalis defectionus, the linked article makes it clear that sacramentally they are still connected by baptism to the Church of Christ and depending the state of their souls still could receive the grace of perseverance. As St. Francis de Sales noted, not all heretics are as guilty of heresy as another.

Paul Hoffer said...

comment cont.

In summary, all an excommunication really means is that an excommunicated member of the Catholic Church no longer has succor or recourse to receiving the sacraments (other than reconciliation) and the graces that come from their receipt. That is in fact all it has ever meant in the Church going all the way back to St. Paul and 1 Corinthians 16 and Galatians. Even prior to 1983 when I suppose the penalty of anathema could have been imposed for heretical behavior, I am not aware of either of these gentlemen engaging in the degree of contumacious or vehement behavior that would have warranted that sort of public juridical punishment.

In regards to the sense it is used in the canons of Trent, anathema sit is a bit different than incurring the penalty of anathema. Anathema sit is merely another way of clearly and explicitly declaring that a certain doctrine was infallibly defined and a Catholic who formally and materially denied the truth of such could be penalized by an appropriate tribunal for such.

I hope this helps TF, LLC and PA. I realize that I am not a canon lawyer, although I am a lawyer and I did get to shoot off a cannon once at Boy Scout summer camp :), but the link I have provided here might be helpful to your studies of Catholic ecclesiastical disciplinary processes.

As for Messrs. LLC and PA, I will keep you gentlemen in my prayers that you someday might find your way back to the Catholic Church. If not, I echo the words of Saint Edmund Campion: “If these my offers be refused, and my endeavours can take no place, and I, having run thousands of miles to do you good, shall be rewarded with rigour. I have no more to say but to recommend your case and mine to Almighty God, the Searcher of Hearts, who send us his grace, and see us at accord before the day of payment, to the end we may at last be friends in heaven, when all injuries shall be forgotten.”


God bless!

Paul Hoffer said...

Sorry TF, I see that you apparently linked to that curial document in a comment after mine. As far as being able to defect from the Church, I think this is pretty much the way it has been for a while. I think you are confusing the condemnation of a the heresy a person teaches with the authority to condemn personally a heretic. I would suggest that there is a difference.

Blessings again!

Turretinfan said...

Mr. Hoffer:

In response:

1) I would point you back to my earlier articles on anathema and the 1983 code. As the second of those articles indicates, "anathema" can be used in a broad sense as to any excommunication.

2) I agree that (as far as I know) there is no special rite of anathema (as there used to be in special cases) in Catholicism these days.

3) It should be noted that there various kinds of excommunication in Catholicism. The very pronounced kind (to avoid using the technical terms) requires the various prongs outlined in the article we both identified, but lesser excommunications (again, avoiding the technical terms) can be more easily triggered.

4) One of your comments really gets to the heart of the matter. It deals specifically with the fact that the "anathema" of Trent is not a reference to the rite of anathema (as such). You state: "In regards to the sense it is used in the canons of Trent, anathema sit is a bit different than incurring the penalty of anathema. Anathema sit is merely another way of clearly and explicitly declaring that a certain doctrine was infallibly defined and a Catholic who formally and materially denied the truth of such could be penalized by an appropriate tribunal for such." That may need a bit of nuanced refinement, but it essentially gets to the heart of the matter, namely that Trent is condemning those who hold positions contrary to the canons of Trent as being outside the faith.

natamllc said...

For me, if there is any "light" to see, when I read these words, Mr. Hoffer, my heart leaped a bit:::>

"....It is important to understand that the use of the word anathema in the former canon law, conciliar documents, and papal decrees may have different connotations than its usages in the Scriptures.".

I would that you would go all the way and come out of her as the Scripture commands and know unequivocally that they "do" have, not that they "may" have different connotations than its usages in the Scriptures:::>

Rev 18:4 Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues;
Rev 18:5 for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.
Rev 18:6 Pay her back as she herself has paid back others, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed.