Every day we present a short point that helps bring into focus the treasures of the Roman Catholic Church that comprise the great Deposit of Faith.
It is no secret that over the past thirty years fewer and fewer know their Faith and it shows with the declining number of vocations, parish participation and attendance at Holy Mass. We have the new Catechism of the Catholic Church but for the common man, the one brought up on sound bites and instant gratification, it is more of a text book and that in itself prompts them to shy away from such a tome. So what's a loyal Catholic to do in evangelizing to fellow Catholics and understand their Faith? Our answer: go back to basics - to the great Deposit of Faith. We have the Baltimore Catechism which, for unknown and ridiculous reasons, was shelved after Vatican II. We have the Holy Bible but there are so many newer versions that the Douay-Rheims and Confraternity Latin Vulgate in English versions, the ones used for so long as the official Scriptural text authorized by the Church, seem lost in a maze of new interpretations that water down the Word. This is further complicated by the fact there are so few Douay-Rheims editions in circulation though it is available on the net at
DOUAY-RHEIMS BIBLE. We have so many Vatican documents available at the Vatican web site and other excellent Catholic resource sites that detail Doctrine, Dogma and Canon Law. We have the traditions, and the means of grace but how do we consolidate all these sources into one where it is succinct and easy to understand? We have the perfect vehicle. It is called "My Catholic Faith", now out of print, that was compiled by Bishop Louis Laravoire Morrow and published by My Mission House. This work ties in Scriptural references, the Sacraments, Dogmas, Doctrines, Traditions, Church documents, Encyclical and Papal decrees to clearly illustrate the Faith in simple, solid and concise terms that all can understand and put into practice. We will quote from this work while adding in more recent events and persons when applicable since the book was written in the late forties during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. We also quote from the Catholic Almanac published by Our Sunday Visitor for the Roman Curial offices.
Nothing in Holy Mother Church's teaching has changed and therefore we feel confident that these daily "points of enlightenment" will help more Catholics better understand their faith, especially those who were not blessed with early formation of the faith in the home and their parish school. Regardless of where any Catholic is in his or her journey toward salvation, he or she has to recognize that the Faith they were initiated into at the Sacrament of Baptism is the most precious gift they have been given in life.
THE CHURCH'S VIGILANCE AGAINST SCHISM AND HERESY
Our Lord said: "Everyone therefore who hears these My words and acts upon them, shall be likened to a wise man who built his house on rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, but it did not fall, because it was founded on rock. And everyone who hears these My words and does not act upon them, shall be likened to a foolish man who built his house on sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and was utterly ruined" (Matthew 7:24-27). Non-Catholic churches are the "house upon sand"; they rise up and fall. The Catholic Church is the "house upon rock." It will last forever.
Schism is the refusal to submit to the authority of the Pope; heresy is the formal denial or doubt by a baptized person of any revealed truth of the Catholic Faith.
Apostasy is the total rejection of his Faith by a baptized Christian. With heresy and schism, and supported by persecution, it has caused divisions in the True Church, and the rise of other churches.
Jesus Christ predicted divisions in the Church, and the rise of other churches. From the time of the Apostles new denominations have sprung up, and have divided and subdivided, to form other denominations. With other churches that are non-Christian, the Christian denominations have opposed the Apostolic Church.
"For false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray; if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:24).
After some time, separated as it is from the authority of the Pope, a schismatical church is led into errors in doctrine. Today schismatical churches deny the infallibility of the Pope.
Of the numerous schisms and heresies, the following are a few of the major ones from the first millennium:
- Arius was a priest of Alexandria who taught that Jesus Christ was not God. The heresy of Arius spread rapidly, and was supported by the Roman emperors. He was condemned by the First General Council of the Church, at Nicea, in the year 325; the Council declared the divinity of Christ. In a few centuries the Arian sect was divided and swept away by other errors. Today we know Arius only by name; he has passed on, but the Church he fought still lives, upholding Christ's divinity.
Another heretic of the early days was Macedonius, who denied the divinity of the Holy Ghost. His theories were condemned by the Council of Constantinople in the year 381.
In the fifth century Pelagius denied original sin, and declared grace not necessary for salvation. The doctrines were condemned by the synods of Milevi and Carthage, and the decision ratified by the Pope.
Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople, in the fifth century taught the doctrine that Jesus Christ was two persons: a man and God the Son; only the man Jesus was born of Mary and died on the cross. Hence, the Nestorians rejected the title "Mother of God" for the Blessed Virgin. In the year 431 the Third Council of Ephesus condemned the heresies.
As a form of extreme reaction from Mestorianism, the Monophysites held that Jesus Christ had only one nature, His divinity totally engulfing his humanity. Dioscoros, Patriarch of Alexandria, was the chief propagator of the heresy, which was condemned by the Council of Chalcedon in 451. In an effort to call back the Monophysites to the Church, the heresy of Monothelitism arose. The chief doctrine was the Christ had a single will; the heresy was condemned by the Council of Constantinople in 681.
In the year 727, the Greek emperor Leo forbade all veneration to images on the ground that such veneration was idolatry. The heresy spread, and mobs entered churches to break images, to burn and destroy priceless works of art. Great harm was done to the people and their faith, before this heresy, called Iconoclasm (image-breaking), died out. The Council of Nicea in 787 defined the true doctrine of the Church.
Tomorrow: Schism and Heresy part two