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
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.
The great schism suffered by the Christian Church was that of the East, resulting in the establishment of the Orthodox Eastern Church. The Eastern emperors, desiring more power in the Church, tried to make the patriarchs of Constantinople independent of Rome. Finally, Photius, with the support of the emperor, held a council of Eastern bishops in the year 867, and broke from Rome.
The cause of the schism was not doctrinal, but rather political and material - jealousy between the East and West. It has resulted in the separation from Rome of millions of people with valid priesthood and sacraments. In the United States there are a number of schismatical churches, among them the Greek Orthodox, and the Russian Church. After minor schisms and misunderstandings between East and West in 1054 there was a final break by Cerularius patriarch of Constantinople, continuing today.
Today the Orthodox Eastern Church remains in schism, but does not spread. It is a withered branch, having cut itself off from the parent tree. The Orthodox Eastern Church denies the Catholic dogma that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. It also teaches that the souls of the just will not attain complete happiness till the end of the world, when they will be joined to their bodies; and that the souls of the wicked will not suffer complete torture in hell until that last day. These are heresies against the doctrines of the Church.
Thus it can be seen that today the Orthodox Eastern Church is not merely schismatical, but truly heretical for it holds primary doctrines in a different light. But it has valid orders.
In the 12th Century Albigensianism arose in southern France. It upheld dualism; two opposing creative principles, the good creating the spiritual world, and the evil creating the material world.
The Albigenses went to excesses, recommending suicide, forbidding marriage, asserting that Our Lord did not have a human body, denying the resurrection of the body. The heresy was condemned by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215.
As an offshoot of Albigensianism, Waldensianism spread throughout Spain. Lombardy, Bohemia, and neighboring countries. The heresy continued until the outbreak of Protestantism, when it merged with this. The Waldenses denied the existence of Purgatory, combatted indulgences, asserted that laymen could preach and absolve, oaths were unlawful, sinful priests had no valid power of ministry, etc.
But out of evil God has often drawn good. Each schism and heresy has led to profound study in the Church, study of scholars to discover the correct interpretation of doctrine under dispute. In this way light came from darkness. As wise Saint Augustine said: "Those who err in doctrine only serve to show forth more clearly the soundness of those who believe aright."
In the fourteenth century, Wycliff in England taught that the Bible was the sole rule of faith, that there was no freedom of the will, that confession was useless, that the Pope had no primacy.
Adopting the theories of Wycliff, Huss in Bohemia spread the errors. Political considerations complicated the heresy; fighting broke out, lasting years.
Tomorrow: Reformation and Reconciliation part one