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 IN THE FACE OF PROTESTANTISM: REFORMATION AND RECONCILIATION
Upon Martin Luther's refusal to retract his declarations on the teachings of the Church, he was excommunicated. But Luther proudly tore up the papal bull of excommunication, and burned it. The fire that incident started has only recently burned down for the landmark historic Declaration of Justification signed this past Sunday in Augsburg, Germany between the Roman Catholic Church, represented by the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity Cardinal Edward Isdris Cassidy, and the Lutheran Church represented by Bishop Hans Christian Knuth, head of the Reformation in Germany. It is a great start and points to the fact that walls can be torn down but there is still much to do in bringing about unity as we shall illustrate the differences in today's and Monday's installments.
In general, Protestants are adherents of the religious organizations that broke off from the Catholic Church in the sixteenth century, or of any religious body formed from them. The term "Protestant" was first adopted by those who protested against the decree of the second Diet of Speyer in 1529. Later the term was applied to all reformers, all opposing the doctrines of the Church.
In the sixteenth century the Protestant revolt took place, this beginning of a multitude of heresies, this sad event that has divided Christendom for centuries. In the year 1517 Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk of Erfurt, Germany, taking offense at what he believed was a lack of appreciation for him at Rome, combated the teaching of the Church on indulgences. It must be understood that he had many good points and the Popes during that era were not the greatest role models or held up the ideals Christ had intended for His Holy Church. This had been brought crystal clear by the rogue Pope Alexander VI and his successors Pope Pius III, Julius II and Leo X who was the Sovereign Pontiff when Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the cathedral. None of these Popes had a clue how to deal with this enlightenment movement and rebellion. In truth, they were more interested in building up the coffers and building the magnificent monument of St. Peter's employing the masters Michelangelo and Raphael. Yes, it was a low point in Church History, but as Jesus says "the gates of hell will not prevail against it" and indeed she withstood this onslaught of rejection by hundreds of thousands who protested various tenets of the Faith.
Pope Leo X commanded Luther to retract his teachings; upon his refusal, he was excommunicated, in 1520. His heretical teachings spread like wildfire over Germany, occasioning religious wars; peace came only with the Peace of Augsburg, in 1555.
The Council of Trent met (1545-1563) to set forth in a clear manner the errors of the Protestants, by explaining the true doctrine of the Church on those points. At that time, religious training had relaxed; many did not know the true doctrines. Among the errors of Luther were these: that there is no supreme teaching power in the Church; that temporal rulers have the right to interfere in ecclesiastical matters; that the Bible is the sole guide to faith; that every man should interpret the Bible according to his own mind; that faith is sufficient for salvation; that the priesthood does not imprint a special character on the soul of a man, and that everybody is or can be a priest, as a result; that Penance is not a sacrament, but a mere invention of the Church; that the Mass gives no special grace; that there is no Purgatory, etc.
In the beginning, Protestantism spread rapidly. Whole countries, led by their rulers, adopted its doctrines. In Switzerland Zwingli and Calvin; in England Henry VIII, about this time increased the defections from the Church. But soon there were other kinds of Protestantism, all with varying doctrines.
Today the divisions and subdivisions of Protestantism are too well known to need comment Great numbers of Protestants are returning to the Faith of their fathers and we are seeing this in entire congregations converting to Catholicism. There will be many more, but not all. Yet, as the divisions subdivide, the Church continues to grow.
Protestant denominations may be placed into three groups.First, those that require a church to be able to trace its origin to apostolic times. They believe in a priesthood established by Christ, and commanded to offer sacrifice and administer the sacraments. The High Church Episcopalians belong to this group and with the new concordat signed Sunday the Lutherans could follow suit. Unfortunately the High Church Episcopalians deny a fact: their succession of bishops was cut when they separated from the Catholic Church, and so they have no valid orders. Hence they cannot have any sacraments except Baptism and Matrimony. The Anglican orders were declared invalid under Pope Leo XIII in 1896, after the question of their validity had been thoroughly examined.
The second group are those that do not believe in the theory of "all religions are the same," but do not have an organized hierarchy. They insist on their own brand of Protestantism, requiring prospective members to study their doctrines. They consider Holy Scripture as the only rule of faith and of life. Some of them accept the Apostles' Creed, and teach justification by faith alone. Lutherans, especially the Missouri Synod and some bodies of Methodist and Episcopal churches belong to this group.
The third group are those that declare Christ their personal Savior, and believe in Baptism as indispensable; although some bodies do not hold the latter doctrine. Every Christian, according to them, must be a member of some church, on account of the practical benefits from church membership, from organized religion. But, one church is just as good as another. To this group most of the bodies of Baptists, Presbyterians, Disciples of Christ, and Congregationalists belong.
Monday: Reformation and Reconciliation part two