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Friday, September 15, 2017

Akin: Protestants Aren’t Heretics, Catholics Should Commemorate the Reformation Featured

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Jimmy Akin Jimmy Akin

Inspired by Francis commemorating the Reformation on Halloween of last year, Ecumenical events commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation are now coming to a diocese near you! Just a few examples include Grand Rapids, MI, Saskatoon, Canada, Pittsburgh, PA,  Lansing, MI., and Lima, OH. Other dioceses like Orlando. FL and Pueblo, CO already enjoyed their commemorations earlier this year. Far from condemning these events, the USCCB is actually facilitating and encouraging them by posting a “2017 Commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation Resource Guide” on their website.

As the post-Conciliar Church leadership moves left at breakneck speed, it is interesting to see just how far our Neo-Catholic gatekeepers are shifting to keep up.  For instance, Catholic Answers was once considered a bastion of Catholic orthodoxy and fierce defender of the Catholic Faith versus Protestantism by conservative Catholics in the 1990’s. The premiere apologist for Catholic Answers has always been one Jimmy Akin.  Thus, Akin, in a sense, stands as a bellwether for Neo-Catholic thought on the latest shenanigans in the Church.

Akin’s reaction to the commemorations was not a complete surprise since he is already on record as defending Communion for public adulterers under Amoris Laetitia. However, it is still always startling to see just how far he and other Neo-Catholic apologists will go to defend non-Catholic teachings and practices as they try to square the circle of the post-Conciliar Church.  For far from criticizing joint commemorations of the Protestant Revolt that lead entire nations of Christendom into heresy, schism, and apostasy, Akin instead penned a full apologia for them. 

The very opener of Akin’s explanation admits that even the very idea of commemorating the Reformation offends whatever is left of his readers’ Sensus Catholicus. He states:

In recent years both Catholics and Protestants have been puzzled by occasional mentions in the press that the two groups would be jointly commemorating of the upcoming five hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

What on earth?

Why would Catholics commemorate such an event?

Exactly. The answer is that they shouldn’t. But since Francis has done it and will do it again, there must be nothing wrong with it. In addition, the fact that Mr. Akin is getting paid over $100,000 a year (as of 2010) by Catholic Answers must, at least to some degree, assist his theological “creativity.”

“Reformation” Revisionism

Akin starts by giving a brief history of the so called “Reformation.” He includes the traditional Catholic view of the “Reformation”:

The Reformation was a horrible tragedy, and it should in no way be celebrated. There should be no Catholic marking of the occasion, except as the anniversary of one of the darkest days in history, with the memory of Luther—the arch-heretic—thoroughly execrated.

Yet he treats this fully Catholic view as a museum piece that was simply a product of Catholic “animosity” towards Protestants “in the past,” as if the Pre-Vatican II Church held a juvenile personal grudge against Luther for five centuries, refusing to recognize the anniversary of his Revolt due to anger management issues.

Akin then goes on to tell how things have changed in 2017. How? Well, now Catholics and Protestants are much nicer to each other.  Yes, that’s it. Although Akin goes on for a paragraph that is basically the only thing he says has changed. Thus, according to Akin, the one true Church of God simply took 500 years to finally calm down from Her hissy fit over the Reformation.  Now that the Holy Bride of Christ is once again sane and rational in 2017, She is ready to listen to the calm adult voice of ecumenical reason.

Later, citing the John Paul II apology tour of the 1990’s, Akin says the Catholic Church needs to reflect on its share of blame for the Protestant Revolt:

Preparing for the Jubilee Year 2000, St. John Paul II called for a “purification of memory.” This, he explained, “calls everyone to make an act of courage and humility in recognizing the wrongs done by those who have borne or bear the name of Christian” (Incarnationis Mysterium 11)…

The mutual Catholic-Protestant re-assessment meant not only seeing the positive aspects of the other party, it also meant acknowledging the flaws of our own side.

For Catholics, it meant a look back at the time leading up to the Reformation, and the Reformation itself, with an awareness of our own forebears’ mistakes.

There were things in the Church needed of reform. That’s why we held a Counter-Reformation

Certainly individual Catholics sin and make mistakes and Church discipline is often adjusted to rid the Church of abuses.  However, the Church as such, faithfully transmits the Deposit of Faith of the Apostles and gives us the Mass and sacraments as instruments of grace. In that regard it is spotless and sinless. And it was precisely the Faith, the Mass, and the sacraments that Martin Luther declared war on leading to the Protestant revolt.

If abuses wrought by individual Catholics including clergy had been Luther’s only disagreement, he would have been satisfied with Catholic reforms proposed to deal with these. Instead, he attacked the spotless Bride of Christ Herself for which no apology can be given. The scandal of individual Catholics is in spite of, not because of Catholic doctrine and teaching.  Thus, bad behavior on the part of individuals gave Luther absolutely zero right to start his own religion, leading many of his own generation into apostasy and schism and countless spiritual descendants trapped in heresy. 

The Catholic Church Somehow Seeks Unity

Akin then regurgitates the previously condemned claim that the Catholic Church is somehow still seeking Christian unity along with Protestant sects. (My emphasis in red)

“That They May Be One”

Accompanying these changes, both groups have also meditated more profoundly on Our Lord’s requirement that Christians must work to overcome differences and strive for unity.

On the night he was betrayed, Jesus spoke—repeatedly—about the need for Christian unity…

Over the course of the twentieth century, Christian leaders became more and more convinced that we needed to find a way around the old hostilities and to begin rebuilding the unity we had lost.

This put the approaching five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation in a new light.

Jesus on Christian Unity

… “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.  The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me” (John 17:20-23

In contrast, read the following from Pope Pius XI in Mortalium Animos, paragraph 7:

And here it seems opportune to expound and to refute a certain false opinion, on which this whole question, as well as that complex movement by which non-Catholics seek to bring about the union of the Christian churches depends. For authors who favor this view are accustomed, times almost without number, to bring forward these words of Christ: “That they all may be one…. And there shall be one fold and one shepherd,” with this signification however: that Christ Jesus merely expressed a desire and prayer, which still lacks its fulfillment... They consider that this unity may indeed be desired and that it may even be one day attained through the instrumentality of wills directed to a common end, but that meanwhile it can only be regarded as mere ideal.

The Church, of course, has always taught that this prayer of Christ was fulfilled in His Catholic Church which has one Faith, One Lord, and One Baptism.  Thus, the Catholic Church has no need whatsoever to seek any sort of unity.  Protestantism, on the other hand, has no unity. Therefore Protestants can only achieve true Christian unity by joining the one Church Christ established. As Pope Pius XI continues:

although many non-Catholics may be found who loudly preach fraternal communion in Christ Jesus, yet you will find none at all to whom it ever occurs to submit to and obey the Vicar of Jesus Christ either in His capacity as a teacher or as a governor. Meanwhile they affirm that they would willingly treat with the Church of Rome, but on equal terms, that is as equals with an equal: but even if they could so act, it does not seem open to doubt that any pact into which they might enter would not compel them to turn from those opinions which are still the reason why they err and stray from the one fold of Christ.

Ignoring Error Helps Fight Secularism?

Akin then repeats the ecumenical line that we now must concentrate on what unites us, as if that in any way brings those in error closer to accepting the truth.  Akin states:

“What Unites Us”

As Christians began to move closer together, they began a mutual re-examination and re-appraisal.

A starting point for this was the willingness to acknowledge the good in each other’s communities: Protestants acknowledged that Catholics were not all bad, and Catholics did the same for Protestants.

This applied not only to personal morals but also to our respective theologies.

In the years of conflict that followed the Reformation, attention focused on our theological differences, but we share a great deal of theology—belief that there is only one, true God, that Jesus Christ is his Son, that God is a trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Concerning Jesus, we believe in his Virgin Birth, his atoning death on the Cross, his bodily resurrection and ascension, and his Second Coming.

We believe in the general resurrection and the final judgment, in heaven and hell, in sin and salvation, in the holy Scriptures as the inspired word of God, and in numerous additional truths.

In words commonly attributed to St. John XXIII: “What unites us is much greater than what divides us.”

Akin also comments that our new enlightened ecumenical relations with Protestants helps us to fight against irreligion:

Indeed, growing secularism has led Protestants and Catholics to band together. Here in the United States, Roe v. Wade led to unprecedented cooperation between the two on the subject of abortion, and more recent developments have seen the two sides uniting in mutual defense of religious freedom…

These factors have all led Protestants and Catholics to get to know each other better, to build bridges, and to form alliances.

Socially, we are not the enemies that we once were. Now, we’re usually allies...

For Christians to be locked in conflict and mutual hostility therefore creates a barrier to the spread of the Gospel, and this came to weigh more heavily on Christian leaders as the gospel began losing ground to secularism.

Yet this idea of focusing on commonalities to fight secularism was condemned almost word for word by Pope Pius XI:

Controversies therefore, they say, and longstanding differences of opinion which keep asunder till the present day the members of the Christian family, must be entirely put aside, and from the remaining doctrines a common form of faith drawn up and proposed for belief, and in the profession of which all may not only know but feel that they are brothers. The manifold churches or communities, if united in some kind of universal federation, would then be in a position to oppose strongly and with success the progress of irreligion.

Instead of leading Protestants out of their errors, focusing on common beliefs only builds a false, lowest common denominator type of faith where those issues that divide us are made to seem unimportant. In reality they are all that matter, as they are the errors that are impeding the Protestant from true Christian unity. In addition, the Catholic Church claiming unity with Protestant sects does not effectively fight secularism, but only reinforce relativism. The message would be sent to the secular world that it doesn’t matter what individual Christians believe as their beliefs on essential matters of religion can contradict with little consequence.

Protestants Aren’t Heretics?

Yes, Jimmy Akin then goes on to teach us that the Catholic Church was wrong to refer to Protestants as heretics for 500 years. He states:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same” (CCC 2089).

The phrase “some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith” refers to a doctrine that has been infallibly defined by the Church as divinely revealed—i.e., a dogma.

While Protestants have been baptized and do deny or doubt various Catholic dogmas, they typically do not do so out of bad faith (Latin, mala fide) and therefore do not meet the requirement of obstinately denying or doubting a dogma.

The requirement of bad faith obstinacy for heresy has been part of the Church’s understanding for a long time (cf. Code of Canon Law [1917] 1325 §2).

Thus the Second Vatican Council remarked: “The children who are born into these communities and who grow up believing in Christ cannot be accused of the sin involved in the separation, and the Catholic Church embraces upon them as brothers, with respect and affection” (Unitatis Redintegratio 3).

Consequently, the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity indicated that people who were born Protestant did not need to make a formal abjuration of heresy upon becoming Catholic (Ecumenical Directory [1967] 19-20).

Thus Protestants are not typically referred to as heretics because they are not presumed to have committed the canonical crime of heresy.

Where to begin? First, Akin uses the John Paul II issued Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) which, for some reason decided to define “heresy” as only formal heresy. Formal heresy requires pertinacity (which the CCC changes to obstinacy). However, “formal heresy” is not necessary to be a heretic in the sense the Church has called Protestants heretics for the last 500 years. All that is necessary is that the person denies Catholic dogma. In that sense the person is at least a material heretic, thus the Church was and is fully justified in using the term.

Akin then cites the 1917 Code of Canon Law and says that Protestants would have to commit the “canonical crime” of heresy to be called heretics by the Church. This is, of course, absurd as canonical crimes are meant to apply to Catholics who are suspected of heresy.  The fact that the Church already considers Protestants materially severed from the Church and thus having no ecclesiastical rights in this regard should clue Akin in that they might be heretics.

Vatican II Sleight of Hand

Akin then quotes Vatican II which states that children who are born into Protestantism can’t be accused of the sin involved in the separation. Akin then points to the 1967 Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity’s ecumenical directory which does away with the abjuration of heresy of Protestant  converts in canon law saying that was only meant to apply to apostate Catholics coming back to the Faith.

There are a couple of sleight of hands going on here. The first is the Vatican II language saying children who are born into Protestantism can’t be accused of the sin involved in the separation.  Note well the term “children.” The pre-Conciliar Church recognized this, which is precisely why no abjuration of validly baptized converts (Protestants) was necessary under the age of fourteen.  At fourteen the former child was now assumed to have taken on the heretical beliefs of whatever sect he was a part of and was required to make a profession of faith, which contained an abjuration of heresy, upon his conversion to Catholicism.

Yet the slippery Vatican II document not only says “children who were born into these communities,” but goes on to say “and who grow up believing in Christ.” This can be interpreted as referring to adults. Yet the more traditional Fathers of Vatican II may have assumed this passage referred to children who grew up to the age of fourteen since they knew the common practice and canon law well. Thus, it is doubtful whether they meant to extend the age of non-abjuration of heresy among converts from fourteen till death with these words.

Enter the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity’s ecumenical directory of 1967, written by archliberal Cardinal Bea. Cardinal Bea seized upon the ambiguity of the Vatican II document to single handedly do away with the requirement of any Protestant to have to abjure his heresy upon conversion, no matter what his age.

Cardinal Bea’s dishonest reasoning was that the canon law requiring abjuration of heresy was only required in the case of a Catholic who had apostatized and wanted to return to the Church. This was patently untrue and opposed to how the canon was followed in practice until 1967. As stated previously, validly baptized non-Catholics over the age of fourteen who wanted to convert were required to make a profession of faith, which contained an abjuration of heresy.

Yet Bea used the pretext of this Vatican II document to create a new” interpretation” of the canon from whole cloth. And now in 2017, Neo-Catholic apologists use Bea’s fifty year old dishonest sleight of hand to defend the notion that the Church no longer considers Protestants to be heretics. Thus, to the Neo-Catholic apologist, perennial Catholic doctrine on who is and who is not a heretic was changed at the whim of a Vatican Secretariat in 1967. And we wonder how they had no problem accepting Amoris Laetitia? At this rate, if the pet parakeet of the Vatican Prefect for Liturgical Dance says birth control is ok, they will defend it.

The Truly Catholic and Charitable Approach to Protestantism

In the final analysis, the post-Conciliar ecumenical approach to Protestants is uncharitable and cruel. 

First, the post-Conciliar Church does not see Protestants as individuals. Instead it insists on identifying them in groups by their errors. For the post-Conciliar Church only sees Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc. It then reaches out to the leaders of human organizations which represent these sects, not to convert their members, but in order to minimize the severity of the doctrines their members deny; therefore keeping these pour souls mired in their erroneous beliefs.

Thus the Catholic Church joining in the commemoration of the “Reformation” only reinforces to these people that God is using their sect, in the words of Vatican II, “as a means of salvation.” For, they rightly say to themselves, if the Catholic Church truly believed I was in grave danger of losing my soul in my false religion, surely it would spare no expense at letting me know this by warning me, and never ceasing to tell me. For even as Protestants they recognize that this behavior would be consistent with true Christian love for another person.

This is precisely what the Catholic Church used to do. In the eyes of God there are no Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc. There are only baptized Catholics who have been cruelly deprived of the graces of the sacraments and the sure knowledge of the Truth through the sins of heresy, apostasy, and schism committed by the very “Reformers” the VCII Church helps them commemorate and which these people now adhere to.  They are trapped in an ignorance we can only hope is invincible as they struggle to see the true path of salvation steeped in intellectual darkness by the privation of truth in their false doctrines; for these are the consequence of heresy, even if it is held in good faith. Every Catholic then, should possess a holy zeal to want to help rescue these souls from the errors that keep them in misery and lead them to Truth.

In the words of Protestant convert, Orestes Brownson (1884):

In direct personal addresses to Protestants it is rarely necessary to call them heretics and we may with propriety after the illustrious Bossuet call them our separated or our dissenting brethren if we call them so only through conventional politeness. But if we avoid the term heretic and call them our separated brethren for the purpose of implying some sort of religious sympathy with them to conceal from ourselves or from them the fact that all good Catholics presume them to be heretics or so as to produce an impression on those within or those without that we do not look upon heresy and schism as deadly sins we occasion scandal and have nothing to plead in our justification. If on the other hand we call Protestants heretics in ill humor from the virulence of passion for the sake of wounding their feelings and insulting them we are also unjustifiable for even the truth spoken for unlawful ends is libelous and the greater the truth not unfrequently the greater the libel. But if in addressing Catholics or in reasoning against Protestant errors we call Protestants heretics because they are so in fact and because we would call them by their Christian name either for the sake of leading them to reflect on the danger to which they are exposed or for the sake of guarding the unwary against their seductions and the contamination of their heresies we give them no just cause of offence and do only what by the truth and charity of the Gospel we are bound to do.

…[I]f we speak to them in relation to the supernatural order, not from ourselves, but from the word of God, and tell them in the spirit of ardent charity, plainly, directly, unreservedly, energetically, what our religion commands, and assure them in unequivocal terms and tones that they are out of the way, following the devices of their own hearts, the delusions of the devil, wedded to damnable heresies under the wrath and condemnation of Almighty God, and that their only possible chance of escape is in humble submission to that very Church against which their fathers wickedly rebelled and which they themselves so haughtily reject, though they may be pricked in their hearts, though they may be startled from their dreaming, or may even bid us go our way for this time, till they find a more convenient season, they will respect our principles, and acknowledge in their hearts the free, noble, lofty, and uncompromising spirit of our Church, and the high worth of character she gives to her children.

It was thus spoke the prince of the apostles on the day of Pentecost:- “Ye men of Israel hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you, by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as you also know; this same, being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have crucified and put to death by the hands of wicked men… Therefore let all the house of Israel know most assuredly, that God hath made him to be Lord and Christ, this same Jesus whom you have crucified. Now when they heard these things, they had compunction in their heart; and they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren what shall we do? But Peter said to them, Do penance and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins.” Acts ii. 22-41.

Protestants, indeed, expect Catholics to speak in this way. They expect them to speak differently from their own scribes and elders with whom they are wearied half to death, and whose doubt, and hesitation, and arrogance they find all but insupportable. They know the Catholic claims to speak with authority, as divinely commissioned to teach, and they wish him to speak in character. They are disgusted when he descends from the pulpit to the rostrum, or from the preacher sinks into the mere reasoner, taking their standpoint, and discoursing to them in their own spirit, as one of their own number. They demand of him what he professes to have, and which they know their own ministers have not; and if he gives it not, they conclude it is because he has it not to give. He is then, say they, with all his lofty pretensions to authority, no better than one of us; and they turn away in disappointment and disgust. Let him speak as one having authority, as the authorized minister of God, never forgetting his commission never forgetting that he is priest and doctor, and that it is not he that teaches, but God through him, and, cold, and unbelieving, and heretical as they may be, they cannot but listen with awe and some of them with profit.[1]

[1] The Works of Orestes A. Brownson: Controversy, By Orestes Augustus Brownson, T. Nourse, 1884.


UPDATE: 9/15/2017

President of the USCCB, Cardinal DiNardo, will deliver opening remarks at Protestant "Reformation" Commemoration. The Texas Catholic Herald headline states "Houston faithfui invited to celebrate 500th anniversary of the Reformation." Notice the word "celebrate." The fact that this headline's presence in a Catholic newspaper doesn't cause outrage within the Houston-Galveston Archdiocese illustrates the crisis in a nutshell. 




Cardinal Kasper: “Nowadays there are no more significant differences between Protestant and Catholic Christians”


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Last modified on Friday, September 15, 2017