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Breakthrough: Saved by Faith

26 Responses

  1. Donal says:

    Apart from the Immaculate Conception, the doctrine of indulgences is perhaps the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Whatever the scandals regarding using indulgences to raise money for St Peters, the doctrine does NOT and did NOT suggest that anyone could literally buy “time off” in Purgatory. The number of days which used to be attached to indulgences were references to the period of penance one might undergo during life on earth. The Catholic Church does not claim to know anything about how long or short purgatory is in general, much less in a specific persons case. With all due respect, I should have expected one belonging to an order founded to combat the arguments of Lutheranism at least to get this fundamental fact right.

  2. Donal says:

    An interesting perspective from Eastern Orthodoxy by Fr Georges Florovsky (Harvard):

    “Luther’s attitude toward the Epistle of St. James is well-known. In fact, Luther positioned not only James at the end of the German Bible but also Hebrews, Jude, and Revelation. And his criterion was that they lacked evangelical “purity.” He was not the first to do so. His colleague at Wittenberg, upon whom Luther later turned, Carlstadt, had distinguished among the books of the New Testament and the Old Testament before Luther took his own action. As early as 1520 Carlstadt divided the entirety of Scripture into three categories: libri summae dignitatis, in which Carstadt included the Pentateuch as well as the Gospels; libri secundae dignitatis, in which he included the Prophets and fifteen epistles; and libri tertiae dignitatis.

    Luther rejected the Epistle of St. James theologically but of necessity retained it in the German Bible, even if as a kind of appendix. The ending of Luther’s Preface to his edition of the German Bible, which was omitted in later editions, reads in the German of his time: “Summa, Sanct Johannis Evangel, und seine erste Epistel, Sanct Paulus Epistel, sonderlich die zu den Romern, Galatern, Ephesern, und Sanct Peters erste Epistel. Das sind die Bucher, die der Christum zeigen, und alles lehren, das dir zu wissen noth und selig ist ob du sohon kein ander Buch noch Lehre nummer sehest and horist. Darumb ist Sanct Jakobs Epistel ein recht strohern Epistel, gegen sie, denn sie doch kein evangelisch Art an ihr hat” “for that reason St. James’ Epistle is a thoroughly straw epistle, for it has indeed no evangelical merit to it.” Luther rejected it theologically “because it gives righteousness to works in outright contradiction to Paul and all other Scriptures… because, while undertaking to teach Christian people, it does not once mention the passion, the resurrection, the Spirit of Christ; it names Christ twice, but teaches nothing about him; it calls the law a law of liberty, while Paul calls it a law of bondage, of wrath, of death and of sin.”

    Luther even added the word “alone” allein in Romans 3:28 before “through faith” durch den Glauben precisely to counter the words in James 2:24:”You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith only ????? ??? ?? ????? ?????????? ???????? ??? ??? ?? ??????? ?????. What is more is that Luther became very aggressive and arrogant in his response to the criticism that he had added “alone” to the Biblical text. “If your papist makes much useless fuss about the word sola, allein, tell him at once: Doctor Martin Luther will have it so and says: Papist and donkey are one thing; sic volo, sic jubeo, sit pro ratione voluntas. For we do not want to be pupils and followers of the Papists, but their masters and judges.” Luther continues in a bantering manner in an attempt to imitate St. Paul in the latter’s response to his opponents. “Are they doctors? So am I. Are they learned? So am I. Are they preachers? So am I. Are they theologians? So am I. Are they philosophers? So am I. Are they writers of books? So am I. And I shall further boast: I can expound Psalms and Prophets; which they cannot. I can translate; which they cannot… Therefore the word allein shall remain in my New Testament, and though all pope-donkeys should get furious and foolish, they shall not get the word out.” In some German editions the word “allein” was printed in larger type! Some critics of Luther’s translation have accused him of deliberately translating inaccurately to support his theological view. As early as 1523 Dr. Emser, an opponent of Luther, claimed that Luther’s translation contained “a thousand grammatical and fourteen hundred heretical errors.” This is exaggerated but the fact does remain that there are numerous errors in Luther’s translation.

    Indeed, the entire Reformation in its attitude towards the New Testament is directly in opposition to the thought on this subject of St. Augustine, who was highly esteemed in many respects by the Reformation theologians and from whom they took the basis for some of the theological visions, especially predestination, original sin, and irresistible grace for Luther and Calvin. On this subject, as on some many others, there is no common ground between Luther and Calvin on the one hand and St. Augustine on the other. St. Augustine wrote: “I should not believe the Gospel except as moved by the authority of the Church” ego evangelio non crederem, nisime moveret ecclesiae auctoritas. It should be pointed out that Calvin did not take objection to the Epistle of St. James.

    Luther was so caught up in the abstraction of a passive righteousness, so infuriated by his experience as a monk in practicing what he would refer to as “righteousness of works,” so caught up in attempting to create a specific meaning to one line of the thought of St. Paul that he misses the very foundation from which the theological thought of St. James comes forth and that is the initiative and will of God. Luther’s criticism that St. James does not mention the passion, the resurrection, and the Spirit of Christ is inane, for his readers knew the apostolic deposit there was no need to mention the very basis and essence of the living faith which was known to those reading the epistle. Such a criticism by Luther reveals the enormous lack of a sense for the historical life of the early Church, for the Church was in existence and it is from the Church and to the Church that the epistles are written. Historically, the Church existed before any texts of the “new covenant” were written. The Church existed on the oral tradition received from the apostles, as is clearly revealed from the pages of the New Testament itself.”

  3. Donal says:

    It is good to see that Fr Egan is so punctilious in observing Fr Kung’s priestly title. It is to be hoped, in light of previous correspondents’ views on here, that he will now be equally punctilious regarding his own priestly title.

  4. Gnther Simmermacher says:

    Donal, Fr Egan in his manuscript did not refer to Fr Kng by his clerical title. That title was added in the sub-editing process in line with our housestyle which demands that in text the names of all priests are preceded by the abbreviated title Fr.

    In terms of bylines, in cases of religious priests, we tend to use the perfectly acceptable form of the cleric’s name followed by the abbreviation of the order he belongs to (though it’s a convention we are presently reconsidering for the next revision of the stylebook).

    In no instance does Fr Egan have influence over our housestyle.

  5. Donal says:

    Dear Gunther, Thank you for clarifying this.

  6. Vincent Couling says:

    Donal,

    If you are correct in saying that the “doctrine of indulgences is perhaps the most misunderstood and misrepresented,” then this is an enormous indictment of the hierarchy and their teaching office.

    I, for one, have no clear idea what indulgences are about … and have absolutely no interest whatsoever in gaining indulgences! They are irrelevant to my life as a Catholic … and I don’t think that I’m an exception. The Catholics I know just dont talk about them except as some sort of silliness from a past era. Perhaps they’ll go (or have already gone) the way of limbo?

    But let’s get back to Fr Egan’s article above.

    He opens with “Many centuries ago, a pope who was trying to build St Peters basilica in Rome started selling indulgencesliterally time off in purgatoryto raise money.”

    Is this true and accurate?

    Firstly we read in the CCC #1471 that “Indulgences may be applied to the living or the dead.” … presumably only the dead in purgatory, and not those in heaven or in hell. Temporal remission of sins for someone in purgatory must surely imply “time off” in purgatory, no?!

    Secondly, Pope Leo X apparently granted indulgences to those who “gave alms” towards the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica. Now almsgiving is a good deed, whereas giving “alms” to gain for oneself a temporal remission of sins seems to be something other than a charitable, selfless, altruistic giving of alms. If indulgences really cannot be bought, then surely they should never involve an exchange of money! It was Johann Tetzel who promoted this selling of indulgences (for the rebuilding of St Peter’s) so aggressively that he apparently provoked Martin Luther into writing 95 theses, among which he condemned what he saw as the purchase and sale of salvation!

    So Fr Egan’s opening gambit appears to be quite sound and accurate.

    I am therefore perplexed, Donal, when you claim that Fr Egan SJ hasn’t gotten his facts right.

    Could you please explicate further?

  7. Donal says:

    @Vincent. I didn’t mention “facts”, but the single “fact” regarding the supposed buying of time off purgatory, which is not “soiund and accurate”. The extent of misselling of indulgences is much debated by early modern historians, but such corruption in itself did and does not invalidate the doctrine.

    I appreciate that you do not believe in the doctrine, but even were I to write about something I didn’t believe in – say, Ganesh, or some other deity, I would be keen to present the doctrine as accurately as it is believed or understood by adherents to that religion. This has not been done here in relation to indulgences.

  8. Donal says:

    No, Vincent. It has nothing to do with “time” in purgatory. It is rooted in the period of the early church when penances were often penal. Someone who offended the community might be given a penance of three hundred days doing some menial or unpleasant task, or be punished in some other way. Eventually this gave away to greater privatisation of confession and the replacement of physical penances by prayers in lieu.

    I know you want to trivialise the whole doctrine by references to Limbo, which was much talked about over centuries but never a definitively held doctrine of the Church. I would only repeat that reporting on such a doctrine deserves the same historical accuracy as I would give to the doctrines of Buddhism, Shintoism or any other religion I might write on. One doesn’t need to believe in something to respect it. I don’t believe in Zeus or Nimrod but I respect the culture which produced them and if I were writing about them I would not simply trivialise them because I don’t believe in them.

  9. Donal says:

    PS As regards the dead, prayers or other good works in lieu of the penances expressed in time they should have done on earth, not “time” in purgatory which, to repeat, cannot be measured and is not/was not part of the doctrine.

  10. Vincent Couling says:

    From the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    “210. What is purgatory?

    Purgatory is the state of those who die in Gods friendship, assured of their eternal salvation, but who still have need of purification to enter into the happiness of heaven.

    211. How can we help the souls being purified in purgatory?

    Because of the communion of saints, the faithful who are still pilgrims on earth are able to help the souls in purgatory by offering prayers in suffrage for them, especially the Eucharistic sacrifice. They also help them by almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance.”

    It would appear that purgatory is a condition of temporal punishment, and that indulgences can indeed achieve the temporal remission of sins even for those in purgatory. A literal (as opposed to dynamic-equivalence) translation of poena temporalis would be “temporal punishment”, i.e. lasting or existing only for a time; passing, temporary. If our “assistance” of the souls in purgatory isn’t about “time off” in purgatory (be it even a lessening of the punishment/purification), then I don’t know what it is!

    Purgatory is a state of of purification, i.e. a state of temporary punishment, surely. (Why pray for the dead in purgatory if they’re no longer there? These prayers are meant to aid those in purgatory, aren’t they? If so, purgatory must be a temporal realm, no?) After purgatory, we are supposed to pass into heaven, a state which has no temporal dimension to it whatsoever, no?

    I have to say, Donal, that you have not really removed my confusion as regards the Doctrine of Purgatory – rather, you have compounded it!

  11. Donal says:

    It may perhaps be too subtle a doctrine for you, but if you reread the entry you have quoted, you will see that it is as I described: we can help the souls in purgatory by our prayers which make up for the “temporal” penance due for their sins, which they, being outside of time, can no longer undergo. To repeat, the Church has not taught that there can be “time off purgatory”, but, if you must reduce it to such an expression, “time off” the penances which on this earth were due for their sins. There is no time in purgatory, so there can be “no time” off it. The doctrine relates the consequences of sin in this life, even for those who have died, not to getting “time off” in the next life. You don’t have to take my word for it; look it up and inform yourself.

    You have already dismissed the doctrine as something that doesn’t interest you, and built up a caricature in order to ridicule it. You can either take the trouble to understand what it actually says, and look up the arguments of those far cleverer than I am in articulating it, or perhaps you should forget about it and continue to jeer it as silly with your friends.

  12. Joseph says:

    The more I read the Southern Cross, the more I understand the extent of the fall away from the one true faith that “Catholics” have succumbed to. Priests and lay alike have abandoned the Catechism and the Wisdom of the Fathers. The prophecy of Our Lady of La Salette resounds through the ages, priests now teach confusion and a lot of lay people just accept it because it came from Fr so and so. The cry of Fr Stephen Scheier has been forgotten (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VFE8ToVatI) and I really cannot understand why anyone would sit down and craft a document that will destroy other souls’ understanding of the one true faith.

    One must remember that the Church has great saints of the counter revolt of the Lutheran heresy (the star of Revelations that fell and opened the bottomless pit from which came the smoke that darkened the sun). Remember the smoke of satan that filled the Church always means confusion of the faith. To think that thousands of “Catholics” are fed these heterodox views offered on the altar of modernism is rather scary.

    Please for the love of the People of God, stop publishing things that are aimed at destroying the Catholic Faith, many have tried over the years and the promise of Jesus Christ rings true even today “The gates of Hell shall not prevail against my Church” – I am really angry about this.

  13. Vincent Couling says:

    Donal,

    Your comments are outrageous! It is you who are doing an excellent job of reducing things to the level of caricature! Just read your last post … seething with venom, not to mention condescension, I’d say.

    If it is not beneath you, could you at least please explain one thing … if there is no time in purgatory, then how can one need a “period” of purification “before” entering heaven? People “who still have need of purification” (CCCC 210 above) … what does that phrase mean, if not something entirely temporal?! What does it mean to still have need of something, Donal?!

    Is the series of life, death, purgatory, heaven not a direct implication that “life, death, purgatory” are part of a temporal sequence before achieving the state of heaven (a state which exists outside of time)?

    If the state of purgatory is transient, it must be temporal, no! Or am I missing something fundamental here? It is a sincere question! I am truly confused!

    If we can pray for those in purgatory, and assist them through our prayer, how can our temporal act of prayers in this pilgrim journey on earth assist those who are outside of time? For how long should we pray for a loved one in purgatory? Until they leave their “temporary” sojourn in the state of purgation?

    What does it mean to claim (as you do) that a temporal act such as prayer can have an effect on a state that resides outside the temporal realm? My confusion grows exponentially!

    I am utterly confused. Please don’t caricature my confusion! That is uncharitable in the extreme!!!

    It is not I who has trivialized “indulgences” for those in purgatory … rather, if anyone is to be accused of this, it must be the hierarchy. For they have formed priests and bishops who never (in my admittedly limited experience) seem to speak of indulgences as applied to our daily lives as Catholics. Or am I again misrepresenting (or making a caricature of) the truth?

    Blessed Joun XXIII said, at the opening of the Second Vatican Council, that the Church “considers that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations” … well, Donal, your caricuature of my mode of questioning an aspect of Doctrine that I freely admit I don’t fully understand (and which, thanks to my catechesis, I have never actually encountered!) resembles (to my perception) more of an ugly condemnation than a benign and charitable attempt to actually demonstrate the validity of the teaching!

  14. Malcolm says:

    Many would have an issue with Fr Anthony Egan in this statement. Many centuries ago, a pope who was trying to build St Peters basilica in Rome started selling indulgencesliterally time off in purgatoryto raise money. Soon this idea had warped into the view that Christians could be saved by works.

    Donal gives a good explanation to what an indulgence is, and this is not the place for a detailed explanation so there is no reason to elaborate, Donal advice is good, save to say that if one looks it up, see if there are any essential differences to then and how we understand it now. I could find none.

    Were indulgences sold or were the faithful asked to contribute according to their means?

    1) Did Pope Leo X sell indulgences for: a) time off in Purgatory? That is not true.
    2) Did this wrap into the view that Christians could be saved by works. Again, this is not true.

    Any reasonable Catholic would be well instructed in Luthers time to know what the sacrament of Penance was, and that these two points would have contradicted the Churches teaching on that score only the ignorant or those opposed to the Church would be swayed (and there were many, at the time).

    Well, where did all the confusion come from? The answer is from Luther himself and his cronies.

    What was Luthers alternative to the Sacrament of Penance; it was the most ridicules doctrine one has ever heard, justification by faith. One could sin as much as one wanted to, as long as one has faith, one will reach heaven.

    This is not the place to go over Luthers strange doctrines, once again, please research it.

    Here are some facts on Luther.

    1519 The Councils were quoted against him. Luther rejected them on the grounds that they were fallible.

    The authority of the pope was quoted against him. Luther declared that the pope was anti-Christ.

    1520 Luther reduced the number of sacraments from seven to three.

    1521 Luther rejected the sacrifice of the Mass and monastic vows.

    There is enough here to suggest, without going into his suspect theology concerning sin that Luther, considered himself a self appointed infallible prophet.

    Personally, I would rather follow those appointed by Jesus, and trust in the Church that He established.

  15. Vincent Couling says:

    Malcolm says: “Donal gives a good explanation to what an indulgence is” … really? Where did he do this? Please quote for us his good explanation of what an indulgence is! I cannot find it anywhere! I still don’t know what an indulgence is … and I’m not so very dim that I cannot see a good explanation when it is presented!

    Malcolm expands “this is not the place for a detailed explanation” … well, Malcolm, can you give us a brief, succinct, pithy explanation of what an indulgence is?! Donal certainly couldn’t! Can we buy … oops, “be granted” an indulgence today? Where from? What do we need to do to get hold of an indulgence? What is it “worth”? Is this Doctrine scriptural, does it belong to the Deposit of Faith, or to the early tradition of the Church?

    Donal began this thread with “The Catholic Church does not claim to know anything about how long or short purgatory is in general” … pretty much giving me the impression that he thinks purgatory has a length of time attached to it, even though we can say nothing about the actual length of that time. Subsequently he changes his mind, and says “There is no time in purgatory, so there can be no time off it.” Donal has confused me hopelessly! Can you perhaps help him out, Malcolm?

  16. Vincent Couling says:

    In a nutshell, is purgatory a transient state … and if so, how can it not belong to the temporal realm?

  17. Vincent Couling says:

    Incidentally, in the Nicene Creed, we say that when Jesus died, he descended into Hell. And that on the third day he rose again.

    Jesus said (John 2:19): “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

    What does this imply?

  18. Malcolm says:

    Dear Vincent, for your benefit, from Donal’s effort, I trust that your friends will consider my tone a friendly manner. The rest please exert a little time to inform yourself. In other words look it up.

    “Apart from the Immaculate Conception, the doctrine of indulgences is perhaps the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Whatever the scandals regarding using indulgences to raise money for St Peters, the doctrine does NOT and did NOT suggest that anyone could literally buy time off in Purgatory. The number of days which used to be attached to indulgences were references to the period of penance one might undergo during life on earth. The Catholic Church does not claim to know anything about how long or short purgatory is in general, much less in a specific persons case. With all due respect, I should have expected one belonging to an order founded to combat the arguments of Lutheranism at least to get this fundamental fact right.”

  19. Vincent Couling says:

    Dear Malcolm,

    This says something about the doctrine of indulgences being generally misunderstood, and says a couple of things about what the doctrine “does NOT and did NOT suggest”.

    I’m afraid to have to point out, yet again, that your claim that “Donal gives a good explanation to what an indulgence IS [emphasis mine]” is patently untrue!

    Must I look up what an indulgence is because neither you nor Donal know what it is? I gret that feeling!

    Why can neither of you provide a brief, succinct, pithy explanation of what an indulgence is?! If it is that obvious, then, in an effort to clear up the misunderstanding surrounding this “perhaps … most misunderstood and misrepresented” of doctrines, why won’t you help me out?

    Just a sentence or two will suffice, surely!

  20. Vincent Couling says:

    PS I must re-iterate: In a nutshell, is purgatory a transient state … if so, doesn’t that mean that it must needs be temporal?

    Transient in the sense of temporary, transitory, etc …

  21. Vincent Couling says:

    This also has Donal saying The Catholic Church does not claim to know anything about how long or short purgatory is in general pretty much giving me the impression that he thinks purgatory has a length of time attached to it, even though we can say nothing about the actual length of that time. Subsequently he changes his mind, and says There is no time in purgatory, so there can be no time off it.

    Malcolm, Donal has confused me hopelessly, and you have done nothing to help either him or me out!

  22. Malcolm says:

    Dear Vincent, what makes you think that there is time where purgatory resides. Possibly you might want to read what Luther thought of it.

    Here is the reference: Defense and Explanation of all Articles, Luther’s Works Vol, 32 page 95.

    You might be more confused when you read this,no one, would want that.

  23. Vincent Couling says:

    I’m not looking for confusion, Malcolm, I’m looking for enlightenment! Something which you seem quite unable to provide.

    You ask “what makes you think that there is time where purgatory resides” … well, Donal made me think that: after all, it was he who initiated this thread by saying “The Catholic Church does not claim to know anything about how long or short purgatory is in general”. Now he might claim that he was talking about the physical dimensions of the space called Purgatory, but methinks he was talking about a measure of time ;-)

    Euripedes comes to mind … something about “talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish …

  24. Vincent Couling says:

    Is this how they’re going to run the “new evangelization” programme?

    “Please exert a little time to inform yourself. In other words look it up.”

  25. Malcolm says:

    Dear Vincent

    This is what Fr Egan wrote. “literally time off in purgatory”.

    If you do not find the answer to your questions, I have no immediate plans to go to purgatory or hell,
    but if that is your plan, please inform us to the answers to your questions, when you get there.

  26. Vincent Couling says:

    Well, if venial sins (even those already forgiven on Earth!) require “punishment” or purgation in purgatory, and if the extent of punishment is in direct proportion to the “severity” of the venial sins, and if purgatory lasts for a period of time (by Donal’s own initial admission), then why not “literally “time off” in purgatory”?

    Purgatory, even Hell, would be far preferable to having any further “scintillating” dialogue with you, Malcolm!