Canon 751: “Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”
CCC § 2089 “Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. ‘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; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.’”
The Greek word hairesis, means “choice,” or “something chosen.” From it the Catholic Church takes the English word heretic. A heretic is one who chooses his own God-based beliefs Tit 3:10. The Greek word orthos, by contrast, means “correct” or “straight.” An orthodox Catholic receives his beliefs about Rabbi Yeshua and the Catholic Church through the Magisterium from Scripture, Tradition, and Ecumenical Councils (§ 884).
St. Thomas Aquinas told us, “Every sin consists formally in aversion from God.… Hence the more a sin severs man from God, the graver it is. Now man is more than ever separated from God by unbelief…. Therefore it is clear that the sin of unbelief is greater than any sin that occurs in the perversion of morals.” ST SS Q. 10, A. 3.
We distinguish between material and formal heresy. Material heresy objectively contradicts Catholic teaching, but the speaker does not necessarily know that it does. Formal heresy, defined in Canon 751 above, is limited to cases in which a baptized person obstinately insists on his contradiction of Catholic faith.
Also, the strict definition of heresy requires that the heresiarch be a baptized Christian. Here we use its wider sense, any doctrine that specifically contradicts Catholic teaching, because Rabbi Yeshua allowed both baptized and unbaptized persons to invigorate his Church through opposition.
How Heresies Arise
Most heresies arise because someone read, “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” 2 Pet 1:20–21 and imagined that he had heard from the Holy Spirit, when in fact it came from his pious imagination. Protestant Christianity, because it lacks an authoritative interpreter, has produced a theological bedlam of such interpretations.
The Holy Eucharist Holds us Together
The Holy Eucharist makes all the difference. After Rabbi Yeshua died, the shlikhim cowered in the locked upper room. He was spiritually present to them, as he is spiritually present to all Christian congregations. “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” Mt 18:20. But when he entered and told them, “Peace be with you,” Jn 20:19, his substantial presence transformed them. Rabbi Kefa, who had betrayed Christ, was now ready to be commissioned Vicar of C0hrist. Jn 21:15. The shlikhim were ready to receive Rabbi Yeshua’s power to forgive sins Jn 20:23. They prepared for the arrival of the Holy Spirit.
After Rabbis Kefa, Teom, Nathanael, Yaakov ben Zevdi, Yokhanan ben Zevdi, and two more of Rabbi Yeshua’s shlikhim saw him at the Sea of Tiberias, Jn 21:1 they went fishing. They fished all night, but caught nothing Jn 21:3. “… apart from me you can do nothing” Jn 15:5. Then, just as day was breaking, the seven shlikhim saw Rabbi Yeshua, “the light of the world” Jn 8:12, who told them to fish from the other side of the boat. To lifelong working fishermen like Rabbis Kefa, Yaakov and Yokhanan and perhaps the others, Mk 1:16 his instruction made no sense. But when they followed the risen Rabbi Yeshua anyway, even before recognizing him, they brought 153 fish Jn 21:11 up from the dark waters to light in his presence. At that time there were 153 known species of fish, indicating that the Church would no longer be only for “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” Mt 10:6 but would fish for “devout men from every nation under heaven” Acts 2:5. Then they understood his first call, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” Mt 4:16.
The Eastern Orthodox Churches have been separated from the Catholic Church for a thousand years. Yet, even after separating from the authentic Magisterium in 1054, Eastern Orthodox Churches have remained closer to authentic Catholic teaching than any other non-Catholic faith community. The difference is the Holy Eucharist. Orthodox Christians have retained the apostolic succession and therefore consecrate the true Holy Eucharist. He made all the difference on the Sea of Tiberias and in the locked upper room, and he makes all the difference holding the few Eastern Orthodox Churches together.
The Holy Eucharist opened the Scriptures to the travelers on the road to Emmaus, and to all who authentically, “Do this in remembrance of me” Lk 22:19. Even after a thousand years, the Eastern Orthodox Churches have fractured only slightly into a few national churches. Their mostly authentic teaching and near-unity testify to the power of the Holy Eucharist. The comparison with Protestant Christianity is astonishing.
The Protestant denominations have been separated from the Catholic Church only half as long as the Orthodox Churches. Yet they have splintered into a theological bedlam of conflicting doctrines even on such crucial issues as baptism and Holy Communion which Rabbi Yeshua said are necessary to our salvation Jn 3:5; 6:53. The difference is the Holy Eucharist. All of the Protestant denominations have abandoned the Catholic understanding of apostolic succession and belief in transubstantiation. They deliberately protested against the Catholic Church‘s intentions in celebrating these sacraments, making it impossible for them to transubstantiate bread and wine into Rabbi Yeshua’s Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. The comparison with the complete unity of the Catholic Church in the authentic Magisterium, and even with the Orthodox Churches, is astonishing.
And there is more. Holy Mother Church is at her best when under attack. The capital sins, particularly sloth, eventually seduce undisturbed churchmen, as they did Pope Alexander VI. Rabbi Yeshua allowed Luther to betray her and lead millions astray to strengthen his faithful. But her very betrayers stirred her to convene the Council of Trent.
God Uses the Heresies to Make Good
When our first parents fell from original justice into original sin, our Father knew that we would need radical transformation to recover our darkened intellects and strengthen our weakened wills. His Son’s sacrifice redeemed us from the original sin that deprived us of sanctifying grace, and all the personal sins committed by each one of us, but not from the stain of the original sin that darkened our intellects and weakened our wills (Pope Paul VI, Credo of the People of God § 17). Only the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved also from the stain.
It is fascinating to watch God’s infinite intelligence against the backdrop of our own insignificant intelligence. What human mind intent on strengthening a Church would have thought to do it by allowing the formation of heresies?
He created oysters to show us how it works. When a parasitic intruder drills through a pearl oyster’s shell, the oyster becomes irritated. Its mantle coats the intruder, producing a natural pearl.
God wills all men to be in the Church, but if some will not he uses their very resistance to strengthen Holy Mother Church. She responds to an irritating heresy by refuting it and teaching the Faith more brilliantly and beautifully than ever before. Most of the major Catholic teaching documents were written in response to a heresy. We need always to thank God for the irritations He sends us.
Anyone who has ever worked out in a gym recognizes the principle. Resistance builds strength.
Our Father always looks far ahead. After driving our first parents from Eden Gen 3:24 he purified them through constant striving against pride. During the Old Testament days he kept his Israelite children apart from the pagan tribes, but their presence strengthened the Israelite tribes. When the Israelites conformed to God they conquered the pagans, and when they departed from conformity the pagans conquered them Ex 17:11. The new Israel too would be the light of the world Mt 5:14, revealing God to man, surrounded by adversaries who would strengthen them.
The sins of some churchmen during the fifteenth century made the Church a near occasion of blasphemy. The Protestant movement forced Holy Mother Church at the Council of Trent to try harder to live as she taught. The Protestant movement is the heresy of Christ without Mary. Islam is the heresy of Mary without Christ. The Jews, Muslims, Protestants and all the rest who remain outside Holy Mother Church strengthen her by their resistance, forcing her to articulate Rabbi Yeshua‘s public revelation more brilliantly and beautifully than ever before through the development of doctrine.
They Went Out From Us
It did not take long. Rabbi Yokhanan wrote, “Children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come; therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out, that it might be plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all know. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and know that no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son” 1 Jn 2:18–22. Rabbi Yokhanan did not refer to people who had never come to know Rabbi Yeshua, but who “went out from us” 1 Jn 2:19.
Rabbi Yeshua, the torat khayim, Torah made flesh, instituted the Catholic Church Mt 16:18 as a body of faithful servants who would protect his sacramental presence and teaching. And he told us, “This is my body” Mt 26:26, and, “I am with you always” Mt 28:20. Rabbi Yeshua has allowed the great divisions within his flock. He did not will them. He prayed “ … that they may be one” Jn 17:22, and lamented, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” Mt 23:37. But, as with the Crucifixion, He used Satan’s bitter attacks to calmly teach his Church that his living presence among us today is both real and powerful.
The Early Lost Sheep
§ 464 The unique and altogether singular event of the Incarnation of the Son of God does not mean that Jesus Christ is part God and part man, nor does it imply that he is the result of a confused mixture of the divine and the human. He became truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God and true man. During the first centuries, the Church had to defend and clarify this truth of faith against the heresies that falsified it.
Judaizers (1st Century)
The first Christian heretics were the Judaizers. Most of the earliest Christians were Jews, who were accustomed all their lives to the practice of circumcision and other Torah provisions. Our Father had required since the time of Abraham that his covenant children be circumcised, so the Judaizers assumed that it was still required.
The Judaizers spread a heresy that a person must become Jewish and follow the Mosaic law as a condition for baptism. At the Council of Jerusalem the heretics said, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” Acts 15:1, and, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to charge them to keep the law of Moses” Acts 15:5. But the Council’s decision letter said these things were not necessary Acts 15:28.
Rabbi Paul told us about them. “… false brethren secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy out our freedom which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage to them we did not yield submission even for a moment, that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you” Gal 2:4–5.
In fact, God had made it clear that Gentiles as well as Jews were welcome. During Rabbi Yeshua’s mortal life, he had told his shlikhim, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” Mt 10:5. But after rising from the dead, Rabbi Yeshua told the same shlikhim, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations Mt 28:19, and “You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” Acts 1:8.
It took Rabbi Yeshua a while to make his vicar and the other shlikhim understand. While Rabbi Kefa was en route to Joppa, he had a vision in which God gave all kinds of animals to Rabbi Kefa and told him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat” Acts 10:13. Rabbi Yeshua had earlier said, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him” Mk 7:14, but Rabbi Kefa protested that he had never in his life eaten anything unkosher. “No, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean” Acts 10:14. The voice from God answered, “What God has cleansed, you must not call common” Acts 10:15.
Rabbi Yeshua then sent Cornelius, a Roman centurion, to Rabbi Kefa. Finally, Rabbi Kefa understood. “Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” Acts 10:34–35. He taught authoritatively as the Vicar of Christ at the Council of Jerusalem, “God who knows the heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us; and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith” Acts 15:8.
A few persons born Jewish and later baptized into Rabbi Yeshua’s redemptive sacrifice Rom 6:3–4 imagine that God requires them to observe the mitzvot. They read that the Council of Jerusalem was convened in response to a challenge from the Judaizers: “But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’” Acts 15:1 They see the Council’s conclusion: “Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God.” Acts 15:19 They see Gentiles, and conclude that the Church never dispensed Hebrew Catholics from observing the mitzvot, for example by wearing the kippa (prayer hat) and tallit (prayer shawl). They commit the Protestant error of reading only Scripture.
The three greatest voices of Sacred Tradition, St. Augustine, St. Jerome, and St. Thomas Aquinas agree that Hebrew Catholics are not required to observe the mitzvot. Belief that God still commands us to perform the mitzvot denies Rabbi Yeshua‘s fulfillment. From the moment of our baptism into Rabbi Yeshua‘s Final Sacrifice, we come under Church authority, and no other.
However, we may perform the mitzvot provided we understand that they are not salvific.
The Catholic Church corrected the Judaizer heresy at the Council of Jerusalem Acts 15. The Judaizers continued to argue the point, which led to the Antioch Incident. Some arguments continued until AD 70 when, on the Ninth of Av, the Jewish-Christian community in Jerusalem disappeared. The question of Hebrew Catholics and the Mitzvot continues to this day, but only as a voluntary action for Hebrew Catholics who wish to retain their Jewish identity and understand that they are not salvific. Catholics, including Catholics of Jewish origin, are not required by God’s law to perform the mitzvot.
Gnostics (1st Century)
§ 465 The first heresies denied not so much Christ’s divinity as his true humanity (Gnostic Docetism). From apostolic times the Christian faith has insisted on the true incarnation of God’s Son come in the flesh. But already in the third century, the Church in a council at Antioch had to affirm against Paul of Samosata that Jesus Christ is Son of God by nature and not by adoption. The first ecumenical council of Nicaea in 325 confessed in its Creed that the Son of God is begotten, not made, of the same substance (homoousios) as the Father, and condemned Arius, who had affirmed that the Son of God “came to be from things that were not” and that he was “from another substance” than that of the Father.
Gnosticism is the doctrine of salvation by knowledge. Gnostics were “people who knew.” They believed that what they knew made them superior to everyone else. In fact, the Gnostic movement consisted of a wide variety of sects that had all sorts of pantheistic and idealistic ideas, particularly that spirit was good but flesh was evil. The Gnostics thought they should overcome the grossness of matter and return to the Parent-Spirit through some sort of God-sent Savior. It was Satan who enticed our first parents with the gnostic temptation, “You will be like God, knowing good and evil” Gen 3:5.
As Christianity spread through the Roman Empire, Gnosticism spread with it, pretending to be an esoteric revelation of Rabbi Yeshua‘s, fit for the aristocracy rather than the vulgar crowd who could not understand. It acknowledged Rabbi Yeshua as Savior, imitated the valid sacraments but without ordination, and flooded the world with apocryphal gospels, acts, and apocalypses, including the so-called gospels of Thomas, Judas, and Mary Magdalene.
The Catholic Church has always taught salvation by grace. Rabbi Yeshua through his Church offers to all men the truth we need to attain heaven, and gives us grace that helps us conform to that truth. If we freely will to cooperate with his grace we can attain heaven. Our understanding of that truth combines faith and reason, “…two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.” St. Anselm of Canterbury called it fides quaerens intellectum, confident faith seeking intellectual understanding of itself.
If knowledge saves us the man who has never been given this knowledge has no way to be saved. The Catholic Church has always taught that God wills the salvation of all men, and therefore, at least implicitly, that even those ignorant of the Church can be saved. The Church’s understanding is this:
§ 1260 “Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery. Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.”
Rabbi Paul was the first authentic Christian to refute the Gnostic heresy. “O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge [Greek: gnosis], for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards the faith” 1 Tim 6:20.
By the fourth century Gnosticism declined rapidly, but is reappearing in our own time.
Docetists (1st Century)
Docetism comes from the Greek dokesis, “appearance.” It was not a formal heresy in that it arose outside the Church, not as the misunderstanding of a dogma by the faithful. The Gnostics saw spirit as good but flesh as evil. This antagonism between spirit and flesh made them unable to resolve, “The Word was made flesh” Jn 1:14, which means the entire doctrine of Christ as “true God and true man” would not be valid. To resolve it, the Docetists decided that Christ’s human nature was only an illusion. In some versions, miraculously substituted someone else to bear the pain of the Cross.
Simon Magus was a Docetist. His name appears in Acts 8:9, 13, 18, 24. He practiced magic, which was movement of objects and so on by demons giving the illusion that Simon Magus had God’s power Acts 8:10. A group of Docetae later repented and burned their evil books Acts 19:19.
Docetism always accompanies Gnosticism and Manichaeism.
Marcionists (2nd Century)
Marcion rejected the writings of the Old Testament. He taught that Christ was not the Son of the God of the Old Covenant, but the Son of a different God, the good God.
Marcion wanted the New Covenant to be undefiled by association with Judaism. He accounted for the existence of the Old Testament by imagining a second deity, a god in a sense but not God. He also rejected the Gospels of Rabbis Matityahu, Marcus and Yokhanan because they were Jews, and produced his own mutilated New Testament. It had only one Gospel, Rabbi Lucas, without the first two chapters, and ten epistles of Rabbi Paul. Marcion saw the Catholics of his day as the Judaizers of the preceding century.
Marcionism soon drifted away from this simple fiction. Its shortcomings were too visible. Marcion admitted that the Old Testament was true, but sought to discard it. He admitted that his lesser god created the world and all humanity, and had done men no evil, but insisted that they need not worship him. His followers tried to be more logical, but ended up taking Marcionism more or less back to Gnosticism.
Several of the Church Fathers wrote against Marcionism, but the most important was Tertullian, in his Against Marcion.
Montanists (2nd Century)
Montanism began in Asia Minor, in Phrygia. At the outset there were extravagances but no false doctrines. The Montanists claimed that the Holy Spirit had ordered some fasts and abstinences, and strongly promoted virginity. Martyrdom was so highly recommended that flight from persecution was disapproved. Over time, they became more extravagant, forbidding second marriage and observing three Lents, as though three Saviors had suffered.
The Montanists began to draw considerable crowds of Christians eager to believe that they were hearing Rabbi Yeshua directly, which of course led them away from the Church. Evidence accumulated that the prophecies were not of supernatural origin, and Church authorities excommunicated the Montanists.
In the west, there were arguments within the Church over the authenticity of Montanism. Tertullian’s own extravagant nature led him to embrace Montanism as soon as he heard about it. After that, his writings grew bitter against the Catholic Church, and he finally abandoned it. His following was small, but a sect of followers survived and were reconciled to the Church by St. Augustine.
Manichaeans (3rd Century)
Mani was a title of respect, not a personal name, probably from the Aramaic mânâ, light-spirit or illustrious one. The founder used this title as if it were his name.
Mani, a Gnostic; believed in salvation by knowledge. He proposed a religion of pure reason as opposed to the Christian principle of faith. The Manichaeist heresy claimed to explain the origin, composition and future of the universe. It had an answer for everything, and so it stood against Christianity which was built on mystery. Again we hear, “You will be like God …” Gen 3:5.
In Mani’s cosmogony, before the existence of heaven and earth there were two principles. The good principle, called the Father of Majesty, dwelled in the realm of light. Within the Father were the four persons of time, light, force and goodness. Outside the Father were five tabernacles, intelligence, reason, thought, reflection and will. There was also an evil principle, the Prince of Darkness, its exact opposite.
These two powers lived in peace until the Prince of Darkness decided to invade the realm of light. The Father of Majesty, in response, emanated the Mother of Life, which in turn emanated the first man. The story goes on and on, and has come to us in different versions.
Manichaeism had a lax moral code. During St. Augustine’s early years he had been a Manichaean. In his Confessions he gives an example. “God, give me chastity and continence, but not yet,” disregarding Rabbi Yeshua‘s clear warning, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” Mt 24:36, which applies to both the particular judgment and the general judgment.
Manichaeanism was so complete and consistent, its followers never noticed that there was no authority at all for its beliefs. It reminds us in that sense of Wagner’s great pagantetralogy The Ring of the Nibelungs or Tolkien’s great Catholic trilogy Lord of the Rings, in which we get so wrapped up mastering the details that we forget it is all fantasy.
In this Manichaeanism marked a transition. In the Old Testament days the demons’ heresy against the Canaanite pagans was simple. “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me” Mt 4:9. But after Rabbi Yeshua taught us how to answer them, “Begone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve’” Mt 4:10, the heresies began to get much more complicated.
The key to all heresies is pride: “You will be like God, knowing good and evil” Gen 3:5. Many persons who have spent years becoming adept at a false religion, upon hearing Catholic truth, refuse to accept it because they would have to humble themselves by admitting they had been wrong. And so, finding Protestants and Muslims who hear our words but remain intransigent, we hear Rabbi Yeshua, “…whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” Mt 23:12.
Arians (4th century)
Arianism. The Catholic Church was born in a Jewish and Greek world. The Jews proclaimed one God, supreme in the universe. The Greeks, however, could not see how an infinite and unchanging God could create a finite and changing world. They envisioned a mediator to reduce the distance between God and man. Arius taught that Rabbi Yeshua was not consubstantial with the Father but a second god, created and inferior, midway between the Father and man. In some variants Rabbi Yeshua was not even that but simply a prophet or great moral teacher.
After the first Council of Nicaea, AD 325, condemned the Arian heresy, Arius disguised it by using orthodox or near-orthodox terminology. In Greek, homo (same), homoi (similar) and hetero (different) all match up to ousios, nature. St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, proclaimed the true Faith, homoousios, that the Father and the Son are the same divine spiritual substance. “I and the Father are one” Jn 10:30. Instead of heteroousios, different natures, he called it homoiousios, similar natures, which still denied the entire doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. Homoousios and homoiousios sounded so similar that confusion rampaged through the Church.
Arius also quoted passages from the Gospels out of context to make his heresy appear orthodox. “But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” Mk 13:32. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man” Lk 2:52. “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” Acts 2:36. “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Phil 2:9–11. “… having become as much superior to angels as the name he has obtained is more excellent than theirs” Heb 1:4. “Jesus, … was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in God’s house” Heb 3:1–2. St. Athanasius devoted vast sections of his Discourses against the Arians to showing that their use of these and many other verses was inconsistent with the overall context of these books, which the Church later recognized as Holy Scripture.
During that conflict Constantine’s sons divided the Roman Empire. Constantius, a devoted Arian, became Emperor of the East. He soon forced more than 80 Eastern bishops, all of the Eastern Church except for St. Athanasius, to proclaim Arianism. Constantine’s other son, Constans, an orthodox Christian, became Emperor of the West. There Emperor Constans, Pope Julius, and later Pope Liberius, protested strenuously against Constantius’ action. When Constans was killed in battle Constantius inherited the entire Empire. He immediately imposed Arianism on the Western bishops, forcing PopeLiberius into exile.
After Constantius died the conflict continued until Emperor Theodosius I called a new ecumenical in AD 381. By that time virtually all the world’s bishops were Arians. RabbiYeshua protected St. Athanasius, a handful of other bishops, and a great majority of the laity. At one point even Pope Liberius appeared to falter but it was later proven that he had always been faithful. St. Athanasius and the Council of Nicaea finally prevailed when the Council of Constantinople firmly condemned Arianism and reaffirmed the Nicene Creed. The Council of Constantinople also composed a longer creed, known as the Nicene-Constantinople Creed, which is recited at the Sunday Eucharist in both the Orthodox East and the Latin West. Pope St. Damasus I in AD 382 ratified Constantinopleand in that same year published his Decree of Damasus, which approved St. Athanasius’ list of canonical books, a crucial step toward the Catholic Canon of Sacred Scripture.
Rabbi Yeshua always uses adversity to call the Church to her greatest work. St. Athanasius was exiled more than once for holding fast to authoritative Catholic teaching. As a result, he compiled the list of holy books that would eventually become the Catholic Canon of Sacred Scripture. The Church survived because Rabbi Yeshua sent excellent Vicars to set the Barque of Peter back on course. The only three early Popes who are called “the Great,” Leo I (440-461), Gregory I (590-604) and Nicholas I (858-867), together with great bishops including Sts. Augustine, Anselm, Cyril and Patrick, defeated the entrenched Arians and restored true teaching to Rome. St. John Paul II, with the voice of an Old Testament prophet, did the same in the confusion after Vatican II.
The Council of Nicaea in AD 325 and the Council of Constantinople in AD 381 provided the necessary correction: “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in being with the Father.”
Pelagians (5th century)
Pelagius denied Rabbi Paul’s clear teaching on original sin. “… sin came into the world through one man and death through sin” Rom 5:12. He taught from a pagan, especially Stoic, perspective, claiming that man is born morally neutral and becomes sinful through the bad example of the sinful community into which he is born, and that the moral strength of our will, steeled by ascetic living, on its own could attain high virtue.
Pelagius therefore denied that we inherit righteousness as a result of Rabbi Yeshua‘s death on the cross. Instead, he said, we become personally righteous by instruction and imitation in the Christian community, following Rabbi Yeshua‘s example. In his view, grace is not truly necessary but merely makes easier what would otherwise be difficult.
A series of local councils in North Africa, culminating in the Council of Carthage, in AD 419, corrected the Pelagian heresy, declaring that death did not come to Adam from a physical necessity but through sin, that newborn children must be baptized to erase the stain of original sin, that justifying grace forgives past sins but also helps us to avoid future sins, that Rabbi Yeshua‘s grace helps us to know God’s commands for us but also gives us the strength and will to obey them, that without Rabbi Yeshua‘s grace it is not more difficult but absolutely impossible to do good works, that we confess ourselves sinners not from humility but from truth, that the saints pray, “Forgive us our trespasses,” not only for others but for themselves, and that they do so not from humility but from truthfulness. Pope St. Boniface I in AD 419 affirmed all these conciliar teachings, and the Seventh Ecumenical Council, Nicaea II in AD 787, reaffirmed them.
Semi-Pelagians (5th century)
After St. Augustine firmly refuted Pelagius’ teachings, some of his followers tried to evade St. Augustine’s objections with a modified version which claimed that we can reach out to God under our own power, without God’s grace, and that once we enter the state of grace we can retain it through our own efforts without further grace from God.
Nestorians (5th Century)
§ 466 “The Nestorian heresy regarded Christ as a human person joined to the divine person of God’s Son. Opposing this heresy, St. Cyril of Alexandria and the third ecumenical council, at Ephesus in 431, confessed ‘that the Word, uniting to himself in his person the flesh animated by a rational soul, became man.’ Christ’s humanity has no other subject than the divine person of the Son of God, who assumed it and made it his own, from his conception. For this reason the Council of Ephesus proclaimed in 431 that Mary truly became the Mother of God by the human conception of the Son of God in her womb: ‘Mother of God, not that the nature of the Word or his divinity received the beginning of its existence from the holy Virgin, but that, since the holy body, animated by a rational soul, which the Word of God united to himself according to the hypostasis, was born from her, the Word is said to be born according to the flesh.’”
Nestorius denied Mary the title of Theotokos (Greek: “God-bearer” or, less literally, “Mother of God”), claiming that she bore only Christ’s human nature in her womb. He proposed instead the title Christotokos (“Christ-bearer” or “Mother of Christ”).
This made Christ two separate persons, a divine person and a human person, only one of which was in Mary’s womb. St. Cyril of Alexandria defended true Catholic teaching. The Third Ecumenical Council, at Ephesus in AD 431, supported him, declaring, “… that the Word, uniting to himself in his person the flesh animated by a rational soul, became man.”
The Council of Ephesus also defined the Blessed Virgin as Theotokos, declaring that she carried in her womb God incarnate. This did not mean that she was older than God or the source of God, but only that God had chosen to become incarnate and dwell for nine months in Mary’s womb. (Denzinger-Schönmetzer, Enchiridion 250, quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church § 466.)
Father John A. Hardon, S.J. summarized on the Nestorian heresy in Mariology: Mary as Mother of God: “This is the perfect description of Mohammedanism: Mohammedanism is Nestorian Christianity. It is Christianity minus Mary as the Mother of God. She is only the Mother of Jesus, the man, as Nestorius claimed and as Mohammed after him preached.” But he said much more in his Homily on the Feast of St. Cyril of Alexandria, June 27, 1991:
The whole question was whether she merely conceived and gave birth to a human person, or whether the Child that she conceived and gave birth to was human indeed, but not a human person. A person is an individual. The individual, the person whom Mary conceived and gave birth to was man, but He was a divine Person, a divine Person who had assumed a true humanity. That was the Nestorian heresy, and – I make bold to say – the single (I do not hesitate) the single most devastating, underlying, subverting, destructive heresy among nominal Christians today is Nestorianism. The very error against which today’s saint battled. Why? For three reasons:
- If Mary is not the Theotokos, the Mother of God and not merely Christotokos, the Mother of the man Christ, so that the divinity merely dwells in Jesus, while Christ is intimately united with God, or Christ always did the will of God. He was always very pleased to do what God wanted Him to do. That’s not enough. Either we use the word “is” or we are Nestorians. Jesus is God. And without Christ’s divinity, Christianity collapses.
- Secondly, if Mary’s Child is not the living God in human form, then we’ve not been redeemed. The redemption had to be accomplished by God. Very well, either we believe that God assumed a human nature — it was God Who allowed Himself to be crucified. Either it was God Who allowed Himself to die so that His human body and soul were divided, either it was God Who had a human will – God had a human will — with His human will, then He voluntarily sacrificed His human life on the Cross, or we are not redeemed. It is not by something that some man did for God that we were redeemed. It is that God as man suffered and died on the Cross and by His human will, Christ – this is it – Christ had two wills, a divine will because He was God, and a human will that He assumed. And by that human will, He voluntarily, freely allowed Himself to have a human body and soul divided, which caused His death and had a human will with which He allowed Himself to be killed.
- And finally – and most practically — if Mary’s Son is not our God, then the whole Christian spiritual life goes down the drain because our Faith tells us the virtues that Christ practiced as man, of course — humility, patience, charity, forbearance – all of those virtues that Jesus practiced that we are to follow and imitate — they were indeed the virtues, the virtues of a man, but this man was united with the divinity. And we believe that this man who is God lived a human life on earth, and by His human life, showed us how we are to imitate Christ. But the key factor is that God did indeed become man. And by imitating His human virtues, we are becoming more and more like the God Who redeemed us.
Lord Jesus, give us the grace to believe that we are to imitate you as man in order to become more and more like you who are our God. Amen.
Monophysites (5th Century)
§ 467 “The Monophysites affirmed that the human nature had ceased to exist as such in Christ when the divine person of God’s Son assumed it. Faced with this heresy, the fourth ecumenical council, at Chalcedon in 451, confessed:
Following the holy Fathers, we unanimously teach and confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: The same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man, composed of rational soul and body; consubstantial with the Father as to his divinity and consubstantial with us as to his humanity; “like us in all things but sin.” He was begotten from the Father before all ages as to his divinity and in these last days, for us and for our salvation, was born as to his humanity of the virgin Mary, the Mother of God.
We confess that one and the same Christ, Lord, and only-begotten Son, is to be acknowledged in two natures without confusion, change, division or separation. the distinction between the natures was never abolished by their union, but rather the character proper to each of the two natures was preserved as they came together in one person (prosopon) and one hypostasis.”
The Monophysites, appalled by Nestorius’ implication that Rabbi Yeshua was two people with two different natures went to the other extreme, claiming that Rabbi Yeshua was one person with only one nature mixing human and divine elements. Holy Mother Church calls them Monophysites (Greek: mono, one; physis, nature).
Orthodox Catholic theologians recognized that Monophysitism was as bad as Nestorianism because it denied Christ’s full humanity and full divinity. If Christ did not have a fully human nature, then he would not be fully human, and if he did not have a fully divine nature then he was not fully divine.
The fourth ecumenical council, at Chalcedon in AD 451, replied, “Following the holy Fathers, we unanimously teach and confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity.”
Monothelites (7th Century)
The Catholic Church teaches not Monothelitism but Dyothelitism. All three divine persons of the Holy Trinity share one will, but Rabbi Yeshua’s human nature had its own will. “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” Lk 22:42. “I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” Jn 5:30. Rabbi Yeshua‘s human will was always obedient to his divine will in the hypostatic union.
The Monothelites confused the existence with the actions of Rabbi Yeshua‘s separate will, arguing that separate wills must have different objectives. Since he followed the divine will rather than his own human will, the Monothelites assumed that there was really only one will.
What looked like a theological discussion of angels dancing on the head of a pin had immense consequences. If Rabbi Yeshua did not have an independent will, if his decision to be the Final Sacrifice had been that of a puppet, then there was no free will sacrifice, and therefore no redemption.
The matter was settled by the sixth ecumenical council, Constantinople lII, in AD 680 and confirmed by Pope St. Leo II (AD 682-683). Interference from secular authorities kept monothelitism alive a little longer, but by about AD 715 it had disappeared.
Iconoclasts (8th and 9th Centuries)
The Eastern Churches had always emphasized images of Rabbi Yeshua and the Blessed Virgin called icons. But during the eighth century a movement arose that saw all matter, especially the human body, as inherently evil. These iconoclasts (image breakers) saw sacraments, rites, and especially veneration of the Cross as reprehensible, and destroyed whole monasteries to get as many images and relics as possible.
The Iconoclasts of the eighth and ninth centuries were Christian heretics opposed to Christian holy pictures. They especially disliked images of the Cross because they believed that Rabbi Yeshua had not really been crucified. Muslims also opposed all image-making. However, here we will address Jewish objections.
Rabbi Yeshua did not change the Torah. Our Father had never prohibited all images, only the worship of images. His First Commandment included “You shall have no other gods before me” Ex 20:3. “You shall not make for yourself a graven image…” Ex 20:4. His words immediately following it were, “You shall not bow down to them or serve them” Ex 20:5. He told us not to make graven images to worship. He had told Moses, “You shall make two cherubim of gold” Ex 25:18 and, “Make a fiery serpent” Num 21:8. But when King Hezekiah saw the Israelites burning incense to it, “… he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made” 2 Kings 18:4.
Some Jews quote, “Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a graven image for yourselves, in the form of any figure …” Deut 4:15. This too refers to worship, as we see a few verses later, “…you be drawn away and worship them” Deut 4:19. We saw no form at Horeb but we did at Calvary, so we can now venerate images of Rabbi Yeshua, as well as images of Mary, the angels, and all the saints.
The Mishna says, “All images are prohibited, ‘because they are worshiped once a year,’ in the words of R. Meir. And sages say, ‘Prohibited is only one which has in its hand a staff, bird, or sphere.’ Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel says, ‘Any which has anything at all in its hand.’” Mishna Avodah Zarah, 3:1. But it does not rule out all images.
Rambam’s mitzvah 313 says, “Do not make figures for ornament, even if they are not worshiped.” But the Torah passage he cites says only, “And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear; for God has come to prove you, and that the fear of him may be before your eyes, that you may not sin’” Ex 20:20. Maimonides often framed Jewish law in ways designed to exclude Rabbi Yeshua as God’s Mashiakh, as in his shloshah-asar ikkarim, Thirteen Principles of Faith. In this case he used it in a way not supported by the Writtenor Oral Torah. Divine law never prohibited images not worshiped.
The seventh ecumenical council, Nicaea II, in AD 787, asserted that it was appropriate to venerate icons of Rabbi Yeshua, the Blessed Virgin, the angels and all the saints, declaring that “… the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype,” and “… whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it” (Denzinger-Schönmetzer, Enchiridion 601, quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church § 2132.)
Catharism (11th Century)
Catharism presented non-Christian ideas in Christian words. The Cathari taught that the world was created by an evil deity, and therefore matter must be evil, and that we must worship the good deity instead.
The Albigensians, a large Cathar sect, taught that the spirit was created by God and was good, while the body was created by an evil god and so the spirit must be freed from the body. They saw having children as one of the greatest evils, since it entailed imprisoning another “spirit” in flesh, so they forbade marriage but allowed fornication. The Albigensians practiced tremendous fasts and severe mortifications, and their leaders went about in voluntary poverty.
Authority of the Church
Let us begin with the supreme authority of the Church. Canon 331 states: “The office uniquely committed by the Lord to Peter, the first of the Apostles, and to be transmitted to his successors, abides in the Bishop of the Church of Rome. He is the head of the College of Bishops, the Vicar of Christ, and the Pastor of the universal Church here on earth. Consequently, by virtue of his office, he has supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church, and he can always freely exercise this power.”
How then do we know that a particular man is the Pope? Canon 332 §1 answers: “The Roman Pontiff acquires full and supreme power in the Church when, together with episcopal consecration, he has been lawfully elected and has accepted the election.”
Who is the authentic interpreter of Canon law? Canon 16 §1 says, “Laws are authentically interpreted by the legislator and by the one to whom the legislator has granted the power to interpret them authentically.” St. John Paul II was the legislator at the time of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, meaning he and his successors are the most qualified to interpret it. Canon 333 § 3 says, “There is neither appeal nor recourse against a decision or decree of the Roman Pontiff.”
Canon 338 §1 states: “It is the prerogative of the Roman Pontiff alone to summon an Ecumenical Council, to preside over it personally or through others, to transfer, suspend or dissolve the Council, and to approve its decrees.” St. John XXIII called Vatican II, and Pope Paul VI approved its decree.
What Makes Us Catholic
What makes us Catholic is our belief that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ, the living authority sent to lead and guide us.. § 837 “Fully incorporated into the society of the Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept all the means of salvation given to the Church together with her entire organization.” We owe the Holy Father, and the bishops in communion with him, submission of mind and will. The Orthodox churches that cut away in 1054 AD validly celebrate the sacrament of Rabbi Yeshua‘s Body and Blood and teach much as we do. They even have great respect for the Pope, but they do not accept him as the Vicar of Christ today so they are not Catholic.
This above all makes us Catholic. If we believe every single Catholic doctrine because we have personally examined it and found it to be true, we are not Catholic. We are Catholic because we believe that Rabbi Yeshua instituted Rabbi Kefa as Vicar of Christ to teach infallibly on faith and morals, and that each particular doctrine is true because the popes teach it. When we encounter a Catholic doctrine we do not understand, we respond as Rabbi Kefa did. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” Jn 6:68.
Beyond that, St. Ignatius of Loyola gave us the standard, sentire cum ecclesia, “Think with the Church.” The popes have not pronounced on every single issue that arises in our lives. “I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts” Jer 31:33. RabbiYeshua “… emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” Phil 2:7. Popes for 1,500 years have described themselves as servus servorum Dei, servant of the servants of God. We are to approach every question as servants of the Church, “… not as I will, but as you will” Mt 26:39.
For instance, Sacrosanctum Concilium § 22(1) directs, “Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop.” § 22(3) concludes, “Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.”
What Separates Us from the Church
God’s first command to Adam was, “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die” Gen 2:17. Satan’s first temptation to Adam was, “You will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Gen 3:5. Woman “took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate” Gen 3:6. Therefore, Rabbi Paul comments, “Sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned” Rom 5:12.
Rabbi Yeshua had made Rabbi Kefa his Vicar. “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church … I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” Mt 16:18–19. Just before ascending to the Father, the good shepherd” Jn 10:11 commanded Rabbi Kefa, “Feed my lambs … Tend my sheep … Feed my sheep” Jn 21:15–17.
The original sin was disobedience to God. § 1850 All sin is an offense against God. Rabbi Yeshua told the seventy, “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” Lk 10:16. Disobedience to the Vicar is disobedience to Rabbi Yeshua, our final judge.
Disobedience from the left or from the right is exactly the same sin. It can often be observed in a lack of charity toward orthodox Catholic faith 1 Cor 13:13. Every argument not presented in a spirit of charity is null and void because the person is not authentically representing Catholic teaching 1 Pet 3:15. Let us look at both sides and see how we can help our own prodigal sons come home.
Traditionalists and Radicals
Traditionalist has come to mean a Catholic who prefers the Missal of Pope Pius V, which was in worldwide use before Vatican II and is now available to the faithful by special indult (permission) of each local bishop, over the Missal of Pope Paul VI, which is in worldwide use today.
Traditionalists prefer the Missal of Pope Pius V, now called the Extraordinary Form, because it can only be celebrated in Latin, the unchanging language of the Church, and because its more rigorous phrasing and beautiful stately elegance impart a sense of the sacred that they find attenuated in the Missal of Pope Paul VI, now called the Ordinary Form. That view is fully Catholic as long as it fully respects the authority of each Vicar of Christ.
However, a few radical traditionalists see the Missal of Pope Paul VI as unworthy. Like the Arian s who refused to accept the teachings of the Council of Nicaea, radical traditionalists refuse the teachings of Vatican II. They claim to represent the continuous teaching of the Church during the past two thousand years, but the Church has taught continuously that the formal acts and decisions of an ecumenical council, approved by a Vicar of Christ, are guaranteed by the Holy Spirit and binding on the faithful.
Equality of the Rites
There is only one Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the one celebrated by Rabbi Yeshua at the Last Supper and by his followers in the apostolic succession according to missals approved by each Vicar of Christ in his time.
Is the Missal of Pope Pius V better than the Missal of Pope Paul VI? Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, published by Pope Paul VI on December 4, 1963, Introduction, § 4, declares, “In faithful obedience to tradition, the sacred Council declares that Holy Mother Church holds all lawfully recognized rites to be of equal right and dignity.” This is the teaching of the Catholic Church at the highest level of authority: “All lawfully recognized rites [are] of equal right and dignity.” They have to be equal. They all derive their holiness from the Body of Christ, sacramentally present identically in the Missal of Pope Pius V, the Missal of Pope Paul VI, and the Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgies 33:38.
St. John XXIII was clear about what he wanted Vatican II to do: “The greatest concern of the ecumenical council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously.” (Pope John XXIII, quoted in Ralph McInerny, What Went Wrong With Vatican II: The Catholic Crisis Explained (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 1998), p. 25.)
Ralph McInerny explains, “John XXIII said that in our day there is already sufficient clarity about the teaching of the Faith. The emphasis of the council should thus not be doctrinal but pastoral. It should consider how best to convey the truth of Christ to the modern world.”
The ancient Church motto, lex orandi, lex credendi, “As we pray so we believe,” reminds us that the way we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass bears directly on how we teach the truths of the Faith. The Missal of Pius V put much more emphasis on saints than on Scripture. The Missal of Paul VI has much less on saints but many more Scripture verses during the liturgical cycle.
Anyone who looks at the Catechism of the Catholic Church footnotes, and the indexes at the back, will discover reference after reference to the sixteen documents of Vatican II. After Scripture, the Catechism quotes Vatican II more often than any other source.
Inter Mirifica makes clear that getting the faith out to the people involves more than simply publishing a document. As a practical example, during World War II some 400,000 U.S. soldiers were killed. The public read about them in the newspapers and continued to support the war. But when 58,000 soldiers were killed in Vietnam and the public saw them on television, support for the war fell away. In Iraq, which the public experienced on television and the Internet, support for the war faded after about 2,000 U.S. military deaths. Marshall McLuhan summarized, “The medium is the message.”
The Church teaches:
§ 891 The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful — who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. … The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium, above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine for belief as being divinely revealed, and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions must be adhered to with the obedience of faith. This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.
The terms “pastoral council” and “doctrinal council” are not canonical. They have no meaning in Church tradition. For two thousand years Holy Mother Church has spoken of ecumenical councils as distinct from regional and other councils.
Ralph McInerny explained why Vatican II has the full authority of an ecumenical council. “… Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s schismatic movement involved an internal incoherence. He sought to appeal to earlier councils to discredit Vatican II. But that which guarantees the truth of the teaching of one council guarantees the truth of them all” (Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media [New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964], p. 33).
Wayward Catholics sometimes fall into two opposite errors. The Gifts and the Calling of God Are Irrevocable corrects both, explained in The Missions, Traditionalist Catholics sometimes fall into supersession, while the liberal Catholics fall into dual covenant theology.
What the Supersessionists Say
Some radical traditionalists propose the doctrine of supersession, that the Old Covenantis a spent force in salvation history. They quote Rabbi Paul, “But it is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants; but ‘Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.’ This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are reckoned as descendants” Rom 9:6–8. They also quote, “In speaking of a new covenant he treats the first as obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” Heb 8:13.
These quotations, taken out of context, appear to support their conclusion that when the eternal election was given to Rabbi Yeshua‘s followers it was taken from the Jews who did not follow him. They say that observant Jews today, those who “hear the word of God and keep it” Lk 11:28 as they have been taught, participate in the New and Eternal Covenant through the principle of ecclesia supplex, the Church supplies the grace. They recognize the existence of a Jewish nation, but deny that it has any relationship to God’s covenant and so they conclude that non-observant Jews have no access to God’s grace.
This point of view, all too common among churchmen before the twentieth century, contributed much to earlier persecutions of Jews which directly violated Rabbi Yeshua’s great command, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” Jn 15:12.
What the Church Says
Rabbi Paul’s, “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” Rom 9:6referred to their rejection of the Gospel. But he distinguished between the Gospel and the election. “As regards the gospel they are enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers” Rom 11:28. Ecclesia supplexapplies to the salvation of individual Jews, but for the nation, “… the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” Rom 11:29.
Rabbi Paul wrote of the election, “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead” Rom 11:15. Life from the dead! Obviously the Jews are still active in salvation history. But why?
The Jews are still important in salvation history because, “If the dough offered as first fruits is holy, so is the whole lump; and if the root is holy, so are the branches” Rom 11:16. The Jewish nation is the root. And Rabbi Paul is clear. “If you do boast, remember it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you” Rom 11:18.
Finally, Rabbi Paul speaks directly to the supersessionists. “Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and so all Israel will be saved” Rom 11:25. Holy Mother Church summarizes, § 674 “The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by all Israel.”
During the twentieth century, Holy Mother Church began to emphasize what had once remained quiescent. Pope Pius XII did what he could to save all the Holocaust victims, but his effort to rescue Jews was extraordinary.
The Jews, the people Israel, are the first fruits of God’s revelation to man. Godcommanded Moses “Consecrate to me all the first-born …” Ex 13:2 The Torah was the first fruit of the teaching for the twelve tribes of Israel that twelve hundred years later would be fulfilled and taught to the world. The Passover bread and wine that RabbiYeshua consecrated on the last night of His mortal life were first-fruits of the harvest. The shlikhim he told to, “Do this in memory of me” Lk 22:19, were the first fruits of the new and everlasting covenant. § 1832 “The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory.”
Believers in the supersession heresy say descent from Abraham, the mark of Judaism is of no consequence, but Pope Paul VI wrote in Nostra Aetate § 4, “As the sacred synod searches into the mystery of the Church, it remembers the bond that spiritually ties the people of the New Covenant to Abraham’s stock.” Abraham’s stock. Paul VI in these words clearly recognized that the people descended from Abraham still exist as the Jewish nation in salvation history. And that we Catholics have spiritual ties with them.
St. John Paul II said on March 6,1982, quoted in Notes, “We should aim, in this field, that Catholic teaching at its different levels, in catechesis to children and young people, presents Jews and Judaism not only in an honest and objective manner, free from prejudices and without any offenses, but also with full awareness of the heritage common to Jews and Christians.” Four years later he became the first pope, after Rabbi Kefa, to visit a synagogue, the Great Synagogue of Rome, only two miles from the Vatican, on April 13, 1986. Pope Benedict XVI, only four months into his pontificate, visited the Roonstrasse Synagogue in Cologne on August 19, 2005, and then the Great Synagogue of Rome, on January 17, 2010, thereby reaffirming St. John Paul II’s commitment toward improved relations with the Jewish nation. Then Pope Francis visited the Great Synagogue of Rome on January 17, 2016.
John Paul II was also the first pope ever to visit a mosque. He went to the Umayyad Great Mosque of Damascus in May 2001. That mosque, in Damascus’ “old city,” had been a place of worship for 3,000 years, first as a synagogue, then converted by Rabbi Paul to early Christian worship, and finally as a mosque.
Catholic Participation in Jewish Ritual
However, some radical traditionalists disregard what the popes are teaching today and instead go back centuries in time to find a document that they say represents two thousand years of tradition. Some radical traditionalists quote Pope Eugene IV’s bull Cantate Domino to falsely suggest that Catholics are prohibited from participating in Jewish rituals in which they do not place hope for salvation.
God’s law visibly allowed Catholics to participate in Jewish rituals. At Gethsemane, Rabbi Yeshua told the crowd, “Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching” Mk 14:49. After Rabbi Yeshua ascended to the Father, his shlikhim “were continually in the temple blessing God” Lk 24:53. After Pentecost Acts 2:1–12, when the Catholic Church was already in full operation, Rabbi Yeshua’s shlikhim, who knew his mind better than anyone, “Day by day, [attended] the temple together and [broke] bread in their homes” Acts 2:46. Their daily temple attendance evidently met with Rabbi Yeshua‘s approval, since “The Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” Acts 2:47. Years later, Rabbi Paul, in Corinth, “argued in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded Jews and Greeks” Acts 18:4.
Pope Eugene IV addressed that by limiting his edict to “after the promulgation of the Gospel.” That could take into account only whether people knew what the Church taught on attending Jewish worship. But it could not have applied to Rabbi Yeshua‘s shlikhim, who knew exactly what he taught.
During the 1300s and 1400s Europe’s secular authorities were forcing many Jews to accept baptism or lose their lives and property. The sins of Christians, some ignorant and some culpable, were a primary cause of these persecutions. England expelled its Jews in 1290, France in 1306, Spain in 1492. Many Europeans resented the wealth of Jewish merchants, and their shtetls, ghettos, that seemed to nurture hatred of Christianity. When a storm of persecution arose, many Jews moved elsewhere to wait out the fury. Some accepted baptism. In Spain many Jews publicly entered the Catholic faith but privately remained Jewish. These false “Catholics,” called conversos, “carnal” (flesh, not spirit) in Cantate Domino, began to form a secret network. They grew rich and rose to high positions in the Church, the royal court, and the state, and married into the noblest families of Spain. Because their loyalty was to one another, not to Church or crown, the conversos were a threat to the Church and to Spain. In that adversarial relationship, a Catholic who embraced Jewish rituals might well become a traitor, thereby risking damnation.
Spanish Jews baptized as Catholics during the Inquisition are sometimes called marranos. Marrano comes from the Spanish verb marrar, to deceive. A marrano is el que marra, one who deceives. Probably during the sixteenth century, the connotation of “dirty animal” or “pig” was added. In some minds, the juderias, Jewish neighborhoods, were as dirty as pocilgas, pig pens, and so marrano became synonymous with puerco, pig. Catholics therefore use the more respectful term conversos, converts, to refer to Jews baptized as Catholics during the Spanish Inquisition.
Alexandrian Jews evidently persuaded Coptic Christians there to become so involved with Jewish rituals that the Copts began to regard them as necessary for salvation. PopeEugene IV responded in his bull Cantate Domino, which was adopted by the Council of Florence in 1442. At that time papal bulls were generally seen only by the bishops to whom they were addressed. These bishops often wanted strong language to quote to the faithful, so papal writing then was much less precise than it is now, when each papal document is carefully scrutinized by thousands of Catholic scholars worldwide. Cantate Domino included this prohibition against Catholics participating in Jewish rituals:
- It [the Holy Roman Church] firmly believes, professes and teaches that the matter pertaining to the law of the Old Testament, of the Mosaic law, which are divided into ceremonies, sacred rites, sacrifices, and sacraments, because they were established to signify something in the future, although they were suited to the divine worship at that time, after our Lord’s coming had been signified by them, ceased, and the sacraments of the New Testament began; and that whoever, even after the passion, placed hope in these matters of the law and submitted himself to them as necessary for salvation, as if faith in Christ could not save without them, sinned mortally. Yet it does not deny that after the passion of Christ up to the promulgation of the Gospel they could have been observed until they were believed to be in no way necessary for salvation; but after the promulgation of the Gospel it asserts that they cannot be observed without the loss of eternal salvation. All, therefore, who after that time observe circumcision and the Sabbath and the other requirements of the law, it declares alien to the Christian faith and not in the least fit to participate in eternal salvation, unless someday they recover from these errors. Therefore, it commands all who glory in the name of Christian, at whatever time, before or after baptism, to cease entirely from circumcision, since, whether or not one places hope in it, it cannot be observed at all without the loss of eternal salvation.
Some radical traditionalists, reading this passage in isolation from the whole body of Church teaching, conclude that Catholic participation in Jewish ritual is absolutely prohibited. But divine law is forever. Cantate Domino signaled that its prohibition of Catholic participation in Jewish ritual was man-made law to address a particular situation in these words: “With the ending of the cause of this apostolic prohibition, the effect also ended:”
- And it says also that the prohibition of the apostles “from things sacrificed to idols, and from blood and from things strangled” [Acts 15:29] befitted that time in which one Church arose from the Jews and Gentiles, who before lived according to different ceremonies and customs, so that even Gentiles observed some things in common with the Jews, and occasion was furnished for coming together into one worship of God, and one faith, and ground for dissension was removed; since to the Jews, by reason of an ancient custom, blood and things strangled seemed abominable, and they could think that the Gentiles would return to idolatry because of the eating of things sacrificed. But when the Christian religion is so propagated that no carnal Jew appears in it, but all passing over to the Church, join in the same rites and ceremonies of the Gospel, believing “all things clean to the clean” [Tit 1:15], with the ending of the cause of this apostolic prohibition, the effect also ended.
Some traditionalists also quote Pope Pius XI Mortalium Animos § 10. “… this Apostolic See has never allowed its subjects to take part in the assemblies of non-Catholics.” However, he spoke of Sundays and other holy days of obligation. § 2180 “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass. The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day.” But here we are speaking of an occasional visit, after the CatholicSunday obligation § 2180 has been fulfilled.
- First, it assumes that the shlikhim who “were continually in the temple blessing God” Lk 24:53 and “Day by day, [attended] the temple together” Acts 2:46, and RabbiPaul, in Corinth, who attended the synagogue every sabbath Acts 18:4, all committed grave sin by doing so. That is simply untenable, since, “The Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” Acts 2:47.
- Second, Rabbi Paul wrote, “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?” Rom 11:15. His reference to “their acceptance” means acceptance of their Mashiakh. St. Augustinewrote in The City of God, Book 20, Chapter 29, “It is a familiar theme in the conversation and heart of the faithful, that in the last days before the judgment the Jews shall believe in the true Christ, that is, our Christ.” Holy Mother Church continues today in her firm conviction that § 674 “The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by all Israel.” Perhaps our greatest responsibility is to clear the way for the Second Coming. When we dialogue with them but say, “We cannot set foot in your Jewish place of worship,” they are likely to say, “Your Rabbi Yeshua taught in the Temple Mt 26:55; Mk 14:49; Lk 19:47, 21:37; 22:53; Jn 18:20.”
- Third, Rabbi Yeshua prayed to his Holy Father “that they may be one, even as we are one” Jn 17:11, 22. He called for active ecumenical ministry: “And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd” Jn 10:16. His vicar St. John Paul II, in Ut Unum Sint § 1, wrote: “Christ calls all his disciples to unity. My earnest desire is to renew this call today, to propose it once more with determination …” Ecumenicalwork often begins with inviting one another to worship services. If we begin by saying, “I will not set foot in your place of worship,” it is not likely to go very far.
The Witness of Love
Today, unlike the 1400s, Torah-observant Jews and faithful Catholics often stand together defending our shared love for God and for one another against the powerful secular forces that threaten us both. In our time Holy Mother Church, in this radically different situation, has shifted the emphasis from gospel to election Rom 11:28. Pope Benedict XVI declared in Cologne, 2005, “In considering the Jewish roots of Christianity (cf. Rom 11:16–24), my venerable Predecessor, quoting a statement by the German Bishops, affirmed that ‘Whoever meets Jesus Christ meets Judaism.’”
There exists what the Church calls a hierarchy of truths. At the very top are RabbiYeshua’s two great commands. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” Mt 22:37–40.
Below them are the ways we love God and neighbor. Among these the great capital virtue of humility, the great theological virtue of charity, and the other capital and theological virtues, are near the top. Below the levels of theological certainty are the prudent judgments by which we try to live these commands from day to day.
We may of course observe any or all of the mitzvot as a private devotion, or as part of the rule of a Church-approved religious order, as long as we know and teach that God does not command them for us. We may wear the kippa and tallit, eat kosher foods, celebrate a Passover Seder, etc.
Within the Hebrew Catholic community there is a lively discussion over whether a man born Jewish now Catholic should, as a private devotion, wear the kippa and tallit, eat kosher, etc. Some Hebrew Catholics keep the mitzvot as a discipline similar to Friday abstinence but much more of a sacrifice. Others point out that Jews coming into the Church need to see other Hebrew Catholics already there. Those opposed say that no Catholic may witness, even by appearance, against the Son of God. When a Catholic wears the kippa and tallit alone he appears to the world as an ordinary Jew who denies Rabbi Yeshua. The Hebrew Catholic so vested can add a large pectoral crucifix to complete the sign of Rabbi Yeshua‘s fulfillment of the Israelite covenant.
Why do some Hebrew Catholics visibly witness to their Jewish backgrounds? After all, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” Gal 3:28. Rabbi Yeshua has a place for each of us in His vineyard 1 Cor 12:4. The traditionalist movement invites Holy Mother Church to remember her medieval traditions, but the Hebrew Catholic movement, Second Exodus included, invites her to remember her earliest traditions, the language and culture in which Rabbi Yeshua and his shlikhim celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
§ 674 “The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by all Israel.” If we truly seek the Second Coming, we will need some living witnesses to show Jews that they have a place in the Church.
Visits to a Synagogue
The most prominent question concerns a Catholic’s occasional participation in synagogue worship.
St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have all visited synagogues during their pontificates. In this they followed the Church’s earliest traditions. RabbiYeshua’s shlikhim, after the Holy Spirit descended on them, Acts 2:4 continued, “day by day, attending the Temple together” Acts 2:46. The witness of the shlikhim, and of John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis, is a clear sign that the faithful may attend synagogue worship.
Most of the synagogue service is consistent with Catholic teaching. More accurately, “Salvation is from the Jews” Jn 4:22. “It is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you” Rom 11:18. The Church’s motto, lex orandi, lex credendi, as we pray so we believe, comes from her own Jewish roots. The most frequent Jewish prayer, and the last prayer an observant Jew prays in his final minutes of earthly life, is the Shma.
Some Catholics express concern about one particular series of prayers. Jews in Templeand synagogue over thousands of years have prayed the amidah, “standing,” also called the shmone esre, “eighteen benedictions.” Mishna Berakhot 33a. The amidah has been updated slightly over the centuries, but its origins go back to the Old Testament days. The first three benedictions affirm the Jewish belief in one God of Israel –the God of history, the God of nature, the God who sanctifies. The next six are personal, petitions for understanding, repentance, forgiveness, deliverance from affliction, healing, and deliverance from want. Six national petitions follow, for the re-union of Israel, for the righteous reign of God, against slanderers and traitors, for the righteous, for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and for the Messiah to come. Then come three for service to God, for the hearing of prayer, the Temple service, and thanksgiving for his mercy. The final petition is for shalom, peace.
The birkat ha minim, prayer against heretics, added around AD 80 specifically against Christians, was inserted as the twelfth benediction. Today the specific reference to Christians has been removed but the substance of the prayer remains, and most Jews who pray it know when it was added and why.
Holy Mother Church put the third benediction, the kedusha, into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but the twelfth, fourteenth, fifteenth and seventeenth benedictions are inconsistentwith Catholic faith. In some circumstances our presence in the synagogue during such benedictions can give scandal by suggesting that we accept them. When a prayer service is inconsistent with Catholic faith we ordinarily stay away. However, in many circumstances our attendance can give a positive Catholic witness of love greater than the negative witness. The papal visits are an example. We may be invited to the wedding of a Jewish family member or close friend such that our absence from that once-in-a-lifetime event would cause a bitter and enduring remembrance. Or we may visit a synagogue as part of an outreach to a Jewish friend.
The fourteenth benediction, the prayer for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, is a prayer for the rebuilding of the Temple, “… rebuild it soon in our days as an everlasting building.” It is inconsistent with Catholic faith because Rabbi Yeshua is the new Temple Jn 2:19. The fifteenth, the prayer for the Messianic King, pleads, “Speedily cause the offspring of David, your servant, to flourish, and lift up his glory by your divine help because we wait for your salvation all the day.” Rabbi Yeshua has already come. Finally, the seventeenth, the prayer for restoration of the ancient Temple service, is inconsistent with Catholic faith because the Temple service continues today in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus
The Catholic Church teaches, extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, outside the Church there is no salvation. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” Jn 3:5. Cantate Domino expressed it: “[The Council of Florence] firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart into everlasting fire …”
In 1442, just a few years before the printing press, most people in the western nations were Catholic. Everyone knew, at least in a simple way, what the Church taught. But in today’s widespread confusion a man can grow up working all his life in God’s service without hearing the Catholic faith proclaimed in a way he can understand. God would never send a man to hell with no opportunity for the free will decision that has been at the heart of Catholic life these past two thousand years, so today Holy Mother Church expresses her constant teaching more clearly:
- CCC 846 How are we to understand [Outside the Church there is no salvation], often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body: Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.
- CCC 847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church: Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.
Some faith communities call themselves as American Catholic. Catholic American puts Catholic first, the world conforms to the Church. American Catholic puts American first, the Church conforms to the world. Perhaps the most recent on the old heresy trail, the American Catholic heresy believes that Catholic doctrine, moral norms, and institutions should adapt to reflect the surrounding culture.
It got started during the 1960s as a systematic effort to hijack Vatican II by trying to convince clergy and laity alike that its documents, signed by Pope Paul VI, did not say what they in fact did say. The radicals coined the phrase “spirit of Vatican II” to distinguish between what it actually said and what they wanted everyone to believe it said.
Heresy in Liberal Catholicism
Liberal theologian Karl Rahner believed that the heresy most threatening to Catholicism in America is Docetist heresy. His idea was that although we hold the full range of Catholic teaching to be true, it floats above reality, never connecting with our practical day-to-day lives. Liberal Catholicism therefore sought to reconnect faith with life through relativism in the form of nuanced imaginings that certain aspects of the human condition “open up toward the transcendent.” Liberal Catholics often complain that the Magisterium deals in absolute statements that are not open to relativist distortion.
In addition, liberal Catholicism is open to the Nestorian heresy. Nestorius was so concerned to isolate Rabbi Yeshua‘s human nature from hypostatic union with his divine nature that he imagined Christ as two separate persons, a divine person and a human person. Our “multicultural” liberals are obsessed with rejecting authoritative moral norms so that we can express our own cultural preferences Gen 3:5.
Dissenting Ethical Theories
Holy Mother Church teaches that acts such as fornication, contraception, abortion, euthanasia, etc., are intrinsically evil, but some moral theologians want to make exceptions based on the purpose of these acts. In Greek telos is purpose, logos is word. Teleological ethical systems assert that an act is moral or immoral based on its stated purpose.
St. John Paul II wrote, in Veritatis Splendor § 75, “The teleological ethical theories (proportionalism, consequentialism), while acknowledging that moral values are indicated by reason and by Revelation, maintain that it is never possible to formulate an absolute prohibition of particular kinds of behavior which would be in conflict, in every circumstance and in every culture, with those values.”
But what if the person’s intention is good, for instance aborting to prevent birth of a seriously deformed baby? The Holy Father answered in Veritatis Splendor § 78, “The reason why a good intention is not itself sufficient, but a correct choice of actions is also needed, is that the human act depends on its object, whether that object is capable or not of being ordered to God, to the One who ‘alone is good,’ and thus brings about the perfection of the person. An act is therefore good if its object is in conformity with the good of the person with respect for the goods morally relevant for him.”
John Paul II continues in Veritatis Splendor § 79, “One must therefore reject the thesis, characteristic of teleological and proportionalist theories, which holds that it is impossible to qualify as morally evil according to its species — its ‘object’ — the deliberate choice of certain kinds of behavior or specific acts, apart from a consideration of the intention for which the choice is made or the totality of the foreseeable consequences of that act for all persons concerned.
Holy Mother Church teaches as divine law that § 1789 “One may never do evil so that good may result from it.” Some acts are intrinsically evil. Perhaps the most prominent application is in sexual temptation, where “just a little is okay” often brings unanticipated consequences. Contraception is intrinsically evil. For four centuries every sola Scriptura denomination held firmly that God’s law in Scripture prohibits it. Then the Anglicans at Lambeth Palace in 1930 believed that just a little would be okay to relieve extreme marital stress. But within only a few decades, an eye-blink in salvation history, virtually all the sola Scriptura denominations held firmly that God’s law in Scripture permits it, gravely damaging Protestant credibility. More on this: The Catholic Church Alone. Homosexual acts are intrinsically evil, but during the 1970s some disordered seminaries taught that homosexual activity is good if it relaxes a stressed priest. The Long Lent of 2002 revealed the terrifying evil that proposition had caused.
Separate Saving Covenant
Some Catholics, having seen the document Reflections on Covenant and Mission but unaware of its heresy, embarrassed by forced conversions in earlier centuries, and aware that the Catholic Church rejects supersession theology, imagine that Jews live in a “separate saving covenant” that does not require Catholic faith, and conclude that Catholics should not evangelize Jews at all. Rabbi Yeshua gave the definitive answer when He said, “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them” Mt 5:17.
The ancient rabbis said that even one letter added or taken from the Torah can destroy the entire world. Could it be that God intended to allow Judaism to continue as a separate saving covenant without its Temple sacrifices? No. He had taught integral observance of the Law § 579. The ancient rabbis themselves believed that the Torah was indivisible and Rabbi Yeshua confirmed it Mt 5:19.
Mosaic Judaism, in its time God’s authentic revelation to man, pointed directly toward Rabbi Yeshua. However, after Rabbi Yeshua‘s redemptive sacrifice followed by the Temple destruction, Rabbinic Judaism pointed away from Rabbi Yeshua. It cannot be that God has two authentic and equal covenants in the world, one proclaiming God’s Mashiakh and one denying him.
Rabbi Yeshua Commanded Evangelizing Jews
During His mortal life Rabbi Yeshua spent His entire public ministry evangelizing Jews. “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” Mt 10:5. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” Mt 15:24.
After rising from the tomb Rabbi Yeshua told the shlikhim, “… you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” Acts 1:8. Jews lived in Jerusalem. Jews lived in Judea. The Samaritans were partly Jewish and partly pagan. 0, after rising from the tomb, expected his followers to evangelize Jews and pagans alike.
The Catholic Church Today Teaches the Same
§ 849 “The missionary mandate. Having been divinely sent to the nations that she might be ‘the universal sacrament of salvation,’ the Church, in obedience to the command of her founder and because it is demanded by her own essential universality, strives to preach the Gospel to all men.” All men. Pope Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi § 14 “We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church.” All people. Holy Mother Church is specific: § 1226 “The apostles and their collaborators offer Baptism to anyone who believed in Jesus: Jews, the God-fearing, pagans.”
Rabbi Yeshua‘s Final Sacrifice opened heaven for us Lk 23:43, and so only baptism into it can reach heaven. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” Rom 6:3–4.
§ 1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation to those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed. The Church does not know any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are reborn of water and the Spirit.
But the Catholic Church teaches salvation by grace, not knowledge. Some men are eager to know, love and serve God but have never heard the Catholic faith presented in a way they could understand and embrace.
§ 1260 Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.
The liberal worldview rejects constraints of tradition and is open to new ideas for progress. In the spiritual war over whether God or government should be the organizing principle of our lives and source of all our needs, such persons generally stand firmly with government in opposition to God. Since the sources of Catholic faith are Scripture and Tradition, many liberal Catholics have seized upon the word prophetic.
True prophets, chosen by God, empty themselves Phil 2:7. They allow God to fill them and speak through them. God commanded Moses, greatest of the Old Testament prophets, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’” Ex 3:14. Moses did not want to be a prophet. “Oh, my Lord, send, I pray, some other person” Ex 4:13.
There are true remnant of Israel prophets today in the New Israel. Rabbi Yeshua‘s faithful recognize them for the humility and charity that shines from them. But when a man announces to others that he is a prophet, he repeats Satan’s ancient siren, “You will be like God, knowing good and evil” Gen 3:5. When someone, without authority from the Vicar of Christ, does this, faithful Catholics might well ask the man whether he speaks with divine authority or from human intellect.
The Book of Mormon
It is remarkable that some of these ideas continue year after year without external evidence. As an example, Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon describes three major civilizations in the Americas. Two are Israelite tribes, the good “Nephites” and the evil “Lamanites,” who are said to have migrated to the Americas and lived here from 600 BC to AD 400. The third is the “Jaredite nation,” which the Book of Mormon says came to the Americas after the Tower of Babel.
To be taken seriously, the Mormons are responsible for obtaining confirmation by non-Mormon archaeologists and other specialists. For instance, the Israelites kept meticulous genealogical and historical records, and were still writing the Old Testament books in 600 BC. For example, the widely respected Faithlife timeline dates the reign of Josiah in Judah 2 Kings 22:1 at 639-609 BC, Ezekiel’s call to prophecy Ezek 1:3 at 597 BC, the First Jewish Temple destruction 2 Kings 25:9 at 587 BC, and so on. Jewish scholars completed the Septuagint around 200 BC. All the Septuagint books were in the original Christian Bible, in all editions of St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate, and in the original editions of Gutenberg’s Bible, Miles Coverdale’s Bible, and the King James Bible, the one King James personally authorized.
The Old Testament refers to a place called Nephi 2 Macc 1:36, but there is no record at all in the Old Testament or the Septuagint of a man called Nephi or a community of men called Nephites. There is no record of a man called Laman or a community called Lamanites. There is no record of a migration across the Atlantic Ocean, or to the Americas, and no record of a ship from that time that could sail several thousand miles across the Atlantic Ocean.
There was a Jared Gen 5:19 who lived before Noah’s Flood, but there is no record that he was part of Noah’s family Gen 7:7, and so he and his line would not have survived to the time of Tower of Babel Gen 11:9.
The Book of Mormon ends with a series of long, dull, repetitive wars between the “Nephites” and the “Lamanites,” with a final battle around AD 400 at Hill Cumorah in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Several hundred thousand Nephite warriors are said to have been slaughtered by an even larger horde of “dark and filthy” Lamanites. However, archaeological digs in the Hill Cumorah area have never unearthed the slightest evidence that such a battle ever occurred. Some Mormon leaders now say that most of the fighting took place in Central America. But no artifacts from those battles have been found there either.
The Book of Mormon also says that the Indians of North and South America are descended from these Israelite tribes. However, DNA evidence indicates that the American Indians have Polynesian, not Israelite, ancestry. Mormon leaders reply that is because the Israelite tribes colonized only a very small part of Central America and that their DNA was overwhelmed by Indians who were already there. Of course, that means most or all American Indians were descended from Polynesians, not Israelites.
The Da Vinci Myth
This world is full of conspiracy theories. The Apollo 11 astronauts staged their moon landing in a television studio. No airplane hit the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Jews run the world. America causes Islam’s problems. Conspiracy theories address subjects of historical or emotional impact, are supported by minimal evidence, personify complex phenomena as powerful conspirators, and have no credibility in expert communities.
Dan Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code, a fast-paced murder mystery overflowing with intrigue, sexual rites, secret societies, subterfuge, and cover-ups in high places, all with familiar characters behaving as the reader has never seen them before, is a recent example.
The wildly fictional story line is that that members of a “Priory of Sion” hold two secrets. First, that Rabbi Yeshua was a human man married to Mary Magdalene, who, after the Crucifixion, bore his daughter, and their line continued through the Merovingian Dynasty to the present time. The second secret was that the Church, realizing the consequences if the marriage and child should become known, protected the secret by declaring Rabbi Yeshua the Son of God at the Council of Nicaea.
Brown calls his book a novel based on facts. When challenged, he says the book is only a novel. But the book insinuates that it is all fact.
Believers in Brown’s theory that Rabbi Yeshua was a human person, not the Son of God, must also believe that the human race was not redeemed on the Cross, that heaven remains closed, and that our eternal fate is sheol or annihilation. A grim prospect.
Belief in God
There were enough Old Testament prophecies of Rabbi Yeshua, some of them startlingly precise, to identify him as God’s Messiah. God’s Messiah was to be immanu-el, “God with us,” so He had to be a divine person. The living history of the people Israel is that the Old Testament was the authentic Word of God. If God exists, then Rabbi Yeshua was a divine person with a human nature.
To believe Brown, one must entirely abandon belief in God, which means explaining how a secret society managed to forge a thousand years of Scriptures from Moses to Maccabees and persuade the rabbis with their intensive exegesis that looks at every letter, and even at the crowns on top of each letter, that they were authentic.
Rabbi Yeshua in Recorded History
CCC 469 “The Church thus confesses that Jesus is inseparably true God and true man. He is truly the Son of God who, without ceasing to be God and Lord, became a man and our brother.” A divine Person with a divine nature and a human nature.
The Gospels of Rabbis Matityahu, Marcus, Lucas, and Yokhanan? said that He rose from the dead. Their testimony of Rabbi Yeshua‘s incarnate life, death and resurrection was written down soon after these events occurred p. 191 and were accepted by all Christians from the beginning. p. 194 Later non-Christian writings are consistent with Christian accounts. Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian who worked for Rome and certainly no friend of Christians, referred in his book, Antiquities of the Jews, 93 AD, to a miracle-worker who seemed to be something more than a man.
Ten of the original shlikhim willingly died for their beliefs. By tradition, Rabbi Kefa was crucified upside down and Paul was beheaded, both in Rome in 66 AD. Andrew was martyred in 70 AD bound to a cross. Bartholomew was flayed alive in 44 AD. James the Greater (Zebedee’s son) was beheaded in Jerusalem. James the Less (Alphaeus’ son) was stoned to death. Thomas was martyred in south India. Jude and Simon the Cananaean were shot to death with arrows in Persia. They, who knew what had actually occurred, willingly gave their lives for spreading the good news of Rabbi Yeshua. They would have done that only if they truly believed that Rabbi Yeshua had conquered death, which only God can do. John was boiled in oil but miraculously survived; he was exiled to Patmos but finally died at a great age in Ephesus.
No other event in recorded history two thousand years ago was written down so close to its own time, when memories were still fresh and everyone knew what had occurred. p. 190 Herodotus and Thucydides among the Greeks, and Pliny, Caesar and Livy among the Romans wrote of events that took place much farther back in time. No one can consistently disbelieve the Gospel accounts without also disbelieving the secular recorded history from that era. By accepted standards of historical evidence, the Gospel accounts are of the highest reliability.
The Church and Women
The Da Vinci myth that the Church wanted to suppress women, particularly Mary Magdalene, also doesn’t fit the readily verifiable facts. The Church recognizes her as St. Mary Magdalene with her own feast day, July 22. The four Biblical Gospels mention her a total of twelve times, more than twice as often as the Gnostic gospels do. This Church that “wanted to suppress women” reveres a woman as queen of heaven, higher even than the angels which are above man in the order of creation. p. 11 And, of course, the Catholic Church for more than 1,300 years has encouraged strong self-governing orders of religious women who built and ran hospitals, universities, and refectories to feed the poor. p. 329
Compare that with the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas. Simon Peter said to him, “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.” Jesus said, “I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Can anyone imagine Rabbi Yeshua saying this about the mother He loved so much that He spent thirty of his 33 incarnate years living in her home? Until quite recently, “Your mother wears combat boots,” started a lot of bar fights.
The Dead Sea Scrolls
The Da Vinci myth imagines that the Dead Sea Scrolls were Christian texts. Of course, they were Jewish texts. Qumran was situated on a barren terrace between the limestone cliffs of the Judean desert and the maritime bed along the Dead Sea, about thirty miles across the mountains from Jerusalem. It would have been a difficult journey on foot. And the Essenes were a monastic community that did not engage the outside world. They never saw Rabbi Yeshua.
Open Theism reverses Christian theology Gen 1:27 by creating God in the image of man.
If an Open Theist wonders why God, who is said to be all-good and all-powerful, allows evil, he decides that perhaps God is not all-knowing after all, that He deliberately created a future that even He does not know.
We read that, Gen 6:6 “The Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth.” Read literally, it suggests that God did not know what men would do. The New American Bible (NAB) translation gives an example in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. NAB Gen 18:21 “I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out.”
Read literally, it suggests that God did not know what was happening in Sodom and Gomorrah. The Catholic Church teaches, and most Protestant denominations agree, that God knew exactly what was going on, but that He used an anthropomorphic image to help the primitive people of Abraham’s day understand what was happening.
Open Theists argue as well that prayer is efficacious because, if we plead enough, God might actually change His mind. God had said, Mal 3:6 “I the Lord do not change,” but Open Theists decide which passages to read literally based on which interpretation will make God seem smallest and most human. The Open Theist then takes a godlike role by “explaining” this small and fallible God.
Overall, Open Theism is the converse of Satan’s ancient lure, Gen 3:5 “… you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” In Open Theism, God will be like you, not always knowing good and evil.
Theological liberals always look for an angle that will let them undercut Church authority and make it into theological silly-putty that they can mold into any shape they wish. It began in 1994 with a book by five Evangelical theologians called The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God. It is just starting to build up steam.
When we encounter an Open Theist, we may remind him that a limited and fallible God who does not know the future could not securely sustain heaven for all eternity; how can He know nothing will happen to break the bubble and send all the souls in it careening into frozen darkness? We Catholics stand our ground, telling him that we will worship the living and eternal God, with us under the appearance of bread and wine until the end of time.
Keepers of Secrets
About 100 BC a Gnostic sect p. 238 called the Notzrim arose in Mesopotamia and Babylonia. Notzrim means in Hebrew “keepers of secrets.” Today their numbers are small, but they are important because they try to infiltrate the Church, Judaism, Freemasonry, Muslims, and particularly Hebrew Catholic and Messianic Jewish groups, to recruit new members and sow confusion.
Its founder is described in the Talmud as YSHU, an acronym of yemakh shemo zikhro, an ancient Jewish curse, may his name be blotted out of memory. Note the similarity to zakhor.
The Catholic Church teaches that God allows evil to accomplish good from it. For example, He allows demons to tempt us so that our decision to remain with Him for all eternity is purely free and voluntary. That is not what the notzrim believe. They imagine that God is half good and half evil, that He sometimes actively wills harm. When notzriminfiltrate a faith community they subtly try to insinuate this belief, thereby eroding confidence in God.
The notzrim also take advantage of the confusion arising from their name. In Rabbi Yeshua’s Jerusalem, Christians were called netzarim, from the Hebrew netzar, offshoot, descendants of King David, from Isaiah’s prophecy, Is 11:1 “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse …” Rabbi Yeshua taught, Mk 4:17 “For there is nothing hid, except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret, except to come to light.” They would not have called themselves notzrim, keepers of secrets. Both words come from the same Hebrew root, nun-tzadik-raish, so without vowels it is easy to confuse them. To further confuse the situation, a notzri is also “one who watches.” Rabbi Yeshua did warn, Mt 25:13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour,” p. 291 so notzrimight seem a plausible name for Christians.
And still more confusion comes because in Israel today the common term for Christians is notzrim, perhaps because those who have considered it at all have not wanted to admit that King David was Rabbi Yeshua’s ancestor. So, when the notzrim come and say they are merely Christians it is easy to imagine that they are some sort of old Christian sect.