Now, in full disclosure, Joseelcarpintero is actually my father. And being my father not only will he defend his Catholic faith but in part, he will defend me so many times his tone will come off as a bit harsher than what I know him to actually be stating. This is a similar case but he recites one of his favorite passages 1 John 2:19 – and rightly so. Of course, not intending to lump my friend specifically as a false teacher but more implicating Protestant Reformers as false teachers, which to a very large degree, I agree.
These men teach falsely because they were neither given the authority nor do they have the right to interpret, teach or define doctrine outside the Church that Chri
st establish. This is an affront to the sovereignty of God and His decision to establish a visible Church with a steward, a body of shepherds and the authority to bind and loose and heaven and earth (Mt. 16:18-19, 18:18).
Okay, so how does this fit into today’s discussion. Well, very simply. Anathemas (Greek – literally, placed on high, suspended, set aside) were again a rite of formally excommunicating an individual for the most grevious offenses. Indulegnces are included because the Church infallibly defined the pious use of indulgences, as Pope Paul VI states, “An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain defined conditions through the Church’s help when, as a minister of Redemption, she dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions won by Christ and the saints” [Indulgentarium Doctrina 1].
What does that all mean? Well, it means that, under the authority granter her by Christ, the Church has the ability to remit some of the temporal penalties of sin despite already receiving forgiveness. The principle of temporal punishment due to sin is something that is completely supported by Scripture (read A Primer on Indulgences by Jimmy Akin for more information). Those who do not believe what the Church teaches on indulgences and other infallible declarations is clearly out of communion with the Church and thus subject to whatever canonical penalty she deems appropriate. This is her right per Jesus Himself. So to anathematize/excommunicate any person for their disbelief in the infallible is more a matter of disobedience to the Church and subsequently God (Lk 10:16) rather than on understanding. That is what faith is all about. I have faith in Christ and His Church yet I do not understand everything about either – thus the phrase, “the mystery of faith.”
Another thing to note about excommunication is that this is a canonical penalty that only the Church can give out. That means that one must be a formal member of the Church to receive such a penalty. The first Reformers were all Catholic and thus subject to such penalties. But subsequent persons who know nothing of the Catholic faith are not necessarily subject to these same penalties. That would be unjust and unnecessary.
On the Catholic Church as the Cause of Disunity
Above my friend mentioned a solid truth about a root cause of division among Christians in general, “by not treating ones opponents as Christian, they cause division.” This goes for all sides – if we as Christians do not see the image of God in each person no matter the faith then we are doomed to fail in our intereactions with them. I want to add though, that although I know that my friend knows that I am a Christian, he is one of the few Protestants I know that actually considers Catholicism a Christian denomination. So to reiterate what he said about treating opponents as Christians…
To move on, my friend makes the case for Rome and her excommunications as a cause of division. To a certain degree this can be seen as true. Hoever, the more accurate manner of looking at comes from Jesus Himself who stated:
“He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke (RSV) 10:16)
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew (RSV) 16:19)
“Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew (RSV) 18:18)
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.” (Matthew (RSV) 10:34-35)
These are all divisive sayings. Clearly Christ knew that His Gospel of Salvation would divide families, friends and even persons within His Church. Yet He always made it clear that those who truly believe in Him will stick with Him despite all of these divisions and losses. Why? Because He is the “the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by [Him]” (John (RSV) 14:6). These divisions are not caused by Christ or His Church, they are caused by the light of Truth case upon the darkness that already exists thus illumining these divisions making their existence evident.
So when the Church calls for an ecumenical council she rightly calls for all validly ordained bishops from within the Church. Priests and bishops from the Eastern Orthodox Churches are certainly invited to attend, once of course, they come into communion with the One True Church just as many of the other Eastern Rites have already done. As for Protestants, none exist as a “Church.” Communities where Protestants gather to praise the Lord are more rightly defined as ecclesial communities rather than churches because none of their faith traditions were established by Christ, His Apostles or any subsequent validly ordained bishop, etc. Then communities where established solely by men and cannot trace their ecclesial history back father than Luther – who excommunicated himself by his disobedience to the Church and God. So in this, she does not cause division, the division already exists and was caused by men seeking to undercut the Church’s God-given authority for their own man-made attempt at it.
The power binding and loosing remains with the Catholic Church. This has always been the case since A.D. 33 and will not change until Christ’s return. Thus, the verse found in Galatians 1:9, that my friend quotes above, speaks directly to the inherent problem of Protestantism – they do not preach the full Gospel of Jesus Christ and thus are already anathema from the beginning. Protestant faith traditions are outside of communion with Christ because they are outside of communion with the Church.