Thursday, May 1, 2008

More Papal Doctrines

In an earlier post, I wrote about what I call, "papal doctrines," explaining that by this term, I mean a doctrine, usually an error, whose effect is to enhance papal power. I cited five such doctrines: the Catholic version of the Communion of saints, Purgatory, In Persona Christi Capitis, the Filioque, and the doctrine on religious freedom.

This morning, three more have come to my attention.

1.) That God requires punishment for sins. I do not mean this idea originated with the pope; we all know that it has its roots in the Old Testament. One of the uses of the Law was to be "our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ." (Galatians 3:24) Thus, threats of punishment and promises of reward were issued to keep Israel in line. Fear edifies. But after the coming of Christ, and after Pentecost, we do not need the carrot-and stick approach any more, if indeed we walk by the Holy Spirit. It was the Pope who retained the threats and the promises, because that is the only way he can rule. Unlike the Holy Spirit, he cannot rule from within the hearts of the faithful.

2.) That God's forgiveness is for sale. It is the pope, not God, who sells forgiveness. At the time of the Reformation, he was selling it for cash. Today, he sells it for "good works" such as visiting Lourdes during 2008, for cash only indirectly (you have to visit all the religious venues in and around Lourdes, where you are bound to drop money for tickets, souvenirs, meals, and so forth) combined with repentance and confession, which in the Catholic context means resubmission to the pope; receiving communion; and "prayer in keeping with the intentions of the Holy Father."

God, on the other hand, gives His mercy away. Even Christ cannot earn it, because it's already on offer. There is no need for anyone to buy it or barter for it, for cash, for good works, or even for faith. Or for pain or for suffering or for blood. God's forgiveness is not for sale, period. There is nothing we could offer Him that He needs, no gain He requires for Himself. He isn't in it to profit for Himself, but for pure, outgoing, selfless, freely offered love.

3.) That guilt or innocence is transferrable. This doctrine obviously benefits the pope, who claims to have administrative authority over a mythological "Treasury of Merits" of the saints, which he can give to you under certain conditions, see above.

Guilt is not transferrable. Perish the thought! Only think how thoroughly unjust, unfair, and arbitrary it would be for anybody to be made guilty of anybody else's sins! We are not guilty because Adam and Eve sinned, but because we ourselves every moment repeat their sin. Christ was not guilty for our sins, either, and not accounted as such. He bore our sins in the sense of voluntarily bearing the responsibility to free us from them, a cosmic feat which involved waging war against the devil on the devil's own turf: Hades. That is one reason He had to die, to fill the grave with His immortal Life, to flood death's darkness with His Light, to fill the void with His Love, thereby transfiguring death beyond all recognition.

Innocence is not transferrable, either, for the same reason: this would amount to another mockery of justice.

God does not (1) attribute Christ's innocence to us and (2) accept us on that basis. As mentioned above, He needs no "basis" upon which to forgive us; His infinite, unconditional Love is more than all-sufficient.

Instead, what God does is graft us into Christ in Holy Baptism, where we share and feed from and grow in Christ's holiness.

It's such a pity the Reformers didn't catch on to the fact that these and so many others are papal doctrines; i.e., distortions to prop up the power and authority of popes, and didn't correct them. Oh, well, semper reformanda, yes? By that theory, it isn't too late.



Anonymous said...

Have you seen this site? People confess their sins online, anonymously at

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Yes, I've seen that site, along with another similar one. What point did you have in mind regarding it?

JTKlopcic said...

"It was the Pope who retained the threats and the promises, because that is the only way he can rule."

I can understand where you are coming from with this, but it seems like a rather blatant statement to make without some supporting documentation. Can you elaborate on your thinking here?

Glad to see you are feeling better!

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Well, one could pile up hundreds of examples of the popes using threats and punishments in the name of God, but perhaps the simplest way of seeing the truth of my statement is simply to ask, “Where did the Protestant idea of a punishing God come from?” It didn’t come from the East. And in the West, who was there to bequeath it to them other than Rome?

Or, how is it that people in the Middle Ages prayed more to the saints than to Christ? Answer, because they had been taught a severe and judging Christ.

Look at Michelangelo’s painting of the “Last Judgment” on the wall of the Sistine Chapel.

But a very few minutes of searching the Web will provide us plenty of examples of the popes’ carrot-and-stick approach.

King John (“Lackland”) of England, after a dispute about who would become Archbishop of Canterbury, found himself excommunicated and his whole country under interdict, which meant nobody could receive sacraments. No marriages, no communions, no confessions, no nothing, except baptisms, because obviously those redounded to the benefit of any pope, and the confessions of the dying. Eventually he was forced to surrender his whole country as a fiefdom of the Pope, and ruled it as the Pope’s agent.

And we all probably remember about Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor, and his dispute with the pope, and how he stood outside the doors of the fortress of Canossa for three days, barefoot, in a hair shirt, in the winter, before the Pope would let him in and be reconciled.

And Henry II of England, under whom Thomas Becket had been assassinated, was flogged on papal orders.

On the other hand, using the carrot, Pope Adrian IV issued a bull “empowering” that same Henry conquer Ireland

Thou hast signified to us, indeed, most beloved son in Christ, that thou dost desire to enter into the island of Ireland, in order to subject the people to the laws and to extirpate the vices that have there taken root, and that thou art willing to pay an annual pension to St. Peter of one penny from every house, and to preserve the rights of the churches in that land inviolate and entire. We, therefore, seconding with the favour it deserves thy pious and laudable desire, and granting a benignant assent to thy petition, are well pleased that, for the enlargement of the bounds of the church. for the restraint of vice, for the correction of morals and the introduction of virtues, for the advancement of the Christian religion, thou shouldst enter that island, and carry out there the things that look to the honour of God and to its own salvation. And may the people of that land receive thee with honour, and venerate thee as their master; provided always that the rights of the churches remain inviolate and entire, and saving to St. Peter and the holy Roman Church the annual pension of one penny from each house.

Pope Pius V not only excommunicated Elizabeth I, which was his right to do, but went further, purporting to release her subjects from loyalty to her:

4. And moreover (we declare) her to be deprived of her pretended title to the aforesaid crown and of all lordship, dignity and privilege whatsoever.
5. And also (declare) the nobles, subjects and people of the said realm and all others who have in any way sworn oaths to her, to be forever absolved from such an oath and from any duty arising from lordship, fealty and obedience; and we do, by authority of these presents , so absolve them and so deprive the same Elizabeth of her pretended title to the crown and all other the above said matters. We charge and command all and singular the nobles, subjects, peoples and others afore said that they do not dare obey her orders, mandates and laws. Those who shall act to the contrary we include in the like sentence of excommunication.

These and hundreds more, down to our own lifetimes, teach the world what kind of deity the “Vicar of Christ” is representing, namely one who works by punishment and reward.