Anathema

I don’t have much interest in this type of topic anymore.  I admit I have even relatively recently drunk too deeply from the well of cynicism and bitterness at some of my former co-religionists.  I have often mistaken zeal for being proven intelligent and correct for zeal for Christ, and thus assumed that perpetually seeking debates and arguments with Protestants was analogous to being a good disciple.  After taking some time away from such activities, and then haphazardly coming across a website that contains some…inaccuracies, I can see how wrong I was.  How silly I was.  I see that such arguments can indeed hinder discipleship, and foster pride and anger.  And sap one’s peace and energy.  All that as a prelude to the following:

Michael Horton interviews the Roman Catholic apologist Robert Sungenis over the doctrine of justification and the Council of Trent. Like any honest and well informed Catholic Sungenis confirms that anyone who knowingly affirms the doctrine of justification by faith alone is anathema (damned). So much for “Evangelicals and Catholics Together.”[…]

There is no difference in Rome’s mind between being excommunicated and damned. If one is excommunicated, one is damned. Also, the official position of Rome, whether many Catholics know it or not, is that anyone who affirms sola Scriptura IS anathema. This is why Luther was excommunicated.  [Source]

The thing about this is, it’s a statement that is made by an obviously intelligent man.  He knows his stuff.  But there is a certain type of Protestant for whom the mere mention of the word “Rome” causes them to become radically untethered from reality.  Look, OK, we disagree on some important points of doctrine.  OK.  We interpret Scripture differently.  OK.  But the above statement is a Protestant statement about a Catholic fact.  Facts can be checked.  But for some reason, this type of personality, in this one instance, never seems to check his facts.  Why?  Does it not fit the circa-1517-narrative that Catholics actually think quite highly of Protestants?  In any case, let’s take the statement step by step, shall we.

Like any honest and well informed Catholic Sungenis

Not quite.

anyone who knowingly affirms the doctrine of justification by faith alone is anathema

This is wrong on so many levels that it is hard to know where to begin.  1) There is no longer such a thing as the canonical penalty of “anathema”.  It went out with the old code.  2) The code applied to Catholics, quite substantially modifying the word “anyone”.  3) The word “knowingly” is a bit strange.  I presume Sungenis must have been speaking of ignorance, or invincible ignorance, but it didn’t translate well to Protestant ears.  4) Anyway, Protestants are to be accepted as “brothers”.

anathema (damned)

Actually, not damned.

in Rome’s mind

Shiver.

If one is excommunicated, one is damned.

Sometimes, I guess.  But, you know, the purpose of excommunication is medicinal.  I.e., that they may not be damned.  It’s a way of communicating to the sinner that they are in peril.

the official position of Rome, whether many Catholics know it or not

As I deny this fellas take on the “Roman” position, I must fall among the ignorati.  Only Catholics who affirm that all Protestants are damned are in line with the “official” teaching.  It’s a curious position to strike as a Protestant, to insist that we think you are damned.  I suppose taking this line partly allows the individual to feel justified in his high rhetoric about how Rome “grievously errs” on this, that and the other.  It allows him to keep believing we’re living in 1517.

anyone who affirms sola Scriptura IS anathema. This is why Luther was excommunicated.

Again, the penalty of anathema applied to Catholics.  That is why Luther was excommunicated.  Because he embraced heretical doctrines, was pretty scandalously public about it, and he was Catholic.  You are not Catholic, as you like to point out.

The sad thing is, this guy appears to be the new pastor at my old church.

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~ by Rob on October 10, 2008.

3 Responses to “Anathema”

  1. Would you please show me where Rome has changed its position on the doctrines of justification by faith alone and Sola Scriptura since Trent?

    Also, will you show me where Rome has reversed its previous position in declaring me, a Protestant minister anathema for administering the sacraments and denying transubstantiation?

  2. Oh, one other question: Your final paragraph seems to indicate that my heresies are acceptable (as opposed to Luther’s) since I am not Roman Catholic. Is it truly Rome’s position that heresy is not damnable so long as one is not Catholic?

  3. Thanks for the questions. I have answered them in a separate post, given that these things tend to run long 🙂

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