Sunday, December 2, 2007

Trying to Resolve the Issue With Leo

My perspective on the subject of Vatican II's declarations concerning Protestants may be defined this way:
  1. Material heretics are not under the same condemnation as formal heretics (see here, for example, where it says of formal heretics that they are subject to damnation, while material heretics are not, as indicated by the accompanying quotations from St. Augustine and Pope Pius IX and as discussed earlier here). This distinction is confirmed in the words of Vatican II quoted here: "The children who are born into these Communities and who grow up believing in Christ cannot be accused of the sin involved in the separation..." (UR 3), which is really nothing more than a restatement of the policy identified by St. Augustine in the quotation from the Catholic Encyclopedia; hence it seems that to deny the validity of the distinction between material and formal heresy would be contrary to the practice of the Church over the last 16 centuries.
  2. Valid baptisms occur outside the Catholic Church. This should be completely non-controversial.
  3. A valid baptism outside the Catholic Church accomplishes what a valid baptism within the Church does. If it did not, it would not be valid in the first place; in the second, the Church would not accept the Trinitarian baptisms of heretics as valid. But the Church has done so since at least the Donatist controversy in the 4th century, so that to deny this would be to deny 17 centuries of Church teaching and practice.
  4. If a man has been validly baptized, then he is a Christian: after all, this is precisely what baptism accomplishes. If he is not a Christian, then he has not been validly baptized - which would be a contradiction of point three.
  5. Protestants today are material heretics, not formal heretics. This should be obvious from the fact that they cannot be formal heretics by virtue of the fact that they have never been under the formal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church. Simply holding to an error that contradicts the faith does not ipso facto make one a formal heretic. Again, see the Catholic Encyclopedia discussion above, which (among other things) clearly establishes that material heretics are not formal heretics even under color of ecclesiastical law (and if they were, the distinction between the types of heresy would be destroyed - which would be irrational).
  6. Virtually all Protestants today are validly baptized. There are exceptions among some groups, I think but there is no credible reason to dispute the validity of the general validity of their baptisms. Of course it may be true in any specific instance to have doubts, but that has no bearing upon the validity of the presumption that, generally speaking, Protestant baptisms are valid.
  7. Because they are not formally heretical, and because they are validly baptized, there is absolutely nothing that prevents them from being understood to be Christians, and consequently it is certainly valid to make the presumption that they are in fact Christians - and consequently our brothers in Christ.
That's basically the substance of my argument. As far as I can tell, it is consistent with what Vatican II has said. The two points that it hinges upon are that Protestants are not formally heretical, and that their baptisms are valid. There is no valid reason to doubt either of these points - not rationally, and not in the Church's history, either.

Perhaps the sticking point is that historically Protestantism presents something that had never occurred before in the Church's history (assuming that I know enough history to be speaking accurately here): prior to the Reformation, heretical groups who were expelled from the Church vanished. But that is not the case with the Protestants. They haven't vanished. And if St. Augustine's rule about how to treat the children of heretics had validity with the first generation of children, how much more would it be valid with subsequent generations even more distantly removed from the original formal error? I contend that it is an error to consider them to be formally heretical - and Vatican II denies that they are. But if they are not, then it would be an error to treat them as though they were formally heretical - and Vatican II affirms that they should not be.

My affirmation is that Vatican II was a valid ecumenical Council. On the particular point of the Catholic's relationship to Protestants, I believe that the Council's teaching is rational, coherent, and consistent with the Church's teaching throughout the ages - as demonstrated above. Anything that seems to suggest otherwise must be talking not about material heretics, but rather about those who are formally heretical - and consequently it does not apply to Protestants.

1 comment:

Leo said...

Hi again, thank you for the summary, here is my commentary:

Regarding point 1:

True, material heretics are not the same as a manifest heretic, as I've shown here on the supplement time and time again using the teaching of the Church. There is no disagreement here.
However, there comes a time when this kind of thing can no longer excuse. Baptism initiates one into the Church, for infants this is all that is required, but for adults, the faith and recognition of the authority of the Roman Pontiff must also be confessed, as I've demonstrated. There must be a willingness to find and accept God's truth, no matter what it may be, otherwise their obstinacy in their current belief becomes obstinate heresy, wherein according to St. Thomas and the 1917 Code of Canon Law, one is excommunicated from the Church by their obstinacy and bad will in not desiring God's truth, ipso facto. Amazingly, St. Augustine seems to conform to this as well: "Those are by no means to be accounted heretics who do not defend their false and perverse opinions with pertinacious zeal, especially when their error is not the fruit of audacious presumption but has been communicated to them by seduced and lapsed parents, and when they are seeking the truth with cautious solicitude and ready to be corrected"
Notice he says that when seeking the truth with cautious solicitude they are ready to be corrected, we have here a manifestation of the definition of "good" and "bad" will, the gist of my thesis here, and this is why I believe that the bulk of Protestants are not members of the Church, for the bulk of them are not interested in the truth, but are audacious and obstinate.

Regarding point 2:

You are tight, valid baptisms do occur outside the Church, however, this is not enough to keep one in the Church, one must have the faith as expounded here.

Regarding point 3:

I do not deny this, I fear we have a misunderstanding of what I was propounding here. I am saying that, for infants, Baptism suffices, but with age and knowledge and the powers of the mind, comes the responsibility to assent to the truths which God has commanded us to assent to.

Regarding point 4:

If a MAN is validly baptized AND accepts the Catholic Faith, then he is a Catholic, and thus a Christian, but only Catholics are Christians as already explained, so that only those adults who both have baptism and hold the Christian faith can be rightly called Christian.

Regarding point 5:

I disagree, most of them, if they really were, as St. Augustine says, seeking the truth, then they would by necessity be led by God's grace to accept the true faith, i.e. the Catholic faith.
Baptism places one ipso facto under the jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, and if one later rejects him, he thus severs himself from the head of the Church, he is cut off, would de facto be schismatic, to reject the papacy, the office of St. Peter as most protestants do, is heresy, and the obstinacy to not seek the truth makes it obstinate heresy, manifest, excommunicating, offensive, mortally sinful, heresy.
One must OBSTINATELY deny an article of the faith to be a formal heretic, let's get our facts straight, the problem is, most Protestants are so obstinate for reasons not to be discussed here, for brevity's sake.

Regarding point 6:

A lot of them are, but some of them have changed the rite of Baptism, so that they are not.

Regarding point 7:

Each Protestant is an individual case, but for the most part there is obstinacy in error for most of them, for if they really cared for the truth, the truth is readily available via internet, libraries, local parishes and Catholic friends and neighbors; there is no excuse for ignorance in the modern western world. As the Church has infallibly and dogmatically taught, both baptism and the faith are absolutely necessary in order to be a Catholic, or to be saved.

That's my contention, and it's perfectly in line with the Councils of the Church, the scriptures, and the Fathers.

The Validity of Vatican II is a subject for another time.
You have stated that you believe Vatican II to be consistent, but you have not demonstrated its consistency with historical Catholic teaching, it still remains at variance with the teaching of Pope Leo XIII, and Vatican I.

Thank you for your time and effort,