A bit more for David, on “anathema”

One of the basic bits of misunderstanding that some people have is what the point of an anathema is and who is subject to it. Trent, like other councils, anathematized various things and basically said, “If you think this, you are not in the Church”. Paul did something similar. He declared to the Galatians that anybody who was circumcised was “cut off from Christ”.

Now here’s a pretty problem, since I (like most of my generation’s males) am circumcised. So am I cut off from Christ?

No. Paul’s proscription had in mind a particular situation (the notion that you had to keep the ceremonial Law in order to be saved). My circumcision (which, in any event, I did not choose) has nothing to do with that. It was just standard medical procedure in the late 50s and had no religious significance. It was not ordered toward the Catholic faith at all. For similar reasons, the Church does not (and indeed cannot) “anathematize” people who were born outside the Catholic communion. Anathema was an extreme disciplinary measure which said to the Catholic who was rejecting communion with the Catholic Church “You have rejected communion with the Catholic Church”. It does not “damn you to hell”. Only God can damn people.

People who are hung up on Trent need to read the Decree on Ecumenism from Vatican II. And if they are tempted to think Trent and V2 are contradicting each other, they need to read… my next article in This Rock. :)


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