ISIS: Modern Day Iconoclasts Bent On Cleansing Islam Of Idolatry

The Tomb of Jonah shrine before ISIS, and after.

The Tomb of Jonah shrine before ISIS, and after.

The wildflower that has sprung up in the power vacuums created in the Syrian and Iraqi deserts has a name, and it is ISIS.

Would you believe the roots of this particular group of terrorists are deeper than just being a new face of al Qaeda? Believe it, or not, their roots go all the way back to the days of the Christian iconoclasts from long ago. [Read more...]

Truly, truly, it wouldn’t be Lent without 40 days of silliness regarding The Incarnation running rampant.

Comes the esteemed history professor from UNC-Chapel Hill wondering for 38 minutes and 37 seconds about the historical Jesus,  since he never called himself God, how did he become one?

The first thing you have to do? Forget all about that pesky Gospel of John. From the very first verse, see, John’s gospel proclaims the same truth that the Apostle Thomas stated when he stuck his fingers in Jesus’s still fresh wounds. [Read more...]

Pope Francis Mentions Pelagians in His Chrism Mass Homily…

Pelagius resembles Grumpy Cat!

And everyone runs for their history books!

Oh wait. Not really.  [Read more...]

With the HHS Mandate, Belloc’s Heresy “The Modern Phase” Has Arrived UPDATED

Image Credit: Ted Schluenderfritz.

A couple of years ago, when I was boring folks with YIMCatholic Book Club posts, we tackled Hilaire Belloc’s The Great Heresies. We started it around the time school was out in the Summer of 2010, beginning with the Introduction. We followed along for six weeks as Belloc made his way through all the big heresies you’ve heard of, but didn’t know diddly squat about. First, we learned the plan of the book, and then we dug into the following heresies in succession: Arianism; Islam; Albegensianism; and Protestantism. And what was the last selection? Funny you should ask. [Read more...]

Love Jesus, Hate Religion? Fr. Robert Barron Fires Both Barrels

Sometimes, something goes so viral that all you can do is shake your head and wonder, “what are people thinking?” Then again, I realize that many of us are conditioned to respond to things that are nearly correct, even if they are, in truth, way off base. Consider the mad rounds of clapping in recent political debates when swaggering candidates talk of killing our nation’s enemies, alleged or otherwise, foreign or domestic. Or the real estate, or Dot Com bubbles. [Read more...]

Persecution of the Church from Within: Heresy

This is part II of a three part series of sermons by Fr. Cornelius Joseph O’Connell on the ever-persecuted Church. Today, the good priest turns his attention to persecution inflicted by members of the Church. That is, until they break away and leave the barque of St. Peter. Remember that line by the character “Chef” in the movie Apocalypse Now? “Never get off the boat!”

But it’s tempting to grab control of the tiller in the midst of the storm. By not steering, see, you give up your autonomy, and with faith only in yourself, you delude yourself that you could do this better on your own. You can pilot the ship better, you say to yourself. Of course, what you wind up doing is pulling what St. Peter did when he saw Christ walking on the water. Instead of staying in the boat and waiting for the Master, you walk out towards Him, only to succumb and to founder. Better to be tied to the mast like Odysseus, than listen to that song of the Siren.

How do you know if you’re are staying “in the boat?” Well, what does the Church say? She really doesn’t keep her opinions secret, you know. She’s pretty bold about sharing them with the world, which is why she is persecuted in the first place.

In this section, Fr. O’Connell spells out some of the major historical heresies that have plagued the Church in the past. New ones arise constantly, as they have from the beginning. That is why St. John the Apostle mentions the Antichrist repeatedly in his letters. So let’s take a look at what Fr. O’Connell say about the persecutors within the Body of Christ.

The Catholic Church, the Ever Persecuted and Suffering Spouse of Christ

“Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”—Matthew, 16:18.

Part II: Heresy

But the really heart-rending affliction to the Church has not been persecution but heresy. The utmost her persecutors can ever do with all their ingenuity of torment, is, to kill the body; while heresy pierces into her soul and life. It is her own children who invented this species of adversity; and hence she may say of herself in the words of her bruised ancf, wounded Redeemer, “These wounds I have received; in the house of my friends.”

Of course she has triumphed over her enemies of every sort. But, in this case, it was to her as the triumph of David over Absalom, when that parent wept and cried out in his grief: “Oh Absalom! my son, Absalom! would to God that I might die for thee.”

What heresy is we may perhaps best understand from an example taken out of the Holy Scriptures. We there read of the crowds that followed our Savior everywhere, and who were all in admiration of His
doctrine, because, as they said, He was teaching them as one having power and not as the Scribes and Pharisees.

This admiration and docility continued until He came to tell them that “He was the living bread that came down from heaven.” Here they began to murmur and to question: “Is not this,” said they, “Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How then, saith He, ‘I come down from heaven?’” A little further on, in the same discourse, He told them that He would give them His flesh to eat and His blood to drink. This statement also they subjected to their own judgment, and settled it by declaring it was a “hard saying,” and one not to be listened to. The Scripture here adds that many of them went “back and walked no more with Jesus.” They had already fully accepted and praised His sermon on the mount, and His other doctrines up to this, but here they balked; here they questioned His power to do what He said, for they asked, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” And so retaining what they had already admired of His truth, they left Jesus and the remainder of His doctrine to those who cared still to follow Him and to believe Him.

That the Divine Teacher saw them depart with sorrow is manifest from what follows. “Then Jesus said to the twelve, will you also go away?” And Simon Peter answered Him: “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” In that trying moment He found His only consolation in the fidelity of His chosen twelve, and in their firm, open confession that His words, whatever they might be, are the “Words of eternal life,” and accordingly that whoever turns away from them puts his feet in the way of death. These words of life were then coming, not through any appointed channel as they come to us, but were issuing directly from their divine source, out of the very mouth of the Son of God. For them to be gainsaid under such circumstances, tells at once the essential arrogance of heresy, and forecasts all the miseries it was doomed to bring upon the Church.

Every heresy that has rent the Church has done no more than copy this heresy, originating in the company of His own followers. In her are now deposited all His words of eternal life. To her has been given dominion of all nations, to teach them all things whatsoever he commanded. “As the Father sent me, so I also send you.” Now, as Christ was sent into the world to teach among other things; that He was the living bread from heaven, so His Church has received from Him and put in the body of her teaching, the doctrines of the divinity of Christ; of His Incarnation; of original sin; of the necessity of grace; of His real presence in the Blessed Eucharist, and the truth of the supreme authority of the Church in the matters of faith and morals. All these truths she received and was sent to teach, and she taught them from the first, and teaches them still.

Nevertheless, as she passed through the nations on her mission, there arose among her followers, men who thought one or other of these doctrines “a hard saying,” and who, accordingly, turned away and walked no more with her. Thus, Arius went out from her, vaunting aloud that he had discovered an error in the Church’s doctrine, namely, that Christ was not the Son of God, but only a creature made by God.

The deplorable part is, that there were numbers to believe that Arius was right and the Church altogether wrong. Such multitudes, indeed, were perverted, that whole provinces in the domain of the Church were, for years and years, made black and barren with this outrageous and pestilent heresy. And all this time the Church was doomed to look on and see it everywhere, giving new death to thousands on thousands who had received life in the resurrection of Christ, the Son of God.

Nestorius

Then followed Nestorius, who erased from the creed the doctrine of the Incarnation; Jesus Christ was not God, but a man united to God by a more special and more intimate union than any other; and consequently the Virgin Mary could not be called the Mother of God.

Pelagius was the next to mutilate the Church’s creed, and he cut out the doctrines of original sin,
and of the necessity of grace, thereby aiming a blow at the entire sacramental system, for if there is no need of grace to aid our good actions, what use to have channels to convey grace to our souls. The same independent dealing was familiar to heresiarchs of lesser note in the early Church, each one rejecting or retaining such words of “Eternal Life” as he might determine for himself.

The last great heresy of all, the consequences of which are rife everywhere in our own day, was one of terrific power, because it has had in aid of its spread and development all the appliances of modern invention and modern activity. We may say, indeed, that it has opened a way for all possible heresies. It dethroned the Redeemer of the world from, we might say almost every altar in England, in Switzerland, in Germany, and from many in France. Sacrifice and sacrament were swept away alike. The authority of the Church to teach at all as a living and divine voice, was treated as an arrogant assumption, and the more effectually to supplant the true religion in the minds of men; each one was now sent to a printed volume, there to find out a religion as best he could. That volume is the work of God, it is true, but only such a work, we may say, as the body of Adam was before a living soul was breathed into it.

It belongs to the Holy Spirit alone, the author of the Scriptures, to give vitality and full meaning to His own work. The breath of man is too short, and too fitful to do more than inflate fragmentary portions of so complete and intricate a production, and these will only be such parts of the sacred book as most please each one’s peculiar fancy.

The Jews, for instance, admired the sermon on the mount, yet turned away in disdain from our Savior’s teaching, respecting His sacred body and blood. So, in our day, there are persons who accept the moral lessons of the Bible, but who will have nothing to do with its transcendent mysteries, which are, in fact, the very kernel of the whole. Now, can it be seriously supposed that, to such multiplied scraps and fragments of belief God is going to attach the virtue, the promise and the reward which He solemnly settled upon the whole body of His doctrine? If so, we may be sure that there is one word of His that will go back to Him empty, for when sending His Apostles to teach all things whatsoever He gave them to teach, He added: “He that believeth not shall be condemned.”

It is not within the reach of any created intellect to measure the disaster brought by heresy upon those once redeemed, nor to tell the anguish and sorrow it has caused the heart of the Redeemer. The track of a plague is not to be compared to the destructive course of heresy; nor is war, with all its horrors; nor is famine. For these evils terrible as they are, do not necessarily rob their victims of a faith and hope in a life where earth’s evils are all to cease.

Lucifer falling

To find a true parallel we must look above and beyond this world. We must think on the damage and irreparable evil caused by Lucifer when he refused to accept the ordainment of God. His angel intellect, in its pride, thought it saw an improvement that might be made in the dispensations of infinite wisdom. He got other spirits to share this arrogant assumption, and they, too, set their individual judgment against the eternal decree of their Maker. This was their sin, or if you prefer it, their heresy, and the consequence of it was, that in less time than words can utter it, light unspeakable was changed into darkness, and heaven was robbed in an instant of one-third of its happy dwellers; never again to enter there. Do you imagine that God saw with indifference, myriads of His gifted beings, thus opening of their own accord, an abyss under their feet?

Or, when in His mercy, He has made a heaven on earth, His holy Church; and peopled it with souls made, by the light of faith brighter than angels; can you think that in view of heaven’s catastrophe, it will be all the same to Him, if these wilfully fling away that gift of faith, and go out into darkness and unbelief? And all this because some heresiarch as ambitious as Satan, and his equal in pride, has had the impious daring to set his judgment in opposition to the eternal Spirit of God guiding His Church. “Fear not those who can kill the body,” says Eternal Truth, “but fear him rather who can cast both body and soul into hell.” This is the reason why all the evils of destruction earth can ever know, are not to be compared to the single evil of heresy.

This subject will always be a mournful one, for the reason that its treatment must adhere to the uncompromising rule of God’s truth. Seeing, moreover, that this sin is visited on the children, far beyond even the third and fourth generation, it is peculiarly sad to think of the numbers who come to be involved in it without any fault of theirs. Of these, many are serving their God according to the light and knowledge they possess; and since on His coming to this world He has promised He would “not break the bruised reed,” we may have the assurance that towards the truly sincere and upright of heart, He will always deal in mercy. One or another of them comes back now and again to the faith their fathers abandoned, and like to persons shipwrecked on a tempestuous sea, they would wonder how or why to them only a speedy rescue has come, out of so many who are left to struggle on unaided in the waves of unbelief.

Why, let me ask, are these not oftener helped by our prayers, which is their only help in a crisis like this? Why is not the fervent exhortation of the Apostle ever sounding in our ears saying to Timothy, “I desire first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all men, for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Oh, if there were mortal lives in danger, instead of immortal souls, many a sympathetic heart would respond to their peril; many a strong arm would be reached out to their relief. If our common humanity calls forth such feelings, and such efforts, why not also our higher kinship with them in Christ? Who will have all men come to the knowledge of His truth, and who accounts it “good and accountable in His sight,” when anyone helps them to this knowledge?

Remember that, although the Church abhors in her inmost soul the sin of heresy; as she must abhor it by her divine mission; she has never renounced the heretic. Volunteer defenders may have sometimes acted without orders, as Peter did when he drew his sword on the servant of the High Priest; but the Church has always rebuked their passionate zeal, and after the example of our divine Savior would willingly heal any wound it caused. Having been sent to all, the Church has for all the heart of Jesus Himself, who wills not the death of the sinner.

Hence, she looks for their return to her, as the father of the prodigal stood with open arms and hoped that some day he would see his wayward son come back, that he might make him again his child ten times more than before.

You, too, must take your stand with her, and together with her pray God that all may one day “Come to the knowledge of the words of eternal life,” which deposited in His Church, have alone attached to them the promise of that blessed life.

Tomorrow, Part III: Scandal

The Church, The Bride of Christ

Because “Atlas Shrugged” is not “the Sermon on the Mount”

On this second day of Lent, I have a couple of videos to share with you. The first is from an interview Ayn Rand did with Mike Wallace back in the days when networks were few.

Ayn Rand, the author, novelist, and philosopher, answers the kinds of tough questions that journalists used to be able to ask, back when the networks were an oligopoly. [Read more...]

YIMC Bookclub, “The Great Heresies,” Chapter 4

“Why should we suffer? Why should we die?”

Ah, the eternal question. And in this chapter “The Albigensian Attack“, Belloc gets to the heart of the matter of why the Incarnation came about, Christianity was founded, and why the Catholic Church exists. Because as we know, we are mere human beings. We die. And since the beginning, mankind has wanted to know “why?”

And in this chapter, Belloc synthesizes the ideas that we have formed in an attempt to come to terms with this truth. He touches on Manicheanism, Stoicism, and heck, even Buddism. For example he writes,

Various ways out of the torturing enigma have been proposed. The simplest and basest is not to face it at all…another way less base, but equally contemptible intellectually, is to say there is no problem because we are all part of a meaningless dead thing with no creative God behind it… another nobler way, which was the favourite way of the high pagan civilization from which we sprang, the way of the great Romans and the great Greeks, is the way of Stoicism. This might vulgarly be termed “The philosophy of grin-and-bear-it”… another way is the profound but despairing way of Asia, of which the greatest example is Buddhism: the philosophy which calls the individual an illusion, bids us get rid of the desire for immortality and look forward to being merged in the impersonal life of the universe. What the Catholic solution is we all know.

Or hopefully you do. If you didn’t before reading this chapter, you know now. A lot of ground is covered here. Heck, you might want to let your children read this chapter so they will understand what all the fuss is about regarding being a practicing Catholic. What’s the deal? Well,

Shaw, Belloc, And Chesterton

the Catholic Church has on this particular problem a very definite answer within the field of her own action. She says, first, that man’s nature is immortal, and made for beatitude; next, that mortality and pain are the result of his Fall, that is, of his rebellion against the will of God. She says that since the fall our mortal life is an ordeal or test, according to our behavior, in which we regain (but through the merits of our Savior) that immortal beatitude which we had lost.

And then he proceeds to discuss and explain the various manifestations of this particular heresy. First up is Manicheanism. Have you ever seen Star Wars and it’s various sequels and prequels? May the Force be with you? The Dark Side of the Force and the good side? Now you know where George Lucas got that idea. Remember in The Empire Strikes Back when Yoda is training the young Jedi(the Good Side) Luke Skywalker and he punches Luke in the shoulder and says “not this crude matter” referring to his human body? Hmmm, sounds like,

But one thing the Manichean of every shade has always felt, and that is, that “matter” belongs to the evil side of things. Though there may be plenty of evil of a spiritual kind yet good must be “wholly” spiritual.

You’ve probably heard, or maybe even experienced, Christianity of some stripe that treats matter and the human body like this. Not to mention any other religions out there, or new age thinking, that does the same. I know I’ve bumped into people who have said exactly what Belloc says when he describes the human body and its characteristics as follows:

That is something you find not only in the early Manichean, not only in the Albigensian of the Middle Ages, but even in the most modern of the remaining Puritans. It seems indissolubly connected with the Manichean temper in every form. Matter is subject to decay and is therefore evil. Our bodies are evil. Their appetites are evil. This idea ramifies into all sorts of absurd details. Wine is evil. Pretty well any physical pleasure, or half-physical pleasure, is evil. Joy is evil. Beauty is evil. Amusements are evil, and so on. Anyone who will read the details of the Albigensian story will be struck over and over again by the singularly modern attitude of these ancient heretics, because they had the same root as the Puritans who still, unhappily, survive among us.

I’m glad I’m a Catholic now because finally the world makes some sense! And I’m glad I’m a Marine too, because there is a lot of warfare in this chapter. But before I continue, I’m going to hand the reins over to Jason, one of our YIMC Book Club volunteers has these words to say about this chapter:

The Albigensian heresy today is also known as the Cathar heresy. Belloc points out that this heresy is actually a form of Manicheanism. Belloc connects the rise of the Albigensian/Cathar heresy as an attempt of answering the “the problem of evil”. Why are there evil, suffering, and death?

Atheists propose the solution that there is no God. Stoics grin and bear it. Buddists claim individual existence is an illusion.

The Albigensians/Cathars resorted to dualism, that is that God is good but not omnipotent. And that goodness is opposed by evil that was equally as powerful. God the Father is no more powerful than Satan. Furthermore, all matter (being subject to decay) was of evil and good was only spiritual.

The conclusions based on that claim are far-reaching. If matter is evil and God is good, then Jesus could not have been human (no Incarnation), could not have suffered, and was not resurrected. If matter is evil, then the sacraments are false being present in matter. How can Jesus be present in evil matter? Thus no Eucharist.

The heresy divided France. The southern lords embraced the heresy in opposition of the King of France in the north. Belloc isn’t explicit about this but we can see the violent conflict had significant political aspects. Both England and Spain (neither of which embraced the heresy) supported the heretics in hopes of weakening the French.

Belloc shows his bias in his historical account of the battles between the northern and southern French factions.

Of course, Belloc is many things but unbiased is probably not one of them.  Not for the purpose of this book anyway. Jason, and probably others,  have questions about the historical accuracy of Belloc’s accounts.  Footnotes would have been nice here, but perhaps the best thing to do is to consider this chapter as a springboard for following your own curiosity regarding the historical facts surrounding the conflicts that ensued as a result of this movement. A preview of The Inquisition – A Political and Military Study of Its Establishment is available on Google Books.

But as an overview of an erroneous idea that just keeps cropping up over and over, I found this chapter to be very helpful.  How about the rest of you? Share your thoughts with us in the comment box.

YIMC Book Club “The Great Heresies” Chapter Two

It’s meat and potatoes time here at the YIM Catholic Bookclub. Old Thunder (Belloc) kicks off this chapter with these terse and direct words, “Arianism was the first of the great heresies.” Where are the footnotes to back up this claim? You won’t find any footnotes in Belloc’s books. I suppose he is confident in making the claim because “everyone knows” this to be true.

Sure, I didn’t, and maybe you didn’t either. But I’ve stated before that I don’t know everything, so if I were you I would make a note to myself to check out these assertions. Perhaps by reading the works of St. Athanatius, for example, or more recently the words of Cardinal John Henry Newman. But for now, let’s just let Belloc draw back the veil on the early Church and see what almost happened to Christianity.

And let me remind you that from almost the very beginning of the Church, it has not been “smooth sailing.” Consider the words of St. John (1 John 2:18-19) when he states,

Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that the antichrist was coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. Thus we know this is the last hour.  They went out from us, but they were not really of our number; if they had been, they would have remained with us. Their desertion shows that none of them was our number.

Yes, the bold is my emphasis, but I’m not the one making the point. St. John is clearly stating that even in his lifetime (6 – 100 AD), controversy and heresy were getting off the ground. Heck, it sounds like they were actually thriving because otherwise why would he mention it? This is shocking to no one who is deep in the scriptures, which is probably why Belloc didn’t encumber every one of his points with footnotes. For the rest of us though, it wouldn’t hurt for you to keep the Bible and the Cathechism close at hand while reading the rest of Belloc’s book. And may I suggest Freiderich Knicht’s helpful book as well?

Belloc writes,

Now the central tradition of the Church here, as in every other case of disputed doctrine, was strong and clear from the beginning. Our Lord was undoubtedly a man. He had been born as men are born, He died as men die. He lived as a man and had been known as a man by a group of close companions and a very large number of men and women who had followed Him, and heard Him and witnessed His actions.

But, said the Church, He was also God. God had come down to earth and become Incarnate as a Man. He was not merely a man influenced by the Divinity, nor was He a manifestation of the Divinity under the appearance of a man. He was at the same time fully God and fully Man. On that the central tradition of the Church never wavered. It is taken for granted from the beginning by those who have authority to speak.

Did I mention that everything hinges on authority for Belloc? And in the end, isn’t that True?

Before I blather on, recall that at the start of the meeting for this book selection, I asked for volunteers to take a leadership role in guiding our discussion here. Up to the plate this week is “Mary R.” What follows is Mary’s brief synopsis of this weeks chapter and the high points as she saw them.

Let’s give Mary R. a hearty welcome and a dose of gratitude for being the first out of the gate in my little experimental twist on the YIMC Book Clubs’ rules of engagement: “all readers should be prepared to help discuss the book.” Maybe Webster, Allison and I will eventually just bring the refreshments!

Mary R., you have the floor,

Chapter 3 – The Arian Heresy
I erred in my first reading of this chapter. Hillaire Belloc stated, “There is no greater error in the whole range of bad history than imagining that doctrinal differences, because they are abstract and apparently remote from practical things of life, are not therefore of intense social effect. … Merely to say that Arianism was what it was doctrinally is to enunciate a formula, but not to give the thing itself.”

I read “enunciate” as “eunicate.” “Eunicate” is not a word (ed.- LOL) but “eunuch” is and that is what I did to the Arian heresy when I first heard about it. I removed the essential and kept the dogmatic part. I knew that Arianism concerned the denial of the divinity of Jesus but I did not take into consideration the society and the uniqueness of the era.

Belloc, referred to as HB going forward, corrected my view and gave me the history, the flesh and blood, of the Arian heresy. This chapter covers roughly 250 years from 300 to 550. It is about generals, emperors, men and motives. HB explains the cultural groundwork that allowed Arianism to take root.

There are the people who supported Arianism – the noble families who were reluctant to accept the social revolution of Catholicism; the intellectuals who were concerned about the loss of their social position; and the Army who supported it. It is the history of people and how their support strengthens or weakens the Church. And it is the doctrines that must be defended.

The competing doctrines were:

* Catholic Christianity: Jesus was at the same time fully God and fully man. “On that central tradition of the Church never wavered.”

* Arianism: Jesus was man and our Lord but not divine. He was not God.

The two main characters who supported opposing views were Areios and St. Athanasius. Both men were charismatic. Both were passionate and both believed what they taught. And finally, halfway through this chapter we find out how St Athanasius defeated Arianism. He was sincere, he was tenacious, he was Patriarch of Alexandria (2nd most important town in Eastern Empire), he enjoyed popular backing, he was a genius, and he was young when the Arian heresy started. He had a lot going for him but he also endured five exiles. Through it all, St Athanasius defended the doctrine.

If you are like me looking for answers, be careful not to read too fast this chapter or you might misread words, change meaning, and miss what you are looking for. Fortunately, I wrote this introduction and had to reread the chapter several times. Thus I have an answer to how I can personally combat heresy. No, I am not male therefore I cannot be a bishop. I don’t have a following of people to support my ideas. And I am not young. Finally, I shouldn’t look for an Army general (HB tells us how the Army was finally converted from Arianism).

What I did learn is that I need to study and understand Church teachings – the dogmas of what it is to be Catholic. I need to believe by both reason and faith.  I need to listen to my bishop and give him my support as he leads me back to union with God.

Okay. Now it is your turn. What did you learn?

Thanks Mary R., and Bravo Zulu! I’m looking forward to our members’ (and anyone else who has read the chapter) discussion in the comm-box below.

YIMC Book Club “The Great Heresies” Chapter 1

In last weeks introduction, Belloc spelled out why we should study heresy. This week, he explains the plan of his book and why he choose the five heresies that he did. Although the number of heretical ideas that assault Christianity are as numerous as sand is on a beach, Belloc argues that the five heresies he covers here should suffice in alerting us as to what we need to be aware of.

It’s disclaimer time here at the book club: I’m fully aware that Belloc’s book is provocative. And his point of view is that Christianity is seen in it’s fullness in Catholicism. Period. This will likely irritate many modern readers, but so be it. As Belloc discussed in the introduction, heresy has become an unused word.

For example, he is unapologetic about the following statement:

There is, as everybody knows, an institution proclaiming itself today the sole authoritative and divinely appointed teacher of essential morals and essential doctrine. This institution calls itself the Catholic Church.

Going further, Belloc states that,

Many through antagonism or lack of knowledge deny the identity of the Catholic Church today with the original Christian society. 

Are you still with us? Because for Belloc, and for many others who have converted to Catholic Christianity, the matter of authority is a key issue. One which many don’t concern themselves with. Not Belloc, though, because for him the matter of authority is crucial. May I suggest you switch off your “know-it-all-ness” for a bit and just listen to what he says? You’ll be glad you did because in doing so you will gain the knowledge to identify “old hat” heresies dressed up in new clothing.

Santayana opined, and I paraphrase, that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. Do you believe that? I admit that I do.  Qoheleth, in Ecclesiastes, flatly states that what has been before will be again. So if we don’t know what was “before,” how will we know if we are being led astray? Well, I’ve come to believe the Church because,

From the day of Pentecost (some time between A.D. 29 and A.D. 33) onwards there has been a body of doctrine affirmed for instance, at the very outset, the Resurrection. And the organism by which that body of doctrine has been affirmed has been from the outset a body of men bound by a certain tradition through which they claimed to have the authority in question. 

It is further historically true (though not universally admitted) that the claim of this body to be a divinely appointed voice for the statement of true doctrine on the matters essential to man (his nature, his ordeal in this world, his doom or salvation, his immortality, etc.) is to be found affirmed through preceding centuries, up to a little before the middle of the first century.

Belloc then provides brief sketches of the following heresies and how they attack the Catholic Church. Belloc claims that each of the following present a type of attack. They are as follows,

1) Arianism: Attacked the authority of the Church by denying the divinity of Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity. But even more, it was a “large-scale reaction against the supernatural.” Ever meet a Christian who scoffs at the miracles the Catholic Church has approved of? Sure you have.

2) Islam: So you thought this was an indigenous religion of the Middle East like Shinto Buddism is to Japan or Confucianism is to China? Belloc notes that Islam is essentially,  a heresy alien rather than intimate. It threatened to kill the Christian Church by invasion rather than to undermine it from within. This should be interesting.

3)Albigensianism: Much like the Manichean heresy (that St. Augustine dabbled with prior to his conversion) with the concept of good fighting evil, and the equal power of the two. Combined with this is the idea that matter is evil and that “all pleasure, especially of the body, is evil.” Ever heard Christians lamenting that our bodies are just corrupt and that we would be better off without them? Show of hands?

4)Protestants: Here is the elephant in the room, eh? Protestants denied the unity of the Church and the central authority Christ gave to Peter as his vicar. Denial of “not the doctrines it(new denominations) might happen to advance, but its very claim to advance them with unique authority” while rejecting unity. This one is going to be hairy!

5)The Modern: Belloc claimed this heresy was on the rise when he wrote this back in 1936 and it is probably blowing full force by now, wouldn’t you say? If I can’t touch, taste, see, or smell it, then it obviously doesn’t exist. If it can’t be measured and tested by the scientific method, then it is make-believe. This heresy, Belloc notes, came before all the other ones, so it looks like we are back to where they started.

Such are the five great movements antagonistic to the Faith. To concentrate our attention upon each in turn teaches us in separate examples the character of our religion and the strange truth that men cannot escape sympathy with it or hatred of it. To concentrate on these five main attacks has this further value, that between them they seem to sum up all the directions from which the assault can be delivered against the Catholic Faith.

Next week we jump into Arianism with the help of reader Mary R. Until then, happy reading!


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