“When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” – St Paul

“Those that corrupt families shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If, then, those who do this as respects the flesh have suffered death, how much more shall this be the case with any one who corrupts by wicked doctrine the faith of God, for which Jesus Christ was crucified!” – St Ignatius of Antioch

“No mortal sins more grievously than do the heretics who deny Christ after they have known Him.” – St Bede

“[T]he spirit of error and lying hath taken his wretched soul with him straight from the short fire to the fire everlasting … the devil’s stinking ‘martyr'” – St Thomas More

“[The heresiarch] should meet with no mercy: he assumes the office of the Tempter; and, so far forth as his error goes, must be dealt with by the competent authority, as if he were embodied evil. To spare him is a false and dangerous pity. It is to endanger the souls of thousands, and it is uncharitable towards himself.” – St John Henry Newman

“If in order to save an earthly life it is praiseworthy to use force to stop a man from committing suicide, are we not to be allowed use the same force — holy coercion — to save the Life (with a capital) of many who are stupidly bent on killing their souls?” – St Jose Maria Escrivá

Popular apologist Jimmy Akin (appropriately distinguished by the fact that he sports a cowboy hat) has been propagating a serious error concerning the authority of the Fathers of the Church. He has been claiming that because Trent’s Decree Concerning The Edition And Use Of The Sacred Books was issued on the same day as the Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures (8th April 1546) it should be taken as a disciplinary decree and therefore its requirement that the Scriptures never be interpreted ‘contrary to the unanimous teaching of the Fathers’ should be taken as purely disciplinary. Furthermore, he opines, because the 1983 Code of Canon Law makes no reference to this ‘rule’ it is lapsed and no longer binds the faithful. The motive for this preposterous claim appears to be the desire to unburden himself of unfashionable teachings of the Fathers and to clear the ground for ultramontane magisterial positivism (especially in regard to the interpretation of Genesis).

The problem for Mr Akin is that, even granting his claims about the disciplinary character of the Decree Concerning The Edition And Use Of The Sacred Books, the requirement that the Scriptures never be interpreted ‘contrary to the unanimous teaching of the Fathers’ is not confined to this decree. Exactly the same requirement in included in the Creed of Pius IV or Professio Fidei Tridentina the Church’s rule of faith for four centuries proclaimed at the end of Trent by Pius IV and solemnly affirmed not once but twice by Vatican I. This dogmatic and irreformable statement of the ‘true Catholic faith, outside of which no one can be saved’ resoundingly affirms that:

“I also accept the Holy Scripture according to that sense which holy mother the Church hath held, and doth hold, and to whom it belongeth to judge the true sense and interpretations of the Scriptures. Neither will I ever take and interpret them otherwise than according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.”

The authority of the Fathers, which reaches its highest point in their unanimous interpretation of scripture, is the guarantee of the unchanging sense of the Church’s teaching delivered once and for all to the Apostles and preserved inviolate until the Lord’s return. As Vatican I put it,

“For the doctrine of the faith which God has revealed is put forward not as some philosophical discovery capable of being perfected by human intelligence, but as a divine deposit committed to the spouse of Christ to be faithfully protected and infallibly promulgated. Hence, too, that meaning of the sacred dogmas is ever to be maintained which has once been declared by Holy mother Church, and there must never be any abandonment of this sense under the pretext or in the name of a more profound understanding.”

St Thomas More

The holy Roman church, founded on the words of our Lord and Saviour … firmly believes, professes and teaches that the legal prescriptions of the old Testament or the Mosaic law, which are divided into ceremonies, holy sacrifices and sacraments, because they were instituted to signify something in the future, although they were adequate for the divine cult of that age, once our lord Jesus Christ who was signified by them had come, came to an end and the sacraments of the new Testament had their beginning. Whoever, after the passion, places his hope in the legal prescriptions and submits himself to them as necessary for salvation and as if faith in Christ without them could not save, sins mortally. It does not deny that from Christ’s passion until the promulgation of the gospel they could have been retained, provided they were in no way believed to be necessary for salvation. But it asserts that after the promulgation of the gospel they cannot be observed without loss of eternal salvation. Therefore it denounces all who after that time observe circumcision, the sabbath and other legal prescriptions as strangers to the faith of Christ and unable to share in eternal salvation, unless they recoil at some time from these errors. Therefore it strictly orders all who glory in the name of Christian, not to practise circumcision either before or after baptism, since whether or not they place their hope in it, it cannot possibly be observed without loss of eternal salvation.

The baptismal part of Feeneyism consists in the claim that, while baptism of desire and blood are possible (they don’t like the terms) they never actually save anyone. More precisely, if elect persons do receive baptism of desire they will subsequently receive water baptism and if elect persons receive baptism of blood that means, having already received water baptism and fallen into (now forgiven mortal or) venial sin, they have the temporal punishment for this entirely remitted (as if in a second water baptism) by martyrdom. A person could die with baptism of desire and be saved but no one ever is. The basis for this claim is John 3:5 which is interpreted as meaning that no one who fails to receive water baptism is predestined. This appears to have been the mature position of St Augustine (Rahner thought so).

The above definition of Florence (Cantate Domino) is interesting from this perspective. St Thomas More held that no living human person other than Our Lady was in a state of grace at 3pm on 15th Nisan 30 A.D. If he was right then the above definition of Florence is not interesting from this perspective. Imagine, however, for the sake of argument that St Thomas More was wrong. It would be reasonable to assume that there were Jews (say in India or China) invincibly ignorance of Jesus of Nazareth and in a state of grace on on 15th Nisan 30 A.D. It is not unreasonable to imagine some of them persisting in a state of grace and invincible ignorance of Jesus of Nazareth until 20th Nisan 30 A.D. and then dying and being saved. However, this definition excludes that possibility. It says “from Christ’s passion until the promulgation of the gospel they [the ceremonies of the Old Law] could have been retained, provided they were in no way believed to be necessary for salvation”. This seems to imply that a person invincibly ignorance of Jesus of Nazareth and in a state of grace after the Passion cannot be saved. As invincible ignorance is not a sin and the performance of the rites of the Old Law does not offend against natural law the only explanation for this would be that no one who is invincibly ignorant of Jesus of Nazareth is predestined.

This by no means proves Feeneyism and rests on the hypothetical assumption that St Thomas More is wrong on this point (and, for the record, I don’t think he is) but it is interesting none the less and makes the scenario the Feeneyites propose fractionally more probable. 


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“The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you.” John 12:35

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” Roman 8:16-17

“He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:2

“As it is said, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.'” Hebrews 3:15

“But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:27

‘Freedom of speech and expression…’

I dreamed last night that I was in Minas Tirith. It was just before first light, but I was up and clothed. As I looked through the casement of my chamber, I saw a sight that had not been seen in the memory of any man living. On a hill beyond the wall of the city, the great beacon was ablaze, to signify that open war was upon us. Bending to look out, I saw men already running through the streets, and arming themselves. I shouted to encourage them, in so loud a voice that I awoke.