I was fascinated by the writings of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in today’s readings (“With all Your Mind” for example) so did a little research on her. She is the first native born American to be canonized, and the details of her life and ministry, entangled with early American history, are well documented and very interesting.
Some definitions from The Catechism Paragraph 2089:
2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”
Father Linsky led an interesting and informative discussion on heresies and the struggles of Church leaders to battle them and arrive at “correct if incomplete” understandings of The Triune God.
Below is a link to a blog post I did in 2011, the same year I was received into the Catholic Church. It includes a list of 2000 years of heresies and comments I had about them at the time. In view of Father Linsky’s helpful comments this morning, I should modify the second sentence to omit “correct” and simply say, ” From a Catholic viewpoint, possible explanations that were rejected by the church carry the label, “heresy,” meaning that while we have no complete explanations of God, those particular rejected explanations have been judged to be wrong.” And, if I were publishing it today, I would change the title to suggest a struggle to “Defend the Faith” rather than to “Explain the Unexplainable.” But, that is what I wrote and think I shouldn’t revise history.
You will have to click on the chart listing the heresies to get a readable version. If you want a hard copy, let me know. Here is the link: HERESY!
Recent Heresy (1940’s)
In case of interest in digging into the most recent heresy on the list, Fenneyism, here is an analysis of it published on the EWTN website.
More on Nestorius
You can read a well organized summary of Nestorius and the Nestorian heresy on Encyclopedia Britannica.
I wish I could more often recommend the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia (link to Nestorius), but I just can’t deal with those 500+ word fine-print paragraphs and abundant distracting hot links.
One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church
And, below is more detail on heresy from The Catechism of The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. This is from the section on The Creed about The Church, in particular the word, “One…” This is from the Vatican website.
Wounds to unity
817 In fact, “in this one and only Church of God from its very beginnings there arose certain rifts, which the Apostle strongly censures as damnable. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church – for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame.”269 The ruptures that wound the unity of Christ’s Body – here we must distinguish heresy, apostasy, and schism270 – do not occur without human sin:
Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers.271
818 “However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers …. All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church.”272
819 “Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth”273 are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: “the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements.”274 Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him,275 and are in themselves calls to “Catholic unity.”276
820 “Christ bestowed unity on his Church from the beginning. This unity, we believe, subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time.”277 Christ always gives his Church the gift of unity, but the Church must always pray and work to maintain, reinforce, and perfect the unity that Christ wills for her. This is why Jesus himself prayed at the hour of his Passion, and does not cease praying to his Father, for the unity of his disciples: “That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us, . . . so that the world may know that you have sent me.”278 The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit.279
821 Certain things are required in order to respond adequately to this call:
– a permanent renewal of the Church in greater fidelity to her vocation; such renewal is the driving-force of the movement toward unity;280
– conversion of heart as the faithful “try to live holier lives according to the Gospel”;281 for it is the unfaithfulness of the members to Christ’s gift which causes divisions;
– prayer in common, because “change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians, should be regarded as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, and merits the name ‘spiritual ecumenism;”‘282
-fraternal knowledge of each other;283
– ecumenical formation of the faithful and especially of priests;284
– dialogue among theologians and meetings among Christians of the different churches and communities;285
– collaboration among Christians in various areas of service to mankind.286 “Human service” is the idiomatic phrase.
822 Concern for achieving unity “involves the whole Church, faithful and clergy alike.”287 But we must realize “that this holy objective – the reconciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ – transcends human powers and gifts.” That is why we place all our hope “in the prayer of Christ for the Church, in the love of the Father for us, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.”288
Five Barren Women Blessed by God
Here is a simple chart of key points about the five once barren women we discussed and information about where to read the whole stories of them and their sons.
For most in Old Testament times, eternal life was dependent on one’s children. Descendants were key to preserving memory of a person. Even in New Testament times there was disagreement between Sadducees and Pharisees on whether there was life after death.
We also touched on modern solutions to difficulties becoming pregnant and how some of those solutions conflict with Church teaching.
And, we addressed the problem of despair, complete lack of hope, usually self focused, sometimes leading even to suicide. Remember Hope is a theological virtue. Despair, at least, didn’t make the list of capital sins, though self focus seems to be a common theme.
I thought this comment on today’s Gospel reading was helpful since we pray the Benedictus every Wednesday. You can subscribe to his daily comment on the Gospel reading. firstname.lastname@example.org.
After using the Universalis App for Morning prayer for a couple of years I discovered this morning the option for the “Enlarged Form” of morning prayer which includes the Gospel reading from Mass and readings from the Office of Readings. Here is what the first page of the “Enlarged Form” looks like on my iPad. All the little parallel horizontal bars at the right indicate options that are available. The set at the top easily allows a switch back to the standard Morning Prayer. The second set allows a choice of invitatories including a different one of the four each day.
So, if you have twenty or thirty minutes for Morning Prayer, check this out. Today it includes this from Pope St. Leo the Great who was Pope from 440 to his death in 461. Sometimes the readings are inspirational to me and sometimes not. This one is.
Vatican Criteria on Apparitions
Here is the official word from The Vatican on “NORMS REGARDING THE MANNER OF PROCEEDING IN THE DISCERNMENT OF PRESUMED APPARITIONS OR REVELATIONS.”
The link above will take you to the Vatican website from which I have copied, for easier and more convenient reading, the paragraphs below. The date of this document, found at the end, is February 25th, 1978. One obvious conclusion that can be drawn is that this matter of apparitions and revelations was, and presumably is, considered to be a very serious issue for The Church. At the bottom of this article, in case you don’t want to read it all, is a link to a listing of approved apparitions in various categories. Sixty five are included in the listings.
Origin and character of these norms
During the annual Plenary Session in November 1974, the Fathers of this Sacred Congregation examined the problems relative to presumed apparitions and to the revelations often connected with them and reached the following conclusions:
1. Today, more than in the past, news of these apparitions is diffused rapidly among the faithful thanks to the means of information (mass media). Moreover, the ease of going from one place to another fosters frequent pilgrimages, so that Ecclesiastical Authority should discern quickly about the merits of such matters.
2. On the other hand, modern mentality and the requirements of critical scientific investigation render it more difficult, if not almost impossible, to achieve with the required speed the judgments that in the past concluded the investigation of such matters (constat de supernaturalitate, non constat de supernaturalitate) and that offered to the Ordinaries the possibility of authorizing or prohibiting public cult or other forms of devotion among the faithful.
For these reasons, in order that the devotion stirred among the faithful as a result of facts of this sort might manifest itself in full communion with the Church, and bear fruits by which the Church herself might later discern the true nature of the facts, the Fathers judged that in this matter the following procedure should be promoted.
When Ecclesiastical Authority is informed of a presumed apparition or revelation, it will be its responsibility:
a) first, to judge the fact according to positive and negative criteria (cf. infra, no. I);
b) then, if this examination results in a favorable conclusion, to permit some public manifestation of cult or of devotion, overseeing this with great prudence (equivalent to the formula, “for now, nothing stands in the way”) (pro nunc nihil obstare).
c) finally, in light of time passed and of experience, with special regard to the fecundity of spiritual fruit generated from this new devotion, to express a judgment regarding the authenticity and supernatural character if the case so merits.
I. CRITERIA FOR JUDGING, AT LEAST WITH PROBABILITY,
OF THE PRESUMED APPARITIONS OR REVELATIONS
A) Positive Criteria:
a) Moral certitude, or at least great probability of the existence of the fact, acquired by means of a serious investigation;
b) Particular circumstances relative to the existence and to the nature of the fact, that is to say:
1. Personal qualities of the subject or of the subjects (in particular, psychological equilibrium, honesty and rectitude of moral life, sincerity and habitual docility towards Ecclesiastical Authority, the capacity to return to a normal regimen of a life of faith, etc.);
2. As regards revelation: true theological and spiritual doctrine and immune from error;
3. Healthy devotion and abundant and constant spiritual fruit (for example, spirit of prayer, conversion, testimonies of charity, etc.).
B) Negative Criteria:
a) Manifest error concerning the fact.
b) Doctrinal errors attributed to God himself, or to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or to some saint in their manifestations, taking into account however the possibility that the subject might have added, even unconsciously, purely human elements or some error of the natural order to an authentic supernatural revelation (cf. Saint Ignatius, Exercises, no. 336).
c) Evidence of a search for profit or gain strictly connected to the fact.
d) Gravely immoral acts committed by the subject or his or her followers when the fact occurred or in connection with it.
e) Psychological disorder or psychopathic tendencies in the subject, that with certainty influenced on the presumed supernatural fact, or psychosis, collective hysteria or other things of this kind.
It is to be noted that these criteria, be they positive or negative, are not peremptory but rather indicative, and they should be applied cumulatively or with some mutual convergence.
OF THE COMPETENT ECCLESIASTICAL AUTHORITY
1. If, on the occasion of a presumed supernatural fact, there arises in a spontaneous way among the faithful a certain cult or some devotion, the competent Ecclesiastical Authority has the serious duty of looking into it without delay and of diligently watching over it.
2. If the faithful request it legitimately (that is, in communion with the Pastors, and not prompted by a sectarian spirit), the competent Ecclesiastical Authority can intervene to permit or promote some form of cult or devotion, if, after the application of the above criteria, nothing stands in the way. They must be careful that the faithful not interpret this practice as approval of the supernatural nature of the fact on the part of the Church (cf. Preliminary note c).
3. By reason of its doctrinal and pastoral task, the competent Authority can intervene motu proprio and indeed must do so in grave circumstances, for example in order to correct or prevent abuses in the exercise of cult and devotion, to condemn erroneous doctrine, to avoid the dangers of a false or unseemly mysticism, etc.
4. In doubtful cases that clearly do not put the good of the Church at risk, the competent Ecclesiastical Authority is to refrain from any judgment and from any direct action (because it can also happen that, after a certain period of time, the presumed supernatural fact falls into oblivion); it must not however cease from being vigilant by intervening if necessary, with promptness and prudence.
III. AUTHORITIES COMPETENT TO INTERVENE
1. Above all, the duty of vigilance and intervention falls to the Ordinary of the place.
2. The regional or national Conference of Bishops can intervene:
a) If the Ordinary of the place, having done his part, turns to it to judge the matter with greater certainty;
b) If the matter pertains to the national or regional level; always, however, with the prior consent of the Ordinary of the place.
3. The Apostolic See can intervene if asked either by the Ordinary himself, by a qualified group of the faithful, or even directly by reason of the universal jurisdiction of the Supreme Pontiff (cf. infra, no. IV).
IV. ON THE INTERVENTION
OF THE SACRED CONGREGATION
FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
1. a) The intervention of the Sacred Congregation can be requested either by the Ordinary, after he has done his part, or by a qualified group of the faithful. In this second case, care must be taken that recourse to the Sacred Congregation not be motivated by suspect reasons (for example, in order to compel the Ordinary to modify his own legitimate decisions, to support some sectarian group, etc.).
b) It is up to the Sacred Congregation to intervene motu proprio in graver cases, especially if the matter affects the larger part of the Church, always after having consulted the Ordinary and even, if the situation requires, the Conference of Bishops.
2. It is up to the Sacred Congregation to judge and approve the Ordinary’s way of proceeding or, in so far as it be possible and fitting, to initiate a new examination of the matter, distinct from that undertaken by the Ordinary and carried out either by the Sacred Congregation itself or by a special Commission.
The Present Norms, deliberated in the Plenary Session of this Sacred Congregation, were approved by the Supreme Pontiff, Paul VI on 24 February 1978.
In Rome, from the palace of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 25 February 1978.
Francis Cardinal Šeper
I was not able to find, on the Vatican website, a list of Vatican approved apparitions, but, during the search, I did find this January 2018 document, To the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Certain Aspects of Christian Salvation, closely related to Father Linsky’s December 5 discussion on Salvation. But I digress.
Anyway, I had to look elsewhere for a well organized list of approved apparitions and found one by log author Michael O’Neill, Stanford engineering graduate, who has dedicated himself to the study of miracles and apparitions including Our Lady of Guadalupe and has an interesting story about why he did that.
- Traditionally Approved – 19
- Vatican Approved – 16
- Bishop Approved – 9
- Coptic Approved (Egypt) – 7
- No Decision (Approval of Faith Expression) – 14
Until I read today’s Mass reading from Philippians 1, I struggled with what to write about our Wednesday morning discussion of Isaiah 25. Considering all the problems in the world today, we seem to have made little progress toward that time when “fierce nations will fear God” and the “uproar of the wanton” will be quelled, a time when all peoples will enjoy a “feast of rich food and choice wines,” when God will “wipe away the tears from all faces.” I’m inclined to agree with Jim’s comment that this must be a prophecy of the end times.
I found Father Linsky’s comments about salvation being a process and the importance of cooperation, involving preparation, and effort, to be particularly meaningful. I think that applies to us individually and to the Church and to the whole world. And then the reading from Philippians 1 seemed to express that so well, St Paul writing to the Christians at Philippi.
Philippians 1:3-11 3 I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you, 4 praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, 5 because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 It is right that I should think this way about all of you, because I hold you in my heart, you who are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, 10 to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
There are many examples in Sacred Scripture of the Catholic understanding of the process of Salvation, and these words from St. Paul seem to be an excellent example. As one on my professors at the Lutheran seminary once said, “Don’t worry about whether you have crossed some line. Worry about the direction you are going.” Or, in the words of theologian Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
We have important roles and responsibilities, all in the general category of cooperation with the love and grace and mercy of our Triune God, in our personal faith journeys, in the ministry of the Basilica of St. Peter, and in the global witness of The Church, the Body of Christ, all in the process of preparation for that time prophesied in Isaiah 25.