by Mary Ann Collins
(A Former Catholic Nun)
Revised November 2002
There is a hidden agenda behind the ecumenical movement. Official Catholic documents from the Second Vatican Council show that the purpose behind ecumenism is to bring Protestants back into the Catholic Church.
The Council of Trent anathematized every Christian who disagrees with any detail of Catholic doctrine. These anathemas have never been canceled. An anathema means that the Catholic Church has placed someone under a solemn ecclesiastical curse. (Anathemas will be explained more fully later in this paper.)
VATICAN II AND ECUMENISM
The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) wrote 16 official documents. It also gave some groups of experts the task of working out the details of how to apply the principles and directives of the Council. These groups of men wrote official “post conciliar” documents to more fully elaborate what had been written by the Council. The conciliar and post conciliar documents are published together in a two-volume work.
The Council’s “Decree on Ecumenism” states that ecumenical activity cannot result in changing any aspect of the Catholic faith. [Note 1] This foundational principle is reflected in the post conciliar documents dealing with ecumenism.
For example, Post Conciliar Document No. 42 says that the purpose of ecumenism is to transform the thinking and behavior of non-Catholics so that eventually all Christians will be united in one Church. It states that unity means being “in the Catholic Church.” [Note 2]
In other words, as far as Rome is concerned, “unity” means that all Christians will become Roman Catholics.
THE COUNCIL OF TRENT
Reaching out in a friendly, respectful way to “separated brethren” seems inconsistent with the Council of Trent.
The Council of Trent (1545-1564) was the Roman Catholic Church’s response to the Protestant Reformation. It denounced every single doctrine which was proposed by the Protestant Reformers. It declared that any person who believes even one of these doctrines is “anathema” (officially and ritually cursed by the Catholic Church). (The documents produced by the Council of Trent were published as a book. It is available online.) [ Note 3]
It also defined Catholic doctrines, detail by detail, and declared that anybody who denies even one of these details is anathema. These include the authority of the Pope, the practice of indulgences, veneration of Mary and the saints, and the use of statues. So the Council of Trent anathematizes all Protestants.
According to the 1913 edition of the “Catholic Encyclopedia,” when the Catholic Church anathematizes someone, the Pope ritually puts curses on them. There is a solemn written ritual for doing this. The “Catholic Encyclopedia” article describes the ritual in detail, including extensive quotations from it. (You can read this article online.) [Note 4]
In pronouncing the anathema, the Pope wears special vestments. He is assisted by twelve priests holding lighted candles. Calling on the name of God, the Pope pronounces a solemn ecclesiastical curse. He ends by pronouncing sentence and declaring that the anathematized person is condemned to hell with Satan. The priests reply, “Fiat!” (Let it be done!) and throw down their candles.
As we will see, the Catholic Church considers heresy (disagreement with Catholic doctrine) to be a crime. The Council of Trent, and other Church councils, declare that any person who disagrees with even one of their doctrinal statements is thereby anathematized.
When the Pope pronounces an anathema, he is said to be passing sentence on a criminal. The “Catholic Encyclopedia” says that the anathema ritual is deliberately calculated to terrify the “criminal” and cause him to repent (in other words, to unconditionally submit to the Catholic Church).
For those whose crime is heresy, repentance means renouncing everything that they have said or done which conflicts with Catholic doctrine. In other words, they have to renounce their own conscience and discernment, and the conclusions which they reached in their best efforts to understand Biblical principles. And they have to submit their minds and wills unconditionally to every official doctrinal declaration of the Catholic Church. As we will see, Canon Law says that this unquestioning submission of the mind and will is required.
OFFICIAL MODERN ENDORSEMENT OF THE COUNCIL OF TRENT
The declarations and anathemas of the Council of Trent have never been revoked. On the contrary, the decrees of the Council of Trent are confirmed by both the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and the official “Catechism of the Catholic Church” (1992).
The documents of the Second Vatican Council cite the Council of Trent as an authority for doctrinal statements, both in the text and in the notes. The “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church” states that the Second Vatican Council “proposes again the decrees of” three previous councils, one of which is the Council of Trent. [Note 5] The “Decree on the Training of Priests” says that the Second Vatican Council continued the work of the Council of Trent. [Note 6]
The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” was written for the purpose of summarizing the essential and basic teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. It was approved by Pope John Paul II in 1992 and the English translation was released in 1994. It has numbered paragraphs, and has been published in many languages.
The Council of Trent is mentioned in seventy-five paragraphs of the “Catechism”. It is always mentioned in a positive, authoritative way. Some paragraphs mention it two or three times. Paragraph 9 of the “Catechism” says that the Council of Trent was the origin of Catholic Catechisms. The other 74 paragraphs in the “Catechism” which mention it cite the Council of Trent as an authoritative source which supports their doctrinal statements. [Note 7]
According to the “Catholic Encyclopedia,” a person’s religious belief is “outside the realm of free private judgment”. This is consistent with the spirit behind the anathemas of the Council of Trent. (You can read this article online.) [Note 8]
In his opening speech to the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII said that the Catholic Church has always opposed “errors” (disagreement with Roman Catholic doctrine). He said that the Catholic Church has often “condemned” them with great severity, but now it “prefers” to use mercy rather than severity. The Pope said that the Catholic Church is presently dealing with “errors” by doctrinal debate rather than by “condemnations”. [Note 9 has a link to this speech.]
The Catholic Church has never renounced its past practice of killing people that it considers to be heretics. On the contrary, the Office of the Inquisition still exists. It is part of the Roman Curia (the group of men who govern the Catholic Church). In 1965, its name was changed to “The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith”. It is headed by Cardinal Ratzinger. [Note 10]
Pope John Paul II issued a new edition of Roman Catholic Canon Law in 1983. According to Canon 752, whenever the Pope or the college of bishops makes a declaration concerning faith or morals, “the Christian faithful” are required to submit their mind and will to it. Furthermore, they must avoid anything which disagrees with it. (You can read this law online.) [Note 11]
According to Canon 1311, The Catholic Church has the right to coerce members of “the Christian faithful” who fail to comply with Canon Law. Canon 1312 says that offenses can be punished by depriving people of spiritual goods (such as the sacraments) and temporal goods (such as property, freedom, and other things relating to life in this world). [Note 12]
On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX declared the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. After defining the dogma, the Pope said that if any person dares to disagree with his declaration then that person is cut off from the Catholic Church and is “condemned”. The Pope went on to say that if any person says, or writes, or in any other way outwardly expresses his or her “errors” then they become subject to punishment. (This encyclical is online.) [Note 13]
The Pope’s reference to punishment is significant because a man had been executed for heresy 28 years before this papal bull was issued. In 1826, a Spanish schoolmaster was hanged because he substituted the phrase “Praise be to God” in place of “Ave Maria” (“Hail Mary”) during school prayers. [Note 14]
On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII issued a papal bull defining the dogma of the Assumption of Mary. He ended by saying that it is forbidden for any person to oppose his declaration. He also said that any person who attempts to oppose the dogma will incur the wrath of God and the wrath of the Apostles Peter and Paul. (This encyclical is online.) [Note 15]
Although this papal bull doesn’t openly threaten punishment, it still implies the possibility of some form of punishment. The difference in tone may be a result of the fact that in 1854, a man had recently been executed for “heresy”. In 1950, the Catholic Church had less power.
Spiritual intimidation is not confined to doctrinal issues. For centuries, Popes used excommunication and interdicts in order to pressure secular rulers into submitting to them. Forty years ago, the Archbishop of Malta (a small island near Sicily) used spiritual intimidation to prevent Catholics from voting for the Labour Party candidate during Malta’s 1962 election. For documented information about this, please see my paper entitled “Spiritual Coercion”.
THE ANATHEMAS OF THE COUNCIL OF TRENT CANNOT BE REVOKED
According to the “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” the Catholic doctrine of infallibility applies not only to the Pope, but also to Church Councils (including the Council of Trent). [Note 16]
As a result, the official statements of the Council of Trent are considered to be infallible. This means that they cannot be changed. Therefore, the anathemas of the Council of Trent cannot be revoked.
The Catholic Church may find it expedient not to call people’s attention to these anathemas, but it cannot revoke them.
The present preference for a gentler approach to people who disagree with Catholic doctrine may explain the apparent discrepancy between the Council of Trent and the ecumenical movement.
The Catholic Church is engaging in ecumenical dialog with Protestants, calling them “separated brethren,” and speaking as if it respects their beliefs. But at the same time, behind the scenes, it still officially declares that they are damned to hell because of their beliefs.
USE OF THIS ARTICLE
I encourage you to put this article on your website or to link to it. I encourage you to quote from this article, to copy it, and to distribute copies of it.
1. “Unitatis Redintegratio (“Decree on Ecumenism”), Paragraph 24. In Austin Flannery (Editor), “Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents,” Volume 1, New Revised Edition, fourth printing. Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Company, 1998, page 470.
2. “Reflections and Suggestions Concerning Ecumenical Dialogue” (Post Conciliar Document No. 42). In Austin Flannery (Editor), “Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents,” Volume 1, New Revised Edition, fourth printing. Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Company, 1998, pages 540-541. The quotation is on page 541.
3. This article from a Baptist web site gives general information about the Council of Trent. It quotes a number of decrees relating to Evangelical doctrines.
This article is from a Catholic web site which is run by a Catholic priest. It has quotations from the Council of Trent on several subjects, including 11 decrees dealing with communion.
The entire text of the Council of Trent is available online.
4. “Anathema” in “The Catholic Encyclopedia” (1913 edition), Volume 1. (To read this online, search for “anathema” + “Catholic Encyclopedia”.)
5. “Lumen Gentium” (“Dogmatic Constitution on the Church”), paragraph 51. In Austin Flannery (Editor), “Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents,” Volume 1, New Revised Edition, fourth printing. Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Company, 1998, page 412.
6. “Optatum Totius” (“Decree on Priestly Training”), Conclusion. In Austin Flannery (Editor), “Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents,” Volume 1, New Revised Edition, fourth printing. Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Company, 1998, page 724.
7. The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” used to be available online with a search engine that enabled you to search for things by key word or by paragraph number. I searched for “Council of Trent” and found the phrase in 75 paragraphs. I printed those paragraphs and read them. Unfortunately, that search engine is no longer working.
8. “Inquisition” in “The Catholic Encyclopedia,” Volume VIII, 1910. (To read this article online, search for inquisition + “Catholic Encyclopedia”.)
The article says that, under the Law of Moses, people in Old Testament times were killed or tortured for heresy. That is not correct. They were stoned to death if they tried to get other people to abandon the God of Israel and worship “foreign gods.” Having a mob throw large stones at people would probably kill them pretty quickly. This was not torture. It was the usual method of execution. Worshiping “foreign gods” was not heresy. Heresy means having a baptized Christian disagree on a point of doctrine. For example, during the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church said that it was heresy to believe that people are saved by faith alone (as opposed to faith plus works). Worshiping “foreign gods” not in any way comparable to heresy. It would be the equivalent of telling people to abandon Christianity and worship Hindu gods.
“The Inquisition: A Study in Absolute Catholic Power”
A study of the history, theology, and methods of the Inquisition
9. The Opening Speech of Pope John XXIII is on pages 710-719 of the 1966 edition of “The Documents of Vatican II” (Walter M. Abbott, general editor and Joseph Gallagher, translation editor). The section on “How to Repress Errors” is on pages 715-716.
10. Bill Jackson, “Inquisition”
11. “Code of Canon Law,” Latin English edition, New English Translation (Washington, DC: Canon Law Society of America, 1988), page 247, Canon 752. The 1983 “Code of Canon Law” was translated into English in 1988.
12. “Code of Canon Law,” page 409, Canons 1311 and 1312. These canons are in the beginning of Book VI.
13. “Ineffabilis Deus” (“Apostolic Constitution on the Immaculate Conception”). Encyclical of Pope Pius IX issued December 8, 1854. Near the end of this papal bull there is a section entitled “The Definition”. The statements that I described are in the last paragraph of that section. (To read this encyclical online, search for “Pius IX” + “Ineffabilis Deus”)
14. Paul Johnson, “A History of Christianity” (New York: Simon & Schuster, a Touchstone Book, 1995), page 308. Paul Johnson is a prominent historian and a Catholic.
15. “Munificentissimus Deus” (“Defining the Dogma of the Assumption”), paragraph 47. Encyclical of Pope Pius XII issued November 1, 1950. (To read this encyclical online, search for “Pius XII” + “Munificentissimus Deus”)
16. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church,” Paragraph 891. The “Catechism” is available in many languages and many editions. It has numbered paragraphs so you can locate things precisely, no matter what language it is in or what edition you are using.
Copyright 2001 by Mary Ann Collins.