THE APOSTOLIC SEE
Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Church
POPE BONIFACE X
Sancta Sedes, Papa Bonifatius X
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Treatise Refuting the Protestant Heretics (PART I)
Private Epistle #10
The Protestant revolt began in 1517 A.D.
The Protestant heresies are in fact nothing new so far as the ideas are concerned, but only new according to name, for in various forms they repeated themselves throughout the centuries, where even Augustine condemned the vicious doctrine of justification by faith only and seems to note there were certain in his era that consented to it (see The Spirit and the Letter).
The treatise is intended to be “comprehensive” not because of the plethora of its arguments, for many more capable theologians and doctors than Us have deigned to write you in every century, from the holy Doctor Alphonsus Ligouri to others who have taken the time to catalogue and refute not only Protestantism, but every heresy in every age, but because the arguments contained here are sufficient to refute every brand of the error which is in any way respectable among the majority of them, so that each argument in its scope may stand against all strands of the Protestant monster that created the age of the great apostasy, in which we reside now.
Many think they love the truth, but if they loved it they would have sought it. Instead, they sought either particular idolatrous manifestations of God’s nature, or family, or civic recognition, or a kind of lower natural justice, and some have stooped so low to do as the Apostle denounced, going after “birds and creeping things” and wooden idols, and committing wretched crimes against others and against their own bodies.
Because men for a season seek truth and then quickly grow distracted and lazy (as Our Lord states in His parable of the seed thrown in the thorny bushes), and because Satan loves to imitate God and disguise himself as an angel of light (as the Apostle warns: “for such false apostles are deceitful workmen, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no wonder: for Satan himself transformeth himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers be transformed as the ministers of justice, whose end shall be according to their works.”), we see organizations that are contrary to the principles of dogma (such as freemasonry) engaging in good civic works, which have an appearance of godliness, but because their highest priority is not the Truth, and therefore God, they manifest only certain idolatrous aspects of His nature, and are blinded in their pride from inquiring further to the actual salvation of their soul, and because they loved their own vanities and their worldly knowledge more than the truth, even scientific knowledge of the world in the philosophical and natural senses, and went after the creation rather than the Creator, God gave them over to a debased mind, and thinking they have found all they need to find, they awoke on the day of their death to the judgment of their soul and to the eternal fires.
So Protestants too, by a certain inspiration of the evil one, revere only a particular aspect of God’s revelation, namely the Holy Scriptures. Now no doubt, the Holy Scriptures are extremely profitable to doctrine, instruction, and correction in righteousness, as the Apostle confides, but the Holy Scriptures are insufficient as a canon or rule without the guidance of exposition. Therefore just as the pagans worship civic justice or a kind of appearance of godliness, the Protestants as well do the same with the Holy Scriptures, but become mired in deception and ignorance through their very attempts to become learned. The Apostle predicted these when he stated “they are always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth" (2 T 3:7). This is why God gave us the Church, so that the canons may be set clear to all, and that there may be no dispute, for the words of the canons are truths fallen from heaven (as Our Predecessor Pius IX so well stated at the first Vatican Council).
Holy Scripture is Obscure and Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) is Insufficient as an Ultimate Authority
Thus, Our Predecessors, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declared the scriptures to have a holy and a sacred obscurity, such that those who approach them and touch them with a haughty mind, and against the authorities God has established, will perish as one who touches the Ark without authorization, and who has never been instructed to carry it. And indeed, the scriptures are in a holier place, for they were contained within the Ark, whereas those who merely touched its outer parts were already condemned to death.
The first error of Protestantism is thus the idea that holy scripture alone is a sufficient guide for the faithful. This root error committed by the Protestant heresy is especially subtle and thereby quite deadly, for it can corrupt even the keenest minds if they are not bent on the Truth and seeking it only. By this, God tests the nations. For only those who love the Truth, and therefore God, can overcome every obstacle at every cost, even to the point of torture and death and every agony of learning and pain and labor and strife. Thus, just as one must vehemently endure persecution, want, strain, and much labour in seeking the precious pearl that is eternal life; so too does the apostle as vehemently and loudly as possible proclaim the gospel everywhere God sends him, because of the importance of the message for eternal life-
Holy scripture is insufficient as a guide, precisely because it is obscure.
The Lord declares in the Holy Scripture that we are to hate father and mother “if anyone comes to me and does not hate his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters and even his own life, such a person cannot be My disciple.” What a holy obscurity then, We note, for the Lord does not speak in a normal way here. For could He really be telling every one to hate all things? Does not God command us to love our neighbor as ourselves? What then of this most obscure and interesting passage, and how does it compare to the other passages? We know that we must honor father and mother. Since God, in this passage of moral instruction to hate your own family, does not speak in a normal way here, we should not be confident that He speaks in a normal way elsewhere.
What of Elijah, was John the Baptist the same person as the prophet Elijah? Of course not, but Christ declared that John was the Elijah that was to come (Matthew 17:12). Obviously, he is not a literal Elijah, but a figurative Elijah. He was a type and a symbol, and not a reality. But to Christ the symbol was more powerful than the reality, for this Elijah manifested the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords, to the world, and proclaimed and heralded His approaching. Therefore, Christ and scripture freely use symbolism to present their points.
If Our Lord Jesus Christ is in many cases unclear and hard to understand, and filled with parables and obscurities, surely his apostles were clear and precise, and wrote in a way that is easy to understand and is perspicuous? By no means. For We recall that admonition of Peter (the first Pontiff and Our Predecessor) to beware, because Paul is hard to understand. As it is written “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16). Paul is hard to understand. As one example, how can charity, which Paul declares to be even more important than faith, “believe all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7)? Did not Paul condemn heretics and heresies in his day, and declare that the fathers of heresies should even emasculate themselves, and that they are eternally condemned? Did his faith truly accept all things, including all heresies? Of course not. Yet to Paul, the instruction was given to “believe all things”, meaning in a spiritual sense, a humble childlike readiness to give the benefit of the doubt before a righteous condemnation. But to those who are unlearned and unstable, and demand a literal rendering of every passage, and who therefore do not rightly exposit or divide the word of truth, they are sure to go astray.
And what of the protestants who readily admit that many passages of scripture are obscure? They condemn themselves by remaining protestant, for if many passages of scripture are obscure, and if scripture provides no guide as to what scriptures are to be deemed clear, and what are to be deemed obscure (and it doesn’t), then they are a bad guide unto themselves, indeed they are a blind guide, the very guide that Jesus condemned, for the “blind lead the blind into the pit” (Matthew 15:14), that is into eternal damnation, and they are a guide that has not the power to bind and loose, but who blindly gropes from verse to verse in the instructions of God, never knowing how exactly to perceive what is once clear, and at another time tenuous to their understanding and most weighty and obscure.
We could quote many more passages that are very obscure, for example, in one place Christ commands us to “call no man father”, and yet the apostle, under inspiration of the Spirit, calls himself the father of those who are begotten by his gospel (1 Corinthians 4:15); and again in one place Christ declares boldly “if your hand causes you to sin, then cut it off!” yet at no time do we find the Apostles or others cutting off their body parts, or any Father or Doctor of the Church interpreting such a passage strictly.
Therefore, if the passages already mentioned are obscure, do you think that the passage “whosoever believeth on me has everlasting life” is also obscure, or in your pride do you simply assume it is clear, when the scripture has not promised you it is clear? The Scripture itself makes it most obscure, where it says “Now when He was at Jerusalem, at the Pasch, upon the festival day, many believed in His name, seeing his signs which he did. But Jesus did not trust Himself unto them, for that he knew all men, and because he needed not that any should give testimony of man: for he knew what was in man.” We see here that Jesus did not entrust Himself to those who believed. Did Jesus reject some who believed? Yes, because their belief did not have the charity of God and repentance, thus it was written “for he knew what was in man”. Therefore, We see that “whosoever” is not actually “whosoever”, but is constrained by the proper kind of belief (only belief which works through charity and repentance).
Was there not another who believed, a well known early heretic? We read concerning Simon the heretic “Then Simon himself believed also; and being baptized, he adhered to Philip. And being astonished, wondered to see the signs and exceeding great miracles which were done” (Acts 8:13). We see here that Simon has “believed”. And yet, his heart was not transformed, and it was not right in the sight of God, his faith was not accompanied by the works of grace (good works, rather than works of man, or works of the law, or works that are done by their own power, where one establishes his own righteousness instead of walking in the righteousness of the Spirit which was prepared beforehand). As a result, he was condemned when Peter said “Keep thy money to thyself, to perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast no part nor lot in this matter. For thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Do penance therefore for this thy wickedness; and pray to God, that perhaps this thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee” (Acts 8:20-
Thus we see that Simon believed, and was not accepted by Christ.
What then are we to say to these things? Who can fathom the depth and the mystery and profundity of God? For His ways are above all understanding if they are interpreted on their own, and without the exposition of His designated authorities.
While scripture is definitely obscure, the dogmas of the Church are not obscure in how they teach. Sometimes the mysteries they teach can be obscure (such as the Holy Trinity), but the phrases used will always be literally understood and the words will be spoken in a plain manner. We hold that the dogmas are truths fallen from heaven, always interpreted in a plain and precise manner, and never to be receded from. Thus Our Predecessor Pope Pius IX declared at the First Vatican Council, Sess. 3, Chap. 2 on Revelation, 1870, ex cathedra: “Hence, also, that understanding of its sacred dogmas must be perpetually retained, which Holy Mother Church has once declared; and there must never be a recession from that meaning under the specious name of a deeper understanding.”
Thus, all Catholics are to believe the dogmas as they were “once declared”, exactly according to the words which were declared, and there must never be a “recession” from that meaning. As a result, there can never be exceptions made to contradict the meaning. Therefore, we know that these dogmas, which are truths fallen from heaven, may be interpreted according to exactly as they are declared, without any worry of hyperbole, interpolation, obscurity, or other factors in the wording of the dogma that could potentially divorce one from a perfect knowledge of God in the thing that is itself being declared, and without any exception that can be made to the meaning of the dogma in any particular instance.
Even the phrase “bind and loose” from the holy gospel of Matthew chapters 16 and 18, often used by the Roman Catholic Church to support the authority of the true faith, has a very precise historical meaning. It is not what the heretic Calvin proclaimed (a kind of mere proclaiming of the gospel), but according to the usage of the age where it was spoken, “bind and loose” to the rabbis always referred to the spiritual authority to permit and forbid both doctrine and law. Thus even the apostate Jewish encyclopedia declares (as an independent witness against the protestant heretics):
“The power of binding and loosing was always claimed by the Pharisees. Under Queen Alexandra, the Pharisees, says Josephus ("B J." i, 5, § 2), "became the administrators of all public affairs so as to be empowered to banish and readmit whom they pleased, as well as to loose and to bind." This does not mean that, as the learned men, they merely decided what, according to the Law, was forbidden or allowed, but that they possessed and exercised the power of tying or untying a thing by the spell of their divine authority, just as they could, by the power vested in them, pronounce and revoke an anathema upon a person. The various schools had the power "to bind and to loose"; that is, to forbid and to permit (ag. 3b); and they could bind any day by declaring it a fast-
A faithful study of the sacred scriptures is profitable, so long as it is in accord with proper instruction of a minister commissioned by the Roman Pontiff, and so long as it comports with the Fathers, Doctors, and ultimately and finally the decrees of the Roman Pontiffs which are the clear paths that God has ordained for our immediate comprehension of Him. The laity should dispense themselves from reading the holy scriptures if such conditions are not met, for Our Predecessor Clement XI condemned the following proposition in his Bull Unigenitus: “The sacred obscurity of the Word of God is no reason for the laity to dispense themselves from reading it.”
Even the scriptures themselves, interpreted with humility, show us the same way to learn (through the exposition of the commissioned ministers): “Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.”