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How To Know & Deal With Heresy Today – Part III

Nothing can substitute for reading the entire text of the Commintory of St. Vincent of Lerins on heresy. It is available on several internet sites, e.g. at newadvent.org:

 

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3506.htm

 

This is Part III, the last of the summary of Vincent’s work on heresies. In the excerpts below, a pithy comment in brackets precedes some paragraphs  of Vincent’s own words.

 

“The Notes of a true Catholic.

 

[A single man does not and cannot determine the true faith]

 

“[48.] This being the case, he is the true and genuine Catholic who loves the truth of God, who loves the Church, who loves the Body of Christ, who esteems divine religion and the Catholic Faith above every thing, above the authority, above the regard, above the genius, above the eloquence, above the philosophy, of every man whatsoever; who sets light by all of these, and continuing steadfast and established in the faith, resolves that he will believe that, and that only, which he is sure the Catholic Church has held universally and from ancient time . . .

 

“Exposition of St. Paul’s Words.— 1 Tim. vi. 20.

 

[Wicked novelties of  heresies will be decapitated with a spiritual sword]

 

“[51.]  . . . I cannot sufficiently wonder at the madness of certain men, at the impiety of their blinded understanding, at their lust of error, such that, not content with the rule of faith delivered once for all, and received from the times of old, they are every day seeking one novelty after another, and are constantly longing to add, change, take away, in religion, .  . . as with a spiritual sword, all the wicked novelties of all heresies often have been, and will always have to be, decapitated,

 

[Heretics teach furtively, and in secret; and tell us “silly wretches” they, despite centuries of error, now have the true faith]

 

“[52.] After words such as these, is there any one of so hardened a front, such anvil-like impudence, such adamantine pertinacity, as not to succumb to so huge a mass, not to be crushed by so ponderous a weight, not to be shaken in pieces by such heavy blows, not to be annihilated by such dreadful thunderbolts of divine eloquence?  . . .Falsely called indeed, as applied to the doctrines of heretics, where ignorance is disguised under the name of knowledge, fog of sunshine, darkness of light. Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Professing what? What but some (I know not what) new and unheard-of doctrine. For you may hear some of these same doctors say, Come, O silly wretches, who go by the name of Catholics, come and learn the true faith, which no one but ourselves is acquainted with, which same has lain hid these many ages, but has recently been revealed and made manifest. But learn it by stealth and in secret, for you will be delighted with it. Moreover, when you have learned it, teach it furtively, that the world may not hear, that the Church may not know. For there are but few to whom it is granted to receive the secret of so great a mystery.  . .

 

 

“A more particular Exposition of 1 Tim. vi. 20.

 

[Heretics are thieves and adversaries]

 

“[53.] But it is worth while to expound the whole of that passage of the apostle more fully, O Timothy, keep the deposit, avoiding profane novelties of words. . . .

What is Keep the deposit? Keep it, because of thieves, because of adversaries, lest, while men sleep, they sow tares over that good wheat which the Son of Man had sown in his field. Keep the deposit.. . . . Keep the deposit. Preserve the talent of Catholic Faith inviolate, unadulterate. That which has been entrusted to you, let it continue in your possession, let it be handed on by you. You have received gold; give gold in turn. Do not substitute one thing for another. Do not for gold impudently substitute lead or brass. Give real gold, not counterfeit.

 

“On Development in Religious Knowledge.

 

[Adulteration of the faith is not real progress]

 

“[54.] But some one will say, perhaps, Shall there, then, be no progress in Christ’s Church? Certainly; all possible progress. For what being is there, so envious of men, so full of hatred to God, who would seek to forbid it? Yet on condition that it be real progress, not alteration of the faith.  . . .

 

[The frenzy of the ungodly, the impious fraud. If one doctrine domino is allowed to fall, is contradicted, or is denied, all the doctrines fall; as does the Church itself]

 

“[58.] For if once this license of impious fraud be admitted, I dread to say in how great danger religion will be of being utterly destroyed and annihilated. For if any one part of Catholic truth be given up, another, and another, and another will thenceforward be given up as a matter of course, and the several individual portions having been rejected, what will follow in the end but the rejection of the whole? On the other hand, if what is new begins to be mingled with what is old, foreign with domestic, profane with sacred, the custom will of necessity creep on universally, till at last the Church will have nothing left untampered with, nothing unadulterated, nothing sound, nothing pure; but where formerly there was a sanctuary of chaste and undefiled truth, thenceforward there will be a brothel of impious and base errors. May God’s mercy avert this wickedness from the minds of his servants; be it rather the frenzy of the ungodly.

 

“Continuation of the Exposition of 1 Tim. vi. 20.

 

[Shun him who proclaims heresy as you would a poisonous snake]

 

“[60.] But let us return to the apostle. O Timothy, he says, Guard the deposit, shunning profane novelties of words. Shun them as you would a viper, as you would a scorpion, as you would a basilisk, lest they smite you not only with their touch, but even with their eyes and breath.  . . .  Receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed, for he that bids him Godspeed communicates with him in his evil deeds. 2 John 10

 

[Heretics do not speak clearly, and they cite Holy Scripture for their evil purposes]

 

“ [65.] But the more secretly they conceal themselves under shelter of the Divine Law, so much the more are they to be feared and guarded against. For they know that the evil stench of their doctrine will hardly find acceptance with any one if it be exhaled pure and simple. They sprinkle it over, therefore, with the perfume of heavenly language, in order that one who would be ready to despise human error, may hesitate to condemn divine words.  . . .So too do these act, who disguise poisonous herbs and noxious juices under the names of medicines, so that no one almost, when he reads the label, suspects the poison.

 

[Like Satan, their father,  heretics may seem to be of the light]

 

“ [67.]  . . .And no wonder, he says, for Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. It is no marvel then if his servants are transformed as the servants of righteousness. Therefore,  . . . there is no doubt that they are following the cunning devices of their father, which assuredly he would never have devised, but that he knew that where he could fraudulently and by stealth introduce error, there is no easier way of effecting his impious purpose than by pretending the authority of Holy Scripture.

 

[Heresy can be the newly-devised error of one man, who could put our eternal salvation in jeopardy]

 

“[72.] . … But whatsoever a teacher holds, other than all, or contrary to all, be he holy and learned, be he a bishop, be he a Confessor, be he a martyr, let that be regarded as a private fancy of his own, and be separated from the authority of common, public, general persuasion, lest, after the sacrilegious custom of heretics and schismatics, rejecting the ancient truth of the universal Creed, we follow, at the utmost peril of our eternal salvation, the newly devised error of one man.

 

[Be wary of an individual man who arrogantly proclaims that he alone has the truth]

 

“[74.] And lest any one, disregarding every one else, should arrogantly claim to be listened to himself alone, himself alone to be believed, the Apostle goes on to say, Did the word of God proceed from you, or did it come to you only? And, lest this should be thought lightly spoken, he continues, If any man seem to be a prophet or a spiritual person, let him acknowledge that the things which I write unto you are the Lord’s commands.”

 

 

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How To Know & Deal With Heresy Today – Part II

Let him, the heretic,  be accursed.

St. Vincent of Lerins warns that the current heresy must not be  “blessed, praised and welcomed.” It is our duty, he says,“To anathematize those who preach anything other than what has once been received, always was a duty, always is a duty, always will be a duty.”

You would think St. Vincent of Lerins time travelled to the twenty first century:

“Nauseating the truth.”

“Garbage of heretical novelty.”

“He means, though Peter, though Andrew, though John, in a word, though the whole company of apostles, preach unto you other than we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”

 

Full text, excerpts From the Commintory of St. Vincent, 5th Century Anno Domini:

“Exposition of St. Paul’s Words, Gal. i. 8.

“[21.] When therefore certain of this sort wandering about provinces and cities, and carrying with them their venal errors, had found their way to Galatia, and when the Galatians, on hearing them, nauseating the truth, and vomiting up the manna of Apostolic and Catholic doctrine, were delighted with the garbage of heretical novelty, the apostle putting in exercise the authority of his office, delivered his sentence with the utmost severity, Though we, he says, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:8

“[22.] Why does he say Though we? Why not rather though I? He means, though Peter, though Andrew, though John, in a word, though the whole company of apostles, preach unto you other than we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. Tremendous severity! He spares neither himself nor his fellow apostles, so he may preserve unaltered the faith which was at first delivered. Nay, this is not all. He goes on Even though an angel from heaven preach unto you any other Gospel than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. It was not enough for the preservation of the faith once delivered to have referred to man; he must needs comprehend angels also. Though we, he says, or an angel from heaven. Not that the holy angels of heaven are now capable of sinning. But what he means is: Even if that were to happen which cannot happen—if any one, be he who he may, attempt to alter the faith once for all delivered, let him be accursed.

“[23.] But it may be, he spoke thus in the first instance inconsiderately, giving vent to human impetuosity rather than expressing himself under divine guidance. Far from it. He follows up what he had said, and urges it with intense reiterated earnestness, As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other Gospel to you than that you have received, let him be accursed. He does not say, If any man deliver to you another message than that you have received, let him be blessed, praised, welcomed,— no; but let him be accursed, [anathema] i.e., separated, segregated, excluded, lest the dire contagion of a single sheep contaminate the guiltless flock of Christ by his poisonous intermixture with them.

“His warning to the Galatians a warning to all.

“[25.] Or perhaps the anathema pronounced on any one who should preach another Gospel than that which had been preached was meant for those times, not for the present. Then, also, the exhortation, Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh, Galatians 5:16 was meant for those times, not for the present. But if it be both impious and pernicious to believe this, then it follows necessarily, that as these injunctions are to be observed by all ages, so those warnings also which forbid alteration of the faith are warnings intended for all ages. To preach any doctrine therefore to Catholic Christians other than what they have received never was lawful, never is lawful, never will be lawful: and to anathematize those who preach anything other than what has once been received, always was a duty, always is a duty, always will be a duty.

“[26.] Which being the case, is there any one either so audacious as to preach any other doctrine than that which the Church preaches, or so inconstant as to receive any other doctrine than that which he has received from the Church? That elect vessel, that teacher of the Gentiles, that trumpet of the apostles, that preacher whose commission was to the whole earth, that man who was caught up to heaven, 2 Corinthians 12:2 cries and cries again in his Epistles to all, always, in all places, If any man preach any new doctrine, let him be accursed. On the other hand, an ephemeral, moribund set of frogs, fleas, and flies, such as the Pelagians, call out in opposition, and that to Catholics, Take our word, follow our lead, accept our exposition, condemn what you used to hold, hold what you used to condemn, cast aside the ancient faith, the institutes of your fathers, the trusts left for you by your ancestors and receive instead—what? I tremble to utter it: for it is so full of arrogance and self-conceit, that it seems to me that not only to affirm it, but even to refute it, cannot be done without guilt in some sort.”

More to come.

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How To Know & Deal With Heresy Today – Part I

For Our Time, For This Time,

Sound familiar?

Commintory, St. Vincent of Lerins (early 5th Century Anno Domini)

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3506.htm

Excerpts

“A General Rule for distinguishing the Truth of the Catholic Faith from the Falsehood of Heretical Pravity.

“[4.] I have often then inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men eminent for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of Catholic faith from the falsehood of heretical pravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or any one else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they rise, and to continue sound and complete in the Catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief in two ways; first, by the authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church.

“[6.] Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense Catholics, which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.

“What is to be done if one or more dissent from the rest.

“[7.] What then will a Catholic Christian do, if a small portion of the Church have cut itself off from the communion of the universal faith? What, surely, but prefer the soundness of the whole body to the unsoundness of a pestilent and corrupt member? What, if some novel contagion seek to infect not merely an insignificant portion of the Church, but the whole? Then it will be his care to cleave to antiquity, which at this day cannot possibly be seduced by any fraud of novelty.

“The evil resulting from the bringing in of Novel Doctrine shown in the instances of the Donatists and Arians.

“[9.] But that we may make what we say more intelligible, we must illustrate it by individual examples, and enlarge upon it somewhat more fully, lest by aiming at too great brevity important matters be hurried over and lost sight of.

“In the time of Donatus, from whom his followers were called Donatists, when great numbers in Africa were rushing headlong into their own mad error, and unmindful of their name, their religion, their profession, were preferring the sacriligeous temerity of one man before the Church of Christ, then they alone throughout Africa were safe within the sacred precincts of the Catholic faith, who, detesting the profane schism, continued in communion with the universal Church, leaving to posterity an illustrious example, how, and how well in future the soundness of the whole body should be preferred before the madness of one, or at most of a few.

“[10.] So also when the Arian poison had infected not an insignificant portion of the Church but almost the whole world, so that a sort of blindness had fallen upon almost all the bishops of the Latin tongue, circumvented partly by force partly by fraud, and was preventing them from seeing what was most expedient to be done in the midst of so much confusion, then whoever was a true lover and worshipper of Christ, preferring the ancient belief to the novel misbelief, escaped the pestilent infection.

“[11.] By the peril of which time was abundantly shown how great a calamity the introduction of a novel doctrine causes. For then truly not only interests of small account, but others of the very gravest importance, were subverted. For not only affinities, relationships, friendships, families, but moreover, cities, peoples, provinces, nations, at last the whole Roman Empire, were shaken to their foundation and ruined. For when this same profane Arian novelty, like a Bellona or a Fury, had first taken captive the Emperor,and had then subjected all the principal persons of the palace to new laws, from that time it never ceased to involve everything in confusion, disturbing all things, public and private, sacred and profane, paying no regard to what was good and true, but, as though holding a position of authority, smiting whomsoever it pleased. Then wives were Then wives were violated, widows ravished, virgins profaned, monasteries demolished, clergymen ejected, the inferior clergy scourged, priests driven into exile, jails, prisons, mines, filled with saints, of whom the greater part, forbidden to enter into cities, thrust forth from their homes to wander in deserts and caves, among rocks and the haunts of wild beasts, exposed to nakedness, hunger, thirst, were worn out and consumed. Of all of which was there any other cause than that, while human superstitions are being brought in to supplant heavenly doctrine, while well established antiquity is being subverted by wicked novelty, while the institutions of former ages are being set at naught, while the decrees of our fathers are being rescinded, while the determinations of our ancestors are being torn in pieces, the lust of profane and novel curiosity refuses to restrict itself within the most chaste limits of hallowed and uncorrupt antiquity?

 

“[20.] But to return to the matter in hand: It behooves us then to have a great dread of the crime of perverting the faith and adulterating religion, a crime from which we are deterred not only by the Church’s discipline, but also by the censure of authority. Fore very one knows how gravely, how severely, how vehemently, the blessed apostle Paul inveighs against certain, who, with marvellous levity, had been so soon removed from him who had called them to the grace of Christ to another Gospel, which was not another;  Galatians 1:6 who had heaped to themselves teachers after their own lusts, turning away their ears from the truth, and being turned aside unto fables; 2 Timothy 4:3-4 having damnation because they had cast off their first  faith;  1 Timothy 5:12 who had been deceived by those of whom the same apostle writes to the Roman  Christians, Now, I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause  divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and avoid them. For they that are such serve not the Lord Christ, but their own belly, and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple, Romans 16:17-18 who enter into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with diverse lusts, ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth; 2 Timothy 3:6 vain talkers and deceivers, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake; Titus 1:10 men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith; 2 Timothy 3:8 proud knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, destitute of the truth, supposing that godliness is gain, 1 Timothy 6:4 withal learning to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle, but tattlers also and busy-bodies, speaking things which they ought not, 1 Timothy 5:13 who having put away a good conscience have made shipwreck concerning the faith; 1 Timothy 1:19 whose profane and vain babblings increase unto more ungodliness, and their word does eat as does a cancer. 2 Timothy 2:16-17 Well, also, is it written of them: But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was. 2 Timothy 3:9

Part II to follow.