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Critical Analysis of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification
Most Rev. Donald J. Sanborn

Note: On October 31, 1999, representatives of various Lutheran bodies and the Vatican signed a Joint Declaration on justification. Martin Luther’s teachings on justification were solemnly condemned as heretical by the Council of Trent.

 

Part I

Review of the Catholic and Lutheran Doctrine on Justification

1. What is the Catholic doctrine of justification? Justification is the passing from the state of sin to that of justice. When a soul is justified, two effects are produced: (1) sins are truly remitted, effaced, and destroyed; (2) man is renewed interiorly and becomes a new creature in Christ. The Catholic doctrine insists on the complete interior renovation of man, so that his soul becomes intrinsically pleasing to God. His soul is pleasing to God because sin is erased, taken away, and in its place the life of God, sanctifying grace, is infused in the soul.

2. What is the Lutheran doctrine on justification? The Lutherans teach that in justification sins are neither remitted nor effaced, but rather are merely covered up and hidden by the justice of Christ. Sins are no longer imputed (applied) to the sinner, even though they remain in the soul. Hence, for the heretics, there is no interior renovation produced by sanctifying grace. The soul is not truly pleasing to God. Rather, our justification is merely extrinsic, that is, God forgets about our sins because He is pleased by the justice of Christ. Luther himself said that grace is like “snow covering the dunghill.” We remain a dunghill of sin, but the merits of Christ cover up our sins from the sight of God.

3. This Lutheran teaching was solemnly and infallibly condemned as heretical by the Catholic Church:

If anyone should say that the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, conferred in baptism, does not remit the guilt of original sin, or affirm that whatever and properly belongs to the character of sin is not removed, but is only cancelled or not imputed: let him be anathema. (Council of Trent, Session V, canon 5).

If anyone should say that men are justified merely by the imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, exclusive of the grace and charity that the Holy Ghost infuses in their hearts in a permanent way, or that the grace by which we are justified is a mere favor of God: let him be anathema. (Council of Trent, Session VI, canon 7).

4. The dispositions required for justification. The Church teaches that adults, excited and aided by grace, must bring certain dispositions in order to be justified. These dispositions are not required in children under the age of reason; the Church supplies for this lack in them, since they are incapable of producing these acts. This is not to say that man prepares himself for justification, since to do so is impossible without the grace of God. God must draw him to these acts of disposition by actual grace.

      The Council of Trent teaches that there are six dispositions required for justification:

      (1) faith, which consists in believing and holding as true those things which God has revealed and promised;

      (2) fear of divine justice;

      (3) hope that God will treat us mercifully through love for Jesus Christ;

      (4) A beginning of the love of God, whom we must love as the source of all justice;

      (5) Hatred and detestation for sin.

      (6) The resolution to receive baptism (or the sacrament of penance in the case of those already baptized and in mortal sin), in order to begin a new life and to observe the commandments of God and of the Church.

      So we see that the Church is insistent that man, under the influence of grace, cooperate in his own justification. As Saint Augustine put it, “Christ effects salvation in the impious, but not without the impious…He who has made you without your help will not justify you without your cooperation.”

5. What is the Lutheran doctrine concerning the dispositions to justification? The Lutherans teach that justification takes place by faith alone. Hence it is not necessary that the other dispositions be there, not even contrition for sin. For, according to Luther, man remains a sinner even after his justification, and can never free himself from sin. Furthermore, this “faith” is not the adherence to the truths which God has revealed and which the Church has taught, but rather a mere “confidence” which the sinner has that, for Christ’s sake, his sins will not be imputed to him. Luther said: “Lack of belief in the Son of God is the only sin in this world. Only believe, and you may rest assured of your salvation…Sin and sin boldly; we must sin while we are in this world. Those pious souls who do good in order to attain the kingdom of heaven, not only will never reach there, but must even be counted among the wicked.”

6. The Lutheran doctrine of “faith alone” was solemnly condemned by the Council of Trent. “If anyone should say that faith alone justifies the sinner, meaning thereby that nothing else is required from him than to cooperate with the grace of justification, and that it is in no way necessary for him to prepare himself therefor or to make any act of the will: let him be anathema.” (Council of Trent, Session VI, canon 9)

7. The Lutheran notion of justifying faith was solemnly condemned by the Council of Trent. “If anyone should say that justifying faith is nothing more than confidence in the divine mercy because it remits sin for the sake of Jesus Christ…let him be anathema.” (Council of Trent, Session VI, canon 12)

8. What are the attributes of justification according to the Catholic teaching? There are four: (1) it is uncertain; (2) it is not equal in all men; (3) it may be lost; (3) it may be regained.

      The Church teaches that no one, apart from a special revelation from God, can be certain, by certainty of faith, of his own justification. “No one can know with a certainty of faith, which is an infallible certainty, whether he has obtained the grace of God.” (Council of Trent, Session VI, chapter 11) The reason of this uncertainty is that justification depends not only on the divine promise, but also on our conversion and preparation, and of these we are not absolutely certain. We can be morally certain that we are in the state of grace, that is, we can say, “It is most probable that I am in the sate of grace,” but we cannot have the certitude of faith.

      The Church teaches that the interior sanctification (or justice) of man is capable of increase as the result of good works. Since good works are not equally practiced by all, there results and inequality of justification among men. “If anyone should say that justice when received is not preserved and augmented before God by good works, but that good works are only fruits or signs of justice obtained: let him be anathema.” (Council of Trent, Session VI, canon 24)

      The Church teaches that justification may be lost, and is often lost by mortal sin. “If anyone should say that man once justified can no longer sin nor lose grace; and that, consequently, he who falls and sins has never been justified: let him be anathema.” (Council of Trent, Session VI, canon 23)

      Finally the Church teaches that justice, lost by sin, can be recovered. “Those who by sin have lost the grace of justification, may become justified anew, if docile to God’s impulse, they strive to recover lost grace through the merits of Jesus Christ, by means of the Sacrament of Penance.” (Council of Trent, Session VI, canon 14)

9. Lutheran heresies with regard to the attributes of justification. Since they believe that justification is merely a confidence in the justice of Christ, and the imputing of His justice to ourselves, they profess the following heresies:

      (1) that our justification is certain with the certainty of faith. Hence they commonly say, “I am saved,” or “I have a reservation in heaven.”

      (2) that justification is equal in all men, since it is acquired by imputing the justice of Christ to ourselves. Since our souls are not intrinsically justified by sanctifying grace which truly adheres to the soul, but rather are mere extrinsically justified by the justice of Christ, like snow covering the dunghill, it follows that all men are equally justified. The dunghill, in other words, is covered by the same snow.

      (3) that justification is incapable of being lost, since, if we are dung, it does not matter if we sin and continue to be dung: we are all covered by the snow of Christ.

      Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange summed it up in a nutshell: Luther’s doctrine of grace and justification dispensed us from having to observe the commandments of God.

10. The Catholic notion of merit. The Catholic Church teaches that good works done in the state of sanctifying grace are meritorious, that is, they truly obtain for us an increase in sanctifying grace as well as eternal glory and an increase in glory. “If anyone says that the just man, through the good works which he accomplishes by the grace of God and through the merits of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit and increase of grace, and also eternal life and the securing of eternal life itself (provided that he dies in the state of grace), and that he does not receive even an increase of glory: let him be anathema.” (Council of Trent, Session VI, can. 32).

11. The Lutheran heresy concerning merit. He denied merit outright. According to Luther, even the just man does nothing but sin, and even sins when he is doing good works. If under the impulse of grace, a man performs a good work, it is still a sin, because we are still in the state of original sin. Good works are merely the signs or fruits of the grace of God, but are of no avail toward eternal salvation.

12. Catholic condemnation of the Lutheran heresy on merit. “If anyone should say that the good works of a just man are so entirely the gift of God that they are not also meritorious for this just man…let him be anathema.” (Council of Trent, Session VI, can. 31)

13. Catholic versus Lutheran doctrine on the certitude of salvation. Catholic teaching as we have seen, says it is impossible to have certitude of faith that you are in the state of sanctifying grace, i.e., justified. Similarly the Church teaches that it is impossible to have certitude of faith that you are going to heaven. “It is not possible, without a special revelation, to know those whom God has chosen for Himself.” (Council of Trent, Session VI, chap. 12). If anyone should say that he is certain, with an absolute and infallible certainty, that he will enjoy the great gift of final perseverance, without learning it by a special revelation: let him be anathema” (Council of Trent, Session VI, canon 16).

      The Lutherans, however, do teach that such a certitude is possible, and that everyone who is justified will necessarily make it to heaven. This is because the justification of the sinner is merely extrinsic and cannot be broken by sin. The Catholic Church, however, teaches that the sanctification of the soul is interrupted by mortal sin. Therefore not all who are justified will necessarily be saved.

 

Part II

Comparison of the Joint Declaration to Catholic Doctrine

The Joint Declaration begins by telling us that it “encompasses a consensus on basic truths of the doctrine of justification and shows that the remaining differences are no longer the occasion for doctrinal condemnations.” (§5This means that the problems of 1517 are solved, and that there remain only a few minor differences. This consensus is made possible, we are told, because both churches have changed:

“[T]his Declaration is shaped by the conviction that in their respective histories our churches have come to new insights. Developments have taken place which not only make possible, but also require the churches to examine the divisive questions and condemnations and see them in a new light.” (§7)

This statement establishes the essential principle, which is devastating to the entire system of Catholic dogma: namely that both churches have evolved, and are no longer what they were in 1517. So whereas they were incompatible in the sixteenth century, and anathematized each other, they can now find common ground. It is needless to point out that such an idea utterly ruins the nature of the Catholic Church, that it is the single Church founded by Christ, and has perdured through the centuries with the same dogmas, the same worship, and the same essential discipline. If the Catholic Church can “develop” in such a way that it can approve of the Lutheran notion of justification, then what is left? What other dogma cannot be dispensed with? For of all of the dogmas of the faith, one of the most defined is that of justification. What will happen to the Transubstantiation, and to the primacy of the Roman Pontiff?

      Hence this Declaration is a pivotal document, out of which the whole ecumenical movement will unfold. For if Catholics will swallow the scrapping of the Council of Trent in the name of “developments,” then the Modernists will have succeeded in smashing any and all barriers which other dogmas place in the path of ecumenism.

      I will now point out, text by text, the heresies and errors found in this document. Their method is this: first there is a “joint” statement on a given point; then follows the respective explanations of the differences, Lutheran and Catholic. Now it is important to remember that these differences have been relegated to being minor, for they “are no longer the occasion for doctrinal condemnations.” At the end of the document we are told:

The understanding of the doctrine of justification set forth in this Declaration shows that a consensus in basic truths of the doctrine of justification exists between Lutherans and Catholics. In light of this consensus the remaining differences of language, theological elaboration, and emphasis in the understanding of justification described in paragraphs 18 to 39 are acceptable. Therefore the Lutheran and the Catholic explications of justification are in their difference open to one another and do not destroy the consensus regarding the basic truths. [§ 40]

The teaching of the Lutheran churches presented in this Declaration does not fall under the condemnations from the Council of Trent. The condemnations in the Lutheran Confessions do not apply to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church presented in this Declaration. [§ 41]

      We will now examine, text by text, the heresies and errors, and the reader will understand the enormity of the above statements.

 

Text no. 1 “Our common way of listening to the word of God in Scripture has led to such new insights.” [§ 8]

Qualification: erroneous, if not heretical.

      It is false to say that the Roman Catholic Church, the one, true Church of Christ, with the power from Christ to teach, rule and sanctify the whole world, listens to the word of God in Scripture in the same manner as a bunch of heretics. Sacred Scripture is the property of the Roman Catholic Church; it is confided by God to no other. Only the Roman Catholic Church has the right to interpret it and teach the meaning which is intended by God its Author. The Lutheran heretic, on the other hand, picks up Sacred Scripture in a spirit of pride, rejecting the divinely established authority of the Catholic Church, and claims for each man the right to interpret for himself. How can anyone say that Catholics and Lutherans have a common way of listening to the Scriptures?

      As it stands, the statement is merely erroneous. But if it is meant to deny the teaching authority of the Church, and reduce the Catholic Church to what the Lutheran sect is, a group of independent Bible readers who interpret as they will, then the statement is heretical.

Text no. 2. “According to the Lutheran teaching, human beings are incapable of cooperating in their salvation, because as sinners they actively oppose God and his saving action.” [§ 21]

Qualification: heretical.

      It is contrary to the Council of Trent:

“If anyone should say that faith alone justifies the sinner, meaning thereby that nothing else is required from him than to cooperate with the grace of justification, and that it is in no way necessary for him to prepare himself therefor or to make any act of the will: let him be anathema.” (Council of Trent, Session VI, canon 9)

      It is also contrary to what St. Augustine said: “Christ effects salvation in the impious, but not without the impious…He who has made you without your help will not justify you without your cooperation.” It is contrary to the Council of Trent’s teaching concerning the six preparatory acts necessary for justification, which I cited in the first part of this analysis. Finally, it is a bold-faced denial of the Catholic doctrine of merit.

      It must be always remembered that these explanations of Lutheran doctrine, contained in the Joint Declaration, are acceptable: “In light of this consensus the remaining differences of language, theological elaboration, and emphasis in the understanding of justification described in paragraphs 18 to 39 are acceptable.”[§ 40]. Furthermore, the Declaration  says that this text does not come under the condemnation of the Council of Trent: “The teaching of the Lutheran churches presented in this Declaration does not fall under the condemnations from the Council of Trent.”

Text no. 3. “These two aspects of God’s gracious action are not to be separated, for persons are by faith united to Christ, who in his person is our righteousness (I Cor 1:30): both the forgiveness of sin and the saving presence of God himself.” [§ 22]

Qualification: heretical.

      Believe it or not, this is one of the joint statements, that starts out with the words “We confess together…” This text contains two classic Lutheran heresies: (1) that man is not justified intrinsically, and (2) man is justified by faith alone. The Catholic Church teaches that man’s soul is intrinsically justified, that is, his own soul is interiorly cleansed of the stain of sin, so that it becomes truly pleasing to God. To use a concrete metaphor, it becomes a rose and smells like a rose. The Lutheran heresy is that our souls remain the dung heap, full of sin, and are merely covered up by the merits of Christ. Hence they say that our souls are justified only extrinsically, i.e., the merits of Christ are extrinsically applied to us, and we are thus considered justified by God, but our souls nevertheless remain in sin. This is the meaning of the words, “who in his person is our righteousness…” That is to say, “We do not have a personal, intrinsic righteousness of soul, owing to the expulsion of sin by sanctifying grace, but rather our souls remain in sin, and are merely considered just because Christ is just.” We will see later that the Lutherans still cling firmly to their dung heap mentality in this Declaration. By the way, the reference to St. Paul has nothing to do with the Lutheran dung-heap-and-snow theory of grace and justification. Here is the text of St. Paul: But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and justice, and sanctification, and redemption.

      Text no. 3 is heretical because it is anathematized by the Council of Trent:

“If anyone should say that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the remission of sins alone, excluding grace and charity which is poured forth into their hearts by the Holy Ghost and abides in them, or even that the grace whereby we are justified is only a favor from God, let him be anathema.”(Session VI, canon 11)

      Text no. 3 also contains the faith alone heresy, for it says that we are united to Christ by faith, the effect of which is the forgiveness of sin and the saving presence of God. Where are the works necessary for salvation? That I am correctly interpreting this text is evident from what immediately follows:

Text no. 4.  “When Lutherans emphasize that the righteousness of Christ is our righteousness, their intention is above all to insist that the sinner is granted righteousness before God in Christ through the declaration of forgiveness and that only in union with Christ is one’s life renewed. When they stress that God’s grace is forgiving love (‘the favor of God’), they do not thereby deny the renewal of the Christian’s life. They intend rather to express that justification remains free from human cooperation and is not dependent on the life-renewing effects of grace in human beings.” [§ 23]

Qualification: heretical.

      Again, this is another classic Lutheran heresy. Protestants say that justification takes place without the infusion of grace. In other words, the soul remains the dung heap of sin, and is merely covered. But if justification takes place without the infusion of grace, it means that God makes no peace with the sinner. But this is the Lutheran belief; for this very reason they hold that the repetition of sin in this life in no way detracts from our justification. “Sin boldly, but believe more boldly,” Luther boldly said. And these Lutherans are no less bold in affirming: justification remains free from human cooperation and is not dependent on the life-renewing effects of grace in human beings. It is impossible to state the Lutheran heresy more explicitly. We are justified, according to them, by faith alone, with no preparatory acts, and we remain justified even though we sin, because our justification is not dependent on the life-renewing effects of grace in human beings. What could be more heretical?

      Yet remember, this Lutheran explanation is “acceptable” and “the teaching of the Lutheran churches presented in this Declaration does not fall under the condemnations from the Council of Trent.” How could they make such a ridiculous statement? Let us read again what the holy Council says:

“If anyone should say that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the remission of sins alone, excluding grace and charity which is poured forth into their hearts by the Holy Ghost and abides in them, or even that the grace whereby we are justified is only a favor from God, let him be anathema.” (Session VI, canon 11)

      What the Joint Declaration affirms is what Trent condemns: that justification is exclusive of [not dependent on] the grace and charity which is poured forth into their hearts by the Holy Ghost and abides in them. Trent even specifically condemns “favor of God” theory, which we find referred to in this text of the Joint Declaration.

Text no. 5. “They do not thereby deny that God’s gift of grace in justification remains independent of human cooperation.” [§ 24]

Qualification: heretical.

      It is contrary to the Council of Trent:

“If anyone should say that faith alone justifies the sinner, meaning thereby that nothing else is required from him than to cooperate with the grace of justification, and that it is in no way necessary for him to prepare himself therefor or to make any act of the will: let him be anathema.” (Council of Trent, Session VI, canon 9)

      What is appalling in this text is that “They” are the Catholics! This is the explanation on the Catholic side! It is perfectly in accordance with the Lutheran heresy.

Text no. 6. “By the action of the Holy Spirit in baptism, they are granted the gift of salvation, which lays the basis for the whole Christian life. They place their trust in God’s gracious promise by justifying faith, which includes hope in God and love for him.” [§ 25]

Qualification: heretical.

      There are actually two heresies here. The one is the certitude of salvation. The gift of salvation is not granted with baptism, because there are many who are justified but not saved. In other words, one must persevere in grace through obedience to the commandments in order to be saved. It is not enough merely to be justified once at baptism. The Council of Trent:

“If anyone should say that man once justified can no longer sin nor lose grace; and that, consequently, he who falls and sins has never been justified: let him be anathema.” (Council of Trent, Session VI, canon 23)

      The other heresy is the notion of fiduciary faith. Faith for the Protestant is a trust in God’s mercy that Christ’s merits have been applied to him, and that God overlooks his sinful state. Faith for the Catholic is an intellectual assent, based on the authority of God revealing, to the truths revealed by God and proposed by the Church. The Council of Trent condemned the Protestant notion of faith:

“If anyone should say that justifying faith is nothing more than confidence in the divine mercy because it remits sin for the sake of Jesus Christ…let him be anathema.” (Council of Trent, Session VI, canon 12)

Text no. 7. “According to the Lutheran understanding, God justifies sinners in faith alone (sola fide).” [§ 26]

Qualification: Heretical.

      This is Luther’s bold heresy in black and white. But we must not forget that the “Lutheran and the Catholic explications of justification are in their difference open to one another and do not destroy the consensus regarding the basic truths.” [§ 40] “The teaching of the Lutheran churches presented in this Declaration does not fall under the condemnations from the Council of Trent.” [§ 41]. Right. Sure.

Text no. 8. “Believers are totally righteous, in that God forgives their sins through Word and Sacrament and grants the righteousness of Christ which they appropriate in faith. In Christ, they are made just before God. Looking at themselves through the law, however, they recognize that they remain also totally sinners. Sin still lives in them.” [§ 29]

Qualification: HERETICAL

      More dung and snow. This statement contains the heresy of extrinsic justification which we spoke about above, in which the merits are Christ are merely imputed to the sinner, while he nevertheless still remains in sin. This Lutheran teaching is solemnly condemned by the Council of Trent:

If anyone should say that the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, conferred in baptism, does not remit the guilt of original sin, or affirm that whatever and properly belongs to the character of sin is not removed, but is only cancelled or not imputed: let him be anathema. (Council of Trent, Session V, canon 5).

Text no. 9. “Despite sin, the Christian is no longer separated from God, because in his daily return to baptism, the person who has been born anew by baptism and the Holy Spirit has been forgiven. Thus this sin no longer brings damnation and eternal death.” [§ 29]

Qualification: heretical.

      It is pure Lutheran heresy to say that on the one hand we remain in sin after justification, but on the other hand we are not separated from God. The very definition of sin is separation from God. By according to the Lutheran heresy of extrinsic justification, we remain in sin but are at the same time united to God. According to the Lutherans, the state of sin does not even prevent our going to heaven. The condemnation which we adduced in Text no. 8 applies to this one as well. It is also condemned by this statement of Trent:

“If anyone should say that men are justified merely by the imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, exclusive of the grace and charity that the Holy Ghost infuses in their hearts in a permanent way, or that the grace by which we are justified is a mere favor of God: let him be anathema.” (Council of Trent, Session VI, canon 7).

Text no. 10. “In these affirmations, they [the Lutherans] are in agreement with Roman Catholics, despite the difference in understanding sin in the justified.” [§ 29]

Qualification: poppycock.

Text no. 11. “Throughout their lives all persons, Christians also, in that they are sinners, stand under this accusation which uncovers their sin, so that, in faith in the gospel, they will turn unreservedly to the mercy of God in Christ, which alone justifies them.” [§ 32]

Qualification: heretical.

      More faith alone heresy.

Text no. 12. “When Catholics emphasize that the righteous are bound to observe God’s commandments, they do not thereby deny that through Jesus Christ God has mercifully promised to his children the grace of eternal life.” [§ 33]

Qualification: heretical.

      This is the Lutheran justification means salvation heresy, i.e., that the grace of justification can never be lost, and that we are assured of our salvation. But this was condemned by the Council of Trent:

“If anyone should say that man once justified can no longer sin nor lose grace; and that, consequently, he who falls and sins has never been justified: let him be anathema.” (Council of Trent, Session VI, canon 23)

“If anyone should say that he is certain, with an absolute and infallible certainty, that he will enjoy the great gift of final perseverance, without learning it by a special revelation: let him be anathema” (Council of Trent, Session VI, canon 16).

Text no. 13. “In trust in God’s promise they are assured of their salvation, but are never secure looking at themselves.” [§ 35].

Qualification: heretical.

      The Lutheran certitude of salvation heresy, condemned by Trent.

Text no. 14. “With the Second Vatican Council, Catholics state: to have faith is to entrust oneself totally to God.” [§ 36]

Qualification: heretical.

      The Lutheran fiduciary faith heresy, condemned by Trent.

Text no. 15. “Recognizing his own failures, however, the believer may yet be certain that God intends his salvation.” [§ 36]

Qualification: heretical.

      An explicit avowal of the certitude of salvation heresy, condemned by Trent. It also implicitly contains the sin boldly blasphemy of Luther by the words, “Recognizing his own failures…” That means you can sin, sin, and sin, and still have your reservation in heaven. It should not be forgotten that John Paul II believes in and teaches universal salvation.

Text no. 16. “When they [the Lutherans] view the good works of Christians as the fruits and signs of justification and not as one’s own ‘merits’, they nevertheless also understand eternal life in accord with the New Testament as unmerited ‘reward’ in the sense of the fulfillment of God’s promise to the believer.” [§ 39].

Qualification: heretical.

      An unabashed Lutheran denial of merit, and affirmation of the Lutheran heresy that good works are merely the “fruits and signs” of justification, but not necessary for it. But these Lutheran heresies are condemned by the Council of Trent:

“If anyone says that the just man, through the good works which he accomplishes by the grace of God and through the merits of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit and increase of grace, and also eternal life and the securing of eternal life itself (provided that he dies in the state of grace), and that he does not receive even an increase of glory: let him be anathema.” (Council of Trent, Session VI, can. 32)

“If anyone should say that the good works of a just man are so entirely the gift of God that they are not also meritorious for this just man…let him be anathema.” (Council of Trent, Session VI, can. 31)

“If anyone should say that justice when received is not preserved and augmented before God by good works, but that good works are only fruits or signs of justice obtained: let him be anathema.” (Council of Trent, Session VI, canon 24)

Text no. 17. “Nothing is thereby taken away from the seriousness of the condemnations related to the doctrine of justification. Some were not simply pointless. They remain for us ‘salutary warnings’ to which we must attend in our teachings.” [§ 42]

Qualification: tossing the Council of Trent into the dumpster .

      Of all of the texts which we have thus far examined, this is by far the most devastating. It reduces the solemn magisterium of the Catholic Church to mere “salutary warnings,” that is something like a “windy road” sign or “fallen rock zone” sign. This statement proves that the Modernists in the Vatican have thoroughly embraced the Modernist notion of dogma and magisterium: that it is merely an expression of the religious experience of the time, and ought to be taken into account historically, but are by no means binding forever. Note the insulting statement: “some were not merely pointless.” That means that some were merely pointless! This is an insult to the teaching authority of the Catholic Church.

      This particular text, when applied to the whole of Catholic magisterium, reduces to ashes the dogmas of the Catholic Faith, and permits this wholesale sellout to heresy to take place concerning any dogma of the Faith. I would not be surprised to know that there are already in preparation documents such as this one which concern other articles of our holy faith.

*   *    *

John Paul II has Nothing but Praise for the Joint Declaration

      In an ecumenical service in St. Peter’s Basilica on November 13, 1999, which featured Lutheran bishops on the main altar of the Basilica, that is, upon St. Peter’s tomb itself, John Paul said:

“This ‘common understanding’ which I had hoped for eight years ago, today, thank God, has become an encouraging reality. On 31 October last, in the city of Augsburg, a Joint Declaration was solemnly signed in which Lutherans and Catholics expressed a consensus on basic truths of the doctrine of justification. This achievement of the ecumenical dialogue, a milestone on the way to full and visible unity, is the result of an intense work of research, meetings, and prayer.”

 

Pope Pius XI Soundly Condemned The Very Idea of a Joint Declaration

      “Meanwhile they [non-Catholics] affirm that they would gladly treat with the Roman Church though upon the basis of equality of rights and as equals. If they could so treat, they do not seem to doubt but that an agreement might be entered into through which they would not be compelled to give up those opinions which are thus far the cause why they have wandered outside the one fold of Christ.

      “On such conditions it is clear that the Apostolic See cannot in any way participate in their reunions and that Catholics cannot in any way adhere or grant aid to such efforts. If they should do so, they would give authority to a false Christian religion completely foreign to the one Church of Christ. But could we suffer — which would be utterly iniquitous — the truth and indeed the divine revealed truth to be brought down to the level of bargains? For it is the safeguarding of revealed truth now that is at stake. (Mortalium Animos, 1928)

 

General Conclusion

      It is impossible to reconcile the Lutheran explanations of the doctrine of justification, contained in the Joint Declaration, with Catholic doctrine defined by the Council of Trent. Therefore one must consider the Joint Declaration to be a heretical document, and consequently consider all those who adhere to it to be heretics, at least objectively.

      While it is possible that some well-meaning people may be misled by such a document, it is impossible to conceive of clergy, trained in the teachings of the Church, being ignorant of the doctrine of Trent.

      What is to be suspected and feared is that the clergy are cognizant of the teachings of Trent, but have accepted the Modernist heresy that these teachings, as well as the condemnations of the contrary Lutheran doctrines, no longer apply. Rather they are manifestations of a moment in the Church’s evolution.

      The document itself gives witness to such an attitude toward Trent. Hence the accusation of heresy goes beyond the gravity even of that of Luther: it is the accusation of the heresy of evolution of dogma, that is, Modernism, which was solemnly condemned by Pope Saint Pius X in 1907.

(Most Holy Trinity letter to Benefactors, January 2000).

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