Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Prodigal --Pseudopodeo-- Runs Away

It has come to my attention that the Protestant controversialist known as Pseudopodeo has turned down my offer for an online debate and has written an extended note slandering me personally. It was not what I had hoped for but I am afraid that this is not unexpected of him. I had hoped that he would be a man and face me in a secure neutral venue where we could have an honest exchange of ideas in full view of the general public. In this way, there would have been no question of who said what or who did what. The whole world could just see us discussing the issues. But that is not what Pseudopodeo wanted. He wants to control every aspect of the debate because he is afraid that he will be bested if he doesn't.

But what is most telling here is the personal animosity that Pseudo holds towards me. My Lord and Savior taught that we were to love our enemies and do good to those that hate us. All Pseudopodeo wants to do is to insult and defame those of us who disagree with him. He has been taught in his strange little religion that Catholic are to be treated with contempt and that it is not necessary to treat us as human beings. To this end, Pseudo feels it is permissible to lie, insult, and misrepresent us Catholics. I find this very sad, and frankly it leads me to question his alleged commitment to Christ.

My challenge remains open. Anytime that Pseudopodeo wants to, he may open negotiations for an online debate. I am willing to put all of his derogatory remarks behind us and start fresh. It would be nice if Pseudopodeo would apologize to me for the lies he has told and for his animosity, but it is not necessary. We Christians are used to being roughly handled.

As St. Paul wrote:

1Cr 4:9
For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men.
1Cr 4:10
We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.
1Cr 4:11
To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless,
1Cr 4:12
and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure;
1Cr 4:13
when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things.
1Cr 4:14
I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.

I take these words seriously. I expect that the enemies of Christ and His Church will do whatever they can to destroy the simple faith of us who have remained loyal to the Gospel revealed once and for all to the Saints and who have not been "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the deceit of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive" (Eph 4:14) as have the sad victims of the so-called 'reformation" apostasy.

My offer was made in good faith and it remains open. I forgive you, Pseudo, for anything you may have done to injure me. I ask your forgiveness for any sleight I might have made towards you. When you are ready to discuss the issues, I will be here waiting. I still pray for you at every Mass that God will convert your heart of stone to one of flesh and that you will join us who live gloriously in the reign of God.

Art Sippo MD, MPH

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

An Open Challenge to Pseudopodeo

It has come to my attention that the Protestant controversialist know affectionately as "Pseudopodeo" is jonesing for a debate. He is trying to sucker some unwitting Catholic into another of his one sided lynchings in a Protestant venue with an Anti-Catholic moderator.

Tsk, tsk, Pseudo. You have proposed that tactic to several of us and we have told you the terms are not acceptable.

But I have a proposal for you.

I would be happy to debate you ON LINE here on my blog site. I will choose a neutral moderator (Yes, I really will!). He will assure that there is no name calling or ad hominem personal attacks. We will stick to the issues.

You and I will discuss the rules directly BY EMAIL and then we will talk on the phone IN PERSON a recording of which I will retain so that there will be no disputes about what is said.

Once it is clear that you are serious and that you intend to conduct yourself in a gentlemanly manner, we can set up our phone discussion. We need to talk directly in person. Otherise, it will be a deal breaker.

I propose the following for our debate. These are open to negotiation:

Topic: The Catholic Doctrine of Justification is Biblical

So that there will be no mistake about what the Catholic Church teaches, we will post the Canons from the Sixth Session of the Council of Trent and we will base our debate on them. Biblical quotations from the ENTIRE Catholic Bible will be permitted to establish the truth or falsehood of the topic under discussion.

I will take the affirmative and go first.
You will take the negative and go second.

Our opening statements will be a maximum of 5000 words.

These will be followed by first responses. The first responses will be limited to 2000 words each.

We will then in turn pose questions to each other in alternating order. You will ask me a question, then I will ask you a question. The response should be no longer than 1000 words. No complex questions and no "did you stop beating your wife" questions. Ask one simple question. It is permitted to preface your question with a brief build up of no more than 2 sentences. NO EDITORIALIZING. Questions only.

After one of us gives an answer, the questioner will be given a 250 word rebuttal.

Then there will be final summations limited to 2000 words. Since we will be alternating all through the debate, I will give my final summary followed by you giving yours.

The entire debate will be done on line and will remain permanently on this blog site. oth of us will have the right to publish the debate IN ITS WHOLE UNEDITED FORM.

All the statements will be sent to the Moderator and will not be published until he is certain that they are of the right length and of an appropriate tone. No personal insults nor accusations will be tolerated. If the Moderator feels that the contents need to be revised, he will send it back to the author. Only what the Author and the Moderator agree upon will be published on the web.

If for any reason, the Moderator and the Author cannot agree on a modification, said author will lose the Debate by default and a full disclosure of the problems with his comments will be presented by the moderator. No baloney.

There will be no declaration of formal victory at this debate. Each reader will be allowed to decide for his or her self which arguments were most persuasive.

The debaters will agree NOT to do an extended "re-debate" of the responses in this debate in any form of media for a full calendar year from the date of the posting of the last final statement. It will be permissible to discuss the issues brought up by the debate freely.

I propose as the Moderator a Protestant Attorney, Mr. Rob Robinson.

I am awaiting a response.

Art Sippo MD, MPH

Friday, July 18, 2008

"Why are you so mean to Protestants?"

I have received several emails from Protestants who think I am too mean to Pcoma and who further think that I used too broad a brush in condemning Protestantism. Sadly the people who wrote SOME of these are not aware of the 17 year long campaign of personal slander that Pcoma has waged against me and of my several attempt to open dialog with him. His behavior has been abominable and sub-Christian. It also has showed what I truly consider signs of serious psychopathology including delusion of grandeur, flight of ideas, confabulation, and paranoia. I have asked Pcoma to seek professional help, but he refuses. He is living in his castle in the sky and those of us who are calling him back to reality are seen as enemies. He is a sad spectacle.

What is even sadder is that some honest people who have come in on his side are unaware of his continuous campaign of personal vilification against me, and that it is he who has prolonged and deepened the animosity between us. It is never a good idea to come in on the tail end of an argument and try and play peacemaker. You never know what started it or who is at fault.

My conscience is clear. Pcoma has told numerous lies which tickle the ears of his co-religionists and make them want to believe him. Sadly the Protestant people have been lied to so much by their "ministers" that they are under the impression that Catholics are either fools or stupid or malicious. Protestants have been taught to look down on Catholics and to treat us like the enemy. When we fight back and actually start to WIN, it is like the world has been turned upside down.

But Protestantism in all of its forms was an abandonment of the Gospel and its replacement with amoralist humanism. Justification by faith without works is not a biblical doctrine but in fact LITERALLY CONTRADICTS the Bible (See James 2:24). The idea that being righteous before God is just a formal declaration with no ontological change in the person is a medieval Nominalist idea not a Biblical one. In fact most of the innovations of Protestantism are from Medieval via moderna philosophy with only a biblical veneer.

Folks, the Christian Church from the beginning was CATHOLIC. There is no Protestantism in the Early Church. The 16th Century Deformers knew this but they LIED about it. Luther was seriously mentally disturbed and suffered from some kind of manic-depression disorder. Calvin has a motherless traumatic childhood and became cold, heartless monster who was far happier to worship a God of infinite power than one of infinite love. And Henry VIII... nobody pretends that he was anything but a greedy power-hungry money-grubber. The men he chose to run his "established church" were men of low morals themselves who coveted the power and wealth of the Church.

Historical Christianity has always been Catholic Christianity. Men like Pcoma tell multiple lies to deny this and they become rabid when a knowledgeable person rises up to defy them. Meanwhile they glory in phony doctorates and in puffing themselves up with titles like 'bishop' to which they have no right.

I am just a simple Catholic layman who has become tired of being pushed around and slandered by bigots whose sole motive is stoking their own ego. The Gospel is about detachment from the world, not about personal aggrandisement.

Catholicism has the one true Gospel. The various Protestant religions contradict that Gospel AND EACH OTHER! For this reason I condemn Protestantism as a demonic deception and I warn those seeking Christ that they will not find him there.

I know that Protestants do not want to hear this, but they NEED to hear it. Their souls are in jeopardy and I would be remiss if I said otherwise.

I call on any one seeking Christ to leave the Massa Damnata of Protestant Pandemonium before it is too late.

Art

Thursday, July 3, 2008

He's So Vain, He Probably Thinks This Blog is about Him...

I can always tell when Summer is really here. The Anti-Catholic bigots of the world have just been let out of Kindergarten for the Summer Holidays and they have time on their hands. So they start trying to bait Catholics and slander us while they have the chance.

(Please note that I am not implying that the Anti-Catholic bigots are all whining petulant children who cry for their mommy whenever the big bad Catholics fight back. Oh , NO! Many of them are semi-functional adults who have little or no need of Depends at this point in their lives except when the Pope comes to visit the United States. It is just that they have been left back in ACCREDITED schools so often that they just can't get that grammar school GED, and Kindergarten is such a big step for them. Hang in there guys. The Columbia School of Broadcasting and Bible Studies will grant you a doctorate in toilet training for the right price so you can fake it and sit at the grown-up table with pride. For those who cannot afford this there is always Mrs. Puff's Boating School. She is used to dealing with Students who just can't graduate.)

In any case a certain Protestant Controversialist of My Acquaintance -- call him Pcoma -- has started off the Summer emulating the Ministry of Truth from George Orwell's novel 1984 and pretending that he never held to a position that was in fact the backbone of one of his arguments about interpreting the NT. I do not want to embarrass the little nimrod by being too specific. After all there are LIBEL laws in this country and one must be careful just how nasty one wants to be in attacking a private person. Suffice to say, his denial that he ever held to this position makes Bill Clinton under oath look like George Washington.

Pcoma, ol' buddy, you need to get real. We were all there at the debate. We heard you. You not only mentioned this particular matter in several speeches which are on tape. You also put it in your books and on your website.

Ah, but after all, you have no interest in the truth. For you, the woile apologetics game is about egoism, bluster, and who is the better debater. All your efforts in attacking me on this issue boil down to you apologizing for yourself and your behavior. It has nothing to do with the Gospel or the truth of the Christian faith. That is your problem.

It is not all about you, Pcoma. This blog today is about being a disciple of Jesus Christ conformed to his image and being subject to his will for us. You made a mistake early in your career. You need to admit it, say that you regret the error, have since repented of it and moved on. That's all. That is what Jesus would do if he were in your shoes. (Of course Jesus would never have made a mistake about a matter of faith or morals so He actually would never have to do any of this so it is more accurate to say that this is what Jesus would want YOU to do.)

Apologetics is not a game. It is not a spectator sport where the apologist puffs himself up as the defender of the faith who never loses to any opponent. It is not about winning every debate.

It is as Pope St. Peter counseled us in his First Encyclical:



1Pe 3:8
Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love of the brethren, a tender heart and a humble mind.
1Pe 3:9
Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but on the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing.
1Pe 3:10
For "He that would love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile;
1Pe 3:11
let him turn away from evil and do right; let him seek peace and pursue it.
1Pe 3:12
For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those that do evil."
1Pe 3:13
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is right?
1Pe 3:14
But even if you do suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,
1Pe 3:15
but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence;
1Pe 3:16
and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
1Pe 3:17
For it is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God's will, than for doing wrong.


Apologetics is supposed to be a witnessing to the truth of Christ against the objections of men, not a defense of our own egos.

It is possible for intelligent grown ups (yes, even those in Depends) to agree to disagree without all the rancor and posturing that we have been subjected to by you and your fellow Anti-Catholics. Whatever the case may be, Pcoma, you are not infallible by your own admission. You can make mistakes and it takes an honest man to admit when he has blundered.

I have admitted to my mistakes and apologized to you for any unfair slights I have said in the past. Have you ever done that? Have you ever apologized to me for trying to deceive me in our original debate? Or for your unsportsman-like insults at the end when you have clearly lost? Or for the lies you have told about me publicly for the last 2 decades? Or for your abominable sub-Christian conduct when we were trying to come up with a venue for a debate? Or your uncharitable snipes at Pope John Paul the Great as he lay dying. Do you ever examine your conscience, admit you are a sinner, repent and try to make amends? As far as I can tell the answer to all of these is "No!" and you are proud of it. You are a very poor advertisement for your religion.

Well, Pcoma, I am a disciple of Jesus who told us to let the dead bury their dead. I have better things to do than trade nitpicking insults with you. You know I am telling the truth. Everyone in the Catholic Apologetics movements knows it. And any Protestant with integrity who can read your books and website knows it. Your posturing is hypocritical and unnecessary. Jesus said it was the truth that would set us free, not our attempts at spin doctoring. Your actions are cynical that those of an atheist who believes in no moral limits on his behavior as long as you can do harm to those whom you hate.

To the general public I give a warning. Beware of men who come to you using their personal opinion about the Gospel as a club with which to beat people. Beware of men who place their own honor ahead of the honor due to God. Be leery of the fellow who wastes time and resources attacking individuals he hates without appreciating the points they are making. There are two sides to every story and if you cannot have sympathy for your opponent, you cannot validly criticize him.

Pcoma and his crowd are enamored with the antinomian opinions of the Protestant Deformers and with the idea that they don't have to do anything to be considered righteous by God.

As a Catholic I prefer the Biblical view:


Rom 3:27
Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On the principle of works? No, but on the principle of faith.
Rom 3:28
For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.
Rom 3:29
Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also,
Rom 3:30
since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith.
Rom 3:31
Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.



Jam 2:14
What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him?
Jam 2:15
If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food,
Jam 2:16
and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?
Jam 2:17
So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
Jam 2:18
But some one will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.
Jam 2:19
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe--and shudder.
Jam 2:20
Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren?
Jam 2:21
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?
Jam 2:22
You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works,
Jam 2:23
and the scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness"; and he was called the friend of God.
Jam 2:24
You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.


Rom 6:1
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?
Rom 6:2
By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
Rom 6:3
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Rom 6:4
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Rom 6:5
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Rom 6:6
We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.
Rom 6:7
For he who has died is freed from sin.
Rom 6:8
But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.
Rom 6:9
For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.
Rom 6:10
The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.
Rom 6:11
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Rom 6:12
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.
Rom 6:13
Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness.
Rom 6:14
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Rom 6:15
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
Rom 6:16
Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
Rom 6:17
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,
Rom 6:18
and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
Rom 6:19
I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification.
Rom 6:20
When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
Rom 6:21
But then what return did you get from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death.
Rom 6:22
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.
Rom 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


This is the Gospel as we Catholics have received it from Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the teachings of the Popes and Councils (especially Trent). We stand on this solidly founded word from God and condemn as contrary to scripture any attempt to reduce salvation to a mere naked faith and trust in God with no need for submission to His will in the works we choose to do.

This is the faith of the Catholic Church and what this blog is really about.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Book Review: "The Truth of the Cross" by R. C. Sproul

A Book Review:
The Truth of the Cross
by R. C. Sproul
Reformation Trust Publishing, 2007

Through the generosity of Ligonier Ministries, I have been given permission to review this book by R. C. Sproul. Rev. Sproul is a Presbyterian minister who has had an active multimedia apostolate for over 30 years. I have listened to many teaching tapes from his oeuvre and have found them to be very educational and enlightening. His excellent series on historical apologetics covers the Church Fathers up through the modern day and has a fine exposition of St. Thomas Aquinas. He also has a short series on Roman Catholicism which I found to be most interesting and helpful for showing us Catholics how we are perceived by some of our separated brethren. Rev. Sproul is a great popularizer of the Christian faith who is able to take complex ideas and render them into understandable form for the masses.

Rev. Sproul is very much an ‘old fashioned’ five-point Calvinist and has not been much influenced by any of the major modern movements in Calvinist theology. This has both positive and negative connotations for Catholics who read or listen to his work. In many ways his approach to the Bible – especially the Old Testament – is quite traditional and helpful for Catholics. For example, I recommend his lectures on the Holiness of God most highly.

Sadly, when it comes to New Testament exposition, he has some very serious blind spots in which he allows the systematic speculations of conservative Calvinism to interfere with his explanation of the Biblical text. In particular, Rev. Sproul still holds to a very narrow, 16th Century understanding of the Protestant doctrine of “Justification by Faith Alone” which ignores the more recent contributions of the New Perspective on St. Paul and the re-evaluation of the place of the Epistle of St. James in the wisdom tradition central to the ministry of Jesus.

The focus of his new book “The Truth of the Cross” is on the atonement that was wrought by Christ on the Cross. This is not intended to be a scholarly study, but a popular exposition aimed at informing the person in the pew what it was that Jesus accomplished for us by His death.

The first 4 chapters give a superb exposition of the Biblical background that led up to the need for atonement. They even gave a brief treatment of some of the Patristic and early Medieval developments in our understanding of the Atonement. It is important for Catholics to remember that we are thoroughly Augustinian in our soteriology. I think Christians of all stripes will find these chapters both useful and accessible. By the time you finish these chapters you will understand the several different theories of the atonement and how each scheme can play a part in God’s overall plan for salvation.

In Chapter 5, he began a discussion of substitutionary atonement which is again quite traditional and accessible. I particularly liked his treatment of propitiation and expiation in which he shows both their differences from each other and how they are complementary. This chapter is filled with excellent biblical exegesis and exposition.

After all the good exposition of the first 5 chapters, Chapter 6 was a major let down. It is the weakest chapter in the book and, coincidentally, the one with the least biblical exegesis. Rev. Sproul tries to make the case for a theology of imputation in which the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer while at the same time the sinfulness of the believer is imputed to Christ. This is a traditional Calvinist theological speculation which in recent years has come under fire from among Calvin scholars.

John Calvin had a strong notion of ‘union with Christ’ which was distinctly his own and different from both the schema of Luther and of later Calvinist theologies. This can be seen in books such as “Union With Christ and the Extent of the Atonement in Calvin (Studies in Biblical Literature, Vol. 48)” by Kevin Dixon Kennedy, Union with Christ: John Calvin and the Mysticism of St. Bernard” (Columbia Series in Reformed Theology) by Dennis E. Tamburello, and “Calvin, Participation, and the Gift: The Activity of Believers in Union with Christ” (Changing Paradigms in Historical and Systematic Theology) by J. Todd Billings.

I was very disappointed that Sproul did not interact positively with this cutting edge theme in Calvin scholarship.

Catholic and Arminian scholars have been pointing out for several centuries that there is not a single verse in the Bible which describes any imputative exchange of righteousness and sinfulness between Christ and the believer. What the Bible does say is this:


Romans 4:9 …We say that faith was imputed to Abraham as righteousness.
Romans 4:20-25
20 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,
21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
22 That is why his faith was "imputed to him as righteousness."
23 But the words, "it was imputed to him," were written not for his sake alone,
24 but for ours also. It will be imputed to us who believe in him that raised from the dead Jesus our Lord,
25 who was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification.



In short, it is our faith in Jesus as our Savior that is imputed or reckoned to the Christian as righteousness, not any transferred ‘righteousness of Christ.’ By this faith we are united with Christ in Baptism and made into a new creation (Romans 6:4). We cease being “slaves of sin” and become “slaves of righteousness” which leads inexorably to sanctification and to the fruit of that sanctity, eternal life (Romans 6:22). This is not the language of a forensic exchange but of an ontological transformation in Christ.

The whole idea of a forensic exchange of moral attributes is based not biblical presuppositions, but rather on the late medieval philosophy of Nominalism. Nominalism denied that there were any universal essences. Alleged universal concepts were merely names that described particular objects. As such, the universal ideas of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ were arbitrary designations. God, as the most powerful entity, was permitted to name his creatures whatever he liked by an exercise of His Divine will. Since the titles ‘righteous’ and ‘sinner’ were nothing but arbitrary names, God was permitted to have the last word on which designations that describes his particular creatures.

In an Essentialist worldview such as we see in the Bible, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas Aquinas, it is not possible to treat ‘good’ and ‘evil’ as mere external labels. What is needed to change a bad person into a good person is a true ontological change in the essential nature of the being in question.

Failure to grasp these philosophical points leads Sproul to misrepresent Catholic teaching:
The Roman Catholic Church holds the position that man’s character is not completely tainted, but that he retains a little island of righteousness. (Page 85)

This is not correct. Catholicism insists that man possesses several natural goods to which his human nature tends without the necessity of grace. But these are not supernatural goods, do not lead to salvation, and garner no merit before God. But they are the very seeds upon which grace works in order to elevate the merely human good work to one that pleases God. We insist that grace builds upon nature. It does not supersede or destroy the good found inherently in the natural man. Instead, it elevates it to another level so that joined with Christ we are able to please the Father in our lives as He did in His own incarnate life.

The Protestant view of ‘total depravity’ is a rarefied form of Manichaeism in which the imputation of sin is placed below the level of moral agency – that is the mind and will – and fixed in the very members of the human person. Thus any inclination of the human being towards any appetite is inherently sinful in Protestant eyes because it does not lead inexorably in the natural man to acts which please God. The distinction Sproul makes between ‘total depravity’ and ‘utter depravity’ is moot. If everything human beings do is sinful, the degree of sinfulness is unimportant. The central problem is that in Sproul’s system, to take in a deep breath is sin in defiance of God. There is absolutely no biblical warrant for such a notion.

Catholicism counters that human inclinations are morally neutral until the mind and he will are engaged. The sinfulness of an act is determined by one’s understanding and intention in the act. Condemning every act of the human person as sinful as the Protestants do is ludicrous. It does not make the right moral distinctions and fails to locate the real source of human sinfulness. This is the consequence of a Nominalist view of morality in which sin is the result of a ‘name-game’, and not a ‘real’ problem. It creates a ‘legal fiction’ in which guilt and innocence are assigned arbitrarily by God without regard to who and what we are.

Sproul does not really appreciate the problems inherent in his thesis. Condemning every human act as sinful makes it seem that it is a sin just to be human. There can be no true examination of conscience or firm purpose of amendment because sin wells up in our members spontaneously and our wills merely rubber stamp our natural impulses. This type of anthropology is pastorally destructive of any true moral discipline.

In my opinion, Chapter 6 is a total wash and I advise Catholic readers to skip over it on a first reading. They may return to it later along with a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to more properly critique Sproul’s views from a Catholic perspective.

Chapter 7 takes up the story of the “Suffering Servant” from the prophet Isaiah. This is a fine exposition and very helpful in showing that he suffering of Jesus was not a Christian innovation but had been foretold many centuries earlier. I will quibble with Sproul on his interpretation of Genesis 3:15 (Page 116). I believe that the three clauses in this verse are an example of synthetic (or synonymous) parallelism and that they all refer directly to the Woman, and only indirectly to her seed. This includes the final clause in which she is prophesied to “crush the head of the serpent.” Franciscan theologians have seen in this verse the predestination from all time of Jesus and Mary together as the New Adam and the New Eve who overthrow the curse of Original Sin and defeat Satan.

Chapter 8 continues to show the continuity between the Cross and Old Testament themes. The exposition is quite good. Sproul accepts St. Thomas Aquinas’ view that Jesus was truly forsaken by God the Father in his humanity while on the Cross as a way of Jesus fully experiencing the alienation of sin. St. Thomas believed that Jesus had the Beatific Vision in his Divine person from the moment of his conception and that during this time of abandonment Jesus did not allow his Divine personhood to confer consolations to the faculties of his human nature. From a Catholic viewpoint, this was a particularly good chapter.

Chapter 9 was a long defense of a particular understanding of the Calvinist idea of ‘Limited Atonement.’ Sproul breaks with Hyper-Calvinists by seeing the atonement wrought by Christ to be sufficient to save all men while not necessarily being effective to save all men. The distinction here is very helpful and is in fact part of Catholic orthodoxy. On the whole, Catholicism is willing to see a wider franchise than what Sproul favors in this chapter. He implies that an explicit faith in Jesus is necessary for salvation. It has always been the Catholic position that an implicit faith could be accepted by God as worthy of the grace of salvation purely at the Lord’s good pleasure. There is no salvation by ignorance of the truth, but there can be salvation by God’s saving knowledge of us and the exercise of His graciousness towards sinners in circumstances which He deems fitting.

The 10th and final chapter consists of a series of questions and answers. It delves a little more deeply into theological issues and makes some comments on the signs of the times. I found all of the answers to be helpful and I think many Catholics will benefit from them.

In summary, I found this to be a very useful and inexpensive book for explaining the traditional understanding of the Cross and the Atonement from a conservative Protestant perspective. It also can be helpful to Catholics and makes fine Lenten reading. I have noted several caveats above primarily with regard to Chapter 6. I would hope that in future editions, Sproul will deal with other theories of the application of the benefits of Christ other than the double imputation schema. I would especially recommend that he deal with the “union with Christ” schema which is at the cutting edge of Calvin studies and can play a major role in increasing ecumenical understanding.

Arthur C. Sippo MD, MPH

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Perpetual Virginity of Mary

A few weeks back, I got a dyspeptic note from a Protestant Minister in training who took umbrage to my views on the illegitimacy of the various Protestant religions. In his note, he took especial umbrage to the Catholic dogma of the Perpetual Virginity acting as if there was no justification for this teaching.

I was planning to do an entire expose on this fallacious notion, but my good friend Matt1618 beat me to it.

He has a fine Catholic Apologetics Website:

http://matt1618.freeyellow.com/


His treatment of the PVM is excellent and I recommend it highly:

http://matt1618.freeyellow.com/mary.html


This is a condensed version of the same article:

http://matt1618.freeyellow.com/mary2.html


The following is an article by a Hebrew Catholic, Br. Anthony Opisso, M.D., who has since gone before us marked with the sign of faith:

http://www.cin.org/users/james/files/talmud.htm


This is a treatise on the PVM written by St. Jerome, the greatest Scripture Scholar of the Patristic period:

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3007.htm


The following is a variety of quotations from the Church Fathers on the PVM:

http://www.catholic.com/library/Mary_Ever_Virgin.asp


Here is s list of documents including Papal teaching on the PVM:

http://www.ewtn.com/vlibrary/search2.asp


The following is a link to the website of of my friend and Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/


Here are some of his articles on the PVM:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2005/10/replies-to-protestants-alleged.html

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2005/10/dialogue-on-supposed-biblical_27.html

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2005/10/dialogue-on-supposed-biblical_31.html

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2004/02/luther-calvin-and-other-early.html

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2004/02/why-catholics-believe-in-perpetual_05.html

http://www.haloscan.com/comments/davearmstrong/112907309560033175/#17898


The following is a term paper written by an Anglican arguing in favor of the PVM:

http://www.btw3.com/classfiles/HT1/PerpetualVirginity.pdf


Here are some articles by my good friend Mark Bonocore defending the PVM:

http://www.catholic-legate.com/articles/ohbrother.html

http://www.catholic-legate.com/articles/jesusbros.html

http://www.catholic-legate.com/articles/maryvirgin.html


Here is an article by Protestant Scholar Paul Owen on the PVM:

http://www.catholic-legate.com/articles/reformedpv.html


And here is an article by my good friend and Catholic Apologist John Pacheco:

http://www.catholic-legate.com/articles/heoshou.html


So despite the pretensions of my Protestant 'minister-in-training' there is indeed lots of evidence in support of the PVM and absolutely nothing before the 18th Century even questioning it except for 3 people (Jovinian, Helvidius, and Bonosus) who were condemned as heretics. So in this matter -- as in so many others -- Protestantism is seen to be a modernist fraud that supports clearly heretical notions in the service of man-made religion.

Art

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bob Sungenis and his Ordinary

The continuing controversy over the content of Robert Sungenis' web site has taken a new turn. Mr. Sungenis has said things about the Jewsih people - both inside and outside of the Church - which have brought him open criticism from many sources.

It has been the hope of many of us who are concerned about Bob that he would accept fraternal correction on these matters and bring his public views into line with the positions held by the Popes and Vatican II over the last several decades. Sadly, Bob has not done so. In the last year, his Ordinary, Bishop Kevin Rhoades, took action in the name of the Catholic Church to prevent Bob from promulgating his views as if they represented Catholic teaching. In particular, Bob published a commentary on the Book of Revelation in which he made several comments about the Jews that were scurrilous in tone.

Bob's response was half-hearted at best. He made a show of submitting to the Bishop,at first, but now he is openly accusing Bishop Rhoades of holding to heretical notions. Bob is refusing to obey the Bishop's order that he cease and desist writing about any matters having to do with the Jewish people.

I want to take a stand here in support of Bishop Rhoades and I call on Bob Sungenis as a professed loyal son of the Catholic Church to submit to his Ordinary in this matter. We Catholic apologists are the victims of the lies and bigotry of Anti-Catholics all the time. We should be very careful ourselves not to promote falsehoods about other people. And in particular, we need to be on the guard against Anti-Semitism. It is a persistent prejudice that has led to untold injustice, suffering, and even genocide. We as Catholics must never again allow such things to occur and we need to oppose this error vigorously.

The following links document the most recent events in the Sungenis controversy:

Breaking the Silence: http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/2008/02/breaking-silence.html

1) Bishop Rhoades Sets the Record Straight: Bishop Rhoades refutes Sungenis’ “slanderous and erroneous” charges
http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/2008/02/bishop-rhoades-sets-record-straight_21.html

2) Saying “Peace!” When There Is No Peace: A discussion of the many “apologies” and promises of Robert Sungenis
http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/2008/02/saying-peace-when-there-is-no-peace.html

3) More Definition Difficulties: Sungenis’ misuse of “disavow” and “libel” http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/2008/02/more-definition-difficulties.html

4) CASB2's Missing Imprimatur: The Real Reason the Bishop Said "No"Sungenis’ anti-Jewish animus comes to light in CASB2
http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/2008/02/casb2s-missing-imprimatur-real-reason.html

5) Response from the USCCB on page 131 of the USCC: Must one see heresy on page 131? How should one approach our bishops? http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/2008/02/response-from-usccb-on-page-131-of.html

6) Is Sungenis Schismatic? The Verdict in Sungenis’ Own Words: Documentation of how Sungenis has chosen a path he has formerly criticized
http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/2008/02/is-sungenis-schismatic-verdict-in.html

7) The Theology of Prejudice: A discussion of how Sungenis’ animus against Jews taints his theology
http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/2008/02/theology-of-prejudice.html

8) The Theology of ADL Conspiracy Theories? Specific proof that even now, Sungenis is violating his most recent promises http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/2008/02/theology-of-adl-conspiracy-theories.html

9) Sungenis and the New Good Friday Prayer: A recent example of Sungenis’ exaggerations and contentiousness with Jews http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/2008/02/sungenis-and-new-good-friday-prayer.html

10) Sungenis Singled Out by Jewish Blogger: An example of how Sungenis is seen by moderate Jewish people
http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/2008/02/sungenis-singled-out-by-jewish-blogger.html

11) Clearing Roy Schoeman of Sungenis’ Slander by Ben Douglass: Sungenis refuses to retract and apologize for quote he knows to be false http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/2008/02/clearing-roy-schoeman-of-sungenis.html

12) New and Old Postings by Ben Douglass: Ben Douglass re-posts his Sungenis articles and defends Roy Schoeman
http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/2008/02/new-and-old-postings-by-ben-douglass.html

13) When Like Finds Like:Evidence from Sungenis’ own followers that all is not well at CAI-BTF
http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/2008/02/when-like-finds-like.html

14) The Clinton Connection: A comparison of the tactics of Bill Clinton and Robert Sungenis
http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/2008/02/matter-of-character.html

15) The Matter of Character: An examination of a fundamental issue underlying Sungenis’ difficulties
http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/2008/02/clinton-connection.html

16) Timeline: A helpful timeline detailing what has occurred with Sungenis and when http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/2008/02/timeline-of-events.html

Please keep both Bob Sungenis and Bishop Rhoades in your prayers.

Art Sippo

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Honoring our Mother, the BVM

Over on his apologetics board, Patrick Madrid has made the followin comment concerning the recent move by several Cardinals to request that the Spirtual Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin be declared a dogma of the Church:

Personally, I hope the pope does not act on this petition. I see it as theologically problematic, due to the high likelihood of it being misunderstood and misconstrued by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. The petition is pastorally unnecessary and hugely inopportune.


Patrick is a good Catholic man and one of the great Catholic apologists of our time. He is also my friend. The position he is espousing here is taken by many other good Catholics as well so I am not questioning his Catholicity or his faithfulness to the Church. But on this matter I must take exception with him.

I don't agree. Every Mariology text book in the last 100 years has included the rationale for seeing the BVM as Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of all Graces. The Patristic evidence for the Spiritual Motherhood of Mary dates back to the mid 2nd Century and includes statements by St. Justin Martyr and St. Irenaeus. The Popes in the last 160 years -- up to and including Pope John Paul II -- have been strong supporters of the Spiritual Motherhood of the BVM and taught such in their encyclicals. The Eight Chapter of Lumen Gentium specifically gave the BVM the titles Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix, and Mediatrix. This statement by a General Council means that the Spiritual Motherhood of the BVM is already OFFICIAL CATHOLIC TEACHING. Raising such a teaching to a dogma therefore adds nothing to the Catholic faith that has not already been proclaimed by the Magisterium but it does make it clear that the BVM has a role to play in salvation and that this is a central tenet of the Holy Catholic Faith that is not negotiable.

The opinions and sensibilities of Protestants and other non-Catholics about Catholic teaching should be of no concern to the Catholic Church. These outsiders are a mish-mash of unbeleivers, heretics, apostates, and schismatics albeit most of them are only materially so. Are we not to proclaim the divinity of Christ because the Jehovah's Witnesses might take offense? Are we going to suppress calling Jesus the Son of God because it makes the Muslims unhappy? Do we avoid calling Jesus the Messiah because the Jews will balk?

What other things are we going to suppress to assuage the Protestants? The Substantial Presence of Christ in the Eucharist? Apostolic Succession? The indissolubility of SACRAMENTAL marriage? The anathemas of Trent?

If we Catholics are people of faith, we must profess a robust faith, not one that bends to the objections of infidels. My experience with anti-Catholic bigots is that they have no scruples about dissing us no matter what concessions we make. So we should make no concessions. None of them have any scruples about mocking Catholics, our Church and our beliefs. I am unaware of any Protestant denomination that has refrained from taking a doctrinal position becasue it might offend Catholics. Think of it: women priests, women bishops, LESBIAN bishops, abortion, contraception, divorce with remarriage, Homosexuality, IVF, defective forms of baptism. If they do not restrict their doctrine to assuage us, why are we doing so to assuage them?

Vatican II made a few off-hand comments that anyone with savvy would have recognized as attacks on Communism. Yet it never attacked the Communists by name. Many Traditionalists saw this as a capitulation to the enemy. Now 40 years later we can see it for what it was. Communism was a flash in the pan and it did not deserve anymore than trivial attention. Mere men did not know that in the 1960s. They did not know that within 25 years, Communism would be relegated to the ash-heap of history. But the Holy Spirit knew, and he moved the Council to basically ignore Communism except as a trivial nuisance. Protestantism deserves the same kind of pejorative neglect.

Meanwhile the BVM in her own words "magnifies the glory of God". She prophesied about herself that "all generations shall call me blessed".

Glory and honor is due to the greatest human person who every lived: the Blessed Virgin Miriam, Mother of God and Mother of the Church. Do not let the whining of non-Catholics silence our praises of her and her Son!

Art
Omnes semper - ad Jesum, per Mariam, cum Petro.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

James Swan and why he should repent

I did something that I normally don't do today. I went over to the bulletin board of anti-Catholic James Swan. One of the prots who haunt the Envoy Apologetics board had been asked to take his discussion with me over here to my blog and he had just started posting on Swan's "Beggars All" board instead. While I was there I noticed that my name was in the index and I followed the links.

Low and behold! I am vilified multiple times for the crime of not thinking that the excommunicated apostate Martin Luther was a worthy Christian thinker and for following the line of thinking that had originated back in the 16th Century that he was mentally deranged and which has excellent support in modern Luther scholarship.

Mr. Swan even had the temerity to go out looking for Catholics to personally condemn me. You see among the Anti-Catholic elite it is far more important to insult and defame Catholics than it is to refute them.

Well, the sad and hypocritical Mr. Swan needs to get his facts straight. This is why I dismiss Luther as an enemy of Christ and I condemn the entire Protestant Deformation as a demonic deception:

1) The Church as it came form the hands of Christ passed to the Apostles with St. Peter chosen by Christ to be his vicar. About this Scripture and Tradition are absolutely clear.

2) The Apostles ordained men as their successors and these men ordained their own successors. This pattern has persisted to the present and this succession has been preserved in both the Catholic Church and in the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

3) Ordination was not seen in either the Bible or Tradition as a mere human institution, but it conveyed he power of the Holy Spirit to tech to sanctify and to rule the Church.

4) The possession of the Holy Spirit in the hierarchy by the laying on of hands is what preserves the Catholic Church from error, not the opinions of scholars, the repetition of what people did and thought in the past, or the private interpretations of mere men.

5) No Protestant religion possess valid Apostolic Succession. In fact the Deformers all rejected Apostolic Succession thereby taking themselves out of the Church with no authority or power to teach, to sanctify, or to rule God's people.

6) The central tenet of the Deformation - 'justification by faith alone without good works' (JBFA) - is contrary to the Gospel as taught by Jesus and was explicitly condemned as an error in James 2:24

7) JBFA was used by Luther to sow anarchy within the Church of his day. It continues to wreak havoc in our own time.

8) Luther was excommunicated and his works condemned by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

9) The religions Luther invented or inspired do not have valid ministers, valid sacraments (Baptism a possible exception in some groups), sound doctrine or right morals. As such, Protestantism as a whole is totally corrupt and none of the groups within it or spawned from it meet the criteria for valid Christian Churches from the 1st Millennium.

10) Despite paying lip service to 'sola scriptura', when the Bible conflicts with Protestant doctrine, the Bible is ignored, marginalized or explained away. Examples of this are in James 2:24, Romans 2:5ff, Matthew 16:16ff, 2Peter 3:15ff, John 6:53ff, and NUMEROUS other examples.

11) Meanwhile the Protestant Deformers (including Luther and Calvin) along with the groups they founded have openly and explicitly condemned Catholicism and the Pope as the Anti-Christ. This can be seen throughout Luther and Calvin's writings, in Deformed creedal statements such as the Westminster Confessions, and in the books, lectures, and web sites of Anti-Catholic bigots in our own day.

12) Insulting labels have been created by Protestants to be used when talking with and about Catholics: Romanist, Papist, Romish, Popish, jesuitical, Pope's Nose, Popery, Popedom, etc. Yet these same people have very thin skins when you tell them that the Protestant apostasy of the 16th Century reformed noting and actually DEFORMED Christain doctrine and Christian
history.

13) Among Martin Luther's supporters in the last 3 centuries have been vituperate anti-Semites most notorious of which was Adolph Hitler and the Nazis.

14) Modern studies of Martin Luther's writings disclose a man with a serious mental disturbance. He suffered from depression, paranoia, delusions of grandeur, flight of ideas, and loose association all of which are symptoms of a bipolar manic-depressant disorder

15) Luther's theology was used by him as a catharsis for his periods near suicidal depression.

16) Luther became a poor exegete of the Bible who read his own mental illness into the text as he got deeper into the 'reform'.

17) Luther was guilty of excessive cursing, vulgarities, obscenities, and inappropriate speech which his fawning sycophants constantly try to explain away.

18) Hypocritically, when a Catholic says anything negative about Luther or condemns Protestantism, or uses pejorative terms about the conduct of Protestants, he or she is held to a standard much stricter than what Protestants tolerate for Luther.

19) Protestants are constantly on the attack against the Catholic Church. When Catholics try to defend themselves, they are attacked as uncharitable. There is double standard here.

20) Protestantism is FALSE RELIGION. It openly contradicts the Bible, ignores Tradition, supports immoral practices (divorce with remarriage, contraception, abortion, euthanasia, homosexual behavior, persecution of Catholics, Anti-Semitism, etc.), tries to misrepresent Catholics, and attempts to seduce Catholics out of the Church.


For these reasons among others, I do not tolerate the insulting and ignorant comments made by Protestant Anti-Catholics. When some Protestant tells me that I should adopt the opinion of card carrying Nazi party member Fr. Josef Lortz toward Luther in preference to that of other more critical Catholic scholars and then insults me because I refuse to follow Lortz's Nazi party line it proves to me that this Protestant is not a person of integrity nor is he being honest with the fact of history.

Luther, the Nazis, and Fr. Lortz are being relegated toe the dustbin of history. Modern biblical scholarship is highly critical of Luther and finds no justification for his version of JBFA in the Bible. And the pioneering work of Fr. Denifle in pointing out Luther's serious personal failings as the source of his aberrant and heretical views has been bolstered by modern psychiatry.

The New Perspective on St. Paul objective condemns Luther as being WRONG about JBFA. Church history shows that Luther's JBFA did no exist at anytime in Church history and was an innovation of the Deformation. Fr. Denifle, Fr. Grisar, Preserved Smith, Paul Reiter, Richard Marius, and Herbert David Rix have all shown that Luther was seriously disturbed and that this mental disturbance was the source of his deviations from sound doctrine. The religions that Luther founded do not meet the ecclesiastical standards of the earliest Church.

On all counts, Protestantism is a damnable fraud and the defection of all those millions into apostasy was a serious error. It is a Pandemonium of warring cults united only in their antipathy towards the Catholic Church and those of us who defend her.

Protestants all LEFT the Church cursing those of us who stayed as they did. They have no legacy within the Church founded by Jesus but are robbers and thieves trying to enter the kingdom by any means other than through the sheep-gate. Unless they renounce their errors and submit to the Vicar of Christ, they endanger their souls.

As such their is no compromising the truth. Protestantism and its false doctrines and empty sacraments cannot save anyone. The faith they preach is not that which was delivered once and for all to the Saints but a subjectivist counterfeit designed to assuage the endogenous depression of a seriously disturbed monk. Had there been Prozac in the 16th Century, we would have been spared the whole Deformation disaster.

Please understand that this is where I am coming from. There is no possibility whatever that Luther or any Protestant was correct when They contradicted the teachings of the Catholic Church. The only hope for ecumenism is for the prodigal Protestants to come to their senses and return to their Father's house. The Catholic Church is large and her practices diverse. There is room for everyone and we welcome whatever good things our separated brethren may bring with them. But they must abandon the loose living and false teachings that led them and their ancestors astray and submit themselves to the rule of their Father. Submission and humility are the virtues they need. They must cease trying to justify the errors of the past and seek true reformation and true repentance. They can only do so in Catholicism.

Art

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Dumb and Dumber: The Professional Anti-Catholic and his Sycophants



One of the joys of being a Catholic is the depth and breadth of the Catholic faith. Catholicism is a feast for the eyes (e.g., Chatres Cathedral, Michaelangelo, DaVinci, Raffaele, and Titian), ears (e.g., Gregorian Chant, Palestrina, Polyphony, Mozart, and Beethoven) and even the nose (e.g., incense for the hoi polloi and Benedictine Liquor for the aficionado) and the tongue (e.g., Dom Perignon, and anything from French or Italian Cuisine). By comparison, the Protestant English are still trying to hawk kidney pie as if it were edible, and the only prot painter worth his salt is Rembrandt who IMHO is highly over-rated.

But our Protestant confreres do corner the market in one absolutely remarkable commodity: They have the most entertaining anti-Catholic bigots in the world. Now there are lots of anti-Catholic atheists, a mean-spirited group who are generally drunk and disorderly or so full of themselves that even their friends are embarrassed by them. But when it comes to the prot anti-Catholic, you not only have vehemence and verve, but such a gross streak of dishonesty and demagoguery that they are just too comedic for words. The best part is that they take themselves so seriously!

Your average prot Anti-Catholic starts out mouthing biblical platitudes, then moves on to misinterpreting and misrepresenting Catholic teaching and Catholics themselves. They never do so with a 'holier-than-thou' attitude since that would require charity and humility. Nope! They do so riding on their high horse and looking down their noses on anyone who still kowtows to "ROME" that great city of the Anti-Christ. It is from here that they weave utterly fantastic conspiracy theories so convoluted and dastardly that paranoid schizophrenics can only look on in envy (and suspicion).

But the best part is when they come up against anyone with the smallest smattering of knowledge in the area of theology, Church History, or Scripture study. Here I must admit that it doesn't really matter whether said knowledgeable person is a Catholic or not. Real Protestant Scholars -- especially when they question the correctness of the biblical exegesis, Patristic citation, or historical musings of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Cranmer, or any of their successors -- are denounced as 'liberals' or as 'abandoning the legacy of the Reformation.' Imagine these revisionist curs! Throwing aside the opinions of the 'Reformers' for the sake of the truth! What are they thinking!

But in any case, as the professional Anti-Catholic plies his wares in the marketplace of ideas, it becomes glaringly apparent that many of his views are not supported by the facts and in other cases, it is possible for a rational person to disagree with him. (It is usually a him. Anti-Catholic women are more passive aggressive and prefer to write nasty books.) At this point, the prot pundit has no choice but to play the ad hominem card and try to discredit his opponent as mean or unecumenical.

There is no limit to the absurd lengths that the Anti-Catholic will go. I have had these guys tell me that I am 'under the wrath of God' for being a 'Romanist', or that I am a fool for not accepting the opinions of their favorite Catholic historian even though he was a card carrying member of the Nazi party before, during and at the end of World War II.

Then there was the pundit who claimed on the Internet that the term Mother of God for the Blessed Virgin Mary was inconsistent with Patristic theology (he dismissed the Council of Ephesus as an anti-Council and claimed that St. Augustine did not accept it despite several quotations that showed he in fact did).  This fellow further claimed that the dogma of the Perpetual Virginity was a 6th Century invention (despite the Protoevangelium of James from the 150s, the excommunication of Bishop Bonosus in the 3rd Century for his denial of this doctrine, and St. Jerome's treatise in defense of it from the 4th Century) . I openly challenged him to produce any quotations from an orthodox Church Father to support his views. Instead he whined at how mean I was to him and threatened to denounce me to AOL as a spammer.

Then there was the well know 'scholar' who had a been a teacher of our own Dr. Scott Hahn. This man claimed in a popular magazine article (Tabletalks, May 1994) that St. Thomas Aquinas was a Protestant . In fact that was the title of the article. When I read it, I expected to see some comparison between St. Thomas' views and those of Luther, Calvin, and others. In 1969, Fr. Henry McSorley had written a book Luther: Right or Wrong comparing the views of Luther and Aquinas on justification and I expected that he would refer to it. To my surprise, the article was a rambling hodge-podge of criticism aimed at Catholic doctrine, the views of Alister McGrath, and modern theology. McSorley was not referenced at all. In fact there was only one quotation from St. Thomas which was on another topic altogether unrelated to the central thesis of the paper.

I wrote this man 3 letters and spoke with him on the phone twice. I pointed out to him that he had not proven anything in his article and I referred him to several parts of the Summa Theologiae in which St. Thomas clearly sided with Trent (and with McGrath's assessment of Trent) against Luther's views. He asked me what I thought justification was and I answered him by quoting VERBATIM from the Summa:

Justification implies a transmutation from the state of injustice to the aforesaid state of justice.
{Summa Theologica > First Part of the Second Part > Question 113> Article 1}
http://www.newadvent.org/summa/2113.htm#1



He sputtered at me in disgust that I did not understand Aquinas at all. When I indicated that I had just QUOTED St. Thomas VERBATIM, he said I had taken it out of context. At that point, I told him quite honestly that I thought that he must have reasons for claiming that Aquinas was a Protestant but that I found nothing in the article to convince me. I asked him to provide me with quotations from St. Thomas to substantiate his allegation. He refused and told me that he was under no obligation to provide me with anything. He whined about how obtuse I was and so childish in "following Rome'" Furthermore told me I had insulted him by not just "taking my word for it." I had impugned his integrity and he would not answer anymore insulting questions. He then told me that he was a real 'catholic' and that I was not. At this point I realized he was being deliberately provocative and evasive. He knew that he had been caught out and he was making excuses for his refusal to defend what he knew was indefensible. The conversation was over.

Dealing with these people is like being caught in the middle of a Monty Python episode. The absurdities continue to mount and then as one sane voice points this out to the raving loonies there is a rude outburst of personal invective.

But the real cherry on top are the fawning sycophants who hang on every word these "experts" burble forth. These lay people feel that they have been thoroughly armed to slay the Catholic Beast by quoting the inanities of their favorite Anti-Catholic pundits. They get a rude awakening when they find that Catholic Apologists are smart, good debaters, and thoroughly informed on the topics under discussion. After making fools of themselves quoting nonsense from the Anti-Catholic stable of lies, they promise to return with a response and then slowly fade into the sunset looking for easier prey: some other Catholic who is less well informed on whom to try their lies and other attacks. When pressed to respond, they come back with the usual excuse that they have not been treated 'nicely.' This is a code word for "I lost the debate and I am running away."

So my advice to the Catholic people is to stay away from these Anti-Catholic ne'er do wells. They have nothing of value to tell you and you have no need of them. Let the Catholic Apologist handle them. if they cause trouble, refer them to us. We will take it from there. That way, they will not be back to bother you.

Art

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dr. Sippo utterly refutes Webster on the Canon

{Once again, the perfidy and gross dishonesty of Protestant anti-Catholic bigots rears its ugly head. About 11 years ago, I answered an e-mail inquiry about the assertions made by the apostate William Webster concerning the Old Testament Canon in the Catholic Church. This was an off-hand note in a private correspondence done in between patients at my medical office that was never intended to be published openly on the Internet. Nevertheless Webster got hold of it and made a scathing attack on me. He had some valid critques of the content, but basically, he failed to answer any of the significant points I had raised and continue to perpetuate his lies and errors about matters of fact.

In response, I sent a rebuttal directly to Webster correcting the mistakes in my e-mail and definitively refuting his errors. In fact over the last decade I have sent this response to him 3 times, but he has never done me the courtesy of acknowledging it. Instead, he is still harping on that original e-mail and posts it on his bulletin board while refusing to deal with any of the points that I raised in my rebuttal to him.

Someone over on the Surprised by Truth Apologetics Board is now throwing this same old e-mail back in my face. I am therefore placing the full text of my rebuttal here on my blog for the whole world to see. This will prove that Mr. Webster is neither a scholar nor a man of integrity.

It is my sincere wish that he will openly acknowledge his errors and admit them to himself as well as to the world to the glory of Jesus Christ.

Art Sippo}



Dr. Sippo Answers "Billy Burro"*
OR
Mr. Webster's Errors on the Canon Refuted


“A burro can ask more questions than a wise man can answer.”
(Old Mexican Proverb)


(* For those lacking in a knowledge of “reformation” polemical literature, this title is shamelessly based on the treatise “Dr. Luther replies to Goat Emser.” Turnabout is fair play.)


I note with dismay the response that Mr. William Webster made to my critique of his position paper on the Catholic Canon of Scripture. Mr. Webster is a well-known anti-Catholic author who writes books misrepresenting the Catholic Church and her history in order to impress uneducated Protestants. He specializes in taking known facts from history and then "explaining" them in novel ways that support his prejudices while ignoring the interpretations of serious historians. He refuses to accept the conclusions of normative historians when they conflict with his own and fails to appreciate the legitimacy of interpretations other than his own.

Webster is not a serious student of Church history and has no real desire to understand the sitz im leben of the pre-Reformation Church. He commits numerous errors and yet is very defensive about his opinions. He is not open to correction about his mistakes. His personal hatred of the Catholic Church blinds him to the possibility that we Catholics may have a rationale for our position even if he does not agree with it. Consequently, he needs to be constantly engaged in tenacious ad hominem personal attacks against anyone with the temerity to challenge his views. I for one wish he would appreciate the complexity of Church History and stop trying to interpret it in “black and white” terms using anachronistic Protestant presuppositions.

The sources of his "arguments" usually come from the works of Protestant controversialists of the 19th and early 20th Centuries many of which have been found wanting by subsequent scholarship. There is no appreciation of the wider context of Church History or of studies done apart from an anti-Catholic fortress mentality. He has no familiarity with the more genteel and exacting ecumenical work in Church History that has been done since World War II that cuts across denominational lines. He also has no idea what to make of modern religious studies. The significance of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls is lost on him. He also cannot understand the diversity of opinions among believing Christians throughout history. Like other ‘Low Church’ types, he thinks that Christianity was meant to be static and unchanging so that any development in doctrine or practice over the millennia must necessarily represent corruption.
(For some reason, he fails to see that the rapid and unrestrained “changes” in Christian teaching and practice during the Reformation must -- in light of his stasis theory -- be even more problematic.)

He has no appreciation for the historic Catholic Church and its body of teaching as works in process under the superintendence of the Holy Spirit. In short, he wants to invent his own better Church in competition with the one that Jesus founded.

My previous comments on Mr. Webster's position paper on the Catholic Canon of Scripture were written off the cuff and relied on my memory alone as a source of information. They were written in private correspondence in response to an e-mail inquirer. They were not meant for publication. There were some minor lapses in areas of fact that I will attempt to rectify. I apologize for these inaccuracies. In substance though, I agree with the bulk what I wrote and will demonstrate once again that Mr. Webster has not been telling the truth. There are both specific faults in Mr. Webster's position and more general methodological ones. I will deal with the latter first as an aid to specifically refuting each of the points he tried to defend in his response to my first critique.

A) What is official Catholic teaching?

Mr. Webster likes to decide for himself which historical documents represent official Catholic teaching. His criteria for this are simply whatever he thinks will support his conclusions. As such, he dismisses the Canons of the Council of Hippo and the Bulls promulgated by Pope Eugene IV during the Ecumenical Council of Florence as unofficial. Meanwhile he raises to infallible and ecumenical status the Commentary on Job by St. Gregory the Great, the 12th Century Glossa Ordinaria on Scripture, the 102 Canons of Quinisext, and the opinions of individual Christian scholars such as St. Jerome. Let us clear up the confusion.

Let us define what the Catholic Church means by its Magisterium:

Magisterium (Lat. magister, a master): The Church's divinely appointed authority to teach the truths of religion, "Going therefore, teach ye all nations... teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt. xxviii, 19-20). This teaching is infallible: "And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world" (ibid.). The solemn magisterium is that which is exercised only rarely by formal and authentic definitions of councils or popes. Its matter comprises dogmatic definitions of ecumenical councils or of the popes teaching ex cathedra, or of particular councils, if their decrees are universally accepted or approved in solemn form by the pope; also creeds and professions of faith put forward or solemnly approved by pope or ecumenical council. The ordinary magisterium is continually exercised by the Church especially in her universal practices connected with faith and morals, in the unanimous consent of the Fathers (q.v.) and theologians, in the decisions of Roman Congregations concerning faith and morals, in the common sense (q.v.) of the faithful, and various historical documents in which the faith is declared. All these are founts of a teaching,
which as a whole is infallible. They have to be studied separately to determine how far and in what conditions each of them is an infallible source of truth.

A CATHOLIC DICTIONARY (THE CATHOLIC ENCYCLOP├ćDIC DICTIONARY)
Edited By Donald Attwater
New York, The Macmillan Company, 1962.
(Copyright 1958, Third Edition)


The only documents that are considered Magisterial by the Catholic Church are those that are promulgated by the Pope (with or without an Ecumenical Council) and directed towards the Universal Church as definitive teaching. In some cases, the Popes have acknowledged the unique contribution of a particular author or local synod in setting forth the teaching of the Church. In such cases, documents originating from sources other than the Pope or an Ecumenical Council have been promulgated by the Popes as Magisterial. This includes the Council of Hippo, the Councils of Carthage, and the Council of Orange II. A collection of magisterial documents can be found in the compendium known as the Denzinger Enchiridion Symbolorum. It contains excerpts from the most important documents in chronological order. If a document is in Denzinger, it is considered to represent official Church teaching. If it is not in Denzinger, it can still represent magisterial teaching if it meets the criteria noted above. Many important Christian documents -- including some written by the Popes - do not meet the criteria to be considered official Church teaching. Many divergent opinions were held by the Church Fathers even on matters of doctrine.

Many Protestant controversialists think that this disproves the truth of the Catholic faith. Strangely, they claim that an infallible teaching authority ought to lead to a static, dictatorial, and unanimous agreement in theological matters from Apostolic times up to the present. (I find this odd since their own system of interpretation - which they claim to be infallible - has not resulted in any such uniformity.)

The Catholic Church has never claimed this nor has she sought such uniformity. As the Catholic Church matured from the 1st Century onwards, there has always been open discussion of controversial matters within the community of faith. On occasion, the Magisterium has stepped in to authoritatively assert the correct solution to a dispute. In some cases it has intervened to tell both sides that they cannot condemn their opponents as heretics because the matter was not clearly decidable. The policy has been unity in what is essential, tolerance in what is not, and charity in everything.

The writings of the Fathers are therefore not considered “official” teaching per se. Rather, they are witnesses to the periods in which they lived and to the ideas and traditions that were then current. The Council of Trent taught that the consensus of all the Fathers on any matter of doctrine would render it infallibly taught (e.g., the divinity of Christ, the necessity of the atonement, baptismal regeneration, the sacrificial nature of the Mass, and the substantial presence of Christ’s body & blood in the Eucharist). In those matters where there was less than full consensus, disputes sometimes arose and it often would take an act of the Magisterium to settle the issue. Ultimately, it was neither the opinion of any particular Father nor the overwhelming majority of Fathers which decided the case but the superintendence of the Holy Spirit acting through the hierarchy.

Therefore, despite Mr. Webster’s heartfelt desire, the mere fact that a document had been written by a Church Father does not automatically raise it to magisterial status no matter how popular it might have been at one time. By a strange coincidence, all of the documents Mr. Webster dismisses in his reply are recognized in Denzinger as magisterial. Meanwhile none of the ones he supports are even quoted. Yet he claims that the Catholic Church officially followed St. Jerome’s critical attitude towards the Deuterocanonical material of the Old Testament up until the Council of Trent. Since none of the works he quoted meets the criteria for magisterial status, we can see that Mr. Webster has created a phony “straw-man” Catholic Church whose teachings are not those of the real Catholic Church. He has done this to flimflam the unwary. As we will find that is not the least of his prevarications.


B) What does the term “infallible” mean when used by Catholic authors?

Mr. Webster has taken exception to my claim that the Canon of Scripture was infallibly defined by the Magisterium long before the Council of Trent. He rests his opinion in part on the use of the term “infallible” by some Catholic authors with regard to this question. In particular he alleges that Fr. Schroeder states in his translation of the documents of the Ecumenical Councils that the Council of Trent was the first instance in which the Canon of Scripture was declared infallibly by the Magisterium. He also quotes the New Catholic Encyclopedia to this effect as well. I think we can extend to Mr. Webster some leeway for his error here. Not being a Catholic scholar, he is not familiar with the conventions used in our literature. For many Catholic an author, saying that a teaching was “infallibly” taught was the equivalent of saying that it was taught by the Extraordinary Magisterium: either by a canon in an Ecumenical Council or by an ex cathedra statement of the Roman Pontiff.

Unfortunately, this use of terminology is seriously flawed and does not represent a precise understanding of defined Catholic teaching. The First Vatican Council taught the following with regard to the infallibility of the Church’s teaching:





Vatican I, Session 3,
Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith,
Chapter 3, Section 8

Wherefore, by divine and catholic faith all those things are to be believed which are contained in the word of God as found in scripture and tradition, and which are proposed by the church as matters to be believed as divinely revealed, whether by her solemn judgment or in her ordinary and universal magisterium. Infallible statements are therefore not restricted solely to the Extraordinary Magisterium (i.e., “solemn judgment”), but extend also to the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium of the Popes, the Hierarchy in union with him, or of a General Council.


This means that any teaching promulgated in a definitive way to the Catholic Church with the consent of the Popes is formally infallible. Some Catholic authors have been reticent about acknowledging infallibility in any document that was not formally an act of the Extraordinary Magisterium.


Note this section from the article on Infallibility in The Catholic Encyclopedia on the New Advent Web-Site:



As to the organ of authority by which such doctrines or facts are determined,three possible organs exist. One of these, the magisterium ordinarium, is liable to be somewhat indefinite in its pronouncements and, as a consequence, practically ineffective as an organ. The other two [Papal ex cathedra teaching & Ecumenical Councils], however, are adequately efficient organs, and when they definitively decide any question of faith or morals that may arise, no believer who pays due attention to Christ's promises can consistently refuse to assent with absolute and irrevocable certainty to their teaching.
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07790a.htm


The authors whom Mr. Webster quoted were following this scruple. They considered a teaching only to be clearly infallible when given by the Extraordinary Magisterium. In the light of Church Tradition and the teachings of Vatican I, they were technically in error. If you understand that they were using a common convention of their time, you realize that they were pointing the faithful to those sources of teaching that they thought were most unequivocal and “adequately efficient” in teaching Catholic doctrine infallibly. This unfortunate literary convention has confused many people so we can’t blame Mr. Webster for being among them.

This matter was a hot issue during the Modernist controversies in the middle of this century. Many theologians wanted to dismiss the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium as contained in Papal teaching such as encyclicals, apostolic exhortations, and other official documents.

Pope Pius XII responded to this in the encyclical Humani Generis (1949) paragraph 21:



Nor must it be thought that the things contained in Encyclical Letters do not of themselves require assent on the plea that in them the Pontiffs do not exercise the supreme power of their Magisterium. For these things are taught with the ordinary Magisterium, about which it is also true to say, 'He who hears you, hears me.' [Lk 10. 16]. . . If the Supreme Pontiffs, in their acta expressly pass judgment on a matter debated until then, it is obvious to all that the matter, according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs, cannot be considered any longer a question open for discussion among theologians.


There was further refinement on this matter by Vatican Council II in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, paragraph 25:



In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the
faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking…

And this infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals extends as far as the deposit of revelation extends, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded. And this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith (cf. Lk 22:32), by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals. And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment. For then the Roman Pontiff is not pronouncing judgment as a private person, but as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present, he is expounding or defending a doctrine of Catholic faith.


I want to present a recent case in point. In 1995, Pope John Paul II issued a document Ordinatio Sacerdotalis in which he reaffirmed the constant teaching of the Catholic Church that women are not valid matter for the sacrament of Holy Orders.

The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith made the following statement in response to a request for clarification on this matter:





This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 25, 2). Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith.

The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, at the Audience granted to the undersigned
Cardinal Prefect, approved this Reply, adopted in the ordinary session of this Congregation, and ordered it to be published.
Rome, from the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on the Feast of the Apostles SS. Simon and Jude, October 28, 1995.
+ Joseph Card. Ratzinger, Prefect


What these quotations prove is that infallibility extends beyond the Extraordinary Magisterium and includes any definitive Papal teaching on the content of the Catholic Faith as such. The Canons of Ecumenical Councils are considered to be Extraordinary Magisterial teaching. The other published material (i.e., the exposition preceding the canons and other documents promulgated in accordance with the Council’s decisions) are not considered part of the Extraordinary Magisterium, but part of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium. In practical terms, whatever these documents affirm is considered infallible and must be acknowledged as such.

The entire corpus of quotations in Denzinger meets the above criteria for infallibility. That is why this is an appropriate source for determining what is and isn’t Catholic doctrine. Hopefully, Mr. Webster will now appreciate how important Denzinger is to an understanding of real Catholic teaching.


Having addressed these two methodological issues, I would now like to proceed to comment on specific claims by Mr. Webster:

1) The Councils of Carthage and Hippo did not establish the Canon for the Church as a whole…

The Council of Hippo (393 AD) was one of a series of important local councils in North Africa held in the late 4th and early 5th Centuries. This series of councils was held to bring about reform and renewal in the North African Church and to deal with the Donatist and Pelagian heresies. Each council issued canons on matters of doctrine and discipline while reaffirming explicitly the canons of the other councils in the series that had preceded them.

This is the actual canon from the Council of Hippo according to Archbishop Hefele’s History of the Councils of the Church (vol. II, page 400). This canon was reaffirmed at every subsequent Carthaginian council in the series:




Canon 36.
ITEM, that besides the Canonical Scriptures nothing be read in church under the name of divine Scripture. But the Canonical Scriptures are as follows:

THE OLD TESTAMENT
Genesis.
Exodus.
Leviticus.
Numbers.
Deuteronomy.
Joshua the Son of Nun.
The Judges.
Ruth.
The Four books of Kings.
The Two books of Parlipomena. [Chronicles]
Job.
The Psalms of David.
The Five books of Solomon.
The Twelve Books of the Prophets.
Isaiah.
Jeremiah.
Ezekiel.
Daniel.
Tobias.
Judith.
Esther.
The Two Books of Esdras.
The Two books of Maccabees.

THE NEW TESTAMENT
The Four Gospels.
The Acts of the Apostles.
The Thirteen Epistles of St. Paul
The One Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews.
The Two Epistles of St. Peter, the Apostle.
The Three Epistles of St. John the Apostle.
The Epistles of St. James the Apostle.
The Epistle of St. Jude the Apostle.
The Revelation of St. John.

Concerning the confirmation of this canon, the Transmarine Church shall be consulted. On the anniversaries of Martyrs, their acts shall also be read.

(N.B., The term “Transmarine Church” means literally “the Church over the sea” and is clearly a reference to Rome, which was directly on the opposite side of the Mediterranean Sea. The four books of Kings include the two books of Samuel and the two books of Kings from the Hebrew Bible. The books of Baruch and Lamentations were considered part of Jeremiah. The five books of Solomon were the wisdom books: Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom, and Sirach.)

Explicit confirmation was given to this list by Pope St. Innocent I in 405 AD and 414 AD. The ultimate conclusion of the series was the Council of Carthage held in 418 AD. This was a major synod involving 200 bishops in which the North African Church presented its brief against the Errors of Pelagius and his disciple Coelestius who had appealed their case to Rome.

In his History of the Christian Church, Protestant Philip Schaff makes the following comment about the canons promulgated by this council:




Volume III
Chapter IX
Section 149

…These things produced a change in the opinions of [Pope] Zosimus, and about the middle of the year 418, he issued an encyclical letter to all the bishops of both East and West, pronouncing the anathema upon Pelagius and Coelestius (who had meanwhile left Rome), and declaring his concurrence with the decisions of the council of Carthage in the doctrines of the corruption of human nature, of baptism, and of grace. Whoever refused to subscribe the encyclical, was to be deposed, banished from his church, and deprived of his property.

The canons of the council of Carthage (418 AD) were thus declared by Popes Zosimus to represent authentic magisterial teaching to the whole Church. For this reason they were numbered among the 50 synods considered authoritative in the Western Church and the 85 Synods considered so in the East.

Mr. Webster insists that the decision of the Council of Hippo was unimportant and ignored by the Church as a whole. This position is rejected by virtually every major scholar -- Protestant or Catholic -- who has reviewed the evidence.

For example, Philip Schaff says:




History of the Christian Church
Vol. II
138. The Holy Scriptures and the Canon
The first express definition of the New Testament canon, in the form in which it has since been universally retained, comes from two African synods, held in 393 at Hippo, and 397 at Carthage, in the presence of Augustin, who exerted a commanding influence on all the theological questions of his age. By that time, at least, the whole church must have already become nearly unanimous as to the number of the canonical books; so that there seemed to be no need even of the sanction of a general council…

Soon after the middle of the fourth century, when the church became firmly settled in the Empire, all doubts as to the Apocrypha of the Old Testament and the Antilegomena of the New ceased, and the acceptance of the Canon in its Catholic shape, which includes both, became an article of faith.

Vol. III
118. Sources of Theology. Scripture and Tradition.
In the Western church the canon of both Testaments was closed at the end of the fourth century through the authority of Jerome (who wavered, however, between critical doubts and the principle of tradition), and more especially of Augustine, who firmly followed the Alexandrian canon of the Septuagint, and the preponderant tradition in reference to the disputed Catholic Epistles and the Revelation; though he himself, in some places, inclines to consider the Old Testament Apocrypha as deutero-canonical books, bearing a subordinate authority.

The council of Hippo in 393, and the third (according to another reckoning the sixth) council of Carthage in 397, under the influence of Augustine, who attended both, fixed the catholic canon of the Holy Scriptures, including the Apocrypha of the Old Testament…

This canon remained undisturbed till the sixteenth century, and was sanctioned
by the council of Trent at its fourth session.


Another Protestant scholar F. F. Bruce in his book The Canon of Scripture (page 97) says:

In 393, a church council held in Augustine’s see of Hippo laid down the limits of the canonical books along the lines approved by Augustine himself. The proceedings of this council have been lost but they were summarized in the proceedings of the Third Council of Carthage (397) a provincial council. These appear to have been the first Church Councils to make a formal pronouncement on the canon. When they did so they did not impose any innovation on the churches; they simply endorsed what had become the general consensus of the churches of the west and the greater part of the east.



Still another Protestant, Harry Y. Gamble, says the following in his book The New Testament Canon: Its Making and Meaning (page 55-56) –

The final resolution of the many variations [in the New Testament canon] we have noted began to take place in the late fourth century, primarily through the actions of ecclesiastical councils… In the west, two North African synods of the late fourth century promulgated lists of authoritative books. The Council of Hippo (393) and the Council of Carthage (397) both named the 27 books of our New Testament….

A broad uniformity of usage which closely approximates our [New Testament] canon cannot therefore be dated before the close of the fourth century… The canons of Hippo were recognized in later Church history for their orthodoxy and importance.


The Western Church had formally accepted all of the canons from Carthage as normative as we had noted earlier. With regard to the Eastern Church, Canon II of the Quinisext (Trullan) Council included explicit affirmation for all of the canons from Council of Carthage in 418 AD including the one on the Canon of Scripture from Hippo.

The Ecumenical Council of Nicea II (787) formally reaffirmed the following:

Anathema 4: If anyone rejects any written or unwritten tradition of the Church, let him be anathema…
Canon I : …We joyfully embrace the sacred canons and we maintain complete unshaken their regulation, both those expounded by those trumpets of the Spirit, the apostles worthy of all praise, and those from the six holy universal synods and from the synods assembled locally for the promulgation of such decrees, and from our holy fathers…


It is the universal opinion of all scholars whose work I consulted (i.e., Hefele, Schaff, Percival, & Tanner) that this affirmation was intended to extend to all of the canons of the Council of Carthage including the one from Hippo on the Canon of Scripture.

In summary, the Council of Hippo was a significant turning point in Church history. Prior to it, there was extensive debate as to the limits of both the Old and New Testament Canons. Afterwards, the limit of the NT Canon was fixed definitively for the Church and this list has become the universal norm. Its OT Canon became the norm in the Church as well but some reservations continued among certain Fathers concerning the exact status of the Deuterocanonical books within the Canon. While it did not have the status of an Ecumenical Council in itself, the decision of the Council of Hippo with regard to the Canon of Scripture was recognized by the Popes and subsequent Patriarchs and Bishops to be the norm of the Catholic Church. It has remained so to this day.

In my previous comments, I indicated that ‘the Council of Lyon’ had also affirmed this. I was in error. Neither of the Councils of Lyon deal with this matter. What I actually had in mind was an explicit quotation of the book of Sirach as scripture used by the Council of Basle/Florence. Such a usage implicitly reaffirms the authority of the Deuterocanon. I apologize for the oversight.

When I went back to the recent work of Fr. Norman Tanner SJ, Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, I found that in fact there had been 14 separate instances where an Ecumenical Council held between 787 AD and 1440 AD had quoted authoritatively from the Deuterocanonicals. In 3 cases the book in question (i.e., Sirach) was explicitly referred to as Scripture. In two instances (i.e., one each for Sirach and Wisdom) the equivalent phrase “it is written” was used.

The details are:
Deuterocanonical Quotations from the Ecumenical Councils:

Nicea II:
Canon 16 (787) - Sirach 1:32 (scripture)

Constantinople IV:
Canon 10 (869) - Sirach 11:7 (scripture)

Lateran IV:
Section 70 (1215) - Sirach 2:14, 3:28 (it is written)

Vienne:
Section 14 (1311) - Sirach 24:23
Section 24 (1311) - Wisdom 5:6
Section 38 (1312) - Sirach 24:41-42, 1:5; Susannah/Daniel 13:42

Basle/Florence:
Session 21(1435) - Sirach 18:23 (scripture)
Session 3 (1438) - Wisdom 10:19 (it is written)
Session 6 (1439) - Tobit 12:20
Session 7 (1439) - Susannah/Daniel 13:9
Session 9 (1440) - Wisdom 5:21


This means that for a period of over seven hundred years prior to the “reformation,” the Magisterium of the Catholic Church had been quoting from the Deuterocanonical books as Scripture in its highest level of authoritative teaching. All five of the above councils gave their implicit witness to the inspired and canonical status of these books and used them on an equal footing with the rest of Scripture. This would not have been possible if – as Mr. Webster has tried to claim - it had been “the practice of the Church as a whole from the time of Jerome up to the eve of the Reformation ” not to give the Deuterocanonical books “status on a par equal with the inspired Scripture.”

We then also have the history of the Deuterocanonical material is its use by the Fathers and the Scholastics. Here is what Protestant Bruce Metzger says in his book An Introduction to the Apocrypha, page 178ff:

Whether it was owing to the influence of Origen, or from some other reason, from the fourth Century onward, the Greek Fathers made fewer and fewer references to the Apocrypha as inspired…In the Latin Church, on the other hand, a much higher estimate was accorded to the books of the Apocrypha. Following the example of Tertullian and Cyprian, Augustine frequently quoted from them as if they were not different from the canonical books of the Hebrew Old Testament.

Furthermore, more than one Synodical Council justified and emphasized their use. Jerome, standing in this respect almost alone in the West, spoke out decidedly for the Hebrew Canon, declaring unreservedly that books, which were outside that canon, should be ranked as Apocryphal… But St. Jerome - critic as he was of the Deuterocanon - continued to use these books and to quote them as Scripture long after registering his objections.


As J. N. D. Kelly has written in his book Jerome: His Life Writings and
Controversies
(page 160-1):

Since Origen’s time it had been recognized that there was a distinction to be made between the Jewish canon and the list acknowledged by Christians, but most writers preferred to place the popular and widely used Deuterocanonical books in a special category (e.g., calling them ‘ecclesiastical’) rather than to discard them. Jerome now takes a much firmer line. After enumerating the “twenty-two” (or perhaps twenty-four) books recognized by the Jews, he decrees that any books outside this list must be reckoned ‘apocryphal’: “They are not in the canon.” Elsewhere, while admitting that the Church reads books like Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus [Sirach] which are strictly uncanonical, he insists on their being used solely for ‘edifying the people, not for orroboration of ecclesiastical doctrines.” This was the attitude which, with temporary concessions for tactical or other reasons, he was to maintain for the rest of his life - in theory at any rate, for in practice he was to continue to cite them as if they were Scripture.”

{In a footnote, Kelly refers to the book San Girolomo by A. Penna (pages 387-9) which documents a large number of such quotations made by St. Jerome up to the very end of his life. Many of the quotations were preceded with comments such as “it is written,” “Scripture says,” etc. The same thing is documented in Jay Braverman’s monograph Jerome’s Commentary on Daniel.}

This pattern of using the Deuterocanonical books as Scripture holds true for virtually all of the Church Fathers, including the ones who - like St. Jerome - voiced some objection to their place in the Bible. All you need to do to see this is to check the Scripture index in the back of the volumes of The Ante-Nicene Fathers and The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers in the Edinburgh patristic collection edited by Schaff and Wace. This fact is also clear in the works of the Great Church Fathers such as St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, St. Bonaventure, St. Albertus Magnus, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bernard and the majority of the Scholastics.

With regard to the Eastern Church Bruce Metzger wrote in his book on the Apocrypha page 192ff:

The position of the Eastern Orthodox Church regarding the canon of the Old Testament is not at all clear. On the one hand, since the Septuagint version of the Old Testament was used throughout the Byzantine Period, it is natural that the Greek theologians, such as Andrew of Crete, Germanus, Theodore the Studite, and Theophylact of Bulgaria, should refer indiscriminately to Apocryphal and canonical books alike. Furthermore certain Apocrypha are quoted as authoritative at the Seventh Ecumenical Council held at Nicea in 787 and at the council convened by Basil at Constantinople in 869. On the other hand, writers who raise the issue regarding the limits of the canon, such as John of Damacus and Nicephorus, express views which coincide with those of the great Athanasius, who adhered to the Hebrew canon… At the time of the Reformation…. [by] way of reaction, other leaders of Eastern Orthodoxy found it expedient, in confessions of faith and in decrees of synods, explicitly to place the Apocryphal books on level with the canonical books… What was perhaps the most important synod in the history of the Eastern Church was convened at Jerusalem in 1672. Chiefly directed towards the continuing influence of Cyril [Lucar of Constantinople] and ‘the party of the Calvinists,’ the Synod expressly designated the books of Wisdom, Judith, Tobit, Bel and the Dragon, Susanna, the Maccabees and Ecclesiasticus as canonical.


We can see that the extremely critical view of St. Jerome was never in the majority in the Church - either in the East or in the West - though there were always some scholars who accepted his position. Those who gave unqualified support to the Deuterocanon were more numerous. As time went on, while a significant number of scholars began to raise issue with the Deuterocanon, virtually every author in the pre-“reformation” period quoted from these books as Scripture. It is clear though that anyone who objected to the canonicity of the Deuterocanon after the triumph of the North African Councils was out of touch with Christian history, the mainline of Christian scholarship, and with the teaching of the Magisterium.

In summary, the use of the Deuterocanonical books as Scripture can be traced to the earliest times of the Apostolic Church. It continued in the Church up to the time of the “reformation” and beyond that to the present day. When we review the facts of history and the way that the majority of scholars in this area have interpreted them, clearly Mr. Webster is not telling the truth.


2) The New Catholic Encyclopedia actually affirms the fact that the Canon was not officially and authoritatively established for the Western Church until the Council of Trent…


The New Catholic Encyclopedia is a wonderful compendium, but it has its limitations and it certainly is not a magisterial document. I am under no obligation to agree with its conclusions. Based upon the above analysis of the North African Councils, I submit that the Canon of Scripture was fixed both de facto and de jure when the Popes formally accepted the canons of Hippo and Carthage. I stand on the clear history of the Church and its constant use of the Deuterocanonicals. This was an immemorial tradition confirmed by local synods, promulgated by the Popes to the Universal Church, and in constant use by Catholic Pastors, scholars, and teachers.

I have already mentioned the problem with the improper use of the term “infallible” by some Catholic authors. As I noted earlier, some authors use this to refer only to acts of the Extraordinary Magisterium, whereas defined Catholic doctrine extends infallibility to the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium as well. I apologize to Mr. Webster for the confusion caused by the poor use of terminology by Catholic authors, but what I am insisting upon is the correct interpretation. The fact that the canons from the Council of Hippo are included in Denzinger along with other similar material bears that out.

The questions concerning the extent of both the NT and OT canons resurfaced in the 15th Century with the rise of the Humanist movement. The Humanists mistrusted the received wisdom of tradition and wanted to get “back to the sources” of art, music, science, philosophy, rhetoric, and religion. They were obsessed with critically establishing the true content of ancient texts and of purging them from corruptions, bowdlerized editing, and forgeries. The criticism of the Deuterocanonicals by St. Jerome was quite appealing to them ideologically since he insisted that the authentic OT was the original Hebrew Bible. The Septuagint (LXX) Greek OT generally came on rough times in this environment. A preference was shown for the Hebrew text. The best Hebrew texts of this time were based on the Masoretic Text (MT) which was thought to be authentic. (We now know that it originated in the 8th Century AD.) The MT had added nikudot (i.e., vowel marks) to the Hebrew consonantal text as a way of ‘clarifying’ the meaning of the text. There were some significant differences between the LXX and the MT, which the Humanists usually chalked up to corruptions that had crept in with the translation from Hebrew into Greek.

Based on studies of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we now believe that there was a Western Palestinian variant of the Hebrew text of the Bible which was used during the time of Christ and which is closer to the meaning of the LXX than the MT in many places where they differ. (See Frank Moore Cross’s book Qumran and the History of the Biblical Text.) On this point at least, it appears that the assumptions of the Humanists were wrong.

The Humanists also assumed that the biblical canon of the ancient Church must also have been the same as that of the Jews at least initially. It is now widely accepted that there was no clearly closed ‘canon’ among the Jews until the 3rd Century AD. While the Pharisees had a canon formed in the mid-2nd Century BC, it was not held as normative by all Jews. According to the Talmud, the Sadducees only accepted the authority of the Pentateuch. The Qumran sectaries had their own view of the canon, which apparently included Jubilees, the Temple Scroll, 4QMMT, and possibly some others. Even in the mainstream of Pharisaic thought, there were disputes about the canon as late as 90 AD. The canonicity of Ezekiel, Song of Songs, Chronicles, and Ecclesiastes were questioned at the end of the 1st Century AD and there were strong moves to include Sirach and Wisdom. There was a text of Sirach found in the Cairo Genizah that dates from the 2nd-3rd Century AD which used several of the textual conventions reserved only to Scriptural books . There was no clear consensus among the rabbinical schools until well into the Christian era.

There have been recent attempts by Protestant fundamentalists such as Roger Beckwith to claim that the Jewish canon was closed definitively in the 2nd Century BC. Unfortunately, there are several problems with this scenario. First of all, Beckwith relies heavily on the existence of a mythical Great Sanhedrin (or some other official body), which would have had the authority to close the Canon. There is no evidence that this Sanhedrin ever existed. Beckwith claims that the prophetic voice was stilled in Israel after the Babylonian Exile so that any books written subsequently could not be inspired. He also assumes that Jews of all differing parties would have accepted this closure of the Canon. This puts him at odds with what the Talmud explicitly says about the Sadducees, and with the evidence from Qumran, the Cairo Genizah, and Jewish tradition. Finally, he cannot answer for certain who closed the canon, where it was closed, when, why, or by what authority. He proposes answers to these questions, but his answers are merely speculative. It all ends up looking overly simplistic and is not terribly convincing.

Besides if Beckwith is correct and the prophetic voice was silenced in Israel, then Jesus and St. John the Baptizer could not have been considered real Prophets by their contemporaries. That would have undermined their missions to say the least. There is also evidence form Josephus that there was genuine prophecy going on in Israel up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD (See Prophetic Figures in Late Second Temple Jewish Palestine by Rebecca Gray).

And if the Canon of Scripture had been closed before the coming of Christ, then there could have been no NT. The very existence of the NT proves that the Canon of Scripture in the objective sense was not yet completed before the time of Jesus.

In the 1960’s, Protestant A. C. Sundberg did his doctoral dissertation at Harvard on the origin of the Canon of the OT in the Early Church. His conclusion was that the long OT Canon - including the Deuterocanonicals - was a product of the Christian Church in the 2nd Century. He debunked the idea of a longer ‘Alexandrian’ biblical canon among Greek speaking Jews. His work is very important because it shows that the long OT canon is distinctively Christian and was not dependent upon Jewish opinion.

Mr. Webster also asserts that the listing of the Canon of Scripture in the Bull of Union with the Copts written by Pope Eugenius IV was not an infallible document. Again he bases this on his quotation of ‘experts.’ If we actually look at the Bull it says the following:

[The Holy Roman Church] professes that one and the same God is the author of the Old and the New Testaments - that is the Law, and the Prophets, and the Gospels - since the saints of both testaments spoke under the inspiration of the same Spirit. It accepts and venerates their books whose titles are as follows: [the long Canon of the OT and the 27 books of the NT]… After all of these explanations the aforesaid abbot Andrew, in the name of the aforesaid patriarch and of himself and of all the Jacobites, receives and accepts with all devotion and reverence this most salutary synodal decree with all of its chapters, declarations, definitions, traditions, precepts, and statutes and all the doctrine contained therein, and also whatever the holy apostolic see and the Roman Church holds and teaches.

This is a strong statement concerning a profession of faith in the Roman Church’s teaching. It was intended to be definitive and to represent the requirements of union between the Jacobites and the Roman Church. As such it qualifies as an act of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium and so is considered formally infallible.

The following is taken from the article on the Canon of the Old Testament from the New Advent Online Catholic Encyclopedia:

In 1442, during the life, and with the approval, of this Council, Eugenius IV issued several Bulls, or decrees, with a view to restore the Oriental schismatic bodies to communion with Rome, and according to the common teaching of theologians these documents are infallible states of doctrine.


http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03267a.htm

So I rest my case on this point. The inspiration and canonicity of the long Old Testament Canon was accepted by the Magisterium for over 1100 years before the “reformation” and whenever the Magisterium was confronted with this question down through the centuries, it always gave the same answer.


3) … even such an authority as Pope Gregory the Great rejected the Apocrypha as canonical:

As I stated in my original comments, St. Gregory made no magisterial pronouncements on the Canon of Scripture. The comment quoted by Mr. Webster was from his Commentary on Job also known as his Magna Moralia, which was a private work of interpretation and not a Magisterial document. Mr. Webster refuses to accept this conclusion because it does not suit his desired conclusions. Let me make my case clear.

By Mr. Webster’s own admission, the Moralia was started in 578 AD while St. Gregory was in Constaninople and he completed the last section (Book XXXV) in 595 AD. According to Protestant Rev. James Barmby DD (in NPNF 2nd Series volume XII, St. Gregory, page xxxi) it was “in a great measure written during his residence in Constantinople.” St. Gregory was Pope from 590 to 604 AD. Hence this work was started twelve years before he was Pope and was mostly composed before he assumed that office. In no way could this be considered an official magisterial document. It is a work of private speculation and has no authority beyond the
scholarship used in its composition.

Mr. Webster alleges that St. Gregory, “would never have purposefully expressed a view contrary to that which he knew had been authoritatively established by the Church.” I commend Mr. Webster on his faith in St. Gregory’s orthodoxy, especially since St. Gregory was an ardent champion of the jurisdictional primacy of the Roman See! But I don’t think Mr. Webster can really speak to St. Gregory’s state of knowledge when he wrote book XIX of the Moralia while in Constantinople. What he knew or did not know at that time concerning the teaching of the Church on the Canon is a matter of speculation. Regardless this was a private work of theology written long before he was Pope and so it has no bearing on the official status of the Deuterocanon within the Church.

Let us review that quote of Pope St. Gregory the Great more carefully:

With reference to which particular we are not acting irregularly, if from the books, though not Canonical, yet brought out for the edification of the Church, we bring forth testimony. Thus Eleazar in the battle smote and brought down an Elephant, but fell under the very beast that he killed.” (1 Macc 6:46)

[Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, (Oxford: Parker, 1845),
Gregory the Great, Morals on the Book of Job, Volume II, Parts III and IV,
Book XIX.34, p. 424]



So St. Gregory did not subscribe to St. Jerome’s extreme view of the Canon. He accepted the moderate view that the Deutrocanonicals were ‘ecclesiastical.’ But notice that he is apologizing for using 1Maccabees. He is not saying that it is of no value but rather that he felt the necessity of using this book despite doubts about its canonicity. This is very significant. The inspired character of 1Maccabees showed through despite the doubting of mere men. St. Gregory sensed it and was drawn to use it. Thus he is witnessing against the extreme view of Mr. Webster, which would dismiss the Deuterocanonicals as uninspired and useless to the Church. Mr. Webster tries to make St. Gregory’s comments into a Church wide standard that rejected the Deuterocanonicals. As we have seen, the level of reception for the Deuterocanonicals varied among churchmen during this period but the mainline of Christian tradition supported their canonicity.

In fact St. Gregory himself supports their canonical status in his own works. In his Book of Pastoral Rule which was written after the Moralia but while he was Pope, he quotes 12 times from Sirach, 2 times from Wisdom, 1 time from Tobit. Frequently with these quotations he uses the formula “it is written,” which he reserved for references to canonical Scripture. So like St. Jerome, St Gregory was inconsistent in some of his private opinions about the Deuterocanonicals compared to the way he used them in his published work. The inspired character of these books kept shining through despite his doubts.


4) There are major Fathers in the Church prior to the North African Councils who rejected the judgments of these councils.

There was no clear Tradition from the Apostles about the Canon of Scripture. It was the spontaneous use of the books by Christians over the first 300 years of Church history that firmly established the sacred books in the life of the Church. There was a great deal of dissention in the Early Church about both the NT and OT Canons. In fact, every pre-Hippo Father who championed the Hebrew Canon in the Church also had a NT Canon which was different from ours, including St. Athanasius.

Why did some early Fathers reject the longer OT Canon? Every expert whom I have consulted says the same thing: the objections arose among those Fathers who learned Hebrew and who had direct apologetic contact with Jews. This began in the late 2nd and early 3rd Centuries with such notable figures as St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Clement of Alexandria, and Origen. It is clear that before prior to that contact these same Fathers all accepted the longer OT Canon and quoted from it as Scripture. These Fathers wanted to argue with Jews using only the OT Scripture that the Rabbis accepted. This was the genesis of the whole problem. Because they wanted to beat the Jews in debates they questioned the authority of the Holy Spirit within the Church to discern the canonical limits of the inspired Word of God.


5) The books called 1 & 2 Esdras at Hippo and Carthage are not the same as the books of the same name recognized at Trent.

This is a complicated issue. For the sake of convenience I will use the following conventions in referring to these books:

LXX1Esdras = Apoc1Esdras = Vg3Edsras
LXX2Esdras = Ezra + Nehemiah
Hebrew-Ezra = Vg1Esdras
Hebrew-Nehemiah = Vg2Esdras

I first want to compliment Mr. Webster on coming up with a truly new issue in the study of Church History, which is worthy of serious scholarly study. The exact meaning that the fathers at the Council of Hippo gave to the ‘two books of Esdras’ is not clear. It is rare in apologetics that you discover a new issue that is worthy of extended investigation. I fear that I do not possess the necessary tools and expertise to settle this issue. But I am afraid that it does not have the apologetic importance that Mr. Webster thinks it does. First of all, the Council of Hippo had no magisterial authority of its own, but derived it from the support given to it by the confirmation of the ‘Transmarine Church’ (i.e., Rome). Consequently, what the fathers of Hippo meant when they spoke of the “two books of Esdras” is really immaterial. It is what the Popes intended when they promulgated the Council’s teaching that counts.

In Septuagint manuscripts, LXX1Esdras was an apocryphal book composed mostly of parts of Hebrew-Ezra with some other materials added. LXX2Esdras was a combination of the complete texts of Hebrew-Esdras and Hebrew-Nehemiah. When the Latin Vulgate was composed by St. Jerome, Hebrew-Esdras became 1Esdras (Vg1Esdras), Hebrew-Nehemiah became 2Esdras (Vg2Esdras),and LXX1Esdras became 3Esdras (Vg3Esdras) or what later came to be known as Apocryphal 1Esdras (Apoc1Esdras).

Since 383 AD, St. Jerome had come to accept the concept of ‘Hebrew Verity.’ That is, in disputes over the canon and textual content of the bible he deferred to the Hebrew text as being most correct. This was well known at that time and was one of the guiding principles for his translation of the Bible into Latin that had been requested by Pope St. Damasus. Really the dispute over the authentic text of the ‘two books of Esdras’ had started with Origin’s Hexapla texts 140 years earlier. This was nothing new. St. Jerome was actually in the process of translating Ezra and Nehemiah from 393-394 AD according to Kelly and the New Catholic Encyclopedia. This means that his work on these books was contemporary with the Council of Hippo and his decision as to the nature of the authentic text of the Esdras material had been made earlier. It is likely that the council fathers at Hippo knew of this work and they may have agreed with St. Jerome’s opinion on this matter. Unfortunately, we do not have the Acta from the council and so we probably cannot reconstruct the deliberations on this.

Whatever the case, St. Jerome completed the translations for the Vulgate by 405-406 AD. When the Popes reaffirmed the Canon of Scripture from Hippo/Carthage in 401, 414, and 418 AD there is no doubt of their intentions. They saw the ‘two books of Esdras’ as identical to the books of Esdras in St. Jerome’s Vulgate translation, which were based upon the Hebrew text of Ezra and Nehemiah. It was this understanding of the text of the ‘two books of Esdras’ which was promulgated ever after in the Church and which was adopted by the Councils of Florence and Trent.

The quotation of LXX1Esdras by St. Augustine in The City of God to which Mr. Webster refers is an interesting historical note but is of no consequence. It is the intention of the Popes who promulgated the Canon from Hippo which counts and their position is quite clear.


6) Hippo and Carthage state that Solomon wrote 5 books of the Old Testament when in actuality he wrote 3.

Mr. Webster apparently did not do his homework. He alleges that “It was not the common practice of the Church to refer to these [5 wisdom] books as Solomon’s.” Kelly states on page 236 of Jerome that St. Jerome wrote a letter in which he debunked the supposed authorship of the books of Sirach and Wisdom “that were widely believed to be also by Solomon.” St. Augustine says in his treatise On Christian Doctrine Book 2, Chapter 8:

“For two books, one called Wisdom and the other called Ecclesiasticus, are ascribed to Solomon from a certain resemblance of style, but the most likely opinion is that they were written by Jesus the son of Sirach.”


Pope St. Gregory the Great in his Book of Pastoral Rule refers to the author of Sirach as “Solomon” in a quotation in Chapter XV (NPNF, 2nd Series, vol. XII, page 39).

Nothing more needs to be said. Mr. Webster again is not telling the truth.


7) The universal practice of the Church as a whole up to the time of the Reformation was to follow the judgment of Jerome who rejected the Old Testament Apocrypha on the grounds that these books were never part of the Jewish Canon.

We have already covered this matter in detail. The universal practice of the church from the time of St. Jerome up to the “reformation” was to argue about the canonicity of these books but to simultaneously quote from them as Scripture. While there were people who did not accept these books as canonical, the mainstream of Catholic thought (typified by St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and the Ecumenical Councils) always did. In retrospect, this was the traditional position inherited from the early Church and confirmed by the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium of the Church.

A quick word about the Glossa Ordinaria. This was a popular compilation of scriptural comments from the 12th Century that was used extensively during the Middle Ages. It was never an ‘official’ commentary and had no magisterial status. It collected a variety of opinions on the biblical texts from many sources.

I discovered something on the Internet the other day. Southern Methodist University had a display of rare biblical texts a few years ago from the collection of Charles Ryrie who composed the Dispensationalist study bible that bears his name. One of the listings was as follows:

This manuscript contains the "Sapiential" Books of the Bible, pertaining to the wisdom of God: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, Wisdom, and Ecclesiasticus. Produced in France early in the thirteenth century, it consists of 180 vellum leaves illuminated with red and blue initials, paragraph markings and chapter numbers. The gothic scripts of the biblical text, glossa ordinaria, interlinear gloss, and marginal commentary are written in various sizes by at least four different hands.


So there were Glossa Ordinaria pertaining to the Deuterocanonical books as well as to the Protocanonicals.


8) The Opinions of several late Patristic and medieval authors rejected the
Apocrypha. (e.g., Rufinus, Cajetan, etc)


This points out one of the great errors of the Protestant revolt. Protestantism was founded on the revolt of certain men with university training who denied the authority of the Historic Catholic Church and her Hierarchy to teach and preserve sound doctrine. Their whole movement was founded on rhetoric and well-structured academic debates rather than on faith in the Holy Spirit’s power to superintend the Church. Ever since then in the Protestant world, academic standards and the consensus in the universities have replaced Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium as the norms for interpreting Scripture. As such, Protestant theologies are built upon a ‘Pelagian’ attitude towards doctrine. As long as there was some scholar with a body of work that was stylistically compelling, or particularly well argued, there would usually be some Protestant who would turn that man’s speculations into an article of faith. Meanwhile they condemned the simple Catholic people who placed their implicit faith in the Church’s teaching claiming that they had not worked hard enough in understanding their faith.

Right is right if no one is right. Wrong is wrong if everybody is wrong. A mere show of hands among “acknowledged experts”, a rhetorical flourish in written form, or even an opinion from someone with an academic degree can do nothing to make a falsehood become true. Some people are spectacularly wrong. Others are banal yet correct. It doesn’t matter how many people Mr. Webster can dredge up who objected to the Deuterocanonical books. They were wrong.

The vast majority of Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theologians down through the centuries have accepted these books as canonical. But even if the Popes in each age stood alone and held out for their canonicity, that would be enough. Doctrine is not determined by a show of hands by theologians, but “men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2Peter 1:21).


9) Roman Catholic apologists often assert that the canons of Carthage were authoritatively received by the 6th Ecumencial Council [Quinisext]. What they never add is that this council also received the canons of Athanasius and
Amphilocius which also have to do with the canon. (The 102 canons of Quinisext (Council of Trullo) have always been considered part of the 5th and 6th ecumenical council by the Seventh Ecumenical Council and by the Roman Church.)

This is a particularly egregious misrepresentation by Mr. Webster because he is obviously familiar with the sources that I am about to quote. I think these quotations will speak for themselves:

History of the Christian Church
by Philip Schaff
Volume IV
Chapter XI
Section 114.
Concilium Quinisextum. a.d.
692.
....The fifth and sixth ecumenical councils passed doctrinal decrees, but no disciplinary canons. This defect was supplied by a new council at
Constantinople in 692, called the Concilium Quinisextum, also the Second Trullan Council, from the banqueting hall with a domed roof in the imperial palace where
it was held. It was convened by the Emperor Justinian II. surnamed Rinotmetos, one of the most heartless tyrants that ever disgraced a Christian throne. He ruled from 685-695, was deposed by a revolution and sent to exile with a mutilated nose, but regained the throne in 705 and was assassinated in 711. The supplementary council was purely oriental in its composition and spirit. It adopted 102 canons, most of them old, but not yet legally or ecumenically sanctioned. They cover the whole range of clerical and ecclesiastical life and discipline, and are valid to this day in the Eastern church. They include eighty-five apostolic canons so called (thirty-five more than were acknowledged by the Roman church), the canons of the first four ecumenical councils, and of several minor councils, as Ancyra, Neo-Caesarea, Gangra, Antioch, Laodicea, etc.; also the canons of Dionysius the Great of Alexandria, Peter of Alexandria, Gregory Thaumaturgus, Athanasius, Basil, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzum, Amphilochius of Iconium, Timothy of Alexandria, Cyril of Alexandria, Gennadius of Constantinople, and an anti-Roman canon of Cyprian of Carthage. The decretals of the Roman bishops are ignored. The canons were signed first, by the emperor; the second place was left blank for the pope, but was never filled; then follow the names of Paul of Constantinople, Peter of Alexandria, Anastasius of Jerusalem, George of Antioch (strangely after that of the patriarch of Jerusalem), and others, in all 211 bishops and episcopal representatives, all Greeks and Orientals, of whom 43 had been present at the sixth ecumenical council. The emperor sent the acts of the Trullan Council to Sergius of Rome, and requested him to sign them. The pope refused because they contained some chapters contrary to ecclesiastical usage in Rome. The emperor dispatched the chief officer of his body guard with orders to bring the pope to Constantinople. But the armies of the exarch of Ravenna and of the Pentapolis rushed to the protection of the pope, who quieted the soldiers; the imperial officer had to hide himself in the pope’s bed, and then left Rome in disgrace. Soon afterwards Justinian II. was dethroned and sent into exile. When he regained the crown with the aid of a barbarian army (705), he sent two metropolitans to Pope John VII. with the request to call a council of the Roman church, which should sanction as many of the canons as were acceptable. The pope, a timid man, simply returned the copy. Subsequent negotiations led to no decisive result.

The seventh ecumenical Council (787) readopted the 102 canons, and erroneously ascribed them to the sixth ecumenical Council. The Roman church never committed herself to these canons except as far as they agreed with ancient Latin usage. {Emphasis added} Some of them were inspired by an anti-Roman tendency. The first canon repeats the anathema on Pope Honorius. The thirty-sixth canon, in accordance with the second and fourth ecumenical Councils, puts the patriarch of Constantinople on an equality of rights with the bishop of Rome, and concedes to the latter only a primacy of honor, not a supremacy of jurisdiction. Clerical marriage of the lower orders is sanctioned in canons 3 and 13, and it is clearly hinted that the Roman church, by her law of clerical celibacy, dishonors wedlock, which was instituted by God and sanctioned by the presence of Christ at Cana. But second marriage is forbidden to the clergy, also marriage with a widow (canon 3), and marriage after ordination (canon 6). Bishops are required to discontinue their marriage relation (canon 12). Justinian had previously forbidden the marriage of bishops by a civil law. Fasting on the Sabbath in Lent is forbidden (canon 55) in express opposition to the custom in Rome. The second canon fixes the number of valid apostolical canons at eighty-five against fifty of the Latin church. The decree of the Council of Jerusalem against eating blood and things strangled (Acts 15) is declared to be of perpetual force, while in the West it was considered merely as a temporary provision for the apostolic age, and for congregations composed of Jewish and Gentile converts. The symbolical representation of Christ under the figure of the lamb in allusion to the words of John the Baptist is forbidden as belonging to the Old Testament, and the representation in human form is commanded (canon 82).

These differences laid the foundation for the great schism between the East. and the West. The supplementary council of 692 anticipated the action of Photius, and clothed it with a quasi-ecumenical authority.



Protestant Henry R. Percival said this about Quinisext:

Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church (Second Series)
VOLUME XIV: THE SEVEN ECUMENICAL COUNCILS
Page 355ff
The Canons
of the Council in Trullo; Often Called the Quinisext Council.
a.d. 692.
Elenchus.
Introductory Note.
From the fact that the canons of the Council in Trullo are included in this volume of the Decrees and Canons of the Seven Ecumenical Councils it must not for an instant be supposed that it is intended thereby to affirm that these canons have any ecumenical authority, or that the council by which they were adopted can lay any claim to being ecumenical either in view of its constitution or of the subsequent treatment by the Church of its enactments... {Emphasis added}

Pope Sergius refused to sign the decrees when they were sent to him, rejected them as “lacking authority” (invalidi) and described them as containing “novel errors.” With the efforts to extort his signature we have no concern further than to state that they signally failed. Later on, in the time of Pope Constantine, a middle course seems to have been adopted, a course subsequently in the ninth century thus expressed by Pope John VIII., “he accepted all those canons which did not contradict the true faith, good morals, and the decrees of Rome,” a truly notable statement! Nearly a century later Pope Hadrian I. distinctly recognizes all the Trullan decrees in his letter to Tenasius of Constantinople and attributes them to the Sixth Synod. “All the holy six synods I receive with all their canons, which rightly and divinely were promulgated by them, among which is contained that in which reference is made to a Lamb being pointed to by the Precursor as being found in certain of the venerable images.” Here the reference is unmistakably to the Trullan Canon LXXXII.

Archbishop Hefele’s summing up of the whole matter is as follows: (Hefele, Hist. of the Councils, Vol. V., p. 242.)
{***The following paragraph in brackets is added by Dr. Sippo from page 242 in Hefele to show the complete statement of Bishop Hefele about the papal response to Quinisext. It immediately precedes the part quoted by Percival:}

["Probably Tarsius of Constantinople had also written to the pope what he persuaded the Second of Nicea to, that the same fathers who held the sixth Synod had added the appendix four or five years later... This historical and chronological assertion, Hadrian, as well as the members of the Seventh Ecumenical Council seem to have believed. That, however, the pope would not have approved of all the Trullan Canons we read in his words quoted above: He approved those 'quae jure ac divnitas promulgatae sunt' {'which were rightly and divinely promulgated'}. Hadrian I seems here to have done as subsequently Martin V and Eugenius IV did in the confirmation of Constance and Basle. They selected such expressions as did not expressly embrace the confirmation of all the canons, but -- properly explained -- excluded a certain number of the decrees in question from the papal ratification.] ***
"That the Seventh Ecumenical Council at Nicea ascribed the Trullan canons to the Sixth Ecumenical Council, and spoke of them entirely in the Greek spirit, cannot astonish us, as it was attended almost solely by Greeks. They specially pronounced the recognition of the canons in question in their own first canon; but their own canons have never received the ratification of the Holy See."


I would add only a few further comments. If as Mr. Webster alleges Quinisext was accepted in the West as ecumenical, then why were none of its canons ever enforced in the Latin Church? The 102 Quinisext canons are not included in Denzinger or in the collections of the Documents of the Ecumenical Councils done by Fr. Schroeder or Fr. Tanner. Virtually no mention is made of Quinisext in any Catholic Church history books such as the sets by Fr. Philip Hughes or Fr. Hubert Jedin.

This does not mean that the Latin Church’s view of Quinisext was entirely negative. Quite the contrary, we have accepted it as an expression of Eastern Christian practice and discipline. It is the basis for the Eastern Rite canon law code among Eastern Churches in Union with Rome and for similar codes among the Orthodox as well. The Catholic Church has just never considered it ecumenical.

As to the “contradictions” between the canon of Hippo on the Canon of Scripture and those of St. Amphilocus & St. Athanasius, there was actually a total of 5 different listing of the Canon of Scripture among the 102 Canons at Quinisext. None of them are identical with each other. To counter the argument that they were contradictory to each other, Percival opined that the affirmation of these canons was “not specific but general” (page 611). In other words, Quinisext was giving a general witness to the usage of the Scriptures in the Early Church with these different canons. As in any law code, there are bound to be portions of that code which are obsolete, superceded, or over-turned by judicial authority. Since the long Canon has always predominated in the Eastern Church we can only surmise that Quinisext would have given pride of place to the Canon of Scripture from Hippo/Carthage.

Once again, we must conclude that Mr. Webster has not told us the truth here either.

Epilogue:
I hope it is obvious that the position that Mr. Webster espouses has some serious problems. He has not done his homework and is patently wrong about many things. On the other hand, he has pointed out some very interesting questions that have helped me to further understand the history of the Christian Church. While I appreciate his spunk in trying to find numerous hard questions for us Catholic apologists to answer, the time has come for him to admit that his thesis concerning the Canon of Scripture and Church History is untenable. While there was some debate in the Early Church over the extent of the Biblical Canon, there never was a time when the Church officially rejected the Deuterocanonical books. The mainstream of Catholic thinkers supported the long Canon. The few defectors from Catholic Tradition were simply out of touch with Magisterial teaching. Happily the Holy Spirit always maintained superintendence over the Church and, whenever the question arose about the canon of Scripture, the Church responded faithfully that the long Canon was part of the Sacred Tradition that she had received from the Early Church. I hope that Mr. Webster will see the light and turn his attention to some other more credible project. I also hope that this has been enlightening for him and that he will take the time to re-evaluate his position before God. The time to commit himself to Christ is now, not later. Time is running short and there is no salvation outside of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church founded by Jesus. I invite Mr. Webster to come to his senses and to leave his bondage to the Protestant lie and join us on the Barque of Peter. May God bring him to everlasting life!

Art Sippo MD, MPH
Omnes semper - ad Jesum, per Mariam, cum Petro.