Sungenis’ critique of Pope John Paul II

Yes, I am forced to write another post against Robert Sungenis, this time because of his recently (re-)published article against His Holiness John Paul II and his holiness;) Despite the argument, I still wish to express and maintain my respect and friendship toward Mr. Sungenis. The Church needs honest, good debates, it’s a sign of the love of Truth.

Again a couple of introductory words about my personal spiritual journey. The first time I wrote against Sungenis I was in crisis, the second time I was more at peace, now I am doing even better, loving the Church and trying to think with it and spread its message in fresh ways. The prayers of Sungenis and his friends might well have been heard:)

1000 against 10

Some general comments about why I disagree with Sungenis and where I think his mistakes lie. First, I have spent the last 6 months in Cracow, the city where John Paul II (henceforth JP2) studied, was ordained and ruled as Bishop and Archbishop. This was his home, this is what he left behind him, here you find his legacy, one feels it.

As a theologian I’ve been digging deep into JP2 and his pupils, read 4 biographies, seen 2, heard 1. Most recently I went to the movies to see the new documentary film about him, “Szukałem Was…” I attended Mass in his private chapel, where he also received Orders, and met people who knew him. The overwhelming overall impression one gets from everything and everyone is that of holiness.

Sungenis has some valid concerns, but his 10 pages (actually 9) of argumentation pale in comparison with the 1000 pages of biographies that show the true face of the saintly Pope, his everyday life, conduct and faith. Of course everyone should find out and judge for themselves, but there are some good reasons why Sungenis is in the tiny minority.

I don’t know how many biographies of JP2 Mr. Sungenis has read, but I feel one of his problems is a lack of honest research – instead of the authentic sources he repeats the arguments of traditionalist Catholics. I will illustrate this later on. Another problem seems to be Sungenis’ hyper-Tridentine Catholicism. What is wrong with this, I will also illustrate below.

A third problem, connected to the second, is a lack of consistency in thinking with the Church. A fourth problem, connected to the third, is a negative attitude, not giving JP2 a charitable interpretation or the benefit of a doubt. All of this leads to the fifth problem which is Sungenis’ inconsistency in his own apologetics.

Lack of honest research

What caught my attention here at first was Sungenis’ treatment of Islam. He claims the Koran says in “Article 2: ‘He who believes in the Trinity is impure, just like excrement and urine.’” First of all, there are no “Articles” in the Koran, but Surahs and Ayahs, sometimes called chapters and verses.

I looked into Surah 2 but found no such verse there. In fact, when I copy-pasted and googled the sentence, all I found was traditional Catholic apologetics sites with the same argument. This is when I started doubting the quality of Sungenis’ research. I recall he has been “caught” before for having copied incorrect materials from other websites.

I have been following both serious debates between Christians and Muslims as well as the interreligious dialogue between Christianity and Islam. This (as it seems) made-up verse has never come up in any of these debates, but more importantly, Sungenis is out of touch with what these religions have achieved in their common dialogue and how one should deal with the differences in them.

I would recommend Pope Benedict’s interview The Light of the World on this topic as well as his recent Good Friday response to a Muslim woman inquiring about Jesus and peace. This is a perfect example of how the Church should interact with Islam. Pope Benedict doesn’t start by condemning Islam for its denial of Christ but starts with a prayer for God’s blessing and a recognition of Islam’s faith in Jesus as prophet.

But then the most important part: the Pope doesn’t leave it there, but goes on to explain how the Incarnate God in Christ Crucified reveals that violence can never come from God. The Pope calls this the “true” message of Jesus. Similarly, Pope John Paul II was invited to address about 100 000 young Muslims in Casablanca by King Hassan II, and he spoke to them about his Christian faith.

Hyper-Tridentine Catholicism

Let’s deal with the Tridentinism of Sungenis’ approach. I understand it. Been there. One sees the problems in Sola Scriptura, one embraces the “infallible” Magisterium and especially Trent and Vatican I, since they deal with the issues we too face: Protestantism and the Enlightenment. Vatican II, however, is a bit suspect, because its approach is so different from the two previous councils, which supposedly represent the perennial Faith, the changeless Truth.

The problem with this approach is its naivety. Trent is simply Trent, it’s 16th century. The Apostolic Christianity of the first two centuries was not Tridentine Catholicism, and the teaching of the Catholic Church today is not Tridentine Catholicism. There is no good reason to make Trent the ultimate standard.

A nice illustration occurs toward the beginning of Sungenis’ paper, where he calls the Tridentine Catechism (CR) “one of the purest publications of doctrine the Church has ever produced”. Judging by what? If “pure” means “Tridentine” as it seems to do for Sungenis, then it’s no surprise the Catechism of the Council of Trent is pure. But if your standard is, for example, the Apostolic Faith (see eg Irenaeus and the Apostolic Creed) or the latest ecumenical council, one thanks God one has the CCC instead.

To list three main problems with the CR: 1) Its ignorance of early liturgies and the development of doctrine. The CCC is much more patristic and liturgical. 2) Its scholastic method of Scripture interpretation, using naive proof-texting. The CCC is much more biblical, entering into the vision of the inspired authors. 3) Its naivety in proclaiming that the faith (its faith) is certain and cannot be at all doubted – which the CCC implicitly does by teaching many things very differently.

Examples of concrete doctrinal defects: The CR teaches the damnation of babies who die without baptism, it teaches all sorts of late baptismal liturgical ceremonies were “no doubt” instituted by the Apostles and that the words and chrism of Confirmation were ordained by Christ Himself.

The CR says Luke 13:3 refers to post-baptismal mortal sins and the sacrament of confession and contradicts Paul on whether all men will die. Also compare the CR and the CCC on the sacrament of orders and its stages – the CCC obviously being much more biblical and apostolic (deacon, priest/presbyter and bishop).

Think with the Church

I remember a conversation I personally had with Mr. Sungenis when I visited him in 2009. He complained that some of his traditionalist friends don’t want to accept Vatican II, and said that one must accept all the councils.

Vatican II did not proclaim its teaching infallible, but it is what the Church officially believes and teaches, and so a Catholic should wish to embrace it and think with it. The same goes for post-conciliar official teaching. Of course one is free to question some of these teachings, but one should also be self-critical.

There are many examples of where I think Sungenis uncritically sticks to the 16th century and thus fails to think along with the Church, guided and inspired by the Spirit of God. One such case is the issue of justification. With the Joint Declaration (JD), Sungenis exclaims, “The Council of Trent is overruled!” Again, Sungenis remarks: “Apparently the Council of Trent wasn’t good enough for John Paul II.”

Again one wonders whether Sungenis is at all up to date with Catholic-Lutheran dialogue. I happen to live in the most Lutheran country in the world, and I’m well aware of and grateful for the progress made in the ecumenical encounters on this topic. In Cracow also talked to a Polish priest and scholar who wrote his doctorate on this very topic.

So, how is one to assess Sungenis’ approach? First, he misrepresents the JD, which does not “overrule” the confessional documents of the dialogue partners, but achieves an understanding acceptable to both so that the condemnations do not apply to the Catholic&Lutheran views as formulated in this document.

I’d rather say that Trent was good, but not enough – the theologians at the council often worked on the basis of citations of Protestant doctrine taken out of context, not having the Protestants themselves present to explain their faith and have an honest dialogue with them.

“Trent’s anathemas didn’t much matter to the liberal Catholics” – well, look at Unitatis Redintegratio and ask who are the Catholics in line with the Church’s mind? If the Church views Protestants as brothers who have the Word of God, the Gospel, faith, hope and charity, the grace of the Spirit, baptized into the body of Christ, one is bound to question the weight of the disciplinary anathemas of times past, still characterized by the newness of the problem and predating the ecumenical conversion.

Charitable interpretations

Closely linked with the previous is the question of one’s attitude toward controversial issues. A prime example is the Prayer meeting in Assisi. I recall Sungenis telling me he asked other Catholic apologists why they didn’t stand up for the truth in this issue and speak out against the Pope. I ask Sungenis why he won’t give the Pope a charitable interpretation.

Sungenis’ critique of the Pope is very similar to the one presented by more radical traditionalists (Sedevacantists and the like). They immediately speak of syncretism and praying together with pagan religions, which is of course against what previous Popes have taught, and so condemn JP2.

Well, in Poland I got to read the Pope’s personal secretary’s telling of the story. So far I had only read about Assisi from its antagonists. What a fresh read it was, Stanislaw Dziwisz’s A Life with Karol. Here the Cardinal explains the political background for the Pope’s idea. The cold war was on and the Pope could sense further trouble (cf. the Balkan, the Gulf). As a world leader he was searching for a way to peace.

He was praying intensively and received a sudden inspiration that convinced him. A religious way to peace, which would bring religion back to the forefront in the face of secularism and atheism: let’s get as many people as possible to pray for peace! And now the most important part: Dziwisz says JP2 had to remind critics repeatedly that we are coming together to pray, not that we are coming to pray together.

These two facts, the political background and the distinction cited above, are never honestly presented by the traditionalist critics. They wish to hide them and make it look as bad as possible, as if the Pope was just looking for a way to show his religious indifference and relativism. On the contrary, the Pope expressly spoke out against syncretism and underlined the necessity of witness.

Consistent apologetics

At the end of his paper Sungenis states that John Paul II’s canonization would settle the debate about the infallibility of canonizations for him. I take this to mean that Sungenis would then disagree with an official papal declaration, and perhaps even doubt that John Paul II, whom the whole Church would be venerating and praying to, is in heaven.

Again this goes against Sungenis’ apologetic goal to accept everything the Church says, and not pick and choose parts of it. In fact, he has strongly attacked the “it’s not infallible” -kind of argumentation when it suits him. A recent example is his response to Dave Armstrong on the Galileo case.

Sungenis grants the Church didn’t infallibly reject heliocentrism, but maintains that a Catholic shouldn’t infer that it’s not official or binding Church teaching that heliocentrism is wrong. In his book on Galileo he says it’s one thing to admit a teaching isn’t infallible (which goes for most teachings, anyway), another thing to say it’s in error. The latter is what Sungenis doesn’t want to allow, in order to rescue the Tridentine axiom “the Church cannot err”.

But now Sungenis is ready to give up and make his own apologetics much less credible: he is prepared to reject not only doctrinal documents approved by the Church (the JD, and indirectly the UR), not only to oppose the pastoral decisions of the Pope (Assisi, the approach to Islam), but to question an official declaration of the Pope, which is supposed to bind the whole Church. That’s something to ponder.

Conclusion

Gentile Christianity certainly seemed novel to some Jewish Christians in the 1st century. Augustine’s Christianity and his synthesis of Christianity with Platonism was novel in his time, and again Thomas’ Christianizing Aristotle was novel in his time. Why should all these be great, but John Paul II’s theology of the body, his great synthesis of Christianity with modern philosophical currents (personalism, phenomenology), be all bad?

So in closing I would like to say to my friend Mr. Sungenis, and to the Catholics that take these positions with him: get real! It’s not the 16th century any more, it’s the 21st, and if the Spirit is still at work in the Church, and it is (open your eyes to the amazing expansion of the Church in Africa and Asia, for instance…), then the Spirit is leading the way and you’re in need of the same conversion the Church has already experienced.

Praise God, I’ve had this conversion myself and it is a beautiful thing to be able to look at the world and the Church and see so much good, so much hope, so much joy. Jesus is present where two or three are gathered in His name, much more than in the lonely and bitter voices of the ultra-orthodox traditionalists. I now return the favor to Mr. Sungenis and ask my readers to pray for him. God bless!

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10 Comments on “Sungenis’ critique of Pope John Paul II”

  1. Oskari Says:

    Thanks, Emil! This was very interesting. I’m not personally so interested in Sungenis, but what makes this post interesting is that it discusses a range of issues of much broader relevance.

    We’re ALL in constant need of conversion. Not just some of us, and not just sometimes.

    • Emil Anton Says:

      Thanks, Oskari!

      As for conversion, what is the point of constant conversion? If you’ve just converted, i.e. turned around, and now you say you need to turn around again, then why did you turn this way in the first place? You’re going in circles and getting nowhere if you convert all the time. The “constant conversion” is a popular slogan but it’s not really that sense-making, or apostolic, for that matter. In the New Testament metanoia, conversion, happens when you repent and come to faith, and then, perhaps again later on in the Christian life if one has sinned seriously. But for those who are living according to the Spirit, one is rather constantly in need of renewal and sanctification, not conversion.

  2. Nick Says:

    Overall, I agree that there are some serious over-reactions in some circles. My only two real ‘cautions’ is that this canonization seems to be more about a popularity contest in people’s minds than about objective criteria. For example, many of the previous popes did very heroic things and contributed concretely in various ways fulfilling their office, but they are practically ignored today, and even looked upon with disdain. That’s ridiculous. And (second) to bolster this point, many folks are taking it upon themself to attach the title “the Great” to him, again apparently for reasons of popularity.

    As I said on Dave Armstrong’s blog (who is running a similar thread), we can always say a Pope “didn’t do enough,” and no fair minded person should put all the blame (by any means) on him since the Church was in so much chaos during that time. But that said, I’m interested in some objective reasons why at least the title “the Great” should be affixed. What significant document or movement did he issue that corrected serious problems of the day? All I can think of is he was somewhat responsible for the CCC. But if you look at the various things B16 changed early on after he was elected, it was simply undoing things JPII had set up (esp Liturgical)..

    In regards to fair criticism of Sungenis, I strongly agree he seems to take things too far at times, and if he’s suggesting he will doubt the Canonization, then that’s going too far and contradicts his other statements about remaining faithful to everything.

    Two points I would comment upon which you said:

    “I’d rather say that Trent was good, but not enough – the theologians at the council often worked on the basis of citations of Protestant doctrine taken out of context, not having the Protestants themselves present to explain their faith and have an honest dialogue with them.”

    I disagree with this and have heard this from many Protestants myself. There were a few things to consider when Trent spoke:

    (1) It would be impossible to condemn every variation of every form of Protestantism that arose. Thus, it could only issue guidelines. This means the guidelines didn’t need to directly match up to any version of Protestantism going around, and let’s not doubt that some pretty extreme views were going around (e.g. Eternal Security, Anabaptism, Luther’s extreme views of predestination, etc).

    (2) There wasn’t an option for ‘honest dialogue’ since the acts of the Reformers were schimatic by nature; it was a whole sale overthrowing of all of Catholicism and re-deriving Christianity according to one’s personal whims.

    (3) The exegesis and arguments the Reformers often made were often extremely lousy. There is no reasonable exegetical case to be made on their end for soteriology as a whole or ecclesiology as a whole. This is precisely why most Protestant authors and scholars today ignore the Fathers, because they recognize they were not proto-Protestant.

    Today there is a different story in that things have greatly calmed down, more and more Protestants are being more objective about the facts and even questioning ‘untouchable’ doctrines like Sola Fide (e.g. New Perspective on Paul). The trouble with certain documents though is that they tend to distort the true picture by pushing the substantial differences into the background and focus only on the surface level.

    The second thing I want to comment upon is the Assisi comment you made:

    “He was praying intensively and received a sudden inspiration that convinced him. A religious way to peace, which would bring religion back to the forefront in the face of secularism and atheism: let’s get as many people as possible to pray for peace! And now the most important part: Dziwisz says JP2 had to remind critics repeatedly that we are coming together to pray, not that we are coming to pray together.”

    I guess I don’t follow your argument. The ‘traditionalist’ argument I’ve encountered is that the gathering was (a) ‘scandal’ on the public level, since it at the very least gave off the wrong impression of religious indifferentism, (b) was a form of desecration of the sacred area, (c) telling or encouraging people to pray to false gods is objectively wrong. Now does a bad judgement call make or break the canonization debate? I don’t think so, but it’s a prime example of playing fast and loose in an era when people need the truth plainly spoken rather than some obscure or questionable statement with 1,000 clarifications following it.

    A final note: A LOT of the ‘radical traditionalist’ movement is due principally to average Catholics who have been utterly scandalized by the rampant abuses and error running apparently rampant and unchecked in the Church. Granted, they often over-react, but that just goes to highlight the warnings of Our Lord and the Apostles about how scandals will come and corrupt the minds of many.

  3. Ben Says:

    Dear Emil,

    Thanks for your post. Can’t pretend I agree (at least in toto), but I did appreciate your view (especially the point about the Qur’an saying that). Here are my very lengthy (and hopefully not too boring) comments:

    You criticise the CR for saying that faith is certain. Clearly it is so, because the act of faith is belief in what God has revealed because God has revealed it. Because we should have perfect trust in the only completely reliable source (God), it follows that we cannot doubt the faith, which is certain. To do so is to doubt God Himself.

    You say that Scholastic scripture interpretation is naïve proof-texting is quite offensive to pious ears; St. Thomas had pretty much the entire Bible memorised by heart, and could summon any text it at will. On the other hand, the CCC makes the ahistorical and context-less claim that Mk. 10:14 is a basis for the salvation of unbaptized infants! Talk about proof-texting!

    The damnation of unbaptized babies is the true teaching of the Church, and the statement to the contrary in the CCC is a defect in that document, not in the CR. That is for this reason:
    (1) All who die with original sin on their souls are damned (proof: teaching of the Second Council of Lyons).
    (2) Babies can only have original sin erased by baptism.
    (3) Therefore, unbaptized babies die with original sin on their souls, and are damned.
    This is the teaching of Origen, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, Thomas, Bonaventure, Pius VI, Pius XII and the unanimous consensus of theologians. St. Augustine says: “If you wish to be a Catholic, refrain from believing, or saying, or teaching that infants which are forestalled by death before they are baptized may yet attain to forgiveness of their original sins. For the examples by which you are misled— that of the thief who confessed the Lord upon the cross, or that of Dinocrates the brother of St. Perpetua— contribute no help to you in defence of this erroneous opinion.” And Pope Innocent I says: “That children can receive the reward of eternal life without the grace of baptism is utterly foolish”. The CR is only recording the common teaching.

    And I see no reason why Luke 13:3 cannot refer to post-baptismal mortal sins. That may not be its immediate application, but the meaning can easily be inferred.

    • Emil Anton Says:

      Dear Ben, thanks for the good-spirited critical comments! Can’t pretend to agree either, at least in toto:) The comments weren’t too long though.

      1) but you see it’s by no means certain that you’re right about your opinion about what God has revealed. First of all the Church itself doesn’t really know, there is no official list of revealed doctrines, and theologians differ. Second, those dogmas that the 19th century Church thought itself authorized to define as revealed aren’t really contained in the sources of revelation. So while one might try to convince oneself of the certainty of faith, there are far too many critical problems to make it certain.

      2) Respect to St. Thomas. But still the Church at large has recognized the insufficiency of the Scholastic method in adopting the Nouvelle Theologie which rather goes to the Apostles and Fathers than to Aristotelian Philosophy. the CCC doesn’t quote that as a basis for the salvation of infants but for hope for the salvation of infants. And I don’t think it’s that context-less, Jesus was showing his favor to non-baptized infants.

      3) I think you’re wrong on the salvation of infants issue. As the ITC document explains, 1) yes [though original sin is in a theological crisis and I'd deny you can simply prove things by a medieval council, the Church still needs to become consistent with itself on the treatment of old councils] 2) Not necessarily, baptism is the only way the Church knows this can be done, but there might be other ways, as the ITC explains. So, 3) does not follow. And it is not the teaching of Irenaeus who is much more apostolic than all those later fathers (and if Origen taught that all will be saved in the end, we’re left with the 4th century, which is already very far removed from the apostles). Augustine got into problems with this teaching because people were recognizing that this is not the traditional teaching of the Church. Pope Innocent’s comment can be understood in the way that the grace of baptism can be conferred through other means that mere water baptism (as baptism of blood and desire testify).

      Luke 13 – easily? Only with medieval eisegesis. The people Jesus addressed had no idea of a theology of original sin, Christian baptism, mortal and venial sins and sacramental confession. Surely Jesus didn’t mean it for that kind of a context.

  4. Ben Says:

    “If the Church views Protestants as brothers who have the Word of God, the Gospel, faith, hope and charity, the grace of the Spirit, baptized into the body of Christ, one is bound to question the weight of the disciplinary anathemas of times past, still characterized by the newness of the problem and predating the ecumenical conversion.” They have the Word of God, but they adulterate it. It’s false that they have “faith, hope and charity”, for the same reason as I explained that we cannot doubt the faith. A heretic who rejects some of the things God has revealed cannot have faith, because to reject any single article of faith is to reject faith in its entirety. Likewise, someone who separates from the loving concord of the Body of Christ cannot have the gift of charity. I presume you are inferring this from UR 3, which merely states that such things “can” exist outside the visible boundaries of the Church, not that Protestants actually have them. They can exist in people who are invincibly ignorant of the true faith, but not in Protestants per se. Further, an anathema is traditionally viewed as a formal dogmatic definition, because it imposes a curse on whoever refuses his assent. They are not disciplinary.
    Regarding the Assisi events you say, “as if the Pope was just looking for a way to show his religious indifference and relativism. On the contrary, the Pope expressly spoke out against syncretism and underlined the necessity of witness”. Syncretism means mixing various religions together, and the Assisi events were clearly not that. Yet they were wrong for this reason:
    (1) Either worshipping false gods or worshipping in a way contrary to the truth, is a sin.
    (2) JPII asked people to engage in this sin for the purpose of promoting peace.
    (3) Therefore, he cooperated in and abetted their sin.
    War is caused by human concupiscence and sin, and it is therefore absurd to think that promoting more sins could end war. It would rather promote it. God doesn’t want pagan worship as offered by Hindus or animists, but those who worship Him in spirit and in truth.
    “Why should all these be great, but John Paul II’s theology of the body, his great synthesis of Christianity with modern philosophical currents (personalism, phenomenology), be all bad?” The reason is explained by Pius XII in Humani Generis: existentialism, phenomenology and personalism are false philosophies, and attempting to synthetize them with Christian doctrine can only corrupt it. Bishop Tissier de Mallerais explains this in greater depth in his essay about the hermeneutics of Benedict XVI.
    “the ultra-orthodox traditionalists”. Hmm… “Orthodox” means right-belief, or truly believing. So you’re saying it’s bad to believe in the truth? Perhaps you meant “pseudo-orthodox”.
    Anyway, God bless!

    • Emil Anton Says:

      Thanks again!

      They adulterate it? Well, so has the Catholic magisterium on various occasions. Evidence: the Church has accepted the historical-critical method, which was born in liberal Protestantism, and encourages theologians to use it to better understand the meaning of Scripture. When the Church investigates issues, it consults these theologians. And on many issues the Church has come closer to Protestantism, learned from them, like in the issue of justification, where the CCC and the JD come closer to Luther and Paul and take some distance from Trent.

      UR 3 – yes, but not just that text, read on: “It follows that the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church.” And the commission preparing the V2 texts explained that they mean that the non-catholic Christian churches are somewhat analogous to Catholic particular churches, i.e. contextualizations of the Body of Christ.

      Assisi. It’s not that black and white. God might accept the worship in good faith of people who are in objective error. Actually, he pretty much must do that if he wants to listen to anyone’s prayers, for all fall short, none of us is omniscient and might be mistaken. So it’s rather arrogant to require a perfect knowledge of truth from someone in order for them to pray. It’s good to make people knock, then hopefully God will open.

      2) Humani Generis is no Word of God, it is an encyclical from one of the most unfortunate periods in Church history, the peak of imagined papal authority (eg thinking the Pope has an “ordinary papal magisterium”, which he infallibly uses by way of his encyclicals, contrary to both Vatican I and Vatican II, both of which only teach an “ordinary-and-universal” magisterium of all the bishops). Humani Generis was in many ways rejected by Vatican II, an ecumenical council that far surpasses it. The fact that V2 adopted personalism etc should lead us to question HG rather than the other way around.

      “ultra-orthodox” in their own imagination, of course:)

      Thanks for the discussion! God bless!

      Emil

      • Ben Says:

        Dear Emil,

        I think in these posts you have illustrated perfectly the complete difference in outlook between a traditionalist and a (so-called) “Novus Ordo Catholic”, showing very well why the Bernard Fellays and Joseph Ratzingers of the world can never see entirely eye to eye. The two views have completely different approaches to tradition, the authority of the magisterium, Vatican II vs. pre-conciliar teaching, and philosophy.

        In my view, the way you approach (for example) the salvation of unbaptized babies is back to front. It’s similar to how Spaniards (according to the legend) lisped their s’s to imitate their king, rather than have him learn to speak properly. Just as they accommodate their language to the inability of their king, proponents of the Nouvelle Theologie accommodate the immortal truths of tradition to their personal philosophical errors & assorted weird theories. Or, again, you try to accommodate the unanimous teaching of the Church as to the damnation of infants, to the strange idea of HH John Paul II to the contrary. The CCC cites no real evidence from the Fathers, from Scripture, or the Magisterium to support its novel thesis. Or again, when confronted from clear traditional evidence to the contrary, it has to be relativized, just as you deny that medieval councils have any authority. The greatest saints of the Church oppose your view: St. Augustine, the Angelic Doctor, St. Bonaventure, and St. Albert. Their teaching has further the magisterial sanction of Pius VI, Sixtus V, and Pius XII. This cannot be lightly dismissed.

        You deny proposition (2) by saying that there might be other means of salvation for infants than baptism. Well this is contrary to the Council of Florence, which states: “Regarding children, indeed, because of danger of death, which can often take place, when NO HELP can be brought to them BY ANOTHER REMEDY than through the sacrament of baptism, through which they are snatched from the domination of the Devil and adopted among the sons of God, it advises that holy baptism ought not to be deferred for forty or eighty days”. So the clear teaching of the Church is that there are no other means of salvation for infants than baptism of water or blood (since they are obviously incapable of desire for the sacrament). Thus, (3) does follow.

        To say that Protestant Churches are contextualisations of the Body of Christ is to deny its unity in one faith. They are rather separated from the Body of Christ. I do not deny, however, that the Holy Spirit couldn’t use what is in itself a means of damnation as a means of salvation, e.g. God has saved innumerable babies who have been baptised by the Anglican Church, or invincibly ignorant Orthodox could be saved by their true love for Jesus. He can always bring great good from our evil. In this sense these Churches can be used by God as means of salvation.
        9 Q. State distinctly what is necessary to be a member of the Church?
        A. To be a member of the Church it is necessary to be baptised, to believe and profess the teaching of Jesus Christ, to participate in the same Sacraments, and to acknowledge the Pope and the other lawful pastors of the Church.
        14 Q. Why is the Church called One?
        A. The true Church is called One, because her children of all ages and places are united together in the same faith, in the same worship, in the same law; and in participation of the same Sacraments, under the same visible Head, the Roman Pontiff.
        23 Q. In what does the Body of the Church consist?
        A. The Body of the Church consists in her external and visible aspect, that is, in the association of her members, in her worship, in her teaching-power and in her external rule and government.
        Anyway, if you feel like disputing this further, let me simply recommend again that essay by Tissier de Mallerais, since it argues better than I ever could. 
        God bless you always!

  5. Ben Says:

    Coincidentally, I think Robert Sungenis has the same view as you that we can “hope” that babies might have an unknown means of salvation, other than baptism.

    Go figure.

  6. Ben Says:

    I’ve just started reading the Qur’an, and please let me add that though it may not say that Christians are impure excrement, it certainly does say, “Those who conceal the clear signs We have sent down, and the Guidance, after We have made it clear for the People in the Book –on them shall be Allah’s curse, and the curse of those entitled to curse” (2:159), and again, “Never will the Jews and Christians be satisfied with thee unless thou follow their form of religion. Say: the Guidance of Allah is the only Guidance” (2:120), making it completely inappropriate for any Christian, let alone the Pope, to kiss it.


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