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Friday, October 10, 2008

Here's A Question...

...is a verbal smackdown sinful?

Here's the situation. I've been 'debating' with a person, and the topic turned to Martin Luther. I made a statement that baptized Catholics can fall from grace, with the reminder that even Luther was a baptized Catholic. That generated this response:

I would guess you're talking about "St. Martin Luther"? :-)

I'm not sure what or how you have determined that Martin Luther 'fell from grace', but I have my doubts that God sees such a stern challenge to the church in the same light as you do. Not only did Martin Luther point out many things that the Church itself later reformed in the light of his challenges, but he came to his position from a personal struggle with religious scrupulosity, and sternness was perhaps more to any problem with accepting grace than his personal decision and challenge to the institutional church.


Lots of buzzwords in there: "stern"; "challenge"; "institutional church". So I responded thus:

I hope you're kidding when you say "St Martin Luther". I presume from the smiley emoticon, you are. Because truth be told, in spite of his intentions, while he was right to point out the errors of certain behaviors that individuals were engaged in, such as selling indulgences, for instance, he is not a hero to be praised...

...His "fall from grace" were the sins of schism and heresy. Note I did not say or imply that he died in a state of mortal sin - I in no way judge the state of Luther's soul - and the Church doesn't either. Whether or not Luther is in heaven is of no consequence to me.

That garnered this response:

Well, I love the church's concept of the communion of saints, and, yes, I see Martin Luther right in there. I think that one person's sins of schism and heresy are often another's challenge to institutional problems and deficits. I don't see schism and heresy as sins, nor as a "fall from grace," which indeed suggests that you place consequence to his life in heaven, or not.

This person is obviously not in union with Church teaching here, and apparently not kidding about the Luther's saintliness either. Their opinion that heresy and schism are not sins is just that: an opinion. On top of that, this person has assumed the ability to canonize whomever they see fit. Well, I couldn't let that go unanswered, so I responded with this:

"Schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him" (CCC2089)

"Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same" (CCC2089)

If you don't see them as sins, and you consider yourself Catholic, then I hate to break it to you, but you're not really Catholic. You're picking and choosing what you want to believe and rationalizing away the rest.

If a person is challenging authentic institutional problems and deficits, then by definition, that isn't heresy or schism. But when a person denies defined truth (which Luther also did), then the person, by definition, has committed the sin of heresy which can lead to schism. Regardless of how you choose to define schism and heresy, it's still a serious sin. Whether Luther is in heaven is irrelevant to me - and I make no judgement either way. You have made a judgement, that he is in heaven. All I know is that if Luther is in heaven, it's because he repented of his sins and accepted Christ's mercy before death. Which, in the end, is necessary for all of us.

(here's the verbal smackdown part)
I tell you what, though. If he's in heaven, then when I die, I'll ask him what it was that got him in. If he's not in heaven, then when you die, you ask him what kept him out.

I'm interested to know what you, my readers, think. Do I need to go to confession for my smackdown? Sure, it was pointed, snarky, direct, humorous and implied that the person is going to go to Hell. But is it confession-worthy? Did I go too far in instructing the ignorant? Did I cross the line in reproaching the obstinately stupid? There's a poll on my sidebar - your input would be helpful. I aim to be charitable to these types of people, no matter how much it hurts them.

Gotta admit - it was a pretty good response. Oops! That was prideful, wasn't it?