Anathema was the name given to a Church decree excommunicating an individual or denouncing an unacceptable doctrine. As a punishment, however, anathema went beyond excommunication. In the New Testament, there is a reference in Corinthians that says, ‘If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema.’ In Galatians, anathema is named as the punishment for preaching a rival gospel:
But even if we, or an angel from Heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to anathema.
The book of John went even further:
“He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you that bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”
Excommunication means putting a man or woman outside the Christian communion. It was the worst punishment an individual could incur, for it cut them off from the protection of the Church and from contact with Church life. Among other crimes, the punishment could be incurred for committing apostasy (abandoning Christian beliefs), heresy, schism (division within the Church), attacking the pope personally or procuring an abortion. Anyone who ordained a female priest was also subject to excommunication.
In medieval times, the Catholic Church regarded excommunication as either vitandus (to be avoided or shunned), or toleratus (meaning they could have social or business relationships with other Catholics). They were allowed to attend Mass, but could not receive communion, the ceremony celebrating the Last Supper. The ceremony of excommunication was both dramatic and daunting. A bell was tolled as if the excommunicant had died, the book of the gospels was closed and a candle was snuffed out. However, excommunication was not necessarily permanent. If the guilty parties made a statement of repentance, they could be restored to full membership of the Church.
The excommunication of a town, city or other district, even entire countries, was called being ‘placed under interdict’. In practice, this meant that no Christian marriages, funerals or Church services could take place as long as the interdict remained in force, although the population involved were allowed to make confession and receive baptism. If a country placed under interdict came under attack, the pope was under no obligation to come to its assistance. In addition, an interdict released the subjects from their oaths of loyalty to the offending ruler, which allowed them to rebel against him with impunity, if they wished.
Kings, emperors or other rulers whose behaviour had offended the Catholic Church usually incurred this blanket form of excommunication. The ruler in question had to repent before the penalty could be lifted and the country could be restored to the Catholic communion. This, for instance, is what happened in 1207 when King John of England refused to accept Cardinal Stephen Langton, the Pope’s choice for Archbishop of Canterbury. John was excommunicated and England was placed under interdict until 1212, when the King at last gave in and agreed to Langton’s appointment. After that, the interdict was withdrawn.
Limbo and Purgatory
Although Limbo in not an official feature of the Roman Catholic religion, it is connected to it. The word is taken from the Latin limbus, meaning edge, and describes a condition experienced in the afterlife by people who die in original sin, but have not been assigned to Gehenna, the Hell of the damned. Purgatory is frequently taken to describe a place of fearful suffering where the souls of sinners atone for their wrongdoings and undergo terrible punishments. In fact, the Catholic Church views purgatory in a much more optimistic light, as a situation where souls of those who die in a state of grace are purified and given temporary punishment, where appropriate. The process prepares them to go to Heaven. Buying an indulgence during life could lessen the length of time a sinner had to spend in limbo or purgatory before their soul was allowed to go to heaven in the afterlife.
Nepotism derives from the Latin word nepos, meaning nephew or grandchild, and describes the favouritism many popes showed toward their relatives and friends by giving them high positions in the Church they did not merit, either through ability or seniority. It was probably the most common of Church crimes, particularly in medieval times. However, nepotism was almost understandable at a time when popes had personal rivals and enemies and needed people close to them who had already proved their loyalty.
A papal bull is a pronouncement, charter or decree issued by a pope, usually for public consumption. The contents of papal bulls may be news of a bishop’s appointment, the canonization of a new saint, the announcement of excommunications or forthcoming Vatican Council. The bull takes its name from the bulla (seal) attached to the document, which is most often made of metal, but might also be made of lead or, for very solemn occasions, of gold.
The Catholic dogma of Papal Infallibility which was established by the First Vatican Council on 18 July 1870 declares that the Holy Spirit actively preserves the pope from even the chance that he will make an error when promulgating statements on faith or morals. These statements derive from divine revelation or are at least, connected to divine revelation.
In order to be accounted infallible, the pope’s teachings have to be based on sacred tradition and sacred scripture, or should, at least, not contradict either of them. However, Papal Infallibility does not suggest that the pope is incapable of sin or wrongdoing.
Since the doctrine was introduced (138 years ago), it has been used only once. In 1950, Pope Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary as an article of faith in the Roman Catholic religion. It has, therefore, been ‘assumed’ that after her death, Mary, the mother of Jesus, was transported to Heaven with both her body and her soul intact.
Apart from this single use of infallibility, the Church relies on the idea that the pope decides what will, and will not, be acceptable as a formal belief in the Roman Catholic religion.
A papal legate was a personal representative of the pope, a post usually given to a cardinal. Legate were sent to foreign governments, monarchs or churches outside the Vatican with the pope’s instructions to take charge of important Catholic events, such as an ecumenical council or to make decisions on matters of faith. Papal legates might also take charge where there were problems with heresy, as they did during the struggle between the papacy and the heretic Cathars in Languedoc.
Papal or Apostolic Nuncio
‘Nuncio’ derives from the Latin nuntius, meaning ‘envoy’. A papal nuncio, officially known as apostolic nuncio, is an ambassador who acts as the diplomatic representative of the Vatican to foreign states or to international organizations, such as the United Nations. The nuncio has the same rank and privileges of an ambassador from any other state and usually holds the rank of archbishop for as long as he remains in the post. (Until such time as the Roman Catholic Church ordains women, all papal nuncios will be male.)
Simony, the crime of selling or paying for Church offices or positions or offering payment to influence an appointment, was a serious crime within the Church. It took its name from Simon Magus, also known as Simon the Sorcerer, who attempted to bribe the disciples Peter and John. As the New Testament recounts:
And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying ‘Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.’ But Peter said unto him, ‘Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.’
The Index of Prohibited Books
The Index of Prohibited Books or Index Librorum Prohibitorum was a list containing works banned for Catholic readers by the Church. Prohibited books could contain a variety of ‘errors’, including heresy, immortality, explicit sex or other subjects that were deemed contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church. The first index was published, no in Rome, but in the Netherlands in 1529. Subsequent printings appeared in Venice in 1543 and Paris in 1551. In 1571, a special body was set up to investigate books that might need to be censored. Named the Sacred Congregation of the Index, its task also included updating the books already on the index and labelling others as possibilities for publication if alterations were made. These were described as donec corrigatur (forbidden if not corrected) or donec expurgetur (forbidden if not purged). Lists of corrections - some of them very long - were made for the authors as means of making their work more acceptable.
The Congregation was disbanded in 1917 and the index itself was no longer published after 1966.
God bless us every one! - Tiny Tim
Faith is under the left nipple. - Martin Luther
You had no faith to lose and you know it. - Bob Dylan
Faith which does not doubt is dead faith. - Miguel de Unamuno
Humankind's ladder to God is a ladder of deeds. - Sholem Asch
Some Catlick priest sprinkling incest over everyone. - Archie Bunker
Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world. - Victor Kraft
Faith is the daring of the soul to go farther than it can see. - William Newton Clark
I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time. - Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
No man drowns if he perseveres in praying to God, and can swim. - Russian Proverb
There lives more faith in honest doubt than in half the creeds. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
If God had wanted me otherwise, he would have created me otherwise. - Johann von Goethe
You can do very little with faith, but you can do nothing without it. - Samuel Butler
There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it. - George Bernard Shaw
But I always think that the best way to know God is to love many things. - Vincent Van Gogh
Troubles are often the tools by which God fashions us for better things. - Henry Ward Beecher
There is no place where success comes before work, except in the dictionary. - Donald Kimball
Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn. - C S Lewis
Italy is the home of art and swindling; home of religion and moral rottenness. - Mark Twain
And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. - Matthew 21:22
Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer. - Mark Twain
God made the world round so we would never be able to see too far down the road. - Unknown
My favourite characters in the Bible are King David, Delilah and Charlton Heston. - Milton Berle
Never, never, never join a movement that persecutes people because of their faith. - Adrian Rodgers
To be religious is to have a life that flows with the presence of the extraordinary. - Ann Belford Ulanov
The church is close, but the road is icey. The tavern is far, but I will walk carefully. - Russian Proverb
There is much in the world to make us afraid. There is much more in our faith to make us unafraid. - Frederick W. Cropp
If I were ever prosecuted for my religion, I truly hope there would be enough evidence to convict me. - John Wooden
Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Family, religion, friendship... these are the three demons you must slay if you wish to succeed in business. - Mr. Burns
We ought to be doing all we can to make it possible for every child to fulfill his or her God-given potential. - Hillary Rodham Clinton
I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness. - Emo Philips
Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea! How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea. - Sydney Smith
"I am who I am", said God to Moses regarding His name, because none was worth to be compared to His godhead. - Toba Beta
God writes a lot of comedy... the trouble is, he's stuck with so many bad actors who don't know how to play funny. - Garrison Keillor
Question everything. Your love, your religion, your passion. If you don't have questions, you'll never find answers. - Colleen Hoover
The Muslim Prophet Mohammed was a big believer in charity and firmly established helping those in need as a basis of the religion. - Richard Engel
I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use. - Galileo Galilei
I ain't got no respect for no religion where the head guy claims he can't make no mistakes. Like he's, waddya call, inflammable. - Archie Bunker
It is easy - terribly easy - to shake a man's faith in himself. To take advantage of that, to break a man's spirit, is devil's work. - George Bernard Shaw
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