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.
Man is incurably religious. - Ravi Zacharias
I talk to God but the sky is empty. - Sylvia Plath
God gives the nuts, but He does not crack them. - German proverb
We steal if we touch tomorrow. It is God's. - Henry Ward Beecher
God heales, and the Physitian hath the thankes. - George Herbert
When God sneezed, I didn't know what to say. - Henny Youngman
Sorrow looks back, Worry looks around, Faith looks up. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich. - Napoleon Bonaparte
Forgiveness is like faith. You have to keep reviving it. - Mason Cooley
God may forgive your sins, but your nervous system won't. - Alfred Korzybski
God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with him. - Jim Elliot
Where hope would otherwise become hopelessness, it becomes faith. - Robert Brault
We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone. - Martin Luther
Our faith in the present dies out long before our faith in the future. - Ruth Benedict
Without faith, a man can do nothing; with it, all things are possible. - William Osler
I once heard a preacher who sorely tempted me to go to church no more. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Kind hearts are more than coronets
An simple faith than Norman blood. - Alfred Tennyson
God will never give you anything you can't handle, so don't stress. - Kelly Clarkson
I am totally convinced the Christian faith is the most coherent worldview around. - Ravi Zacharias
What will finally destroy us is not communism or fascism, but man acting like God. - Malcolm Muggeridge
Easter is the demonstration of God that life is essentially spiritual and timeless. - Charles M Crowe
Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all. - George Washington
Don't tell God that you have a big problem, tell your problem that you have a big God :) - Unknown
There's nothing like faith in God to help a fellow who gets booted around once in a while. - Jackie Robinson
Every setback is a setup for a comeback. God wants to bring you out better than you were before. - Joel Osteen
To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible. - Thomas Aquinas
Christian Atheists: those who say they are Christians but choose to live like God doesn't exist. - Craig Groeschell
To give pleasure to a single heart by a single kind act is better than a thousand head-bowings in prayer. - Saadi
It's hard for me to imagine why a church that has younger members wouldn't have a blog component. - Mark Batterson
Don't poets know it better than others? God can't always be everywhere: and, so, invented mothers. - Edwin Arnold
Pain is a sign that we are alive. Problems are a sign that we are strong. Prayer is a sign that we are not alone. - Unknown
The past is a source of knowledge, and the future is a source of hope. Love of the past implies faith in the future. - Stephen Ambrose
Sometimes the very presence of God is barred by our presuppositions and our intense and constant desire for triumph. - Ravi Zacharias
It is from the Bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder; for the belief of a cruel God makes a cruel man. - Thomas Paine
To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. - G K Chesterton
God has already arranged a comeback for every setback, a vindication for every wrong, a new beginning for every disappointment. - Joel Osteen
Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence, it will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines. - Bertrand Russell
Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
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
Charity may be a very short word, but with its tremendous meaning of pure love, it sums up man's entire relation to God and to his neighbor. - Aelred of Rievaulx
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