Roman Catholicism

Theology Thursday - The Council of Trent on Original Sin

The Council of Trent

Following the deep division in the church which had resulted from the Protestant Reformation, there was a widespread desire, which grew stronger and was expressed in a variety of ways, for an ecumenical council. Its aim would be to reject errors against faith, add strength to the official teaching, restore the unity of the church, and reform the standards of the Roman curia and of church discipline.1

FIFTH SESSION, held June 17, 1546.

Decree Concerning Original Sin2

That our Catholic faith, without which it is impossible to please God, may, errors being purged away, continue in its own perfect and spotless integrity, and that the Christian people may not be carried about with every wind of doctrine; whereas that old serpent, the perpetual enemy of mankind, amongst the very many evils with which the Church of God is in these our times troubled, has also stirred up not only new, but even old, dissensions touching original sin, and the remedy thereof; the sacred and holy, œcumenical and general Synod of Trent,—lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the three same legates of the Apostolic See presiding therein,—wishing now to come to the reclaiming of the erring, and the confirming of the wavering,—following the testimonies of the sacred Scriptures, of the holy Fathers, of the most approved councils, and the judgment and consent of the Church itself, ordains, confesses, and declares these things touching the said original sin:

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“[I]t is intriguing to see how universally – and often how vociferously – ancient Christian teaching on Mary is rejected by most evangelical Protestants today.”

Damnation by Faith

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As far as I can tell the Roman Catholic Church now teaches that the most likely way to go to hell is to believe Roman Catholic doctrine. Allow me to support this from a series of quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).

The CCC teaches that Protestants who disbelieve the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church are likely saved:

CCC-818: However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ … . All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ. (Brackets in original.)

CCC-819: Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church.

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The Catechism of The Catholic Church - Key Points

Statue of Mary at Freiburg Münster, Germany

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Among Roman Catholics, Vatican II, and thus the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), is interpreted across a spectrum from essential rejection to continuity with the past to rupture.

Essential rejection is the position of extremely traditional Catholics who remain in communion with the Pope but who continue to give or take the Mass in the wafer alone and who gravitate toward the Latin Mass. Their interpretation of CCC has the greatest continuity with pre-Vatican II statements and tends to minimize the discontinuity.

Continuity with the past is the mainstream interpretation of serious Catholics. “Serious” does not include politicos who claim Augustine supported abortion or who have purchased multiple annulments. Pope Benedict XVI, now emeritus, appears to me to be a very conservative proponent of the continuity view, and he is the mind behind the current universal Catechism. This view is represented by Catholic voices like the magazine First Things.

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