Written by Fr. Michael Mueller C.SS.R
The word of God, in the First Commandment, is: “I am the Lord thy God.” By this commandment all men are obliged to believe in God as the Infinite Being, Who is essentially good and just, the sovereign Author and Lord of all things, Who has an absolute authority over all, – an authority which He can exercise either directly by Himself, or through an angel, a prophet, or one or more of His reasonable creatures. God, therefore, has a right to command the human understanding to admit certain truths, the human will to perform certain duties, the senses to make certain sacrifices. Nothing can be more reasonable than to submit to such a command of God. This submission is called Faith, which, as St. Paul says, “bringeth into captivity every understanding to the obedience of Christ.” [2 Cor 10:5] As soon, then, as man hears the voice of his Maker, he is bound to say, “Amen: it is so.” I believe it, no matter whether I understand it or not.
But Protestants have no regard for God when He says, “I am the Lord thy God. I have a right to tell you what you must believe and do, in order to be saved, and you are bound to submit to My Will, and practice the religion which I have established.” The Protestant answers: “Of course, I believe that thou art the Lord of Heaven and earth, but I believe only what I choose to believe ;” thus defying the Almighty to prescribe a religion for him. Protestants, therefore, live constantly in violation of the First Commandment.
They also transgress the Second Commandment of God, which says: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” By this commandment God forbids all men to blaspheme Him or any of His saints, or to ridicule religion. Yet, what is more common among Protestants than to blaspheme Jesus Christ in His Mother and other saints; what more common than to ridicule the religion of Christ and its holy practices? Are not Protestant books, sermons, tracts, and conversations, filled with abusive language, invectives, mockeries against Christ, His religion and His saints?
Protestants also transgress the Third Commandment of God, which says: “Remember thou keep holy the Sabbath day.” By this commandment God commands all men to worship Him in the manner which He has prescribed. From the beginning of the world, God wished to be worshipped by the offering of sacrifices; but Protestants have done away with the worship of the Sacrifice of the Mass, which Christ commanded to be offered up by His priests and all Christians. They refuse to give God the honour of adoration; that is, to honour Him as the sovereign Lord of all creatures, and to acknowledge their entire dependence on Him, by offering the Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of His divine Son, Jesus Christ, in holy Mass. Instead of thus honouring and worshipping Him, they blaspheme Christ by calling this Holy Sacrifice a superstitious ceremony or abominable idolatry, whilst their own worship is a false worship, which is an abomination in the sight of God.
Protestants transgress the Fourth Commandment, by refusing obedience to the lawful ecclesiastical superiors. They transgress the Fifth Commandment, by refusing to make use of the means of grace,-the sacraments,-to obtain God’s grace, and preserve themselves in His holy friendship. They transgress the Sixth and the Ninth Commandments, which forbid adultery, (also contraception and sterilisation, ed.) and even the desire to commit it. Jesus Christ says: “I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, and shall marry another, committeth adultery; and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery.” [Matt 19:9] “No,” says Protestantism to a married man, “you may put away your wife, get a divorce, and marry another.”
God says to every man: “Thou shalt not steal.” “No,” said Luther to secular princes, “I give you the right to appropriate to yourselves the property of the Roman Catholic Church.” And the princes, from that day to this, have been only too happy to profit by this pleasing advice. Jesus Christ says: “Hear the Church.” “No,” says Protestantism, “do not hear the Church; protest against her with all your might.” Jesus Christ says: “If any one will not hear the Church, look upon him as a heathen and publican.” “No,” says Protestantism, “if any one does not hear the Church look upon him as an apostle, as an ambassador of God.” Jesus Christ says: “The gates of hell shall not prevail against My Church.” “No,” says Protestantism, “’tis false; the gates of hell have prevailed against the Church for a thousand years and more.” Jesus Christ has declared St. Peter, and every successor to St. Peter, -the pope,-to be His Vicar on earth. “No,” says Protestantism, “the pope is Anti-Christ.” Jesus Christ says: “My yoke is sweet, and My burden is light.” [Matt. 11:30] “No,” said Luther and Calvin, “it is impossible to keep the commandments.” Jesus Christ says: “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” [Matt 19:17] “No,” said Luther and Calvin, “faith alone, without good works, is sufficient to enter into life everlasting.” Jesus Christ says: “Unless you do penance, you shall all likewise perish.” [Luke 13:3] “No,” says Protestantism, “fasting and other works of penance are not necessary, in satisfaction for sin.” Jesus Christ says: “This is My body.” “No,” said Calvin, “This is only the figure of Christ’s body; It will become His body as soon as you receive It.”
The Holy Ghost says in Holy Scripture: “Man knoweth not whether he be worthy of love or hatred.” [Eccl 9:1] “Who can say, My heart is clean, I am pure from sin?” [Prov 20:9] and, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” [Phil 2:12] “No,” said Luther and Calvin, “but whosoever believes in Jesus Christ is in the state of grace.”
Saint Paul says: “If I should have faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” [1 Cor 13:2] “No, said Luther and Calvin, “faith alone is sufficient to save us.”
Saint Peter says that in the Epistles of Saint Paul there are many things “hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as also the other Scriptures, to their own perdition.” [2 Peter 3:16] “No,” says Protestantism, “the Scriptures are very plain, and easy to be understood.” Saint James says: “Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil, in the name of the Lord.” [James 5:14] “No,” says Protestantism, “this is a vain and useless ceremony.”
Protestants being thus impious enough to make liars of Jesus Christ, of the Holy Ghost, and of the Apostles, need we wonder if they continually slander Catholics, telling and believing worse absurdities about them than the heathens did? What is more absurd than to preach that Catholics worship stocks and stones for gods; set up pictures of Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and other saints, to pray to them, and put their confidence in them; that they adore a god of bread and wine; that their sins are forgiven by the priest, without repentance and amendment of life; that the pope or any other person can give leave to commit sin, or that for a sum of money the forgiveness of sins can be obtained ? To these and similar absurdities and slanders, we simply answer: “Cursed is he who believes in such absurdities and falsehoods, with which Protestants impiously charge the children of the Catholic Church. All those grievous transgressions are another source of their reprobation.”
But there are other reasons still, why Protestants cannot be saved. Jesus Christ says: “Except you eat the Flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you.” [John 6:54] Now, Protestants do not receive the Body of Our Lord, because their ministers are not priests, and consequently have no power from Jesus Christ to say Mass, in which, by the words of consecration, bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. It follows, then, clearly that they will not enter into life everlasting, and deservedly so, because they abolished the holy Sacrifice of the Mass; and by abolishing that great Sacrifice they robbed God the Father of the infinite honour which Jesus Christ renders Him therein, and themselves of all the blessings which Jesus Christ bestows upon those who assist at this holy Sacrifice with faith and devotion: “Wherefore the sin of the young men (the sons of Heli) was exceeding great before the Lord, because they withdrew men from the sacrifice of the Lord.” [1 Kings 2:17] Now, God the Father cannot admit into Heaven these robbers of His infinite honour; because if those are damned who steal the temporal goods of their neighbour, how much more will those be damned who deprive God of His infinite honour, and their fellow-men of the infinite spiritual blessings of the Mass!
Again, no man is saved who dies in the state of mortal sin, because God cannot unite Himself to a soul in Heaven who by mortal sin is His enemy. But Protestants are enemies of God, committing, as they do, other mortal sins besides those already mentioned; for, if it is a mortal sin for a Roman Catholic willfully to doubt only one article of his Faith, it is also, most assuredly, a mortal sin for Protestants wilfully to deny not only one truth, but almost all the truths revealed by Jesus Christ. On account of the sins of apostasy, blasphemy, slander, etc., they remain enemies of God, as long as they do not repent, and receive absolution of these sins. Jesus Christ assures us that those sins which are not forgiven by the absolution of His apostles or their successors, will not be forgiven: “Whose sins you retain, they are retained.” [John 20:23] But Protestants are unwilling to confess their sins to a Catholic bishop or a priest, who alone has power from Christ to forgive sins: “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them.” They generally have an utter aversion to confession; they die in their sins, and are lost; for sins, unrepented and unatoned for, stand through all eternity.
Again, no grown person can enter the kingdom of Heaven without good works. On the great day of judgment Jesus Christ will say to the wicked: “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire. For I was hungry, and you gave Me not to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me not to drink,” etc. [Matt 25:41-42] It is true that many regular, naturally good Protestants practice good works, make long prayers, fast, give alms, and perform other works of natural virtue, all of which are, indeed, laudable actions. But all these works are destitute of one essential thing, viz., docility to faith, without which there is neither merit nor recompense. For merely natural virtues there are natural rewards. But works, to be meritorious of Heaven, must be performed in the state of grace; they must proceed from, and be vivified by, divine faith, to deserve an eternal reward; for then it is that they proceed, as it were, from God himself, and from His divine Spirit, Who lives in us, and urges us on to the performance of good works.
Hence, as faith without works is dead, so also works without faith are dead, and cannot save the doer from destruction. Splendid, but barren works ! Apparently delicious fruit, but rotten within! In vain, then, shall they glory in these works. The Gospel will always tell them that he “who does not believe, is already judged.” [John 3:18] The apostle will ever declare to them that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” [Heb 11:6] Jesus Christ Himself will ever command us to look upon “him as the heathen and the publican, who will not hear the Church” [Matt 18:17] though otherwise he should be as severe in his life as an anchoret, as enlightened in his understanding as an angel. “In the Catholic Church,” says Saint Augustine, “there are both good and bad. But they who are separated from her, as long as they remain in their opinion against her, cannot be good; for, although a kind of laudable conversation seems to show forth some of them as good, the separation itself makes them bad, the Lord saying: ‘He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who gathereth not with Me, scattereth ‘ ” What, then, will be the astonishment, sorrow, and despair of those who, void of faith, and separated from the Church, will one day present themselves before God, and imagining to have heaped up treasures of merits, will appear in His sight with their hands empty ?
In the history of the foundation of the Society of Jesus, in the Kingdom of Naples, is related the following story of a noble youth of Scotland, named William Ephinstone, who was a relative of the Scottish king. Born a heretic, he followed the false sect to which he belonged; but enlightened by divine grace, which showed him his errors, he went to France, where, with the assistance of a good Jesuit father, who was also a Scotchman, he at length saw the truth, abjured heresy, and became a Catholic. He went afterward to Rome, joined the Society of Jesus, in which he died a happy death. When at Rome, a friend of his found him one day very much afflicted, and weeping He asked him the cause, and the young man answered that in the night his mother had appeared to him, and said “My son, it is well for thee that thou hast entered the true Church; I am already lost, because I died in heresy.” (Saint Alphonsus Liguori, “Glories of Mary”)
We read, in the Life of Saint Rose of Viterbo, that she was inflamed with great zeal for the salvation of souls. She felt a most tender compassion for those who were living in heresy. In order to convince a certain lady, who was a heretic, that she could not be saved in her sect, and that it was necessary for salvation to die a true member of the Catholic Church, she made a large fire, threw herself into it, and remained in it for three hours, without being hurt. This lady, together with many others, on witnessing the miracle, abjured their heresy, and became Catholics.
When the Emperor Valens ordered that Saint Basil the Great should go into banishment, God, in the high court of heaven, passed, at the same time, sentence against the emperor’s only son, named Valentinian Galatus, a child then about six years old. That very night the royal infant was seized with a violent fever, from which the physicians were unable to give him the least relief; and the Empress Dominica told the emperor that this calamity was a just punishment of heaven for his banishing the bishop, on which account she had been disquieted by terrible dreams. Thereupon Valens sent for the saint, who was about to go into exile. No sooner had the holy bishop entered the palace, than the fever of the child began to abate. Saint Basil assured the parents of the absolute recovery of their son, on condition that they would order him to be instructed in the Catholic Faith. The emperor accepted the condition, Saint Basil prayed, and the young prince was cured. But Valens, unfaithful to his promise, afterward allowed an Arian bishop to baptize the child. The young prince immediately relapsed and died. By this miraculous cure of the child, God made manifest the truth of our religion; and by the sudden death of the child, which followed upon the heretical baptism, God showed in what abomination He holds those who profess heresy.
But is it not a very uncharitable doctrine to say that out of the Church there is no salvation? If we desire that all those who are not members of the Catholic Church should cease to deceive themselves as to the true character of their belief, and propose to them considerations which may contribute to that result, it is certainly not from enmity to their persons, nor indifference to their welfare. As long as they remain victims of a delusion as gross as that which makes the Jew still cling to his abolished synagogue, and which only a miracle of grace can dispel, they will probably resent the counsels of their truest friends but why do they take us for enemies? “The Christian,” as Tertullian said, “is the enemy of no one,” not even of his persecutors. He hates heresy because God hates it, but he has only compassion for those who are caught in its snare. Whether he exhorts or reproves them, he displays not malice, but charity He knows that they are, of all men, the most helpless; and his voice of warning is most vehement, he is only doing what the Church has done from the beginning. His voice is but the echo of hers. We are told that, before the Council of Nicea, she had already condemned thirty-eight different heresies; and in every case she pronounced anathemas upon those who held them. And she was as truly the mouthpiece of God in her judicial as in her teaching office.
The Church is, indeed, uncompromising in matters of truth. Truth is the honour of the Church. The Church is the most honourable of all societies. She is the highest standard of honour, because she judges all things in the light of God, Who is the Source of all honour. A man who has no love for the truth, a man who tells a wilful lie or takes a false oath, is considered dishonour. No one cares for him; and it would be unreasonable to accuse one of intolerance or bigotry because he refuses to associate with a man who has no love for the truth. It would be just as unreasonable to accuse the Catholic Church of intolerance, or bigotry, or want of charity, because she excludes from her society, and pronounces anathema upon, those who have no regard for the truth, and remain wilfully out of her communion.
If the Church believed that men could be saved in any religion whatever, or without any at all, it would be uncharitable in her to announce to the world that out of her there is no salvation. But, as she knows and maintains that there is but one Faith, as there is but one God and Lord of all, and that she is in possession of that one Faith, and that without that Faith it is impossible to please God and be saved, it would be very uncharitable in her, and in all her children, to hide Christ’s doctrine from the world.
We have seen that there is no salvation possible out of the Roman Catholic Church. It is therefore very impious for one to think and to say that “every religion is good.” To say every religion is good, is as much as to say: The devil is as good as God. Hell is as good as Heaven. Falsehood is as good as truth. Sin is as good as virtue. It is impious to say, “I respect every religion.” This is as much as to say: I respect the devil as much as God, vice as much as virtue, falsehood as much as truth, dishonesty as much as honesty, Hell as much as Heaven. It is impious to say, “It matters very little what a man believes, provided he be an honest man.” Let such a one be asked whether or not he believes that his honesty and justice are as great as the honesty and justice of the Scribes and Pharisees. These were constant in prayer, they paid tithes according to the law, gave great alms, fasted twice in every week, and compassed sea and land to make a convert, and bring him to the knowledge of the true God. Now, what did Jesus Christ say of this justice of the Pharisees? “Unless,” he says, “your justice shall exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven.” [Matt 5:20]
The righteousness of the Pharisees, then, must have been very defective in the sight of God. It was, indeed, nothing but outward show and ostentation. They did good only to be praised and admired by men; but, within, their souls were full of impurity and malice. They were lewd hypocrites, who concealed great vices under the beautiful appearance of love for God, charity to the poor, and severity to themselves. Their devotion consisted in exterior acts, and they despised all who did not live as they did; they were Strict in the religious observances of human traditions, but scrupled not to violate the commandments of God. No wonder, then, that this Pharisaic honesty and justice were condemned by Our Lord. To those, therefore, who say, “It matters little what a man believes, provided he be honest,” we answer: “Your outward honesty, like that of the Pharisees, may be sufficient to keep you out of prison, but not out of Hell. It should be remembered that there is a dishonesty to God, to one’s own soul and conscience, as well as to one’s neighbour.”
You say, it is enough to be an honest man. What do you mean by an honest man? The term, honest man, is rather a little too general. Go, for instance, to that young man whose shameful secret sins are written on his hollow cheeks, in his dull, lacklustre eye: ask him if one can be an honest man who gratifies all his brutal, shameful passions. What will be his answer? “Why,” he will say, “these natural follies and weaknesses do not hinder a man from being honest. To tell the truth, for instance, I am somewhat inclined that way myself, and yet I would like to see the man that would doubt my honesty.”
Go to that covetous shop-keeper, who sells his goods as if they were of the finest quality; go to that tradesman, that mason, that bricklayer, or carpenter, who does not work even half as diligently when he is paid by the day as when he is paid by the job; go to these men that have grown rich by fraudulent speculation, by cheating the public or government; go to the employers that cheat the servant and the poor labourer; ask them if what they do prevents them from being honest people, and they will answer you coldly that they are merely tricks of trade, shrewdness in business; that they do not by any means hinder one from being an honest man.
Go, ask that habitual drunkard, ask that man who has grown rich by selling liquor to drunkards: ask them whether these sins do not hinder them from being honest, and they will tell you, “By no means. They are honest men, very honest men.”
Go, ask that man or that woman who sins against the most sacred laws of nature; go, ask that doctor who murders the poor helpless babe before it can see the blessed light of day: ask them if those who are guilty of such foul deeds are honest gentlemen, and they will tell you, with the utmost assurance, that such trifles do not hinder one from being a gentleman-from being a respectable lady!
True faith requires obedience, humility, and childlike simplicity; it excludes pride, self-will, clinging to our own ideas, and that unwillingness to obey which hurled the angels from heaven, and cast our first parents out of Paradise. Faith is a duty which God requires of us, and unless we fulfil this duty sincerely, we can never enter the kingdom of Heaven. One may say: “To submit to the yoke of faith is to submit to spiritual and moral tyranny; it is to lose one’s liberty.” There is liberty, and there is license. To be the slave of vile passions, and seek to satisfy them always, and at any cost, is not true liberty. Surely God is free. But God cannot sin. It is, therefore, no mark of liberty to be under the power of sin; on the contrary, it is the very brand of slavery. The power of sin implies the possibility of becoming a slave of sin and the devil. Those, then, who are greatly under the power of sin, and so go to hell, cannot truly be called free men. They are blinded and brutalized by satisfying the promptings of their brute nature, and thus renounce their glorious freedom, to sell it for a bestial gratification.
He only is truly free who wills and does what God wishes him to do for his everlasting happiness Now, as we have seen, God wishes that all should be saved in the Roman Catholic Church. Those, therefore, who believe and do what the Church teaches, do not lose their liberty; on the contrary, they enjoy true liberty, and make the proper use of it. Hence, the greater our power of will is, and the less difficulty we experience in following the teaching of the Church, the greater is our liberty. Accordingly, Catholics, who live up to the teaching of the Church, enjoy greater liberty, and peace, and happiness, than Protestants and unbelievers, because they are the children of the light of truth, that leads them to Heaven; whilst those who live out of the Church are the children of the darkness of error, which leads them, finally, into the abyss of Hell.
If no one, then, can be saved except in the Roman Catholic Church, all those who are out of it are bound to become members of the Church. This is what common sense tells every non-Catholic. In worldly affairs, Protestants never presume to act without good advice. They never compromise their pecuniary interests or their lives, by becoming their own private interpreters and practitioners of law or medicine. Both the legal and the medical books are before them, written by modern authors, in clear and explicit language, but they have too much practical common sense to attempt their interpretation. They prefer always to employ expert lawyers and physicians, and accept their interpretations, and act according to their advice. Now, every non-Catholic believes that every practicing member of the Catholic Church will be saved. Hence, when there is question about eternal salvation and eternal damnation, a sensible man will take the surest way to Heaven.
It was this that decided Henry IV of France to abjure his errors. An historian relates that this king, having called before him a conference of the doctors of either Church, and seeing that the Protestant ministers agreed, with one accord, that salvation was attainable in the Catholic religion, immediately addressed a Protestant minister in the following manner: “Now, sir, is it true that people can be saved in the Catholic religion?” “Most assuredly it is, sire, provided they live up to it.” “If that be so,” said the monarch, “prudence demands that I should be of the Catholic religion, not of yours, seeing that in the Catholic Church I may be saved, as even you admit; whereas, if I remain in yours, Catholics maintain that I cannot be saved. Both prudence and good sense tell me that I should follow the surest way, and so I propose doing.” Some days after, the king made his abjuration at Saint Denis.
Christ assures us that the way to everlasting life is narrow, and trodden by few. The Catholic religion is that narrow road to Heaven. Protestantism, on the contrary, is that broad way to perdition trodden by so many. He who is content to follow the crowd, condemns himself by taking the broad way. A man says: “I would like to believe, but I cannot.” You say you “cannot believe.” But what have you done, what means have you employed, in order to acquire the gift of faith? Why are heretics lost? Heretics, that is to say, baptized persons who choose such doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church as please them, and reject the rest, are lost for the reason given by Saint Paul the Apostle, who says: “A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid; knowing that he who is such an one is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned by his own judgment.” [Tit 3:10-11]
Let us consider the two following anecdotes together, if we wish to know a little of the spirit of Saint John. Saint Jerome, in the Lections in the Breviary for Saint John’s day, says, “When he was living in extreme old age at Ephesus, and could scarcely be carried into the Church, and was unable to say many words at a time, he used often to say nothing but this, “My little children, love one another.” But the brethren grew weary of always hearing the same words, and said to him, “Master, why do you always say this?” The answer was worthy of John, “It is the commandment of Our Lord, and, alone, it is enough.”
Saint Irenaeus says that he heard from Saint Polycarp this story: “The Apostle John, going into a bath and finding Cerinthus there, immediately rushed out of the house, because he could not bear to be under the same roof with such a heretic. He exhorted his companions to do the same, saying, “Let us hasten out, lest the bath fall on us in which is Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth.”
Would to God that we had more of this spirit of Saint John amongst us; more brotherly love, and more hatred of heresy. It is impossible for any one to have too fierce a hatred of every distortion of the Faith. Heresy destroys the souls for which Jesus died. It is in every way a foul and a loathsome thing. Outside the Roman Church there is nothing but heresy, or infidelity, or paganism in some of its countless forms. Every Christian sect is heretical, whether it be in the East or the West, for they all deny the personal infallibility of the Vicar of Christ. And it is of very small consequence whether they deny much or little of Revelation, if they deny the authority of the one Church of God. That Church is Catholic and Roman. “Now whosoever shall keep the whole law, but offend in one point, is become guilty of all.” You ought to hate mortal sin with all your souls, whether it be in the intellectual or moral order. I do not say that you have to hate heretics; you ought to love them and pray for them, as you love and pray for those of the Church who are in mortal sin; but I do say that you can not have too strong and fierce a hatred of heresy.