The Reformation – A New Crucifixion?

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Saint Francis of Sales, Church Doctor

Saint Francis of Sales was a prominent figure in the Catholic Reformation.  He had the following to say about the various Protestant sects that sprung about by his lifetime.

“But as for your church, it is called everywhere Huguenot, Calvinist, Heretical, Pretended, Protestant, New, or Sacramentarian. Your church was not before these names, and these names were not before your church, because they are proper to it. Nobody calls you Catholics, you scarcely dare to do so yourselves. I am well aware that amongst you your churches call themselves Reformed, but just as much right to that name have the Lutherans, and the Ubiquitarians, Anabaptists, Trinitarians, and other offshoots of Luther, and they will never yield it to you. The name of religion is common to the Church of the Jews and of the Christians, in the Old Law and in the New; the name of Catholic is proper to the Church of Our Lord; the name of Reformed is a blasphemy against Our Lord, who has so perfectly formed and sanctified his Church in his blood, that it must never take other form than of his all lovely Spouse, of pillar and ground of truth. One may reform the nations in particular, but not the Church or religion. She was rightly formed, change of formation is called heresy or irreligion. The tint of Our Saviour’s blood is too fair and too bright to require new colors.” (Catholic Controversy 1:11)

It is very telling when they label themselves such names as Lutheran, Anglican, or Calvinist, because said labels tell whom or where they come from.  The Lutherans were founded by Dr. Martin Luther who was excommunicated and founded what he called the Evangelical Church.  The Anglicans split from the Roman Church under King Henry VIII and during this time it was merely in schism, but it became a heresy under his son King Edward VI after he made various changes to the liturgy.  The Calvinists were founded by John Calvin who is known for his belief in TULIP.  The Baptists were founded by John Smyth although many Baptists claim succession from Gnostic sects like the Albigensians or the medieval Waldensians whose doctrines drastically differed from their own.  The Presbyterians were founded by John Knox in Scotland who strayed from John Calvin’s belief in double predestination.  The Methodists were founded by John and Charles Wesley, though they were originally a revival movement within the Church of England.  The Moravians, sometimes known as the Hussites, were founded by Jan Hus who much like the Lutherans did not seek to rid many Catholic practices and beliefs such as seven Sacraments and a ministerial priesthood, but did believe in justification by faith alone.  Over the ages, many more sects emerged.  The Sacramentarians rejected Luther’s belief in the sacramentual union, a.k.a. consubstantiation, in favor of memorialism.  The Anabaptists were founded in rejection of the Catholic, Orthodox and mainstream Protestant belief in infant baptism.  These are just a small number of sects; there are plenty more.  Today there are over 33,000 denominations.

Saint Francis in the above quote mentioned “the name of Catholic is proper to the Church of Our Lord; the name of Reformed is a blasphemy against Our Lord, who has so perfectly formed and sanctified his Church in his blood, . . .”  Here we see the term ‘Catholic’ is complementary to the Church being universal or the same throughout the world.  On the other hand, the term ‘Reformed’ does not do the Church or Christ justice.  Christ died only once on the Cross and that was almost 2,000 years ago.  When He did this, the Old Law was fulfilled in the New.  He did not die again 500 years ago so as to make another change in Covenant.  The saint then mentions, “Nobody calls you Catholics, you scarcely dare to do so yourselves.”  Saint Augustine said something similar: “And so, lastly, does the name itself of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house” [1].  They might profess faith in one holy catholic and apostolic Church as the Nicene Creed states, but they do not properly call their ecclesiastic communities ‘Catholic’ because they know they lack Catholicity and that includes the teachings of the “Roman” Catholic Church.

Whenever I pray the Rosary, I pray the following petition.

“For schismatics, heretics and separated brethren, that they may be reconciled with the Holy Catholic Church, that there may be one fold and one Shepherd.”

[1] Saint Augustine of Hippo. Against the Fundamental Epistle of Manichaeus 4:5. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1405.htm&gt;.

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