Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Antidote to John Calvin's Institutes (IV,11:1-8) [Church Polity / Binding, Loosing, & Excommunication / Calvin & Killing of Heretics]

King Edward VI of England (1537-1553; reigned January 1547 - July 1553)

See the introduction and links to all installments at the top of my John Calvin, Calvinism, and General Protestantism web page; also the online version of the Institutes. Calvin's words will be in blue throughout. All biblical citations (in my portions) will be from RSV unless otherwise noted.

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Book IV



1. The power of the Church in regard to jurisdiction. The necessity, origin, and nature of this jurisdiction. The power of the keys to be considered in two points of view. The first view expounded.

It remains to consider the third, and, indeed, when matters are well arranged, the principal part of ecclesiastical power, which, as we have said, consists in jurisdiction. Now, the whole jurisdiction of the Church relates to discipline, of which we are shortly to treat.

No; the Church also has jurisdiction over correct doctrine, or orthodoxy. It's not every man to himself in the Christian Church.

For as no city or village can exist without a magistrate and government, so the Church of God, as I have already taught, but am again obliged to repeat, needs a kind of spiritual government. This is altogether distinct from civil government, and is so far from impeding or impairing it, that it rather does much to aid and promote it.

Indeed. The only question is the exact nature of this government. We Catholics think that the Bible speaks to that question: that it is not a mystery and open-ended affair, so that Christians can disagree on it, to the extent of many competing forms.

Therefore, this power of jurisdiction is, in one word, nothing but the order provided for the preservation of spiritual polity. To this end, there were established in the Church from the first, tribunals which might take cognisance of morals, animadvert on vices, and exercise the office of the keys. This order is mentioned by Paul in the First Epistle to the Corinthians under the name of governments (1 Cor. 12:28): in like manner, in the Epistle to the Romans, when he says, “He that ruleth with diligence” (Rom. 12:8). For he is not addressing magistrates, none of whom were then Christians, but those who were joined with pastors in the spiritual government of the Church. In the Epistle to Timothy, also, he mentions two kinds of presbyters, some who labour in the word, and others who do not perform the office of preaching, but rule well (1 Tim. 5:17). By this latter class there is no doubt he means those who were appointed to the inspection of manners, and the whole use of the keys. For the power of which we speak wholly depends on the keys which Christ bestowed on the Church in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew, where he orders, that those who despise private admonition should be sharply rebuked in public, and if they persist in their contumacy, be expelled from the society of believers. Moreover, those admonitions and corrections cannot be made without investigation, and hence the necessity of some judicial procedure and order. Wherefore, if we would not make void the promise of the keys, and abolish altogether excommunication, solemn admonitions, and everything of that description, we must, of necessity, give some jurisdiction to the Church.

No disagreement here.

Let the reader observe that we are not here treating of the general authority of doctrine, as in Mt. 21 and John 20, but maintaining that the right of the Sanhedrim is transferred to the fold of Christ. Till that time, the power of government had belonged to the Jews. This Christ establishes in his Church, in as far as it was a pure institution, and with a heavy sanction. Thus it behoved to be, since the judgment of a poor and despised Church might otherwise be spurned by rash and haughty men. And lest it occasion any difficulty to the reader, that Christ in the same words makes a considerable difference between the two things, it will here be proper to explain. There are two passages which speak of binding and loosing. The one is Mt. 16, where Christ, after promising that he will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven to Peter, immediately adds, “Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt. 16:19). These words have the very same meaning as those in the Gospel of John, where, being about to send forth the disciples to preach, after breathing on them, he says, “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained” (John 20:23).

Peter is singled out because he was the leader and the first pope. Calvin assumes that the whole import of "keys of the kingdom" is binding and loosing; that way he can more or less make Peter equal to all the other disciples. But the implication (based on cross-referencing) is far greater and more wide-ranging than that, as I have examined elsewhere, with the aid of many Protestant scholars, as have other Catholic apologists.

I will give an interpretation, not subtle, not forced, not wrested, but genuine, natural, and obvious.

We'll be the judge of that!

This command concerning remitting and retaining sins, and that promise made to Peter concerning binding and loosing, ought to be referred to nothing but the ministry of the word.

It's clearly not just "the word" (i.e., preaching and teaching, as Protestants love to emphasize in the extreme) but a sacramental exchange (repentance, confession, absolution, and penance), as I have shown elsewhere. That was how it had been interpreted all through the centuries. Calvin can't just come along and wave his magic wand and change the meanings of words and sacramental procedures, as if they were not what they always had been.

When the Lord committed it to the apostles, he, at the same time, provided them with this power of binding and loosing. For what is the sum of the gospel, but just that all being the slaves of sin and death, are loosed and set free by the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, while those who do not receive and acknowledge Christ as a deliverer and redeemer are condemned and doomed to eternal chains? When the Lord delivered this message to his apostles, to be carried by them into all nations, in order to prove that it was his own message, and proceeded from him, he honoured it with this distinguished testimony, and that as an admirable confirmation both to the apostles themselves, and to all those to whom it was to come. It was of importance that the apostles should have a constant and complete assurance of their preaching, which they were not only to exercise with infinite labour, anxiety, molestation, and peril, but ultimately to seal with their blood. That they might know that it was not vain or void, but full of power and efficacy, it was of importance, I say, that amidst all their anxieties, dangers, and difficulties, they might feel persuaded that they were doing the work of God; that though the whole world withstood and opposed them, they might know that God was for them; that not having Christ the author of their doctrine bodily present on the earth, they might understand that he was in heaven to confirm the truth of the doctrine which he had delivered to them. On the other hand, it was necessary that their hearers should be most certainly assured that the doctrine of the gospel was not the word of the apostles, but of God himself; not a voice rising from the earth, but descending from heaven.

This is all well and good, and eloquent preaching of elementary Christian truths, but again, Calvin neglects to see that binding and loosing involves remitting of people's sins through a priest, acting as the representative of God, as opposed to a mere declaration of the same (the preaching of the gospel of forgiveness). Binding and loosing are not merely the equivalent to the gospel: another way of saying "gospel." The biblical, Catholic worldview a sacramental system. Calvin wants to spiritualize all this away, just as he does with baptism and the Eucharist. But the Bible and authentic apostolic tradition do not allow such heretical reinterpretations.

For such things as the forgiveness of sins, the promise of eternal life, and message of salvation, cannot be in the power of man.

Of course they can't. No one disagrees with that. But this doesn't mean that God doesn't use men as His vessels to distribute His graces (just as we pray for each other, etc.). St. Paul often speaks in those terms. Calvin wants to eliminate all human participation in these processes, because for him (in his illogical system of thought), any human cooperation must mean that somehow God is denigrated and lowered. That's not how the Bible views it. The Bible expresses a "both/and" outlook; not the Protestant "either/or" false dichotomy mindset. So Calvin is again bringing his traditions of men and extraneous philosophy to the Bible, and engaging in eisegesis.

Christ therefore testified, that in the preaching of the gospel the apostles only acted ministerially; that it was he who, by their mouths as organs, spoke and promised all; that, therefore, the forgiveness of sins which they announced was the true promise of God; the condemnation which they pronounced, the certain judgment of God. This attestation was given to all ages, and remains firm, rendering all certain and secure, that the word of the gospel, by whomsoever it may be preached, is the very word of God, promulgated at the supreme tribunal, written in the book of life, ratified firm and fixed in heaven. We now understand that the power of the keys is simply the preaching of the gospel in those places, and in so far as men are concerned, it is not so much power as ministry. Properly speaking, Christ did not give this power to men but to his word, of which he made men the ministers.

Again, Calvin collapses confession, reconciliation, absolution and penance into a proclamation of the gospel message. It is much more than that. As usual, Calvin simply proclaims his view without establishing why anyone should accept it and depart from received Catholic orthodoxy. Why he continually assumes that this is an impressive way to argue remains a perplexing mystery.

2. Second view expounded. How the Church binds and looses in the way of discipline. Abuse of the keys in the Papacy.

The other passage, in which binding and loosing are mentioned, is in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew, where Christ says, “If he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church: but if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt. 18:17, 18). This passage is not altogether similar to the former, but is to be understood somewhat differently. But in saying that they are different, I do not mean that there is not much affinity between them. First, they are similar in this, that they are both general statements, that there is always the same power of binding and loosing (namely, by the word of God), the same command, the same promise. They differ in this, that the former passage relates specially to the preaching which the ministers of the word perform, the latter relates to the discipline of excommunication which has been committed to the Church. Now, the Church binds him whom she excommunicates, not by plunging him into eternal ruin and despair, but condemning his life and manners, and admonishing him, that, unless he repent, he is condemned.

In the same fashion that the Church can proclaim excommunication, as even Calvin affirms, so she can proclaim the more positive message of absolution and forgiveness of sins, through the priest. If Calvin can accept one, he ought to be able to accept the other by analogy. But he does not, because he is so hostile to the office of the priesthood. I suspect that he retains excommunication because that is more of a communal decree: made by the group. But a priest offering forgiveness from God is beyond the pale for him. This is a pity, since it is explicit biblical teaching, not only in Matthew 16 and 18, but also in John 20:23: "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

There are several other verses as well, that presuppose that God's forgiveness can be channeled through men. For example, St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 2:7, 10: "you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him . . . Any one whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ." These were not sins committed against Paul or the other Corinthian believers; they were. The man in quesdtion appears to be the one mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 (adultery; incest).

In that passage Paul "binds" and judges the man's sins (5:3-4), and urges the Corinthians to concur in the judgment (5:4-5). When he is forgiven, it is an instance of loosing. Obviously, much more is going on than the preaching of the gospel. It is a sacramental, contractual exchange, involving men forgiving the sins of others not committed against them. These two passages taken in conjunction also offer explicit scriptural proof for the essential elements of an indulgence: the relaxing of temporal penalties for sin.

She looses him whom she receives into communion, because she makes him, as it were, a partaker of the unity which she has in Christ Jesus.

That's part of it, but not by any means all that is involved.

Let no one, therefore, contumaciously despise the judgment of the Church, or account it a small matter that he is condemned by the suffrages of the faithful. The Lord testifies that such judgment of the faithful is nothing else than the promulgation of his own sentence, and that what they do on earth is ratified in heaven.

It's not already pronounced by God and only "parroted" by men; it is, rather, pronounced by men, using their own judgment, based on the teachings of Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Catholics think more highly of the judgment of men in the Church than Calvin does.

For they have the word of God by which they condemn the perverse: they have the word by which they take back the penitent into favour.

And they also have the power of the sacrament to proclaim absolution and forgiveness to the repentant sinner.

Now, they cannot err nor disagree with the judgment of God, because they judge only according to the law of God, which is not an uncertain or worldly opinion, but the holy will of God, an oracle of heaven. On these two passages, which I think I have briefly, as well as familiarly and truly expounded, these madmen, without any discrimination, as they are borne along by their spirit of giddiness, attempt to found at one time confession, at another excommunication, at another jurisdiction, at another the right of making laws, at another indulgences.

Of course, every time Catholics disagree with Calvin's novel inventions, they must be "mad" or "giddy". It can't be that the Catholic could conceivably offer any scriptural justification just as Calvin does, and have an honest disagreement with him without somehow being wicked and possessed of nefarious motives. Such prejudice hardly makes for an objective treatment of the matter. I submit that, in fact, Catholics have far more biblical justification for their beliefs than Calvin does, and infinitely more historical, traditional support.

The former passage they adduce for the purpose of rearing up the primacy of the Roman See. So well known are the keys to those who have thought proper to fit them with locks and doors, that you would say their whole life had been spent in the mechanic art.

We await (as so annoyingly often!) an actual counter-argument, as opposed to the juvenile swipes at integrity and motives. Calvin often acts as if Catholics have no arguments at all, or that in the rare event that they do, they are so self-evidently false that no intelligent non-Catholic Christian ought to spend the slightest amount of time countering them. That's good propagandistic technique and lousy, pathetic reasoning for the outside observer judging the merits of each respective viewpoint.

3. The discipline of excommunication of perpetual endurance. Distinction between civil and ecclesiastical power.

Some, in imagining that all these things were temporary, as magistrates were still strangers to our profession of religion, are led astray, by not observing the distinction and dissimilarity between ecclesiastical and civil power. For the Church has not the right of the sword to punish or restrain, has no power to coerce, no prison nor other punishments which the magistrate is wont to inflict.

Why, then, did Calvin sanction capital punishment for what he deemed as heresy? He wrote concerning Michael Servetus, "if he shall come, I shall never permit him to depart alive, provided my authority be of any avail." Calvin may abstractly separate Church and state in such unpleasant matters, but in practice, there was a close conjunction. Thus, he could write to Somerset, Protector of England (my italics):
[T]here are two kinds of rebels who have risen up against the King and the Estates of the Kingdom. (1) The one, a fantastical sort of persons, who, under color of the Gospel, would put all into confusion. (2) The others are persons who persist in the superstitions of the Roman Antichrist. Both alike deserve to be repressed by the sword which is committed to you, since they not only attack the King, but strive with God, who has placed him upon a royal throne, and has committed to you the protection as well of his person as of his majesty. . . .

The Papists, in endeavoring to maintain the corruptions and abominations of their Romish idol, shew themselves to be the open enemies of the grace of Jesus Christ, and of all his ordinances. That ought likewise to occasion great sickness at heart among all those who have a single drop of godly zeal. And therefore they ought every one of them earnestly to consider, that these are the rods of God for their correction.
Calvin expressly contradicted elsewhere,what he wrote above (my italics again):
This passage has been most improperly abused by the Anabaptists, and by others like them, to take from the Church the power of the sword. But it is easy to refute them; for since they approve of excommunication, which cuts off, at least for a time, the bad and reprobate, why may not godly magistrates, when necessity calls for it, use the sword against wicked men?

(Harmony of the Gospels; commentary on Matthew 13:39 [parable of the wheat and the tares], written in 1555)
Calvin reacted in the following way to St. Thomas More's murder by King Henry VIII:
Do we need a more obvious example than this, of the judgments by which God punishes the pride of the impious, unbounded desire for glory, and blasphemous boastings?
Then the object in view is not to punish the sinner against his will, but to obtain a profession of penitence by voluntary chastisement. The two things, therefore, are widely different, because neither does the Church assume anything to herself which is proper to the magistrate, nor is the magistrate competent to what is done by the Church.

Except when Calvinist mobs rampaged Catholic (and even Lutheran) cathedrals, destroying every statue, stained glass, organs, etc., and stole the buildings. That is all fine and dandy, and one doesn't observe the fine distinctions there. Apparently, theft and breaking and entering was firmly within the jurisdiction of the "Church," as Calvin construed it.

This will be made clearer by an example. Does any one get intoxicated? In a well-ordered city his punishment will be imprisonment. Has he committed whoredom? The punishment will be similar, or rather more severe. Thus satisfaction will be given to the laws, the magistrates, and the external tribunal. But the consequence will be, that the offender will give no signs of repentance, but will rather fret and murmur. Will the Church not here interfere? Such persons cannot be admitted to the Lord’s Supper without doing injury to Christ and his sacred institution. Reason demands that he who, by a bad example, gives offence to the Church, shall remove the offence which he has caused by a formal declaration of repentance. The reason adduced by those who take a contrary view is frigid. Christ, they say, gave this office to the Church when there were no magistrates to execute it. But it often happens that the magistrate is negligent, nay, sometimes himself requires to be chastised; as was the case with the Emperor Theodosius. Moreover, the same thing may be said regarding the whole ministry of the word. Now, therefore, according to that view, let pastors cease to censure manifest iniquities, let them cease to chide, accuse, and rebuke. For there are Christian magistrates who ought to correct these things by the laws and the sword.

If the Christian magistrate is acting as a Christian on behalf of the Church, it is a distinction without a difference. It is still the Church persecuting with the sword. It doesn't essentially change just because the person doing it is one step removed from the Church, as a member of the civil government. What's the difference? In both instances a person is killed or persecuted by a Christian, with the approval of Calvin and his cohorts. It matters not if a Calvinist pastor does it, or a "Christian magistrate." Calvin and Calvinists are just as guilty of putting non-Calvinist Christians or other heretics to death, as Catholics (so often maligned for the Inquisition). These facts need to be known and taken into consideration, in the course of any fair inquiry and comparison.

But as the magistrate ought to purge the Church of offences by corporal punishment and coercion, so the minister ought, in his turn, to assist the magistrate in diminishing the number of offenders. Thus they ought to combine their efforts, the one being not an impediment but a help to the other.

This proves my point: there is such a close conjunction that it is a distinction without a difference. Yet Calvinists today will seize on this abstraction to claim that Calvinists never persecuted (like the "evil" Catholics did); that civil states did so, apart from Calvinism. That won't wash.

4. The perpetual endurance of the discipline of excommunication confirmed. Duly ordered under the Emperors and Christian magistrates.

And indeed, on attending more closely to the words of Christ, it will readily appear that the state and order of the Church there described is perpetual, not temporary. For it were incongruous that those who refuse to obey our admonitions should be transferred to the magistrate—a course, however, which would be necessary if he were to succeed to the place of the Church. Why should the promise, “Verily I say unto you, What thing soever ye shall bind on earth,” be limited to one, or to a few years? Moreover, Christ has here made no new enactment, but followed the custom always observed in the Church of his ancient people, thereby intimating, that the Church cannot dispense with the spiritual jurisdiction which existed from the beginning. This has been confirmed by the consent of all times.

Exactly, and this is why Calvin has no liberty to change the meaning and nature of the practice at his whim. It had a rabbinic background that can be ascertained, and did not essentially change when it was retained by Jesus Christ.

For when emperors and magistrates began to assume the Christian name, spiritual jurisdiction was not forthwith abolished, but was only so arranged as not in any respect to impair civil jurisdiction, or be confounded with it. And justly. For the magistrate, if he is pious, will have no wish to exempt himself from the common subjection of the children of God, not the least part of which is to subject himself to the Church, judging according to the word of God; so far is it from being his duty to abolish that judgment.

Again, this shows that in Calvin's mind, Church and state were closely aligned (and especially in the messy matter of putting theological dissidents to death).

For, as Ambrose says, “What more honourable title can an emperor have than to be called a son of the Church? A good emperor is within the Church, not above the Church” (Ambros. ad Valent. Ep. 32). Those, therefore, who to adorn the magistrate strip the Church of this power, not only corrupt the sentiment of Christ by a false interpretation, but pass no light condemnation on the many holy bishops who have existed since the days of the apostles, for having on a false pretext usurped the honour and office of the civil magistrate.

In this respect Calvinism is not that different from Catholicism. I object mainly to the double standard of Calvinists pretending that they were not guilty of putting heretics to death, as Catholics were. This is a myth that continues to this day, for some odd reason, in both Calvinist and Lutheran circles. The actual historical record shows otherwise. The only Calvinist persecution many Calvinists know about at all is that of Michael Servetus (with which Calvin was directly, actively involved), and they think that was a single exception to a general rule of Calvin's tolerance. Fictions like these keep the fires of hostility against Catholics stoked, and the double standards of comparative discourse in place.

5. The aim and use of ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the primitive Church. Spiritual power was kept entirely distinct from the power of the sword.

But, on the other hand, it will be proper to see what was anciently the true use of ecclesiastical discipline, and how great the abuses which crept in, that we may know what of ancient practice is to be abolished, and what restored, if we would, after overthrowing the kingdom of Antichrist, again set up the true kingdom of Christ.

High-sounding code language for "revolution against the Catholic Church" . . .

First, the object in view is to prevent the occurrence of scandals, and when they arise, to remove them. In the use two things are to be considered: first, that this spiritual power be altogether distinct from the power of the sword;

This is not the case in his system, as shown.

secondly, that it be not administered at the will of one individual, but by a lawful consistory (1 Cor. 5:4).

Calvin had no objection to the tyrannies of Henry VIII. Would any sane person argue that he was not the prime figure (if not sole figure) in the murder of St. Thomas More (and many other thousands, for that matter)? After all, he proclaimed himself supreme head of the Church of England. So he was a Super-Pope in his own domain. But one looks in vain for any glimmer of protest against this in Calvin. To the contrary, Calvin fawned over the English "reformers" and sought a close relationship to them. He admired their dirty work. He also sought a close relationship with nine-year-old King Edward VI of England and made out that he was a virtual prophet or new King Hosiah (a scenario that literally reeks with hypocritical absurdities).

Both were observed in the purer times of the Church.

And when did the Church become so impure that she had to be overthrown, with a cardboard caricature brought in as her replacement?

For holy bishops did not exercise their power by fine, imprisonment, or other civil penalties, but as became them, employed the word of God only.

That was generally true in the early Church.

For the severest punishment of the Church, and, as it were, her last thunderbolt, is excommunication, which is not used unless in necessity. This, moreover, requires neither violence nor physical force, but is contented with the might of the word of God. In short, the jurisdiction of the ancient Church was nothing else than (if I may so speak) a practical declaration of what Paul teaches concerning the spiritual power of pastors. “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience” (2 Cor. 10:4-6). As this is done by the preaching of doctrine, so in order that doctrine may not be held in derision, those who profess to be of the household of faith ought to be judged according to the doctrine which is taught.

Would that Calvin and Luther had followed their example, instead of persecuting Catholics, forbidding the Mass, stealing hundreds of Catholic church buildings and monasteries, banishing Catholics, drowning Anabaptists, etc.

Now this cannot be done without connecting with the office of the ministry a right of summoning those who are to be privately admonished or sharply rebuked, a right, moreover, of keeping back from the communion of the Lord’s Supper, those who cannot be admitted without profaning this high ordinance. Hence, when Paul elsewhere asks, “What have I to do to judge them also that are without?” (1 Cor. 5:12), he makes the members of the Church subject to censures for the correction of their vices, and intimates the existence of tribunals from which no believer is exempted.

No disagreement here.

6. Spiritual power was not administered by one individual, but by a lawful consistory. Gradual change. First, the clergy alone interfered in the judicial proceedings of the Church. The bishop afterwards appropriated them to himself.

This power, as we have already stated, did not belong to an individual who could exercise it as he pleased, but belonged to the consistory of elders, which was in the Church what a council is in a city. Cyprian, when mentioning those by whom it was exercised in his time, usually associates the whole clergy with the bishop (Cyprian, Lib. 3 Ep. 14, 19). In another place, he shows that though the clergy presided, the people, at the same time, were not excluded from cognisance: for he thus writes:—“From the commencement of my bishopric, I determined to do nothing without the advice of the clergy, nothing without the consent of the people.” But the common and usual method of exercising this jurisdiction was by the council of presbyters, of whom, as I have said, there were two classes. Some were for teaching, others were only censors of manners. This institution gradually degenerated from its primitive form, so that, in the time of Ambrose, the clergy alone had cognisance of ecclesiastical causes. Of this he complains in the following terms:—“The ancient synagogue, and afterwards the Church, had elders, without whose advice nothing was done: this has grown obsolete, by whose fault I know not, unless it be by the sloth, or rather the pride, of teachers, who would have it seem that they only are somewhat” (Ambros. in 1 Tim. 5). We see how indignant this holy man was because the better state was in some degree impaired, and yet the order which then existed was at least tolerable. What, then, had he seen those shapeless ruins which exhibit no trace of the ancient edifice? How would he have lamented? First, contrary to what was right and lawful, the bishop appropriated to himself what was given to the whole Church. For this is just as if the consul had expelled the senate, and usurped the whole empire. For as he is superior in rank to the others, so the authority of the consistory is greater than that of one individual. It was, therefore, a gross iniquity, when one man, transferring the common power to himself, paved the way for tyrannical licence, robbed the Church of what was its own, suppressed and discarded the consistory ordained by the Spirit of Christ.

The Catholic Church has a place for the consent of the faithful (Cardinal Newman and Vatican II have both greatly emphasized it). At times, it is true that this was grossly neglected (and Calvin's time was probably one of the low points), but this is a tendency of any Christian body, including Calvin's own. There are several accounts of Calvin's own intolerance in his own Geneva, towards those who weren't enamored by his own authority or preaching. I won't even bother to provide an example. But they assuredly exist. Thus, Calvin is not exempt from the shortcoming he wants to point out as typifying Catholic bishops. Those in glass houses . . .

7. The bishops afterwards transferred the rights thus appropriated to their officials, and converted spiritual jurisdiction into a profane tribunal.

But as evil always produces evil, the bishops, disdaining this jurisdiction as a thing unworthy of their care, devolved it on others. Hence the appointment of officials to supply their place. I am not now speaking of the character of this class of persons; all I say is, that they differ in no respect from civil judges. And yet they call it spiritual jurisdiction, though all the litigation relates to worldly affairs.

And of course this is also a common flaw of men with any sort of power. It is as obvious in Protestantism (especially the liberal denominations) as it is anywhere else.

Were there no other evil in this, how can they presume to call a litigious forum a church court? But there are admonitions; there is excommunication. This is the way in which God is mocked.

Indeed. It reminds me of orthodox Anglicans or Lutherans being, in effect, forced out of their denominations when they object to the sanctioning of practicing homosexual clergymen, or many denominations where the spirit of the age is obviously far more determinative than the Bible, with the sanction and approval of abortion, divorce and unlawful remarriage, contraception, homosexuality, premarital sex and cohabitation; in other words: calling evil good and being led by whatever is fashionable in the present culture and zeitgeist.

Does some poor man owe a sum of money? He is summoned: if he appears, he is found liable; when found liable, if he pays not, he is admonished. After the second admonition, the next step is excommunication. If he appears not, he is admonished to appear; if he delays, he is admonished, and by-and-by excommunicated. I ask, is there any resemblance whatever between this and the institution of Christ, or ancient custom or ecclesiastical procedure?

No; but it is by no means unique to Catholics.

But there, too, vices are censured. Whoredom, lasciviousness, drunkenness, and similar iniquities, they not only tolerate, but by a kind of tacit approbation encourage and confirm, and that not among the people only, but also among the clergy.

Exactly like many Protestant denominations today: groups that have literally changed their belief-systems to incorporate outright sin, whereas the Catholic Church has never ceased proclaiming against sin. Even in Calvin's time, nothing was thought of the breaking of vows of ordination, marrying and divorcing, and so forth. It was winked at and thought of as fine and dandy. So his circles were committing the very same sins that he decries here. A marriage that is no marriage is every bit as much adultery as "whoredom" is.

Out of many they summon a few, either that they may not seem to wink too strongly, or that they may mulct them in money. I say nothing of the plunder, rapine, peculation, and sacrilege, which are there committed. I say nothing of the kind of persons who are for the most part appointed to the office. It is enough, and more than enough, that when the Romanists boast of their spiritual jurisdiction, we are ready to show that nothing is more contrary to the procedure instituted by Christ, that it has no more resemblance to ancient practice than darkness has to light.

It's always complete corruption that Calvin sees in Catholicism. He rarely sees any good, and he rarely sees any bad in his own comrades. This is simply outside of reality. It's a pipe dream. Even Luther admitted that the moral tenor and "manner of life" of Lutherans was no better than Catholics (many times he even insinuated that they were worse).

8. Recapitulation. The Papal power confuted. Christ wished to debar the ministers of the word from civil rule and worldly power.

Although we have not said all that might here be adduced,

I agree. He never mentions any good thing about the Catholics of his time . . .

and even what has been said is only briefly glanced at,

In accordance with the time-honored techniques of sophistry and propaganda . . .

enough, I trust, has been said to leave no man in doubt that the spiritual power on which the Pope plumes himself, with all his adherents, is impious contradiction of the word of God, and unjust tyranny against his people.

I have plenty of doubts. I haven't been convinced by Calvin's arguments at all. I find them consistently wanting.

Under the name of spiritual power, I include both their audacity in framing new doctrines, by which they led the miserable people away from the genuine purity of the word of God,

What new doctrines? Those are to be found, in abundance, in Calvin's circles, not Catholic ones.

the iniquitous traditions by which they ensnared them, and the pseudo-ecclesiastical jurisdiction which they exercise by suffragans and officials.

Nice flowery distortions and painting with as black and broad of a brush as possible . . .

For if we allow Christ to reign amongst us,

. . . in contrast to those evil papists who don't follow Christ . . .

the whole of that domination cannot but immediately tumble and fall.

And obviously it did 500 years ago, and everyone now knows that Calvinism is the One True Church, right?

The right of the sword which they also claim for themselves, not being exercised against consciences, does not fall to be considered in this place.

. . . the same right that Calvinists claimed. They were no different. Nor were Lutherans or Anglicans.

Here, however, it is worth while to observe, that they are always like themselves, there being nothing which they less resemble than that which they would be thought to be—viz. pastors of the Church. I speak not of the vices of particular men, but of the common wickedness, and, consequently, the pestiferous nature of the whole order, which is thought to be mutilated if not distinguished by wealth and haughty titles.

Those wicked, evil, diabolical Catholics: the whole lot of them . . .

If in this matter we seek the authority of Christ, there can be no doubt that he intended to debar the ministers of his word from civil domination and worldly power when he said, “The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you” (Mt. 20:25, 26). For he intimates not only that the office of pastor is distinct from the office of prince, but that the things differ so widely that they cannot be united in the same individual.

Then how does Calvin account for his ridiculous fawning language towards the boy-king of England, Edward VI? He exhibited no such fine distinctions in that instance, did he?

Moses indeed held both (Exod. 18:16); but, first, this was the effect of a rare miracle; and, secondly, it was temporary, until matters should be better arranged.

Suspended till Henry VIII and Edward VI came along: the new David and the new Hosiah . . .

For when a certain form is prescribed by the Lord, the civil government is left to Moses, and he is ordered to resign the priesthood to his brother. And justly; for it is more than nature can do, for one man to bear both burdens.

Except for a nine-year-old wunderkind who was the Supreme Head of the Church of England . . .

This has in all ages been carefully observed in the Church. Never did any bishop, so long as any true appearance of a church remained, think of usurping the right of the sword: so that, in the age of Ambrose, it was a common proverb, that emperors longed more for the priesthood than priests for imperial power. For the expression which he afterwards adds was fixed in all minds, Palaces belong to the emperor, churches to the priest.

There is a right balance to be achieved in the matter of church-state relations. Calvin didn't achieve it. Historically, the Catholic Church has a far better record, though there were assuredly corruptions in practice, as with all groups of men at all times.

1 comment:

kathryn said...

hey, i'm not anti-catholic, but i'm not sure i agree with everything you guys believe, could you possibly clarify some points for me?
1: do you guys really believe in transubstantiation
2: the trinity
3: praying to Mary as the queen of heaven
4: the pope having the keys to heaven to allow and disallow people to get into heaven, and
5: the lord's prayer is the only prayer that you should pray?
6: exocommunication?

if you could clarify those points, that would be great.