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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Like it or not, Protestants are Heretics

One of my all time favorite shrines is the tomb of St. Ignatius Loyola in the Church of the Gesu in Rome. In its baroque glory, St. Ignatius is depicted as "ascending" towards heaven in a beautiful image above the altar that rests upon his remains. On either side of the altar, are two sets of figures. The set of figures on the right hand side is my favorite. Allow me to paint a picture for you from my recollection: The name of the set of figures is "The Triumph of the Faith over Heresy" (or something to that effect). What is depicted in incarnate marble is a woman holding a cross with a clum,p of hair in her hand. At her feet is a cherub, playfully grinning tearing pages out of several books. Under the feet of the woman and cherub are two figures writhing in pain (from having thier hair plucked out) and being strangled by snakes--Laocoon-like. In the twisted and pained figures' hands (similarly coiled by the serpents) are two books. The first book's binding reads LUTHER, and the second, CALVIN.

I post this because of the apparent weak-knees with some of the responses to my hyperbole below. The great discomfort of some to call Protestants heretics is disturbing. In recent years we have seen a whittling away of the traditional theological vocabulary that has marked the Church's thought for two millenia. "Parishes" are now called, "faith communities." "Sanctuaries" are now called "worship spaces." "Fat ladies in stretch pants" are now variously called "Eucharistic ministers," "Directors of Religious Education," or "Pastoral Associates." Ultimately, I consider the deeper problem to be a failure to see reality--the failure to see things as they truly are. We are living now, as one Jesuit put it, in an "age of unreality."

Therefore, to dispel any cloudy thought which exists, I will give a nod to Mr. Belloc in his definition of a Heresy in general:

Heresy is the dislocation of some complete and self-supporting scheme by the introduction of a novel denial of some essential part therein.

and further...

Heresy means, then, the warping of a system by "Exception": by"Picking out" one part of the structure and implies that the scheme is marred by taking away one part of it, denying one part of it, and either leaving the void unfilled or filling it with some new affirmation.

The denial of a scheme wholesale is not heresy, and has not the creative power of a heresy. It is of the essence of heresy that it leaves standing a great part of the structure it attacks. On this account it can appeal to believers and continues to affect their lives through deflecting them from their original characters. Wherefore, it is said of heresies that "they survive by the truths they retain."

(Excerpts taken from Belloc, H. The Great Heresies)

***Boy do I love that group of figures at Ignatius' tomb!