Apologetics, Saint Francis de Sales, Theology

Saint Francis de Sales & the Pretended Ministers of the Reformation

saint-francis-de-salesAs a Catholic convert, I become greatly concerned when I hear the warm and fuzzy proclamations of those committed to ecumenism and endless religious dialogue, rather than the declaration of Gospel truth for the sake of converting those outside of the Catholic Church. My concern increases exponentially when the Vatican announces Martin Luther a “witness to the gospel.” The problems with this declaration are legion, and the very mission of the Church as the carrier of Gospel becomes blurred if heresy can be mixed with truth. To unite with the teachings of Luther, which is the result of declaring him a “witness to the Gospel”, is to de facto reverse the anathemas pronounced by the Council of Trent. Moreover, to claim Luther a “witness to the gospel” is to tell Lutherans that there is salvation outside of the Catholic Church. And if there is salvation outside of the Catholic Church, then Catholics are simply participating in another denomination trying to do the best they can to follow Jesus. The liberal, subjective autonomy of private revelation, previously considered to be an egregious error by the magisterial authority of the Church, becomes the basic foundation of the new ecumenism. Rather than the Church Militant doing spiritual battle for lost souls, the Church ecumenical seeks to mix divine truth with the heresy of the pretended ministers of the Protestant-revolt. It is vitally important, then, to examine the statement that Luther is a “witness to the gospel” so that we may dismiss such a claim as totally fallacious, and secure the faith of the laity against those seeking to undermine the Church.

Before identifying the heresies of Martin Luther, let’s take a look at his own words[1]:


– “Now, listen, Donkey of a Pope, with your long donkey ears and your damned lying mouth…But here I must stop; if it is the will of God, I will do it still better in another book. If I die in the meantime, may it please God that someone else should do it a thousand times stronger. For the devilish Popery is the last misfortune on earth, and the first thing that all the Devils proclaim with all their might. May God help us, Amen.” (Pg. 12, 13)

– “I will begin with myself, and make a little confession to you, holy Fathers; give me a good absolution, what will also do you no harm. I once awoke at midnight, when the Devil began to dispute with me in my heart after the following manner (as he is able to make many a night of mine bitter and miserable enough): ‘Listen [it is the Devil who speaks to Luther], listen, you learned man, do you know that for fifteen years you have almost daily said Mass privately? How will it be if, in such Masses, you have merely been practicing idolatry, and have adored, and held up for the adoration of others, not the Body and Blood of Christ, but merely bread and wine? I (Luther) answered: ‘I am a consecrated Priest, have received the chrism and ordination from the Bishop, moreover, I did all that according to order and obedience, why then should I not have consecrated, since I repeated the words seriously, and said Mass with all possible devotion? You (the Devil) certainly know that. ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘it is true. But Turks and heathens also do everything in their churches according to order and earnest obedience. The Priests of Jeroboam at Dan and Bethel did everything with perhaps greater devotion than the true Priests in Jerusalem. What, if your ordination, chrism and consecration were also unchristian and false, like that of the Turks and of the Samaritans?”

The conversation with the Devil continues,

“Here indeed the seat broke forth and my heart began to tremble and to beat. The Devil knows well how to put his argument, and to push it further, and he has a deep, powerful voice. In suchlike disputations there are no frequent nor long pauses; but in the twinkling of an eye answer follows answer. And from my own experience I can well understand how it is, that in the morning people may be found dead in bed. He (the Devil) can strangle the body. That is one way. But he can likewise so frighten the soul in disputing with it, that in an instant it is force to depart, as many a time almost happened to me. Well, he (the Devil) had attacked me in this disputation. And, in the sight of God, I did not wish to leave such an endless list of abominations lying on myself, but to defend my innocence.”

Finally, Luther provides arguments made by the Devil against private Mass,

“Listen to the reasons which he (the Devil) alleged against my ordination and consecration. For the first, he (the Devil) said: ‘ You know that you did not believe properly in Christ, and that concerning faith you have been as good as a Turk. For the Turk, yes, even I, with all the Devils, also believe all that is written about Christ (James II), that is, how he was born, died, and ascended into heaven. Yet none of us rejoice or trust in Him as in a Savior. But we fear Him as a severe judge. Such a faith you also had, and no other, when you were ordained and said Mass; and all the others, both the ordaining Bishop, and those whom he ordained, also believed the same. Therefore, you also all went over from Christ to Mary and to the Saints; they had to be your consolation and your helpers against Christ. This neither you, nor any other Papist, can deny. Therefore, you were ordained and have said Mass as heathens, and not as Christians…Therefore your ordination and also your consecration are nothing but blasphemy, and a tempting of God, and neither are you a Priest, nor is the bread in your Mass the Body of Christ.”[2]

– “I herewith let you know that in future, I will no longer do you the honor of allowing you, or even an Angel from Heaven, to judge my doctrine…There has been enough of this stupid humility now for the third time at Worms, and, nevertheless, it was of no use; but I will make myself heard, and, as St. Peter teaches, I will prove the motives and reasons for my teaching before the whole world, and I will not allow it to be judged by anybody, not even by any of the Angels. For, since I am certain of it, I intend, by means of it, to be your judge and also (as St. Paul says), that of the Angels; so that whoever does not accept my teaching, cannot be saved. For it is God’s and not mine. Therefore, my judgment is at the same time God’s and not mine.” (emphasis added)

– “And in order to return to the point. If your Papist makes much unnecessary fuss about the word (Sola, alone), say straight out to him, Doctor Martinus Luther will have it so, and says, Papists and donkeys are one and the same thing…For we will not be the scholars or the disciples of the Papists, but their masters and judges. We must once in a way act a little haughtily and noisily with these jack-asses.”

– “This is my answer to your first question; and as to their unnecessary noise about the word Sola, I beg of you not to give those donkeys any other or further answer, but simply this much; D. Luther will have it so, and says he is a Doctor above all Doctors in the whole of Popery.”


The list of quotes such as this can be added to at length. The hatred Luther possessed for the Catholic Church from which he defected is on record for all to see. He chastises the Papal office as the seat of the anti-christ, by his own word he receives approval for his doctrines from the Devil himself, and he plainly sets himself up as the infallible authority to which God has given revealed truth. Indeed, to reject the Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium of the one true Church requires a deceptive replacement, to which Luther attributed all three of these pillars of authority to himself. Reject the teachings of the Catholic Church, follow these novel teachings received in private revelation or be damned is the rally call of every true heretic. Public and objective revelation from God through Christ is replaced with subjective and private interpretation to an individual in the inner confines of their own unsettled mind.

In addition to these highlighted errors and statements, Luther took his scissors to the Bible itself, the book in which he allegedly revered above all “Papist” innovations. How can one love the written word of God if motivated to squint at its pages to find what is not liked, and chastise letters of the Sacred Page as “Epistles of straw” as Luther does with Saint James? How can one love the objective revelation of God, given to his Church and preserved in her traditions through the liturgy, when they are met with revulsion against the private doctrines created in secret against the sacred deposit of faith handed to the Apostles?

Let us now consider and properly identify the heresies Luther promulgated against the true teachings of the Roman Catholic Church[3]:


  1. It is a usual, but a heretical opinion, that the Sacraments of the New Law give justifying grace to those who place no hindrance in the way.
  1. To deny that sin remains in a child after baptism, is, through the mouth of Paul, to trample both on Christ and Paul.
  1. The tendency to sin, although there is no actual sin, delays the soul, after leaving the body, from entering heaven.
  1. The imperfect charity of one about to die necessarily induces a great fear, which of itself is enough to make the pains of Purgatory, and excludes from the kingdom.
  1. That the parts of Penance are three – Contrition, Confession, and Satisfaction; is founded neither in Scripture, nor in the ancient Holy Christian Doctors.
  1. Contrition, which is obtained by examination, recollection, and detestation of sins, by which a person recollects his years in the bitterness of his soul, pondering on the grievousness, the multitude, and the foulness of his sins, the loss of eternal beatitude, and the incurring eternal damnation – this contrition only makes a man a hypocrite, and a great sinner.
  1. That proverb is must true, and better than all the doctrine about conditions given as yet: the highest Penance is not to act so again, and the best Penance is new life.
  1. Presume not by any means to confess venial sins, and not eve every wicked sin; for it is impossible that you should know all your mortal sins, and hence, in the primitive Church only these manifestly mortal were confessed.
  1. When we wish clearly to confess everything, we act as if we wished to leave nothing to the mercy of God to pardon.
  1. Sins are not remitted to any one, unless (the Priest remitting them) he believes they are remitted – yea, the sin remains, unless he believes it remitted; for the remission of sin and the donation of grace is not enough, but we must also believe it is remitted.
  1. You should on no account trust you are absolved on account of your contrition, but because the words of Christ: ‘Whatsoever though shalt loose.’ Hence, I say, trust, if you obtain the Priest’s absolution, and believe strongly you are absolved, and you will be absolved, no matter about contrition.
  1. If by impossibility you should confess without contrition, or the Priest should absolve you only in joke, and you, nevertheless, believe you are absolved, you are most certainly absolved.
  1. In the Sacraments of Penance and the Remission of Sins, the Pope or Bishop does no more than the lowest Priest – nay, if a Priest cannot be had, any Christian, even a woman or child, has the same power.
  1. No one ought to answer a Priest that he is contrite, nor ought a Priest to ask such a question.
  1. They are in great, error who approach the Sacrament of the Eucharist with trust, because they have confessed, are not conscious to themselves of any mortal sins, have said the prayers and preparations for Communion – all these eat and drink unto themselves judgment; but if they believe and trust, they will obtain grace; this faith alone makes them pure and worthy.
  1. It seems advisable that the Church, in a General Council, should declare that the laity should communicate under both kinds, and the Bohemians who do so are not heretics, but schismatics.
  1. The treasures of the Church, from which the Pope grants indulgences, are not the merits of Christ or his Saints.
  1. Indulgences are pious frauds of the faithful, and remission of good works, and are the number of those things that are lawful, but not expedient.
  1. Indulgences are of no value to those who truly obtain them for the remission of the punishment due to the Divine justice for their actual sins.
  1. They are seduced who believe Indulgences are salutary and useful for the fruit of the spirit.
  1. Indulgences are necessary only for public crimes, and should be granted only to the hardened and impatient.
  1. For six classes of persons Indulgences are neither useful nor necessary – to wit, the dead, those on the point of death, the sick, those who are lawfully impeded, those who have not committed crimes, those who have committed crimes, but not public ones, and those who mend their lives.
  1. Excommunications are merely external penalties, and do not deprive a man of the common spiritual prayers of the Church.
  1. Christians should be taught rather to love excommunication than to fear it.
  1. The Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, is not the Vicar of Christ instituted by Christ himself in St. Peter, Vicar over all the Churches of the world.
  1. The word of Christ to St. Peter, ‘Whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth,’ extended but to what St. Peter himself alone had bound.
  1. It is not certainly in the power of the Pope or the Church by any means to lay down articles of faith nor laws of morals, nor good works.
  2. If the Pope, with a great part of the Church, should think so and so, although not in error, it is, nevertheless, neither sin nor heresy to think the contrary, especially in a matter not necessary to salvation, until by a General Council one thing is rejected and the other approved.
  1. We have a way open to us for weakening the authority of Councils, and freely contradicting their acts, and judging their decrees, by freely confessing whatever appears true, no matter whether approved or condemned by any Council.
  1. Some of the articles of John Huss, condemned in the Council of Constance, are most Christian, most true, and most Evangelical, such as not even the universal Church could condemn.
  1. The just man sins in every good work.
  1. A good work, be it never so well performed, is a venial sin.
  1. It is against the will of the spirit to burn heretics.
  1. To fight against the Turks is to oppose the will of God, who punishes our iniquities through them.
  1. No man can be certain that he is not in a constant state of mortal sin on account of the most hidden vice of pride.
  1. Free will after sin is a matter of name alone, and while one does what is in him, he sins mortally.
  1. Purgatory cannot be proved from the Holy Scriptures contained in the Canon of Scripture.
  1. The souls in Purgatory are not sure of their salvation – at least all of them; nor is it proved by reason or Scripture that they are beyond the state of merit or of increasing charity.
  1. The souls in Purgatory continually sin, as long as they seek relief and dread their punishment.
  1. Souls freed from Purgatory by the suffrages of the living, enjoy a less share of beatitude than if they satisfied the Divine justice themselves.
  1. Ecclesiastical Prelates and secular Princes would do no wrong if they abolished the mendicant Orders.

The evidence against Martin Luther is overwhelming. Not only does he proclaim vicious slanders against the Roman Catholic Church, he teaches gratuitous heresy. In addition to these listed, one cannot forget that his teaching also allowed for the defamation of the Sacrament of Marriage.[4] To claim that Martin Luther is a “witness to the gospel” is a statement that deserves condemnation and ought to be rejected by faithful Catholics.

In addition to the above evidence, St. Francis de Sales undercuts any claim to authority the pretended ministers of the reformation gave to themselves so that they might preach their new gospel, which is no gospel at all. This is significant because St. Francis was tasked to re-convert Calvinist Geneva back to the one, true, faith of Catholicism. In order to maneuver the anti-Catholic environment of Geneva, St. Francis had to first show that the mission of the “reformers” was illegitimate to begin with. He does this by demonstrating that the mission did not, nor can it, come from Princes or the people because a true mission requires the laying on of hands in order to transmit authority.[5] In addition to the inability of a valid mission coming from the seculars, Saint Francis also lays out what I call the Protestant conundrum of authority,

“If it be that from which they have taken mission, their mission is false, for from a false church there cannot spring a true mission. Whichever way it be, they had no mission to preach what they preached, because, if the Church in which they were ordained were true, they are heretics for having left it, and for having preached against its belief, and if it were not true it could not give them mission.”[6]

The logic supporting this argument seems to be inescapable. To possess a true mission, and to be a true ambassador of Christ, one must have been sent by the laying on of hands from a true authority. If, therefore, the pretended ministers were given a mission by a true authority, then they are heretics for having preached against the teachings of the Church. If the Church is a false Church, as the “reformers” are adamantly committed to teaching, then they cannot have a true mission to preach because only a false mission can come from a false Church. There is simply no way to get around this conundrum. And this argument supports the evidence provided above. The heresies taught by Luther are multitudinous, and as far as the evidence indicates, according to his own testimony, the Devil himself gives approval to his doctrines. There could not be a more false mission than one that the Devil gives approval.

There is one move left for the “reformers” to make, and that is to claim an extraordinary mission. The argument could be made that the Church has become so heretical, and so devoid of gospel truth, that God extended a mission that goes beyond the norms of institutionalized transmissions of authority. There are many issues with this argument; one would be that it contradicts the words of Christ himself that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. Another argument, provided by St. Francis, is that such a mission would require the proof of miracles. However, there are no miraculous signs validating the teachings of Luther, Calvin, Bucer, Beza, etc. Moreover, to get around the total absence of the divine stamp of the miraculous, many Protestants teach that the era requiring signs and wonders ended with the Apostles. This is an argument made out of convenience, rather than the discernment of truth. Especially because the miraculous still exists within the structures of the Roman Catholic Church, which include Eucharistic miracles and Marian apparitions resulting in the conversion of entire nations to the Catholic faith.

St. Francis says,

“Never was any one extraordinarily sent unless he brought this letter of credit from the divine Majesty. Moses was sent immediately by God to govern the people of Israel. He wished to know his name who sent him; when had learned the admirable name of God, he asked for signs and patents of his commission: God so far found this request good that he gave him the grace of three sorts of prodigies and marvels, which were, so to speak, three attestations in three different languages, of the charge which he gave him, in order that any one who did not understand one might understand another. If then they allege extraordinary mission, let them show us some extraordinary works, otherwise we are not obliged to believe them. In truth Moses clearly shows the necessity of this proof for him who would speak extraordinarily: for having to beg from God the gift of eloquence, he only asks it after having the power of miracles; showing that it is more necessary to have authority to speak than to have readiness in speaking.”[7]

The damage the Vatican is doing to the faithful they are supposed to guide to truth and navigate away from error is extensive. Rather than calling Lutherans to repentance, and calling them back into the Church, a new mission of ecumenism has replaced the truth that there is no salvation outside of the Church. Truth and heresy have no home together. If such a union is sought after without the necessity of correction, it is the truth that will end up compromising itself, rather than the errors of heretical theology.

The evidence and argumentation against Martin Luther is overwhelming. To claim that he is a “witness to the gospel” is an egregious error deserving repudiation.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] All quotations taken from, Luther’s Own Statements, O’Connor S.J.

[2] Fr. O’Conner says, “Now, I do not , say that Luther here for the first time learnt the doctrine of justification by faith alone, or that he was taught for the first time on this occasion to do away with the Mass, with Mary and the Saints. It is quite possible that some, or all of these doctrines, were preached by Luther before this celebrated disputation. But this I do say, and I say it most distinctly and most emphatically: Luther received the full and unqualified approval of the Devil for these new doctrines. It was the Devil who spoke in favor of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and against Mass, Mary, and the Saints.” (Pg., 18)

[3] This list of heresies is taken from St. Alphonsus Maria DeliGuori’s, The History of Heresies and Their Refuation Vol. I.

[4] “They say they could not introduce into the New Testament the provisions of the Old Law, which permitted a plurality of wives, as Christ says they shall be two in one flesh, but they likewise say that there are certain cases in which the New Law can be dispensed with; that the case of the Prince was one of these; but that, in order to avoid scandal it would be necessary that the second marriage should be celebrated privately, in the presence of few witnesses; and his document is subscribed by Luther, Melanethon, Bucer, and five other Lutheran Doctors. The marriage was soon after privately celebrated in presence of Luther, Melanethon, and six other persons.” (Ibid, Pg. 307)

[5] “And first, as to ordinary and mediate mission, they have none whatever. For what they can put forward is either that they are sent by the people and secular princes, or else that they are sent by the imposition of the hands of the bishops who made them priests, a dignity to which at last they must have recourse, although they despise it altogether and everywhere. Now, if they say that the secular magistrates and people have sent them, they will have two proofs to give which they can never give, the one that the seculars have done it, the other that they could do it, for we deny both the facts and the right.” (The Catholic Controversy, Pg. 5)

[6] Ibid, Pg. 8

[7] Ibid, Pg. 9

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