Showing posts with label falsehood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label falsehood. Show all posts

Saturday, November 9, 2019

They Aren’t Remembering History. Will They Repeat It?

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it§.

—George Santayana, The Life of Reason, volume I

I’ve been reading different Patristic Church histories lately. I find accounts from Eusebius, Socrates, Sozomen, Rufinius, Theodoret, etc. fascinating in describing how the various schisms tried to impose their errors (if they were heretical) or rigorism (if they were schisms) on the Church. 

What made them successful in the short term was how they controlled the narrative and had the ear of important people. They selectively miscited the writings of those with authority in the Church, portraying the Popes and bishops as rejecting “authentic” teaching and falsely accusing them of all sorts of vile crimes. Idolatry, supporting heresy, debauchery, etc. The heretical and schismatic groups tried to get the Popes and bishops deposed from their positions. But in the long term, the orthodox Catholic position triumphed.

When they finally lost in the battle for the Church as a whole, they declared that the Church itself was wrong and broke communion with the successor of Peter and insisted that they were the faithful remnant. Montanism, Sabellianism, Arianism, Nestorianism, Monophysitism, Monothelitism, etc., were some of the heretical movements that rose from clinging from things the Church condemned. But there were other movements that rose from those who accepted the same beliefs as the Catholic Church but falsely claimed something the Church taught something that she did not* or claimed that the Church approach of mercy to sinners was allowing sin. Groups like the Novatians and Donatists fell into this category.

4. The root of this schismatic act can be discerned in an incomplete and contradictory notion of Tradition. Incomplete, because it does not take sufficiently into account the living character of Tradition, which, as the Second Vatican Council clearly taught, "comes from the apostles and progresses in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on. This comes about in various ways. It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts. It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience. And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth".(5)

But especially contradictory is a notion of Tradition which opposes the universal Magisterium of the Church possessed by the Bishop of Rome and the Body of Bishops. It is impossible to remain faithful to the Tradition while breaking the ecclesial bond with him to whom, in the person of the Apostle Peter, Christ himself entrusted the ministry of unity in his Church.(6)

—St. John Paul II, Ecclesia Dei 

I find that the modern attacks on the Pope and bishops is tragically similar to the attacks in the first centuries of the Church. Many of those hostile to the Pope like to think of themselves as being like St. Athanasius against the Arians or St. Paul opposing St. Peter. But they act more like Hippolytus, Novatian or Donatus, assuming that a position of mercy from the Pope must be a position of laxity or actual sympathy towards error.

While certain critics might think that Santayana’s comment on history justifies their stance, actually they fit what he warned against. They don’t understand the history and development of the Church. Instead they rely on perpetually new interpretations of a fixed moment in the Church that they consider ideal, assume was always the case, and remain ignorant of the actual development and struggle to defend the faith. Being ignorant about this development, they assume deviation from their ideal is error even if it’s orthodox Catholic teaching.

Because they fail to remember history, they cannot see the direction the Church has gone in and how she has changed discipline and custom but left doctrine intact. If certain critics will not remember this history, they might wind up repeating the tragedies that led to error and schism.


(§) This is the context of the oft paraphrased quote.

(*) Men like Photius, Michael Celularius, Luther, and Calvin also used false accusations to justify breaking with the Church.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

False Accusations revisited

Parvus error in principiis, magnus error in conclusionibus (Small error in the beginning leads to great error in the conclusion). It’s a maxim that means that if you start with errors in your assumptions, your conclusion will build on those false assumptions and wind up with an even greater one [§]. So, when we set out to prove something, it’s vital to make sure that our assumptions and research are correct.

This is especially true if you’re planning to accuse a person or group. We might think something is an error. But before we argue that it is in error, we need to investigate whether our understanding about the thing is true. If it isn’t, our opposition might be what’s really in error.

I think of this when I come across anti-Catholic attacks. In attempting to show why they are right in their beliefs, they start by attacking our “errors.” The problem is, Catholics don’t believe what they accuse us of. So, if they justify breaking with the Catholic Church on grounds of the Church teaching error [#], but the errors they allege we teach are things we don’t we actually reject then their break remains unjustified. So when Calvin alleges we worship idols, when some Orthodox allege Catholics think we “earn” our way out of Purgatory by our suffering (The Orthodox Confession of the Catholic and Apostolic Eastern Church, Question 66) [*], when Luther alleges (Commentary On Galatians, Chapter 5 v. 15) [+] that we believe we can earn salvation, these things are simply false. The Catholic Church does not and never had believed these things.

Whether Calvin, Peter Mogila (the author of the Orthodox Confession) and Luther were badly taught on these matters, whether they badly misunderstood the correct teachings, or whether they were barefaced liars (I leave it to God to judge), they used false statements to justify rejection of the Catholic Church and encourage others to do the same. Not only at the time of writing, but in the present time where modern anti-Catholics assume they had accurate knowledge of Church teaching. [%].

Of course, we must follow Our Lord’s teaching in Luke 6:31. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” If we would have others speak truthfully about us, we must speak truthfully about others. That means if we want to speak about another’s errors, we must be sure we have properly understood their statements as they intended it to be understood. Whether we speak or write about others, inside or outside of the Church, we have the obligation to make sure we speak accurately about what they really said and did.

Sadly, that isn’t the case. There is a (probably informal) movement that is aimed at opposing what they think is error in the Church. They take “Who am I to judge” to be approval of homosexuality. They take “rabbit Catholics” to mean opposition to large families. They take his words on the permissive will of God to be something approved of by God. From here they use their false interpretation (whatever the culpability might be) to attack the Pope, some having gone so far as to formally accuse him of heresy and urge the bishops to take action.

But these are false accusations, even if the anti-Francis Catholics believe them. We have an obligation to understand a person correctly before accusing him if we are to avoid rash judgment (you’ll notice that, while I pointed out that reformers, anti-Catholics, and anti-Francis Catholics spoke falsely—which can be established by comparing what they wrote with what the Church wrote—I never accused them of lying. That would require knowledge of their heart and mind that only God knows).

Whoever you are, whatever you do (I’m looking at our politicians and media here), whatever you profess to believe, you have an obligation to speak accurately when making an accusation, not assuming that what we hear or what we think it means is what our opponent holds.


[§] In logic, if one or both premises are false and/or the logical form is invalid, the conclusion is unproven. It might be correct by sheer coincidence, but the person didn’t prove his point.

[#] We need to distinguish between what the Church teaches and what an individual Catholic might believe—contrary to the teachings of the Church. If one assumes that the error of one is the error of the whole Church, that’s the fallacy of composition.

[*] This catechism reads in part: “Our Church doth not admit or approve of such Fables as some Men have fancied concerning the State of Souls after Death; as that they are tormented in Pits and Waters, and with sharp Prongs, when they are snatched away by Death before they can have done sufficient Penance for their Faults.” To which Catholics can say, “we don’t believe that either.

[+] “This we see also in the Papacy, where the doctrine of faith being cast aside, it was impossible that concord of spirit should remain, and in the stead thereof there arose through the doctrine of works innumerable sects of monks, which being at variance with one another, did measure their holiness by the straitness of their orders and the difficulty of their superstitious works which they had themselves devised.” To which Catholics can say “Luther knew less than he thought about the Catholic Faith.”

[%] That doesn’t mean that the Catholic Church teaches the Protestant position of course. Rejecting A does not mean accepting B.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Myths and Lies

The term “myth” in the dictionary (Oxford) has two definitions. 
  1. a traditional story concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.
  2. a widely held but false belief.
I’m inclined to think that when it comes to anti-Catholicism, we can combine the two and describe it as “a widely held but false belief explaining a natural or social phenomenon.” By this, I mean that in defending a movement opposed to the Church, proponents of the movement must retroactively justify the opposition. Because actual history does not provide such a justification, these proponents must invent one that explains it. Thus we wind up with a bizarre claim that the original form of Christianity was “corrupted” or “driven underground” by the Catholic Church early on through “error” and “innovation.”

Under this tactic, the teachings of the Church are turned into a huge straw man that Catholics have never believed while the actual corruption is transformed into something that was openly supported and blessed by the Church instead of the abberation it was actually seen as. The absence of technology before a certain point is transformed into a conspiracy. Cause and effect is assumed when it needs to be proven (post hoc fallacy).

Thus abuse in the matter of indulgences (for example Tetzel or how the use of charitable donations could be misunderstood as buying and selling) was transformed into an invention of the Church interfering with the relation between God and man. The fact of widespread illiteracy (those who were literate in that time did know Latin) and no printing press before the 15th century became the Church “withholding” the Bible from the laity.

Under this myth, aberration is portrayed as “normal.” There’s the case of how monks and priests were supposed to be stupid and uneducated. Yet the former clergy who began Protestantism were highly educated as monks and priests and they were not self-taught. Who taught the Reformers about Scripture in the first place? Luther didn’t find the Bible hidden in a storeroom. He was assigned to teach it by his superior in the Augustinian order!

I could go on and on, and the anti-Catholics undoubtedly will. But the point is that the Church corrected her corruption, while holding firm to her teachings. The Church made them clearer against misunderstanding, yes. Reduced opportunity for abuse, yes. Made uniform standards, yes. But the teachings were never repudiated. In fact, men like Luther, Zwingli, Knox, etc., misrepresented what the Church taught, whether knowingly or out of their own misunderstanding. (I leave it for God to judge).

As I’ve said in similar articles, this is not a “Protestant bashing” article. Rather I take this historical issue of misunderstanding or misrepresentating the Church (which continues among anti-Catholics), and apply it to the “widely held but false belief explaining a natural or social phenomenon” that Catholics use to attack changes in discipline which they dislike. 

Take the case of First Things, issue 249 (January, 2015). In an article arguing that the Church was compromising with the sexual revolution, the author wrote:

By renouncing the discipline of the Friday fast after Vatican II, the Church abandoned the stomach—after which collapsed an entire social system of Friday-focused marketplace and restaurant businesses that was organized around the Church’s claim upon the body. The same goes for the Church’s provision of Saturday-evening Masses. This decision relaxed Christianity’s claim to “own” our bodies on Sunday. 

I find his comments to be the Catholic equivalent of the anti-Catholic propaganda. St. Paul VI did not renounce the Friday fast. Rather, he recognized that penance needed to be... penitential. In the Apostolic Constitution, Paenitimini, he wrote:

The Church, however, invites all Christians without distinction to respond to the divine precept of penitence by some voluntary act, apart from the renunciation imposed by the burdens of everyday life.

To recall and urge all the faithful to the observance of the divine precept of penitence, the Apostolic See intends to reorganize penitential discipline with practices more suited to our times. It is up to the bishops—gathered in their episcopal conferences—to establish the norms which, in their pastoral solicitude and prudence, and with the direct knowledge they have of local conditions, they consider the most opportune and efficacious.

It’s the person having lobster on Friday, not the Church, abandoning the stomach. The diabetic who can’t abstain from meat isn’t abandoning the stomach by replacing it with another penance. Likewise, with the vigil Mass, Ven. Pius XII established the Vigil to benefit the person who has to work or travel on Sunday. One can abuse the intent, but the Church “relaxed” nothing.

We can point to other myths. Consider the claim that the Ordinary Form of the Mass was designed by Protestants (explicitly denied by those involved)... a myth aimed at justifying disobedience to the Church and rejecting the legitimate exercise of the magisterium. Consider the “Pope Francis allowing divorced/remarried to receive the Eucharist” when his point was determining whether all elements of a mortal sin was present instead of assuming they were. For that matter, consider all the (continuing) claims that the Pope is changing Church teaching on homosexuality, even though he consistently teaches against it. Or that he intends to force through female deacons even though he has said, “I can’t do a decree of a sacramental nature without having the theological, historical foundation for it.”

I can go on, and like the anti-Catholics, these people will.

When it comes to the anti-Catholic, the anti-Vatican II, or the anti-Francis myths, we have to ask ourselves this: Do those who spread them know they are false? If they do, they commit calumny. If they don’t, they commit rash judgment. Both are sins. The former is deliberate. In that case, the person spreading the myth knowingly participates in a lie. The latter is a failure to investigate the justness of a claim before assuming guilt and spreading unjust gossip. Their culpability, I leave for God to judge. But He has forbade false witness.

Whether the reader is hostile to the Catholic Church or a member, we have an obligation to speak honestly and make sure what we hear is true before spreading it. If we refuse to meet that obligation, we will have to answer for it.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Do We Understand? Or Do We Assume?


Pope Francis recently issued some words of wisdom about the division of ideology and the loss of respect. These divisions are causing some Catholics to savage others they disagree with. The general assumption is that a disagreement on how one must act is proof that the “other side” is either ignorant or malicious in not choosing the accuser’s view. The buzzwords line up with the person’s ideology, and the accusations assume that the other side embraces the worst positions for the worst reasons.

Assuming the Worst, Without Cause

Human beings, because of their flawed nature, are prone to sin. So it is quite understandable to see people willfully choosing evil, or making morally bad choices with lesser levels of intention. We can’t ignore that. We’re called to reach out to sinners and bring them back to the truth. The problem is, accusers are assuming the fact that there is a disagreement as proof being an enemy of al that is good and decent. But, when one looks at both sides, they are actually making the same arguments, and merely plugging in different buzzwords. A supporter of Trump might assume most or all of those who oppose him must support abortion, Islamic terrorism, and so-called same sex marriage, even if the person accused supports none of them. Likewise, the opponent of Trump might assume most or all who voted for him support racism, fascism, and letting the rich prosper at the expense of the poor.

The problem is, many of these accused Catholics who thought differently on how to vote, or on what the worst evils were, used the same reasoning to reach different conclusions. For example, I’ve seen them agonize over whether they should vote for what they saw as the least offensive choice among the two major candidates, knowing both were bad, or vote for someone else, risking the possibility of the worst choice getting in. In doing so, some of them might have been ignorant of Church teaching, and made bad decisions. Others may have known of and rejected Church teaching. But not all of them did so. The result is, many are rashly judged as holding a position they actually reject.

It doesn’t have to be about Trump either (He’s just, currently, the most controversial issue). Consider the liturgical wars. Some who prefer the way of the 1962 Missal believe all who disagree are heretics. Some who prefer the current Form of the Mass are schismatics. Some are—but not all. Again, those who do not are being rashly judged, accused of directly willing whatever bad effects come.

The Root of the Problem

I think there are two things people don’t ask: What the actual Church teaching permits, and what the person we disagree with actually thinks. If we don’t know both, we risk falsely accusing a person of supporting something he actually rejects. Even if it turns out he does support a wrong position, our accusation is merely a coincidence with no basis behind it.

Knowing what the Church actually teaches on a subject is important, because we have both the actual stated teaching, and the application based on conditions. For example, the Church speaks on the obligation to care for those in need. She does not define how we must vote, or what political platform we must endorse in order to meet that obligation. Provided we don’t try to “play the Pharisee” and evade our obligations under a disguise of piety, we can choose different ways to carry it out. In this case, it would be rash judgment to assume the person who chose a different way, while trying to be faithful, is ignoring Church teaching.

Likewise, when it comes to addressing the issue of sinners in the Church and reconciliation, we need to remember that the clergy need to not only assess the fact that something is intrinsically evil, but assess the intentions and circumstances that leads to our committing these sins. Why does the Church tolerate what we think is horrible? It’s a good question—and maybe we need to investigate, not assuming that our not finding an answer means there is none to be found.

The point is, if we don’t understand the fullness of the Church teaching, or lack of understanding may lead us to see sin where there is none, or vice versa. We may think the Church is too harsh or too lenient, when she is exactly right. We may think others are guilty when they innocent, or think they are innocent when they are guilty.

Our task is not done when we do understand the fullness of Church teaching. We have to also understand what the person holds before we accuse him of acting against it. Take, for example, the case of Pope Francis. If someone studies what he has to say—not the media accounts—you can see how close he is to the teaching of his predecessors. Personally, I found his harshest denunciations of evils in the practice of Capitalism in Evangelii Gaudium sound remarkably similar to the words of Pope Pius XI, or St. John Paul II in Sollicitudo Rei Socialis. I find he is no less firm in opposing the sexual sins than his predecessors. But his critics take snippets of quotes, given without context, and assume he intends to overthrow the Church teaching. But when one reads what he says in context, it is clear that the fault lies with his accusers.

On the other hand, some do get things wrong. They either reject Church teaching, or they wrongly think they are following. We still need to understand their position. Otherwise, how will we correct them? Nobody likes to be accused of holding a position they actually reject. If we falsely accuse them of rejecting Church teaching, or misrepresent their position, we will not show them the right path. Instead we’ll be fighting the wrong battle.


We need to realize that making false accusations against others will not bring about peace and conversion. As Christians, we have an obligation to seek out the truth and act on it. But in these days of instant communication of misinformation, we’ve stopped seeking and started assuming. We assume we can’t go wrong, but others can. And so we calumniate many of them by accusing them of actions and motives they do not hold to. That has to stop. By acting that way, we become self-righteous and we drive others away.

Our Lord had strong words to the Scribes and Pharisees for behaving this way. How much stronger will they be when directed towards us for knowing His teaching, but not living it?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Speaking Truth and Avoiding Falsehood and Rash Judgment

Regular readers of mine probably know my favorite quotation of Aristotle, his definition of truth by heart, but it’s time to cite it again:

To say that what is is not, or that what is not is, is false; but to say that what is is, and what is not is not, is true; and therefore also he who says that a thing is or is not will say either what is true or what is false.


 Aristotle, Aristotle in 23 Volumes, Vols.17, 18, Translated by Hugh Tredennick. (Medford, MA: Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd., 1933, 1989).

What brings up this citation this time is my seeing a growing number of people on the internet willing to impute motives to people based on their own interpretation of the quoted words, without concern as to whether the author intends those interpretations or not. It’s an important thing to keep in mind. If we want to speak truthfully about a person, we must make sure that our interpretation of his or her words are what the author intends before we praise or criticize the author/speaker in question. If we don’t do this, then we speak falsely about the person and our criticism is either wrong or, if it’s right, it’s only right by coincidence. 

This is especially a problem when personal preferences and beliefs color the meaning of words. For example, I have had to defend St. John Paul II when he used the word “feminism” from detractors who assumed he was using it in the sense of the American meaning of radical feminism. From this interpretation, his detractors accused him of being faithless to the Church. Or for a more recent example, millions of people still think that Pope Francis was endorsing “same sex marriage” on account of an out of context quote, “Who am I to judge.” (See HERE for context). Such people do not speak the truth when they claim/accuse the Pope of changing Church teaching.

Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft demonstrated why this is a problem in one of his Socratic dialogues he wrote (they’re all worth reading):

Socrates: I think you are confusing belief with interpretation.

Flatland: No, I'm just saying we have to interpret a book in light of our beliefs.

Socrates: And I'm saying we must not do that.

Flatland: Why not?

Socrates: If you wrote a book to tell other people what your beliefs were, and I read it and interpreted it in light of my beliefs, which were different from yours, would you be happy?

Flatland: If you disagreed with me? Why not? You're free to make up your own mind.

Socrates: No, I said interpreted the book in light of my beliefs. For instance, if you wrote a book against miracles and I believed in miracles, and I interpreted your book as a defense of miracles, would you be happy?

Flatland: Of course not. That's misinterpretation.

Socrates: Even if it were my honest belief?

Flatland: Oh, I see. We have to interpret a book in light of the author's beliefs, and criticize it in light of our own.

Socrates: Precisely. Otherwise we are imposing our views on another. And that is certainly not charitable, but arrogant.

Peter Kreeft. Socrates Meets Jesus: History's Greatest Questioner Confronts the Claims of Christ (Kindle Locations 749-755). Kindle Edition.

So if I interpret the meaning of something based on my personal beliefs, and not according to the intention the speaker/author had, then I miss the point. Moreover, if my criticism is based on this misinterpretation, I do injustice and quite possibly do moral wrong to the person I criticize. Speaking falsely can be a sin if we know it is false, or if we can research the statement and see the true content, but simply don’t bother to (vincible ignorance). But even in a case where the person who speaks falsely has no way of learning that his/her criticism is false (invincible ignorance), wrong is still done. Invincible ignorance simply means that the person has no way of finding out that they speak or act wrongly.

Nor can we hide our speaking rashly behind the excuse of “So-and-so needs to speak more clearly” (which is an excuse which is very popular among the detractors of Pope Francis). If you think a person speaks unclearly, then you have the obligation to act on that belief to be extra careful in avoiding misinterpretation and false accusation.

All of us have the moral obligation to speak truthfully. If we know we speak falsely when we speak against someone, then we outright lie. If we just assume that an accusation must be true without verifying that the speaker/writer intended to say what we accuse them of, then we are guilty of rash judgment.

This doesn’t apply only to other people committing rash judgment against Popes. It also applies to the people we dislike. A person can find Obama, Bush, Clinton, Trump, Nancy Pelosi, Wayne LaPierre (among others, I’m just culling the boogeymen most hated by Left and Right) to be offensive and supporting offensive policies. But that offense we take does not give us leave to spread whatever hostile interpretations we think sound good. We still have the same obligation to make sure that what we say is true and that we have made an accurate interpretation of our foes. In other words, even if the person that you oppose is a total bastard, that doesn’t give you the right to speak falsely against him or her.

I think this is especially important in an election year. Issues will be thrust forward, and candidates will take both sides. There will be attempts made to put the preferred idea in a positive light, and claim bad will for the opposed idea. We are not allowed to take part in misrepresentation, whether this misrepresentation tries to make an evil plan sound good or morally neutral, or to make a good or morally neutral idea seem evil. If we speak in favor of something or someone, we must do so honestly, and if we speak in opposition to some person or policy, we must be sure we accurately understand it first, and not distort it.

Otherwise we bear false witness and do wrong, whether we do so deliberately or through careless indifference.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

TFTD: Teaching a Falsehood

Introduction: An Example of False Teaching and Its Refutation by Fact

I came across this in a work by Presbyterian theologian and known critic of the Catholic Church, RC Sproul. In discussing the meaning of “The Lord’s Supper,” he tries to represent the Catholic position as follows:

There was also another point that was a matter of controversy in the Lord’s Supper. This had to do with the church’s understanding of what actually happens in the drama of the Mass. After the consecration takes place, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that what happens in the Mass is the repetition of the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross. Now, the church makes it clear that this repetition of the sacrifice is done in a non-bloody way; nevertheless, they insist that the sacrifice is a real sacrifice. So even though it’s a non-bloody offering, Christ is truly and really sacrificed afresh every time the Mass is offered. The Reformers found that to be blasphemous, as it was a complete rejection of what the book of Hebrews tells us, namely, that Christ offered Himself once and for all (Heb. 10:10). The sufficiency and the perfection of the atonement that Christ made on Calvary was so thorough that to repeat it would be to denigrate the supreme value of the once-for-all atonement that had been made there.


[Sproul, R. C. (2013). What Is the Lord’s Supper? (First edition., p. 57). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.]

However, when one actually bothers to look up what the Church teaches about the Eucharist, the Catechism of the Catholic Church effectively contradicts the claims of Sproul:

1366 The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit: (613)

[Christ], our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption. But because his priesthood was not to end with his death, at the Last Supper “on the night when he was betrayed,” [he wanted] to leave to his beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody sacrifice which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit.


1367 The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner … this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.” (1545)

In other words, what RC Sproul claims we believe is false. We Catholics deny that the Mass is a repetition of the Sacrifice at Calvary. We instead believe that the Sacrifice of Christ at Mass is made present on the altar. And lest anybody think this is a recent change to Church teaching, let’s go back to the teaching of the Council of Trent:

940 [DS 1743] And since in this divine sacrifice, which is celebrated in the Mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in an unbloody manner, who on the altar of the Cross “once offered Himself” in a bloody manner [Heb. 9:27], the holy Synod teaches that this is truly propitiatory [can. 3], and has this effect, that if contrite and penitent We approach God with a sincere heart and right faith, with fear and reverence, “we obtain mercy and find grace in seasonable aid” [Heb. 4:16]. For, appeased by this oblation, the Lord, granting the grace and gift of penitence, pardons crimes and even great sins. For, it is one and the same Victim, the same one now offering by the ministry of the priests as He who then offered Himself on the Cross, the manner of offering alone being different. The fruits of that oblation (bloody, that is) are received most abundantly through this un-bloody one; so far is the latter from being derogatory in any way to Him [can. 4]. Therefore, it is offered rightly according to the tradition of the apostles [can. 3], not only for the sins of the faithful living, for their punishments and other necessities, but also for the dead in Christ not yet fully purged.

[Denzinger, H., & Rahner, K. (Eds.). (1954). The Sources of Catholic dogma. (R. J. Deferrari, Trans.) (pp. 289–290). St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co.]

So, we can see here that even at the time that the Protestants were objecting to our “re-sacrificing” Jesus, we were saying it was not a re-sacrifice. We are celebrating the sacrifice of Our Lord which is made present on the altar in a non-bloody manner. In other words, what happens in the Mass is The Sacrifice, not another sacrifice.

The Danger of Teaching Falsehood—Accidentally or Deliberately

So, remembering that Aristotle identified truth as, “saying of what is that it is and of what is not that it is not,” we can see that Sproul did not say of what is that it is. So Sproul did not teach the truth. Whether he spoke sincerely or not, what he said was a falsehood. So it is clear that when it comes to speaking about the Catholic Church, Sproul is not a reliable witness. It leaves us with the question of his motive. Was he ignorant and sincere? Or did he know what we believe and pass this teaching on anyway in spite of his knowledge? Logically, we can say, either he knew or did not know that his words were false.

Either way, his actions are wrong in the eyes of God (Proverbs 19:9 for example). If he did not know that his actions were false, he certainly had the obligation to be certain he was speaking the truth before passing on somebody else’s false witness or rash judgment. If he did know he was speaking falsehood, then he violated the commandment against bearing false witness, which is an abomination (Proverbs 12:22).

God alone will judge him. I do not know whether he honestly believes what he wrote or not. Personally, I think he just passed on what he was told without ever questioning whether or not it was accurate. But consider the fallout of this decision. How many people has he led astray by saying these things? He is known for his books and recordings and videos. Every person he teaches wrongly will continue the teaching of error. At the very least that person wrongly taught will believe a falsehood about the Catholic Church which interferes with his or her ability to learn the truth. At the worst, this person will continue to pass this falsehood on as if it were true, infecting even more people.

Applying The Lesson

I did not write this article in order to bash Sproul or condemn him—in fact I pray for Him. I wrote of this offensive example to show that when we speak or write falsely—whether by failing to assess whether it is true or with full knowledge of the falseness—we do harm to others. This applies to Protestants maligning Catholics. It applies to Catholics maligning the Pope. Whether done by one sincere in their error or by someone who knows it is false, such statements block people from finding the truth, especially truths that lead us to how God wants us to live.

That’s why we must refute the falsehoods spoken.