Mary Ann Collins
According to the 1913 edition of the "Catholic Encyclopedia," when the Catholic Church anathematizes someone, the Pope ritually puts curses on them. There is a solemn written ritual for doing this. The "Catholic Encyclopedia" article describes the ritual in detail, including extensive quotations from it. (You can read this article online.) [Note 1]
In pronouncing the anathema, the Pope wears special vestments. He is assisted by twelve priests holding lighted candles. Calling on the name of God, the Pope pronounces a solemn ecclesiastical curse. He ends by pronouncing sentence and declaring that the anathematized person is condemned to hell with Satan. The priests reply, "Fiat!" (Let it be done!) and throw down their candles.
As we will see, the Catholic Church considers heresy (disagreement with Catholic doctrine) to be a crime. The Council of Trent, and other Church councils, declare that any person who disagrees with even one of their doctrinal statements is thereby anathematized.
When the Pope pronounces an anathema, he is said to be passing sentence on a criminal. The "Catholic Encyclopedia" says that the anathema ritual is deliberately calculated to terrify the "criminal" and cause him to repent (in other words, to unconditionally submit to the Catholic Church).
For those whose crime is heresy, repentance means renouncing everything that they have said or done which conflicts with Catholic doctrine. In other words, they have to renounce their own conscience and discernment, and the conclusions which they reached in their best efforts to understand Biblical principles. And they have to submit their minds and wills unconditionally to every official doctrinal declaration of the Catholic Church. As we will see, Canon Law says that this unquestioning submission of the mind and will is required.
According to the "Catholic Encyclopedia," a person's religious belief is "outside the realm of free private judgment". This is consistent with the spirit behind anathematizing people. (You can read about this online.) [Note 2]
The new "Code of Canon Law" was published by the authority of Pope John Paul II in 1983. It claims to be inspired by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and to put its reforms into concrete form. According to Canon 752, whenever the Pope or the college of bishops makes a declaration concerning faith or morals, "the Christian faithful" are required to give submit their intellect and will to it. Furthermore, they are required to avoid anything which disagrees with it. (The new "Code of Canon Law" is available online. You can read this law for yourself.) [Note 3]
So it is against Roman Catholic Canon Law for "the Christian faithful" to doubt or deny or dispute any Catholic doctrine. If something is against the law, then any person who does it commits a crime, which makes them a criminal. Canon Law has punishments for such criminals.
According to Canon 1311, The Catholic Church has the right to coerce "the Christian faithful" who do things contrary to Canon Law. Canon 1312 says that penal sanctions can include depriving people of spiritual goods (such as the sacraments) and temporal goods (things which people need for life on this earth). During the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church penalized Protestants by depriving them of their property, their freedom, and their life. [Note 4]
Spiritual goods are things which are necessary to get to Heaven. The Catholic Church believes that it can deprive people of them through excommunication and anathemas. "Temporal goods are things which are needed for life in this world. They include such things as property, liberty, and the freedoms which are guaranteed to Americans by the Bill of Rights.
The Catholic Church has never renounced its past practice of killing people that it considers to be heretics. On the contrary, the Office of the Inquisition still exists. It is part of the Roman Curia (the group of men who govern the Catholic Church). In 1965, its name was changed to "The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith". It is headed by Cardinal Ratzinger. [Note 5]
On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX declared the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. After defining the dogma, the Pope said that if any person dares to disagree with what the Pope has declared, then he or she shipwrecks their faith and is cut off from the Church. The Pope declared that such people are "condemned". He said that if any person says, or writes, or in any other way outwardly expresses "errors" in his or her thinking, then that person becomes subject to punishment. (This encyclical is available online.) [Note 6]
The Pope's reference to punishment is significant because a man had been executed for heresy 28 years before this papal bull was issued. In 1826, a Spanish schoolmaster was hanged because he substituted the phrase "Praise be to God" in place of "Ave Maria" ("Hail Mary") during school prayers. [Note 7]
On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII issued a papal bull defining the dogma of the Assumption of Mary. He ended by saying that it is forbidden for any person to oppose his declaration or to say things contrary to it. The Pope further declared that any person who attempts to do so thereby incurs the wrath of God and the wrath of the Apostles Peter and Paul. (You can read this encyclical online.) [Note 8]
Although this papal bull doesn't openly threaten punishment, it still implies the possibility of some form of punishment. The difference in tone between the bull of 1854 and the bull of 1950 reflects the decrease in power of the Catholic Church. In 1854, a man had recently been executed for heresy. In 1950, the political power of the Roman Catholic Church had decreased. By 1950, the kind of language which was used in the 1854 bull would not have created a good image for the Catholic Church.
The Roman Catholic Church believes that the Pope has the power and the authority to damn people to hell. The anathema ritual demonstrates this belief.
Many Catholics deny this, saying that only God can condemn people to hell. But look at the ritual of the anathema, as described in the "Catholic Encyclopedia." And look at the following solemn declaration of excommunication which was pronounced by Pope Innocent III,
The anathema ritual and its wording are a demonstration that popes believed that they could consign people to hell. The fear that the anathema produced is a demonstration that other people also believed it. So is the power that anathemas gave the popes over civil rulers. (See the article "Spiritual Coercion".)
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