Recent Posts

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Thoughts on Pelagianism

Thinking and talking about St. Thomas a Becket yesterday brought up some interesting ideas through a friend of mine. St. Thomas Becket was killed partly because he had rightly insisted on a priest getting an ecclesial trial for a serious crime, and in the meantime, the king's man, a knight, killed the priest, which is still grounds for excommunication.

The priest should have gone on trial by the Church and then by the secular state. Church first, State second.

Thomas Becket was standing up for the rights of the Church regarding clergy over the State interference. That the priest was wrong is clear in history, but there were procedures, which meant that the State honored the Church's judiciary. Canon law first, secular law second--or, better, that the secular law would reflect canon law.

As it should.

When any secular state takes power away from the Church, that state is not honoring the way God wants His Church to be protected. It is the duty of every state to protect the one, true, holy, and apostolic Church. Of course, the secularists deny this and so want "equality" and not merely tolerance.

There is a difference.

That the Church and the State would have found the priest guilty and that he would have been executed is sure.

These thoughts bring me to the problem of Pelagianism and universalism-the belief that all men are saved.

First of all, King Henry did something outside of Church law. By taking law into his own hands and not deferring to the Church, he showed that his view was like that of the Pelagians, that is, that one can achieve heaven, eternal life, sanctity on one's own efforts, with good works, and not with grace. The Church teaches that not only is grace necessary for salvation, that is, the need for the Redemptive action of Christ, which gives us grace through Him, but that grace helps us avoid future sins.

When both Original Sin is denied, and when grace is seen as unnecessary,  this leads to an idea that everyone may be saved without Christ.

In fact, the Church condemns the idea that we can do good works without grace.

Pelagians deny free will as well. This is popular in our day and age of over-psychoanalyzing sin to the point where no one is guilty of choosing evil, which we are.

Those who believe or have some type of fairy-tale idea that all men, women and children go to heaven forget all the above points.

Original Sin is a reality and it darkens our intellect, makes us more vulnerable to sin, and robs us of eternal life.

This is why Christ came, to free us from Original Sin, and the great icon of this is the Harrowing of Hell-to which we refer in the Creed.

Back to Becket...

The saint realized that one cannot contravene Church teaching for the sake of a good end, or in the case of excommunicating those bishops who did not follow proper order in the coronation of Henry's son, not following Church procedure but giving in to the king.

Only the Archbishop of Canterbury could give the right of coronation, which was and still is a religious duty and rite, not merely secular, at least in Catholic countries. Roger de Pont L'Évêque, the archbishop of York, Gilbert Foliot, the bishop of London, and Josceline de Bohon were excommunicated for going over the Archbishop's authority to give the oath of coronation.

Again, we see an interpretation of Church law and practice being flaunted by those who wanted to undermine the power of Becket and therefore place the Church under State control. What King Henry II could not do, Henry VIII succeeded in doing and bringing disgrace, terror and murder into the realm.

If there is no grace needed for good works, one can be saved outside the Church. Not so...

If there is no Original Sin, all people are saved. Not so.

There is a place for those who are not saved in and through Christ and His Church and that is hell. People want a generalized type of mercy without justice. Becket was standing up for real justice, which could include mercy, regarding the criminal priest. 

Without justice, there can be no mercy, and people continue to sin, expecting no consequences. Pelagians today, as in centuries past, undermine the authority of the Church, not only with regard to the sacred teachings from Scripture, which the Church preserves, but regarding temporal punishment due to sin, not only a Scriptural truth, but one clearly defined in the teachings of the Church.

The universalists want everyone to be saved, thus falling into the Pelagianist denial of free will and grace. One cannot gain heaven without grace and freely choosing to follow Christ. That God brings some people into heaven through the merits of the Catholic Church is a truism, explained here under the label of merit.

But, as Pelagius denied the need for Christ's Redemptive work on the Cross, so to do those modern universalists. If all men, women and children go to heaven, why bother to evangelize anyone, which is a command of Christ, God Himself?

Pelagians want salvation without the Church, without the sacraments, without grace. They want the so-called good works done by a person to bring one to heaven.

Just as the knight thought he was doing a good by killing a criminal priest, so the Pelagians confuse means and end. 

to be continued....