|Defending the Sacraments Against Protestant Objections|
|On Extreme Unction|
|REMNANT COLUMNIST, Georgia|
(POSTED September 2006-- www.RemnantNewspaper.com) In an old book, we read about the last hours of Dutch Schultz, at the time, the country's most notorious criminal. Cold-blooded murder, robbery and assault were just a few of the offenses credited to him and his gang. At thirty-three, Arthur Flegenheimer (his real name) was said to control an annual income which ran into the millions.
On an autumn evening in 1935, Dutch sat in a rear room of a tavern going over accounts with three underlings. Suddenly, two strangers appeared in the doorway and fired their guns. Dutch was rushed to a hospital, where his religion was put down as Jewish. The next morning, still conscious and aware of the gravity of his condition, he asked an attendant to summon a Catholic priest. Upon the priest's arrival Schultz expressed his desire to become a Catholic and to die in that faith. The priest baptized him, administered the Last Rites of the Church, and soon thereafter Schultz died. He was given a Christian burial.
Bootleggers and racketeers were the counterparts to today's dealers in drugs or child pornography, and the newspapers were flooded with protests. "If a guy like that can get to heaven, there won't be anybody in hell!" "Dutch Schultz with the angels!" "Dutch Schultz associating with the holy saints in heaven!" Such were the exclamations heard everywhere, and the anti-Catholics, always with us, took the opportunity to accuse the Catholic Church of associating with the underworld.[i]
To put into perspective the events chronicled above, we must look at them in the light of Our Lord's love for us, and His mercy.
To prepare them for their work, Our Lord called "the Twelve" and "began to send them out two and two, and gave them power over unclean spirits," and "going forth they preached that men should do penance: and they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them" (Mk 6:7/12-13).
This was a training mission, but the miracles were real. Although oil was commonly used to dress the wounds or sores of the sick (Lk 10:34), the effects achieved by the apostles here indicate that they were following a definite instruction from Christ, in a preview of the sacrament.
After His resurrection, Our Lord said to the assembled apostles: "As the Father hath sent me, I also send you" (Jn 20:21). Then, after having commissioned them to preach and to baptize (Mk 16:15-16), He adds: "They shall lay their hands upon the sick, and they shall recover" (Mk 16:18). Here is already foreshadowed, at least, what St. James was to express more explicitly when he directed the faithful to make use of the powers of the priesthood, saying:
Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith shall save the sick man; and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him (Jas 5:14-15).
The instruction is to pray over the sick man, not for him. The former suggests the exercise of priestly powers; the second, any layman can do. As we have seen, while there is an etymological connection between priest and presbyter, an "elder" is really only the Protestant substitute for a priest, the objective being the elimination of priests and priestly powers. Now, all a Protestant "elder" can do is pray for him, though he might stand over him while he does so.
St. James in the text above outlines all that is required for a sacrament: an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace. In fact, no other sacrament is more clearly described in Holy Writ than the one we know as Extreme Unction.
There are not only the apostle's words; the effects that accompany the application of the consecrated oil to the sick leave no doubt that Christ instituted the Sacrament of Extreme Unction: "The prayer of faith shall save the sick man, and the Lord shall raise him up. And if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him" (Jas 5:15). Only Christ could give to an anointing with oil and the prayers of the priests such supernatural powers.
As is to be expected, this directive recorded in Holy Scripture is not enough for Protestants.
Protestantism does not accept the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church, because it finds only two, Baptism and the Lord's Supper, demanded by the teachings of Scripture. [Therefore,] Protestants refuse to believe that Confirmation, Holy Orders, Penance, Matrimony, or Extreme Unction have any scriptural basis for being called sacraments. If Roman Catholics are better Christians for having these five extra 'sacraments,' Protestants have no objection. But, they do not want these designated as fundamental requirements for all Christians. Protestants feel that Baptism and the Lord's Supper are sufficient when used in accordance with the spirit and teachings of Christ.[ii] (Emphasis in original.)
This Protestant apologist's source, of course, is not Holy Scripture, but Luther and the other "Reformers," who denied the sacramentality of Extreme Unction and classed it among rites that are of human or ecclesiastical institution.[iii] John Calvin, who had nothing but contempt and ridicule for this sacrament, described it as a piece of "histrionic hypocrisy."[iv] He did not deny that the rite may have been a sacrament in the Early Church, but held that it was a mere temporary institution which had lost all its efficacy since the charisma of healing had ceased.[v] The same position is taken up in the confessions of the Lutheran and Calvinistic bodies, as well as the other Protestant bodies, and down to our day the denial of the Tridentine doctrine on Extreme Unction has been one of the facts that go to make up the negative unanimity of Protestantism.[vi]This term, "negative unanimity," reflects the reality: Protestants generally agree only about what they deny.
In this matter, Protestant history is instructive. In the first edition (1551) of the Edwardine Prayer Book for the "reformed" Anglican Church, established by King Henry VIII, the rite of unction for the sick, with prayers that are clearly Catholic in tone, was retained, but in the second edition (1552), this rite was omitted, and the general teaching on the sacraments shows clearly enough the intention of denying that Extreme Unction is a sacrament.
"Protestants refuse to believe that Confirmation, Holy Orders, Penance, Matrimony, or Extreme Unction have any scriptural basis for being called sacraments."[vii] The typically imprecise Protestant speech in which this grievance is expressed leaves us wondering. Is the Protestant spokesman complaining about Catholics having the sacraments, or about their being called sacraments? If it is the former, he must direct his protest Elsewhere. If it is the latter, we must, with humble gratitude for our blessings, remind those who accept and reiterate this Protestant spokesman's denials that, just as Adam got to name the creatures in the Garden (Gen 2:19-20), those there at the time, being likewise the first on the scene, got to name the riches Christ left to us in the Church.
Furthermore, the statement that "Protestants refuse to believe" that the other five sacraments "have any scriptural basis for being called sacraments" tells us nothing at all about whether there is any scriptural basis for the rejected Penance, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction. It tells us only what we already knew, that Protestants refuse to believe these and any number of other revealed truths and apostolic practices documented in the New Testament and retained in the Church.
Our Protestant advocate continues: "If Roman Catholics are better Christians for having these five extra 'sacraments,' Protestants have no objection. . . . ." This man has either missed the point, or else he simply ignores it; they are not extra. There are spare tires in trunks of automobiles, there are backup files in computers, and there are extra batteries for the flashlight, but there is nothing "extra" in our bequest from Christ, the founder of the Church.
"Protestants have no objection"? Of course they do. They spend enormous energy, enormous effort, enormous amounts of money, and enormous amounts of time objecting. This man's book consists of almost three hundred pages of objections. Protestantism is one great big five-hundred-year-old objection.
"Protestants feel that Baptism and the Lord's Supper are sufficient when used in accordance with the spirit and teachings of Christ." We have already spoken of the contradiction in this claim that you can reject the sacraments, and "refuse to believe" what Christ taught, and what the men taught by Him taught and did, and then claim that whatever happens to be left in any given sect is "sufficient when used in accordance with the spirit and teachings of Christ." When you reject so much as one jot of Christ's teaching, you are hardly using the leftovers "in accordance with the spirit and teachings of Christ." As He Himself said:
. . . I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. . . [T]ill heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled. He therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and shall so teach men shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. . . . But he that shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:17-19).
"If Roman Catholics are better Christians for having these five extra 'sacraments'. . . ." Who is a better Christian for not having the Sacraments of Penance, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction? In answer, I offer the teaching of Martin Luther, which swept beyond the grasp of Protestants five of the sacraments and much, much more. The imperative Protestants unconsciously but slavishly obey—the requirement that they believe nothing repudiated by the Great Reformer (it is permitted to believe less than Luther did)—demands that they strive unceasingly to justify the deficiencies of Protestant dogma. It has nothing to do with whether the sacraments "have any scriptural basis."
The institution of Extreme Unction by Christ was not questioned before Martin Luther formulated his new doctrines on faith and justification. Msgr. O'Hare describes for us the Great Reformer's new program of salvation, in which
the living, vital, efficacious faith that manifests itself in good works, and without which it is impossible to please God, must be discarded. All the old teachings, practices and observances of piety, so useful and helpful for man’s justification and his deliverance from divine vengeance, must now be forgotten and abandoned. The priesthood, sacraments, indulgences, intercessory prayer, fasts, pilgrimages, all spiritual works must be displaced to make way for his miserable, degrading, and colorless invention of faith without works.
In his special system he wanted none of the old means for gaining eternal life. They were considered antiquated, unavailing and worthless. In his estimation it was not possible for man to perform any works which were really good and acceptable to God. Man was so depraved in consequence of the fall of Adam and Eve that he became totally corrupt, both in his intellect and his will, and was consequently incapable . . . of thinking, willing or doing any good thing. All his actions, therefore, even those which most strictly conform to the precepts of the natural and divine law, were "evil and only evil, and that continually." Corruption hung over man forever and tainted everything he did. All the works of man before justification were damnable sins; and all the works of man after justification were so sinful in the sight of God that, if He were to judge them strictly, every one would be damned.[viii]
Catholics reject this perversion of Christ's teaching and cling to that reiterated by St. Paul, who understood grace. He had "seen" Christ (1 Cor 9:1/15:8), who appeared to him as He appeared to Peter, to James, to the Twelve, after His Resurrection. The apostle's conversion is not the fruit of his reasoning or thoughts, but an unforeseen, sudden, startling change, due to all‑powerful grace (Gal 1:12‑16; 1 Cor 15:10). He was halted by Christ when his fury at the Christians was at its height (Ac 9:1‑6); it was through "zeal" that he persecuted the Church (Phil 3:6), and he obtained mercy because he had acted "ignorantly in unbelief" (1 Tim 1:13).
After his conversion, St. Paul wrote to those at Corinth and in Galatia: "And now there remain faith, hope and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity" (1 Cor 13:13), "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing nor uncircumcision: but faith that worketh by charity" (Gal 5:6).
What is faith? Faith is the act of intellectual assent to a revealed truth with the assistance of divine grace. The assent is based upon the authority of God. Faith has for its object every truth revealed by God, because He, who can neither deceive nor be deceived, has revealed them.
To the Protestant, faith is the firm belief that he is already saved, and that there is nothing he can do, or fail to do, that will jeopardize his salvation. Protestantism teaches that "one's present and future sins are also included in one's initial justification." This is "the Protestant doctrine of immediate, complete, once‑for‑all justification."[ix]
This false doctrine, taught by false religions, was invented by Martin Luther. To make sure that the adherents to his new doctrines would not learn the truth about the matter, Luther "arbitrarily inserted the word 'alone' after the word 'faith' in a passage written by St. Paul, to make it square with his pet doctrine."[x] With Luther's addition in italics, the line reads, "For we account a man to be justified by faith alone, without the works of the law" (Rom 3:28). When he was reproached for this, he said:
You tell me what a great fuss the Papists are making because the word "alone" is not in the text of Paul. If your Papist makes such an unnecessary row about the word "alone," say right out to him: "Dr. Martin Luther will have it so," and say "Papists and asses are one and the same thing." I will have it so, and I order it to be so, and my will is reason enough.[xi] (Emphasis in source.)
St. Paul's thinking, says a commentary, is as follows.[xii] In the Christian doctrine of salvation, law and lawfulness have been dethroned from the first place in the process of man's salvation, and their place of honor has been given to faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:27-28). Justification by faith excludes all that boastful self-sufficiency and self-complacency which the various claims to superiority in law and lawfulness had spread and always will spread among men.
The Christian doctrine of justification by faith supersedes the old distinction between Israelites and Gentiles based on circumcision. All attempts to retain that distinction in the question of salvation are in vain, for faith in Jesus Christ cannot be made dependent on circumcision or descent from Abraham (Rom 3:29).
Origen uttered a warning against the conclusion that according to this verse, "For we account a man to be justified by faith, without the works of the law" (Rom 3:28), works after justification are of no account. Here, St. Paul is concerned not with the Christian life after justification, but with the way of obtaining justification. When St. Paul does speak of the life after justification, he leaves no doubt that works are required to retain that justification. For example:
Now he that planteth and he that watereth, are one. And every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labor (1 Cor 3:8); Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers be transformed as the ministers of justice, whose end shall be according to their works (2 Cor 11:15).
This is the teaching on the relationship between faith and works so forcefully confirmed by St. James:
What shall it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but hath not works? Shall faith be able to save him? (Jas 2:14); So faith also, if it have not works, is dead in itself. But some man will say: thou hast faith, and I have works. Show me thy faith without works; and I will show thee, by works, my faith. Thou believest that there is one God. Thou dost well: the devils also believe and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, offering up Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou that faith did cooperate with his works and by works faith was made perfect? (Jas 2:17-22).
Now, St. Paul would call these "works of faith," and not works of "the law," so there is no contradiction.[xiii]
Martin Luther's confused notions being in open opposition to the scriptural teachings as contained in the Epistle of St. James, wherein he states: "Faith without works is dead" (Jas 2:26), he eliminated it from the Bible (not the only one so ejected) which he is imagined to have regarded as so sacred, the Bible he is imagined to have restored to the people. In the act of silencing the witness to the true teaching of Christ on faith and works, the Great Reformer banished along with it the text confirming the institution of Extreme Unction as expressed by the same apostle (Jas 5:14-15).
The interpolated word alone in Romans 3:28 is not to be found in the King James Version of the Bible. Whether it is in the Bibles printed for German Protestants, I do not know, nor does it matter. In both cases, the notion stuck.
What Martin Luther's doctrine means in practical terms is that the Protestant, once he decides that he is "saved," need not worry about sin, ever. "I'm talking about a living faith in a living Savior. And as such, I repeat what I've said: Jesus took my final exam for me. . . I've already gotten my 'A' on the final exam. . . ."[xiv]
Luther's false teaching underlies all peculiarly Protestant beliefs. In his comment on Genesis 19:26, the apostate monk advises those who depended on him to interpret the Bible that man must remain with regard to all things which pertain to the salvation of the soul
like the statue of salt into which the wife of Lot was changed; to the trunk of a tree or a stone, like a statue, lifeless and having no use of either eyes, mouth or other senses or of a heart. . . . To be a Christian means to have the Evangelium [meaning Luther's doctrines] and to believe in Christ. This faith brings forgiveness of sins and divine grace; it comes solely through the Holy Ghost, who works it through the word without any cooperation on our part. . . . Man remains passive and is acted upon by the Holy Ghost just as clay is shaped by the potter.[xv]
If men believe in Christ, they are told, and "accept Him as their personal Savior," His justice will be imputed to them and they will go straight to heaven. It does not matter what evil they have done during their lives; it does not matter whether or not they repent of their sins; it does not matter whether or not, at the moment of death, they have compunction, contrition or attrition, or are in a state of grace‑-if they have faith they will be saved. "Luther was the first in Christendom to proclaim to the world that man [is] 'justified by faith alone,' [a doctrine] admirably suited to lull and tranquilize the misgivings of conscience, [but] utterly powerless to lead souls to eternal life."[xvi]
This doctrine was invented by the founder of Protestantism, and given their enslavement to the teachings of the apostate monk, we are not surprised that Protestants "do not want these [seven sacraments] designated as fundamental requirements for all Christians." (Emphasis in original.)
We hear the same incoherent language whenever Protestants speak. "Protestants differ widely in regard to rites and practices, but they are united in the belief that salvation comes not through a Church organization but through the grace of God manifested in Jesus Christ."[xvii]
Catholics believe that we are saved by grace, and that Christ, the Son of God, was our Redeemer. Since that has not been questioned, we turn to the two questions raised by the declaration above. The first is: how do we receive this grace? The answer is found on the first page of the little Catechism, following on the question: "Why did God make you?" And the answer:
"God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next." Heaven, then, is our goal, our destiny. We are promised a happiness so great that St. Paul exclaims: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him" (1 Cor 2:9).
And how can we assure ourselves of this life of bliss and eternal happiness? Left to our own weak nature, damaged by Original Sin, and so prone to evil, we would find it very nearly impossible to believe and to do all that God requires of us under His laws. To appreciate the difficulty of living a life pleasing to God without His help, to evaluate the differences between a Christian and a pagan, we need only contemplate the cannibalism, polygamy, and witchcraft which characterize societies untouched by Christianity.
Without Him and His grace, it is apparent that the most we might expect would be, at best, but a state of everlasting natural happiness, for the simple reason that "supernatural happiness" is by definition beyond the natural powers of man, for, as Our Lord tells us, "Without me you can do nothing" (Jn 15:5). But in what sense, and in what way, is He "with" us? Christ comes to our aid through His divine graces, actual grace and sanctifying grace, the latter imparted through the sacraments.
The second question is raised by the pronouncement that Protestants "are united in the belief that salvation comes not through a Church organization but through the grace of God manifested in Jesus Christ." Why, then, did Christ found the Church? What was it for? Did He have in mind some purpose, besides that Protestant favorite, "fellowship," for what he called "my Church"? "I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Mt 16:18).
We are all victims of Original Sin. Baptism liberates us from the bondage of sin and Satan, and makes us members of God's household, the Church, children of God and heirs to eternal salvation. One of the effects of the Sacrament of Penance is the restoration or the increase of sanctifying grace in the soul of the sinner. We get these sacraments from the Church. Even those sacraments that Protestants generally accept come to them only because they were preserved in the Catholic Church for the fifteen centuries preceding the Reformation, and are available through the churches of the various sects only because, for reasons of their own, they did not discard them, too, along with the rest. So the Church is something more than a gathering place.
As to the Bible, it is no secret that no one sect can agree with any other on the meaning of almost any given text. It may be less well-known that even within a congregation, there may be any number of interpretations of the same texts. The Protestant sees no incompatibility between this, the veritable identifying characteristic of Protestantism, and the accompanying conviction so often proclaimed, that anyone and everyone can extract the true meaning of Revelation on his own, which means that each one is infallible, and can infallibly define his own truths, all of which are true, provided they are not among those Luther rejected.
Protestants glory in the fact that the Protestant Reformation broke the rigid pattern of the Roman hierarchy and re-established in their minds, hearts, and practice the teachings and the spirit of the New Testament and the early church.[xviii] Protestants go directly to the Bible for their moral and social principles.[xix]
The "rigid pattern of the Roman hierarchy" to which this Protestant apologist refers is the uniform teaching of the Church to all Christians for fifteen centuries, brought about by the vigilance of the Catholic Church in protecting and safeguarding divinely revealed truths. There is nothing evil in rigidly upholding the truth, but rigidity and vigilance cease to be admirable when what is being rigidly safeguarded and clung to is only Protestant error, dreamed up by Martin Luther and his assorted imitators.
"And now there remain faith, hope and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity" (1 Cor 13:13), "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing nor uncircumcision: but faith that worketh by charity" (Gal 5:6).
As we have seen, faith is the act of intellectual assent to a revealed truth with the assistance of divine grace. Hope is that virtue through which we trust that God will grant eternal life and the means of obtaining it, provided we cooperate. Charity is a divinely infused virtue by which we prefer God as the sovereign good before all else and by which we do His will and are united to Him, the virtue that disposes us to love God, ourselves, and our neighbor for the sake of God.[xx]
Like faith and hope, charity is a supernatural virtue; supernatural virtues enter the soul with sanctifying grace, imparted by the Holy Ghost in the sacraments. This sanctifying grace does not make us perfect in the practice of virtue, but it does give us the power and inclination to be good and do good.
On page 11 of his book, this author has a subhead in bold type which says: "Return to Original Christianity," and on the next page, one which says "Scriptural Basis for Protestant Beliefs." On later pages we find the following:
The Reformation, more than anything else, opened and revitalized New Testament concepts of religion.[xxi] The Protestant Reformation had its birth and inspiration in Holy Scripture.[xxii] The letters of Paul to the churches, and the Book of Revelation, give Protestants a firm basis of conviction in regard to the divine origin of their churches. 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11 list the specific leadership of the early church.[xxiii]
The Epistles of St. Paul, the Apocalypse (called Revelation in the King James Bible), and a mere referral to a list of the leadership of the early Church do not constitute proof of a "divine origin" of the sects deriving from the so-called Reformation, and thus fail to justify the "firm basis of conviction" in their adherents as to the claimed "divine origin."
To be sure, here and there in this Protestant apologist's book is a glimpse of truth. For example, he says: "While historically many churches had their physical birth in the period of the Protestant Reformation"‑-this is certainly, indubitably, demonstrably true‑-"spiritually they are of the New Testament and claim Christ as their Founder and Head."[xxiv] With this deft juggling of words and concepts, the author manages to mix true and false. This is followed by: "They [Southern Baptists] think of the Church as being founded by Christ at Pentecost."[xxv]
The Protestant spokesman considers the final statement in the above paragraph, telling us that the "[Southern Baptists] think of the Church as being founded by Christ at Pentecost," evidence for the statement preceding it, that the Southern Baptists "claim Christ as their Founder and Head." This lack of proof does not advance his case, the thrust of which is that the Primitive Church was Protestant, and that Protestant beliefs are actually "revitalized New Testament concepts of religion."[xxvi]
"They think of the Church as being founded by Christ at Pentecost."[xxvii] Whatever the date Protestants "think of the Church as being founded," the question is not when the original Church was founded. The question is which Church He founded. That Church is, by definition, the Primitive Church. Let us examine Holy Scripture for some real evidence as to its identity.
The doctrine of the Church as set forth by the apostles after Our Lord's Resurrection and His Ascension is in all respects identical with the teaching of Christ during his public ministry, and bears little resemblance to the "faith alone" doctrines preached by the "many" Southern Baptists who "do not think of themselves as Protestants, but as direct descendants of First Century Christians."[xxviii]
After two of His followers on the way to Emmaus were joined by the resurrected Christ, and they went back to Jerusalem, they "found the eleven gathered together, and those that were with them" (Lk 24:13-33). Favored with yet another visit from Him, "He opened their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures" (Lk 24:36-45). Our Lord goes on to say, "Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead, the third day, and that penance and remission of sins should be preached in his name, unto all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Lk 24:46-47).
Let us examine in more depth this penance and remission that Our Lord wished to be preached in His name. Remission, says the Maryknoll Catholic Dictionary, is "an act of pardon and forgiveness of sin; the removal of the guilt and stain of sin and the restoration of sanctifying grace in the soul," either through the Sacrament of Baptism, the Sacrament of Penance, or through an act of perfect contrition. Baptists accept Baptism, but repudiate the Sacrament of Penance, so they have no way of dealing with sins committed after their baptism.
Penance can refer either to a sacrament of the New Law instituted by Christ in which forgiveness of sins is granted through the priest's absolution to those who with true sorrow confess their sins and resolve to satisfy for the same, or the virtue of penance, also called contrition. The latter is a supernatural moral virtue whereby the sinner is disposed to hatred of his sin as an offense against God and to a firm purpose of amendment and satisfaction. The principal act in the exercise of this virtue is the detestation of sin, not of sin in general nor of that which others commit, but of one's own sin.
The motive of this detestation is that sin offends God: to regret evil deeds on account of the mental or physical suffering, the social loss, or the action of human justice which they entail, is natural, i.e., on the natural level; but such sorrow does not suffice for penance. On the other hand, the resolve to amend, while certainly necessary, is not sufficient of itself, i.e., without hatred for sin already committed; such a resolve, in fact, would be meaningless. It would profess obedience to God's law in the future while disregarding the claims of God's justice in the matter of past transgression. The prophet Jeremias laments: "Thus saith the Lord . . . no man speaketh what is good, there is none that doth penance for his sin" (Jer 8:4-6).
In the Old Law, eternal life is denied to the man who does iniquity without conversion and penance:
But if the just man turn himself away from his justice, and do iniquity according to all the abominations which the wicked man useth to work, shall he live? [No,] all his justices which he hath done, shall not be remembered: in the prevarication, by which he hath prevaricated, and in his sin, which he hath committed, in them he shall die (Ezec 18:24); Be converted, and do penance for all your iniquities and iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions . . . and make to yourselves a new heart, and a new spirit . . . For I desire not the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God, return ye and live (Ezec 18:30-32).
Along with other instructions, Our lord said to the Twelve:
Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you; going forth from thence, shake off the dust from your feet for a testimony to them. And going forth they preached that men should do penance: and they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them (Mk 6:11-13); Unless you do penance, you shall all likewise perish (Lk 13:3).
Such too is His teaching as expressed in the parable of the Prodigal Son: "I say to you that even so there shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance, more than upon ninety‑nine just who need not penance" (Lk 15:7). The parable of the Pharisee and the publican restates the same truths:
And to some who trusted in themselves as just and despised others, [Christ] spoke also this parable: Two men went up into the temple to pray: the one a Pharisee and the other a publican. The Pharisee standing, prayed thus with himself: O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican. I fast twice in a week: I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven; but struck his breast, saying: O God, be merciful to me a sinner. I say to you, this man went down into his house justified rather than the other: because every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled: and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted (Lk 18:10-14).
So the Southern Baptists who "do not think of themselves as Protestants, but as direct descendants of First Century Christians," cannot be direct descendants of the First Century Christians of whom and to whom St. Luke spoke (Lk 18:10-14, immediately above, and in Lk 13:3 and 15:7), quoting Christ in all of the texts.
In the same spirit St. John the Baptist exhorts his hearers: "Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of penance" (Mt 3:8). In the New Law, therefore, repentance is as necessary as it was in the Old, repentance that includes reformation of life, grief for sin, and willingness to perform satisfaction, that is, penance.
If we take penance as meaning the Sacrament of Penance, which Protestants in general repudiate outright, we will not detect any resemblance between First Century Christians and their supposed "direct descendants," Southern Baptists. If we apply the word in its meaning of a supernatural moral virtue whereby the sinner is disposed to hatred of his sin as an offense against God and to a firm purpose of amendment and satisfaction, we collide with the complacency of the Protestant.
Above, we have a Baptist professor of Holy Scripture from the Internet, the one who told us about "the Protestant doctrine of immediate, complete, once‑for-all justification," telling us that once the Protestant decides that he is "saved," he is freed from all worry about sin, past, present, and future. It follows that he need not worry about doing penance, either. "I'm talking about a living faith in a living Savior. And as such, I repeat what I've said: Jesus took my final exam for me . . . I've already gotten my 'A' on the final exam. . . ."[xxix]
Having dealt with the remarks about how Protestants "think," or alternatively, "do not think of themselves," followed by the statement that there are some who "think of the Church as being founded by Christ at Pentecost," Catholics have another question: What has all of this, even if it proved something, got to do with Protestantism, founded by Martin Luther fifteen centuries later?
Luther and his doctrines are good enough for this Protestant spokesman, who incorporates the myth about Luther and Holy Scripture: "Martin Luther set the scene for the Reformation when he declared, 'If a thousand Augustines and a thousand churches were against me, I am sure that the true church holds with me to the Word of God' (in his reply to John Eck, 1519)."[xxx]
When we contemplate the choices of Protestants: Luther vs. Christ; Protestant oral tradition vs. Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition, preferences proceeding from an unquestioning acceptance of the dogmas concocted by the Reformers, resting in turn on an unshakable trust in Luther's revelations and system of salvation, we are reminded of Our Lord and the centurion: "And Jesus hearing this, marveled; and said. . . . Amen I say to you, I have not found so great faith in Israel" (Mt 8:10).
Their adherence to the Reformers' precepts turns our thoughts to Our Lord's words to the scribes and Pharisees: "In vain do they worship me, teaching doctrines and commandments of men" (Mt 15:9; Mk 7:7).
Luther and his notions were seen by those who spoke for the Church at the time, and for centuries afterward, in their true light. The following statements of fact are accurately characterized by this Protestant spokesman as "typical," or at least they used to be:
Typical of the Roman Catholic attitude toward Luther is that expressed by the Reverend John A. O'Brien, Ph.D., professor at the University of Notre Dame, when he writes in his book The Faith of Millions: "When Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, on October 31, 1517, nailed his ninety-five theses to the doors of the church at Wittenberg, and later proceeded to establish a religion of his own, he set loose in the religious world a principle which was destined to produce consequences far beyond the ken of himself or his fellow reformers. It was the principle of the supremacy of private judgment in the interpretation of the Scriptures and as a guide in the religious life.
". . . Far from being indifferentists in religion, these reformers were fanatics, each believing his own particular creed was correct, and willing to persecute unto death all who contumaciously held a contrary interpretation. Far too from being the founders of religious tolerance, as a modern myth is fond of picturing them, they set an example of intolerance and persecution which in cruelty and fanaticism has seldom, if ever, been equaled in the long annals of Christendom.
"Insisting with despotic finality that his judgment be accepted as supreme in all matters of religion, Martin Luther pronounced every one who differed with him in doctrine a heretic, and condemned him in coarse and vulgar language.
"When the peasants, led astray by Luther's example of the private interpretation of Scripture to suit one's fancy, sought to carry out their own ideas of the meaning of the Bible, thus provoking the Peasants' War, Luther turned on them with savage ruthlessness, urged the nobles to track them down like dogs, and to kill these 'children of the devil.' His advice was followed literally. Instead of becoming gentler and more tolerant with age, Luther grew more rancorous and vituperative."[xxxi]
These statements were "typical" because the facts were so well-known. However, "Largely because of the II Vatican Council," as this Protestant apologist, invited as guest-observer to Vatican Council II,[xxxii] correctly perceives, "the Roman Catholic opinion of Martin Luther has improved considerably."[xxxiii] But it had not improved enough as of thirty-eight years ago (1965), when his, Stuber's, book was reprinted, to suit him. He could not have foreseen that the tidal wave generated by Vatican Council II, which, with reservations, he approved, was on its way. He had only to wait.
Luther's views have not been revised, although, for centuries, many of them have been either quietly ignored, or forgotten, and thus remain largely unknown in their entirety to Protestants, but the views of Catholics certainly have. There are now available in "Catholic" gift shops holy cards depicting St. Martin Luther, halo and all.
Why Sacraments Matter
Having seen not only the Protestant rejection of five of the sacraments, but the widespread indifference to the remaining two, we get down to particulars. What is so important about the sacraments? What are they for?
As has been said, three things are absolutely necessary to constitute a sacrament: institution by Christ, an outward sign, and power to give grace. The sacraments receive their power to give grace from God, through the merits of Jesus Christ. Each sacrament possesses the power from God to make the soul of the recipient holy and pleasing to Him. This supernatural power is termed sanctifying grace. Each sacrament also gives a grace proper to itself, a special effect on the soul, distinct from the effects of other sacraments. This is called sacramental grace.
The sacraments are actions of Christ; through the visible rite, it is He who sanctifies us. But He does it through the Church He founded. This puts in perspective the Protestant advocate's boast that, while "Protestants differ widely in regard to rites and practices . . . they are united in the belief that salvation comes not through a Church organization but through the grace of God manifested in Jesus Christ."[xxxiv]
The truth is, Protestantism was built on that replacement for actual and sanctifying grace, the replacement for the Church, Revelation, the sacraments, and almost everything else: "faith," which in fact is not even faith, defined as "the act of intellectual assent to a revealed truth with the assistance of divine grace," but presumption, defined as "an unfounded expectation of gaining salvation or the means of obtaining it; an exaggerated reliance upon means of salvation which are contrary to or other than those willed by God."[xxxv]
The center around which Protestantism is constructed is the body of denials originating with Martin Luther. Protestants deny what he denied; they reject what he rejected; they repudiate what he repudiated.
In light of the teaching of the Great Reformer, and this spokesman's endorsement of the same, are we to take seriously his complaint that five of the sacraments have no "scriptural basis"? Indeed, if Luther was right, why bother with the sacraments at all? What place do sacraments have in such a system, which holds that "God’s all powerful grace does not cleanse from sin. The Almighty does not regard the sins of men. He covers them over with the merits of Christ and does not impute them to the sinner whose faith in the sufferings of the Redeemer is made manifest"?[xxxvi] One "whose faith in the sufferings of the Redeemer is made manifest," thereby assuring his salvation, one whose sins are "cover[ed] over with the merits of Christ"[xxxvii] can, and largely does, ignore these channels of grace, the sacraments.
The Protestant spokesman refers to the inability of Protestants to interpret Holy Scripture in any way which leads them to the truth:
Whereas Roman Catholics have seven [sacraments], Protestants have only two. The other five are repudiated. Moreover, even on the basis of the two held more or less in common‑-baptism and the Lord's Supper (the Eucharist)‑-there is a great difference. There is much disagreement about them in Protestant circles. Probably more misunderstandings and divisions have occurred over these two rites than over all the other doctrines of the Church.[xxxviii] While agreeing on the number, [Protestants] do not agree upon the nature, form, or functions of the sacraments. Some reject the belief in the "real presence"[sic] in any physical form, others believe that Christ is present along with the elements. All believe that Christ is present at the Communion service in a real spiritual sense.[xxxix] While Protestants differ widely as to the interpretation of Christ's presence at the Lord's Table‑-from a memorial service to a sacramental ritual‑-they all believe that the true worshiper really meets Him there.[xl]
Since Protestants have no priesthood, even the ones who consider "the Lord's Supper" a "sacramental ritual" have no way of making actual and real His presence. In what manner, then, do they "meet Him there"?
This man is not especially bothered that there are any number of contradictory interpretations of any one Bible text; we are to understand that all of these interpretations are equally true, more or less, while the teaching of the Catholic Church alone is definitely false, and being so dangerous, must be opposed.
Still, he is not completely happy. What he wants is enough agreement to allow full scope for the two things he holds dear: "Protestant leaders must especially find some formula which will give both fellowship and freedom of interpretation before the Lord's Table."[xli]
"Fellowship" and "freedom of interpretation" may constitute a contradiction in terms. And where is truth in this man's vision? In Holy Scripture, both St. Paul and St. John speak to us of fellowship in terms which point to the fellowship resulting from the possession in common of the truth:
God is faithful: by whom you are called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Cor 1:9); Bear not the yoke with unbelievers. For what participation hath justice with injustice? or what fellowship hath light with darkness? . . . Or what part hath the faithful with the unbeliever? (2 Cor 6:14-15). That which we have seen and have heard, we declare unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship may be with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 Jn 1:3).
Freedom does not appear at all in the New Testament (and only once in the Old Testament). Interpretation does; there are references aplenty to the interpretation of dreams. There is only one reference linking Scripture and interpretation: "No prophecy of scripture is made by private interpretation" (2 Pet 1:20).
Our commentary offers two possible explanations of St. Peter's meaning. It may be that he is saying:
It is of prime importance to know that prophecy of Scripture is not subject to private interpretation by every individual, as the false teachers assume it is, because prophecy is from God, and is not like mere human conjectures of future possibilities. Scriptural prophecy is Divine Revelation, and concerns future events known to God alone. Christ, and those appointed by Him to teach in His name, have the authority to interpret God's revelations. Another interpretation of this passage is: No prophecy of Scripture is made by private interpretation, i.e., prophets do not make up their own prophecies, but receive them from God.[xlii]
Whichever reading of St. Peter's words is correct, it remains true that there is no warrant in Holy Scripture for the exercise of "freedom of interpretation" of Divine Revelation.
We need look no further than "fellowship" and "freedom of interpretation" for the explanation of the number of sects in Protestantism. The freedom of interpretation leads to an ever greater number of groups who agree on something, and then separate themselves from those who, exercising "freedom of interpretation," disagree in turn with them. But where is "freedom of interpretation" to be found in the Bible to which the Protestant clings so firmly?
The Protestant hatred of authority nestles side by side with their reverence for the Protestant authorities: the Reformers. The fact that the latter are the authorities is not even suspected; the supposition is that the pronouncements of these rebels and revolutionaries, like those of the Protestant himself, are taken straight from the Bible. Moreover, the facts about these men are largely unknown. Besides, their rebellion was necessary if the Bible, forbidden to the laity by the evil usurper of the Primitive Christian Church, was to be restored to its rightful place, and a large part of Europe freed from the domination of Rome, and so on.
The spirit of the Reformation is encapsulated in a statement from the Westminster Confession of 1646, quoted admiringly by our Protestant advocate: "There is no other head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ, nor can the pope of Rome in any sense be the head thereof."[xliii] This is followed by one from Luther: "Unless I am persuaded by testimonies from Scriptures or clear arguments‑-for by themselves, I believe neither pope nor council‑-I stand convinced by the Holy Scriptures adduced by myself and my conscience is bound up in God's Word."[xliv]
We have seen in earlier pages the utter lack of biblical support for Luther's doctrines. This appalling fact goes unnoticed, and even more appalling, unsuspected, by the Protestant, who accepts Luther's statements about his "conscience being bound up in God's Word" as sufficient evidence to make the case.
For our part, we have already seen that all this is so much talk. When faced with "testimonies from Scriptures or clear arguments," Luther, like his followers, like any man "convinced against his will," was "of the same opinion still."
As I write, the Supreme Court is in the news. These nine men, and their counterparts in each state or district, determine whether a given law can be reconciled with the Constitution, or with other federal and state laws. In this case, a lower court ruling was measured against the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, and overturned. In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, "The court of appeals' logic does not withstand scrutiny."
Protestants all over the land will read this without turning a hair. But when it comes to the Church, and her God-given authority to judge the conformity of a teaching with that revealed by Jesus Christ, it is different. But why should it be? Christ founded the Church, and authorized men and their successors to speak for Him:
Go: Behold I send you as lambs among wolves. . . . He that heareth you heareth me: and he that despiseth you despiseth me: and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me (Lk 10:3/16); He that receiveth whomsoever I send, receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me (Jn 13:20; Mt 10:40).
Breaking a law is one thing; there are mechanisms in place to apprehend and punish the wrongdoer. Claiming a right to interpret the laws, the Constitution, federal and state statutes, county ordinances, or declaring oneself not subject to them, is another, and the people who read (and write) such books as the one under discussion would be horrified at the thought. Protestants are in general well-meaning and law-abiding; almost all Protestants are good citizens. Obviously, the absurdity of the whole notion, a "freedom of interpretation" of Revelation to suit one's self, escapes them.
When "fellowship" and "freedom of interpretation" are the only things that matter, it is truth which must be sacrificed. This man, so much attached to his own denials, appears to think this an acceptable trade.
Last but Not Least
What do we mean by the "Last Rites"? I think of the fourth-grader in my Confraternity of Christian Doctrine class years ago. An earnest young priest, fresh from Ireland, had stopped in on a periodic visit. Holy Thursday was days away, and wishing to lead the children into a lesson on the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar and its institution at the Passover Meal Christ ate with His apostles, he asked: "Who can tell me what was special about the Last Supper?" The children thought, and thought, and thought. When Father appeared ready to give up and tell them himself, a tiny hand shot into the air. "I know," cried little Martha. "It was the very last supper He ever ate!"
The word "last" led the child to overlook the more abiding aspects of the Last Supper, so much more meaningful to the Church and to mankind. Just so with the term "Last Rites," often, but not always, the last (besides Christian burial, at which he really is not present) a man ever receives. But even as this was not what was most significant about the Last Supper, this is not what matters about Extreme Unction. If a man is so ill that the Last Rites are administered, this may be his last chance to reconcile himself with God. And that is what matters.
In the minds of some, the word extreme might suggest that we should put off this sacrament to the very last, just before death sets in. For such, it becomes rather a sacrament of fear. If the graces Christ has attached to the sacrament were properly understood and appreciated, rather than fearing Extreme Unction, every Catholic would be not only willing but anxious to have it administered at the first appearance of dangerous illness.
Who should receive the Sacrament of Extreme Unction? Every baptized Catholic whose sickness may become fatal, is a fit subject. Any child who has attained the use of reason, or is capable of sinning, even though he has not yet received his first Holy Communion, should receive this sacrament when in danger of death. (We speak as if a priest will be nearby, available, and willing to come. Since this is an unlikely probability these days, we write, with a sigh of sorrow, to inform those among us who might be so blessed.)
Who can receive this sacrament? We would do well to bear in mind that Extreme Unction is primarily for the sick, and not for the dying. Our Lord, speaking through His apostle, does not say: "Is anyone dying?" He says: "Is anyone sick among you?" Therefore, any illness that we might call dangerous suffices.
Also one dying from old age may receive the sacrament. For old age, says the good priest whose precise wording I have so freely appropriated here, is a disease in itself.
How often can I receive this sacrament? I can be anointed as often as I contract a disease that may prove fatal, and even in the same sickness, if I have sufficiently recovered and then have a relapse. In that case, the relapse is regarded as a new sickness. If there is any question about the sacrament and a loved one, consult a priest.
On the arrival of the priest to administer the Last Rites, the sick chamber will be orderly, the sick person bathed and clean, the bed clean, all out of respect for the sacrament. Near the bed stands a small table or stand with a clean white cover. On this table are placed a crucifix, two candles, holy water, a plate containing some clean cloth or cotton for wiping away the unction, some crumbs of bread or salt for cleaning the priest's fingers, a towel or napkin, a spoon, and a glass or ewer of water. All members of the family are prepared to gather in the sick room upon the arrival of the priest, who through his years of experience, knows how to approach the sick. For are not sweetness and peace a part of the effects of this sacrament? The sacred minister is sent like a guardian angel to the sick man, to maintain his soul in the love of good and of God, and to open his heart to divine consolations.
He is met at the door with a lighted candle, and is immediately escorted to the sickroom, where he sprinkles the sick and the room with holy water, saying: "Peace be to this house, and to all that dwell therein." He then places the Blessed Sacrament and the holy oils on the table or stand near the bed. Usually he hears the sick person's confession, during which all others leave the room. As they return to join in prayer, the priest administers Holy Communion, now called the Viaticum (meaning the spiritual food for the last journey), during which he says: "Receive, brother (sister), the Viaticum of the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ; may He protect thee from the evil enemy, and lead thee unto life everlasting. Amen."
In preparation for the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, more prayers are said by the priest than in the administration of any other. Hence, it is sometimes called the Sacrament of Prayer and Petition. This is in conformity with the words of the instruction of St. James:
Let him bring in the priests of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick man. And the Lord shall raise him up: and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him (Jas 5:14-15).
The outward sign of this sacrament is the anointing with oil and the prayer of the priest. The sacrament consists (apart from certain non‑essential prayers) in the unction with oil, specially blessed by the bishop, of the organs of the external senses (eyes, ears, nostrils, lips, hands), and in the following form repeated at each unction with mention of the corresponding sense or faculty: "Through this holy unction and His own most tender mercy may the Lord forgive you whatever sins or faults thou hast committed by [sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, walking, carnal delectation]."
The anointing is done in the form of a cross to indicate the source from which all the graces of Extreme Unction come, namely, the Passion and Cross of Christ. It reminds the sick also that under the standard of the Cross he must now fight this, his last valiant fight. And if he must die, the dying Savior has shown him how to die as a good soldier of Christ.
We know that Confession and absolution take away the guilt of sin and the eternal punishments due to sin. But from the way God has dealt with sinful man from Adam on, we know that, even though the guilt and eternal punishments are removed, there still remains much temporal satisfaction to be made either on this earth or in purgatory, before the justice of God is satisfied. Christ makes clear that there is a debt to be paid, either here, or there:
You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not kill. And whosoever shall kill, shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment . . . And whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath anything against thee: Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother, and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift. Be at agreement with thy adversary betimes, whilst thou art in the way with him: lest perhaps the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Amen I say to thee, thou shalt not go out from thence till thou repay the last farthing (Mt 5:21-26).
With the anointing of the senses finished, the priest signs the sick once more with the crucifix, granting to the contrite sick a Plenary Indulgence at the hour of death. With this final blessing, the sick may become resigned in peace to the will of God. All worries and cares can be banished, with consolation and peace remaining.
With most of us, death will be accompanied by some form of sickness. It is then the duty of those attending us in our last sickness to advise us of our dangerous condition. On account of much false and mistaken fear, many are remiss in their duty at this important moment of our lives. They dread to impart the distressing news to their ailing loved ones, for fear that it may frighten them and make their condition worse. This is wrong and frequently sinful, because a delay in summoning the priest may deprive the sick of many of the graces that this sacrament imparts. And it may indicate a lack of appreciation of the graces attached to the sacrament.
To confirm the supernatural benefits we need only consider the effects of the Sacrament of Extreme Unction: the remission of the guilt of sins; the remission of the consequence of past sins, or the temporal punishments still due to sin; strengthening of the soul by exciting confidence in God, thus giving patience and vigor against temptations, and lastly, the restoration of bodily health, if expedient for the soul.
The outward signs of these effects can be verified by every priest, every doctor, and every nurse who has witnessed sudden and unexpected changes after the sick have received Extreme Unction. Even many non-Catholic physicians, including those of no faith at all, have often observed the effectiveness of this sacrament after the failure of all medical skill. Confirmation is provided by Oliver Wendell Holmes, the New England writer, a physician by profession and practice, who writes:
So far as I have observed persons nearing the end of life, the Roman Catholics understand the business of dying better than Protestants. They have an expert by them [meaning the priest], armed with spiritual specifics, in which they, both the patient and priestly ministrant, place implicit trust. Confession, the Eucharist, Extreme Unction, these all inspire a confidence which, without this symbolism, is too apt to be wanting in over-sensitive nature. If Cowper had been a good Roman Catholic, instead of having his conscience handled by a Protestant like John Newton, he would not have died despairing, looking upon himself as a castaway. I have seen a good many Roman Catholics on their dying beds, and it has always appeared to me that they accepted the inevitable with a composure which showed that their belief, whether or not the best to live by, was a better one to die by, than most of the harder creeds that have replaced it.[xlv]
Without quarreling with his conclusions, we find fault with his questioning whether "their belief," meaning the faith of Catholics, is "the best to live by. . . ." To this, we respond that "What things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap" (Gal 6:8). What he means by "harder creeds," we can only wonder. Those of the household of the Faith (Gal 6:10) who have been instructed know with certainty the exact and complete sense of the doctrine Christ has commanded us to believe and the law He has commanded us to keep under penalty of eternal condemnation. He has told us: "Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it!" (Mt 7:13-14).
What is more, in referring to the totality of His teaching, He said also that it would not be easy: "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh weak" (Mt 26:41), but even so, as said the apostle Paul: "I can do all things in him who strengtheneth me" (Phil 4:13).
The lack of obligations in Protestantism ensures that whatever the sect, it will not be hard, not hard to live in, that is. Dying in it is another matter. According to the Great Reformer: "Faith alone is necessary for justification: all other things are completely optional being no longer either commanded or forbidden."[xlvi] This is the cornerstone of the original Protestant systems and their derivatives. No Catholic would have the least difficulty fulfilling Protestant requirements. Who would?
The difficulty lies in believing the absurdities concocted by the Reformers. Just believing you are saved is what saves you? It would be difficult, that is, for anyone who has not been previously indoctrinated by Protestant oral tradition or someone who really reads Holy Scripture, instead of using it as the source of the thirteen Bible verses used to confirm false beliefs already acquired outside its pages. It would be difficult for anyone to believe who is not completely unschooled, i.e., those, including nominal but uninstructed Catholics, to whom Protestant missionaries teach the thirteen verses, misused and misinterpreted, to document the teaching of the Reformers, and label it "Bible Christianity."
The events and emotions attending on the impending death of a loved one, seen as a calamity in itself, may obscure the real calamity: to die without receiving what Holy Mother Church has to offer us for just this occasion: the thing we need most, literally the only thing that can help us now.
We know from Tradition that long before the Sixteenth Century, the Eastern and the Western Churches had severed all connection with one another. Yet, to this day the Greek Orthodox retain their common belief in the seven sacraments (although, judging from a Sunday bulletin in my possession, they fail to take some of them seriously), of which Extreme Unction is one. And from documentary evidence we can prove that this common belief existed among the Nestorians and Armenians in the Fifth Century, as well as in the Greek Church under Photius in the Ninth.
Going back a few centuries more, we find Origen in the Third Century, who enumerates the several ways of obtaining remission of sins. Among others he mentions, "the hard and laborious" way of public penance, which involves the confession of one's sins to the priest and the acceptance at his hand of "the salutary medicine" (no doubt meaning the Sacrament of Penance). Then he adds: "And in this is fulfilled also what St. James the Apostle says," and here cites St. James: "If any one is sick. . . ."[xlvii] St. John Chrysostom, in the Fourth Century, likewise quotes the words of St. James in contrasting the power of the priest with that of our earthly parents. The latter, he says, give us bodily life, the priest, our eternal life. Again, when death lays its hand upon us, our parents are powerless to help, but the priest can save unto eternal life. He continues: "For not only when they (priests) regenerate us [baptize us] can they forgive sin, but they can also forgive sins committed after regeneration. For, is there anyone sick among you. . . ," and he too continues with the text from St. James.[xlviii]
During all the centuries mentioned above, the words of the priest in the Latin Rite remained unchanged. The old formula with its certain matter, form, and intent has been altered; Extreme Unction has become the Anointing of the Sick, and the priest now says: "Through this holy anointing, may the Lord in His love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. Amen." As one priest put it,
Extreme Unction responds to the need of the sinner to be forgiven sins. By contrast, Anointing the Sick responds to the need of the patient to be cured. Once the form and intent of this anointing purposely exclude any notion of sin being sacramentally forgiven (which only a priest can do) then why not have deacons or laymen pray over the sick?[xlix]
Will anyone be surprised when this transpires? This step prepares the way for the next. The stage is being set to have someone who possesses no more powers than a Protestant minister "pray over" the sick and dying.
And [the king's] servants going forth into the ways, gathered together all that they found, both bad and good: and the marriage was filled with guests. And the king went in to see the guests: and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment. And he saith to him: Friend, how camest thou in hither not having on a wedding garment? But he was silent. Then the king said to the waiters: bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen (Mt 22:10-14).
One commentary says that the wedding garment does not signify faith, since the man had answered the call and entered the Church. It is instead charity, good works, or preservation of the state of grace which make a man acceptable to God.[l] Another corroborates this interpretation, saying that the rejection is justified only if we accept that the individual's unfitness for the Kingdom was his own fault.[li]
What shall we have, when our lives are drawing to a close? What we have then might well depend, besides the grace of God, on the choices we make now. The greater the number who cling to and uphold Tradition, the more likely we are to have that matchless blessing, a priest to administer the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, so that when we die, we are wearing the required wedding garment.
[i]. Grace and the Sacraments, Clement H. Crock, Joseph F. Wagner, Inc. (New York, 1940), p. 193.
[ii]. Primer on Roman Catholicism for Protestants, Stanley I. Stuber, Association Press (New York, 1960), p. 71.
[iii]. De Captivit. Babylonica, cap. de extr. unct.
[iv]. Instit., IV, xix, 18.
[v]. Comm. in Ep. Jacobi, v, 14, 15.
[vi]. The Catholic Encyclopedia, The Encyclopedia Press, Inc. (New York, 1914), 5:717.
[vii]. Stuber, p. 71.
[viii]. The Facts About Luther, Rt. Rev. Monsignor Patrick F. O'Hare, Frederick Pustet, Inc. (New York, 1916), pp. 104-105.
[ix]. A Baptist professor of Holy Scripture. Taken from a website: http://www.periprod.com/acts.
[x]. The Faith of Millions, Rev. John A. O'Brien, Our Sunday Visitor (Huntington, Ind., 1938), p. 33.
[xi]. Rebuilding a Lost Faith, J. L. Stoddard (P. J. Kenedy & Sons (New York, 1922), pp. 101-102. Quoted in The Faith of Millions, p. 33, and The Catholic Encyclopedia, 8:575.
[xii]. The analysis here and in the five following paragraphs is taken from A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, gen. ed., Dom Bernard Orchard, Thomas Nelson & Sons (New York, 1953).
[xiii]. A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, 849j-k.
[xiv]. The Baptist professor of Holy Scripture at http:// www.periprod.com/acts.
[xv]. Tischr. II. C. 15 § I.
[xvi]. The Facts about Luther, pp. 106-187.
[xvii]. Stuber, p. 11.
[xviii]. Stuber, p. 11.
[xix]. Stuber, p. 60.
[xx]. Concise Catholic Dictionary, compiled by Robert C. Broderick, M.A., Catechetical Guild Educational Society (St. Paul, 1944).
[xxi]. Stuber, p. 19.
[xxii]. Stuber, p. 22.
[xxiii]. Stuber, p. 13.
[xxiv]. Stuber, p. 13.
[xxv]. Stuber, p. 13.
[xxvi]. Stuber, p. 19.
[xxvii]. Stuber, p. 13.
[xxviii]. Stuber, p. 13.
[xxix]. The Baptist professor of Holy Scripture: http://www. periprod.com/acts.
[xxx]. Stuber, p. 21.
[xxxi]. The Faith of Millions, pp. 28-29. Stuber, pp. 17-18.
[xxxii]. Documents of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbott, S.J. (America Press, 1966), p. 748.
[xxxiii]. Stuber, p. 17.
[xxxiv]. Stuber, p. 11.
[xxxv]. Concise Catholic Dictionary.
[xxxvi]. Walch XIII. 1480. Quoted in The Facts about Luther, p. 106.
[xxxvii]. Walch XIII. 1480. Quoted in The Facts about Luther, p. 106.
[xxxviii]. Stuber, p. 61.
[xxxix]. Stuber, p. 71.
[xl]. Stuber, p. 73.
[xli]. Stuber, p. 71.
[xlii]. A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, 953g.
[xliii]. Stuber, p. 21.
[xliv]. Stuber, p. 21.
[xlv]. Grace and the Sacraments, p. 205.
[xlvi]. Cap. 2, ad. Gal. In The Facts about Luther, p. 104.
[xlvii]. Hom. ii, in Levit., in P.G., XII, 419.
[xlviii]. In "On the Priesthood" (III, vi, in P.G., XLVIII, 644).
[xlix]. Fr. Paul Trinchard, in "Guest Editorial," The New Jersey Catholic News, Summer, 1999.
[l]. A Commentary on the New Testament, The Catholic Biblical Association (Kansas City, Mo., 1942), p. 149.
[li]. A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, 712b.