Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

From the October AD 2010
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin

[Q&A Archives]

Our Lady of the Rosary

    Question:  If Jesus died on the Cross for our sins, why would we need to confess them or do penance for them?

    Answer:  When we say that Jesus died for the sins of mankind, we refer to the Redemption of the human race.  Whereas, due to original sin, before the Crucifixion no one could enter heaven, it became possible, thereafter, for individual men and women to live according to our Lord's teaching, and thereby merit eternal salvation.  The Gospels have a number of passages in which our Lord asserts the need to keep the Commandments, to do good works for the less fortunate, to receive Baptism and His Eucharistic body and blood, and the ability of His Apostles to forgive the sins of individuals.

Good master, what good shall I do that I may have life everlasting?  Who said to him: Why asketh thou me concerning good? One is good, God. But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.[1]

Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me not to drink.  I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you covered me not: sick and in prison, and you did not visit me.  Then they also shall answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee?  Then he shall answer them, saying: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to me.[2]

He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.[3]

Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.  He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.[4]

Receive ye the Holy Ghost.  Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.[5]

... it is better for you to enter lame into life everlasting than having two feet to be cast into the hell of unquenchable fire:  Where their worm dies not, and the fire is not extinguished.[6]

To suggest that His sacrificial death made all of these things superfluous is to gainsay the message of the Gospels.

And let us not ignore Saint Paul:

    [T]he Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with the angels of his power:  In a flame of fire, giving vengeance to them who know not God, and who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Who shall suffer eternal punishment in destruction, from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of his power:[7]

    Nonetheless the heresy of universal salvation, in one form or another, has plagued the Church in nearly every era of Her existence.  At times the error (called Apocatastasis) asserts that Hell is a temporary state—that it is identical with Purgatory, and that the fires will go out on Judgment Day.  In other accounts Hell is permanent, but God is too merciful to allow humans to languish there in eternity.  Generally, these are errors more likely to be found in the early Church, and based on the writings of Origen of Alexandria (185-232).  Origen was one of the more influential writers of his time—a time plagued with the chaos of anti-Catholic persecution—a time in which the magisterial activity of the Church could be exercised only sporadically, and from which many original manuscripts are missing.  To be plain, “Origen's writings” were not always written by Origen, and lesser writers may have passed off their works using his great reputation.  Origen died from the wounds of persecution, and was not cited for personal heresy.  He influenced a number of other important theologians including Clement of Alexandria and St. Gregory of Nyssa, and  St. Jerome, at least a time.  Jerome helt that universal salvation was only for the baptized.  The "Ambrosiaster" (c.360) included the devils among the saved.[8]  Some of Origen’s ideas, though not Origen himself, were condemned by Pope Vigilius in 543.  Specifically: “Can 9. If anyone holds that the punishment of the demons and impious men is temporary, and that it will have an end at some time, that is to say, there will be a complete restoration of the demons of of impous men, let him de anathema.”[9]

    The heresy raised its head again in the Protestant Reformation.  Luther's theology included a sort of “hope born out of despair”—he felt that it was simply impossible for man to be saved in the ordinary way, and postulated a salvation through faith alone—if man just placed all of his trust in Jesus Christ, his sins would be “covered over.”  At least for one who had accepted Jesus and his Lord and savior, there was no sin that would not be excused.  He is quoted as saying: “Be a sinner and sin mightily, but more mightily believe and rejoice in Christ.”[10]  This concept of “being saved” fails to address the person who makes the required act of faith (hope, really), but who then abandons Christianity.

    Some modern Protestants profess a Oregin-like  Apocatastasis.  “Universalism is the theological doctrine that all souls will ultimately be saved and that there are no torments of hell.”[11]

    Among Modernist Catholics the teaching of Hans Urs von Balthasar, articulates the possibility of universal salvation.[12]  Von Balthasar was offered the red hat of a cardinal by Pope John Paul II, but died the night before it was to be conferred (Deus non inridetur!).  Pope John Paul publically echoed von Balthasar in his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope)  The Pope correctly rejected the notion that hell is only temporary, but leaves us wondering if God has ever sent anyone there.  He asks, “Isn't final punishment in some way necessary in order to reestablish moral equilibrium in the complex history of humanity?” but then suggests that perhaps Purgatory is enough.[13]  Well, perhaps Purgatory is enough—but, then again, perhaps it is not—certainly the Pope's optimism did not put the fear of Hell into any potential sinners.

    Perhaps the most controversial act of the Modernists with regard to universal salvation was in their mistranslation of the consecration of the wine in the vernacular versions of the Mass and the Novus Ordo.  Around 1966, Pope Paul VI authorized the translation of the Canon of the Mass into modern languages.  Likewise he permitted the Eucharistic Prayers of his Novus Ordo  to be translated.  Now, the Latin Mass and Latin Novus Ordo   both contain the words for the consecration of the wine:

Hic est enim calix Sanguinis mei novi et aeterni testamenti ... qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum.

    I have placed ellipses where the phrase “mysterium fidei” was removed in the Novus Ordo.  But the phrase of concern, “qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum” is found in both rites.  Correctly translated it states that the Blood of Christ “will be poured out for you and for many in forgiveness of sins.”  Curiously, most of the modern translations in the various European languages mistranslate “pro multis” as “for all,” (per tutti, por todos, fer alles, etc.) the implication being that all men are forgiven of their individual sins by the Sacrifice of the Cross (despite a clear statement to the contrary in the Catechism of the Council of Trent).[14]  For our purposes, it is significant that the same error was made in most of the languages used to translate the Latin—this was not the error of some poor Latin translator, but a purposeful attempt to change what our Lord actually said into what the Modernists thought He should have said!  Forty years later, Cardinal Arinze, of the Congregation for Divine Worship issued a letter asking the the bishops conferences “to undertake the necessary catechesis of the faithful on this matter in the next one or two years to prepare them for the introduction of a precise vernacular translation of the formula pro multis (e.g, “for many”, “per molti”, etc.) in the next translation of the Roman Missal that the Bishops and the Holy See will approve for use in their country.”[15]  Amazing! An error that should have been corrected immediately with a felt tipped pen would instead be given years for planning and implementation!

    No hurry after all, for Pope John Paul had gone so far as back-translate the error into Latin in his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia for Holy Thursday 2003.  The mistranslation “for all” became “pro omnibus” in the encyclical! [16]  And there was a bit of a problem with “obedience,” as the Arinze directive was flat out rejected in some places, including the Rottenburg-Stuttgart diocese in Germany.[17]  We will see if the decree is honored in the United States on the first Sunday of Advent next year (!) 2011, when the new translation is scheduled to take effect. 

    Universalist Catholicism shares some important characteristics with its Protestant counterparts.  If one believes there is no Hell (or that no one goes there) there is somewhat less incentive to do the things normally thought to be required for salvation:  “If I am surely saved, why shouldn't I live life as I feel like living it, instead of according to a set of rules.  Or perhaps the desire to do evil causes one to rationalize away the existence of Hell.  It is difficult to know which came first, but the early Lutheran clergy did give the new doctrine as an excuse for violating the vows of religion, poverty, chastity, and obedience.  Protestantism took a liberalized outlook on divorce and remarriage.[18]  And the Reformation presented an opportunity for the theft of Church and monastic lands.  Modern Catholic Universalism coincides with a period of sexual scandal, previously unknown in the Church, coupled with cases of embezzlement and sodomy.  Virtually all of the property of the Church was taken away by Modernist bishops and clergy, much of it to be vandalized in ways similar to those of the “reformers.”[19]

    If Christ's death on the Cross directly forgave the sins of all men, there would be no need for a priesthood of mortal men, nor for the Mass and Sacraments which they bring to the faithful—all of that would be bypassed.  Luther denied the sacrificial nature of Mass and posited a “priesthood of all believers” (while failing to explain how there could be a priesthood with no sacrifice to offer).  He retained Baptism and Holy Communion as Sacraments.[20]  Later Protestants would reduce these to “ordinances.”  Luther believed in a sort of “real presence” in Holy Communion, but it depended on the belief of the congregation, and ceased when the Communion Service ended.  Both Lutheran Sacraments seem to be direct acts of God, forgiving sin among His believers.[21]  Among most other Protestants even these two rites are reduced to mere symbolism.

    Again, the Modernist is not much different from his “separated brother.”  Before his election as Pope, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote that the sacrificial nature of the Mass “has become foreign to modern thinking and, only thirty years after the Council, has been brought into question even among catholic liturgists. Who still talks today about "the divine Sacrifice of the Eucharist? Discussions about the idea of sacrifice have again become astonishingly lively, as much on the catholic side as on the protestant.”[22]  Perhaps these are the same “liturgists” who have re-titled the priest as “the presider” and who espouse the Mass as a “community meal offered by the People of God.”  Where they still use the word “priest,” like Luther, they fail to explain a priesthood without sacrifice.  And, like Luther, they seem to demand the action of the congregation as an essential of validity of the “community meal.”  Perhaps this explains why the priest no longer genuflects after the consecration, until he elevates the host and chalice for the people to see.  For many of these folks, Baptism is a mere “rite of passage,” a symbol of one's membership in the community.  Confession—Ha!—where it still exists it is at least as easy to understand the penitent to be reconciled with the community as with God.

    The Catechism of the Council of Trent expresses the relationship between the Cross and our individual salvation.  It is instructive to answer why it is that we must  confess our sins and do penance, and why the words of Consecration are what they are:

   The additional words for you and for many, are taken, some from Matthew, some from Luke, but were joined together by the Catholic Church under the guidance of the Spirit of God. They serve to declare the fruit and advantage of His Passion. For if we look to its value, we must confess that the Redeemer shed His blood for the salvation of all; but if we look to the fruit which mankind have received from it, we shall easily find that it pertains not unto all, but to many of the human race....

    With reason, therefore, were the words for all not used, as in this place the fruits of the Passion are alone spoken of, and to the elect only did His Passion bring the fruit of salvation. And this is the purport of the Apostle when he says: Christ was offered once to exhaust the sins of many; and also of the words of our Lord in John: I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them whom thou hast given me, because they are thine (Hebrews ix:28; John xvii: 9).


[1]  Matthew xix: 16-17

[2]  Matthew xv: 41-45

[6]  Mark ix: 44-45

[7]  2 Thessalonians I: 7-9

[9]   Denzinger 211.

[13]  Crossing the Threshold of Hope (NY: Alfred Knopf, 1994) p 185-7





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