A History of the Church: 1517 A.D. to the Present
Theology for the Laity Series

Protestantism and its Forms

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

The combination Protestant Reformation, is found in all English written books, it is however not a Catholic idea, in fact it is contrary to authentic history. There was no Protestant Reformation.  There was a Protestant revolution.  And there was, thank God, a Catholic Reformation.  And among the lights of the Catholic Reformation, surely one of the outstanding, except for whom I wouldn’t be here, was St. Ignatius. In other words, the Protestant revolution began and the date every self respecting Catholic should know when Martin Luther nailed those ninety-five thesis to the church door of the Castle of Wittenberg, October the thirty-first 1517.  And that really is the birthday of Protestantism.  So the origins of Protestantism go back to the day that Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five thesis to the church door of the chapel at the castle of Wittenberg in Germany.  His ninety-five thesis had become to be called a ninety-five statements some merely challenging Catholic teaching, others openly denying even revealed Catholic Truth.  It then began, I repeat, on the evening before the Feast of All Saints, and Halloween has become a clown’s day, an object of, well, of something to be laughed at because Martin Luther broke with the Catholic Church on that first Halloween of Protestantism.  I repeat thirty-first of October 1517.  From the very beginning, those who followed Martin Luther, and other leaders, as we’ll see, they called themselves Protestants, and the reason they called themselves Protestants because they protested. They protested against the attempt to reunify the then Roman Empire which had been, for generations, united by having one faith. Those then who protested against acceptance of a single faith in the Roman Empire became, well, those who protest.  That’s what the word Protestant means – Protestors.  And they’ve never been embarrassed by the name ever since.  They have remained protestors. Given that definition of Protestantism, we’ve got many more Protestants than we find in the books of the Protestant denominations.

First Principle Form of Protestantism – Sola Scriptura

What are the essentials of Protestantism?  It is not to know what some of those essentials are, because in over four hundred years, going on five hundred years, they have remained I would say, quite constant, in other words, those basic premises of Protestantism have not basically changed.  And in Latin that’s why they got started first sola scriptura: Scripture alone.  How do we know God’s mind and will from Scripture alone? Sola scriptura, by Scripture alone.  Only the written revealed word of God is necessary, not just for salvation, but to know everything that God wants us to both believe, and to do. It is all contained in the Bible.   Historically, that position could not have, could not have been assumed, no way, until the discovery of print.  Usually we assign about 14, 1465 as the beginning of the print age.  And the first printed book, as I am sure we all know, was the – Bible.  Well, Luther and his followers identified all of God’s revelation with that written book.  As over the years, I’ve been telling people, the more bizarre, the more incredible, the stranger an idea is – talk about human nature – the more believers you are liable to get.  Imagine claiming the law of God, revealed Truth, is in a written book.  When until less than a century before the rise of Protestantism, there were no books in existence. There were manuscripts, but no books.

Second Principle Form of Protestantism – Solo Spiritu

Second major premise of Protestantism, solo Spiritusolo Spiritu. In Latin we see that’s the opposite case by the Spirit alone.  This answers the question, how, how do we come to understand or interpret the revealed word of God?   Revealed where?   Revealed in the Scriptures.   How by the Spirit, and meaning by the Holy Spirit alone?  By the first premise saying that all of God’s Revelation is contained in the Scriptures. What did Protestantism exclude?  Sacred Tradition!

By the second premise claiming that all you need is the Holy Spirit to explain or interpret God’s revealed Word. What did they do? They excluded the authority of the Church.  As John Calvin made so plain in his writings, it is the same Holy Spirit Who inspired Jeremiah to write, well, his prophesies Who is at my disposal to enable me to understand Jeremiah.  And you don’t need, you just don’t need, a Church to tell you what either Jeremiah, or Matthew, or John, or any other sacred writer, is saying.

Third Principle Form of Protestantism – Solo Gratia

Thirdly, in Protestantism, another term taken from Latin, sola gratia, sola gratia.   By grace alone are we saved.  What do they mean by that phrase, sola gratia?  That, as every Christian has everybody been Christian holds, we Catholics certainly hold, that we need God’s grace to be saved.  But, does God’s grace alone save us, or do we have to both receive God’s grace and cooperate with that grace?  Of course!  Whereas according to, what I call classic Protestantism, the Protestantism that was first conceived, and in hundreds of volumes explained in depth by the founders of Protestantism. It is by grace alone and not, watch it, by good works.  So that, even as Scripture alone is necessary for salvation and not Sacred Tradition, even as the Holy Spirit alone is needed to interpret the meaning of Sacred Scripture, and you don’t need the Authority of the Church, so you need only God’s grace, and not good works to be saved.

Fourth Principle of Protestantism – Sola Fide

Fourth and last basic premise.  Another Latin phrase sola fide, sola fide, by faith alone.  What do they mean by faith alone?  And the word for faith in Latin, is certainly fides, or the additive fide. By faith!  But what did Luther and his followers do with the word fides or faith?  Unlike the Catholic definition of faith, which is the assent of the intellect to everything which God has revealed.  In other words, we hold that faith is the mind, the intellect, accepting assenting to everything which God has revealed.  That’s the Catholic understanding, whereas, in Protestantism faith is not a virtue of the mind or intellect at all.  It is a virtue of the will.  Faith in Protestantism is identified with hope or trust.  All I know is, I’ve told you I’m sure more than once having taught in six Protestant seminaries, my longest tenure was seven years on the faculty of the Lutheran School of Theology.  You’d think they would have dropped me by the third day, but no, they didn’t. And one reason is because, first of all, I am so deeply sympathetic with the Protestants.  I did tell you, I’m sure at least many of you, my mother lost her husband, my father. She just had me. Well we needed some means of support. Mother worked but that was not enough, so she took in boarders.  And they were women.  But I tell you, from the age of one to the age of sixteen, I was reared in an all women household.  My dear men, you husbands, you want to know more about your wife, call me up sometime. Oh how much the Lord has taught me.  That’s from infancy.  Well, two that remained with us for fifteen years, were Judith and Susan.  Two staunch Lutherans.   I thought they were my sisters.   They were good Christians, but they were sure not Catholic.  So I learned all about Luther by the age of three.  So I came to teach the Lutherans in Chicago, at Lutheran School of Theology.  I knew much more, much more Lutheranism, than they did, far more.  For I’d have flunked most of them for their ignorance of Protestantism.   But in Protestantism, on this crucial fourth element, when they say sola fide, the word fide, is of course, is the Latin term for faith.   And fides can mean, as you know, certainly in English, that words mean what people who use them want them to mean, that’s simple.  In English by the way, in case nobody told you, you don’t need a dictionary.  I have said the unabridged English dictionary, the editors we can no longer publish a dictionary that defines the meaning of words.  No way! The best we can do is publish a dictionary which describes how words are used.  Ok so, sola fide means by trust alone, and not how, and not by assenting with the mind to what God has revealed.  For Protestants it does not really, really, make a difference whether Jesus Christ is really God or not.  Six of Luther’s works have never been published and they will never be published, as long as there is a Lutheran left on earth.  They’ll never be published.  Kept in safety deposit boxes in Germany.  One page after another, and the manuscript is of Martin Luther, Christ is described as and I am being very kind, as a lecherous sinner.  No way, no way, that the Christ of Martin Luther could be the living God.

Premises of Protestantism

Those are the four principles called the premises of Protestantism.  My first book, The Protestant Churches of America, dated October the 29th, 1956.  And, in three years went to 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 printings, and two revisions. By the time I finished the manuscript the Protestants changed their religion.  In any case, here’s what the Anglican Theological Review says about the book, I must have read it thirty years ago.  “The attempted wholeness of the presentations which included historical, doctrinal, organizational and additional information is admirable.” unquote – The Anglican Theological Review says thanks.  The book sold about a half a million copies.  And it should be revised, what I need is more time.  But, I love the Protestants and well they admire being liked, but they know that I know that Protestants are not Catholics. But let me tell you, in teaching in Protestant seminaries, lecturing to Protestant groups over the country, the one thing they want to make sure is, “Are you an authentic Catholic?”  The last thing they want is a namby-pamby Catholic who is compromising his Catholicism with Protestantism.  No, we want a bona fide Roman Catholic and they love you. And they told me how many times, maybe you know what we are protesting.  Because, so many would become Catholics if only we knew more about who they are, and willing to take the time and reaching out to them who are so desperately in need of the full truth.  Well having said that about Protestantism in general.

First Division of Protestantism – Lutheran

Now the principle forms or divisions of Protestantism. Chronologically, the first branch or form of Protestantism, of course, was Lutheran.   That’s where it all got started.  What was distinct about Lutheranism from the beginning, and I would say has remained fairly constant over the centuries.  Lutheranism has held on fairly constantly to what I would call the basics of Christian Revelation.  In recent years in a country like ours, Lutheranism has become more and more, let’s say liberalized, but in general among the Lutherans there has been a conservatism which has not held up as well in other forms of Protestantism.  Again in Lutheran Protestantism there has remained over the centuries, surprisingly in many forms of Lutheranism especially in the Scandinavian Lutheranism, Norwegian, and Swedish, an episcopate, and they trace their bishops back, back, to the 16th century.  So there are Lutheran bishops.  In fact, among some of these Lutheran bishops, they sincerely believe, that they are successors of the Apostles.

What is one truth of the Catholic faith that Luther dropped immediately on breaking with the Catholic Church, and that in my judgment, is the heart of the crisis in the Catholic Church today.  Martin Luther had lost his faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.  Having been a priest for 15 years as he was, he had no illusions about what the Catholic Church believes.   That a priest validly ordained, has the power to change bread and wine into the Living Jesus Christ.  Luther then, having lost his own faith, could not pass that on because he no longer believed it, and yet, he had been a Catholic for too many years not to hold on to, strange, to the term transubstantiation.  Luther professed to believe in transubstantiation.   Well how can you have transubstantiation if you don’t have a Real Presence which is made possible by the words of Consecration by validly ordained priests?  Although Martin Luther, even though he might use the word transubstantiation, he coined the word consubstantiation.  In other words, even where he would retain the word transubstantiation, he really meant and spent thousands of words explaining what he meant by consubstantiation.  Transubstantiation as we know, means, that what had been bread and wine in substance, are changed into the Whole Jesus Christ.  So what becomes present on the altar is no longer, no longer the substance of bread and wine, that’s gone.  By replacing the substance of bread and wine is both the substance of Christ’s Living Body and Blood and all the physical properties of Christ’s living humanity.  For Luther has the word consubstantiation. “Con” being the equivalent of quo in Latin, the substance of bread and wine remain but they then remain along with, if you please, Christ’s Body and Blood. Then he invented, what we’ve touched on I think more than once in class, without directly dealing with it as we are doing here.  He invented what he called, there was no theory for him, it was an article of the Lutheran faith. What he called the ubiquity of Christ’s humanity.  The ubiquity of Christ’s humanity.  Ubiquity comes from the Latin, ubique, u-b-i-q-u-e in Latin. Ubiquity is simply u-b-i-q-u-i-t-y, ubiquity, which means the everywhereness, the everywhereness of Christ’s humanity.

I cannot begin to begin to tell you how deeply these Protestant ideas have infected the thinking of many well-intentioned, but poorly educated Catholics. What do we believe takes place at what we call transubstantiation?  At the moment of transubstantiation what having been the substance of bread and wine cease to be there.  Accidents, or properties, of the bread and the wine stay. What replaces the substance of bread and wine, is the Whole Christ. Remember, the Totus Christus, the whole Christ, which means the whole of His Divinity and the whole of His humanity, but for one person, and consequently, there is no such thing as the ubiquity of Christ’s humanity, that in plain Anglo-Saxon, is a lie.  That’s spelled l-i-e, that’s a lie.  When God became man, He began it truly young.  Where was His humanity?  When He was conceived in Mary’s womb, His humanity was in Mary’s womb.  On Christmas morning, where was His humanity?   Well where else, in Her arms.  Christ’s humanity was, wherever, well, His human nature His living body, with His limbs, His face, His hands, feet, wherever therefore, Christ the whole Christ was present, was present also His humanity.  But don’t you dare say that Christ’s humanity ever was or now is everywhere. Absolutely NO!  What then took place on the first Holy Thursday night?   What happened bread and wine became Christ truly present with His humanity, keep after that, keep after that.  The hundreds of priests that I’ve taught, and there are many confused priests in the Church today, how well I know. The key to grasping our faith of the Real Presence is to know that Christ’s humanity is not everywhere.   Christ’s humanity is present only where?  Where He is present as the Incarnate Son of God in human form.  On earth where is Christ’s humanity?  Could somebody answer that?  You will make my day more than worthwhile.  Where is Christ’s humanity present?  (Person answers: In The Blessed Sacrament)  In The Blessed Sacrament.  Viva!  That’s where Christ’s humanity is present, no where else, no where else on earth and in heaven and elsewhere.  (Person asks: Or in heaven or and in heaven?). Please. (Person asks: He is present only in The Blessed Sacrament on earth and in Heaven?). Yes. (Person speaking: His humanity and in Heaven His glorified body in Heaven). Yes, same glorified humanity that’s in Heaven is on earth. And He’s present on earth in His humanity only because He rose from the dead and ascended to His Heavenly Father, and then because Christ instituted the Blessed Sacrament, which is the sacrament of Christ’s continued Presence of His humanity. Keep that humanity, keep that humanity.  I believe there is so much confusion, wide spread confusion.

Consequently, back to where we were regarding Lutheranism.  That for Luther, having been a priest, and never of course losing his priesthood, you would expect one of the key features, call it a feature of Lutheran Protestantism, would be precisely why Luther was distinct. He was a well educated priest who gave up his faith.  But we go on, still on Luther, because the stage that Luther set has been pretty much colored by his thinking over the centuries.  In English there are 54 volumes to the complete works of Martin Luther, 54 volumes.  And I’ve told people, I’m sure many of you, you can spare yourself the trouble of reading those 54 volumes, that’s a lot of reading, a lot of pages, it’s more simple to just know what besides what I’ve just said, mainly, his denial of the Real Presence of Christ, His humanity in the Holy Eucharist, and he invented the idea of Christ universal humanity. Christ already is everywhere as man, and so nothing really happens at what we call the consecration.  But, there is another distinctive feature in Lutheran Protestantism.  And that is, for Luther having struggled as, your author will point out, having struggled with his passions, especially his passion of lust.  Martin Luther had a very strong sex passion.  And, he claims, though once you get to know Luther’s life you realize just a claim.

Among other things Luther stopped doing was praying.  One of the letters that he wrote was one to his sister, which he told her I’ve got so much work to do I don’t have time even to say my office.  In any case, after years of what he called struggle with his passions, he decided it’s no use, and he decided what was wrong was not Martin Luther, but the Catholic Church.  That the Catholic Church is mistaken in thinking that we, somehow we, can contribute to our either sanctification or to our control of our lower drives.  No, said Luther, it is all up to God.  If God wants….

Always a sin.  Omnia qua ego facio son semper pecatum.  All the things that I do are always a sin.  That’s Martin Luther.  And that then is the second cardinal feature of Lutheran Protestantism what we’ve come to call the total depravity of human nature.  Human nature is so depraved you couldn’t be more depraved in theological language than to claim as Luther did that everything we do is always a sin.  That’s pretty depraved.  And of course the consequences of these positions, after almost five hundred years have been disastrous.

Second Division of Protestantism – Calvinism

Now the second by the way, and read what you’ve got in your pages. I also recommend that you get a copy of my book, Religions of the World.  The book needs to be reprinted; all I need again is time.  After God’s grace what I most need is time.  But Religions of the World is about sixteen long chapters. One of the chapters, on Protestantism, has a very carefully worked out synthesis of Protestantism, both historically and doctrinally.  It is the fruit of a lifetime of research into Protestantism and condenses all the important things that anyone should know including by the way, Protestants, by their own Protestantism.

The second major branch of Protestantism is Calvinism.  In the United States it generally is in two forms, either as Presbyterianism, or as one of the Reformed Churches, so-called Reformed Churches.  But at root it is Calvinism.  We are not sure that Calvin and Luther ever physically met during their lifetimes, Calvin in France, Luther in Germany.  What we do know is that Calvin, having been a seminarian, never ordained, was a genius.  To really, really know, the best, and the sense of the deepest and the most devastating of Protestantism, there are the two volumes of John Calvin called the Institutes of the Christian Religion, Institutes of the Christian Religion.  It is really a summa theologica of Protestantism.  Because where Luther may be called the prophet of Protestantism, Calvin was the theologian.  Calvin really thought through Protestantism.  His ideas are clear and they are devastating.  You couldn’t be, you cannot be, more contrary to Catholic Christianity than John Calvin.  What John Calvin bought was two ancient heresies.   He bought the heresy of Pelagianism and he bought the heresy of Manichaeism, which is a strange combination.  Original Pelagianism, as you may know, claimed you don’t need grace. All you need is your own, your own will to be saved.  I don’t mean now in Manichaeism you don’t need your own will, all you need is God’s grace.  Calvin in his genius managed to combine those two that seem to be contrary, not to say contradictory heresies.  For John Calvin, many you might say are Luther’s ideas, for John Calvin in the last analysis who will be saved – those whom God has predestined for salvation.  Would anybody else be saved?  No.  And therefore, basic to John Calvin, is the absolute denial of man’s free will.  Now ironically, Calvin writes for pages and pages in his summa, the entries of the Christian religion about the human will.  John Calvin is the genius who created the modern world with it’s denial of human freedom.  If there is one basic error in the modern world this is it.  And by now you find it, in every psychology book in the English speaking world, every sociology book in the English speaking world, you find it burnt in the minds of children from infancy, what shapes our lives our heredity our environment and our education.  And in this sense, Calvin improved on Pelagius.  Pelagius believed really in a true free will.  Calvin claims that everything in this world is determined by forces outside of man.  Take a man like William James, one of the three, I will say, three most influential philosophers of the American mind. Volume after volume all allegedly on the free will. There is no real freedom left.  It’s not I who determine what I want to do. I am already shaped. I repeat by my heredity, by my environment and by my education.  Does heredity shape one’s character? Sure.  Does environment shape one’s character?  Sure.  Does education shape one’s character?  Sure does.  But is that is that the ultimate reason, watch this, is that the ultimate reason why we should ever choose anything and know that the only problem is, and I say this through almost 50 years of priestly experience, I’m afraid most Americans seldom use their own free will.  Their lives are shaped and they want to have it shaped.  And beyond that shaping are those, who have, well, shaped the modern mind, going back and John Calvin is a genius.  And John Calvin with all his opposition to any true human freedom was a sworn enemy of the Catholic Church, who had been studying for the priesthood. And among his hatreds, there was none worse, than the Sacrifice of the Mass.  And I think in your pages that I gave you there is a picture, yes, page 443.  The Martyrs of Gorcan. In 1572 the Calvinists seized 17 priests and 2 lay brothers in Gorcan, threw them into prison, truly mutilated them, and finally hanged them for refusing to deny their belief in the Real Presence and the Papal Primacy, and in that order.  They are known as the Martyrs of Gorcan.  They were canonized in 1865.  The Society of Jesus has martyrs, priests murdered while offering Mass, for claiming that a Mass obtains grace.  How idolatrous can you be?  Obtains grace, and that your life is not, as they claim, absolutely predestined.

Questions and Answers

It is however, my clock says 3:51.  Are there any questions?  There must be more than two questions.  Here let me pass it around again.  Father, will the Catholic Church may going under ground as we here said?   Well, this may surprise you; the Catholic Church in some ways is already living under ground. Without identifying either of the priests or the diocese, a priest was called in by his bishop, some thirty miles from his parish, ordained just about a year and told by the bishop to leave his car in the parking lot, leave all his clothes over the rectory, and is given a one way plane ticket to a monastery far away from the diocese.  What did he do?  No crime. He was just, as the expression goes, too traditional.  By the way he called me up, the priest did, from his monastery.  He thanked God for being here.  But I tell people hear the recommendation that I give to people.  Number one keep the faith, number two keep cool, number three keep quiet, number four do something.  Is it proper to say in such simple terms that the Church’s mission in the world is to call the people to the perfection of love and truth, and to teach what that demands of us, even if we do not like the burden it puts on us.  Oh sure, that’s good, but I can tell you this, the more you do what okay, okay, you don’t like, but the more you love, the more you love Our Lord, the less you are going to complain about the burden.  Then you wake up one morning, and to your surprise, where have I been all these years?  I have been living in a dream.  That’s what following Christ is all about.  Lord, thanks for waking me up.  And it’s a wonderful experience, and you’ll really begin to say it’s not just all right, but you also love it.  Not because you love the burden or the cross, because the love you love the One Who you know on faith is behind the burden and the cross.

Did I see another contribution?  What is a good book in apologetics for beginners?  Well I think William Most’s book, I am just trying to think of the name, remember the name, Fr. William Most’s book.  It may be simply Apologetics, published recently. William Most, M-O-S-T. And what Fr. Most does is give you the rational grounds for believing and remember there are two fundamental grounds for believing.  One is the mind being able to prove the mind, being able to prove that there is a God. And then the mind being able to prove that that God works miracles, then you’ve got it made.  And God will work miracles, as I told you, was today’s homily, expect miracles and you won’t be disappointed.

My friend is Catholic, but she goes to these Protestant healing services because she wants to feel better, but they don’t make her any better. She never is peaceful. She says your class is too hard. What to do? Tell your friend, and use your head when you say this, but I’ve been meaning to have yet a more simple and easier class.  Now that I could either simplify the classes I am giving here, I can’t come down with my vocabulary, or I could at least have for example a class showing pictures instead of using big words.  Tell her I’ll pray for her, if she comes to class, tell her I’ll say a prayer for her, or tell you what, I’ll say one rosary for her, an unusual person. I’ll say one rosary for her each time she comes to class, okay?

Is Fr. Gobi getting authentic messages or has he gone astray?  I met Fr. Gobi about ten years ago, and I must have mentioned him to you on some previous occasion. When I questioned him he told me, my broken Italian, he knew almost no English. We talked about an hour and a half maybe almost two hours. He told me, a very high compliment, the questions you are asking me are those the Holy Father has been asking me too.  How do you know your revelations are from God?  He said I don’t know.  I don’t know.  Well then you shouldn’t tell people they are from God.  Right?  In any case, I think Fr. Gobi, I don’t want to use the word has gone astray, but I think Fr. Gobi’s fertile, pious, imagination sometimes carries him away.

One of my jobs for the Church is meeting mystics, sometimes appointed by the Church, to pass judgment on the authenticity of mystics.  Met one in Chicago last Friday.  And find out, are they genuine?  Pray for Fr. Gobi.

What do you think of the new Stewards for Tomorrow?  Endowment Drive now be conducted in the Detroit Archdiocese – Stewards for Tomorrow.  Unless I am mistaken, is this to raise money?  I think it is a very attractive title; I compliment those who worked up the title, Stewards for Tomorrow.  Well, I don’t have the money to contribute, so I don’t think it pertains to me.  But, I pray of course, for the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Do you have suggestions for program sources for a youth group to keep young people interested in faith after Confirmation?  Well, you may be surprised, but my Jesuit General has told me, ordered me, to do something for thirty years, while it was called The Eucharistic Crusade was phased out of existence, it is exactly that, a program for the youth to keep them in the faith, and strengthen their faith, from the ages of six to eighteen.  Sources I was told by my superiors to do something, and the organization had to be, well, started by the Bishops.  So what I did was to find a benevolent Bishop, who canvassed his fellow Bishops.  We now have forty dioceses, isn’t that nice? Forty dioceses signed up. All we need now is working hands.  So, we’ll do something about this program sources for youth group, and if the one who signed this would give me their name I’d appreciate it.  One on this by the way, I would ask all of you, as I have to some of you already, any contribution you can make, we are still open, and in need, any ideas on how you teach children, either teach them religion or teach them about the faith or the Sacred Heart in any shape or form the practice of religion, I would appreciate getting something from you.  Did I make an announcement on this before to you people?  Well gosh; it’s about time I made the announcement of course it’s already three months since we last met.  Would you please, and then I’m leaving the States on Sunday this week, and I’d appreciate your faxing, I mean it.  My fax number at the University is area 313-993-1653, 313-993-1653.  Any idea you may have, either what you have done, or your wife, or somebody you know, and as long as it is readable, fax it and I’ll use it ok?  Please. Thank you.

There is a Church in our area that has a Eucharistic room separate from the Church but has many windows for all to view Jesus exposed in the monstrance. There is no reverence shown to Jesus by genuflection. Should it be brought to the pastors attention to put curtains on the windows so Jesus will not be exposed to all, since reverence is not enforced?  Well, by all means, mention this to the pastor. You don’t know how far you’ll get. Certainly, if anybody should be respected and reverenced, it’s Our Lord.  Remember the crowd that followed Jesus and the extreme reverence, and remember the man who said I’m not even worthy to have You come under my roof. Remember?  And this also is part of the crisis in the Catholic Church, the loss in so many places, of the most basic respect, for Jesus Christ really present in the Holy Eucharist.  And of course where just about everybody can handle the Blessed Sacrament, is it any wonder that this has an overflow into such things as this, by all means talk to the pastor, I’ll say a prayer that you get somewhere.

Should miracles be added to the four marks of the True Church?  Well let’s see.  Does anybody happen to have a copy of the Modern Catholic Dictionary?  Well, don’t bother. The miracles, that is already included in the four marks – One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.  And it is usually included under the word Holy. Miracles are one of the signs of the Church’s Holiness. However, St. Robert Bellarmine, who wrote in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, does include miracles as one of the fifteen marks of the True Church.  So, yes, in other words, a more fully developed marks of the true Church would include miracles.

You told us our minds must become completely certain that God exists.  Would you briefly describe the classic proofs for the existence of God?  Well, they are best described in St. Thomas, St. Thomas Aquinas. And, they are present, I have them, in my Treasury of Catholic Wisdom.  In the section which includes quite detailed selections from St. Thomas Aquinas.  I could talk of course for hours in analyzing the five classic proofs for the existence of God.  But we can say very simply, that everything, everything that we know, everything we know in the world has a cause but there must be some One Cause that is behind everything which itself  was caused.  And that One Cause, behind all the other causes, cannot Himself have been caused.  Otherwise from nothing comes what?  Nothing.  Or the other way that I put it, to condense it, can there have been, can there have been a time when nothing, I mean this literally, nothing existed? Can there have been a time when nothing existed?  No, because if there was quote, a time, unquote when nothing existed what would exist now?  Nothing.  And, wonder of wonders, to think that human beings, each one of whom had a beginning.  Sometime I tell people to call up their mother, and ask them, Mother, where was I before I was born?  Jim, stop cracking jokes over the telephone.  In other words, there can not have been nothing, otherwise, there would now be nothing.  The One Being, that cannot not have existed from eternity, what a name you give Him, we call Him God.

Copyright © 2005 by Institute on Religious Life
Conference transcription from a talk that Father Hardon gave to the
Institute on Religious Life

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