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Kolbe Report 8-8-20

Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,

Glory to Jesus Christ!

On the general calendar of the Extraordinary Form, last Tuesday, August 4th, was the feast of St. Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order and one of the great champions of the true Catholic doctrine of creation.   (His feast is celebrated today on the Novus Ordo calendar.)  This newsletter will be dedicated to him and to his struggle to defend the traditional Catholic doctrine of creation.

St. Dominic’s Order and the Defense of the True Doctrine of Creation

We often have occasion to remark that the tell-tale sign of the diabolical is not a mere distortion of the good, the beautiful and the true – but a total inversion.  The fact that the Dominican Order today leads the promotion of theistic evolution throughout the Catholic world represents such an inversion because the Dominican Order was literally born of the struggle against a heresy very much like modern theistic evolutionism, a heresy rooted in the denial of the goodness of the original creation and a rejection of the literal historical truth of the sacred history of Genesis.

St. Dominic was traveling with his Bishop from Spain to Denmark through the south of France to arrange a royal marriage when they encountered Catholics who had been won over to the errors of the Albigensian-Catharist heretics.  Contemporary descriptions of the beliefs of the principal heretical groups in the region confirm that all of them rejected the traditional orthodox teaching of the Church on creation (soon to be defined at the Fourth Lateran Council) and embraced one of two heretical doctrines regarding the origins of man and the material universe.

The first group, usually designated as absolute dualists, believed in the existence of two principles of creation – a good god who created all of the spiritual creatures, and an evil god who created all of the corporeal, or bodily, creatures.  The second group, usually designated as mitigated dualists, believed in one God who created the spiritual creatures and the four elements, but held that the angel Lucifer made all of the different kinds of corporeal creatures as well as the human body from those four elements.  According to both sects, created spirits were trapped in corporeal bodies as punishment for a primordial sin, and the purpose of life was to follow the authentic teaching of Christ who came into the world as a pure spirit disguised as a bodily man, to liberate men and women from their bodies so that they could return to their original state as pure spirits.

These false beliefs in regard to creation shaped a Catharist anti-culture.  These errors explain why the Catharist priests, or “perfects,” abstained from foods derived from animal bodies, despised sacraments – including the Most Blessed Sacrament – on account of their material elements, looked down on Holy Marriage and childbirth, and viewed the death of the body as a good thing.  It is important to note that this anti-culture encompassed all of the Catharist heretics, both the absolute dualists and the mitigated dualists, since all of them shared the conviction that corporeal creatures – and the human body itself – were directly created by Lucifer or the evil god.  This also helps to explain why the Catharist priests, or “perfects,” appeared so attractive to many lay Catholics, scandalized as they so often were by the worldliness of many Catholic clergy and religious.  It also helps to explain why the new mendicant orders, especially the Dominicans, played such a key role in combating the Catharist movements in the south of France and in northern Italy.

St. Dominic’s Bishop saw the need to combat the heretics both by preaching and by evangelical poverty and simplicity of life; and St. Dominic soon emerged as a gifted leader in the effort to defend the orthodox Catholic faith against the Catharist errors.  St. Dominic and his followers recognized the goods of this world as good things but renounced them to an even greater degree than the Catharist heretics.  When Pope Innocent III convened the Fourth Lateran Council to define the true doctrine of creation against the Albigensian-Catharist heretics, the Bishop of Toulouse took St. Dominic with him to Rome to attend the Council.  In God’s providence, St. Dominic’s participation in the Council that pronounced the most important dogmatic decree on creation in the history of the Church confirmed him in his resolve to defend that teaching through an international order distinguished by fervent preaching and evangelical poverty.  As the Catholic Encyclopedia explains:

In November, 1215, an ecumenical council was to meet at Rome “to deliberate on the improvement of morals, the extinction of heresy, and the strengthening of the faith”. This was identically the mission Saint Dominic had determined on for his order. With the Bishop of Toulouse, he was present at the deliberations of this council. From the very first session it seemed that events conspired to bring his plans to a successful issue. The council bitterly arraigned the bishops for their neglect of preaching. In canon X they were directed to delegate capable men to preach the Word of God to the people. Under these circumstances, it would reasonably appear that Dominic’s request for confirmation of an order designed to carry out the mandates of the council would be joyfully granted. But while the council was anxious that these reforms should be put into effect as speedily as possible, it was at the same time opposed to the institution of any new religious orders, and had legislated to that effect in no uncertain terms. Moreover, preaching had always been looked upon as primarily a function of the episcopate. To bestow this office on an unknown and untried body of simple priests seemed too original and too bold in its conception to appeal to the conservative prelates who influenced the deliberations of the council. When, therefore, his petition for the approbation of his infant institute was refused, it could not have been wholly unexpected by Saint Dominic.

Returning to Languedoc at the close of the council in December, 1215, the founder gathered about him his little band of followers and informed them of the wish of the council that there should be no new rules for religious orders. Thereupon they adopted the ancient rule of Saint Augustine, which, on account of its generality, would easily lend itself to any form they might wish to give it. This done, Saint Dominic again appeared before the pope in the month of August, 1216, and again solicited the confirmation of his order. This time he was received more favourably, and on 22 December, 1216, the Bull of confirmation was issued.

The Scope of the Firmiter

The Firmiter decree of the Fourth Lateran Council defined what the Church had always taught and believed, that God had created all of the different kinds of corporeal and spiritual creatures and then man “at once” from the beginning of time – terminology compatible with creation in six days or in an instant, but not with a creation period of thousands, or millions or billions of years.   Among contemporary scholars who adhere to the correct teaching on the unchanging and unchangeable truth of defined Church dogmas, most seem to believe that the Firmiter merely defined that God created the angels and some kind of primitive matter at the beginning of time, not all of the different kinds of spiritual and corporeal creatures – and then man.  However, the historical facts set forth in this newsletter render this view completely untenable.

The Catholic response to the Catharist anti-culture hinged on the fact that God had directly created all of the different kinds of spiritual creatures and all of the different kinds of corporeal creatures and then man, body and soul, who summed up in himself the spiritual and the corporeal orders.  Thus, to argue that the Firmiter merely defined that God created the angels and some primitive matter is to imagine that the Pope and the Council Fathers failed to contradict the most fundamental doctrine of the Catharist heresy by failing to define the doctrine of creation opposed to that false doctrine.  As Fr. Paul M. Quay has pointed out in his work on Lateran IV, the Firmiter’s account of what God created “at once” from the beginning of time is exhaustive – that is, it includes every kind of living creature that God created: the spiritual creatures, the corporeal creatures, and man.

It is indeed certain that the Council was deeply concerned to defend God’s being the unique and sole creator of all things without exception. Hence Firmiter takes over the phrase “creator of all things, visible and invisible,” already utilized for just this purpose in Eastern professions of faith prior to 325 and consecrated by I Nicaea and I Constantinople. This would seem to take care of the universality of His creative activity as well as can be done, since it provides what logicians refer to as an adequate distinction (in the thirteenth century, disjunctio exclusiva), one such that all possible beings can be assigned properly to one or the other of the two categories.[1]

Just as the phrase “spiritual creatures” encompasses all of the angels, each of them a distinct species according to Scholastic thought, so the phrase “corporeal” must encompass all of the different kinds of corporeal creatures, other than man.

Records of debates between Catholic preachers and Catharist heretics prove again and again that the phrase Creator of “all things visible and invisible” for Catholics in contrast to Cathar heretics meant all of the different kinds of creatures in heaven, on the earth and in the sea.  At the end of the twelfth century, a convert from the Catharist cult named Bonacursus revealed the doctrines of the cult in a published confession.  He wrote that:

Their heresy is, indeed, not only terrifying, but is, truly, too frightful and execrable to speak or hear about.  For some of them say that God created all the elements, others say that the devil created these elements; but their common opinion is that the devil divided the elements. They state also that the same devil made Adam from the dust of the earth and with very great force imprisoned in him a certain angel of light . . .[2]

At a public inquiry in Toulouse, France, in 1178, heretics were accused of teaching that

There were two gods, one good, the other evil; the good had created only invisible things, those which could not be altered or corrupted; the evil one had formed the heavens, the earth, men, and other visible things.[3]

Nor is it possible to argue that the Firmiter would allow Catholics to believe that God used angels or other secondary causes to produce the different kinds of corporeal creatures since the Cathar belief that something other than the Most Holy Trinity created the corporeal creatures always stood at the top of the list of errors to be refuted by Catholic speakers in public debates.  Writing just five years after the proclamation of the Firmiter, the Cistercian monk Caesarius of Heisterbach wrote an account of the Church’s struggles against the Albigensian/Catharist heresy and identified the principal error of the Cathars:

Some of the heresiarchs selected tenets from the teaching of Manes, others chose from among the errors which Origen is said to have written in Peri archon . . . With Manes, they believed in two principles, a good God and an evil one, the latter the devil, who, they say, created all bodies, just as the good God created all souls.

To this, a novice replies in Caesarius’ text:

Moses proves that God created bodies and souls by saying, “God formed man,” that is, the body, “of the slime of the earth and breathed into his face the breath of life,” which is the soul.

To which Caesarius replies:

If they would accept Moses and the prophets, they would not be heretics.[4]

Recalling the preaching of the heretics in 1205 forty years later, Peire Jocglar testified that he had “’heard the heretics saying errors about visible things’ . . . namely, ‘that God didn’t make them.’  The sacred host, he remembered hearing, ‘isn’t the body of the Lord.’”[5]  In what one historian calls the “most circumstantial report of heretical ideas [from the Albigensian-Cathar movement] that survives among records of inquisitorial processes before 1250,” Franciscan Friar William Garcias deposed that when he mentioned the text from the beginning of St. John’s Gospel, “Without Him was made nothing,” the Catharist heretic Peter Garcias of Toulouse answered that “the word ‘nothing’ was used to designate visible things, which are nothing.”[6]

“Also when Friar William Garcias spoke with Peter Garcias about the text, “In Him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,” Peter said that it should be expounded:’ visible to the heart and invisible to the eyes of the flesh’ . . . and “when Friar William Garcias spoke with Peter Garcias about the text, ‘Preaching to you to be converted from these vain things [to the living God who made the heaven, the earth, and the sea and all that are in them],’ Peter said that “the sea” signified not the material sea where sea creatures lived but the “prison,” where heretics were unjustly confined.[7]  In short, Peter Garcias completely rejected the literal and obvious sense of the sacred history of Genesis for a purely figurative interpretation that had no precedent in the writings of the Fathers of the Church.  It was this kind of purely figurative interpretation which denied the direct creation by God of all of the different kinds of corporeal creatures, including the human body, that the Firmiter was specifically intended to exclude.

Contemporary Catholic Neo-Catharism

The mistaken belief that the Firmiter only defined the creation by God of angels and some simple material elements at the beginning of time has prompted many Catholic intellectuals to try to reconcile the Firmiter with the long ages of evolution and progressive creation.  It is bitterly ironic to find Catholic scholars of the stature of Philip Trower even arguing that Satan was permitted to enter creation and engineer creatures like carnivorous dinosaurs when this is precisely the kind of falsehood propagated by the Catharist heretics – a falsehood which the Firmiter explicitly excluded by defining that the good God created all of the different kinds of corporeal creatures at once from the beginning of time!

Using as a springboard Abbot Vonier’s Thomistic view (derived from Greek philosophy rather than Scripture) that the heavenly bodies are moved by intelligent powers (cf. ST, I, 70, a.3c), Mr. Trower hypothesizes that God appointed the angels to be in some way engineers of biological evolution.[8] He suggests that they “were to have much more than a supervisory role” in the cosmos and were empowered “to influence the evolutionary or transformative creative process”. And when some of the angels rebelled and became God’s enemies, he did not then terminate their role as agents of evolution any more than he terminates that of tyrants like Hitler and Stalin as agents of human history. Rather, Mr. Trower suggests, God allowed Satan and his cohorts to stay on the job, injecting their perverse, diabolical malice and cruelty into the evolving animal kingdom, presumably in competition with good angels doing their best to steer it in the direction of health, enjoyment, tranquility and beauty.[9]

After summarizing Dr. Trower’s hypothesis in these words, Fr. Brian Harrison explains why it cannot hold up under scrutiny:

First, Mr. Trower tries to make this supposed pre-Adamic suffering more theologically acceptable by blending it with post-Adamic evil into a single grand evolutionary process: creation itself is depicted as an unfinished project in which good and evil together somehow prod the cosmos onward toward ultimate perfection. “Creation”, Mr. Trower asserts, “is not something that came to an end or its climax with Adam and Eve. It is still going on.”  But how can this Teilhardian/Hegelian-sounding thesis be reconciled with the Genesis account, according to which the creative process long ago reached a very definite “end” and “climax”?  We read in Gn. 2: 1-2: “Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed. Since on the seventh day God was finished with the work he had been doing, he rested on the seventh day” (emphasis added). And according to Catholic teaching, these early chapters of Genesis, while written in a simple, popular genre, are an ancient form of genuine history (cf. DS 3512-3519 = Dz 2121-2128; DS 3898 = Dz 2329).

Likewise, Mr. Trower’s scenario underestimates the central importance of the Fall: instead of the unique primal catastrophe that carved a sharp “before-and-after” division into our planetary history, Adam’s sin now becomes just part and parcel of an ongoing dialectic between good and evil. This view conflicts with Gn. 2: 17-18, where God declares the earth “cursed” through Adam’s disobedience, since it depicts the earth as already cursed for millions of years previously – and for reasons that had nothing to do with Adam. [10]

While Fr. Harrison’s arguments are sound, the same truths can also be defended from the Firmiter of Lateran IV as it was intended to be understood by the Council Fathers – and recent scholarship has demonstrated that the Angelic Doctor himself maintained this view.

Through the prayers of Our Lady of the Rosary and of St. Dominic, may the Holy Ghost raise up champions of the true doctrine of creation from the ranks of the sons and daughters of St. Dominic, restore the foundations of the Faith, and usher in the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the consecration and conversion of Russia, and the greatest evangelization the world has ever seen!

Yours in Christ through the Immaculata in union with St. Joseph,

Hugh Owen

P.S.  New Traditional Catholic homeschool available (grades 9 – 12)

We would like to introduce Angelic Doctor Academy, a Traditional Catholic homeschool with a solid Catholic high school curriculum (lower grades coming soon).   They use many new Traditional Catholic textbooks which are designed to lay out the concepts in an orderly way, while avoiding liberalism and modern errors.  So much of the typical Catholic curricula available use inferior and problematic materials.

The Academy also offers something very unique – a grading system which grades all the coursework – including the weekly / daily exercises!  Busy parents appreciate that, as well as our “at a glance” academic reports which keep them informed of their students’ progress at all times.

The Academy is currently offering a discount off their already low course fees, as well as referral bonuses.    Please visit their website (still in construction in some spots) at https://www.ada.school or call 785-260-7999.   Thank you!

References

[1] Paul M. Quay, S.J, “Angels and Demons: The Teaching of IV Lateran” (Saint Louis University), p.23.

[2] Walter L. Wakefield and Austin P. Evans, Editors, Heresies of the High Middle Ages (New York: Columbia University Press,1991), p. 171.

[3] Op cit., p. 198.

[4] Walter L. Wakefield, Heresy, Crusade, and Inquisition in Southern France 1150-1200 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), pp. 195-196.

[5] Mark Gregory Pegg, A Most Holy War: The Albigensian Crusade and the Battle for Christendom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 46.

[6] Op. Cit, p. 243.

[7] P. 244.

[8] Philip Trower, “Creation, The CCC, Evolution and Angels,” The Wanderer, July 13, 2017, p. 8B.

[9] Fr. Brian W. Harrison, O.S., “Did Demons ‘Help’ God Create The World?” The Wanderer, September 6, 2017.

[10] Ibid.

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