The following extract from the Catechism on Catholic Doctrine, written by the renowned Scottish Bishop, George Hay (1729-1811), is presented for you as a testimony to the Faith of the centuries. A convert from Episcopalianism, Bishop Hay understood, far better than most of our present day Catholic clergy, the need for infallible authority in religious matters. (The good Bishop saw his Church and rectory burned to the ground by a mob of “protesting” religious anarchists.) Archbishop Hay believed that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church.
Armed with this dogma, we Catholics, even the Pope himself can rest secure in bending over backwards to prove to our separated Christian brethren that we are not self-righteous. But, without this dogmatic certitude that there is but one road to Heaven, such condescension is demeaning to the dignity of man’s ability to grasp the truth, and scandalous to those who cherish the truth. —Editor
Q. 9. What is the conclusion to be drawn from all these scripture truths?
A. The conclusion is manifest, namely, ‘That every communication in matters of religion with those who are separated from the church of Christ, which either is in itself, or is esteemed in the eyes of men to be a defection from the true faith, or a profession or approbation of their false tenets, or is a distinctive sign of belonging to their sect, or an occasion of offence and scandal to the faithful, or an exposing of one’s self to the probable danger of seduction, is a very great crime in the sight of God, and strictly forbidden by his holy law, as being intrinsically evil in its own nature.’
Q. 10. Is there any positive law of God, expressly forbidding all communication with those of a false religion?
A. There are several very strong and clear commands for this purpose, some of which contain an unlimited prohibition of all such communication in general, and others enforce this prohibition, by assigning some particular reasons for it.
General Laws of God, forbidding all Communication in Religion with those of a false Religion.
Q. II. What are those laws which prohibit this in general?
A. They are principally these following:
(1.) The first is grounded upon the light in which all false religions are considered in the holy scripture; for there we are assured, that they arise from false teachers, who are called seducers of the people, ravenous wolves, false prophets, who speak perverse things: that they are antichrists, and enemies of the cross of Christ; that departing from the true faith of Christ, they give heed to the spirits of error; that their doctrines are the doctrines of devils, speaking lies, that their ways are pernicious, their heresies damnable, and the like. In consequence of all which, this general command of avoiding all communication with them in religion, is given by the apostle, ‘Bear not the yoke together with unbelievers; for what participation hath justice with injustice? or what fellowship hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath the faithful with the unbelievers? or what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God?’ (2 Cor. vi. 14). Now, it is the true religion of Jesus Christ, the true doctrine of his gospel, which is justice and light; all false doctrines are injustice and darkness; it is by our holy faith that we belong to Christ, and are temples of the living God; all false religions flow from the father of lies, and make those who embrace them unbelievers; therefore, all participation, all fellowship, all communication with false religions, is here expressly forbidden by the word of God. We have seen above, that we are obliged to love the persons of those who are engaged in false religions, to wish them well and do them good; but here we are expressly forbidden all communication in their religion; that is, in their false tenets and worship. Hence the learned and pious English divines, who published at Rheims their translation of the New Testament, in their note upon this passage say, ‘Generally, here is forbidden conversation and dealing with unbelievers in prayers, or meetings at their schismatical service, or other divine office whatsoever; which the apostle here uttereth in more particular terms, that Christian folk may take the better heed of it.’
(2.) The next general command to avoid all religious communication with those who are heretics, or have false religion, is this, ‘A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, AVOID, knowing that he that is such a one, is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned by his own judgment,’ (Tit. iii. 10). Here we see another general command to avoid all such; that is, to flee from them, to have no communication with them. But in what are we commanded to flee from them? not as to their persons, or the necessary communications of society; for then, as the same holy apostle says upon a similar occasion, ‘You must needs go out of the world,’ (1 Cor. v. 10). Not as to the offices of Christian charity; for these we are commanded by Christ himself, in the person of the good Samaritan, to give to all mankind, whatever their religion be; therefore in the most restrained and limited sense which the words can bear, the thing in which are are commanded, avoid them, is in all matters of religion; in that in which they themselves are subverted and sin; in things relating to God and his service. In these they err, in these they are subverted, in these they are condemned; therefore in these we must avoid them. Hence the pious translators of the Rheims New Testament, in their note on this text, say, ‘Heretics, therefore, must not marvel, if we warn all Catholic men, by the words of the apostle in this place, to take heed of them, and to shun their preachings, books, and conventicles.’
(3.) A third general command on this subject, is manifestly included in this warm injunction of the apostle, ‘we charge you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother walking disorderly, and not according to the tradition which they have received from us,’ (2 Thess. iii. 6). In this passage, all the different sects of false religions are particularly pointed out; for, however they may differ among themselves in other respects, they generally agree in this point of rejecting all apostolical traditions, handed down to us by the church of Christ; all such the apostle here charges us, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to avoid, to withdraw ourselves from them. Now it is evident, that the most limited sense in which this command, so warmly laid on us by the apostle, can be taken, is to withdraw ourselves from them, in every thing relating to religion, from their sacraments, prayers, preachings, religious meetings, and the like. It is in these things that they ‘do not walk according to the tradition received from the apostles.’ In these things then, we are here commanded, in the name of Christ himself, ‘to withdraw ourselves from them.’
Seeing, therefore, that the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of this holy apostle, has so often, and in such strong terms, forbidden all manner of fellowship in religion with those who are out of his holy church, let us not be deceived by the specious, but vain sophistry of cunning men, who lie in wait to deceive; let us not offend our great God, by transgressing these his express commands, by joining in the prayers or going to the meetings of such as are disjoined from his holy church, lest he should withdraw his holy grace from us, and while we expose ourselves to danger, he should leave us to perish in it. Let us hear and follow the advice and command of the same holy apostle ‘As therefore ye have received Jesus Christ the Lord, walk ye in him; rooted and built up in him, and confirmed in the faith; as also ye have learned, abounding in him in thanksgiving. Beware lest any man impose upon you by philosophy and vain deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the rudiments of the world, and not according to Christ,’ (Col. ii. 6). Wherefore, whatever arguments may be brought from human traditions and worldly motives, from interest, gaining favour, liberality of sentiment, sociality, curiosity, levity, gaity, or the like, to induce us to join in, or to partake of any religious duty with those of a false religion, though but in appearance only, let us look upon all such arguments as philosophy, and vain deceit, as traditions of men and worldly wisdom, and let us oppose to all such reasons, this one argument, ‘God has expressly forbid it; therefore no human power can make it lawful.’
Q. 12. What are the particular laws on this subject?
A. In the three general commands above mentioned God Almighty speaks, by the mouth of his holy apostle, as Lord and Master, and lays his orders upon us absolutely. In what follows, he joins the merciful Saviour to the Sovereign; and whilst he no less strictly commands us to avoid all religious communication with those who are separated from his holy faith and church, he, at the same time, condescends to engage our obedience, by shewing us the strongest reasons for it.
(1) ‘Beward of false prophets,’ says our blessed Master, ‘who come to you in clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves,’ (Matt. vii. 15). Here Jesus Christ commands his followers to ‘beware of false prophets;’ that is to flee from them, to be on their guard against them; and he adds this powerful motive, lest ye be seduced and ruined by them; for, whatever appearance of godliness they may put on, though they come to you in the clothing of sheep, yet within they are ravenous wolves, and seek only to slay and to destroy. To the same purpose he says in another place, ‘Take heed that no man seduce you; for many will come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and they will seduce many,’ (Matt. xxiv. 4). ‘And many false prophets shall arise and seduce many, (verse 11). Here he foretells the cunning of false teachers, and the danger of being seduced by them, and commands us to take care of ourselves, that such be not our fate. But how shall we escape from them? He afterwards tells us how; do not believe them, have nothing to do with them, have no communication with them. ‘Then,’ says he, ‘if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, do not believe him. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if it is possible) even the elect. Behold I have told it you beforehand. If, therefore, they shall say to you, Behold he is in the desert, go ye not out; behold he is in the closet, believe it not,'(sic) (Matt. xxiv. 23). Can there be a more efficacious reason to enforce the observance of his command, than what he here uses, or a more interesting motive to induce his followers to have no religious communication with such false teachers? Many will be certainly seduced by them; and so will ye, if ye expose yourself to the danger.
(2.) St. Peter, considering the great mercy bestowed upon us by the grace of our vocation to the true faith of Christ, says, that it is our duty to ‘declare the praises and virtues of him who hath called us out of darkness into his admirable light,’ (1 Pet. ii. 9). St. Paul also exhorts us to ‘give thanks to God the Father, who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light, who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his beloved Son,’ (Col. i. 12); where it is manifest, that as the true faith of Jesus Christ is the only light that conducts to salvation, and it is only in his kingdom, that is, in his church, where that heavenly light is to be found, so all false religions are darkness; and to be separated from the kingdom of Christ, is to be in darkness as to the great business of eternity. And indeed, what greater or more miserable darkness can a poor soul be in than to be led away by seducing spirits, and ‘departing from the faith of Christ give heed to the doctrine of devils,’ (1 Tim. iv. 1). St. Paul, deploring the state of such souls, says, that they have their understandings darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their hearts.’ (Eph. iv. 18). On this account, the same holy apostle exhorts us in the most pressing manner, to take care not to be seduced from the light of our holy faith by the vain words and seducing speeches of false teachers, by which we would certainly incur the anger of God; and, to prevent so great a misery, he not only exhorts us to walk as children of the light, in the practice of all holy virtues, but expressly commands us to avoid all communication in religion with those who walk in the darkness of error, ‘Let no man deceive you,’ says he, ‘with vain words, for, because of these things cometh the anger of God upon the children of unbelief; be ye not, therefore, partakers with them. For ye were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord, walk ye as the children of the light. . . and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,’ (Eph.v.6). Here, then, we have an express command, not only not to partake with the unfruitful works of darkness, that is, not to join in any false religion, or partake of its rites or sacraments, but also, not to have any fellowship with its professors, not to be present at their meetings or sermons, or any other of their religious offices, lest we be deceived by them, and incur the anger of the Almighty, provoking him to withdraw his assistance from us, and leave us to ourselves, in punishment of our disobedience.
(3.) St. Paul, full of zeal for the good of souls, and solicitous to prevent us from all danger of losing our holy faith, the groundwork of our salvation, renews the same command in his epistle to the Romans, by way of entreaty, beseeching us to avoid all such communication with those of a false religion; he also shews us by what sign we should discover them, and points out the source of our danger from them. ‘Now,’ says he, I beseech you, brethren to mark them, who cause dissensions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and to avoid them; for they that are such, serve not our Lord Christ, but their own belly; and, by pleasing speeches, and good words, seduce the hearts of the innocent,’ (Rom. xvi. 17). See here whom we are to avoid; ‘those that cause dissensions contrary to the old doctrine;’ all those who, having left the true faith and doctrine which they had learned, and which had been handed down to us from the beginning by the church of Christ, follow strange doctrines, and make division and dissensions in the Christian world. And why are we to avoid them? because they are not servants of Christ, but slaves to their own belly, whose hearts are placed upon the enjoyments of this world, and who, by ‘pleasing speeches and good words, seduce the hearts of the innocent,’ that is, do not bring any reasons or solid arguments to seduce people to their evil ways, so as to convince the understanding, for that is impossible; but practise upon their hearts and passions, relaxing the laws of the gospel, granting liberties to the inclinations of flesh and blood, laying aside the sacred rules of mortification of the passions and of self-denial, promising worldly wealth, and ease, and honours, and, by pleasing speeches of this kind, seducing the heart and engaging people to their ways.