Can you be a Christian and a Socialist? The Popes Say No

Popes have taught clearly that "Christian" and "Socialist" are mutually exclusive

Early this week, I posted “Catholic Condemnation of Socialism in 5 Papal Quotes (Pope Leo XIII Puts the Smack Down on Socialism)” and as expected, folks came out of the word work saying things like “Aha! But the Church doesn’t condemn Christian Socialism, but only condemns Marxist or atheistic Socialism.”

This isn’t true. Simply read Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum and you’ll discover that he condemns Socialism as an economic error contrary to natural law and social justice. But if that does not convince you, here are some quotes from subsequent Popes further laying the smack down on Socialism and even on so-called “Christian Socialism”:

Pius XI against “Christian Socialism”:

Here is a quote form Pope Pius XI on the 40th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum showing that “Catholic Socialism” or “Christian Socialism” is condemned by the Catholic Faith:

“Religious socialism, Christian socialism, are contradictory terms; no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true Socialist.” (Pope Pius XI, Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, May 15, 1931. n. 120)

You cannot be “a good Catholic and a true Socialist.” It just doesn’t get any clearer than that! In that same encyclical, Pius XI also teaches:

“We make this pronouncement: Whether considered as a doctrine, or an historical fact, or a movement, Socialism, if it remains truly Socialism, even after it has yielded to truth and justice on the points which we have mentioned, cannot be reconciled with the teachings of the Catholic Church because its concept of society itself is utterly foreign to Christian truth.” (Quadragesimo Anno, n. 117)

The important distinction made by Pope Pius XI is that even if Socialism is modified to “truth and justice on the points” of error, it “cannot be reconciled with the teachings of the Catholic Church.” Socialism is inherently broken and motivated by covetousness. Socialism is, they say, the Gospel of Envy.

And one extra quote from Pius IX on Captitalism as not fundamenetally flawed as is Socialism:

“Capitalism itself is not to be condemned. And surely it is not vicious of its very nature, but it has been vitiated.”

Socialism is inherently flawed and condemned. Capitalism is not condemned. Capitalism is instrumentally neutral. It can be used for virtue or it can be used for vice (“vitiated”).

Pope John XXIII against “Moderate Socialism”:

And I’ve heard it said by some Catholics: “Yeah, but Leo XIII and Pius XI didn’t live to see later moderations of Socialism, so what they were condemning was an earlier form of Socialism.” In order to refute this objection, we have have Pope Saint John XXIII’s reiteration and approval of the previous papal condemnations of Socialism [the comments in red are my own]:

Pope Pius XI further emphasized the fundamental opposition between Communism and Christianity, and made it clear that no Catholic could subscribe even to moderate Socialism [Catholics cannot even try to modify Socialism!]. The reason is that Socialism is founded on a doctrine of human society which is bounded by time and takes no account of any objective other than that of material well-being [Socialism is fundamentally materialistic and closed off to the spiritual]. Since, therefore, it proposes a form of social organization which aims solely at production; it places too severe a restraint on human liberty, at the same time flouting the true notion of social authority.”
(Pope John XXIII, Encyclical Mater et Magistra, May 15, 1961, n. 34)

Pope John XXIII teaches us that:

  • Pius XI was right on Socialism as being opposed to Christianity
  • Catholics may not subscribe “even to moderate Socialism”
  • Socialism is materialistic
  • Socialism restrains human liberty

Pope Paul VI on Socialism as Corrupt Ideology:

And Pope Paul VI also condemned Socialism in 1971 on the 80th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum against Socialism:

“Too often Christians attracted by Socialism tend to idealize it in terms which, apart from anything else, are very general: a will for justice, solidarity and equality. They refuse to recognize the limitations of the historical socialist movements, which remain conditioned by the ideologies from which they originated.” (Paul VI, Octogesima Adveniens, May 14, 1971, n. 31)

Pope John Paul II as Reaffirming Leo XIII’s original condemnation of Socialism:

On the 100th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s condemnation of Socialism, Pope John Paul II issued the document Centesimus Annus reiterating the Catholic condemnation of Socialism:

It may seem surprising that Socialism appeared at the beginning of the Pope’s critique of solutions to the ‘question of the working class’ at a time when ‘socialism’ was not yet in the form of a strong and powerful State, with all the resources which that implies, as was later to happen. However, he correctly judged the danger posed to the masses by the attractive presentation of this simple and radical solution to the ‘question of the working class.’” (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, May 1, 1991, n. 12)

John Paul II lived under Socialism and understood its corruption of the working class. He perceived Leo XIII as a prophetic voice at the turn of the century.

The Popes of the 20th century explicitly teach that whether we modify Socialism in the shape of “Moderate Socialism,” or “Christian Socialism,” or “Theistic Socialism,” it still doesn’t fit into Catholic teaching. Socialism is not Christian and never will be Christian.

Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

Liturgy does NOT mean Work of the People (Against Liturgical Pelagianism)

Examples of λειτουργία from the New Testament

It became quite stylish in the liturgical reforms of the 1960s and 1970s to teach that the Greek word for liturgy is λειτουργία (leitourgia) and that this word means “work of the people.” This led to the new idea that λειτουργία or “liturgy” is something that lay people should be leading and even performing within the context of worship.

Does λειτουργία mean “work of the people”? No.

Photo: Pope John XXIII Celebrating the Eastern Divine Liturgy

Liturgy certainly does not mean “work of the people,” and I’ll show you why from examples in Sacred Scripture. But before looking at Scripture, let’s look at the actual Greek word:

The Word “Liturgy” in Greek

λειτουργία, like so many words in Greek, is a composite. The first word half of the word derives form the Greek word “laos” meaning “people.” (There is also the variation of “leos” which is the Attic Greek version of the same word for “people.”) This word “laos” (or “leos” in Attic) is where we get laity and laypeople. It’s a generic word for a collection of people. The Greek name Menelaos means “withstanding the people” and the Greek name Nikolaos means “conquering the people.”

The second part of the word derives from the Greek word “ergon” meaning “work,” as in ergonomic, energy, and synergy.

When you smash the two Greek words together to describe something you get: leitourgia or λειτουργία.

Does λειτουργία mean “work of the people” or “work for the people”?

So the term contains the two Greek words for “people” and “work,” but how do we arrange it for its meaning? On one hand, it could be “work of the people,” meaning something the people work out together. On the other hand, it could be “work for the people,” meaning something done for the benefit of the people.

Option 1: Liturgy as “Work of the People”

The kumbaya (Elvis liturgy) crowd of the 1960s and 1970s insisted that it was former – something people work out when they come together. This led to the idea that lay people should lead prayers, read the lessons, prepare the altar, handle chalices, handle the Eucharist, distribute the Eucharist, bless people in the Communion line, and cleanse the vessels. After all, if liturgy means “work of the people,” then the people ought to be up there doing active work.

Option 2: Liturgy as “Work Done for the People”:

The historical, traditional, and received definition of liturgy or λειτουργία is that it is something done by one for the sake of the people. This may come as a crushing blow to the legions of Christians who were taught that liturgy was the “work of the people,” but it’s the plain truth. In Plato and other Greek authors, λειτουργία is something done by one for the sake of the people. Consequently, the Greek term is usually a priestly or political term depending on the context. And in the Bible, it is usually a priestly term, but we will examine one passage in Romans that is expressly political:

Let’s look at Sacred Scripture to settle the debate:

In the account of the birth of John the Baptist, we discover that his father Zacharias is an Aaronic priest of the tribe of Levi. As such, he serves in the Temple as a priest when it is the time of his allotment. [I explain elsewhere how this detail leads us to know that Christ as born in late December.] The passage explains that St Zacharias goes to the Temple to minister and the original Greek word is that he goes there to do liturgy:

And when his time of service (λειτουργίας) was ended, he went to his home. (Luke 1:23)

Did Zacharias gather a bunch of people to worship the Lord? No, the passage explains that his duty was to go into the Temple and offer incense to Yahweh. He did this to ceremoniously present the prayers of the people to God. It becomes obvious that his “liturgy” was something he did as a priest for the benefit of the people, not something he did as a priest with other people present.

Let’s look at another example from Hebrews:

And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship (λειτουργίας). (Heb 9:22)

This is a description of how Moses consecrated the tabernacle and vessels for divine worship in the Old Testament. The tent/tabernacle and the vessels could only be handled and used by the Levites, as they administered them for the benefit of Israel. Once again we see that λειτουργία refers to what is done by a priestly class on behalf of the laity.

The Liturgy of Christ as for the people:

But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry (λειτουργίας) which is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. (Heb 8:6)

The author describes Christ as a High Priest who now administers a better New Covenant through a better λειτουργία or Liturgy. Once again, this λειτουργία is something Christ is administering on our behalf for our salvation. Notably it is His presentation of His Body and Blood to the Father for our redemption – something that is presented in every Liturgy of the Mass.

Roman Emperor as Liturgizer:

And let’s not forget that Saint Paul calls the evil Emperor Nero a “liturgizer.” In Romans 13, Saint Paul explains how the Roman Emperor (at that time Nero) and all political rulers are “liturgizers””

3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant (διάκονός or diakonos) of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers (λειτουργοὶ or leitourgoi) of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.

Saint Paul identifies the Emperor as διάκονός or deacon and as all rulers as λειτουργοὶ or liturgizers. Be mindful that this Emperor was Nero, and yet he receives sacerdotal titles from Paul.

In fact, the dalmatic (which is worn by deacons) is an imperial garment traditionally reserved for the Byzantine court. I cannot find the source at the moment, but I recall reading once that Constantine was allowed to read Scripture in liturgy while still unbaptized because he was considered to be a quasi-deacon by virtue of his status as Emperor. And the Emperor in Constantinople processed with the Patriarch and the clergy, often in a dalmatic.

Back to “liturgy” in Romans 13. It’s manifest that the Roman Emperor and other Roman rulers are accorded the title of λειτουργοὶ. They are not liturgists designing services. Nero isn’t leading the people in “Gather us in, the rich and the haughty.” Rather these Roman rulers are, according to Paul, appointed by God to administer justice for the people. 

Liturgy as Something Done for People

Liturgy, at least in the Old and New Testament is something priestly or political that is done for the sake of the people. It is communal only in that it is done for others.

A priest saying the Mass alone in a Russian hotel room is doing “work for the people” without anyone else gathered together with him.

Likewise, the Pope gathered at a Mass of 10,000 people is doing “work for the people,” but the people being present doesn’t make it “liturgy.” The liturgy is accomplished in persona Christi for the people. Just as Zacharias was able to do “liturgy” all alone with his thurible in the Temple.

When Christ died on the cross, He administered a new λειτουργία for the people of the world. It was a liturgical act in which nobody participated by dancing, performing, reading from a book, or carrying a vessel. The truly “active participation” was accomplished by the Mother of God, Saint Mary Magdalene, the other women, and by the Apostle John when they lifted up their hearts to the divine Crucified Rabbi on the cross. They painfully and silently received the bloody λειτουργία of Christ on their behalf.

The time has come for us to understand liturgy as sacerdotal and as something done by Christ for His people. Cardinal Sarah summed this up recently with these words:

Liturgy is about God and His work for His people. Whoever tells us that we must celebrate ourselves in the liturgy is undermining biblical liturgy. Liturgy as “work of the people” is liturgical Pelagianism – the heresy that says that man can naturally work for his salvation.

If you’d like to learn about Sacramental Theology and earn your Certificate in Catholic Theology along the way, please join us at the New Saint Thomas Institute. We have a 2 part video on the “Mystical Meanings of the Mass according to Thomas Aquinas” waiting for you:

Learn more about our online theology courses and earn up to 6 Certificates in Philosophy, Theology, and Church History at newsaintthomas.com, the largest global online Institute for theological studies.

Godspeed,
Dr. Taylor Marshall

Catholic Condemnation of Socialism in 5 Papal Quotes

Pope Leo XIII Puts the Smack Down on Socialism

Sometimes you hear Christians says, “We can be faithful Catholics and Socialists with regard to economics, because we aren’t atheists like Marx.”

Actually, that’s not true. The Pope’s have spoken explicitly and condemned “Socialism” on theconomic grounds and in terms of social justice.

Socialism was condemned explicitly by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Rerum Novarum.

I’ve included 5 quotes to help you understand how socialism is situated and condemned by Catholic theology. All the text in red is my commentary:

4. To remedy these wrongs the socialists, working on the poor man’s envy of the rich [this has often been the strategy – to employ “covet thy neighbors goods” as a lever for social revolution], are striving to do away with private property, and contend that individual possessions should become the common property of all, to be administered by the State or by municipal bodies. They hold that by thus transferring property from private individuals to the community, the present mischievous state of things will be set to rights, inasmuch as each citizen will then get his fair share of whatever there is to enjoy. But their contentions are so clearly powerless to end the controversy that were they carried into effect the working man himself would be among the first to suffer [the Pope says the working man is the first to suffer in Socialism – and history proves His Holiness correct]. They are, moreover, emphatically unjust, for they would rob the lawful possessor, distort the functions of the State, [it is “distorted” to ask the State to ‘transfer private property to the community”] and create utter confusion in the community.

The second quote emphasizes how the wage-earner is abused by Socialism:

5. Socialists, therefore, by endeavoring to transfer the possessions of individuals to the community at large, strike at the interests of every wage-earner [wage-earners are abused], since they would deprive him of the liberty of disposing of his wages [a person has right of liberty to use his wages as he sees fit], and thereby of all hope and possibility of increasing his resources and of bettering his condition in life [the wager earner has the right to seek to better his condition].

The third quote from Rerum Novarum condemns the Socialist principle that children belong to the State and not the father – and Pope Leo XIII quotes Saint Thomas Aquinas to validate his point:

14. “The child belongs to the father,” and is, as it were, the continuation of the father’s personality; and speaking strictly, the child takes its place in civil society, not of its own right, but in its quality as member of the family in which it is born. And for the very reason that “the child belongs to the father” it is, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, “before it attains the use of free will, under the power and the charge of its parents.”(4) The socialists, therefore, in setting aside the parent and setting up a State supervision, act against natural justice [it’s against social justice to replace parental supervision with State supervision], and destroy the structure of the home [hmmm…as socialism takes root, is it not historically evident that the domestic structure crumbles?].

The fourth quote regards the just due to labor:

15. And in addition to injustice, it is only too evident what an upset and disturbance there would be in all classes, and to how intolerable and hateful a slavery citizens would be subjected. The door would be thrown open to envy, to mutual invective, and to discord [This happened in Russia and Cuba. When social change is depended on covetousness of one class against another, hatred and murder follow]; the sources of wealth themselves would run dry, for no one would have any interest in exerting his talents or his industry [Yep, why work hard when you get paid the same for the chump doing nothing? It’s entirely unjust!]; and that ideal equality about which they entertain pleasant dreams would be in reality the levelling down of all to a like condition of misery and degradation [Socialist communities always lead to the poverty of all – not to a stable middle class]Hence, it is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected [Did you get that? “utterly rejected”], since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind [it’s directly against natural law and social justice], and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal. The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property [Private property, not shared property, IS THE FIRST AND FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE to alleviate poverty]. This being established, we proceed to show where the remedy sought for must be found.

The fifth and final quote for today comes from paragraph 17 and shows how Socialists “strive against nature”:

17. It must be first of all recognized that the condition of things inherent in human affairs must be borne with, for it is impossible to reduce civil society to one dead level. Socialists may in that intent do their utmost, but all striving against nature is in vain [Socialists strive against nature!]. There naturally exist among mankind manifold differences of the most important kind; people differ in capacity, skill, health, strength; and unequal fortune is a necessary result of unequal condition [we have different aptitudes, assets, and liabilities]. Such unequality is far from being disadvantageous either to individuals or to the community. Social and public life can only be maintained by means of various kinds of capacity for business and the playing of many parts; and each man, as a rule, chooses the part which suits his own peculiar domestic condition [handicaps do not prevent humans from the dignity of work and production]. As regards bodily labor, even had man never fallen from the state of innocence, he would not have remained wholly idle [work is not evil – it’s part of the pre-sin vocation for humans]; but that which would then have been his free choice and his delight became afterwards compulsory, and the painful expiation for his disobedience. “Cursed be the earth in thy work; in thy labor thou shalt eat of it all the days of thy life.”

So what can we summarize about the condemnation of Socialism from Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum:

  1. Socialism promotes envy between classes. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors goods.”
  2. The transfer of private property to community property is against nature and justice.
  3. Socialism hurts the working man first and foremost.
  4. A person has the right to improve his social condition through labor. His social condition should not be taken away from him.
  5. Socialism perceives children as belonging to the State chiefly, and thus the State has a prior right over the father of the child with regard to guardianship, education, and labor. This the Pope condemns.
  6. Socialism must be “utterly rejected.”
  7. Socialism leads to “condition of misery and degradation.”
  8. The Pope recognizes that not every human has equal aptitude in this life for wage-earning.
  9. Labor is good and not evil. Socialism wrongly presumes that work is always an exploitation of one class serving another class.
  10. It is evident in these quotes, but especially elsewhere, that those who have acquired private property should share their goods with those who are in need. This is the call to almsgiving that Proverbs and Christ repeatedly exhort us to practice.

Please share this post with others so that they can see that Socialism per se is condemned by Catholic social teaching.

Godspeed,

Dr Taylor Marshall

When was the process of Beatification invented?

Last week we explored the development of the process for canonizing Catholic saints – by with the Church on earth recognizes if someone is certainly in Heaven or not.

Roughly the contemporary process looks like this:

Servant of God → Venerable → Blessed → Saint

This week, a reader named Fr. Paul D’Souza, OCD writes a question about the history of the process of Beatification:

Dear Dr. Taylor,

Just yesterday we were discussing whether or not there was a process of canonization and beatification in earlier centuries.

We were especially concerned with Blessed Dionysius and Redemptus who were martyred in 1638. Can you kindly find out for us when they were declared venerable? and other details of the PROCESS leading to their beatification in 1900 by Leo XIII. I am a Carmelite from Goa where we had a monastery in the 17th century from where these two went to their martyrdom in Sumatra.

Father Paul

Father Paul, bishops had the power of beatifying deceased Christians within their own diocese until July 6 1634, when Pope Urban VIII reserved the power of beatifying to the Pope alone (Cœlestis Jerusalem).

Being declared “Venerable” essentially means: “This person is approved as heroic in virtue, so now we are just waiting for one miracle to move on to beatification.”

I’m not sure about Blessed Dionysius (Denis) and Blessed Redemptus (shared feast day Nov 29) who were martyred in 1638. If you don’t count Saint Bede, the earliest example of being called “Venerable” goes back to 1673 (35 years after their martyrdom). We certainly have popes declaring “Venerables” in the 1700s. So it is unclear to me whether these two Blesseds were formally declared “Venerable” prior to their beatification in 1900. I suspect that they were since Venerable came to mean “accepted into the process of canonization” and each martyr was already well along that process by 1900.

Godspeed,

Dr Taylor Marshall

PS: Notably, all priests of the Carthusian Order use the title “Venerable” rather than “Reverend.”

How Saints are Canonized? From Local to Papal Canonizations over time

Episcopal Canonization (began in 300s)

Local bishops would recognize martyrs or deceased confessors (saints who were not martyred) within their diocese by confirming the cultus of the person and often by doing so by erected an altar over their grave or by placing their remains/relics within an altar.

Metropolitan Canonizations (began in 400s)

By the time of Saint Augustine (d. 430), the process required the further ratification of the metropolitan archbishop of the province to which the saint belonged. (A province is a collection of dioceses within a Roman province headed by a metropolitan archbishop.)

The last Metropolitan canonization of a saint occurred in AD 1153 with the canonization of Saint Walter of Pontoise by the Archbishop of Rouen. After this, Popes in Rome reserved the right to canonize saints.

Papal Canonization (began in AD 993)

As the Church gained more political power, Catholic royalty would press bishops to canonize their kinfolk and ancestors so as to prop up their political standing as being holy and beneficent. It better establishes your crown if dad or granddad is a venerated saint.

Popes as Bishops of Rome had canonized Roman saints. But AD 993 marks the first papal canonization outside Roman territory with that of Saint Udalric, Bishop of Augsburg (and belonging to the family of the  Ottonian dynasty) by Pope John XV.

Pope Alexander III decreed in 1170 that the canonization of saints was reserved to the Pope alone after investigation.

Pope Benedict XIV (1740 – 1758) established the procedure for papal canonizations. Since 1983, under John Paul II, the process looks like this:

  1. Servant of God – person submitted by local bishop to Rome for consideration
  2. Venerable – Rome formally recognizes the heroic virtue of the person. The person is not said to be in Heaven, does not receive a feast day, and churches or shrines cannot be dedicated to this person. However, prayer cards can be printed and distributed.
  3. Blessed – This is the papal approval for a local diocesan cult. One confirmed miracle through the post-mortem intercession of the person is required.Beatification confirms officially that it is “worthy of belief” that the Venerable is in Heaven and saved. A feast day is assigned to the Blessed but it is restricted to the home diocese of the Blessed and not to the universal Church.
  4. Saint – This is the papal approval for a universal cultus of the person. A total of two miracles are required (one more after the beatification miracle). The feast day is universal and parish churches, cathedrals and shrines may be named after the saint. Canonization confirms that the person certainly enjoys the Beatific Vision of Heaven.

Equipollent (Papal) Canonization (began in late 1500s)

Beginning in the late 1500s, Popes also recognized an form of papal canonization known as “equipollent canonization.” Equipollent means “equal in power.” These canonization do not require a formal process of canonization or miracles. Rather, equipollent canonizations recognize an already large, ancient and thriving cultus to a deceased and miraculous Christian person. Here are the conditions:

  1. existence of an ancient cultus of the person
  2. a constant attestation to the virtues or martyrdom of the person
  3. uninterrupted fame as a worker of miracles

Examples include these equipollent saints:

  • Bruno
  • Raymond Nonnatus (literally “not born”)
  • Stephen of Hungary
  • Margaret of Scotland
  • Wenceslaus of Bohemia
  • Peter Damian
  • Boniface
  • Cyril and Methodius
  • Ephrem the Syrian
  • Albert the Great
  • John of Ávila
  • Hildegard of Bingen
  • Gregory of Narek

There has been increase in equipollent canonizations: 18 or so in the last 100 years. My guess is that this will reduce over time as most canonized saints are more recent and will likely go through the now established papal canonization process.

All Saint, pray for us,

Taylor Marshall, PhD

The Filioque as Nicene Theology for Arian Goths and the Creed of Ulfilas

A New Theory on the Filioque and the Holy Spirit

I’ve been listening to The Story of the Goths by Henry Bradley (get the audible version for free by using this link) and it’s fantastic. A recurrent theme is the fact that the Goths were Arians going back to their evangelization by the Arian missionary Ulfilas or Wulfila (“Little Wolf”).

Depiction of Ulfilas or “Wulfila” preaching to Gothic Warriors

Ulfilas was ordained by that conniving villain of a bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia – the same Arian bishop who baptized Constantine and sought to exonerate Arius. Ulfilas carried the Semi-Arian version of Christianity to the Goths and they adopted it contrary to the Faith of Rome.

The Arian Goths divided into Ostrogoths (Western/German and Italian Goths) and Visigoths (Eastern/Spanish Goths).

In AD 587, King Reccared I (Visigothic King of Spain) renounced the Arian heresy and embraced Catholicism. This marks the transition of Spain from Arian to Catholic.

I record how the old statue of Saint Luke known as Our Lady of Guadalupe was then given to Catholic Spain by Saint Gregory the Great to celebrate the conversion of Reccared and his kingdom. Learn the full story of “old and new Guadalupe” in full video “Our Lady of Guadalupe” lesson at New Saint Thomas Institute.

This conversion meant that King Reccared rejected the Arian Creed of Ulfilas and instead adopted the Orthodox Creed of Nicea and Constantinople – the same one we recite every Sunday at Mass. Two years later, historians observe the insertion of the Latin term Filioque (Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father “and from the Son”) into the Nicene Creed at the Third Synod of Toledo in AD 589.

The Usual Theological Consensus on “Why Filioque?”

If you take any theological class (including my own) on the topic of Filioque, you will hear something like this typical explanation:

The Goths had been Arian since the days of Ulfilas, and thus they believed that the Son of God was created, less than the Father, and was not co-eternal or consubstantial with the Father. So when the Goths became Catholic and rejected the heresy of Arianism, they felt the need to beef up the Nicene Creed. These Gothic Catholic converts added that the “Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son” so as to establish the Son as fully God and the Holy Spirit as fully God. And this addition eventually became standard in the Latin version of the Creed – even though the Greeks protest to this day.

This is the standard historical theology narrative, and I have taught it to my students dozens of times. However, I have recently come to reject this explanation after studying Gothic Arianism and the Creed of Ulfilas. Here’s why:

New Theory on the Filioque

My new theory is that the Filioque was added so as to make the Nicene Creed o fAD 381 sound more like the Arian Creed of Ulfilas while remaining 100% orthodox. Let me explain:

1. The Nicene Creed is enough against the Arians

The Nicene Creed in its Greek (and Latin) text thoroughly demolishes the heresy of Arius. There is no room for the position of Arius within the text:

“I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father,
through him all things were made.”

Arians (beginning with Arius himself in the early 300s) hated this language from Nicea. Adding “proceeds from the Son” later into the Creed really does not add anything against the Arian case. Arians, as far as we know, did not regard the text about the procession of the Holy Spirit as a battleground text in the Nicene Creed. So something else seems to be happening with “and from the Son” or Filioque.

2. The Arian Creed of Ulfilas has a lot to say about the relationship between the Son and the Spirit:

So if “and from the Son” was not an extra prop up for the divinity of Christ, what was it? After reading a translation of the Gothic “Creed of Ulfilas,” it jumped off the page to me. I reproduce  the full known text of the Arian Creed of Ulfilas here with my comments in red:

I, Ulfilas, bishop and confessor, have always so believed, and in this, the one true faith, I make the journey to my Lord:

I believe in one God the Father, the only unbegotten and invisible.

And in his only-begotten Son [Arians used “only begotten” but in the sense of being a singular creature.], our Lord and God, [Arians said the Son of God was “a God” by divine privilege, but not “the one and only God.” For Arians this distinction of “the God” was for the Father alone.] the designer and maker of all creation [Arians grant that the creation came through the Son], having none other like him [radical Arian claim that the Son is unlike the Father], so that one alone among all beings is God the Father, who is also the God of our God). [Here again is the Arian distinction that the Father is “the God” and that the Son is “a god” by privilege our “our god” in relation to fallen humans.]

And in one Holy Spirit, the illuminating and sanctifying power, as Christ said after his resurrection to his apostles: [here Ulfilas cites two Scripture passages having the Spirit proceed from the Son or Filioque:]

“And behold, I send [Jesus does the sending of the Spirit] the promise of my Father upon you; but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49) and again,
“But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Ghost is come upon you [in the context of Jesus ascending and sending an advocate]” (Acts 1:8);

being neither God (the Father) nor our God (Christ), but the minister of Christ [Holy Spirit is a minister of Christ and related to Christ rather than to the Father]…subject and obedient in all things to the Son [Spirit subordinated to the Son]; and the Son, subject and obedient in all things to God who is his Father… (whom) he ordained in the Holy Spirit through his Christ.

So in the Gothic Arian Creed, the understanding of their “Trinity” looks like this:

In the Gothic Arian mock up, I placed a dashed line between the Father and the Son do show that this generation is not consubstantial but signals a new created substance for the Son.

Whereas the original Nicene Creed of AD 381, read strictly, looks more like this:

So what I’m suggesting is that the Filioque was added so as to make the Nicene Creed conform intellectually with the way Ulfilas’s Gothic Arians spoke of the Holy Spirit. So this Option 1:

Which can be moved around to be envisioned like this Option 2:

Option 2 has the same arrows and same processions, but different arrangement. It should become obvious that the theological jump from the Gothic Arian Creed of Ulfilas (left) to that of the Nicene Filioque Creed (center) is less of theological jump than to the Strict Nicene chart (right)

Conclusion:

To summarize then, the Filioque was introduced into Spain in AD 589 not to “prop up” God the Son’s divinity (that was already accomplished in the Christology section of the Nicene Creed), but rather to illustrate an Orthodox read to the way that the Gothic Arian Creed spoke of the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son. Moreover, orthodox Catholic saints had often and approvingly spoke of the Spirit’s procession from the Son:

  • St Basil the Great
  • St Gregory Nazianzus
  • St Gregory Nyssa
  • St Hilary of Poitiers
  • St Ambrose
  • St Augustine

So the Filioque was an orthodox addition that helped the Visigoths embrace Nicene Orthodoxy. Visigoths knew that they were abandoning Arianism with regard to the Son of God, but what may have been more difficult to understand for them was how the original Nicene Creed does not explicitly express any relation between the Son and Spirit since the Gothic Arian Creed speaks only of a relation between the Son and Spirit.

All that being said, I’m fully supportive of the Filioque in the Creed because: A) it’s in Scripture, B) it’s in the great Greek and Latin Fathers, and C) the Pope has power to bind and loose dogmas, councils, patriarchs, and even Creeds.

I’m certainly open to rebuttal, objections, and criticisms. So let them roll.

Question: Is the Filioque a response to the Gothic Arian understanding of the Holy Spirit’s procession from the Son? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

127: Is the Eucharist Symbolic: 4 Medieval Heretics on the Eucharist before the Reformation [Podcast]

Join Dr. Taylor Marshall as he explores 4 “pro-Protestants” going back to the AD 800s who denied the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, along with affirming many doctrines that will later be identified with the Protestant Reformation. Discover that Luther was not the first to the heresies of the Reformation in this concise audio lesson.

127: Is the Eucharist Symbolic: 4 Medieval Heretics on the Eucharist before the Reformation [Podcast]

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126: Why do Catholics “Worship” Statues and Icons: The Iconoclastic Heresy and the Council of Nicea II in AD 787 [Podcast]

Join Dr Marshall as he explores the mystical theology of Saint John of Damascus showing that there is a biblical difference between worship (Greek: latria) reserved for God alone and respect/veneration (Greek: dulia) given to saints, humans and revered objects. We discover how the Catholic Church made this distinction clear and affirmed the veneration of saints and image in AD 787 at the Second Council of Nicea.

126: Why do Catholics “Worship” Statues and Icons: The Iconoclastic Heresy and the Council of Nicea II in AD 787 [Podcast]

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  • POPULARITY: 1,068,658 downloads on iTunes as of today.
  • SHOUT OUTS: A huge “shout out” to all 520 (!) of you who wrote amazing 5-star reviews at iTunes. Please rate this podcast by clicking here. From there you can leave a review. I appreciate you for this! Thank you!

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125: Does Christ have 1 or 2 Natures? Heretic Eutyches and the Monophysite Heresy? [Podcast]

Join Dr Taylor Marshall and he succinctly and briefly explains the Monophysite heresy and how the Catholic Council of Chalcedon refuted this heresy by defending the teaching that Christ has two, not one, nature (fully divine and fully human). Please leave a comment below.

Diagram of False Heresy of Eutyches showing a “New Nature”

 

124: Heretic Nestorius: Is Mary Mother of God? Are there 2 Christs? [Podcast]

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In which year did Mary receive her Assumption into Heaven?

For Catholics, the bodily assumption of Mary is a historical event. The falling asleep of Blessed Mary and her assumption are just as historical as, say, the fact that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated or the fact that the St. Louis Cardinals won the 2006 World Series. One day Mary’s body lay in a tomb. The next day it did not. When did this happen? Which year?

Please join us in this short Catholic online lesson on the historical date of Mary’s Assumption, a free sample course from the New Saint Thomas Institute:

You can watch the video at YouTube as well by clicking here.

This lesson is part of our Curriculum in Church History and the Church Fathers:

If you are not already a Student Member of the New Saint Thomas Institute, and you’d like to begin your Certificate in Catholic Church history: we have good news! Our Fall Enrollment just opened this week. Please sign up while there is still room, and begin earning any of our 6 Certificates:

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ad Jesum per Mariam cum Petro,
Dr. Taylor Marshall