Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What is an Anathema?

I just read an article titled Anathema on the If you are really interested in this topic, please take the time to read this article. I think that Jimmy Akin does a wonderful job of explaining what an anathema is and what it isn't. He even takes time to explain the stereotypes of anathemas and how they are incorrect yet still promoted by some theologians.

Why the sudden interest in anathemas? Well, I got into a great conversation with my friend over lunch, and he brought up the question of anathema. His understanding, like mine, was that when the Church makes proclamations they typically will follow it up with if you don't believe it, then "let him be anathema". We were both under the understanding that this meant that they are now outside of the Church and condemned to hell. This is not the case at all. It is not the case for Catholics and it is especially not the case for our Christian Brothers and Sisters outside of the Catholic Church either. Regarding the topic of heresy in general, Jimmy Akin says:

"Heresy does carry a penalty of automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication (can. 1041, 2ยบ), though this does not apply to those who have never been members of the Catholic Church (can. 11), and even then there is a significant list of exceptions (can. 1323)."

Jimmy's article further goes on explaining that anathema is not a penalty anymore. But it's meaning has changed now to better proclomate doctrinal definitions.

Catholic scholars have long recognized that when an ecumenical council applies this phrase to a doctrinal matter, then the matter is settled infallibly. (If a council applied the phrase to a disciplinary matter, then the matter would not be settled infallibly, since only matters of doctrine, not discipline, are subject to doctrinal definition.)

Thus, when Trent and other ecumenical councils employed "anathema sit" in regard to doctrinal matters, not only was a judicial penalty prescribed but a doctrinal definition was also made. Today, the judicial penalty may be gone, but the doctrinal definition remains. Everything that was infallibly decided by these councils is still infallibly settled.

I am forever grateful to my friends and family as I make this journey through faith. Your questions are helping me to understand the faith better, and make sure that I know what I am getting myself into.

God Bless you all.

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