Monday, December 31, 2007

The 1968 Papal Encyclical Humanae Vitae: Infallible Teaching Prohibiting Contraception

Pope Paul VI: Great Pro-Life Hero Who Resisted Dissident Pressures to Call Evil Good

The teaching against contraception as a grave sin was already firmly entrenched in Catholic tradition, having been strongly asserted again in 1930 by Pope Pius XI in response to the Anglicans [Casti Connubii]. Such declarations often come in response to heresy. No one (not even any Protestant body) had officially disagreed with the prohibition until 1930, so it was a non-issue. Once the Anglicans started sanctioning sin, then it was time to clarify the constant teaching. Hence, the heroic encyclical Humanae Vitae [link], written by Pope Paul VI in 1968.

Some seem to think that recent advances in medical technology and ways to contracept (and abort) make the Church's teaching outdated or irrelevant (therefore, not infallible in that regard).

I would contend, however, that technical, scientific advances are not required to have been talked about, as long as it was made clear that artificial means of contraception that interfered with the natural order and the deepest purpose of marriage, are condemned. This has been constant; it was discussed in great detail by the Church fathers. Just because the Pill became widespread around 1960 has no bearing on the class of contraceptive acts that are immoral. It is simply a more developed type of what is already clearly condemned. So I regard this as a non sequitur objection.

The Pill is part of a class of acts that are themselves ethically prohibited by Humanae Vitae. Technical apparatus of how it works is irrelevant to whether it is right or wrong. It is because it attempts to separate procreation from the sexual act. This is the notion that is condemned (as it always has been), which is, in turn, infallible in the ordinary magisterium and binding on Catholics.

And the Pill is included in the condemnation, regardless of how old (or new) it is, because the essence of morality is in the purpose and intention of the act (Sermon on the Mount). And we know what the purpose of the Pill is: to deliberately prevent a possible conception (or to terminate a conception; see more on that below). The couple is not open to life, and is separating what ought not to be separated artificially.

The recourse to the technological newness of the birth control pill, therefore, is a non sequitur and ethically irrelevant to this discussion (I would even go so far as to say it is special pleading). Anyone who thinks contraception is absolutely prohibited by the Church, and who thinks this is infallible doctrine, includes the Pill in such a condemnation. The Pill is condemned in Humanae Vitae on the same level as any other contraceptive method.

Yet some folks will use this rationale to adopt a dissenting position, because they will reason: "well, see, the Church didn't know anything about the Pill and vasectomies and suchlike, so obviously it hasn't condemned these; therefore, we can use them." Not so . . . Lay Catholics observe liberal, dissenting theologians say (wrongly) that Humanae Vitae may not be infallible and based on that some may very well conclude that Catholics have a right to dissent from it. This is exactly how the modernist liberals who essentially revolted on the question in 1968 argued.

The papal commission originally appointed by Pope John XXIII and then later modified a bit by Paul VI thought it was acceptable for married couples to contracept in order to space children. This is why we have popes! Commissions, even those appointed by popes, are not themselves the magisterium. There were obviously either liberals on these commissions or those who did not properly understand the received Catholic tradition on contraception.

But Pope Paul VI did (thank God and bless his heart) and that is all that matters. The commission was guilty of erroneous ethical reasoning. The Pope saw that and went against their recommendation. That's how Catholic authority works: it is a Church run by popes, cardinals, councils, and bishops, not commissions and pointy-headed, trendy theologians. What the commission thought doesn't amount to a hill of beans, authority- or doctrine-wise, anymore than discussions in ecumenical councils prior to the decisions rendered have any magisterial bearing. It might be interesting for historians and sociologists and those who get into Church politics, but it has nothing to do with what Catholics are to believe.

Just because some people on a commission came up with an opinion (that was ethically wrong), proves nothing. The commission existed to aid the pope in the decision-making process; to inform him of new technology and science. He is not bound, however to what they concluded. I trust the pope's judgment because he has the charism of infallibility and the responsibility of leading the Church.

I shall now proceed to argue that Humanae Vitae not only promulgates an infallible doctrine, but also possibly ex cathedra doctrine, as argued by Fr. Brian Harrison in a lengthy, meaty article posted at EWTN. The article begins:
In "Living Tradition," No. 12 (July 1987),[1] the present writer favourably reviewed a recent book by Fr. Ermenegildo Lio, O.F.M., "Humanae Vitae e Infallibilita" (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1986), in which the thesis is sustained that the teaching against contraception in Pope Paul VI's encyclical letter "Humanae Vitae" (25 July 1968) is infallible, not merely by virtue of being an instance of the constant, ordinary and universal magisterium of the Popes and Catholic Bishops against this practice, but because the encyclical itself contains (in article 14) an "ex cathedra" definition. Lio claims, in other words, that "Humanae Vitae" contains an intrinsically infallible pronouncement: an instance of papal infallibility as defined by Vatican Council I.

To my knowledge Lio's book has been virtually ignored by the theological community, in spite of his eminent qualifications as a professor of long standing in Rome's Pontifical Lateran University, as a "peritus" at Vatican Council II, and an adviser to Pope Paul VI over the birth control issue--not to mention a personal autographed letter from Pope John Paul II thanking Fr. Lio for the presentation of his book, which was published by the Vatican Press.

Certainly, Lio's thesis goes against the common view of theologians (both those who assent to "Humanae Vitae" and those who dissent from it), who have usually described the encyclical as being, in itself, a "non-infallible" document. Very often this conclusion seems to be drawn merely from the fact that there is no definition of a "dogma"--a point of "revealed" truth to be held as "of faith" ("de fide")--in Pope Paul's encyclical. But Lio's point is that such definitions, while they represent the most solemn form of papal teaching, are not the "only" form which satisfies the conditions for an "ex cathedra" definition as laid down by the constitution "Pastor Aeternus" of Vatican I. In this paper I propose to develop this theme, in support of Lio's thesis, i.e., the "ex cathedra" status of "Humanae Vitae."
After very interesting treatments of the question of infallibility and its proper conditions, Harrison gets back to the subject at hand: Humanae Vitae:
Paul VI revealed his state of mind regarding "Humanae Vitae" to the College of Cardinals in his end-of-the-year address on the year's events on December 23, 1968. He said that as a result of his long and scrupulous examination of the arguments against the traditional teaching on birth control, "this teaching showed itself to Us anew in all its severe and yet 'serene certainty.'") . . .

The dogmatic definition specifies four elements which constitute an "ex cathedra" definition:

1. The Pope must speak as "the pastor and teacher of all Christians" ("cum omnium Christianorum pastoris et doctoris munere fungens"). As Bishop Gasser explained, this means "not . .. when he decrees something as a private teacher, nor only as the bishop and ordinary of a particular province."[62] Nobody can possibly doubt that this condition is fulfilledin the case of "Humanae Vitae." A papal encyclical, by its very nature, is a document in which the Pope speaks in this universal capacity. In this case, Paul VI goes even further and addresses the non- Catholic world--perhaps because the doctrine he is teaching is in this case a matter of natural law, accessible and objectively binding on all human beings as such. The encyclical is explicitly addressed: "To the venerable Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops and other local ordinaries in peace and communion with the Apostolic See, to priests, the faithful and to all men of good will."[63] The definition adds after "fungens" the words "prosuprema sua Apostolica auctoritate"--"by virtue of his' supreme Apostolic authority." Some commentators make this a separate or independent condition, but Bishop Gasser did not mention it as such. In fact, it is only by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority that the Pope "can" speak "as the pastor and teacher of all Christians," so there could be no question of his ever speaking in that capacity "without making use of," or depending on, his supreme apostolic authority. In any case, this aspect of an "ex cathedra" decision is also spelled out in "Humanae Vitae." In article 6 the Pope declares that the decision he is about to announce is being promulgated "by virtue of the mandate entrusted to us by Christ" ("vi mandati Nobis a Christo commissi").[64] He has just asserted in article 4, in regard to that "mandate," "Jesus Christ, when communicating to Peter and to the Apostles His divine authority and sending them to teach all nations His commandments, constituted them as guardians and authentic interpreters of all the moral law." This, he says, "is indisputable, as our predecessors have many times declared." It is thus evident that in this document the Pope is speaking precisely as the Successor of Peter the Apostle, by divine mandate and authority as the Church's supreme teacher on earth. He thereby indisputably fulfils the first condition for an "ex cathedra" statement.

. . .
3. The dogma of 1870 then adds that in an "ex cathedra" pronouncement, this doctrine must be proposed as "ab universa Ecclesia tenendam," literally, "requiring to be held by the universal Church." This obligation of all Catholics to accept the doctrinal decisions is repeatedly expressed in the encyclical. In the definition itself, the three practices proscribed (direct abortion, direct sterilization, and contraception) are all declared to be "absolutely excluded as licit means for regulating birth" ("omnino respuendam... ut legitimum modum numeri liberorum temperandi"). [he goes on at length to elaborate on this condition]

. . . 4. The final condition for an "ex cathedra" pronouncement is that the Roman Pontiff "define" ("definit" in Latin) the doctrine he is proposing for acceptance by the whole Church. . . .

Now, the fact that Pope Paul in "Humanae Vitae" meant to end the controversy over birth control (in the sense just explained) is evident both from the text of the document itself and from the historical circumstances in which it was prepared and issued. As is well-known by all those who have followed recent Church history, the 1968 encyclical came at a time of deep and widespread discontent, anguish, dissension and uncertainty over the question of birth control within the Catholic fold itself. That is precisely the kind of situation where an "ex cathedra" decision- -a final, doubt-dispelling, certain resolution of a very specific doctrinal question--is an urgent pastoral necessity, in order to restore peace to millions of troubled Catholic consciences. The question had been formally reserved for the "judgment" of the Supreme Pontiff during the recent Ecumenical Council, which stated that, after the papal commission had completed its study of this and related problems, the Supreme Pontiff would be able to "pass judgment" ("iudicium ferat").

Now in that kind of situation, the "judgment" which is awaited from the supreme ecclesial tribunal on earth--not the "Roman Rota" nor the "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" but the Successor of Peter in person, from whose judgment no appeal is possible--is by its very nature a "definitive" judgment: the last word; the end of the argument.

Pope Paul VI was well aware that this kind of "definitive, certain" judgment was being expected of him, and made clear in his encyclical that he intended to give it there and then. In the introductory section, he states that he enlarged the papal commission so as to gather "opportune elements of information." This would better enable him to give "an adequate reply to the expectation not only of the faithful, but also of world opinion."[74] Then, in article 6, the Pope makes it clear that this encyclical will give the reply which the world has been anxiously awaiting:The conclusions at which the Commission arrived could not be considered by Us as manifesting the force of a certain and definitive judgment ("vim iudicii certi ac definiti prae se ferrent"), dispensing Us from the duty of examining personally such a grave and momentous question ("quaeque Nos officio liberarent, tam gravis momenti quaestionem per Nosmetipsos consideratione expendendi").[75]

Already the implication is completely clear: "the Commission" could not produce a statement with "the force of a certain and definitive judgment," but "the Pope" can and will give such a judgment after having "personally examined" the matter. The Holy Father then formally announces his intention (still in article 6) to hand down the long-awaited judgment in this present document. His solemn words are usually diluted or weakened in vernacular translations. The following is an accurate rendition of this key passage:

Wherefore, having carefully pondered the documentation placed before Us, having most diligently examined the matter in mind and spirit, and after having raised ceaseless prayers to God, We now resolve, by virtue of the mandate entrusted to Us by Christ, to give Our reply to these grave questions.[76]

Article 6 thus makes manifest the Pontiff's intention to give, in this document, a "definitive" teaching on birth control--one handed down with no less than divine authority. It is worth remembering that the "mandate" from Christ referred to here is specifically his teaching authority, not merely the governing authority by which the Pope can make disciplinary decisions. Pope Paul has just asserted in article 4, "It is in fact indisputable, as Our predecessors have many times declared, that 'Jesus Christ, when communicating to Peter and to the apostles His divine authority,' constituted them as guardians and authentic interpreters 'of all the moral law.'"[77]
Do I agree that it is ex cathedra? I don't know. I'll let theologians tackle that. I think Harrison makes a great argument, though (as usual), and I do strongly believe it is infallible doctrine in the ordinary magisterium (and can't imagine how this could be denied). Here are some of the stronger authoritative statements encyclical itself (from the copy on the Holy See website):
The Magisterium's Reply
6. However, the conclusions arrived at by the commission could not be considered by Us as definitive and absolutely certain, dispensing Us from the duty of examining personally this serious question. This was all the more necessary because, within the commission itself, there was not complete agreement concerning the moral norms to be proposed, and especially because certain approaches and criteria for a solution to this question had emerged which were at variance with the moral doctrine on marriage constantly taught by the magisterium of the Church.
11. The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.
Union and Procreation
12. This particular doctrine, often expounded by the magisterium of the Church, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.
Unlawful Birth Control Methods
14. Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children.
Recourse to Infertile Periods
16. Now as We noted earlier (no. 3), some people today raise the objection against this particular doctrine of the Church concerning the moral laws governing marriage, that human intelligence has both the right and responsibility to control those forces of irrational nature which come within its ambit and to direct them toward ends beneficial to man. . . .
Neither the Church nor her doctrine is inconsistent when she considers it lawful for married people to take advantage of the infertile period but condemns as always unlawful the use of means which directly prevent conception, even when the reasons given for the later practice may appear to be upright and serious.
Consequences of Artificial Methods
17. Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control.

[see also in section 29: implied as applying to this question]
For more discussion of the levels of infallible decisions, see my paper:

Vatican II: Is it Orthodox and Binding? / The Infallibility and Sublime Authority of Conciliar and Papal Decrees / Different Levels of Church Authority (vs. several "traditionalists")

I'm not alone in my opinion, by any means. Karl Keating's apostolate Catholic Answers, has asserted that the prohibition of contraception is infallible teaching. Now, lest someone think, "so what?", I would point out that Catholic Answers is supported by a great many bishops (many of whom write in its magazine). Philosopher Christopher Kaczor asserts the same in another article in This Rock, and mentions that moral theologian William May thinks the document is itself infallible.

The late Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., one of the leading catechists in America, who is now being considered for sainthood, agrees, too:
Is it infallible Catholic doctrine that contraception is a mortal sin? Yes! How do we know? We know this from the twenty centuries of the Catholic Church's teaching. Already in the first century, those who professed the Catholic Faith did not practice either contraception or abortion, which were commonly linked together.

. . . What do we call the Church's unbroken tradition in forbidding contraception? We call it her ordinary universal magisterium or teaching authority. This has always been considered a proof of infallibility, or from another perspective, irreversibility. What do these two terms mean? Infallibility means that God protects the Church from error in her 2000 years of teaching that contraception is a grave sin against God. Irreversibility means that this teaching will never be reversed. Contraception will remain a grave sin until the end of time.
He even argues in the same article that those who defend contraception cease being "professed Catholics" and lose divine grace.

Brother Ignatiuis Mary, OLSM denies that Humanae Vitae is ex cathedra, yet he casually assumes that the teaching on contraception was already infallible anyway:
Contraception, abortion, and all the sexual morals of the Church are infallible definitive teachings of the ordinary Magisterium (not dogmas) as far as I know. Thus, Humanae Vitae does not have to be, and is not, an ex cathedra declaration since the issues are already infallibly taught by the ordinary Magisterium.

An ex cathedra statement is rare and only needed when a formal definition is required to settle a dispute of major significance. NO ONE disputes the sexual moral teachings of the Church, except rebels and liberals.

If the Pope someday thinks that the controversy over contraception, abortion, or whatever, requires an ex cathedra statement to declare what is already taught definitively then the Pope will do that.
Well-known moral theologian Germain Grisez makes roughly the same argument:
With "Humanae Vitae," Paul VI reaffirmed the constant and very firm teaching of the Church excluding contraception. I believe and have argued that teaching had already been proposed infallibly by the ordinary magisterium -- that is, by the morally unanimous agreement of the bishops of the whole world in communion with the popes. Together, they had taught for many centuries that using contraceptives always is grave matter.

Their manner of teaching implied that what they taught was a truth to be held definitively. Thus, the teaching on contraception met the conditions for infallible teaching, without a solemn definition, articulated by Vatican II in "Lumen Gentium," 25.
Another argument made is that the Church allows regulation of bodily functions, such as cough medicine or heart medicine and pacemakers, etc. We regulate digestion and help improve breathing. We use radiation in cancer treatment that sometimes causes sterility. Why, then (so the reasoning goes), should regulation of fertility or ovulation be a special ethical case?

It is because the deliberate separation of natural, intrinsic aspects that shouldn't be separated, contravenes moral law. It's not merely a matter of technology, as those who argue like this seem to be assuming. It is the nature of the act and intention, that violates natural law. The deepest, most intrinsic, ontological purpose of sexuality is to produce children. Contraception inherently involves a "contralife" or "anti-children" mentality. Medicine to stop a cough does not pervert the normal operation of a throat; it aids it to be what it is.

Same thing with a pacemaker or heart medicine. We're not causing the heart to violate its own essence (which would be to pump blood). Eyeglasses help eyes to see better, a cane helps a weak leg to walk, etc. Sterility in the process of radiation is an unintended consequence; therefore it involves no contralife will, and is permissible. Now, if it were known that it would absolutely, certainly make one sterile, I'm not sure of the ins and outs of that (in serious cases like cancer). If justified according to traditional ethics, the reasoning would be that the will is to heal the person of cancer, not to prevent conception.

I would have to study that further. But I know that a deliberate decision to contracept or to be sterile is immoral. Sometimes there is a risk. Say that was 6% or something and the only thing available to cure a cancer had this possible side effect. As far as I know it would be permitted, because it is not the intention in using it to be infertile, but to cure cancer, and the variables of future prognosis are not completely known.

If some new form of contraception were invented tomorrow, where a woman has to drink cranberry juice, stands on her head and then applies some electrical apparatus to her belly, and it became the latest rage in contraception, it would be condemned in Humanae Vitae (and Evangelium Vitae) also, and infallibly, as soon as it was demonstrated to be an effective contraceptive. It wouldn't matter a hill of beans whether it was a new technology or not, just as murder remains wrong, no matter what method is used, because the evil lies in the intention and result: a dead human being killed immorally and unjustly.

Humanae Vitae was not innovative at all. This is what many don't seem to grasp. The Church has always opposed contraception. The Pill was simply a new form of it. Dissenters from Humanae Vitae are hung up on technology and miss the forest for the trees.

It is said that many catholics don't follow the prohibition; therefore it is not a doctrine held universally by the faithful; therefore it is not binding and magisterial.

But the entire Christian world opposed contraception until 1930. That's exceptionally universal: including Protestants along with Catholics and Orthodox. It's been chipped away for 77 years and running. So we are supposed to now assert that universality is lacking when in fact it was there for some 1900 years until it was broken down via numerous means of propaganda (Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood, sterilization of black people and Jews and disabled people, eugenics, and so forth)? That's backwards "logic".

It was condemned just as strongly in 1930, when virtually all Christians still agreed that it was wrong. 1968 added nothing essentially beyond that encyclical. But it was a different time: the height of the craziness of Baby Boomer sexual revolution, and so it was rejected by more-relevant-than-thou trendy liberal dissidents who had a very poor understanding of Catholic authority, and were deliberately looking for ways to undermine it.

Moreover, many people (even informed pro-lifers) are unaware that most versions of the Pill now available are abortifacients (part of the time, anyway, as I understand it). A lot of research on this has been done. See, for example:

Abortifacients (Charles M. Mangan)
Dr. Kuhar summarizes his study: “Clearly the present atmosphere surrounding the pharmacy profession does not bode well for preborn babies as the New Abortionists rush to make and market an increasing number and types of deadly chemicals and devices. Recent published data compiled by PLI analysts reveal that, conservatively, there are abut 9.6 to 14.3 million chemical, mechanical and surgical abortions yearly in the United States alone.” Hence, instead of saying that we have nearly 1.5 million abortions in our country every year, we should state instead that the number of abortions is between 10 and 15 million!
Other related articles: (one / two / three / four / five / six / seven).

The traditional prohibition of contraceptives goes back to ancient times, and those ancient methods (potions and so forth) were definitely regulating body functions. They either killed sperm or otherwise impeded it in its usual course of action: attempting to fertilize an egg. That's two bodily functions. Whenever these methods worked to repress what would have been a conception, they were "regulating" natural physiology.

Take even Onan's "withdrawal method," for example (that had always been roundly condemned by biblical exegetes, as it was in the Bible, until recent times). That is perfectly "natural" in the sense that it is a function of biology. But human beings are more than mere biological machines. Sexual intercourse was always intended to be an action that included the openness to the new life that very well might result from it. Withdrawal is a contraceptive method that perverts the integrity of intercourse and lowers it into an immoral act of (in effect) masturbation, or something akin to homosexual sex (i.e., deliberate ejaculation in a place other than a vagina).

So now we have sophisticated methods of regulating the reproductive cycle. That has no bearing on the immorality of all such methods, because the intent is immoral and contrary to natural law.

Secondly, bodily functions and newly-conceived human beings are two different things. Surely anyone can grasp the essential difference between kidney medicine or a pacemaker or a steel rod placed into a basketball player's knee, and a very young human being. The latter is clearly an entirely different case. This is precisely why messing around with, and impeding natural reproduction is so immoral and dangerous.

As popes and other writers have argued, this reduces human beings to objects to be manipulated at the will of the potential or would-be parents. C.S. Lewis wrote about this. It also makes the same serious category mistake of assuming that all that is involved is the woman's body. But that is not the case. Obviously, other human beings or would-be human beings are also involved. And that is why it is wrong and will never not be wrong, as (at least in Catholicism) immoral doctrines never develop into moral ones.

One might argue, however, that cough medications (as an example of regulation) suppress coughs that are actually natural bodily reactions, to expel unwanted fluids. Vomiting works on the same principle (yet we try to prevent it). Fever is the natural response to infection, etc. Medications are therefore unnatural, too; so why doesn't the Church condemn them?

This is a worthy and substantive objection. But I merely have to qualify and further fine-tune my argument , though, as this does not overthrow it. Here I would contend that undesirable symptoms are being treated (rather than organs or source causes themselves), and this may or may not be best in the long run. I myself prefer not to take drugs when I have a cold. I'd rather let it take its natural course (I do use some homeopathic pills, which work on a different principle). I don't see, however, that it becomes an issue of right and wrong. Like eating and exercise, it is a matter of "better and best" but not right and wrong, unless outright gluttony is involved.

The contraception issue is still unique. God probably cares about the proper function of a clogged throat (as He cares about every hair on our heads), but I think He cares a lot more about a new human being who would be conceived, but for the would-be parents who decide that they know better than God when new human life ought to come into existence. If there is no ovum, let that be the will of God. If it is His will that a particular woman be infertile, then we must accept that. But we don't create the situation artificially ourselves and separate sexuality from procreation.

And this is, of course, in cases where there are no serious considerations where a couple could rightly conclude that they had had enough children (as Humanae Vitae acknowledges). My wife has had six miscarriages, two "problem pregnancies" and very serious post-partum depression. So we had medical, emotional, and financial difficulties in droves. We decided (perfectly in accord with HV) that two children was probably enough and used NFP after our first two.

As God would have it, my wife is quite irregular in her cycle (and quite fertile!), and we had two more children, thank God. They are tremendous blessings and we had the joy of having our only daughter (now 6) last. That was God's will. We accepted both pregnancies as such. We were open to life and to God's Providence. One must exercise faith and trust in God, that He will provide. He has done so.

If we had contracepted by the usual means today, neither (in all likelihood) would have been conceived. Contraception thus (as I have expressed it) "ties the hands of God." It's playing God. NFP does not, because it is not "contralife" and unnatural. It follows natural law and doesn't involve the "right" to have sex whenever one wants, regardless of the fertility cycle. NFP fosters marital chastity and unselfishness. The Pill does not because it makes sexual pleasure and "no children" rather than openness to life the highest end and goal.

But the Pill does not merely prevent conception. It is an abortifacient. In many many cases, it causes a very early abortion, and this is clearly immoral. Therefore, the Pill is immoral not only due to the infallible prohibition of contraception, but of abortion as well. We used the pill ourselves for about seven years. We may have been guilty, therefore, of causing an abortion to occur (out of complete ignorance in our case, as we had never heard about this till after we changed our views on contraception).

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Philip Pullman (of The Golden Compass Fame) Takes on God, C.S. Lewis, Christianity, & J.R.R. Tolkien

Here are some examples of what Philip Pullman has written about C.S. Lewis, God, Tolkien, etc.:

But there is no doubt in the public mind that what matters is the Narnia cycle, and that is where the puzzle comes, because there is no doubt in my mind that it is one of the most ugly and poisonous things I've ever read. . . . American critic John Goldthwaite, in his powerful and original study of children's literature The Natural History Of Make-Believe (OUP, 1996), lays bare the misogyny, the racism, the sado-masochistic relish for violence that permeates the whole cycle. . . . He didn't like women in general, or sexuality at all, at least at the stage in his life when he wrote the Narnia books. He was frightened and appalled at the notion of wanting to grow up.. . . I haven't the slightest doubt that the man will be sainted in due course: the legend is too potent. However, when that happens, those of us who detest the supernaturalism, the reactionary sneering, the misogyny, the racism, and the sheer dishonesty of his narrative method will still be arguing against him.

Pullman, attacked by a rightwing columnist as "the most dangerous author in Britain" and "semi-satanic", is celebrated for a trilogy which deliberately takes an opposite line to CS Lewis's Christian tales. In Pullman's world, the universe is ruled by a senile, viciously sadistic deity who has to be deposed in battle so that its inhabitants can join with angels in creating a "republic of heaven". . . . "It is monumentally disparaging of girls and women. It is blatantly racist. One girl was sent to hell because she was getting interested in clothes and boys."

I can see no evidence in that circle of things I do know, in history, or in science or anywhere else, no evidence of the existence of God.

So I'm caught between the words 'atheistic' and 'agnostic'. I've got no evidence whatever for believing in a God. But I know that all the things I do know are very small compared with the things that I don't know. So maybe there is a God out there. All I know is that if there is, he hasn't shown himself on earth.
But going further than that, I would say that those people who claim that they do know that there is a God have found this claim of theirs the most wonderful excuse for behaving extremely badly. So belief in a God does not seem to me to result automatically in behaving very well.

. . .
when you look at organised religion of whatever sort – whether it's Christianity in all its variants, or whether it's Islam or some forms of extreme Hinduism – wherever you see organised religion and priesthoods and power, you see cruelty and tyranny and repression. It's almost a universal law.

It's not just Christianity I'm getting at. The reason that the forms of religion in the books seem to be Christian is because that's the world I'm familiar with. That's the world I grew up in and I knew. . . .

[about the Chronicles of Narnia]
. . . the things he's being cruel to are things I value very highly. The crux of it all comes, as many people have found, with the point near the end of the Last Battle (in the Narnia books) when Susan is excluded from the stable. The stable obviously represents salvation. They're going to heaven, they're going to be saved. But Susan isn't allowed into the stable, and the reason given is that she's growing up. She's become far too interested in lipstick, nylons and invitations. One character says rather primly: 'She always was a jolly sight too keen on being grown up.'

This seems to me on the part of Lewis to reveal very weird unconscious feelings about sexuality. Here's a child whose body is changing and who's naturally responding as everyone has ever done since the history of the world to the changes that are taking place in one's body and one's feelings. She's doing what everyone has to do in order to grow up.

(November 2002)
But Pullman said the Narnia books contained "a peevish blend of racist, misogynistic and reactionary prejudice" and "not a trace" of Christian charity.
"It's not the presence of Christian doctrine I object to so much as the absence of Christian virtue," he added.
"The highest virtue - we have on the authority of the New Testament itself - is love, and yet you find not a trace of that in the books."
Pullman's acclaimed His Dark Materials trilogy tells of a battle against the church and a fight to overthrow God.


''When you look at what C. S. Lewis is saying, his message is so anti-life, so cruel, so unjust. The view that the Narnia books have for the material world is one of almost undisguised contempt. At one point, the old professor says, 'It's all in Plato' -- meaning that the physical world we see around us is the crude, shabby, imperfect, second-rate copy of something much better.''

(New York Times interview, Nov. 2000)

I dislike his Narnia books because of the solution he offers to the great questions of human life: is there a God, what is the purpose, all that stuff, which he really does engage with pretty deeply, unlike Tolkien who doesn't touch it at all. ‘The Lord of the Rings' is essentially trivial. Narnia is essentially serious, though I don't like the answer Lewis comes up with. If I was doing it at all, I was arguing with Narnia. Tolkien is not worth arguing with.


[on The Chronicles of Narnia] I read them when I'd already grown up, and I thought they were loathsome, full of bullying and sneering, propaganda, basically, on behalf of a religion whose main creed seemed to be to despise and hate people unlike yourself. Whatever Christianity says, I don't think it's that.


"I didn't read the 'Narnia' books until I was grown up," Pullman said, "and I could sort of see what he was getting at, and he was getting at the reader in a way I didn't like. The 'Narnia' books are full of serious questions about religion: 'Which God should we worship? Is there a God at all? What happens when we die?' The questions are all there, but I don't like Lewis' answers. I don't like the fact that he sends the children through these extraordinary adventures, allows them to see and do these wonderful things, and then at the end of the book kills them in a railway accident. They're all dead, and this is meant to be a great release, a wonderful thing. It seems to me the proper thing to do, the moral thing to do, the Christian thing to do would be to let those children continue to live and do good in the world, having learned something. But no, that wasn't what Lewis wanted."

Pullman liked "Lord of the Rings" when he first read it as a teen ("We were all out pretending to be Gandalf"), but after thinking about it more recently, he doesn't feel it's as engaging as it could have been. "For Tolkien, the Catholic, the Church had the answers, the Church was the source of all truth, so 'Lord of the Rings' does not touch those big deep questions," Pullman said. "The 'Narnia' books are fundamentally more serious than 'Lord of the Rings,' which I take to be a trivial book."


What I don't like is the notion that the world is a cruel and imperfect copy of something much better somewhere else. Seen from that perspective, which is not exclusively Christian, life is shabby and second rate, shot through with failure and corruption and evil. Both C.S. Lewis and Tolkien seemed to believe this, but I don't, not for a second. In my trilogy 'His Dark Materials', I bang the drum for the primacy of the physical world that we live in. As far as I can see we only get one shot at life, and that is in the here and now. It's a sort of betrayal of life to long for death, as C.S. Lewis expresses in the Narnia books, which climax with the children being killed in a railway accident; their deaths are presented as a release from this ghastly life on earth. I think it would have been a braver - even, a more Christian - choice for Lewis to have let those children grow into fulfilled adulthood.


[on The Chronicles of Narnia] One of the most ugly and poisonous things I have ever read, with no shortage of nauseating drivel.

[cited in an article by David Couchman]

Martin Luther: Protestants' "Manner of Life" No Better Than That of the "Papists"

Our manner of life is as evil as is that of the papists. Wickliffe and Huss assailed the immoral conduct of papists; but I chiefly oppose and resist their doctrine; I affirm roundly and plainly, that they preach not the truth. To this am I called; I take the goose by the neck, and set the knife to its throat. When I can show that the papists doctrine is false, which I have shown, then I can easily prove that their manner of life is evil. For when the word remains pure, the manner of life, though something therein be amiss, will be pure also. The pope has taken away the pure word and doctrine, and brought in another word and doctrine, which he has hanged upon the church. I shook all popedom with this one point, that I teach uprightly, and mix up nothing else. We must press the doctrine onwards, for that breaks the neck of the pope.

(Table-Talk, London: 1872, translated by William Hazlitt, CCCCXII; dated Autumn 1533; quoted also by biographers Mead and Oberman; see also a Google Reader version of the same quote. German source: WATr 1, 294.19-23, no. 624)

[William Hazlitt (1778-1830) was a Protestant, who would have no reason to exaggerate Luther's statements in a negative direction. Edwin Doak Mead (1849-1937) also translates: "Our manner of life is as evil as that of the papists". He was a staunch Protestant, and wrote, e.g., in 1888: "I do not love the Roman Catholic Church. There is much in it that I bitterly dislike and that I dread. . . . I have spoken more sharply of its bigotries and superstitions, past and present, than I have ever spoken of almost anything else."]

Version 2:

Luther's Opposition to the Popish Doctrine.

"The manner of life," said Luther, " is as evil among us as among the Papists; wherefore we strive not with them by reason of the manner of life, but for and about the doctrine. Wickliffe and Huss opposed and assaulted the manner of life and conversation in Popedom. But I (chiefly) do oppose and resist their doctrine : I affirm, soundly and plainly, that they teach not aright;—thereunto am I called. I take the goose by the neck," said Luther, " and set the knife to the throat. When I can maintain that the Pope's doctrine is false (which I have proved and maintained), then will I easily prove that their manner of life is evil. The Pope hath taken away the pure word and doctrine, and hath brought another word and doctrine, and hanged the same upon the church. I startled whole Popedom only with this one point, in that I teach uprightly, and meddle with nothing else. We must press upon the doctrine, for that breaketh the neck of the Pope.

(Table-Talk, London, 1832, pp. 66-67)

Version 3:

No. 624: The Central Issue is Doctrine, Not Life, Fall 1533

"Doctrine and life must be distinguished. Life is bad among us, as it is among the papists, but we don't fight about life and condemn the papists on that account. Wycliffe and Huss didn't know this and attacked [the papacy] for its life. I don't scold myself into becoming good, but I fight over the Word and whether our adversaries teach it in its purity. That doctrine should be attacked -- this has never before happened. This is my calling. Others have censured only life, but to treat doctrine is to strike at the most sensitive point, for surely the government and the ministry of the papists are bad. Once we've asserted this, it's easy to say and declare that the life is also bad.

"When the Word remains pure, then the life (even if there is something lacking in it) can be molded properly. Everything depends on the Word, and the pope has abolished the Word and created another one. With this I have won, and I have won nothing else than that I teach aright. Although we are better morally, this isn't anything to fight about. It's the teaching that breaks the pope's neck. . . ."

(Table-Talk, in Luther's Works, Vol. 54, p. 110)

[Note the toned-down references to immorality in Protestantism. Leading (Protestant) Luther biographer Heiko Oberman, however, translates as follows: "Life is as evil among us as among the papists, thus we do not argue about life but about doctrine. Whereas Wyclif and Hus attacked the immoral lifestyle of the papacy, I challenge primarily its doctrine." Translation bias is seemingly alive and well, and not, alas, only among "papists"]

Friday, December 28, 2007

Has Limbo Been Relegated to Limbo? It Never Was Definitive Teaching

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

A Beautiful Boomerang Nebula

Credit: Hubble Heritage Team, J. Biretta (STScI) et al., (STScI/AURA), ESA, NASA
[ source ]

Explanation: This symmetric cloud dubbed the Boomerang Nebula was created by a high-speed wind of gas and dust blowing from an aging central star at speeds of nearly 600,000 kilometers per hour. The rapid expansion has cooled molecules in the nebular gas to about one degree above absolute zero - colder than even the cosmic background radiation - making it the coldest known region in the distant Universe. Shining with light from the central star reflected by dust, the frigid Boomerang Nebula is believed to be a star or stellar system evolving toward the planetary nebula phase. This Hubble image was recorded using polarizing filters (analogous to polariod sunglasses) and color coded by the angle associated with the polarized light. The gorgeous result traces the small dust particles responsible for polarizing and scattering the light. The Boomerang Nebula spans about one light year and lies about 5,000 light years away toward the constellation Centaurus.

Many Catholics seem to be under the impression that the notion of limbo was some sort of formulated doctrine in the Catholic Church. Many children in Catholic schools were taught that all unbaptized children would not enter heaven. The fact of the matter is that it has always been left open as an option to be believed, but not required. Nor is the "hope of salvation" in such cases a "new thing." Limbo has historically been, however, a widespread Catholic explanation concerning the fate of unbaptized dead; especially children.

Recently, there was a big tadoo about Pope Benedict XVI and Vatican theologians discussing the issue of limbo and, in effect, demoting its prominence in the overall structure of Catholic theology and dogma. Secular news reports have implied that this development in theology is somehow a radically "new" occurrence (using charged, inaccurate terms like "abolish" and "abandon" and "end"), as if the thought behind the present prevailing point of view has not also been mulled over for centuries.

Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., wrote:
Some theologians of renown have thought that God might supply the wont of Baptism by some other means. St. Bernard, for example, suggested that infants who died without Baptism could reach heaven because of the faith of their parents. The Catechism of the Catholic Church does not deny the possibility or the existence of limbo. It merely says we may trust that, in God’s mercy, innocent children, whether born or unborn, do reach heaven. To be noted, however, is that we may trust, but without being certain of their entering the beatific vision.
See the following news reports and articles:

The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized (International Theological Commision: 19 January 2007)

Closing the doors of limbo: Theologians say it was hypothesis (Catholic News Service)

Pope Benedict XVI's New Statement on Limbo (+ lively discussion thread) (

Fr. Paul McPartlan's explanations on ABC National Radio

Critiquing limbo: Vatican responds to changes in theological thought (Catholic News Service)

Vatican commission: Limbo reflects 'restrictive view of salvation' (Catholic News Service)

Theologians: Unbaptized babies in heaven makes more sense than limbo (Catholic News Service)

Teaching on Limbo "neither essential nor necessary" (Catholic World News)

Out on a limbo (Karl Keating)

Abortion and Limbo (James Likoudis)

Notion of Limbo Isn't Closed, Expert Says (Zenit: Sister Sara Butler)

Whatever Happened to Limbo? (Fr. William Saunders)

What does the Church teach about limbo? (CUF)

Children who die without baptism: a nagging question (Zenit)

Is Limbo in Limbo? (Dominic Farrel)

What the Church has said about children who die without baptism
(Fr. Peter Gumpel)

Unbaptized Infants (St. Thomas Aquinas' position)
This current "trend" or prevailing opinion is not anything new. The present consensus may be relatively new, but the reasoning behind it is not at all. For example, from Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma:
Other emergency means of baptism for children dying without sacramental baptism, such as prayer and the desire of the parents or the Church (vicarious baptism of desire - Cajetan), or the attainment of the use of reason in the moment of death, so that the dying child can decide for or against God (baptism of desire - H. Klee), or suffering and death of the child as quasi-Sacrament (baptism of suffering - H. Schell), are indeed possible, but their actuality cannot be proved from Revelation. Cf. D 712."

(p. 114)
Ott noted on p. 357:
Baptism of desire works ex opere operantis, It bestows Sanctifying Grace, which remits original sin, all actual sins, and the eternal punishments for sins.
Ott states that the baptism by blood (even for young children; cf. The Feast of the Innocents) "confers the grace of justification". He classifies these "substitutes for sacramental baptism" as sententia fidei proxima, or a "teaching proximate to Faith"; as he explains: "a doctrine, which is regarded by theologians generally as a truth of Revelation, but which has not yet been finally promulgated as such by the Church." (p. 9) So it would appear that these teachings are as authoritative in a "non-defined" sense, as limbo ever was.

The Council of Trent referred to the baptism of desire, in the canons concerning "On the Sacraments in General", right before the canons on baptism, from Session VII; Canon IV:
If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation, but superfluous; and that, without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain of God, through faith alone, the grace of justification;-though all (the sacraments) are not indeed necessary for every individual; let him be anathema.
In Summa Theologica: Third Part, Question 68, Article 2, St. Thomas Aquinas (citing St. Augustine) espouses the baptism of desire:
Whether a man can be saved without Baptism? Objection 1. It seems that no man can be saved without Baptism. For our Lord said (John 3:5): "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." But those alone are saved who enter God's kingdom. Therefore none can be saved without Baptism, by which a man is born again of water and the Holy Ghost.

Objection 2. Further, in the book De Eccl. Dogm. xli, it is written: "We believe that no catechumen, though he die in his good works, will have eternal life, except he suffer martyrdom, which contains all the sacramental virtue of Baptism." But if it were possible for anyone to be saved without Baptism, this would be the case specially with catechumens who are credited with good works, for they seem to have the "faith that worketh by charity" (Gal. 5:6). Therefore it seems that none can be saved without Baptism.

Objection 3. Further, as stated above (1; 65, 4), the sacrament of Baptism is necessary for salvation. Now that is necessary "without which something cannot be" (Metaph. v). Therefore it seems that none can obtain salvation without Baptism.

On the contrary, Augustine says (Super Levit. lxxxiv) that "some have received the invisible sanctification without visible sacraments, and to their profit; but though it is possible to have the visible sanctification, consisting in a visible sacrament, without the invisible sanctification, it will be to no profit." Since, therefore, the sacrament of Baptism pertains to the visible sanctification, it seems that a man can obtain salvation without the sacrament of Baptism, by means of the invisible sanctification.

I answer that, The sacrament or Baptism may be wanting to someone in two ways. First, both in reality and in desire; as is the case with those who neither are baptized, nor wished to be baptized: which clearly indicates contempt of the sacrament, in regard to those who have the use of the free-will. Consequently those to whom Baptism is wanting thus, cannot obtain salvation: since neither sacramentally nor mentally are they incorporated in Christ, through Whom alone can salvation be obtained.

Secondly, the sacrament of Baptism may be wanting to anyone in reality but not in desire: for instance, when a man wishes to be baptized, but by some ill-chance he is forestalled by death before receiving Baptism. And such a man can obtain salvation without being actually baptized, on account of his desire for Baptism, which desire is the outcome of "faith that worketh by charity," whereby God, Whose power is not tied to visible sacraments, sanctifies man inwardly. Hence Ambrose says of Valentinian, who died while yet a catechumen: "I lost him whom I was to regenerate: but he did not lose the grace he prayed for."

Reply to Objection 1. As it is written (1 Kgs. 16:7), "man seeth those things that appear, but the Lord beholdeth the heart." Now a man who desires to be "born again of water and the Holy Ghost" by Baptism, is regenerated in heart though not in body. thus the Apostle says (Rm. 2:29) that "the circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not of men but of God."

Reply to Objection 2. No man obtains eternal life unless he be free from all guilt and debt of punishment. Now this plenary absolution is given when a man receives Baptism, or suffers martyrdom: for which reason is it stated that martyrdom "contains all the sacramental virtue of Baptism," i.e. as to the full deliverance from guilt and punishment. Suppose, therefore, a catechumen to have the desire for Baptism (else he could not be said to die in his good works, which cannot be without "faith that worketh by charity"), such a one, were he to die, would not forthwith come to eternal life, but would suffer punishment for his past sins, "but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire" as is stated 1 Cor. 3:15.

Reply to Objection 3. The sacrament of Baptism is said to be necessary for salvation in so far as man cannot be saved without, at least, Baptism of desire; "which, with God, counts for the deed" (Augustine, Enarr. in Ps. 57).
From this it follows that an infant can be saved by baptism of desire, vicariously, just as it is saved by baptism by water vicariously, since the infant is not exercising its own desire in either case. St. Thomas Aquinas also espouses baptism of blood in the Summa, 3a, 66, 12.

A symposium was held and summarized in a book called Abortion and Martyrdom (edited by Aidan Nichols):
The lowest common denominator position is represented in the following resolution of the symposium: "Given the morally unanimous opinion of the Fathers of the Church, of St Thomas Aquinas, of the teaching of the ordinary Magisterium and of the witness of the Sacred Liturgy that infants can be martyrs, and that the Baptism of blood avails for justification, the Church can declare in individual cases, based on reliable testimony, that infants, even unborn, who are killed on account of an explicit hatred of the Christian faith or of the other virtues of the Christian life, are in fact holy martyrs and may be invoked and venerated as such by all the faithful."
Therefore, the "hope of salvation" in such cases, is not at all "an innovation", as some claim. It goes back to the Fathers, through Aquinas and Trent. It's nothing new. That's why Pope Benedict XVI noted in The Ratzinger Report: "the very theologians who proposed 'limbo' also said that parents could spare the child limbo by desiring its baptism and through prayer" (p. 148).

Just as in the issue of salvation outside the Church, there are concurrent traditions that run side-by-side in the history of theology, emphasizing different aspects of the topic. In the same way, the baptism of desire / baptism by blood strain of thought has been present from early on, alongside the limbo interpretation of non-baptism situations. In any event it is not an "innovation" to think this, which is precisely how Pope Benedict XVI was able to speak more authoritatively against limbo as any sort of required (or even recommended belief), because he could draw on this other tradition.

As an example of the "older" way of thinking, observe, for example, the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Limbo. It states:
The New Testament contains no definite statement of a positive kind regarding the lot of those who die in original sin without being burdened with grievous personal guilt. But, by insisting on the absolute necessity of being "born again of water and the Holy Ghost" (John 3:5) for entry into the kingdom of Heaven (see BAPTISM, subtitle Necessity of Baptism), Christ clearly enough implies that men are born into this world in a state of sin, and St. Paul's teaching to the same effect is quite explicit (Romans 5:12 sqq.). On the other hand, it is clear from Scripture and Catholic tradition that the means of regeneration provided for this life do not remain available after death, so that those dying unregenerate are eternally excluded from the supernatural happiness of the beatific vision (John 9:4, Luke 12:40, 16:19 sqq., 2 Corinthians 5:10; see also APOCATASTASIS). The question therefore arises as to what, in the absence of a clear positive revelation on the subject, we ought in conformity with Catholic principles to believe regarding the eternal lot of such persons. Now it may confidently be said that, as the result of centuries of speculation on the subject, we ought to believe that these souls enjoy and will eternally enjoy a state of perfect natural happiness; and this is what Catholics usually mean when they speak of the limbus infantium, the "children's limbo."
Notice, however, some of the distinctions made here. First it says there is no definitive, "positive" NT evidence, This is crucial, and is probably the main reason why it has never been defined once and for all, because the subject is necessarily speculative, beyond public revelation.

What is stated to be clear is not limbo itself, but the related notion that no regeneration occurs after death. But that is exactly what is taken into consideration in the concepts of baptism of desire and of blood. In those cases, regeneration or justification occur before death, thus allowing the soul to avoid the conjectural limbo. Therefore, this is not "definitive" language at all; nor does it resolve the question of limbo.

When the article gets back on the question of limbo, directly, note that it is way more tentative:
. . . it may confidently be said that, as the result of centuries of speculation on the subject, we ought to believe . . .
This is not the language of definitiveness. It was always a theological speculation, and that is why and how it can be "demoted" now. I'm glad to see it. I never resonated very much with the doctrine of limbo, myself. I thought that God's mercy would trump it in the end. It is always good to discover that the Mind of the Church coincides with one's own theological / spiritual "instinct". I would submit to the Church's understanding in any case (I want to make that clear). But there are times when one mulls over opinions on his own and then discovers that the Mind of the Church came to the same conclusion. This is a blessing and a confirmation of being led by the Spirit into all truth.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

St. Athanasius Was a CATHOLIC, Not a Proto-Protestant (+ Counter-Reply to James White on Tradition, etc.)

St. Athanasius (c. 296-373) is almost certainly the second favorite Church father of more polemically-minded Protestants (who want to counter or oppose Catholicism at every turn), after St. Augustine.

They wax eloquently about the famous saying Athanasius contra mundum (". . . against the world"), referring to the Arian crisis in the Church, and equate this with a Luther-like scenario: speaking truth to corrupt power, and so forth (as if the two stances were theologically or ecclesiologically equivalent).

They pretend that he taught sola Scriptura, or at any rate, something more closely akin to it than the Catholic "three-legged stool" rule of faith (Bible-Tradition-Church). But Athanasius was a good Catholic. I shall now list eleven different areas where St. Athanasius thought very much like a Catholic and very unlike how (most) Protestants approach things. The excerpts are from my book, The Church Fathers Were Catholic: Patristic Evidences for Catholicism (excepting the Deuterocanonical and Baptism sections):

Apostolic Succession

. . . inventors of unlawful heresies, who indeed refer to the Scriptures, but do not hold such opinions as the saints have handed down, and receiving them as the traditions of men, err, because they do not rightly know them nor their power. (Festal Letter 2:6)

. . . but concerning matters of faith, they [The Fathers at Nicea] did not write: 'It was decided,' but 'Thus the Catholic Church believes.' And thereupon they confessed how they believed. This they did in order to show that their judgement was not of more recent origin, but was in fact Apostolic times; and that what they wrote was no discovery of their own, but is simply that which was taught by the apostles. (On the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia 5; NPNF 2, Vol. IV)

For, as we have found after long deliberation, it appeared desirable to adhere to and maintain to the end, that faith which, enduring from antiquity, we have received as preached by the prophets, the Gospels, and the Apostles through our Lord Jesus Christ, . . . (On the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia 10; NPNF 2, Vol. IV)

[H]old fast, every one, the faith we have received from the Fathers, which they who assembled at Nicaea recorded in writing, and endure not those who endeavour to innovate thereon. And however they may write phrases out of the Scripture, endure not their writings; however they may speak the language of the orthodox, yet attend not to what they say; for they speak not with an upright mind, but putting on such language like sheeps' clothing, in their hearts they think with Arius, after the manner of the devil, who is the author of all heresies. For he too made use of the words of Scripture, but was put to silence by our Saviour. . . . the character of apostolical men is sincere and incapable of fraud. (Circular to Bishops of Egypt and Libya 8; NPNF 2, Vol. IV)

Baptismal Regeneration
Athanasius . . . maintains [Ad Serap. 1, 4] that the Spirit is granted to those who believe and are reborn in the bath of regeneration . . .

Through baptism, according to Athanasius, man is united with the Godhead; [C. Ar. 2, 41] it is the sacrament of regeneration by which the divine image is renewed. [De incarn. 14] The participant becomes an heir of eternal life, [Ad Serap. 1, 22] and the Father's adoptive son. [C. Ar. 1, 34]

(Kelly, 430-431)
Catholic Church and Councils: Infallible Authority of

See, we are proving that this view has been transmitted from father to father; but ye, O modern Jews and disciples of Caiaphas, how many fathers can ye assign to your phrases? Not one of the understanding and wise; for all abhor you, but the devil alone; none but he is your father in this apostasy, who both in the beginning sowed you with the seed of this irreligion, and now persuades you to slander the Ecumenical Council, for committing to writing, not your doctrines, but that which from the beginning those who were eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word have handed down to us. For the faith which the Council has confessed in writing, that is the faith of the Catholic Church; to assert this, the blessed Fathers so expressed themselves while condemning the Arian heresy; and this is a chief reason why these apply themselves to calumniate the Council. For it is not the terms which trouble them, but that those terms prove them to be heretics, and presumptuous beyond other heresies. (Defense of the Nicene Definition, 27; NPNF 2, Vol. IV)

. . . sectaries, who have fallen away from the teaching of the Church, and made shipwreck concerning their Faith . . . (Against the Heathen, 6; NPNF 2, Vol. IV)

Had Christ's enemies thus dwelt on these thoughts, and recognised the ecclesiastical scope as an anchor for the faith, they would not have made shipwreck of the faith, . . . (Against the Arians III, 58; NPNF 2, Vol. IV)

What defect of teaching was there for religious truth in the Catholic Church, . . . (On the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia 3; NPNF 2, Vol. IV)

But the word of the Lord which came through the ecumenical Synod at Nicea, abides forever. (Synodal Letter to the Bishops of Africa 2; NPNF 2, Vol. IV)

I thought that all vain talk of all heretics, many as they may be, had been stopped by the Synod which was held at Nicæa. For the Faith there confessed by the Fathers according to the divine Scriptures is enough by itself at once to overthrow all impiety, and to establish the religious belief in Christ. . . . How then, after all this, are some attempting to raise doubts or questions? (Letter LIX to Epictetus, 1; NPNF 2, Vol. IV)

For the statements are not fit for Christians to make or to hear, on the contrary they are in every way alien from the Apostolic teaching. . . . It is enough merely to answer such things as follows: we are content with the fact that this is not the teaching of the Catholic Church, nor did the fathers hold this. But lest the ‘inventors of evil things' make entire silence on our part a pretext for shamelessness, it will be well to mention a few points from Holy Scripture, in case they may even thus be put to shame, and cease from these foul devices. (Letter LIX to Epictetus, 3; NPNF 2, Vol. IV)

Either then deny the Synod of Nicæa, and as heretics bring in your doctrine from the side; or, if you wish to be children of the fathers, do not hold the contrary of what they wrote. (Letter LIX to Epictetus, 4; NPNF 2, Vol. IV)

Deuterocanon (So-Called "Apocrypha")

St. Athanasius did seem to lower the status of the deuterocanonical books somewhat, but not to a sub-biblical level, as noted by my good friend Gary Michuta, in his excellent book, Why Catholic Bibles are Bigger (Port Huron, Michigan: Grotto Press, 2007, 110-112; bracketed footnote numbering my own):
Athanasius quotes both Baruch and Susanna right along passages from Isaiah, Psalms, Romans, and Hebrews; he makes no distinction or qualification between them [1]. Wisdom also is used as an authentic portion of sacred Scripture . . .:
But of these and such like inventions of idolatrous madness, Scripture taught us beforehand long ago, when it said, 'The devising of idols, as the beginning of fornication, and the invention of them, the corruption of life . . .' [Ws 14:12] [2]
And later in the same work:
For since they were endeavouring to invest with what Scripture calls the incommunicable name . . . [3]
This reference to the "incommunicable name" comes from Wisdom 14:21 . . .

Athanasius quotes another passage from Wisdom as constituting the teachings of Christ, the Word of God. He undoubtedly uses it to confirm doctrine. [4] In another argument against Arians, he calls both the Protocanonical Proverbs and the Deuterocanonical Wisdom "holy Scripture" . . . [5] . . .

Athanasius also quotes the book of Sirach without distinction or qualification, in the midst of several other scriptural quotations. [6] . . . Athanasius calls the Book of Judith Scripture. [7] Tobit is cited right along with several Protocanonical quotations [8] , and even introduced with the solemn formula "it is written." [9]

[1] Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 1.12.
[2] Against the Heathen, 11.1. Emphasis added.
[3] Against the Heathen, 1, 17.3.
[4] On the Incarnate Word, 4.6; 5.2.
[5] Defense Against Arius, 1, 3.
[6] Life of Anthony, 28 and Apology Against the Arians, 66.
[7] Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 2.35 . . .
[8] Defense of Constantius, 17. Tobit is cited after Matthew and Isaiah.
[9] Defense Against Arius, Part 1, 11.
The great Protestant Bible scholar F.F. Bruce confirms Michuta's analysis:
As Athanasius includes Baruch and the 'Letter of Jeremiah' in one book with Jeremiah and Lamentations [in his list of the OT canon], so he probably includes the Greek additions to Daniel in the canonical book of that name, and the additions to Esther in the book of that name which he recommends for reading in church [but doesn't list as a canonical book] . . .

In practice Athanasius appears to have paid little attention to the formal distinction between those books which he listed in the canon and those which were suitable for instruction of new Christians. He was familiar with the text of all, and quoted from them freely, often with the same introductory formula -- 'as it is written', 'as the scripture says', etc.

(The Canon of Scripture, Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1988, 79-80; my bracketed comments, based on the larger context of Bruce's analysis)
Eucharist (Real Presence)

So long as the prayers and invocations have not yet been made, it is mere bread and a mere cup. But when the great and wondrous prayers have been recited, then the bread becomes the body and the cup the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . When the great prayers and holy supplications are sent up, the Word descends on the bread and the cup, and it becomes His body. (Sermon to the Newly-Baptized; Kelly, 442; Migne, 26, 1325)

Faith and Works Rather Than Faith Alone

For it is not productive of virtue, nor is it any token of goodness. For none of us is judged for what he knows not, and no one is called blessed because he hath learning and knowledge. But each one will be called to judgment in these points--whether he have kept the faith and truly observed the commandments. (Life of Antony; NPNF 2, Vol. IV, 205)

He is to come, no more to suffer, but thenceforth to render to all the fruit of his own cross, that is, the resurrection and incorruption; and no longer to be judged, but to judge all, by what each has done in the body, whether good or evil; where there is laid up for the good the kingdom of heaven, but for them that have done evil everlasting fire and outer darkness. For thus the Lord himself also says: "Henceforth ye shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven in the glory of the Father. Matt. 25:31 . . . For according to the blessed Paul: "We must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, that each one may receive according as he hath done in the body whether it be good or bad." (Incarnation of the Word, 56, 4; NPNF 2, Vol. IV, 66).

Mary: Mother of God

And the Angel on his appearance, himself confesses that he has been sent by his Lord; as Gabriel confessed in the case of Zacharias, and also in the case of Mary, bearer of God. (Orations III, 14; NPNF 2, Vol. IV, 401)

It was for our sake that Christ became man, taking flesh from the Virgin Mary, Mother of God. (Against the Arians, III, 29; Gambero, 102)

Mary: Perpetual Virginity

For, if she had had other children, the Savior would not have ignored them and entrusted his Mother to someone else; nor would she have become someone else’s mother . . . he gave her as a mother to his disciple, even though she was not really John’s mother, because of his great purity of undertanding and because of her untouched virginity. . . . Mary, who gave birth to God, remained a virgin to the end . . . (De virginitate; Gambero, 104)

. . . Mary Ever-Virgin . . . (Against the Arians, Discourse II, 70; NPNF 2; Vol. IV, 386-387)

Mary: Sinlessness

. . . pure and unstained Virgin . . . (On the Incarnation of the Word, 8; Gambero, 102)

O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all O Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides. (Homily of the Papyrus of Turin, 71, 216; Gambero, 106)

The Papacy and Primacy of Rome

When I left Alexandria, I did not go to your brother’s headquarters, or to any other persons, but only to Rome; and having laid my case before the Church (for this was my only concern), I spent my time in public worship. (Defence before Constantius 4, NPNF 2, Vol. IV, 239)

[Background: Athanasius had appealed to Pope Julius I, over against the heretical ruling against him from eastern bishops, and Julius I reversed the sentence of an eastern council. He fled to Rome in 339 and "established close contacts with the Western Church, which continued throughout his life to support him" -- Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, "Athanasius, St.", p. 101) ]

Tradition (Authentic Divine and Apostolic, as Opposed to "Traditions of Men")

But, beyond these sayings, let us look at the very tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning, which the Lord gave, the Apostles preached and the Fathers kept. (To Serapion 1:28; after citing biblical passages concerning the deity of the Holy Spirit)

For, what our Fathers have delivered, this is truly doctrine; and this is truly the token of doctors, to confess the same thing with each other, and to vary neither from themselves nor from their fathers; whereas they who have not this character are to be called not true doctors but evil. (Defense of the Nicene Definition 4; NPNF 2, Vol. IV)

The blessed Apostle approves of the Corinthians because, he says, 'ye remember me in all things, and keep the traditions as I delivered them to you' (1 Cor. xi. 2); but they, as entertaining such views of their predecessors, will have the daring to say just the reverse to their flocks: 'We praise you not for remembering your fathers, but rather we make much of you, when you hold not their traditions.' (On the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia 14; NPNF 2, Vol. IV)

. . . remaining on the foundation of the Apostles, and holding fast the traditions of the Fathers, . . . (On the Councils of Ariminum and Seleucia 54; NPNF 2, Vol. IV)


Gambero, Luigi, Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought, Thomas Buffer, translator, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, revised edition of 1999.

Kelly, J.N.D., Early Christian Doctrines, San Francisco: Harper & Row, fifth revised edition, 1978.

Schaff, Philip & Henry Wace, editors, Early Church Fathers: Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers Series 2 (“NPNF 2”), 14 volumes, originally published in Edinburgh, 1900, available online.

Counter-Reply to James White's Critique of My Take on St. Athanasius' Rule of Faith

Resident Baptist Ken Temple wrote in the combox: "James White demonstrated and proved your citation of Festal 2:6 is wrong in the way you interpret Athanasius. Reading the whole context, from 2:4 to 2:7 teaches us a lot, that Athanasius does not promote extra-Biblical traditions here."

Robert also stated: "I just read the Athanasius quote IN CONTEXT and I see exactly what you mean, is not only NOT supporting the authority of "traditions" it's supporting the authority of scripture over any traditions!"

Bishop White has written a piece entitled Tradition Glasses, Again! I've dealt with Athanasius;' views in this regard more than once. It gets rather tiresome trying to persuade a certain type of Protestant to grasp elementary distinctions in logic and theological analysis, but we'll give it yet another shot. Here are my past papers:
Did St. Athanasius Believe in Sola Scriptura? (Dave Armstrong vs. Ken Temple)

The Sufficiency of Scripture and the Church Fathers (Particularly, St. Athanasius and the Trinity) (Dave Armstrong vs. E.L. Hamilton and "Cranmer")

If the Church Fathers Can Be Remarkably Transformed Into "Sola Scriptura Protestants" by "Bible Prooftexts", Why Not Me, Too?!!
The Right Reverend Bishop White comments:
I couldn't help but notice Dave Armstrong, who has decided recently to try his hand at church history, taking a shot at the Athanasius Problem. You see, the great bishop of Alexandria is a constant problem for Roman Catholics who wish to portray the early church as if it thought, spoke, and believed, as modern Rome. . . . In any case, Mr. Armstrong recently published yet another book, this time addressing the subject of church history. I had obtained the e-text version of the work, looked through it, and realized that with my current studies and challenges, going back over all the egregious abuses of the early writers represented by Armstrong was surely not worth my while. Someone else with much more time and interest would find an inexhaustible source of classic Roman Catholic anachronism in this work.
White took time out of his busy schedule to bless us with his cogent (and as always, of course, completely unassailable) commentary on one passage of mine:
. . . inventors of unlawful heresies, who indeed refer to the Scriptures, but do not hold such opinions as the saints have handed down, and receiving them as the traditions of men, err, because they do not rightly know them nor their power. (Festal Letter 2:6)
He then provides a larger context for the citation, preceded by his own editorial remark: "I popped open my edition of Athanasius and read the context, and could not help but chuckle. . . . remember, let Athanasius define terms rather than Dave Armstrong, or the conflicts of our century:"
4. Now those who do not observe the feast, continue such as these even to the present day, feigning indeed and devising names of feasts, but rather introducing days of mourning than of gladness; `For there is no peace to the wicked, saith the Lord.' And as Wisdom saith, `Gladness and joy are taken from their mouth.' Such are the feasts of the wicked. But the wise servants of the Lord, who have truly put on the man which is created in God, have received gospel words, and reckon as a general commandment that given to Timothy, which saith, `Be thou an example to the believers in word, in conversation, in love, in faith, in purity.' So well do they keep the Feast, that even the unbelievers, seeing their order, may say, `God is with them of a truth.' For as he who receives an apostle receives Him who sent him, so he who is a follower of the saints, makes the Lord in every respect his end and aim, even as Paul, being a follower of Him, goes on to say, `As I also of Christ.' For there were first our Saviour's own words, who from the height of His divinity, when conversing with His disciples, said, `Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls.' Then too when He poured water into a basin, and girded Himself with a towel, and washed His disciples' feet, He said to them, `Know what I have done. Ye call Me Master and Lord, and ye say well, for so I am. If therefore I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet: for I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, ye also should do.'

5. Oh! my brethren, how shall we admire the loving-kindness of the Saviour? With what power, and with what a trumpet should a man cry out, exalting these His benefits! That not only should we bear His image, but should receive from Him an example and pattern of heavenly conversation; that as He hath begun, we should go on, that suffering, we should not threaten, being reviled, we should not revile again, but should bless them that curse, and in everything commit ourselves to God who judgeth righteously. For those who are thus disposed, and fashion themselves according to the Gospel, will be partakers of Christ, and imitators of apostolic conversation, on account of which they shall be deemed worthy of that praise from him, with which he praised the Corinthians, when he said, `I praise you that in everything ye are mindful of me.' Afterwards, because there were men who used his words, but chose to hear them as suited their lusts, and dare to pervert them, as the followers of Hymenaeus and Alexander, and before them the Sadducees, who as he said, `having made shipwreck of faith,' scoffed at the mystery of the resurrection, he immediately proceeded to say, `And as I have delivered to you traditions, hold them fast.' That means, indeed, that we should think not otherwise than as the teacher has delivered.

6. For not only in outward form did those wicked men dissemble, putting on as the Lord says sheep's clothing, and appearing like unto whited sepulchres; but they took those divine words in their mouth, while they inwardly cherished evil intentions. And the first to put on this appearance was the serpent, the inventor of wickedness from the beginning--the devil,--who, in disguise, conversed with Eve, and forthwith deceived her. But after him and with him are all inventors of unlawful heresies, who indeed refer to the Scriptures, but do not hold such opinions as the saints have handed down, and receiving them as the traditions of men, err, because they do not rightly know them nor their power. Therefore Paul justly praises the Corinthians, because their opinions were in accordance with his traditions. And the Lord most righteously reproved the Jews, saying, `Wherefore do ye also transgress the commandments of God on account of your traditions.' For they changed the commandments they received from God after their own understanding, preferring to observe the traditions of men. And about these, a little after, the blessed Paul again gave directions to the Galatians who were in danger thereof, writing to them, `If any man preach to you aught else than that ye have received, let him be accursed.'

7. For there is no fellowship whatever between the words of the saints and the fancies of human invention; for the saints are the ministers of the truth, preaching the kingdom of heaven, but those who are borne in the opposite direction have nothing better than to eat, and think their end is that they shall cease to be, and they say, `Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.' Therefore blessed Luke reproves the inventions of men, and hands down the narrations of the saints, saying in the beginning of the Gospel, `Since many have presumed to write narrations of those events of which we are assured, as those who from the beginning were witnesses and ministers of the Word have delivered to us; it hath seemed good to me also, who have adhered to them all from the first, to write correctly in order to thee, O excellent Theophilus, that thou mayest know the truth concerning the things in which thou hast been instructed.' For as each of the saints has received, that they impart without alteration, for the confirmation of the doctrine of the mysteries. Of these the (divine) word would have us disciples, and these should of right be our teachers, and to them only is it necessary to give heed, for of them only is `the word faithful and worthy of all acceptation;' these not being disciples because they heard from others, but being eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word, that which they had heard from Him have they handed down.
Between sections 5 and 6 he interjected:
Now before moving on, have you caught his drift? Athanasius is saying the exact opposite of what Armstrong thinks he is saying. He even uses the classically abused text, 2 Thess. 2:15, and says nothing of any teachings that are not biblical in nature. "Apostolic conversation," "apostolic tradition," etc., for Athanasius, is nothing more than the words of the Apostles themselves! Roman Catholic controversialists, so accustomed to redefining terms based upon modern usage, read back into Athanasius the very distinctions that he is denying. But we continue on. I will bold the sole portion quoted by Armstrong:
And he concluded:
See what a difference a context makes? Athanasius is making the exact opposite point, concluding, as he so often did, with the teaching that what has been "handed down" is exactly the Scriptures. So when you read Roman Catholics throwing out contextless tidbits like this, do some reading. Remember that they are dogmatically committed to historical anachronism: Rome tells them what they must find in the early writings of the church, and, lo and behold, that's exactly what they find! Amazing!
I shall now respond at some length to these absurd and groundless accusations. Remember, as I proceed, that White equates anything by way of "tradition" and anything "apostolic" referred to by Athanasius, as strictly the biblical text and teaching. Therefore, all one must do to refute such an assertion is show that Athanasius refers to things as part of the received tradition, that are not in the Bible. That's rather easy to do, and I have already done it, so I merely have to repeat myself, with a few extra tidbits from the present larger text under consideration. I'll comment on various portions of the text above, highlighted in blue, for easy reference:

'And as I have delivered to you traditions, hold them fast.' [2 Thess 2:15] That means, indeed, that we should think not otherwise than as the teacher has delivered.

All the text prior to these words pose no problem whatsoever for Catholics, who accept material sufficiency of Scripture. As I have argued many times before, this very passage ends thusly: "hold to the traditions, which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter" (RSV). White, therefore, must contend that every tradition Paul passed on that was by "word of mouth" (or for that matter, in writing) was also preserved in written Holy Scripture. A very neat and tidy little theory, isn't it? But of course there is no way to prove this; certainly not from Scripture itself. White doesn't even try (he knows better than that). He simply assumes that this is the case. But that is no argument, of course. Just because White claims something with no biblical proof is no reason for anyone else to accept it. Likewise, in section 1 of the same letter, even outside of White's huge context that he provided, Athanasius writes:

those commands which he sent to individuals, he at the same time enjoined upon every man in every place, for he was `a teacher of all nations in faith and truth'.

As in the first instance, there is no reason whatsoever to assume, from this text, that all of Paul's "commands" were inscripturated. There is no more reason to believe that than there is to believe that everything that Jesus told His disciples was recorded in the Bible. It clearly was not, because the Bible itself informs us so (e.g., Mk 4:33; 6:34; Lk 24:15-16,25-27; Jn 20:30; 21:25; Acts 1:2-3), and it is common sense anyway. Jesus' teachings and commands, and Paul's, were binding, since they came from God and an apostle. They didn't have to be put in Scripture before they had authority, and they clearly included more than what we have in Scripture. As I've observed many times: in one night of intense conversation, Jesus or Paul could have easily said far more words than are contained in the entire New Testament. So White offers a bald speculation (i.e., a mere tradition of men, passed down). I'm giving solid reasons and Bible verses. Readers may choose which is the more plausible and biblical of the two options.

inventors of unlawful heresies, who indeed refer to the Scriptures, but do not hold such opinions as the saints have handed down, and receiving them as the traditions of men, err, because they do not rightly know them nor their power. [the citation I used in my book]

Here is apostolic succession. Note how Athanasius casually assumes that one criterion for truth is being "handed down" -- and not just by apostles, but by "saints" (a larger category). Protestants generally reject apostolic succession, but it is taught here, and by virtually all Church fathers. Athanasius is precisely blasting the Protestant attitude: folks who cite the Scriptures, but yet do not receive traditions and opinions "handed down" and who confuse these true apostolic traditions with "traditions of men." This is exactly how Protestants like Bishop White regard true Catholic, apostolic traditions (i.e., those that are contrary to Protestantism). The passage, then, is a rather striking indication that Athanasius was a good Catholic, and no Protestant. He doesn't think like one at all. White rejects apostolic succession; Athanasius fully embraces it.

Therefore Paul justly praises the Corinthians, because their opinions were in accordance with his traditions.

More apostolic tradition (in complete harmony with the notion of apostolic succession that he had expressed earlier: "opinions as the saints have handed down").

For they changed the commandments they received from God after their own understanding, preferring to observe the traditions of men. . . . `If any man preach to you aught else than that ye have received, let him be accursed.'

Paul's characteristic contrast of false traditions of men with true apostolic tradition, reiterated by Athanasius.

For there is no fellowship whatever between the words of the saints and the fancies of human invention; for the saints are the ministers of the truth


Therefore blessed Luke reproves the inventions of men, and hands down the narrations of the saints


as those who from the beginning were witnesses and ministers of the Word have delivered to us

Apostolic tradition ("witnesses") and succession ("delivered to us") seen right in the text of Scripture.

For as each of the saints has received, that they impart without alteration, for the confirmation of the doctrine of the mysteries. For as each of the saints has received, that they impart without alteration, for the confirmation of the doctrine of the mysteries.

Another concise, explicit description of apostolic tradition and succession.

All this, yet White thinks that he sees sola Scriptura and a denial of apostolic tradition and succession in these passages. It's astonishing. White talks about "tradition glasses." He not only doesn't have glasses; he has no eyes at all. He's flat-out blind, to miss all this in the passage. I'm absolutely delighted that he wanted to bring up all this larger context, because it makes my argument ten times stronger. Thanks, good bishop! Catholics can be blessed by viewing this overwhelming affirmation in Athanasius, of our rule of faith. And of course there is tons more, in my paper (from my new book on the Fathers):
See, we are proving that this view has been transmitted from father to father; but ye, O modern Jews and disciples of Caiaphas, how many fathers can ye assign to your phrases?

It is enough merely to answer such things as follows: we are content with the fact that this is not the teaching of the Catholic Church, nor did the fathers hold this.

Either then deny the Synod of Nicæa, and as heretics bring in your doctrine from the side; or, if you wish to be children of the fathers, do not hold the contrary of what they wrote.

But, beyond these sayings, let us look at the very tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning, which the Lord gave, the Apostles preached and the Fathers kept.

For, what our Fathers have delivered, this is truly doctrine; and this is truly the token of doctors, to confess the same thing with each other, and to vary neither from themselves nor from their fathers; whereas they who have not this character are to be called not true doctors but evil.

The blessed Apostle approves of the Corinthians because, he says, 'ye remember me in all things, and keep the traditions as I delivered them to you' (1 Cor. xi. 2); but they, as entertaining such views of their predecessors, will have the daring to say just the reverse to their flocks: 'We praise you not for remembering your fathers, but rather we make much of you, when you hold not their traditions.'

. . . remaining on the foundation of the Apostles, and holding fast the traditions of the Fathers, . . .
Athanasius accepts books of the Bible (Wisdom, Sirach, Judith, Tobit) that White rejects as "extrabiblical" and no Scripture at all. Therefore, Athanasius is calling inspired what White thinks is an evil tradition of men. Hard to get more poles apart than that!

In my book, I cite a very powerful concurring opinion of Protestant historian Philip Schaff, concerning the Church fathers' unanimous belief in apostolic succession and the notions of Tradition and an authoritative Church (my emphases):

Nor is any distinction made here between a visible and an invisible church. All catholic antiquity thought of none but the actual, historical church . . .

The fathers of our period all saw in the church, though with different degrees of clearness, a divine, supernatural order of things, in a certain sense the continuation of the life of Christ on earth, the temple of the Holy Spirit, the sole repository of the powers of divine life, the possessor and interpreter of the Holy Scriptures, the mother of all the faithful . . .

Equally inseparable from her is the predicate of apostolicity, that is, the historical continuity or unbroken succession, which reaches back through the bishops to the apostles, from the apostles to Christ, and from Christ to God. In the view of the fathers, every theoretical departure from this empirical, tangible, catholic church is heresy, that is, arbitrary, subjective, ever changing human opinion; every practical departure, all disobedience to her rulers is schism, or dismemberment of the body of Christ; either is rebellion against divine authority, and a heinous, if not the most heinous, sin. No heresy can reach the conception of the church, or rightly claim any one of her predicates; it forms at best a sect or party, and consequently falls within the province and the fate of human and perishing things, while the church is divine and indestructible.

This is without doubt the view of the ante-Nicene fathers, even of the speculative and spiritualistic Alexandrians . . .

Even Clement of Alexandria, and Origen, with all their spiritualistic and idealizing turn of mind, are no exception here.

(History of the Christian Church, Vol. II, Chapter IV, section 53, "The Catholic Unity," pp. 169-170, 172)

This is emphatically not what Protestants believe, because they deny both apostolic succession and any possibility of an infallible Church. For them only Scripture is an infallible authority. Therefore, the views of the fathers and of Athanasius in particular, couldn't be any further than they are from James White's view. Yet he claims Athanasius as one of his own. It's one of the most striking instances of sheer anachronistic imposition of later Protestant novelties onto the Church fathers that I've ever seen. White is seemingly impervious to reason and fact alike. He even has to war against Protestant historians like Schaff, from 100 years ago, as well as the vast majority of Church historians of all stripes today.