The purpose of the Council of Trent (1545 - 1563)
The Council of Trent is considered by the Catholic Church to be authoritative in matters of Catholic doctrine.
I wrote these series of articles (see menu sidebar to the left) as a Catholic for Catholics, but I no longer accept Catholic teaching as the authoritative source of truth.I have not attempted to align these articles with my current views.
I address certain key portions of the Council of Trent dealing with certain doctrinal issues.
Key TopicsBorn Again
Judgment of Believers
Rewards for Good Deeds
The Stages of Justification(1) Called
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Protestant DoctrineSin Merely Covered?
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Keep the Commandments
God Assists more
Not Saved by Works
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Faith Alone (Sola Fide)
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Purgatory & IndulgencesPurgatory
Prayer for the Dead
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Faith and Morals
Images, Saints, RelicsImages
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Prayer to Saints
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Veneration of Saints
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Errors being removed, the purity itself of the Gospel be preserved in the Church.
Which Gospel, before promised through the prophets in the holy Scriptures, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, first promulgated with His own mouth, and then commanded to be preached by His Apostles to every creature, as the fountain of all, both saving truth, and moral discipline.
This truth and discipline are contained in the written books, and the unwritten traditions.
Unwritten traditions received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down even unto us, transmitted as it were from hand to hand.
Also the said traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ's own word of mouth, or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession.
From the Decree Concerning the Edition, and the Use, of the Sacred Books: That no one should interpret scripture to contradict (1) the teachings of the Catholic Church, or (2) the unanimous consent of the Church Fathers. Also, that the Catholic Church has the sole authority to interpret scripture in matters of faith and morals.
No one, relying on his own skill, shall, — in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, — wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church, — whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures, — hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.
Adam, when he had transgressed the commandment of God in Paradise, immediately lost the holiness and justice wherein he had been constituted; and that he incurred, through the offence of that prevarication [deviation from truth], the wrath and indignation of God, and consequently death, with which God had previously threatened him, and, together with death, captivity under his power who thenceforth had the empire of death, that is to say, the devil, and that the entire Adam, through that offence of prevarication, was changed, in body and soul, for the worse.
Sin of Adam, — which in its origin is one, and being transfused into all by propagation, not by imitation, is in each one as his own.
by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted; or even asserts that the whole of that which has the true and proper nature of sin is not taken away; but says that it is only rased, or not imputed.
In the baptized there remains concupiscence, or an incentive (to sin); which, whereas it is left for our exercise, cannot injure those who consent not, but resist manfully by the grace of Jesus Christ;
This concupiscence, which the apostle sometimes calls sin, the Catholic Church has never understood it to be called sin, as being truly and properly sin in those born again, but because it is of sin, and inclines to sin.
Grievous detriment to the unity of the Church, a certain erroneous doctrine disseminated touching Justification.
Inability of Nature and of the Law to justify man.
Not the Gentiles only by the force of nature, but not even the Jews by the very letter itself of the law of Moses, were able to be liberated, or to arise, therefrom; although free will, attenuated as it was in its powers, and bent down, was by no means extinguished in them.
Who are justified through Christ.
Though He died for all, yet do not all receive the benefit of His death, but those only unto whom the merit of His passion is communicated.
Born again in that new birth, there is bestowed upon them, through the merit of His passion, the grace whereby they are made just.
Justification as being a translation, from that state wherein man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace, and of the adoption of the sons of God.
The beginning of... Justification is to be derived from the prevenient [anticipating or preceding] grace of God.
Without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace.
Able to reject it; yet is he not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight.
The manner of Preparation.
Excited and assisted by divine grace, conceiving faith by hearing, they are freely moved towards God, believing those things to be true which God has revealed and promised.
Understanding themselves to be sinners, they, by turning begin to love Him as the fountain of all justice; and are therefore moved against sins by a certain hatred and detestation, to wit, by that penitence....
[This] preparation, is followed by Justification itself, which is not remission of sins merely, but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man.
That through justification we truly become just and are not merely called just in a legal sense. That different people's level of cooperation with God can be different with the effect that we will each be infused with differing amount of this grace.
Not only reputed, but are truly called, and are, just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to every one as He wills, and according to each one's proper disposition and co-operation.
Man . . . receives . . . together with the remission of sins, all these (gifts) infused at once, faith, hope, and charity.
Faith, unless hope and charity be added thereto, neither unites man perfectly with Christ, nor makes him a living member of His body.
If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
None of those things which precede justification — whether faith or works — merit the grace itself of justification.
Against the vain confidence of Heretics [that they are justified].
Not to be said, that sins are forgiven, or have been forgiven, to any one who boasts of his confidence and certainty of the remission of his sins, and rests on that alone.
That people who think you must believe you are justified in order to truly be justified are deceiving themselves. Also, that the act of believing you are justified does not mean that you really are justified.
Neither is this to be asserted, — that they who are truly justified must needs, without any doubting whatever, settle within themselves that they are justified, and that no one is absolved from sins and justified, but he that believes for certain that he is absolved and justified; and that absolution and justification are effected by this faith alone.
No pious person ought to doubt of the mercy of God, of the merit of Christ, and of the virtue and efficacy of the sacraments, even so each one, when he regards himself, and his own weakness and indisposition, may have fear and apprehension touching his own grace; seeing that no one can know with a certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God.
That we must obey the commandments of the church. That good deeds are an integral part of saving faith. That we must persevere in practicing spiritual discipline. That our justification can increase through diligently doing these things.
By mortifying [disciplining] the members of their own flesh, and by presenting them as instruments of justice unto sanctification, they, through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith co-operating with good works, increase in that justice.
Are still further justified.
On keeping the Commandments, and on the necessity and possibility thereof. No one, ought to think himself exempt from the observance of the commandments.
No one ought [to say]... that the observance of the commandments of God is impossible for one that is justified. God commands not impossibilities, but, by commanding, both admonishes thee to do what thou are able, and to pray for what thou art not able (to do), and aids thee that thou mayest be able; whose commandments are not heavy;
During this mortal life, men, how holy and just soever, at times fall into at least light and daily sins, which are also called venial, not therefore do they cease to be just.
No one ought to flatter himself up with faith alone, fancying that by faith alone he is made an heir, and will obtain the inheritance, even though he suffer not with Christ.
Who assert that the just man sins, venially at least, in every good work; or, which is yet more insupportable, that he merits eternal punishments.
That a rash presumptuousness in the matter of Predestination is to be avoided . . . . No one . . . ought . . . to presume as regards the secret mystery of divine predestination, as to determine for certain that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate.
That it can't be known who God has chosen. That the doctrine that once a person is justified that they can no longer sin is incorrect. That a person can only know for certain if they are saved is through special revelation.
He that is justified either cannot sin any more, or, if he do sin, that he ought to promise himself an assured repentance; for except by special revelation, it cannot be known whom God hath chosen unto Himself.
He that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved.
Let no one herein promise himself any thing as certain with an absolute certainty; though all ought to place and repose a most firm hope in God's help.
Those who, by sin, have fallen from the received grace of Justification, they may be again justified.
The penitence of a Christian, after his fall, is very different from that at (his) baptism.
Absolution; satisfaction by fasts, alms, prayers, and the other pious exercises of a spiritual life.
That there is such a thing as temporal punishment which is not necessarily remitted when God forgives us the sins we commit after baptism, however, as a result of baptism for the first time there is no temporal punishment for any of the sins committed previously. However, this temporal punishment does not result in a loss of salvation for those who are otherwise justified.
Eternal punishment, is, together with the guilt, remitted, either by the sacrament, or by the desire of the sacrament, but the temporal punishment, which, as the sacred writings teach, is not always wholly remitted, as is done in baptism.
Have not feared to violate the temple of God.
By every mortal sin, grace is lost, but not faith.
The received grace of Justification is lost, not only by infidelity whereby even faith itself is lost, but also by any other mortal sin whatever, though faith be not lost.
Excludes from the kingdom of God not only the unbelieving, but the faithful also (who are) fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, liers with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, railers, extortioners, and all others who commit deadly sins.
God is not unjust, that he should forget your work, and the love which you have shown in his name; and, do not lose your confidence, which hath a great reward.
Life eternal is to be proposed to those working well unto the end, and hoping in God, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Jesus Christ, and as a reward which is according to the promise of God Himself, to be faithfully rendered to their good works and merits.
[It is wrong to believe that] man may be justified before God by his own works, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ.
[It is wrong to believe that] the grace of God, through Jesus Christ, is given only for this, that man may be able more easily to live justly, and to merit eternal life, as if, by free will without grace.
[It is wrong to believe that] without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him.
[It is wrong to believe that] man's free will moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates towards disposing and preparing itself for obtaining the grace of Justification.
[It is wrong to believe that] since Adam's sin, the free will of man is lost and extinguished.
[It is wrong to believe that] all works done before Justification, in whatsoever way they be done, are truly sins.
[It is wrong to believe that] by faith alone the impious is justified.
[It is wrong to believe that] nothing else [besides faith] is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification.
[It is wrong to believe that] men are just without the justice of Christ, whereby He merited for us to be justified.
That justification is not merely an imputation of Christ's justice nor of the remission of sins as a mere legal covering of our sins but, rather, results in grace being poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
[It is wrong to believe that] men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost.
[It is wrong to believe that] justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified.
[It is wrong to believe that] it is necessary for every one, for the obtaining the remission of sins, that he believe for certain, and without any wavering arising from his own infirmity and disposition, that his sins are forgiven him.
[It is wrong to believe that] man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected.
[It is wrong to believe that] a man who is born again and justified, is bound of faith to believe that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate.
[It is wrong to believe that] he will for certain, of an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance unto the end, — unless he have learned this by special revelation.
[It is wrong to believe that] the grace of Justification is only attained to by those who are predestined unto life; but that all others who are called, are called indeed, but receive not grace, as being, by the divine power, predestined unto evil.
[It is wrong to believe that] nothing besides faith is commanded in the Gospel.
[It is wrong to believe that] the ten commandments nowise appertain to Christians.
[It is wrong to believe that] the man who is justified and how perfect soever, is not bound to observe the commandments of God and of the Church, but only to believe.
[It is wrong to believe that] the Gospel were a bare and absolute promise of eternal life, without the condition of observing the commandments
[It is wrong to believe that] Christ Jesus was given of God to men, as a redeemer in whom to trust, and not also as a legislator whom to obey.
That it is incorrect to believe that a person who is justified can't sin and that a person who sins was never really justified. This refutes the Protestant doctrine that you can't lose your salvation.
[It is wrong to believe that] a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified.
[It is wrong to believe that] good works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof.
[It is wrong to believe that] in every good work, the just sins venially at least, or — which is more intolerable still — mortally, and consequently deserves eternal punishments; and that for this cause only he is not damned, that God does not impute those works unto damnation.
[It is wrong to believe that] after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted. [It is wrong to believe that] there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him).
[It is wrong to believe that] the justified sins when he performs good works with a view to an eternal recompense.
[It is wrong to believe that] the good works which he [a believer] performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life.
There is a Purgatory, and that the souls there detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful but principally by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar.
Let the more difficult and subtle questions, and which tend not to edification, and from which for the most part there is no increase of piety, be excluded from popular discourses before the uneducated multitude.
Such things as are uncertain, or which labour under an appearance of error, let them not allow to be made public.
Those things which tend to a certain kind of curiosity or superstition.
Prohibit as scandals and stumbling-blocks of the faithful.
The suffrages of the faithful who are living, to wit the sacrifices of masses, prayers, alms, and other works of piety which have been wont to be performed by the faithful for the other faithful departed, be piously and devoutly performed.
That sacred images have a place in the lives of believers. That various kinds of interactions with the Saints have a place in the lives of believers including; veneration, prayer to them, and the honor paid to relics.
Invocation, Veneration, and Relics, of Saints, and on Sacred Images.
The saints, who reign together with Christ, offer up their own prayers to God for men; that it is good and useful suppliantly to invoke them.
They think impiously, who deny that the saints, who enjoy eternal happiness in heaven, are to be invocated; or who assert either that they do not pray for men.
[It is wrong to believe that] the invocation of them [the Saints] to pray for each of us even in particular, is idolatry or, that it is repugnant to the word of God.
[It is wrong to believe that the invocation of the Saints] is opposed to the honour of the one mediator of God and men, Christ Jesus; or, that it is foolish to supplicate, vocally, or mentally, those who reign in heaven.
The holy bodies of holy martyrs, and of others now living with Christ are to be venerated by the faithful;
That veneration and prayer to the Saints causes God to bestow benefits on us — it is not through the power of the Saints but through God's power just as is the case in any kind of intercession of one for another.
Benefits are bestowed by God on men.
[It is wrong to believe that] veneration and honour are not due to the relics of saints; or, that these, and other sacred monuments, are uselessly honoured by the faithful; and that the places dedicated to the memories of the saints are in vain visited with the view of obtaining their aid.
That veneration and honor of images of Christ, of Mary, and of the Saints are a good thing provided we don't consider that the images themselves have power and that we don't trust in the images for divine assistance.
Images of Christ, of the Virgin Mother of God, and of the other saints, are to be had and retained particularly in temples, and that due honour and veneration are to be given them; not that any divinity, or virtue, is believed to be in them, on account of which they are to be worshipped; or that anything is to be asked of them; or, that trust is to be reposed in images.
That the veneration and honor which we show to images of Christ, of Mary, and of the Saints are referred to the prototypes which those images represent. In venerating and honoring images we are in actuality venerating and honoring the one pictured in the image.
The honour which is shown them [images] is referred to the prototypes which those images represent; in such wise that by the images which we kiss, and before which we uncover the head, and prostrate ourselves, we adore Christ; and we venerate the saints, whose similitude they bear.
By means of the histories of the mysteries of our Redemption, portrayed by paintings or other representations, the people is confirmed in (the habit of) remembering, and continually revolving in mind the articles of faith; as also that great profit is derived from all sacred images.
The miracles which God has performed by means of the saints, and their salutary examples, are set before the eyes of the faithful; that so they may give God thanks for those things.
Order their own lives and manners in imitation of the saints.
Abuses have crept in amongst these holy and salutary observances.
No images, (suggestive) of false doctrine, and furnishing occasion of dangerous error to the uneducated, be set up.
People shall be taught, that not thereby is the Divinity represented [in the images] as though it could be seen by the eyes of the body, or be portrayed by colours or figures.
In the invocation of saints, the veneration of relics, and the sacred use of images, every superstition shall be removed, all filthy lucre be abolished; finally, all lasciviousness be avoided; in such wise that figures shall not be painted or adorned with a beauty exciting to lust; nor the celebration of the saints, and the visitation of relics be by any perverted into revellings and drunkenness; as if festivals are celebrated to the honour of the saints by luxury and wantonness.
Power of conferring Indulgences was granted by Christ to the Church.
Indulgences, for the Christian people most salutary, and approved of.
It [the church] condemns with anathema [excommunication] those who either assert, that they [indulgences] are useless; or who deny that there is in the Church the power of granting them.
And being desirous that the abuses which have crept therein, and by occasion of which this honourable name of Indulgences is blasphemed by heretics, be amended and corrected.
all evil gains — a most prolific cause of abuses — be wholly abolished.
Other abuses which have proceeded from superstition, ignorance, irreverence.