Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,
Today, Saturday, November 13, at 4 p.m., at Providence College, in Rhode Island, by the grace of God I will defend the very truth that St. Dominic founded his order to defend against one of his own sons, Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, O.P. That is not to say that Fr. Austriaco and his colleagues agree with the Albigensians in what they affirm; but they do most certainly agree with the Albigensians in what they deny—namely, the special creation by God of Adam and Eve and of all of the different kinds of plants and animals for mankind at the beginning of time. In this newsletter I would like to highlight a few points covered in depth in the article on the Kolbe Center website at this link to underscore the urgent need for prayers and sacrifices to bring the Dominican Order back to the Faith of its founder.
St. Dominic’s Order and the Defense of the True Doctrine of Creation
We often have occasion to remark that the tell-tale sign of the diabolical is not a mere distortion of the good, the beautiful and the true—but a total inversion. The fact that the Dominican Order today leads the promotion of theistic evolution throughout the Catholic world represents such an inversion because the Dominican Order was literally born of the struggle against a heresy very much like modern theistic evolutionism, a heresy rooted in the denial of the goodness of the original creation and a rejection of the literal historical truth of the sacred history of Genesis.
St. Dominic was traveling with his Bishop from Spain to Denmark through the south of France to arrange a royal marriage when they encountered Catholics who had been won over to the errors of the Albigensian-Catharist heretics. Contemporary descriptions of the beliefs of the principal heretical groups in the region confirm that all of them rejected the traditional orthodox teaching of the Church on creation (soon to be defined at the Fourth Lateran Council) and embraced one of two heretical doctrines regarding the origins of man and the material universe.
The first group, usually designated as absolute dualists, believed in the existence of two principles of creation—a good god who created all of the spiritual creatures, and an evil god who created all of the corporeal, or bodily, creatures. The second group, usually designated as mitigated dualists, believed in one God who created the spiritual creatures and the four elements, but held that the angel Lucifer made all of the different kinds of corporeal creatures as well as the human body from those four elements. According to both sects, created spirits were trapped in corporeal bodies as punishment for a primordial sin, and the purpose of life was to follow the authentic teaching of Christ who came into the world as a pure spirit disguised as a bodily man, to liberate men and women from their bodies so that they could return to their original state as pure spirits.
These false beliefs in regard to creation shaped a Catharist anti-culture. These errors explain why the Catharist priests, or “perfects,” abstained from foods derived from animal bodies, despised sacraments—including the Most Blessed Sacrament—on account of their material elements, looked down on Holy Marriage and childbirth, and viewed the death of the body as a good thing. It is important to note that this anti-culture encompassed all of the Catharist heretics, both the absolute dualists and the mitigated dualists, since all of them shared the conviction that corporeal creatures—and the human body itself—were directly created by Lucifer or the evil god. This also helps to explain why the Catharist priests, or “perfects,” appeared so attractive to many lay Catholics, scandalized as they so often were by the worldliness of many Catholic clergy and religious. It also helps to explain why the new mendicant orders, especially the Dominicans, played such a key role in combating the Catharist movements in the south of France and in northern Italy.
St. Dominic’s Bishop saw the need to combat the heretics both by preaching and by evangelical poverty and simplicity of life; and St. Dominic soon emerged as a gifted leader in the effort to defend the orthodox Catholic faith against the Catharist errors. St. Dominic and his followers recognized the goods of this world as good things but renounced them to an even greater degree than the Catharist heretics. When Pope Innocent III convened the Fourth Lateran Council to define the true doctrine of creation against the Albigensian-Catharist heretics, the Bishop of Toulouse took St. Dominic with him to Rome to attend the Council. In God’s providence, St. Dominic’s participation in the Council that pronounced the most important dogmatic decree on creation in the history of the Church confirmed him in his resolve to defend that teaching through an international order distinguished by fervent preaching and evangelical poverty. As the Catholic Encyclopedia explains:
In November, 1215, an ecumenical council was to meet at Rome "to deliberate on the improvement of morals, the extinction of heresy, and the strengthening of the faith". This was identically the mission Saint Dominic had determined on for his order. With the Bishop of Toulouse, he was present at the deliberations of this council. From the very first session it seemed that events conspired to bring his plans to a successful issue. The council bitterly arraigned the bishops for their neglect of preaching. In canon X they were directed to delegate capable men to preach the Word of God to the people. Under these circumstances, it would reasonably appear that Dominic's request for confirmation of an order designed to carry out the mandates of the council would be joyfully granted. But while the council was anxious that these reforms should be put into effect as speedily as possible, it was at the same time opposed to the institution of any new religious orders, and had legislated to that effect in no uncertain terms. Moreover, preaching had always been looked upon as primarily a function of the episcopate. To bestow this office on an unknown and untried body of simple priests seemed too original and too bold in its conception to appeal to the conservative prelates who influenced the deliberations of the council. When, therefore, his petition for the approbation of his infant institute was refused, it could not have been wholly unexpected by Saint Dominic.
Returning to Languedoc at the close of the council in December, 1215, the founder gathered about him his little band of followers and informed them of the wish of the council that there should be no new rules for religious orders. Thereupon they adopted the ancient rule of Saint Augustine, which, on account of its generality, would easily lend itself to any form they might wish to give it. This done, Saint Dominic again appeared before the pope in the month of August, 1216, and again solicited the confirmation of his order. This time he was received more favourably, and on 22 December, 1216, the Bull of confirmation was issued.
The Firmiter decree of the Fourth Lateran Council defined what the Church had always taught and believed, that God had created all of the different kinds of corporeal and spiritual creatures and then man “at once” from the beginning of time—terminology compatible with creation in six days or in an instant, but not with a creation period of thousands, or millions or billions of years. Among contemporary scholars who adhere to the correct teaching on the unchanging and unchangeable truth of defined Church dogmas, most seem to believe that the Firmiter merely defined that God created the angels and some kind of primitive matter at the beginning of time, not all of the different kinds of spiritual and corporeal creatures—and then man. However, the historical facts set forth in this newsletter render this view completely untenable.
The Scope of the Firmiter
The Catholic response to the Catharist anti-culture hinged on the fact that God had directly created all of the different kinds of spiritual creatures and all of the different kinds of corporeal creatures and then man, body and soul, who summed up in himself the spiritual and the corporeal orders. Thus, to argue that the Firmiter merely defined that God created the angels and some primitive matter is to imagine that the Pope and the Council Fathers failed to contradict the most fundamental doctrine of the Catharist heresy by failing to define the doctrine of creation opposed to that false doctrine. As Fr. Paul M. Quay has pointed out in his work on Lateran IV, the Firmiter’s account of what God created “at once” from the beginning of time is exhaustive—that is, it includes every kind of living creature that God created: the spiritual creatures, the corporeal creatures, and man.
It is indeed certain that the Council was deeply concerned to defend God's being the unique and sole creator of all things without exception. Hence Firmiter takes over the phrase "creator of all things, visible and invisible," already utilized for just this purpose in Eastern professions of faith prior to 325 and consecrated by I Nicaea and I Constantinople. This would seem to take care of the universality of His creative activity as well as can be done, since it provides what logicians refer to as an adequate distinction (in the thirteenth century, disjunctio exclusiva), one such that all possible beings can be assigned properly to one or the other of the two categories.
Just as the phrase “spiritual creatures” encompasses all of the angels, each of them a distinct species according to Scholastic thought, so the phrase “corporeal” must encompass all of the different kinds of corporeal creatures, other than man.
Records of debates between Catholic preachers and Catharist heretics prove again and again that the phrase Creator of “all things visible and invisible” for Catholics in contrast to Cathar heretics meant all of the different kinds of creatures in heaven, on the earth and in the sea. At the end of the twelfth century, a convert from the Catharist cult named Bonacursus revealed the doctrines of the cult in a published confession. He wrote that:
Their heresy is, indeed, not only terrifying, but is, truly, too frightful and execrable to speak or hear about. For some of them say that God created all the elements, others say that the devil created these elements; but their common opinion is that the devil divided the elements. They state also that the same devil made Adam from the dust of the earth and with very great force imprisoned in him a certain angel of light . . .
At a public inquiry in Toulouse, France, in 1178, heretics were accused of teaching that
There were two gods, one good, the other evil; the good had created only invisible things, those which could not be altered or corrupted; the evil one had formed the heavens, the earth, men, and other visible things.
Nor is it possible to argue that the Firmiter would allow Catholics to believe that God used angels or other secondary causes to produce the different kinds of corporeal creatures since the Cathar belief that something other than the Most Holy Trinity created the corporeal creatures always stood at the top of the list of errors to be refuted by Catholic speakers in public debates. Writing just five years after the proclamation of the Firmiter, the Cistercian monk Caesarius of Heisterbach wrote an account of the Church’s struggles against the Albigensian/Catharist heresy and identified the principal error of the Cathars:
Some of the heresiarchs selected tenets from the teaching of Manes, others chose from among the errors which Origen is said to have written in Peri archon . . . With Manes, they believed in two principles, a good God and an evil one, the latter the devil, who, they say, created all bodies, just as the good God created all souls.
To this, a novice replies in Caesarius’ text:
Moses proves that God created bodies and souls by saying, “God formed man,” that is, the body, “of the slime of the earth and breathed into his face the breath of life,” which is the soul.
To which Caesarius replies:
If they would accept Moses and the prophets, they would not be heretics.
One of St. Dominic’s most famous and well-attested miracles settled a debate with the Alibigensians in the south of France. As recorded in “the Miracles of St. Dominic”:
Perhaps the most famous of all the miracles of this period, is that of the ordeal by fire, which took place at Fanjeaux. It was a part of St. Dominic's plan to enter into public disputations with the heretics that he might in this way reach a greater number of people. At Fanjeaux the arbitrators could not agree, and to settle the affair, it was decided that the books of the contending parties should be cast into the flames so that God, by His intervention, might declare which cause He favored. "Accordingly," the chronicler tells us, "a great fire was ignited and the two volumes were cast therein; that of the heretics was immediately consumed to ashes; the other, which had been written by the blessed man of God, Dominic, not only remained unhurt, but was borne far away by the flames in the presence of the whole assembly. Again, a second and a third time they threw it into the fire, and each time the same result clearly manifested which was the true faith; and the holiness of him who had written the book." All of these miracles are abundantly vouched for by writers of that time, and yet it seems that the hearts of the heretics had been so hardened that these evident signs from heaven produced but little effect. They would not believe, and as in the case of Christ Himself, such signs and miracles were but thrown away.
Through the prayers of the Mother of God, of St. Dominic, of St. Thomas Aquinas and of all the Holy Angels and Saints, may the Holy Ghost grant us the grace to effectively defend our Holy Faith and deliver the souls of all who live in bondage to error into the light of God’s Truth!
Yours in Christ through the Immaculata in union with St. Joseph,
P.S. Two years ago my wife directed children at our annual leadership retreat in an historically accurate play on the life of St. Dominic and his struggle against the Albigensian heresy. You can watch a video of the play at this link.