The Pastor’s work, according to Trent

The title of this post is slightly inaccurate, but only for the sake of brevity. The full title should be “The Pastor’s Work, According to the Catechism of the Council of Trent”. This catechism was promulgated by Pope Pius V in 1566 as the completion of a purpose intended by the Council of Trent. Here are a couple portions from the Preface of the work related to how it was intended to be used by parish priests:

The work of a teacher in the Church will therefore chiefly be directed to this end, that the faithful earnestly desire to know Jesus Christ and him crucified, that they be firmly convinced within themselves, and with the innermost piety and devotion of heart, believe, that there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved, for he is the propitiation for our sins. But as hereby do we know that we have known him, if we keep his commandments, the next consideration, and one intimately connected with the preceding, is to show also that the lives of the faithful are not to be wasted in ease and sloth, but that we ought to walk even as [Christ] himself walked, and with all zeal follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, charity, meekness; for he gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a people acceptable, following after good works. These things the apostle commands pastors to speak and exhort.

[W]hatever is proposed [by the pastor], whether it be to be believed, hoped, or practised, the love of God should be so strongly pointed out therein, that any one may clearly perceive that all the works of perfect Christian virtue can have no other origin, nor be referred to any other end, than divine love. [Preface; emphasis added]

The reader will probe in vain for the alleged “legalism” or “works salvation” so frequently asserted of Trent. To the contrary, what matters as far as the motivation of our works is love of God. But this is exactly what Jesus commanded: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Meanwhile, the teacher’s job is not to create little legalists but rather to work so that Christians will “earnestly desire to know Jesus Christ and him crucified…and with the innermost piety and devotion of heart, believe, that there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved, for he is the propitiation for our sins.” Again, there is nothing here of teaching people that they are saved by anything else than Jesus Christ.

And this Catechism was in official use for nearly four centuries. It is pretty clear that the Catholic Church‘s critics have not bothered to read what the Church has been teaching all along on this score.

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Posted in Apologetics, Catechism, Council of Trent

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