Comparative Theology

Contemplating Roman Catholicism?

8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!  9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! Galatians 1:8-9

Are you considering converting to Roman Catholicism?

If you are, here are some things you will need to understand about those who disagree with the Church.

What the Roman Catholic Church believes about those who disagree with the Church as stated in the Council of Trent.

There are a number of efforts being made to convert Protestants to Roman Catholicism. One such effort is the website "Called to Communion." Called to Communion is peopled by former Protestants who have converted to Roman Catholicism. They place a high premium on unity, citing John 17:16-22.

Called to Communion bills itself as Catholic and Reformed Dialogue. But if one understands the workings of the Roman Catholic Church and, particularly its magisterium, the "dialogue" can go only one way. Roman Catholicism will not, indeed cannot change. Its view of the Church's teaching authority will not permit it to change. A successful "dialogue," from the view of Roman Catholicism, can only lead to one conclusion -- the Protestant must become a Catholic.

But supposing  you have considered converting to Roman Catholicism and find out there are some things you struggle with. You can't quite bring yourself to believe wholeheartedly in some of the dogmatic teachings of Roman Catholicism that are unsupported by Scripture? What then?

The sad thing is that if you do nothing, you are the target of a great number of "Anathemas" leveled by the Church at those who do not believe exactly as the Church believes. These Anathemas stem from the Council of Trent, which was a reaction to the so-called "heresies" of the Protestant Reformation.

And that is what this article is about -- the Number of Anathemas in the Text of the Council of Trent.

The Number of Anathemas in the Text of the Council of Trent 

Edited and translated by J. Waterworth (London: Dolman, 1848) 

Scanned by Hanover College students in 1995.


 “The nineteenth ecumenical council opened at Trent on 13 December, 1545, and closed there on 4 December, 1563. Its main object was the definitive determination of the doctrines of the Church in answer to the heresies of the Protestants; a further object was the execution of a thorough reform of the inner life of the Church by removing the numerous abuses that had developed in it” (Introduction to “Council of Trent” from the Catholic Encyclopedia).

That the Council of Trent was intended to be an expose of the “heresies” of the Protestant Reformation is certainly accurate. In the 25 sessions over 18 years, no less than 151 “anathemas” were levied at the Protestants.

 There follows a tabular listing of the Session Number, the Session Topic, and the Number of Anathemas issued in the decrees of that session. Links are provided to the sessions that issued anathemas.

Session Numbers Session Topic Where Applicable Number of Anathemas
First 0
Second 0
Third 0
Fourth Canonical Scriptures and sacred books 2
Fifth Original Sin 5
Sixth Justification 34
Seventh Sacraments. Sacraments in general; baptism; confirmation 30
Eighth 0
Ninth 0
Tenth 0
Eleventh 0
Twelfth 0
Thirteenth Eucharist; Safe conduct granted to protestants 11
Fourteenth Sacraments of penance and extreme unction 20
Fifteenth 0
Sixteenth 0
Seventeenth 0
Eighteenth 0
Nineteenth 0
Twentieth 0
Twenty-First Communion; communion of infants 4
Twenty-Second Celebration of the mass 10
Twenty-Third Sacrament of order decreed in Seventh Session, in condemnation of errors 8
Twenty-Fourth Matrimony 15
Twenty-Fifth Purgatory; veneration of relics and saints, sacred images; regulars and nuns; indulgences; receiving and observing the decrees of the council – anathema to all heretics. 12
All Sessions Total Number of Anathemas 151

In the Roman Catholic Church an anathema is not merely a symbolic protest. Here is the definition of “anathema” from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Anathema remains a major excommunication which is to be promulgated with great solemnity. A formula for this ceremony was drawn up by Pope Zachary (741-52) in the chapter Debent duodecim sacerdotes, Cause xi, quest. iii. The Roman Pontifical reproduces it in the chapter Ordo excommunicandi et absolvendi, distinguishing three sorts of excommunication: minor excommunication, formerly incurred by a person holding communication with anyone under the ban of excommunication; major excommunication, pronounced by the Pope in reading a sentence; and anathema, or the penalty incurred by crimes of the gravest order, and solemnly promulgated by the Pope. In passing this sentence, the pontiff is vested in amice, stole, and a violet cope, wearing his mitre, and assisted by twelve priests clad in their surplices and holding lighted candles. He takes his seat in front of the altar or in some other suitable place, amid pronounces the formula of anathema which ends with these words: "Wherefore in the name of God the All-powerful, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, of the Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and of all the saints, in virtue of the power which has been given us of binding and loosing in Heaven and on earth, we deprive N-- himself and all his accomplices and all his abettors of the Communion of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, we separate him from the society of all Christians, we exclude him from the bosom of our Holy Mother the Church in Heaven and on earth, we declare him excommunicated and anathematized and we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate, so long as he will not burst the fetters of the demon, do penance and satisfy the Church; we deliver him to Satan to mortify his body, that his soul may be saved on the day of judgment." Whereupon all the assistants respond: "Fiat, fiat, fiat." The pontiff and the twelve priests then cast to the ground the lighted candles they have been carrying, and notice is sent in writing to the priests and neighbouring bishops of the name of the one who has been excommunicated and the cause of his excommunication, in order that they may have no communication with him. Although he is delivered to Satan and his angels, he can still, and is even bound to repent. The Pontifical gives the form for absolving him and reconciling him with the Church. The promulgation of the anathema with such solemnity is well calculated to strike terror to the criminal and bring him to a state of repentance, especially if the Church adds to it the ceremony of the Maranatha. (Emphasis mine.)

As the reader can see, all Protestants who do not agree with everything the Roman Catholic Church teaches in the sessions with anathemas are in mortal danger of hellfire.

The Catholic Church has tried to soften the impact of all these anathemas, but the anathemas have never been rescinded. Indeed, if one understands the Magisterium of the Church, how could they ever possibly be rescinded? These anathemas already are as authoritative as Scripture, which cannot be altered.

It is difficult to know how one can be "Called to Communion" with a Church that assigns the fires of hell to all those who disagree with it.

What Roman Catholicism Believes

(Scripture quotation taken from the NASB.)

Published June 11, 2013
Updated May 18, 2015

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