Trent: Let Me Be Anathema

The sixth session of the Council of Trent,the Canons Concerning Justification, anathematizes me how many times?

Else where in the meta Dan Phillips mentioned to me that we should have a contest.

“How many Romish anathemas can you rack up?”

I decided to count the number of anathemas that I am under from the 33 canons on justification. My count is 23 anathemas as I understand the canons. I tried to consider any nuances. Keep in mind that this is only 1 of 25 sessions of Trent.

It is a wonder if the doctrines of faith alone and imputed righteousness matter anymore. Trent has not changed so the wondering is of the Protestant side. It would not be difficult to find evidence that the doctrines are minimized today. One example is the upcoming National Conference on Christian Apologetics to be held at a baptist church which includes three (as best I can tell) Roman Catholics presenters. (As James White mentions the speakers may not have known who they were to share the stage with.) Another example comes from one of the observations from a recent evangelical conference on evangelism at the 9Marks blog.

Jonathan Leeman in Beware Your Seminary Professors writes the following.

Most of the speakers seemed only too happy to treat Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox as “brothers and sisters in the faith,” as easily as a Baptist might refer to a Presbyterian. Now, I trust that some RC and GOs are Christians, but such unqualified, unnuanced passing remarks effectively dismiss the Reformation and jeopardize souls. Don’t you realize the effect your passing comments have on sheep?

There are two recent examples from the evangelical side of things that seem to gloss over the differences between Protestants and Roman Catholics. To compromise the theological differences in an apologetics and an evangelism conference makes no sense. In both of these areas the Gospel is central. These mixes are like oil and water.

The canons in question are listed below. Also, here are two resources explaining sola fide: 1 – An mp3 from the Issues, Etc. radio show: The Reformation and Its Theology: Faith Alone. 2 – Justification by Faith Alone: The Relation of Faith to Justification by Dr. Joel Beeke.

Oh Anathema, My Anathema

Canon 4.
If anyone says that man’s free will moved and aroused by God, by assenting to God’s call and action, in no way cooperates toward disposing and preparing itself to obtain the grace of justification, that it cannot refuse its assent if it wishes, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive, let him be anathema.

Canon 6.
If anyone says that it is not in man’s power to make his ways evil, but that the works that are evil as well as those that are good God produces, not permissively only but also propria et per se, so that the treason of Judas is no less His own proper work than the vocation of St. Paul, let him be anathema.

Canon 7.
If anyone says that all works done before justification, in whatever manner they may be done, are truly sins, or merit the hatred of God; that the more earnestly one strives to dispose himself for grace, the more grievously he sins, let him be anathema.

Canon 9.
If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.

Canon 11.
If anyone says 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, and remains in them, or also that the grace by which we are justified is only the good will of God, let him be anathema.

Canon 12.
If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema.

Canon 13.
If anyone says that in order to obtain the remission of sins it is necessary for every man to believe with certainty and without any hesitation arising from his own weakness and indisposition that his sins are forgiven him, let him be anathema.

Canon 14.
If anyone says that man is absolved from his sins and justified because he firmly believes that he is absolved and justified, or that no one is truly justified except him who believes himself justified, and that by this faith alone absolution and justification are effected, let him be anathema.

Canon 15.
If anyone says that a man who is born again and justified is bound ex fide to believe that he is certainly in the number of the predestined, let him be anathema.

Canon 17.
If anyone says that the grace of justification is shared by those only who are predestined to life, but that all others who are called are called indeed but receive not grace, as if they are by divine power predestined to evil, let him be anathema.

Canon 18.
If anyone says that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to observe, let him be anathema.

Canon 19.
If anyone says that nothing besides faith is commanded in the Gospel, that other things are indifferent, neither commanded nor forbidden, but free; or that the ten commandments in no way pertain to Christians, let him be anathema.

Canon 20.
If anyone says that a man who is justified and however perfect is not bound to observe the commandments of God and the Church, but only to believe, as if the Gospel were a bare and absolute promise of eternal life without the condition of observing the commandments, let him be anathema.

Canon 23.
If anyone says that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified; or on the contrary, that he can during his whole life avoid all sins, even those that are venial, except by a special privilege from God, as the Church holds in regard to the Blessed Virgin, let him be anathema.

Canon 24.
If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema.

Canon 25.
If anyone says that in every good work the just man sins at least venially, or, what is more intolerable, mortally, and hence merits eternal punishment, and that he is not damned for this reason only, because God does not impute these works into damnation, let him be anathema.

Canon 26.
If anyone says that the just ought not for the good works done in God to expect and hope for an eternal reward from God through His mercy and the merit of Jesus Christ, if by doing well and by keeping the divine commandments they persevere to the end, let him be anathema.

Canon 27.
If anyone says that there is no mortal sin except that of unbelief, or that grace once received is not lost through any other sin however grievous and enormous except by that of unbelief, let him be anathema.

Canon 29.
If anyone says that he who has fallen after baptism cannot by the grace of God rise again, or that he can indeed recover again the lost justice but by faith alone without the sacrament of penance, contrary to what the holy Roman and Universal Church, instructed by Christ the Lord and His Apostles, has hitherto professed, observed and taught, let him be anathema.

Canon 30.
If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened,[132] let him be anathema.

Canon 31.
If anyone says that the one justified sins when he performs good works with a view to an eternal reward, let him be anathema.

Canon 32.
If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are in such manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified; or that the one justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit an increase of grace, eternal life, and in case he dies in grace, the attainment of eternal life itself and also an increase of glory, let him be anathema.

Canon 33.
If anyone says that the Catholic doctrine of justification as set forth by the holy council in the present decree, derogates in some respect from the glory of God or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, and does not rather illustrate the truth of our faith and no less the glory of God and of Christ Jesus, let him be anathema.

What did I miss? What did I let slip through?


in apologetics,Church Issues,Evangelism,Gospel,heresy,roman catholic,theology

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jason Smathers October 22, 2009 at 11:05 am

It would be interesting to go back further than Trent, then count how many anathemas the Pope racks up.

2 Mark Lamprecht October 22, 2009 at 11:21 am

Anathematizing popes would be an interesting study. I do recall one who was dug up from the grave and tried for heresy.

3 Jae October 22, 2009 at 2:29 pm

My brothers, these anathemas were proclaimed to guard against false teachings and teachers and were directed to the founders of such heresies (errors) and not to the next generations. The main purpose of the Authority of the Church is to preserve the deposit of Faith.

To every true Christian who sincerely try to follow the ways of Christ and His Teachings considerered EVERY word in the Scripture as ALL important, because it is God’s Word.

Who is to say which is important and not? Who is to say we only need to have the “essentials” and rest are not important in the Scriptures? By claiming and declaring which “one is or not important” is already an affirmation of Authority with which the protestants hated the Catholic Church for.

Minor differences in protestants?

Take for example baptism… the Church has decided that the references to Baptism in Scripture must be interpreted as teaching baptismal regeneration, no exceptions. In fact, the Council of Trent bases this teaching on John 3:5 where Jesus said: “Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Now, granted, you may have a different interpretation of that verse. In fact, yours may even sound better than ours. It’s easy to believe that the water is merely symbolic. The Bible uses symbols all the time.

But the $64,000 question is: is the Bible using symbols in John 3:5? How would we know for sure?

We seem to have at least two possibilities. In fact, there are other possibilities. Some Protestants believe the water refers to the word of God, and base that interpretation on Ephesians 5:26. Others believe the water refers to the amniotic fluid in the mother’s womb. Others believe the water is more than just a symbol but still doesn’t save anyone.

So, in effect, we have five different interpretations of John 3:5, and they all sound very good, but there can only be one correct interpretation and the others are devilish imposters. The context of John 2-4 doesn’t help too much in settling on one meaning. So what do we do? Well, the good Catholic will ask: what did John mean when he wrote the words of John 3:5?

Well, we need to ask John what he meant. But, of course, John is dead. Fortunately, however, we know what John meant because he told his fellow apostles, and they told the disciples, and they told the churches. When we examine the record of the churches (and we know them be reading the documents of those times) it is a fact that every church, every Father, every council, and every other body with any semblance of ecclesiastical authority said that the interpretation which holds that the water is the miraculous means of grace and actually procures justification is the only correct answer, and all the others are pious frauds.

I would just add as an illustration of the basis for Protestant doctrinal decisions: When Jesus said, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you,” Catholics believe that Jesus meant what he said.

Protestants believe that whatever Jesus meant, he certainly did not mean what he said.

And why? Because Jesus statement is not logical or easily understood. It is difficult, too difficult to believe by faith alone.


4 Jae October 22, 2009 at 2:44 pm

My brothers in Christ, if you look closer at what Jesus PROMISED to His Church in John 16:12-14.. “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into ALL THE TRUTH; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the THINGS THAT ARE TO COME.”

Jesus promised, ALL Truth, ALL means: whole, every single one, FULLNESS…not one or two or three “essential doctrines” but ALL and still are to COME.

If He promised that, then why do have differing doctrines amongst us? There should only be one True Church from the begining who has a living Authority from Him. There has to be, if indeed Christian doctrine is a divine revelation in which men must believe under the pain of eternal lost, then the promised (gift) of infalliability to the Church is necessary because if she could err at all, she could err in ANY POINT, the flock would have no guarantee to the ALL Truth.

Do you think it is very logical?

God Bless.

5 Paul October 22, 2009 at 10:09 pm


Christ did not promise the church an “evolving Gospel”. One that was to be expanded as time went on.

6 June June 20, 2010 at 1:17 am

And then the Pope wonders why he and his church are suffering so? Psychology now, which Catholic nuns as much as the AMA are guilty of bringing in, is also like the Egyptians whom God reversed the harms done to His Children on. The more Christians know and understand that Blood of the Lamb (of God) is at least as powerful, with a mind (of God) all its own to do His will, the better and free-er we will live. Catholic anathema’s did not stop Protestantism from flourishing, it impaired it many times, so did communism. We, who live in Christ, and understand our only salvation is by and through and under the blood of the Lamb have at least as much power to watch the curses of the servants of the enemy be turned back on themselves. That’s what happened (even before) that final night called Passover; both the first one and the night Jesus gave us Communion. Let those who have cursed the children of God be the ones, instead, who have to live under those curses. And may as many of them turn to God as can possibly happen. May the children of God serving the satanic and/or evil deeds in Psychology repent before their loved ones suffer with them for participating in the destruction of so many traditional families, and righteous people. Amen. Fiat. Fiat, Fiat. A Pope has not more power to issue a real anathema that the least among us who really do belong to the Christ.

7 SPQR February 28, 2012 at 6:25 pm


You wrote:

“I would just add as an illustration of the basis for Protestant doctrinal decisions: When Jesus said, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you,” Catholics believe that Jesus meant what he said.”

So by your logic, do you hate your father and mother (Luke 14:26)? Literally? If God is the Author of language, can He not speak in metaphor? (And don’t use the false rabbit trail of “So, does that mean you do not believe anything Jesus said?)

Go check out the real history of transsubstantiation (or homoousios). Nothing on record until at least 600 years after Christ. Jesus did not teach this heresy.

Jesus was alive before the crucifixion when he said that statement. Was He telling people to convert to cannibalism?

Did He sanction the blasphemous treatment that Roman and Greek priests infer from their invocation of “communion”? (John Francis Noll, Bishop of Fort Wayne – approval of book “Faith of Millions” by John O’Brien, pp.268-9 – see )

Or was this metaphor to describe something else (truly loving and serving Him)?

Please consider objectively what God’s Word is really saying.

Thank you,

Blind literalism obscures true meaning. Surely you would never eat a lite

8 Michael McMillan April 12, 2012 at 8:40 am

well its intersesting to me when people will take a scripture out of the bible and ignore its context,you know i dont need the catholic church to make me understand scriptue becouse God will use the Holy Spirit and mature born again christians to “sharpen my iron”, raised as a catholic in south boston,(catholic capital), i was taught to just trust the catholic church for explanations about God,,your in good hands with the all saints club you know,, the problem is that after i got saved,after i was of a reasonable age to understand i was a sinner in need of a savior,and i started reading the bible it didnt take long to see that all the things iwas taught were foriegn to scripture!,infant baptism,priest(in the n.t,), popes, nuns, 1st holy communion,purgatory,salvation by sacraments,and the list goes on and on and on,and not anly were things foriegn but many were completely opposed,and now that im saved,and by the way if protesting the devil makes one a protestant than protestant i am,, so the real 64,000 dollar question is this…”can God communicate to His creation without the roman catholic church.? and my answer is yes, im saved in spite of the roman catholic church not becouse of it,,and the many people who i have shared my faith with who are catholics are absolutely clueless about the gospel,which leads to another question..”are all roman catholics so incredibly dumb that they just dont get it ao is the R.C. church preaching a different gospel?,, its the latter, this aint the gospel the apostle paul,or saint paul preached but it is the gospel in which he said was another gospel and therefor the real anathema is the ones preaching it!,read galatians and you will know what im talking about,,and the bible also says “if anyone loves not the lord Jesus Christ let him be anathema” and Jesus said “if you love Me you will keep my words,commandments”,, im not all i should be or could be but im doing alot better since ive been filled with the Holy Spirit and left the R.C. church,,catholism was imposed on me by my family as most catholics,, i personally chose to repent and ask Jesus to save me. well anyways as far as eating Jesus flesh and drinking His blood,,you know it would help if you just read a little further in John,,,JN. 6:60-63…many therefore of His disciples when they heard this,said “this is a hard saying;who can hear it.?when Jesus knew in Himself that the disciples murmured at it,he said unto them,”does this offend you?what if you see the Son of man ascent up where He was before?it is the spirit that gives life,the flesh is useless;the words that I speak unto you they are spirit and they are life.. now how can a street brawler from southie understand this and the pope cant?,,well couse the Spirit gives life not a church,, Jesus said the flesh profits nothing!!!! you can say your eating His literal flesh but i say with Jesus it profits nothing,,these words are spiritual as He said,,dont start a whole docrine and tell people if they dont agree with you they are anathema when your wrong,,come to Him like a child and He will open your eyes and if you try to defend heresy you will answer to God,its by grace thrugh faith you are saved, its not of yourself, it is a gift of God lest anyone should boast.

9 Manfred June 26, 2012 at 2:57 pm


Most excellent testimony of the work of God in your soul! I had a boss who was a cradle Catholic and God saved her while she was recovering from cancer treatment. She left the cult of Rome and devoured the Bible, dieing 6 months later with a joyful, credible testimony of having been saved in spite of, not because of, the cult of Rome.

10 Ray Clark January 25, 2013 at 9:42 pm

I read the differing views, skimming over them as I am familiar with this internecine struggle among the Baptized. What is certainly clear to me is that we Christians have been and are largely unfaithful to the priestly prayer of Jesus that we might all be one as He is in the Father and the Father is in Him, that we might be one in Them; and unfaithful to the Word of God that there is one Faith, One Baptism, One Lord, One God and father of us all. Do any of you think this centuries’ old squabble between Christians is doing the Will of God or fulfilling the Lord’s Command that we love one another SO THAT the world might believe that the Father sent Him? How do we resolve our disunity in accord with the Lord’s Command that we be One? We can not do it if we lack humility and if we cease from asking Him to heal our divisions.

11 Kfilla March 7, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Now while counting the number of anathema’s that one presumes to be under may sound like a fun and somewhat comical way to pass the time, I was surprised to see that there is still so much misunderstanding out there about the Catholic Churches view toward our Protestant brothers and sisters who are under no Anathema. I conject that it is easier for one to persist in a belief system against Rome if that belief system is continually reinforced by data points, ideas and suppositions that presume the counter belief system is erroneous without fact checking. While it saddens me, it is also obvious to me why a protestant would continue to protest today if he were to truly believe that he were anathematized by Rome for loving Christ in and through his denominational Church. But nearly 500 years have passed since the reformation and much has changed in how we understand each other and how the Holy Spirit is moving among those who believe. In many cases we are truly one body, separated by mole hills rather than mountains and the misunderstandings regarding Trents’ Anathema’s are one of those mole hills upon which I now stomp.

Anathema refers to formal type of excommunication used under Church law prior to the revision of Canon law. Currently, it is no longer in existence as it was removed (or not renewed) in the 1983 revision of the Code of Canon Law.

You can search for the word Anathema in Canon Law here under the concordance

Historically ritualized excommunications, Anethama’s, with all the bells and whistles and snuffing out of the candle, were imposed on faithful Catholics who departed from the true faith but are no longer in effect, in fact if you read from Canon Law…

Can. 1313 1 If a law is changed after an offence has been committed, the law more favourable to the offender is to be applied.

Catholics who depart from the true faith today are applied with

latae sententiae, meaning, Sentence already passed. Can. 1364 It simply means that the individual immediately puts them outside of the sacraments of the Church by their actions.

For most of our Protestant brothers and sister who have grown up through generations of protestant denominational boundaries, I do not believe even this is imposed upon them legalistically speaking since the Laws of Roman Catholic Church apply, well, to Roman Catholics. You simply can’t excommunicate someone from Church if they are not members of that church.

But one may object that the Canons themselves still say “if anyone says, …. Let him be anathema”

This formulaic way of declaring the canons or tenents of the faith was picked up in the early councils as a way of indicating who should be formally excommunicated and simply cannot be randomly applied to our protestant brothers who Love Christ and are not yet part of our Church. It would be like me shouting out my front Door, “Katy Perry, you can no longer eat here or sleep here or call anything else in our home your own. You are no longer a part of the Filla Family!” (Nothing personal Katy, we do want you to come back home to Rome) But I think you get the analogy

Additionally an Anathema was not a declaration regarding the state of ones soul or whether or not one was damned. Its intent was to bring one to repentance and could only be applied to someone over whom the church had jurisdiction. To assert that the Church ex-communicates or anathematizes someone who has never been a member of the Catholic church in todays world is a simple misunderstanding of Church Law.

So to be clear, the Canons cannot change for they are infallible but the ritualized form of excommunication applied to them, called anathema’s can and did change in 1983. Protestants are under no anathema. In fact, protestants are truly our brothers and sisters in the Faith in as much as we confess the same Lord Jesus Christ and in how we work together to bring the God news of Salvation through Faith in Christ to the world.

Lumen Gentium from the Second Vatican Council states in section 8

“This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him,(13*) although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.”

While many may insist that stand against Rome, Rome views all christians as subsisting within her. We believe that every Christian Church who professes Christ, believes in Christ and anything that is part of the deposit of faith is part of the Catholic Church in some way.

It goes on to say

“15. The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter.

For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour. (15*) They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ.

They also share with us in prayer and other spiritual benefits. Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces whereby He is operative among them with His sanctifying power. Some indeed He has strengthened to the extent of the shedding of their blood.

Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work that this may come about. She exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the earth.”

In short, we can see Holy Spirit at work in you, he is operative, alive and at work in your congregations and we long for the day when we shall rejoice together in Christ as One Body. So count your Anathema’s my friend and I will count my blessings and maybe one day we can sit together and count the stars and pray in unity, under one Lord and One Christ, In the words of Jesus “Our Father, who are in heaven”.

12 Kfilla March 7, 2014 at 12:31 pm


You wrote:

“I would just add as an illustration of the basis for Protestant doctrinal decisions: When Jesus said, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you,” Catholics believe that Jesus meant what he said.”

So by your logic, do you hate your father and mother (Luke 14:26)? Literally?

We Catholics do not apply a set of logic rules in a one size fits all packet when we look at scripture. The main difference between John 6 and Luke 14:26 is that his disciples did not leave him in Luke 14 because the teaching was too hard.

John 6:60
60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 …

66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

So no, the same logic doesn’t apply because the context of John 6:60 makes it clear that he is not speaking figuratively. It would be silly to leave Jesus for a symbolic teaching here and even more silly for Jesus to just let them leave over a teaching that is merely symbolic in nature.

I would also like to point back at you (or to any reformed borthers/sisters) and say that if you don’t believe Jesus really means hate in LUke 14, when he says Hate your mother, then under that same logic I can simply say to you that God doesn’t really Hate Esau. Hate here is really meant that he preferred Jacob, (sane) in the same way that we should prefer God over our Mother.

Peace in Christ,

13 Tom Saltsman April 11, 2016 at 8:47 pm

Actually, these particular anathemas are more detailed but no less effective that the broad, eternal one written by St. Paul in Galatians 1:8 and preserved in scripture for all eternity. It cannot be erased.

Martin Luther –a modern incarnation of Korah of Numbers 16 & Jude 1:11–was deeply accursed. Luther was just as mad and demon-oppressed as King Saul. That’s why there are so few books about Luther: one cannot tell his life story, quote him at length, and still paint him as any kind of hero. He was a mad as a march hare. This proud, excommunicated fool was full of idiotic and filthy contradictions.

Luther’s cohorts in rebellion such as King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I were also cursed by their excommunication. These English rebels that started the Anglican Church–now headed in America by an openly lesbian bishop–were deeply mad because they were deeply accursed.

It was prophesied by a humble priest to fat, filthy King Henry VIII–who lost all self control–that the dogs would lick up his adulterous blood like King Ahab. Indeed, it happened. His daughter Queen Elizabeth I was so oppressed toward the end of her life, she refused to sleep at night for all the demons that haunted her.

Luther’s rebellious, antichrist followers that have splintered the Church into 30,000 or more demonstrations that bring ridicule to Christianity and God’s Holy Name are still cursed. These curses were made in heaven and can only be revoked by personal repentance and Church authority.

I myself once felt this horrid curse and it was only revoked when I became Catholic.

If I, as a college professor, wrote a popular textbook, widely published and distributed, and was still alive to interpret it, one would consider it mad to assume that anyone but ME could interpret what I wrote. Yet Protestants assume that the very anointed party that produced the New Testament cannot interpret it. That’s sheer madness in and of itself.


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