‘May we bring fire of God’s love to all’, Pope Francis to Cardinals

In his homily during the Consistory, Pope Francis encourages 20 newly-created Cardinals to embrace apostolic zeal and bear witness to God’s boundless love, and asks everyone to pray for new Cardinal Richard Kuuia Baawobr, Bishop of Wa, Ghana, who was hospitalized Friday after arriving in Rome.

By Vatican News staff reporter

Quoting a passage from Luke’s Gospel when Jesus says, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!”, Pope Francis focused his homily on the image of fire, the “powerful flame of the Spirit of God,” reflecting “a passionate love that purifies, regenerates and transfigures all things.”

He looked at two examples of this “fire”: the “consuming fire” of God’s love, and the “quiet and gentle” charcoal fire that Jesus started at the shore when cooking fish for the disciples, as recounted in John’s Gospel. 

Consistory for the creation of new Cardinals

Consistory for the creation of new Cardinals

The Pope was speaking on Saturday at the Ordinary Public Consistory for the creation of Cardinals held in St. Peter’s Basilica. This was Pope Francis’ eighth Consistory, and he created 20 new Cardinals, 16 of whom are under the age of 80, thus electors in a future Conclave, and four non-electors, over the age of 80. He also asked everyone to pray for Ghanaian Cardinal Richard Kuuia Baawobr, the Bishop of Wa, Ghana, who fell ill upon his arrival in Italy on Friday and spent Saturday in hospital.

After the Consistory, Pope Francis and the new Cardinals present visited Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican Gardens, praying together the Salve Regina.

Fire of God’s boundless love

In his homily during the Consistory, the Pope noted that for those who have been given a ministry of particular service, “it is as if Jesus is handing us a lighted torch and telling us: ‘Take this; as the Father has sent me so I now send you’.”  In this way, he said, the Lord gives us His own “apostolic courage” and zeal for the salvation of every human being, without exception. 

“He wants to share with us His magnanimity, His boundless and unconditional love, for His heart is afire with the mercy of the Father.”

Within this fire, the Pope explained, there exists a “mysterious tension” of His mission in reaching out in fidelity to His people, but with “openness to all peoples, to the horizons of the world, to peripheries as yet unknown.”

“This,” he said, “is the fire that Jesus came to ‘bring to the earth’, a fire that the Holy Spirit kindles in the hearts, hands and feet of all those who follow Him.”

Consistory for the creation of new Cardinals

Consistory for the creation of new Cardinals

Charcoal fire of tenderness

The charcoal fire, the Pope explained, reflects Jesus’ “meekness, fidelity, closeness and tenderness,” and how to “savour the presence of Jesus alive in our midst.”  

“Like that charcoal fire, His presence becomes warmth and nourishment for our daily life.”

The Pope cited the example of Saint Charles de Foucauld, “who lived for years in a non-Christian environment, in the solitude of the desert, staking everything on presence: the presence of the living Jesus, in the word and in the Eucharist, and his own presence, fraternal, amicable and charitable.” 

He mentioned other examples of religious and priests “who persevere in selfless and unassuming ministry,” as well as married couples who keep the flame of God’s love alive through their humble service and raising of children. He mentioned the fire to which the elderly witness through their memory and experience shared with family and community, uniting and moving forward people of different generations.

“Dear brother Cardinals, by the light and in the strength of this fire walk the holy and faithful people from whom we were taken and to whom we have been sent as ministers of Christ the Lord.”

Consistory for the creation of new Cardinals

Consistory for the creation of new Cardinals

Examples of God’s living fire

Pope Francis encouraged the 20 new Cardinals to reflect on how the twofold fire of Jesus is experienced in their own lives and to see how “a man of apostolic zeal is impelled by the fire of the Spirit to be concerned, courageously, with things great and small.”

Recalling two particular testimonies, the Pope spoke of Italian Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, known for his openness to promoting farsighted dialogue to respond to the new hopes that opened up in Europe following the Cold War. While he focused on this large issues, he also humbly and quietly carried out regular visits to inmates in his pastoral outreach through prison ministry.

He also recalled late Vietnamese Cardinal Van Thuân, who during the twentieth century “was led by the fire of his love for Christ to care for the soul of the prison guards who watched over him at the door of his prison cell.”

In conclusion, Pope Francis encouraged everyone to contemplate Jesus, who shows us “this lowly grandeur, this unassuming power, this universal vision ever attentive to particulars.” Speaking metaphorically, he said the secret of God’s fire brightens the sky and slowly cooks the food of poor families, migrant and homeless persons. 

“Today, too, Jesus wants to bring this fire to the earth. He wants to light it anew on the shores of our daily lives. Jesus calls us by name; He looks us in the eye and He asks: Can I count on you?”

The Life of Grace

Editor’s note: This article is part 5 of a series, “The Kingdom of Grace.”  Part 4 can be found here. 

Grace is a special gift of divine Love, different from all the blessings of nature, and stands out from them all. God has loved us excessively and poured out himself upon us. He gives us himself, his uncreated grace when he gives the person of Jesus Christ and pours his Holy Spirit into our hearts.

He also gives us created graces so that we might consciously receive the gift of himself, and freely respond to him in love. Created graces, however, to more than give us the ability to welcome God and respond to him. They actually adapt us to living in a higher milieu – the milieu of divine Life up above in the heavenly places.

Let us try to explain this mystery a bit.

Love makes us come alive. When two people fall in love with one another, do they not come alive in a new way? So, too, it is when God loves us in a special way, and gives us his grace. When the grace of God comes to us, our souls come alive, but our souls come alive with a form of life different from all the forms of life found in nature.

The life of grace is not of this world. It is obviously not a form of plant life or animal life. It is not a form of human life per se. It is not even a form of angelic life. The angels live a purely spiritual form of life abounding in the most sublime knowing, loving, and freedom. But the life of grace is not the angelic form of life. The life of grace is, in fact, beyond all the natural forms of life whether in this world or in the world of the angels.

The life of grace is strictly supernatural. That means it is above the natures of all creatures whatsoever. The life of grace is, therefore, truly all-surpassing. When our Lord Jesus said “I came that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10), he revealed the intention of God to animate us with something of his very own supernatural and divine Life

Now, when such an announcement is made the proper response is for the jaw to drop and the eyebrows to raise. If there is one thing that is obvious about human beings, or should be obvious, it is our poverty before God. It is simply not possible for us to live the very life of God by our own human strength. Surely, however, God can lift us up to live on his level if it should so please him. For if one human being can open his home to another, and invite the other in to live there, dwell there, and share life together, why cannot God do the same with human beings? 

For if one human being can open his home to another, and invite the other in to live there, dwell there, and share life together, why cannot God do the same with human beings? – Fr. James Brent, O.P.

Indeed, it has always been the purpose of God’s will to do so, that is, to open his Life to us and call us into his house to live there and dwell there for eternity. The very first statement of the Catechism says so: “God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness, freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life.”

In order to get a better sense of what sharing in the blessed life of God actually means, let us consider an analogy.

J.R. Tolkien was a man who lived in Oxford, studied and taught there, frequented the pubs there, and wrote stories of fiction. He lived in the world of Oxford, but he produced another world – the narrative world of the Lord of the Rings. Now, let us imagine if Tolkien could reach into the narrative world he created, take hold of one of the characters, lift the character out of the narrative world, and set the character down with himself in a pub in the world of Oxford just to enjoy a beer together and have a conversation. Tolkien would thus give to the character an existence and form of life in a whole new order – the order of reality. Impossible though it may be for human authors to do so with their fictional characters, it is possible for God to do something like this with persons in the world of nature. Indeed, God has done so by giving us grace. 

When someone is baptized, and God creates in the soul sanctifying grace, the infused virtues, the gifts and fruits of the Spirit, it is somewhat like Tolkien reaching into his narrative world and lifting up a character out of the story. By creating such graces in our souls, God reaches down so to speak, and lifts us up out of the natural order to live in a whole new order – in the supernatural order, in the unapproachable Light, in the world of God himself, in the Holy Trinity. The marvel of the created graces we receive in our baptism is that they adapt us to live beyond nature in the world of God. 

Created graces enable us to know God, love God, and enjoy God on the most personal, intimate, and familiar terms. They also enable us to act in the ways he secretly and inwardly inclines us to act in order to go to him. By knowing him, loving him, and enjoying him on such familiar and personal terms, and by going to him according to his actual graces and inspirations at work in our hearts, you and I actually live to some extent the very Life of God. We live his Life in the depths of our hearts by grace. 

Thanks to his created grace at work in our souls, it becomes more or less normal for us to commune with God, and to interact personally with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our interaction with them might be silent, in the depths of our souls, or it might be in the liturgy of the Church. It might in some ways be both.

One way or another, to live such a supernatural and divine Life, to be so personally familiar with God, to know him and love him so intimately, and to interact with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as a living presence in our lives is far beyond all the powers of our human nature.  

The good news is that God is now calling all people up to live on his level. He is calling all to live in the supernatural order – to go up by grace into the unapproachable Light in which God himself dwells. In order to accomplish his plan for us to do so, God gives actual graces to all people everywhere, but in different ways. Through the touches and promptings of his grace, God walks with all people everywhere and directs their course. His actual graces serve myriads of purposes in people’s lives, and God alone knows them all.

One of the primary reasons, however, that God gives actual graces to all people is to lead all of humanity by stages and degrees to the grace given in baptism. For in baptism a human being receives sanctifying grace – a personal share in the very life of God who comes to dwell in the soul. Sanctifying grace is no transitory touch of God, but something of his supernatural and divine Life rooted in the depths of our souls. Sanctifying grace is the root of the whole spiritual life in us.

Spiritual life is an ancient expression of our sacred tradition, and it means something specific. To say what it means is, in a way, the purpose of the rest of the series.  For now, it suffices to say that those who live the spiritual life learn to say with all confidence: “I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living” (Ps. 116:9). In order to do so, however, one needs the light of grace, and that is the topic of the next article.

Facebook Reduced Reach of Posts About Hunter Biden Laptop in Lead-up to 2020 Election: Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg speaks in New York City on Oct. 25, 2019. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Mark Zuckerberg speaks in New York City on Oct. 25, 2019. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Big Tech, Censorship, and Socialism

Says move was based on advice from FBI

By Mimi Nguyen Ly August 26, 2022

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, the parent company of Facebook, told podcast host Joe Rogan in a recent interview that the company actively reduced the reach of social media posts referencing the story about Hunter Biden’s laptop in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election.

On the Aug. 25 episode of “The Joe Rogan Experience,” Zuckerberg said that the move was in response to a general advisory from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to some Facebook staffers to be vigilant for Russian propaganda before the 2020 election.

Zuckerberg’s remarks were in response to Rogan’s question: “How do you handle things when there’s a big news item that’s controversial, like there was a lot of attention on Twitter during the election because of the Hunter Biden laptop story?”

In response to Rogan’s question, Zuckerberg said: “The background here is the FBI I think basically came to some folks on our team [and] were like, ‘Hey, just so you know, you should be on high alert. We thought that there was a lot of Russian propaganda in the 2016 election, we have it on notice that basically there’s about to be some kind of dump similar to that, so just be vigilant.’”

Zuckerberg said that the protocol Facebook took was “different from Twitter’s.”

“What Twitter did [was] they said ‘you can’t share this at all.’ We didn’t do that,” Zuckerberg said, referring to the Hunter Biden laptop story. “What we do is, if something is reported to us as potentially misinformation, important misinformation—we also do third-party fact-checking programs because we don’t want to be deciding what’s true and false—and for the, I think it was five or seven days when it was basically being determined whether it was false, the distribution on Facebook was decreased, but people were still allowed to share it. So you can still share it, you could still consume it.”

joe biden and hunter biden
Former Vice President Joe Biden (L) and his son Hunter Biden at the Duke Georgetown NCAA college basketball game in Washington on Jan. 30, 2010. (Nick Wass/AP Photo)

FBI Allegedly Obtained Hunter’s Laptop

The laptop of President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, became the subject of multiple media reports in October 2020 after the New York Post broke the story. According to the reports, content found on the laptop showed Joe Biden’s as well as his brother James’s and son Hunter’s involvement in various overseas business ventures in countries such as Ukraine, Russia, China, and other countries—including during the time Joe Biden was vice president during the Obama administration—and showed payments received in connection with their involvement. The laptop also contained other content, including pornographic images and illicit data.

At the time, the New York Post reported that the laptop had been allegedly seized by the FBI and a copy of the files given to Rudy Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello, by an electronics repair shop owner.

The Hunter Biden laptop story was quickly censored and suppressed on various social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook. Legacy media outlets initially dismissed the news as Russian disinformation and did not acknowledge the authenticity of the laptop until two years later, when outlets including The Washington Post and The New York Times published articles verifying and acknowledging the authenticity of the laptop.

More than 50 former intelligence officials, including former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, signed a letter (pdf) in October 2021 claiming, with no evidence, that the story about Hunter Biden’s laptop was Russian disinformation. The letter was later cited by then-presidential candidate Biden during the second presidential debate to assert that stories surrounding his son’s laptop were Russian disinformation.

In March, Former Attorney General William Barr admitted that in the aftermath of the letter, he was informed by former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and the FBI that the laptop was authentic and was in the FBI’s possession, but did not speak publicly about it in his role as attorney general.

‘No One Was Able to Say it Was False’: Zuckerberg

Zuckerberg explained to Rogan that Facebook ranked the posts about Hunter Biden’s laptop in the newsfeed “a little bit less, so fewer people saw it than would have otherwise.” Zuckerberg did not quantify the level at which Facebook decreased the distribution of the posts, but said that “it’s meaningful.”

“But basically, a lot of people were still able to share it,” he told Rogan. “We got a lot of complaints that that was the case. You know, obviously, this was a hyper-political issue. So depending on what side of the political spectrum, you either think we didn’t censor it enough or censored way too much.

“But we weren’t sort of as black and white about it as Twitter. We just kind of thought, hey look, if the FBI—which I still view as a legitimate institution in this country, it’s a very professional law enforcement—they come to us and tell us that we need to be on guard about something, then I want to take that seriously.”

When asked whether the FBI specified that Facebook needed to “be on guard” about the Hunter Biden laptop story, Zuckerberg responded: “No. I don’t remember if it was that specifically. But it was, it basically fit the pattern.”

Rogan asked whether there was any “regret” about suppressing content that turned out be factual, Zuckerberg said: “Yeah, yeah. I mean, it sucks.”

“It turned out after the fact, I mean, the fact-checkers looked into it, no one was able to say it was false,” he told Rogan. “So it basically had this period where it was getting less distribution … it sucks though I think in the same way that probably ‘having to go through like a criminal trial but being proven innocent in the end’ sucks. It still sucks that you had to go through a criminal trial, but at the end you’re free.

“I don’t know if the answer would’ve been don’t do anything or don’t have any process, I think the process was pretty reasonable, we still let people share it, but obviously you don’t want situations like that,” Zuckerberg said.

Facebook’s logo on a smartphone screen. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images)

Coverup Impacted Election Results: Poll, Investigative Journalists

A poll by New Jersey-based Technometrica Institute of Policy and Politics in early August of 1,335 adults showed that 79 percent of Americans believe former President Donald Trump likely would have won reelection if people had known the truth about Hunter Biden’s laptop.

Investigative journalists Jeff Carlson and Hans Mahncke said in a commentary piece for The Epoch Times that legacy media’s and Big Tech’s coverup of the Hunter Biden laptop story impacted the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

Carlson and Mahncke also noted in a separate piece that a poll by Media Research (pdf) showed that 45 percent of people who voted for Biden were “unaware of the allegations against Hunter and Joe Biden and that 16 percent of Biden voters—well over the margin of victory—wouldn’t have voted for him had they known this crucial information.”

Carlson told EpochTV’s “Crossroads” program in a later interview: “[Recent] polls indicate that if the media had just been honest about what was going on with Hunter’s laptop, and hadn’t just suppressed the story, then we might have had a different election outcome.”

Hunter Biden is currently under federal investigation for alleged tax fraud, lobbying crimes, and money laundering. He confirmed in December 2020 that his business deals were being investigated; the probe is being led by Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss, a prosecutor appointed by Trump. The federal probe dates back to 2018—a year before Joe Biden announced his candidacy for president—multiple media outlets previously reported, citing unnamed sources.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who in March this year entered into congressional record “content from, files from, and copies from Hunter Biden’s laptop,” has said that Republican lawmakers must focus on investigating Hunter Biden’s laptop if they control of the House in the November 2022 midterms.

The Republican congressman noted that Biden had previously insisted that he and his son Hunter never discussed Hunter’s business dealings.

“I think what’s really instructive here is that Joe Biden originally took the position that he and Hunter never discussed Hunter’s business. And now we know that was a lie,” Gaetz told Crossroads in an interview in late July. “That was a lie based on the voicemails that we’ve recovered from Joe Biden talking about Hunter’s business deals with him. We know that as a result of photographs, where Joe Biden is with people who Hunter Biden is soliciting for money.”

God-talk in a culture without clothes

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bioarticlesemail ) | Aug 26, 2022

Sometimes when I watch nature programs, I become annoyed by the constant statements that “nature” has done this or “nature” has done that. It is almost as if “nature” is somebody’s name, and should start with a capital N. This is a measure of how afraid people are to speak about God. Our modern material culture is far more comfortable—at least in the short run—refusing to probe beyond the surface of things. It is easier to live in denial of ultimate reality.

Paradoxically, if the latest data and conclusions from the physical sciences were spread as rapidly and forcefully as the scarcely-developed theory of evolution was about a century ago, the typical school child would be learning things like this:

  • As far as we can tell, the universe had a distinct beginning roughly 13.8 billion years ago, apparently exploding out of a super-compressed core, of which scientific study cannot explain the origin. This is why we live in an ever-expanding universe.
  • Relying on a totally random interpretation of the theory of evolution (that is, a completely unguided evolution), that length of time is not even remotely sufficient to explain the development of the highly complex, cohesive, interdependent, and successful combination of life-forms that we know today. The statistics of probability essentially rule it out.
  • Our planet appears to be tuned to what is called the “anthropic principle”. In dramatic distinction from any other planet we have any information about, planet Earth exhibits an enormous array of environmental factors which are all extremely finely calibrated so that biological life (at least as we know it) can survive and develop. The odds against the required combination of factors occurring by chance are astronomical, even in an imaginary cosmic multiverse of thousands upon thousands of different “universes”.

I am just scratching the surface, of course. But you would think that a genuinely scientific culture would run smack into the need to answer the God question in the affirmative each and every day, instead of pretending that modern scientific study has somehow eliminated the need for recourse to the Divine to explain anything at all. In any case, the philosophical arguments which so clearly suggest the existence of God are just as strong as ever, even if we prefer in our educational institutions to ignore them. For example, we can still easily recognize the classic five ways of grasping the existence of God which were drawn from the Western philosophical tradition and summarized by St. Thomas Aquinas.

The flight from contingency

My personal favorite is the argument from contingency (with which the bullet points listed above fit very nicely). This argument begins by noticing that everything we encounter in what we call the natural world is dependent on something else. In other words, nothing that we can observe exists completely independently. Rather, everything is contingent upon something else. This is as obvious for a molecule of oxygen or for a rock as it is for a human person. But if this is true, nothing whatsoever could exist unless there is somewhere a non-contingent being that we do not see, on which everything else ultimately depends for its existence.

Similar to the arguments about the first cause and the prime mover, the argument from contingency proceeds to a necessary logical conclusion from our own experience and the experience of anyone who has observed or studied anything in this universe over thousands of years. The necessary non-contingent being must, of course, be a being whose essence is existence itself, the one being who simply cannot not exist, and logically the only such being of that type: In other words, the stupendous “I am”, that is, God.

Scientific developments, especially in physics, over the past several generations strongly suggest (but of course cannot prove) that the universe is inexplicable without the existence of God. It reveals a great deal about the materialist prejudices and desires of our affluent “elites” that these scientific conclusions have not driven the “intellectual establishment” back to an apprehension of the existence of God in the same way that the nineteenth-century theory of evolution was, in its very under-developed infancy, used to help drive the “intellectual establishment” into the denial of God.

But of course the existence of God was always within the capacity of the human person to intuit from his ordinary interior and exterior experiences. Therefore, we invariably find that the rejection of such a basic vision of reality is shrouded in selfish indulgence and the desire to put off all thought of judgment. If we turn to the highly-developed (and, as it happens, Divinely revealed) religious experience of ancient Israel, two nearly identical psalms (numbers 14 and 53), both almost certainly composed roughly 2,600 years ago, express this insight:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good…. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt…. Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the LORD?

Going deeper

The perspective of the Psalms displays remarkable insight into the social and spiritual factors which tumble together into how we answer the God question. Despite some who seek truth with a relatively open heart, it is the desire for immediate gratification through the mesmerizing attraction of evil that makes our corrupt contemporary culture press us so hard to flee in the opposite direction. Jesus Christ, who had a deeply personal knowledge of these realities at every level, expressed the same problem with acute psychological insight: “Those who do evil hate the light” (Jn 3:20). Even worse, the cultural dominance of a felt need to deny God places enormous obstacles in the path of those who might otherwise, as Our Lord also put it, “turn again and be forgiven” (Mk 4:12).

The physical sciences, of course, cannot prove the existence of God. The true nature of any discipline is to use tools and methods which are proper to its subject matter. No branch of study can be used to prove conclusions about what is beyond its purview. The error, of course, comes in the assumption that the purview appropriate to a particular discipline is all there is. In earlier periods, when the study of material things was not nearly so advanced and so specialized, it was possible for an educated person to gain a strong sense of what each discipline is for, and how all of them fit together to give us greater knowledge of all of reality. With so much specialization today, there is a tendency of too many scholars to elevate their own disciplines into universal tools that can provide universal explanations.

But they can’t. Once we begin thinking our own academic (or personal) preoccupations encompass all there is or all that matters, we become intolerably bigoted. We grow increasingly hostile to those who raise questions about which our own areas of interest and study have nothing to say. We live in a culture which depends almost absolutely—and certainly prejudicially—on turning a blind eye to realities which can undermine the prevailing assumptions. All cultures are like this to a degree, but ours quite literally makes its living at.

There is a radical urgency about all this, for if any more light is allowed in, people will begin to see that not only the emperor but the imperial culture itself is utterly naked and frighteningly exposed. Our present culture believes that material satisfaction is the essence of life, and therefore that intrinsically temporary distractions are the only source of happiness. More than ever we must live counter-culturally. The only choice left is between despair and Jesus Christ.

The Protestants Who Came Before the Protestants

The Protestant Reformation is usually attributed to figures like Martin Luther and John Calvin. But they had to get their inspiration from somewhere.

Steve Weidenkopf 8/26/2022

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The proto-Protestants were heretics in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries whose teachings and actions laid the groundwork for Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other sixteenth-century Reformers. They advocated the later bedrock Protestant principle of sola scriptura, or the belief that the only authoritative source of God’s divine revelation is Sacred Scripture. These proto-Protestants also called for the reform of Church abuses and advanced various heretical opinions in an effort to undermine the Church. The two main proto-Protestants were John Wycliffe (1324-1384) and Jan Hus (1369-1415).

John Wycliffe was born in Yorkshire, England and studied at Oxford, where he was recognized as a brilliant student. He became a professor of philosophy and theology at his alma mater. Wycliffe was a pure academic—an intellectual man who did not motivate or lead. He provided the ideas and let others perform the actions.

At Oxford, Wycliffe advocated several heretical teachings in lectures and books. In terms of fundamental Catholic doctrines, he attacked the eucharistic doctrine of transubstantiation. In his book On the Eucharist, he denied the occurrence of transubstantiation and advocated that, instead, the bread and wine remain present after the prayer of consecration. He opined that the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is not a real flesh-and-blood presence, but is symbolic. Wycliffe also condemned the veneration of the saints, indulgences, and prayers for the dead.

Heresy is extremely difficult to eradicate, and despite the condemnation of the Church, it can persist and reappear in later centuries. In addition to the above, Wycliffe proved the resiliency of heresy by advocating Donatism, originally a fourth-century heresy that advocated that the validity of a sacrament relies on the worthiness of the minister. According to the Donatists—and to Wycliffe—bishops or priests in a state of mortal sin cannot effect the sacraments.

Wycliffe’s original contributions to heresy mostly involved erroneous teachings concerning the Church. He defined the Church as an “invisible transcendent society” that is neither hierarchically structured nor united to the bishop of Rome, but rather is present in all the people of Christ. Moreover, he attacked the papacy and referred to the pope as “the man of sin” and “Lucifer’s member.” Wycliffe believed that the state holds supremacy over the Church and advocated for the confiscation of Church property. He also taught that the Bible is the only authoritative source of God’s divine revelation (sola scriptura). Finally, he denied the existence of free will, opining that man is completely subject to the will of God. The Church did not ignore Wycliffe’s heretical teachings; the archbishop of Canterbury censured him in 1377.

Wycliffe gained popularity because he attacked ecclesiastical abuses and exploited latent nationalist anger at the papacy in the midst of its sojourn in Avignon. Groups of Wycliffe followers, known as the poor priests and later as Lollards, traveled throughout England preaching his heresy. Two of his followers undertook a new translation of Scripture into English, which the Church condemned—not because it was in the vernacular (multiple English editions of the Bible existed well before Wycliffe; see Where We Got the Bible by Henry Graham, chapter 11, “Vernacular Scriptures Before Wycliff”), but because the translation was rife with error.

Wycliffe’s sovereign, King Richard II of England, married Princess Anne of Bohemia in 1382. As a result of the union, cultural and educational exchanges occurred between the two nations. Bohemian students came to Oxford to study, where they encountered the teachings of John Wycliffe. They brought these heretical teachings to Prague, where the priest, teacher, and popular preacher Jan Hus embraced and expounded upon them. Like Wycliffe, Hus began preaching against corruption in the Church and ecclesial abuses.

There were significant problems in the Church in Bohemia at the time. Clerical immorality was rampant, and there was widespread resentment against the Church, which owned nearly fifty percent of all land in the kingdom. These issues along with the presence of a heavy anti-German nationalist sentiment (the kingdom was part of the German-based Holy Roman Empire) produced a rich environment for reformers and heretics.

Jan Hus studied philosophy and theology at the University of Prague, where he was appointed a professor in 1398. He rose through the university administration and became rector in 1402. He was a popular and commanding preacher. Adopting most of Wycliffe’s teachings, Hus challenged Catholic doctrine on papal authority, advocated sola scriptura, and denied Sacred Tradition as an element of the Deposit of Faith. He also condemned the veneration of the saints and the granting of indulgences. Like Wycliffe, he viewed the hierarchy of the Church as ministers of Satan and denied the universal jurisdiction and primacy of the pope. Hus believed that the Church was built on the personal faith of St. Peter and that Jesus did not institute the Petrine Office.

The University of Prague condemned Wycliffe’s teachings in 1403, but Hus continued to propagate them. The archbishop of Prague excommunicated him in 1410. Violence erupted in the city, and crowds burned copies of papal bulls. Hus was forced to flee the city in 1412 and stayed in the castle of a friend, where he wrote his heretical work Treatise on the Church.

Toward the end of his life, Martin Luther would bemoan the religious indifference wrought by the movement he began:

Who among us could have foreseen how much misery, corruption, scandal, blasphemy, ingratitude, and wickedness would have resulted from it? Only see how the nobles, the burghers, and the peasants are trampling religion underfoot! I have had no greater or severer subject of assault than my preaching, when the thought arose in me: thou art the sole author of this movement.

But as we can see, Luther was not the sole author of Protestantism, nor did the errors and distortions of the Protestant Reformation start with him or his contemporaries. They had the proto-Protestants to pave the way. There really is nothing new under the sun.