Originally published at: https://concordia.confident.faith/roman-confutation/article-xxvi/
1 What they afterwards assert concerning the distinction of meats and like traditions, of which they seem to make no account, must be rejected. For we know from the apostle that all power is of God, and especially that ecclesiastical power has been given by God for edification: for this reason, from the Christian and devout heart of the holy Church the constitutions of the same holy, catholic and apostolic Church should be received as are useful to the Church, as well for promoting divine worship as for restraining the lust of the flesh, while they enable us the more readily to keep the divine commands, and when well considered are found in the Holy Scriptures; and he who despises or rashly resists them grievously offends God, according to Christ’s word: “He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth Him that sent me.” Luke 10:16. A prelate, however, is despised when his statutes are despised, according to St. Paul, not only when he says: “He that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his Holy Spirit,” 1 Thess. 4:8, but also to the bishops: “Take heed, therefore, unto yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to rule (Vulgate) the Church of God,” Acts 20:28. If prelates, therefore, have the power to rule, they will have the power also to make statutes for the salutary government of the Church and the growth of subjects. For the same apostle enjoined upon the Corinthians that among them all things should be done in order, 1 Cor. 14:40; but this cannot be done without laws. On that account he said to the Hebrews: “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give an account,” Heb. 13:17. Here St. Paul reckons not only obedience, but also the reason for obedience. We see that St. Paul exercised this power, as, in addition to the Gospel, he prescribed so many laws concerning the choice of a bishop, concerning widows, concerning women, that they have their heads veiled, that they be silent in the church, and concerning even secular matters, 1 Thess. 4:1, 2, 6; concerning civil courts, 1 Cor. 6:1ff. And he says to the Corinthians very clearly: “But to the rest speak I, not the Lord.” 1 Cor. 7.12, and again he says elsewhere: “Stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle,” 2 Thess. 2:15.
2 Wherefore, the princes and cities must be admonished to render obedience to ecclesiastical statutes and constitutions, lest when they withdraw obedience that is due God, obedience may be withdrawn also from them by their subjects, as their subjects attempted in the recent civil insurrection, not to allow themselves to be seduced by false doctrines. Most false also is their declaration that the righteousness of faith is obscured by such ordinances; nay, he is rather mad and insane who would observe them without faith. For they are given to believers, and not to Turks or Ishmaelites. “For what have I to do to judge them that are without?” 1 Cor. 5:12. Moreover, in extolling here faith above all things they antagonize St. Paul, as we have said above, and do violence to St. Paul, whom they pervert to evangelical works when he speaks of legal works, as all these errors have been above refuted. False also is it that ecclesiastical ordinances obscure God’s commands, since they prepare man for these, as fasts suppress the lust of the flesh and help him from falling into luxury. False also is it that it is impossible to observe ordinances, for the Church is not a cruel mother who makes no exceptions in the celebration of festivals and in fasting and the like.
3 Furthermore, they falsely quote Augustine in reply to the inquiries of Januarius, who is diametrically opposed to them. For in this place he most clearly states that what has been universally delivered by the Church be also universally observed. But in indifferent things, and those whose observance and non- observance are free, the holy father Augustine states that, according to the authority of St. Ambrose, the custom of each church should be observed. “When I come back to Rome,” he says, “I fast on the Sabbath, but when here I do not fast.” Besides, they do violence to the Scriptures while they endeavor to support their errors. For Christ (Matt. 15) does not absolutely disapprove of human ordinances, but of those only that were opposed to the law of God, as is clearly acknowledged in Mark 7:8, 9. Here also Matt. 15:3 says: “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” So Paul (Col. 2) forbids that any one be judged in meat or in drink, or in respect to the Sabbath, after the Jewish manner; for when the Church forbids meats it does not judge them to be unclean, as the Jews in the Synagogue thought. So the declaration of Christ concerning that which goeth into the mouth (Matt. 15:11) is cited here without a sure and true understanding of it, since its intention was to remove the error of the Jews, who thought that food touched by unwashen hands becomes unclean, and rendered one eating it unclean, as is manifest from the context. Nor does the Church bring back to these observances Moses with his heavy hands.
4 In like manner they do violence to St. Paul, for 1 Tim. 4:1, 4, he calls that a doctrine of demons that forbids meats, as the Tatianites, Marcionites and Manichaeans thought that meats were unclean, as is clear from the words that follow, when St. Paul adds: “Every creature of God is good.” But the church does not forbid meats on the ground that they are evil or unclean, but as an easier way to keep God’s commandments; therefore the opposite arguments fail. If they would preach the cross and bodily discipline and fasts, that in this way the body be reduced to subjection, their doctrine would be commendable; but their desire that these be free is condemned and rejected as alien to the faith and discipline of the Church. Nor does the diversity of rites support them, for this is properly allowed in regard to particular matters, in order that each individual province may have its own taste satisfied, as Jerome says; but individual ecclesiastical rites should be universally observed, and special rites should be observed each in their own province. Also, they make no mention of Easter for the Roman pontiffs reduced the Asiatics to a uniform observance of Easter with the universal Church. In this way Irenaeus must be understood, for without the loss of faith some vigils of the apostles were not celebrated with fasting throughout Gaul, which Germany nevertheless observes in fasts. The princes and cities must also be admonished to follow the decision of Pope Gregory, for he enjoins that the custom of each province be observed if it employs nothing contrary to the Catholic faith, Canon Quoniam, Distinct. xii. Hence we are not ignorant that there is a various observance of dissimilar rites in unity of faith, which should be observed in every province as it has been delivered and received from the ancients, without injury, however, to the universal rites of the entire Catholic Church.