AERIUS, as I have said above, was the first to teach against Catholics that the prayers they offered for the dead were superstitious. He still has followers in our age in this point. Our Lord in his gospel (Matt. xviii.) furnishes us our rule of action on such occasions. If thy brother shall o ffend thee . . . tell the Church. And if he will not hear the Church let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican. Let us hear then what the Church says on this matter, in Africa, at the 3d Council Of Carthage (c. 29), and at the 4th (c. 79); in Spain, at the Council of Braga (cc. 34, 39); in France, at the Council of Chalons (de cons. d. 2, Can. visum est), and at the 2nd Council of Orleans (c. 14); in Germany, at the Council of Worms (c. 20); in Italy, at the 6th Council under Symmachus; in Greece, as may be seen in their synods, collected by Martin of Braga (c. 69). And by all these Councils you will see that the Church approves of prayer for the departed, and consequently of Purgatory. Afterwards, what she had defined by parts she defined in her general body at the Council of Lateran under Innocent III. (c. 66), at the Council of Florence in which all nations assisted (Sess. ult.), and lastly at the Council of Trent (Sess. 25).
But what more holy answer from the Church would one have than that which is contained in all her Masses? Examine the Liturgies of S. James, S. Basil, S. Chrysostom, S. Ambrose, which all the Oriental Christians still use; you will there see the commemoration of the dead, almost as it is seen in ours. If Peter Martyr, one of the learned men belonging to the adverse party, confesses, on the 3d chapter of the 1st of Corinthians, that the whole Church has followed this opinion, I have no need to dwell on this proof. He says it has erred and failed,-ah ! who would believe that ! Who art thou that judgest the Church of God? If any one hear not the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican. The Church is the pillar and ground of truth, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. If the salt lose its savour wherewith shall it be salted; if the Church err by whom shall she be set right ? If the Church, the faithful guardian of truth, lose the truth, by whom shall the truth be found? If Christ cast off the Church, whom will he receive,-he who admits no one but through the Church? And if the Church can err, can you not also, 0 Peter Martyr, fall into error? -without doubt: I will then rather believe that you have erred than the Church.