Who Was Jan Hus?
Jan Hus (also known as John Huss) was a Czech religious philosopher, university professor, and theologian who lived in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. He was born in Husinec, Bohemia (which is part of the modern-day Czech Republic) around 1369 AD and he died on July 6, 1415, in Konstanz, Germany.
Hus was a predecessor to Luther and his errors greatly affected the Protestants’ deformed view of the Catholic Faith. He believed that the Church had become corrupt and that its teachings had strayed from the true message of Jesus Christ. He was eventually excommunicated by the Church in 1411. Despite this, he continued to preach and gained a large following in Bohemia. In 1414, he was invited to the Council of Constance to defend his views. There he was arrested and tried for heresy. He was found guilty and burned at the stake on July 6, 1415.
Hus’ ideas had a significant influence on the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, particularly in his emphasis on the authority of the Bible and the priesthood of all believers. He is considered a national hero in the Czech Republic, where his ideas are still celebrated today, although the Czech Republic is known as one of the most atheistic countries in the world. The embrace of Protestantism ultimately leads to atheism.
What Did Hus Teach Against Catholic Doctrine?
The Council of Constance condemned 30 of Hus’ false teachings as heretical. The following statements are some of his errors:
- There is only one holy universal church, whose total number consists of those who are predestined to salvation. It therefore follows that this holy universal church is only one, inasmuch as there is only one number of all those who are predestined to salvation.
- [Saint] Paul was never a member of the devil’s minions, even though he did certain acts which are similar to the acts of the church’s enemies.
- Those foreknown as damned are not members of the church, for no member of the church can finally fall away from it, since the predestinating love that binds the church together does not fail.
- The two natures, the divinity and the humanity, are one Christ [who is the one head of his spouse, the universal church, which is the assembly of the predestined].
- A person foreknown to damnation is never part of the holy church, even if he is in a state of grace according to present justice; a person predestined to salvation always remains a member of the church, even though he may fall away for a time from adventitious grace, for he keeps the grace of predestination.
- The church is an article of faith in the following sense: to regard it as the convocation of those predestined to salvation, whether or not they be in a state of grace according to present justice.
- [Saint] Peter neither was, nor is, the head of the holy Catholic Church.
- It is not necessary to believe that any particular Roman pontiff is the head of any particular holy church, unless God has predestined him to salvation.
- The Pope is not the manifest and true successor of the prince of the apostles, Peter, if he lives in a way contrary to Peter’s. If he seeks avarice, he is the vicar of Judas Iscariot. Likewise, Cardinals are not the manifest and true successors of the college of Christ’s other apostles unless they live after the manner of the apostles, keeping the commandments and counsels of Our lord Jesus Christ.
- There is not the least proof that there must be one head ruling the church in spiritual matters who always lives with the Church Militant.
Grouping these together, we see two key issues: predestination and papal authority.
The Catholic Church affirms the doctrine of free will, which means that human beings have the ability to choose to accept or reject God’s grace and love.
The Church rejects the Protestant doctrine of predestination, which teaches that God has already chosen certain individuals for salvation or damnation, thus making their decisions irrelevant. Instead, the Catholic Church believes in the principle of “prevenient grace,” which means that God’s grace is available to all people, even before they actively seek it. This grace enables individuals to cooperate with God’s Will and to choose to follow Him.
The Church rightfully teaches that a person’s ultimate destiny is not determined by God alone, but rather by the individual’s response to God’s grace throughout their life. This response can be aided by the Sacraments of the Church, such as Baptism, Confession, and the Eucharist, which help individuals to receive and respond to God’s grace. Hus denied this. According to him, if we are predestined to Heaven or hell, then the Sacraments do not matter and neither does prayer nor does living a holy life. If man can’t actually change (be transformed, sanctified) then the inevitable conclusion is that nothing he does has eternal consequences. Hence, nothing really matters.
Papal Authority Defended
Hus’ other key error centers around the primacy of St. Peter. Pope St. Leo the Great taught:
“Out of the whole world one man, Peter, is chosen to preside at the calling of all nations, and to be set over all the apostles and all the Fathers of the Church. Though there are in God’s people many shepherds, Peter is thus appointed to rule in his own person those whom Christ also rules as the original ruler. Beloved, how great and wonderful is this sharing of His power that God in His goodness has given to this man. Whatever Christ has willed to be shared in common by Peter and the other leaders of the Church, it is only through Peter that He has given to others what He has not refused to bestow on them.
“Blessed Peter is therefore told: To you I will give the keys of the kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth is also bound in Heaven. Whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed also in Heaven.
“The authority vested in this power passed also to the other apostles, and the institution established by this decree has been continued in all the leaders of the Church. But it is not without good reason that what is bestowed on all is entrusted to one. For Peter received it separately in trust because he is the prototype set before all the rulers of the Church.”
Fr. John Laux, in Catholic Apologetics, Book IV, further explains why the Church must be a visible institution with a hierarchy on earth:
“The work of Redemption consisted in the discharge of this threefold office (of Priest, Prophet, and King). On the eve of His departure from this world Christ delegated His powers to His Apostles: ‘All power is given to Me in Heaven and on earth: going therefore, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world’ (Matthew 28:18-20).
“From this commission of Christ, it is evident that His followers form an organized society under the leadership and guidance of the Apostles and their successors, with the right to teach and to command on one side, and the duty to be taught and to obey on the other.
“Everything is visible about His great institution: Baptism, which is necessary for membership, the other Sacraments which He commanded His followers to receive, the rulers and lawgivers whom the faithful must obey, the tribunal before which the faithful are judged and to which they have a right to appeal.”
The Key Errors of Hus and His Followers
‘Hussites’ refers to the followers of Jan Hus who continued his heresies even after his death. Their errors, like their founder’s, can generally be grouped into 4 categories:
- Authority of the Bible: Like Hus, the Hussites emphasized the authority of the Bible as the sole source of religious truth. This is the error of Sola Scriptura.
- Rejection of papal authority: The Hussites rejected the authority of the Pope and the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church.
- Communion for all: The Hussites believed in the doctrine of “Utraquism,” which held that both the bread and wine of the Eucharist should be offered to all believers, not just the clergy. They rejected that the whole of Christ is present in each Eucharistic species, thus making it unnecessary for the faithful to receive the wine that has been consecrated.
- Priesthood of all believers: The Hussites held that all believers were priests and so there was no need for a special class of clergy to mediate between God and humanity. They therefore attacked the Sacrament of Holy Orders as instituted by Christ at the Last Supper.
Prayer to Our Lady, Exterminatrix of All Heresy
May Our Lady of Fatima deign to open our hearts and minds to Her urgent appeal to the world, that She shall once again conquer the great destroyer of souls, the sin of heresy, which justifies every sin.
Ave Maria! Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
 This error needs some clarification, as we know Christ is one divine Person with both a divine and human nature. Hus maintained there were “two churches.” He said one was the ‘true’ church [of God] and the other the ‘false’ church [of man or of satan]. Hus argued all the predestined belonged to the true church and all the damned to the false church. He further stated that Christ alone was head of the true church, both in Heaven and on earth. Rejecting Church authority, he claimed the Pope was the head of the false church (Luther would rashly succumb to this lie). This was condemned because Hus was rejecting the truth that the Pope is the visible head on earth of Christ’s Church. Note, however, that Hus’ statement is very misleading. If the context is not understood his error sounds perfectly faithful. In this use of ambiguity, Hus also prefigures the modernists. His error is often cited without the bracketed text or context. A footnote in Denzinger provides the full context (De ecclesia, Chap. 4, B, Th. 21).
 An excerpt from a sermon by Pope St. Leo the Great (Sermo 4 de natali ipsius, 2-3: PL 54, 149-151) on the authority of St. Peter. It appears in the breviary readings for the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter (February 22).