I had asked a question concerning the Catholic doctrine of Papal Infallibility. A number of Romish apologists leaped on my question, but one—I shall call her Mary—provided excellent examples of the guerrilla apologetics so typical of those who would defend the Roman Church. In what follows, please note that, while Mary homed in on a limiting phrase in my question, she never did respond to the question. I did not include the question itself here because the emphasis is on Catholic guerrilla apologetics. In what follows, Mary's words are in boldface; my words that she quoted are not.
It never ceases to confound me how those who would speak for Rome can be so literal-minded when addressing just about anything but the Word of God, which they tend to deal with quite imaginatively. Perhaps you have not noticed that I sometimes use words to express something other than their most basic definitions. In this case, however, it would appear that you have read the sentence you challenge in much the same way the Magisterium reads Scripture, overlooking its basic structure and clear meaning. Why not read it as written? “when speaking to the CHURCH IN GENERAL?” The prepositional phrase 'in general' modifies the noun 'church', not the verb 'speaking'.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines the use of "general' thusly:
Thus, when applying the literal/historical/grammatical hermeneutic to my statement, it would appear that it is accurate as written. Consistently applying the same hermeneutic to the Word of God would likely provide some enlightening results for those who are more accustomed to applying the various hermeneutics imaginatively and selectively used by Roman Catholic exegetes.
MARY DECLARES A CATHOLIC FACTOID:
RON EXPRESSES AMAZEMENT:
Wow! You write this with authority and conviction, reminding me of the wonderfully authoritative manner of the Magisterium. Let us examine this statement as one should examine all similar declarations when proposed by the mighty and infallible Magisterium. After all, I am every bit as concerned with the accuracy of what I post here as you apparently are; though, of course, I imagine our reasons are quite different. My purpose for seeking accuracy is to provide a clear and truthful examination of Catholic doctrine in the light of Scripture. I suspect your interest is only to find some reason, however picayune, to declare all of what I post to be inaccurate. Would this, perhaps, fall into one of the categories mentioned by Paul in his letter to Titus?
In this verse, the Apostle is warning Titus, and by extension all the Church, to avoid becoming embroiled in senseless discussions with false teachers. Paul here was specifically referring to the many false teachers and Judaizers on Crete who contended that a Christian must be obedient to the Law--a view that, in common with the Roman Catholic Semi-Pelagian doctrine of justification by works, assaults the biblical doctrine of grace alone. But back to your declaration, made with authority, that the popes have only exercised the charism of infallibility but 'twice in the last 150 years, both times they were Marian dogmas.' If I were able to demonstrate that this is an inaccurate declaration would you, perhaps, be willing to admit the bare possibility that you just might be wrong in some of the other 'authoritative' declarations you make in this board? Naah! I have a pretty fair imagination, but I cannot imagine a Romish apologist acknowledging an error. Prove me wrong. Please.
I observe that, in your non-responsive response, you failed to identify the documents in which some pope supposedly made those two infallible Marian declarations. Isn't it interesting, the way Catholic apologists all appear to be cut from the same bolt of cloth? I refer to the observable tendency they display to use arguments\ against their Christian opposition that can easily be turned against themselves.
But enough of life's little pleasures, time to get to work.
The Roman church, in that wonderful way it has of referring to itself as the source for its own truths, did not formally define and declare the doctrine of infallibility until 1870:
Strong stuff. Either believe what we say or you'll be cast out. No wimps at Vatican I.
That document was infallibly proclaimed by Pope Pius IX, placing him in the curious position of infallibly declaring his own infallibility. And there you have it, straight from the horse's . . .. . mouth.
The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (November 18, 1965), closes, over the signatures of Paul VI and the other bishops, with these words:
I suppose you could argue that this is a document of a church council and, almost by definition, infallible and that it does not count as a papal use of the charism of infallibility.
How about another example of a pope declaring something to the church in general concerning an issue of faith and morals?
My Catholic Dictionary defines 'Apostolic Constitution' thusly:
The same authority defines 'Constitution' as follows:
Lemme see here. I'm just a poor, ole Texas country boy, but it seems to me that if something is issued as one of the “highest and most authoritative” forms of papal pronouncement, it just might be intended to apply to the whole Catholic Church and, to press the point, may even be considered to have something to do with faith and morals. Further, I do declare, from my provincial point of view, that such an issuance to the Church in general and dealing with a matter of faith and morals just might be considered to have been promulgated by the Pope ex cathedra. Of course, I have not taken into account the wonderful ability of Rome to dance around any such simple logic.
Continuing with my simplistic understanding of infallibility, it would appear that Pope Paul VI acted infallibly when he proclaimed the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) on November 21, 1964. Oh! Darn! That is another council document and doesn't count. Or does it? Well, there was no church council involved when John Paul II proclaimed the Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities (Ex Corde Ecclesiae), on August 15, 1990. Or is that 'highest and most authoritative form of a papal pronouncement' not to be considered infallibly promulgated? Inquiring minds really want to know.
On November 21, 1963, Pope Paul VI proclaimed the Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio) with these words:
Wasn't he infallibly declaring the results of the Council's deliberations and voting to be binding on the entire Catholic Church? Isn't this an exercise of the charism of infallibility?
On October 15, 1976, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published Inter Insigniores, a doctrinal statement addressing the question of admitting women to the ministerial priesthood. Given that the document, which addresses an issue of faith for the entire church, was reviewed, passed and ordered published by Pope Paul VI, can it not be argued that in so doing the Vicar of Christ was acting ex cathedra? The document closes with these words:
Those closing words read very much the same as those used by the same pope in proclaiming the Decree on Ecumenism, when he wrote “approve, decree and establish them.”
Paul VI closed his Apostolic Constitution on Penance (Paenitemini) -- February 17, 1966, with these words that, since they do not involve Marian dogma, do not fit your definition of the two infallible proclamations of popes in the past 150 years:
I could go on and on, but I think I have made my point. If one were to accept the argument you struggle to make--that the Popes rarely speak infallibly, especially in the past 150 years--the logical assumption that follows is that statements and guidance in all the other papal documents issued during that period are little more than reflections of the personal opinions of the various popes and, as such, might contain theological or doctrinal error and, to push the envelop, may not even be binding on the Church. Is that what you are declaring? Are you saying that the Holy Spirit did not infallibly inspire Paul VI when he promulgated Humanae Vitae (On The Regulation of Birth) in 1968? Or that the words of Pius XI were not infallibly pronounced in Casti Connubii (On Chastity in Marriage)? Can it be that what John Paul II published in Redemptoris Mater (On the Blessed Virgin Mary) contains error? Goodness gracious! Sakes alive! If that is what you are implying, then I commend you for being one of the few Catholic apologists I have encountered who is willing to acknowledge that the popes are not always teaching truth when they make declarations to the Catholic faithful.
MARY PRONOUNCES JUDGMENT:
RON EXPRESSES SURPRISE:
Golly gee! I thought the popes were incredibly powerful, to the point of having the power even to modify or reverse Divine Law. Given that much authority, it seems strange that the holder of the office is so strictly limited in his ability to speak infallibly. I know that the assembled bishops present at Vatican I had a terrible time coming up with a formula to define papal infallibility and that the outcome of their deliberations was far from a unanimous affirmation of the published document.
There is support for the nearly absolute ecclesiastic power and authority of the Roman pope. Lucius Ferraris, an 18th Century Franciscan canonist, professor, provincian and consultor of the Holy Office, wrote, in his Prompta that:
The doctrine of infallibility was not formally defined and declared until 1870. Are you implying that such definitions and declarations are to be applied ex post facto to all the decisions, declarations, ruminations and proclamations of all the Roman bishops all the way back to Linus?
Joseph McCabe, sometime Catholic monk, wrote, in his Rationalist Encyclopedia:
MARY DECLARES HER HUMILITY - WITH RESERVATIONS:
RON NOTES THAT MARY FAULTS HIM FOR DOING WHAT SHE DID:
Of course you do, as do I. Perhaps you will identify for me, and all our silent readers, those lone two infallible papal documents issued during the past 150 years. After all, this IS just a common practice in any real scholarship.
MARY WANTS TO KNOW:
RON IS CHAGRINED TO BE FOUND GUILTY OF EMULATING MARY:
Of course you do. How thoughtless of me not to provide it for the benefit of those lacking the resources or ability to do their own research. The comment in parentheses is a synthesis of the 27 decrees in Dictatus Papae, which read as though they were chapter titles in an unfinished work. Two representative decrees that support my synthesis are:
You continued your apparent search to find reasons to reject what I had written:
MARY IS RELENTLESS CONCERNING WHAT RON HAD WRITTEN:
FORTUNATELY, RON IS ABLE TO PROVIDE DETAILS:
Given the sharp edge of your discernment, I hesitate to point out that what I provided above was in quotation marks. However, I shall accede to your wish and provide a source and, just to please you, some of the Pope's own words — in Latin!!
Adrian's exact words concerning the need to begin his reform with the Curia were: “Ut primum curia haec, unde forte omne hoc malum procesit, reformatur.” If you wish to read the entire document, look in Raynaldus, add. Ann. 1522, Tom. XI. 363. Hope that helps
A highly respected church historian had this to say about Adrian VI and the Diet of Worms:
MARY HAS ANOTHER QUESTION ABOUT WHAT RON WROTE:
RON, EVER EAGER TO PLEASE, RESPONDS:
By definition, the Roman Catholic Church could not have become apostate until it came into existence. It did not exist, except in the imaginative declarations of the Magisterium, until after Constantine published the Edict of Milan (313 AD) and, soon after, established the Christian faith as the de facto official religion of the Roman Empire, with himself as its sovereign ruler. All this began to happen not terribly long after Constantine's victory at the Milvian Bridge in 310 AD. Though there already had been numerous corruptions of Scripture and doctrine by this time, there had not been a Roman Catholic Church. Under the thumb of Constantine and succeeding Roman Emperors for a time, the evolving church at Rome became increasingly apostate, but it really was identifiably so, in my opinion, when it co-opted the priesthood, believers, rites and doctrines of the soldiers' cult of Mithras. This all happened during the early years of the 4th century, but I don't believe there was a Roman Catholic Church until after 404 A.D., when emperors stopped acting as rulers of the Christian church and started allowing popes to do that. The Romish Church has never stopped renaming pagan beliefs and practices and, by making them her own (though changed in name only), she only adds to the shame of her apostasy.
NOW IT IS RON'S TURN:
The folks at the St. Benedict Center, self-described as The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, provide some interesting information concerning papal infallibility. Of course, these folks are what conservative Catholics sometimes call “Feeneyites,” but what the heck, these are ecumenical times.
On their web page one might read:
This is interesting. The people at SBC seem to believe the teaching of 'doctors and fathers of the church' that all the twelve apostles (including Judas or Matthius, his replacement?) and Paul exercised the charism of infallibility; and that only Peter's alleged successors continued to receive the gift. Don't you have to wonder where the doctors and fathers of the church got their information? Was it information infallibly received? But how could that be, since they weren't popes speaking ex cathedra to the whole church on matters of faith and morals. In other words, why should anyone believe them when they say anyone else is infallible?
A bit farther down the page, the SBC declares that the pope,
“Grace of their baptism?” I was baptized a Catholic when but two months or so old. I declare to the world that absolutely nothing is working to get me to accept papal authority. I serve but one Lord and Master, and He is not the leader of a demonic church based in Rome. My loyalty, my submission, my faith are to the Lord God Almighty, through His Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ. Forget Rome and her ambitious popes.
The Catechism teaches:
891 The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful -- who confirms his brethren in the faith -- he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals--Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed., © 11994/1997 United States Catholic Conference, Inc.
Vatican Council II put its rubber stamp of approval on the doctrine of papal infallibility in this manner:
Apparently, in their passion to make sure that Catholic sheep remain submissive, Rome's powerful and ever ambitious Magisterium was not content with the rules established 'infallibly' by the 'infallible' 1st Vatican Council and 'infallibly' promulgated by an 'infallible' pope. So, the equally 'infallible' Vatican Council II (Some say that it produced no dogma definitions) somewhat extended the 'infallible' declarations of those earlier 'infallible' sources when it “infallibly” declared, 'infallibly', of course:
What all this mumbo-jumbo is saying is that, for Roman Catholics, ex cathedra statements are equally as infallible as the Sacred Scriptures--rather as though God Himself were speaking through the mouth of the Roman Pope. A few examples of such authoritative declarations are:
What these declarations, which we are to believe to be as infallible as the inspired Word of God, all boil down to is that no one can be saved who does not bend the knee to the Roman pope. In other words, for Roman Catholics, faith in Christ and the efficacy of His atoning sacrifice is only incidental to the salvific process. The road to Heaven leads through the Roman pope. The Christian holds to an entirely different understanding of soteriology. For us, salvation is centered on full and exclusive trust in the Person and redemptive work of Christ. We know that no man, no denomination, no combinations of works, magic or superstition can obtain for us eternal life. That is granted only to those who place their faith in Christ alone.
Rome infallibly teaches that people must believe in Christ and be in submission to the pope for salvation. Such ex cathedra declarations are in blatant opposition to the clear teachings of Scripture and, therefore, constitute heresies. Where, in this passage, is the pope mentioned?
We are required to believe for salvation, but even that faith is part of the gift of God that saves and cannot be exercised by one's own power. God's grace is preeminent in every aspect of salvation (cf. Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16). Good works will not produce salvation but are subsequent and resultant God-empowered fruits and evidences of it (cf. John 15:8; Phil. 2:12, 13; 2 Tim. 3:17; Titus 2:14; James 2:16—26). Like his salvation, a believer's sanctification and good works were ordained before time began. Nothing in this 'salvation passage' about the Roman pope.
The above ex cathedra statements contradict this clear biblical teaching; therefore, belief in papal infallibility must be rejected! As has been declared here many times, 'infallible' statements such as those last three constitute “another gospel” as denounced by Scripture:
Every life is characterized by grievous sin prior to salvation. Were it not for God's grace toward His own, all of us would continue to live wicked, sin-filled lives. (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15; 2 Tim. 2:25; Rom. 1:18-32; 1 Cor. 6:9,10; Eph. 4:17-19). Salvation has never been by works (Eph. 2:8,9; cf. Rom. 3:19-28.). Salvation brings divine cleansing from sin and the gift of a new, Spirit-generated, Spirit-empowered, and Spirit-protected life as God's own children and heirs (cf. Ezek. 36:25—29; Eph. 5:26; James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23). This is the new birth (cf. John 3:5; 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1). The central truth of salvation is justification by faith alone. When a sinner repents and places his faith in Jesus Christ, God declares him just, imputes the righteousness of Christ to him, and gives him eternal life by virtue of the substitutionary death of Christ as the penalty for that sinner's iniquity. (cf. Rom. 3:21—5:21; Gal. 3:6—22; Phil. 3:8,9. As adopted children of God through faith in Jesus Christ, believers become “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17; cf. 1 Pet. 1:3,4). And God does not disinherit us for failing to kiss the toes of the Roman pope.
In the Scriptures, we frequently are warned concerning false prophets and false spiritual leaders (Mt. 7:15; 24:11; Rom. 16:18; 2 Cor. 11:13; Eph. 4:14; 1 Tim. 4:2; 2 Tim. 3:13; 4:3; Tit. 1:10, 2 Jn. 7; 1 Jn. 4:1; etc.). What can one conclude except that what these past popes said regarding salvation is on a par with what the founders of Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seven Day Adventism and other false prophets have declared. All need to be flatly rejected, not only as error, but deadly error--even “damnable heresy” (2 Pet. 2:1, KJV)!
Having gone through all this, it might be useful to enlighten those who are reading these things for the first time. It is not only the Catholic pope who is considered infallible, when meeting the requirements examined above. In her delightful way of twisting words into fanciful new arrangements, the Roman Church, in the 'infallibly' proclaimed Constitution on the Church, explains that bishops, though not infallible themselves, nevertheless are able to “proclaim Christ's doctrine infallibly.”
That papal infallibility has not always been, nor is even to this day, a belief universally accepted by Catholic clergy may be seen from the writings of William of Ockham, a Fransciscan who once worked in the court of Pope John XXII at Avignon (around 1236 AD). Ockham rejected papal infallibility, though he did acknowledge that a papal teaching might be free of doctrinal error.
Ockham discussed disagreement between popes, but did not suggest that one papal pronouncement must be right because it was earlier or because it was made according to the right procedure. Catholics are expected to presume that papal definitions are correct. When they conflict, or there is some other reason for suspecting error, what is true has to be decided by examining the Bible and evidence of the universal belief of Catholics. In reference to the beatific vision controversy Ockham wrote:
Ockham and others disagreed with the idea of papal infallibility in the 14th century, but the disagreements did not end with him. In 1870, when the 1st Vatican Council defined the infallibility of the Pope, Dr. Doellinger, the leading scholar of the German Catholic Church, and other professors of Munich University, broke away and some founded the separate body of the Old Catholics. They held that it was the Papalists, or New Catholics, who were disloyal to the Church. They were excommunicated, of course.
Even today, some Roman Catholic religious do not accept as infallible the pronouncements of their pope. On December 8, 1995, the National Coalition of American Nuns released a statement that included these words:
Whoa! Since these nuns reject the infallible teaching of their pope and a Sacred Congregation, I reckon that means they have all been declared anathema. Wonder how many of them still are working and going about the business they trained for within the RCC? Hypocrisy is Rome's watchword, after all.
In an old catechism teaches:
Sheesh! We poor Protestants get blamed for everything that goes wrong in the Roman Church
From Keenan's response, it seems clear there was no defined doctrine of papal infallibility, at least as late as 1848. Then, the 1st Vatican Council iterated a doctrine of infallibility, so Keenan' s catechism had to be revised to match the evolved doctrine of the RCC:
Many of the Romish apologists that I have encountered just love raising up the specter of 'Martin Luther' to make some obscure point. Well, those folks should really enjoy what that old boy had to say concerning papal infallibility:
A final comment on the significance of papal infallibility from the pen of Philip Schaff:
In closing this paper, I invoke the Word of God:
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