It Was Not Always Thus

The true Church was established in a house in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Rome would have us believe something else, that the true Church had its beginnings at another time. According to RCC fantasizers, the Church was started when Jesus said to Peter, “That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18). Building on eisegesis and incorrect translations of key words, Catholic theologians have pandered to the desires of arrogant and power-hungry bishops of Rome by creating a body of “Tradition” to establish and support the undisputed rule of the popes over the Roman Catholic Church.

882. The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, 'is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.'[LG 23.] 'For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.'[LG 22; cf. CD 2,9.]/--Catechism of the Catholic Church, Doubleday, © 1994 United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

Early attempts by Roman bishops to arrogate to themselves sovereignty over all the Christian church were rejected by many of those over whom they would reign. Virtually since the arrival of early Christians in the capital city of the Roman Empire, church leaders there have been trying to dominate the Christian faith. Somewhere along the way, those same leaders and their followers lost contact with Christianity and created a new religion, an amalgam of Christian, Jewish and pagan doctrines and practices.

Over the years, as the power of the Roman bishops increased, so also did their self-importance. Not content with the title of the Mithraic high priests, Pontifex Maximus, they began to identify with God Himself. They began using titles like Vicarius Filii Dei (Vicar of the Son of God) and even declared themselves to have authority over kings and emperors. One pope, Boniface VIII, went so far as to declare himself Caesar:

The papal theory...made the Pope alone God's representative on earth and maintained that the Emperor received his right to rule from St. Peter's successor… It was upheld by Nicholas I., Hildebrand, Alexander III., Innocent III., and culminated with Boniface VIII. at the jubilee of 1300 when, seated on the throne of Constantine, girded with the imperial sword, wearing a crown, and waving a sceptre, he shouted to the throng of loyal pilgrims: "I am Caesar—I am Emperor."--Alexander Clarence Flick, The Rise of the Mediaeval Church (reprint; New York: Burt Franklin, [1959]), p. 413.

It should be noted that not everyone was comfortable with such notions of supreme temporal and spiritual authority being concentrated in the hands of the pope. In fact, there existed within the Catholic Church a significant body of opposing opinion.

From early times there were in the Roman Church two tendencies. There was, especially from the age of Hildebrand in the eleventh century, a papalist party…There was also an important constitutional theory among the learned in the Middle Ages: the political doctrine of the sovereignty of the people under God. Associated with this, though to be carefully distinguished from it, was the great conciliar movement that was so lively on the eve of the Protestant Reformation…The gulf between papalism and conciliarism was very great.--Geddes MacGregor, The Vatican Revolution, Beacon Press:Boston (1957), pp. ix, x

Those in the papalist camp held that all power was concentrated in the hands of the pope. Huguccio, a 12th century canonist and Bishop of Pisa, wrote that the pope exercised over all dioceses the same ordinary jurisdiction that each bishop exercised over his own. Pope Innocent IV declared it to be sacrilegious even to question the plenitude of papal power (plenitudo potestatis). Those who held to the more constitutional concept asserted that the pope, though he had more authority than any other bishop, did not hold more authority than all the bishops combined. The conciliarists also held that prelates did not receive their authority from the Pope, but from God Himself, and by the election and consent of the people.

One of the bones of contention between papalists and conciliarists was the notion of infallibility. This issue was not settled in ancient times, as some would have modern Catholics believe. Quite the contrary, in fact.

In 1825…a British government commission asked a panel of Irish Roman Catholic bishops whether it was held that the Pope was infallible. The bishops correctly replied that this was not part of Catholic teaching.--Geddes MacGregor, Op. cit., p. xii

This changed on July 18, 1870, the final day of the First Vatican Council. One of the documents produced by that turbulent council was the Dogmatic Constitution I on the Church of Christ. This document, binding on all Catholics, defined the primacy and authority of Peter and his successors, declaring anathema anyone who dares to disagree (Denzinger 1821ff.). The fourth chapter of this document defined and established papal infallibility, again with the threat of anathema against any who would disagree.

And so We, adhering faithfully to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God, our Savior, the elevation of the Catholic religion and the salvation of Christian peoples, with the approbation of the sacred Council, teach and explain that the dogma has been divinely revealed, that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is when carrying out the duty of the pastor and teacher of all Christians in accord with his supreme apostolic authority he explains a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, through the divine assistance promised him in blessed Peter, operates with that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer wished that His church be instructed in defining doctrine on faith and morals; and so such definitions of the Roman Pontiff from himself, but not from the consensus of the Church, are unalterable.

[Canon]. But if anyone presumes to contradict this definition of Ours, which may God forbid: let him be anathema.--Pius IX, Dogmatic Constitution I on the Church of Christ, Chap. 4, 1st Vatican Council, Session IV, July 18, 1870; Denzinger 1839, 1840

If we are to believe Catholic catechists and apologists, the action of the 20th ecumenical council was little more than a pro forma process to put into final form what everyone in the Roman Catholic Church had always believed. Not so. Think about it. Why does Rome go to the trouble and expense of convening councils? Is it in order to provide a convenient forum for bishops and others to gather every now and then just to schmooze and renew old acquaintances? Or is it because there are rumblings in the belly of the RCC that need to be addressed?

Vatican I was an ecumenical council, as such it was the RCC's Extraordinary Magisterium in action.

891. .... The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,' above all in an Ecumenical Council.[LG 25; cf. Vatican Council I: DS 3074.] When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine 'for belief as being divinely revealed,'[DV 10 # 2.] and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions 'must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.'[LG 25 # 2.] This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.[Cf. LG 25.]--Catechism of the Catholic Church, Op. cit., p. 256

Wait a minute! The Catechism of the Catholic Church the above was taken from was promulgated well over a century after Vatican I closed. Was this teaching binding prior to Vatican II? Sure it was, for as most any Catholic might remind one:

What the Church teaches by means of her ordinary Magisterium must also be believed. All that Christ's Church solemnly pronounces is infallible, yet, these are not the only infallible teachings of the Church. If the Church has taught something consistently throughout history by means of her ordinary Magisterium, this also would be infallible.--Adam S. Miller, The Final Word, Tower of David Publication (c) 1997, p. 1

Let us return to 1869, when the Roman Church convened its 20th ecumenical council, which is now known as the First Vatican Council. At the time, 1037 prelates were eligible to attend. Some 766 indeed did participate and they came to Rome from all over the globe. The council was international but was it truly representative? Well, let's see. Of the 766 prelates in attendance at the council,

541 came from Europe, and of those the number coming from present and former States of the Church was 206. The number of prelates from the island of Sardinia was 25, while the whole of Germany was represented by 19. The little kingdom of Naples had 65, and together with Venice (8) and the islands of Sicily and Malta (13) had two representatives more that the whole of France – the “eldest daughter of the Church,” which at that time had a population of thirty-four millions. The islands of Sicily, Sardinia and Malta had almost as many as the whole of Spain. The Kingdom of Naples had actually more than twice the representation of the entire continent of South America, predominantly Latin and Catholic, and more than ten times that of the very loyal Roman Catholic kingdom of Belgium. Ireland (20) had more than three times the representation accorded to Belgium, and twice that of Austria and Tyrol together. Most striking of all, perhaps, out of the 541 prelates from Europe, the Italian peninsula, with a population of 27 millions, was represented by 276, 11 more than the whole of the rest of the continent including Britain and Ireland. How small an Italian diocese can be may be judged from the fact that the distance between the cathedral city of Amalfi and the cathedral city of Ravello is little more than half the length of Central Park in New York City.--Geddes MacGregor, Op. cit., pp. 27, 28

Looks to me like a preponderance of those in attendance not only lived in close proximity to the seat of Catholic authority, or in lands actually in subjection to the Holy See, but likely also supported the philosophy of the papalists. Several delegates to the council had also noticed this. For example, after the council had been in operation about five months, an anonymous pamphlet – attributed to the Archbishop of Paris – was circulated in Rome. In this pamphlet, the writer charged that 195 of the members of the council had no constitutional right to even be there. These included a few cardinals who were not bishops, abbots, generals and vicars-general of congregations of clerks regular, monastic and mendicant orders and some others who were being maintained by the pope. A loaded jury? Hmmmmm. Could be.

And when all these folks gathered to consider the issues of papal supremacy and infallibility, are we to understand they met in congenial assembly and quickly reached unanimous agreement? Ha! Not on your life. Emotions ran so high that debate schedules were re-arranged, rules were bypassed and devious means used to ensure that the membership of a crucial committee were all papalists, speakers were stifled and conciliarists were prevented from publishing while in Rome.

Some may be familiar with German bishop Strossmayer's dogged resistance to both papal primacy and infallibility. There were many others who fought long and hard to prevent these ideas from being defined as dogmas, among them the Cardinal Archbishop Guidi of Bologna, the Archbishop Darboy of Paris, Archbishop Kenrick of St. Louis (USA), Bishop Ketteker of Mainz, Archbishop Haynaud of Kalocsa, Bishop Dupanloup of Orleans and others.

Finally, however, it became apparent that those in opposition to agenda of the papalists had lost. It was on the morning of July 17, 1870, that the council members were notified that the fouth public session was to be held the following day. By that time, many of the Opposition has already left Rome. Bishop Dupanloup, the opposition leader, then set about persuading those who remained to leave Rome in a body prior to the Monday morning gathering. History tells us that:

In a conventionally polite letter to the Pope, dated July 17, they explained that their departure was due both to their desire not to have to say non placet to his face, and to their need to return to their long-unshepherded sheep.--Geddes MacGregor, Op. cit., p.53

The following morning, 535 prelates gathered in St. Peter's for closing ceremonies on the last day of the General Council. Following a Low Mass and other ceremonies, the bishops were asked the conventional question—whether what had been put before them was pleasing to them. One by one, the bishops were polled. The response of 533 was “Placet” (an affirmative response), but two – Bishop Riccio of Cajazzo (Sicily) and Bishop Fitzgerald of Little Rock (USA) – replied, “Non Placet” (a negative response). Some 106 of the prelates were not present for the voting. So much for the myth of unanimity of opinion.

At this point, some Catholic apologist might point out that the prelates in attendance at the First Vatican Council gave their unanimous assent to the Dogmatic Constitution I on the Church of Christ. And he would be correct. But let us look at the nature of that unanimous assent. Why did those 108 who so strongly disagreed with the document change their minds? Were they convinced, after study and reflection, that it was a true statement of what the Church had always taught? Or was it something else?

Some of the recalcitrant bishops were exceedingly dilatory in sending in their submissions. But they all did, and the papalists have ever since made a great deal of this fact. The alternative to submission was excommunication. The extreme penalty is terrible enough for a devout layman, since it deprives him of the sacraments, the greatest solace in a Catholic life. It is even worse for a priest for it also cuts him off absolutely from every friend he is likely to have, not to mention his livelihood, making him at worst an object of contempt, at best an object of pity. But for a bishop excommunication is a sentence almost past human endurance. Even the most heroic could hardly be expected to face it. The last bishop to submit was Strossmayer. In a pastoral letter of December 26, 1872, issued under his name, the Decree was published. But this was done by his Vicar-General, and it is doubtful whether it had his consent.--Geddes MacGregor, Op. cit., p. 61

And there you have it, infallibly defined. The pope is supreme and infallible (under certain conditions). We know that this is so because a General Council of the Roman Catholic Church unanimously declared it to be so and the reigning pope then affirmed infallibly that infallible definition. That the council was heavily weighted in the pope's favor is a trifling issue and of no significance. That 108 dissenting prelates were compelled to assent to these dogmas under threat of excommunication is a trifling issue and of no significance.

Yeah. Dogma made in Heaven. Sounds more like the pope made an offer these good old boys could not refuse.

O! Catholic readers. I plead with you to read your Bibles. The Church Christ established has but one Leader, the risen Son of God, Who even now sits at the right hand of the Father. Christ is not an elected leader, but your pope is.

Think about it.

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To read Bishop Strossmayer's speech, the authentic version, click here.

A translation of the minutes of Vatican I reveals in exquisite detail how Bishop Strossmayer was manhandled by papalist members of the council, read here. It is a lengthy article. I suggest you use your FIND button to search for Strossmayer, which will take you immediately to the section of interest.

A quick look at the way the papal infallibility issue caused a split in the monolithic Catholic Church is found here. Find the single paragraph by using your FIND button to search for Strossmayer

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