Skip to comments.INFALLIBILITY’S FATAL FLAW
Posted on 06/13/2015 12:57:46 PM PDT by RnMomof7
In 897 AD, Pope Stephen VII had Pope Formosus body exhumed and put on trial at the infamous Cadaver Synod, during which the corpse was found guilty, and stripped of his papal vestments. Pope Theodore II later convened a synod and overturned Pope Stephens findings, as did Pope John IX after him. But later, Pope Sergius III overturned the rulings of Theodore II and John IX, and reaffirmed the conviction of Formosus. Perhaps Formosus corpse will find some little comfort in the knowledge that it is stillat least for nowlisted on Romes unbroken line of popes currently on display at the Vatican.
We find a papal corpse a particularly fitting background image for this post on infallibilitys fatal flaw. The Roman Pontiff, in order that the Church may share in Christs infallibility, says the Catechism, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 891). But there is one problem: nobody knows when the Pope is speaking infallibly, nobody knows how often a pope has spoken infallibly, and nobody knows what the criteria are for when a pope is speaking infallibly. It is indeed a fleeting comfort to be assured that your teacher is teaching infallibly only at times when he is teaching infallibly, but that there is no way to know what those times are.
To give you an idea of how severe this problem is, we invite you to consider Keenans 1860 Catechism of the Catholic Church, published ten years before Vatican Council I declared that the Roman Pontiff enjoys the charism of infallibility. This is what Keenans Catechism said of the ancient and historical gift bestowed by Christ on His Roman Catholic Church since Peter:
(Q.) Must not Catholics believe the Pope himself to be infallible?
(A.) This is a Protestant invention: it is no article of the Catholic faith: no decision of his can oblige under pain of heresy, unless it be received and enforced by the teaching body, that is by the bishops of the Church.
(Q.) What dogma was defined in this Council?
(A.) The dogma of Papal Infallibility; that the Pope when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals, is possessed of that infallibility with which our Redeemer endowed the church.
Of course, the problem for Roman Catholics does not end there. I highlighted this issue in the late 1990s in an article called Quid Pro Canon. The details are worked out more fully there, but to illustrate the problem, different Roman Catholic apologists believe differently about how many times a Pope has spoken infallibly:
Scott Hahn: two
Tim Staples: at least four
Adam Miller: eleven
Leslie Rumble: eighteen
To complicate matters, Rumble held that two of the eighteen are of the utmost authority, [but] still fall short of technical requirements for infallibility, and another two very probably comply with the requirements for infallibility.
Perhaps if there were an infallible list of infallible statements, this would be simpler, and the Roman apologists could come to an agreement. But it gets worse: there is no official list of criteria with which it may be determined that a papal statement is infallible. The different Roman Catholic sources indicate the severity of the problem:
Fr. William Most: two criteria
Apologist Scott Butler: three criteria
Catholic Encyclopedia: four criteria
Roman apologists do not even agree on the occasions that would induce a Pope to exercise the charism of infallibility. Apologist Karl Keating says the Pope only exercises it to resolve doctrinal disputes. Apologist Scott Hahn says the exact opposite:
Now, many people think that this ex cathedra, this official papal pronouncement defining dogma, is sort of like the ultimate way in which the pope resolves doctrinal controversies. That is the opposite of the truth. The pope is not an umpire. (emphasis added)
In sum, Roman apologists themselves, as eagerly as they defend Papal Infallibility, do not know how many times he has exercised it, do not agree on why he exercises it, and do not know how to determine whether a pope has exercised it. All they know is that he has it.
We admire the tenacity of those who still want to argue for Papal Infallibility, and we especially appreciate how they make our argument for us. A few years back, The Catholic Voyager, in a blog post called Fallacies on Infallibility, attempted to rebut Quid Pro Canon by demonstrating the ease with which a Roman Catholic can identify infallible teachings. For example, he wrote, a reasonable Catholic, using criteria that he does not explicitly identify, should be able to read Munificentissimus Deus and determine on his own that it is infallible. Further, in Sacerdotii Nostri Primoridia, Pope John XXIII said that Ineffabilis Deus was infallible. The Voyager writes,
These examples are enough to demonstrate that infallibility can be identified in the Church whether or not one theologian or another may believe some other doctrine was not technically defined infallibly.
Voyager makes our point for us. He appeals to Sacerdotii Nostri Primoridia, which was not an infallible proclamation, as evidence that Ineffabilis Deus was proclaimed infallibly. If it is so easy to identify infallibility in the Church, why does one theologian or another disagree on whether some doctrine was technically defined infallibly? If a reasonable Catholic can determine it on his own, why did Rumble include two proclamations that probably are, and two that might not be, infallible? Why not just say they are, or they are not, infallible? As evidence of how difficult this is for practicing Catholics, most of whom probably consider themselves reasonable, consider the debate at US Catholic about whether Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was defined infallibly by John Paul II:
When John Paul II ruled out the ordination of women in Ordinatio sacerdotalis, he used the expression definitive, but did not use the formula that would signal an infallible teaching; in fact the word infallible doesnt appear anywhere in the document. Cardinal Ratzinger, as prefect for the Congregation for the doctrine of the Faith, argued in a response to a question about Ordinatio sacerdotalis that the teaching was part of the deposit of faith and therefore an infallible teaching of the ordinary and universal magisteriumalthough he knows full well thats not how infalliblility works; something cant be declared infallible by a Vatican office.
We are reminded here of Fr. William Mosts appeal to an unofficially published decree from the Holy Office in order to prove that it had been the intent of multiple popes and councils to declare a doctrine to be infallible, for these texts show the intention to make it definitive by their repetition. Of course, unofficially published decrees are not infallible. They are not even officially published! Perhaps the Catholic Voyager can offer the assistance of a reasonable Catholic to William Most and US Catholic, as well as to Hahn, Staples, Keating, Butler, Rumble, Miller and the Catholic Encyclopedia by providing a list of Infallible Papal statements, since it is so easy for a reasonable Catholic to demonstrate that infallibility can be identified in the Church.
The Voyager ultimately refuses to provide any infallible list of infallible papal statements, as must every honest Roman apologist. The list exists nowhere in the deposit of faith, of which Rome is ostensibly the guardian. Therefore, to produce such a list would require that a Roman Catholic believe in Sola Verbum Dei plus something that is not contained anywhere in the Verbum Deimaking Sola Verbum Dei self-defeating.
The Voyager simply states that Rome does not need to produce such an infallible list, because that would be asking God to certify God. Very well. Neither will Protestants bow to Romes requests to prove from the Scripture that the 66-book canon is the canon of Scripture. Since the Scripture as contained in the 66-book canon is the Word of God, that would be asking God to certify God. The Voyager thinks by this that he has caught us in the logical fallacy of tu quoque. Hardly. He has merely caught us measuring Rome by her own standards, and finding her wanting.
Sure seems to be a lot of chaos in that faith group.
2000 years and a billion followers tends to do that.
...”2000 years and a billion followers tends to do that”...
Same with Islam....and they aren’t listening either.
...”2000 years and a billion followers tends to do that”...
Same with Islam....and they aren’t listening either.
You can say that again!
Infallibility means whatever the Catholic Church wants it to mean. If you are a Catholic, you accept that on faith and obedience. If you’re not a Catholic, it doesn’t apply to you.
And still Catholics must submit their will and intellect to the magisterium! Not to Christ mind you, but to the magisterium of an organization that can’t agree with itself and surely doesn’t agree with scripture.
I figured you did :-)
Hard to believe this really happened, but it did.
Chaos is what has happened to Protestantism in the last 150 years.
That's funny, because Vatican I taught (infallibly, BTW):
Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, for the glory of God Our Savior, the exaltation of the Catholic Religion, and the salvation of Christian people, the Sacred Council approving, We teach and define that it is a divinely-revealed dogma: that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex Cathedra, that is, when in discharge of the office of Pastor and Teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the Universal Church, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that His Church should be endowed for defining doctrine regarding faith or morals: and that therefore such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church.
Looks like some pretty clear qualifications to me. The Pope has to be (a) speaking in his supreme authority as "Pastor and Teacher of All Christians," (b) he has to be defining (that is, teaching definitively), (c) to the whole church, (d) a doctrine concerning faith or morals.
With regard to Ordinatio Sacerdotalis this "Brian Cones at US Catholic" Kauffman quotes is clearly clueless. (Isn't "US Catholic" some kind of liberal rag? I'm not familiar with it.)
Infallible documents don't have to contain the word "infallible," and Cardinal Ratzinger was not claiming that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was infallible because he said so, he was saying that it was not an exercise of the (technical term) "extraordinary Papal magisterium" because it was already infallibly known that women cannot be ordained before either he or JP2 came on the scene.
What Protestantism asserts, Protestants deny exists. Go figure.
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