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New post Infallibility
Online link to original: http://books.google.com/books?id=kLkRAA ... &q&f=false

And here, for those who can't get the text from Google: http://www.archive.org/stream/catholicw ... t_djvu.txt

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Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1871, by Rev. I. T. Hecker, in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington, D. C.

THE

CATHOLIC WORLD.

VOL. XIII., No. 77.—AUGUST, 1871.

INFALLIBILITY.


We propose to treat this topic in a manner somewhat different from the ordinary one, and which may seem indirect and circuitous. We hope to come to the point more securely in this way than by the more direct road, and to drive before us the whole body of outlying, straggling difficulties and objections. In particular, we intend to place in a clear, intelligible light the nature, purport, and ground of the recent definition of the Council of the Vatican, which has made the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff an article of faith. It is for this purpose that we have taken up the general topic of infallibility; and the reason for discussing this general topic rather than the exclusive question of Papal infallibility alone is, that the latter cannot be properly explained except in its relation to the former. The infallibility of the church is a more general and extensive idea than the infallibility of the Pope. In the order of time, it was prior to it in the minds of the great mass of the faithful as a certain truth of the divine revelation, and it was before it as an article of explicit Catholic faith. The precise point which many persons have not clearly understood has been, how it could have been less clearly known and less explicitly believed by a number of good Catholics before the Council of the Vatican than after it, especially considering its very great practical importance. They are puzzled to think that it was not an article of universal, explicit faith always, as much as the infallibility of the church. Or, in few and plain words, they do not understand how a council could define it as an article of faith which must be believed as a condition of Catholic communion, when it had not been always proposed as an article of faith, with the obligation of believing and professing it, to all the faithful everywhere. If it is a new dogma, how can it be a part of the old Catholic faith handed down from the apostles, and what authority has a council to create a new dogma? If it is an old dogma, how could the denial of its certain, infallible truth have been tolerated, and the judgment of a council make this denial now, for the first time, to become a heresy, to which the penalty of an anathema is affixed? The answer to these questions is plain enough to anyone who has a moderate knowledge of the elements of theology. No council can create a dogma which is new, in the sense of being a new doctrine, or a new revelation. The new definitions of the Council of the Vatican are definitions of old truths, old doctrines, revealed by Jesus Christ and the apostles, and contained in Scripture and tradition. But some of the truths proposed by these definitions, although old doctrines, and contained in the original deposit of faith, are new dogmas in this sense, that they are more explicit statements of truths implicitly contained in dogmas previously defined or declared, and that they are now newly proposed under this more precise and extended form to the faithful, as revealed doctrines, with the obligation of receiving them as articles of faith. The dogma of the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff was contained implicitly in the dogma of the infallibility of the church, and in the dogma, long since explicitly defined, of the Papal supremacy; in Scripture and tradition also; and in the general teaching of the schools of theology, in a more distinct and express form. Wherefore, as we have said, it is useful and important to show how it is contained in and related to the general principles of the essential constitution and infallibility of the church, as well as to make an exposition of the specific proofs of its truth as a distinct doctrine from the Scripture, the fathers, and the general teaching which has prevailed in the church. In this way, a Catholic, to whom new truths, or truths less clearly and certainly known than others, have been proposed as a part of the Catholic faith by the Council of the Vatican, will see that his ideas are not changed but enlarged, and enlarged not by an addition of extrinsic matter, but by the growth and development within his own mind of the faith which he already possessed in its integrity.

Let us begin by defining and clearly comprehending the term infallibility. It is a negative term in its literal meaning. Fallible means liable to err. Infallible means not liable to err; and infallibility is the exemption from liability to error. When we say that the church is infallible, we say, in strictness of meaning, that the church is not liable to err. Her infallibility is some kind of immunity from error, which is one of her essential notes. This immunity from error evidently implies some sort of unerring possession of truth, and therefore denotes a positive quality or prerogative, as is frequently the case with terms of a negative form. What it denotes in Catholic theology we will explain more fully as we proceed. The positive idea, in which the general notion of infallibility has its foundation, is one of the first principles not only of Catholic theology, but of all theology and philosophy. The unerring and certain possession of some eternal and universal truths is, and must be, affirmed by all who profess that man has or can have the knowledge of God and of the relation of his own soul to him, whether by reason or revelation; that is, by all except sceptics. With sceptics we wish to have nothing to do, for they are not entitled to be treated as rational beings. Every rational man will admit that there is such a thing as wisdom, and that the wise man possesses it, and therefore knows something in the order of rational truth. St. Augustine has proved this in a most subtle and conclusive manner in his short treatise, Against the Academicians, the earliest of his published works, written while he was preparing for baptism. The wise man, he proves, cannot have the notion of probability or verisimilitude, unless he has the idea of truth. He knows, at least, that there is such a thing as truth, otherwise he could not affirm in a reasonable manner that anything is probably in conformity with truth, that is, appears to be true, or resembles truth, which is the meaning of verisimilitude. Moreover, every man is forced to admit the certain truth of a number of disjunctive propositions. "I am certain that the world is either one or not, and if not one, either a finite or an infinite number. Also, that this world has its order, from a merely physical law of nature, or some higher power; that it either is without beginning or end, or else has a beginning and no end, or had no beginning but will have an end, and numberless other things of the same kind." (Contra Academicos lib. iii. S 93.) In the same manner, we may say: Either the visible world is an illusion or real; either God exists or he does not exist; Christianity is either true or false; either Catholicity is genuine or counterfeit Christianity; either the existence of God, the truth of the Catholic religion, the infallibility of the Catholic Church, can be proved with certitude, or they cannot be proved. These disjunctive propositions can be multiplied indefinitely, and they are only different examples of that principle of logic called the principle of contradiction, which it is impossible for anyone seriously and intelligently to deny or even to doubt. Reason, therefore, forces us to affirm that we know something with unerring certainty, that is, that the human intellect is at least to this limited extent exempt from liability to deception or error, and, so far, infallible. The only possible dispute in philosophy or theology relates to the subject and extent of infallibility. What truths are known or knowable with infallible certitude, and where is the infallibility seated which gives this certitude?

Every man who affirms that God obliges the human conscience to give a firm and undoubting assent to certain truths, and to obey certain moral rules, must admit that he also gives the means of knowing with unerring certainty these truths and moral rules. Even the probabilist cannot escape this. For he who would act safely on a probable conscience must have a reflex certainty that he does not sin in doing so. If we are bound to assent to truth, and to obey law, of which we have only probable evidence, and this obligation is certain, we must know with certainty that we are subjectively acting in a right manner in giving our assent and obedience. A philosopher who affirms that we have certain knowledge of this truth and this law is, of course, a more strict infallibilist than the other. Yet the principle is in common. When a man affirms that God has made a positive revelation, and that in his revelation he has disclosed truths and promulgated laws which he binds the conscience of every one to whom they are proposed to believe and obey, he extends the principle of infallibility much further. If I am to believe these truths, especially such as are above reason, with a firm, undoubting assent, and to be held bound to keep these laws, especially such as are hard to keep, the revelation must be made to my mind in such a manner as to give me certainty, without any fear of error. Whoever admits this must assent also to the following disjunctive proposition: Either the revelation of God is made known to the individual mind through the medium of the Catholic Church, or in some other way. We are not concerned at present to prove the proposition that the revelation is made known through the church as a medium. Our argument is immediately directed to those who admit and believe it already. Therefore, leaving aside all discussion with those who are not Christians or not Catholics, we merely affirm, as a consequence from what has been proved, that the principle of infallibility, so far as Christian faith is concerned, is seated in the church as the medium of divine revelation. With us Catholics it is unquestioned that the church is that visible society whose supreme head is the Pope. Our only object of investigation is the nature, extent, and more precise seat of that infallibility which the church possesses as the depository of divine revelation, and the medium of communicating it to individual minds.

The church is infallible. To make more plain the meaning of this proposition, let us go back once more to the etymology of the term infallible. The Latin word from which it is derived is fallo, signifying deceive. Infallible signifies incapable of being deceived or deceiving. The church, as infallible, cannot be deceived or deceive, respecting that body of truth which has been deposited in her by the apostles, and which they received from Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. The positive and fundamental truth from which this negative statement of the inerrancy of the church is derived, and which it protects, is that the church, as a visible, organized society, is the immediate recipient of a certain divine revelation, and the medium of its transmission and communication. This divine revelation must be accepted and believed with a firm assent, excluding all doubt, by each individual. It is a revelation of dogmas and doctrines, some of which are mysteries above reason, and of laws which are strictly obligatory. Each individual must receive the faith and law from the church, of which he is a member by baptism, with unquestioning submission and obedience of the intellect and will. But this entire, unreserved faith and obedience could not be justly exacted, unless the church were divinely enabled to impart pure, unmixed truth, and to prescribe pure, unmixed holiness to her members, and divinely secured from imparting or prescribing error or sin. Authority and obligation are correlative in nature and extent. As is the obligation, so is the authority. If the obligation is universal and without reserve, the authority is sovereign and supreme. If the obligation requires an absolute, undoubting assent of the mind, and a divine faith, the authority must be infallible. Whoever is bound to unconditional assent must be secured in immunity from error in believing. Whoever is authorized to command assent must be secured in immunity from error in teaching. Supreme and sovereign authority in teaching, and absolute obedience in receiving what is taught, require and exact, as a necessary condition, inerrancy in that society which is constituted on the principle of this authority and its correlative obedience. The fundamental idea of the Catholic Church, therefore, contains in it that passive and active infallibility which belongs to the hierarchy and the faithful as composing one body under their head, the Roman Pontiff. Wherever divine and Catholic faith, or certain knowledge derived from faith, and the obligation of unreserved, complete assent and obedience, are found, there is the passive infallibility of the church. Wherever supreme teaching authority is found, commanding this obedience, declaring or defining this faith, or revealed doctrine, or certain truth derived from and depending on it, there is the church's active infallibility in exercise. The influence of those gifts of the Holy Ghost by which the church is rendered infallible pervades the whole body of the church, and manifests itself in the most multiform ways. The church is living and immortal. Her life is divine and supernatural, and its principle is faith. The faith is, therefore, the principle of an immortal life, and itself an immortal principle within the church. Like the principle of animal vitality, it is found in every part of the organization, but vitalizing each organ and member in a different way, according to its function. Brain, heart, lungs, and fingers are vitalized by the same principle, although each one fulfils a special office. So in the church, the supreme head, the hierarchy, the laity, are animated by the same divine principle of faith, and concur in the general functions of the great organic unit, but each in his own place and in a special office. The result of their combined and complex action is the perpetuation of the divine revelation in all times and places until the end of the world. We have to consider, therefore, a great many other constituent parts, organs, and members of the body of the church, as well as the head, in order to understand the relation which the head bears to them and they to it, and the manner in which its special function influences and is influenced by the other functions. We can do this only in a brief and imperfect manner in a short essay, but we will endeavor to touch upon some of the principal parts of this great and extensive subject in a manner sufficient for our purpose.

The revelation which proceeded from the Incarnate Word of God was diffused, in a great variety of ways, by the apostles, and committed to a great number of various channels for transmission through the coming ages. They gave it to the faithful by their preaching, they embodied it in the hierarchy, in the sacraments, in the creed, in the liturgy, in fasts and festivals, in rites, ceremonies, and worship. They taught it to their companions and successors in die episcopate in the most complete and thorough manner. They committed it to writing, in great part, in their inspired scriptures, and gave their sanction to other books written under divine inspiration by those who were not apostles. To use a figure, there are many great rivers by which the inspired and divine doctrines of the apostles flow through all parts of the world, and through all the succeeding periods of time. The great sources of these rivers are, nevertheless, but two: Scripture and tradition. The Holy Scripture is infallible, as well the Old Testament, which is proposed anew to Christians by the church, as the New Testament, in which the clearer and more complete revelation is contained. Apostolic tradition is infallible, and therefore Catholic tradition, which is an unerring transmission of it, is also infallible. The written and oral teaching of the apostles has come down to us by the numerous great rivers and the smaller numberless rivulets of Catholic tradition, irrigating the fields and gardens of the church, and opening the way to intellectual communion between different countries and centuries. These streams can be traced back to their sources by the student. The single doctrines of faith and theology can be traced one by one, and the whole body of doctrines, as a complete system, can be followed up, through the expositions, meditations, and commentaries of saints, doctors, and fathers of the church, to the Holy Scripture. In the same way, the student can go back to the original tradition. He is not restricted to one line of argument or evidence, for there are many converging lines, each one more or less certain and sufficient by itself, and all, taken together, irresistibly and overwhelmingly conclusive and convincing. One who is not able to make an investigation of this kind may, nevertheless, be competent to understand the general and equally conclusive argument from prescription. He may know enough of history to be aware that the principal doctrines of the faith were universally held in the tenth century, still further back in the fifth, and before that, indefinitely, without any record of a change, or any adequate cause for such general consent, except the teaching of the apostles.

Not only are the Scriptures and apostolic tradition infallible sources of doctrine which is unerringly transmitted, but the general sense and belief of the faithful is also infallible. The faithful have received from the beginning the teaching of the divine revelation by a supernatural sense, a divine gift of faith, so that the revelation has not remained merely extrinsically proposed to them, but also received and appropriated by them, in a living manner, through the inward operation of the Holy Spirit in their minds. This sense of the faithful is even one of the motives of the definitions made by popes and councils. It was consulted by Pius IX. when he was preparing to make his decree respecting the Immaculate Conception, and it was recognized at the Council of the Vatican as expressed in the numerous petitions for the definition of papal infallibility. The body of the faithful cannot lose the faith, or any part of it, or embrace any heresy as belonging to faith. Their unanimous consent in doctrine is an infallible evidence of the true faith in itself, and a note of the true religion. The body of the church is immortal in the life of faith, and indefeasible in its supernatural existence, and therefore infallible, as well as the head. It cannot separate from its head in doctrine. The universal recognition of the Pope by the church makes it infallibly certain that he is the true and legitimate Pope, and the universal acceptance of a council as oecumenical makes it infallibly certain that it is a true council, although it be certain also, on other infallible motives, that Pope and council are legitimate. The want of this universal recognition caused for many years the legitimacy of certain popes to be doubtful in a large part of Christendom, and of course made the authority of their decrees doubtful, and would have made the authority of any council convoked by them as a general council also doubtful. It was the unanimous agreement of the whole church in recognizing Martin V as the true successor of St. Peter, which gave to all the faithful certainty that he was their lawful head. If a Catholic had no other evidence that the dogmatic decree of Pius IX declaring the Immaculate Conception a doctrine of faith, and the decrees of the Vatican Council defining the infallibility of the Pope, are valid and binding, except the universal profession of the faithful that they believe these doctrines with a divine and Catholic faith, that alone would be sufficient to give him infallible certainty.

The infallibility of the church in this general sense, which is an attribute of the whole body or visible society, includes and exacts the infallibility of the teaching and ruling hierarchy in a special and particular sense, which is also capable of an independent proof of its own. The faithful are subject to the hierarchy and dependent on it for the sacraments, for regulation, and for instruction. All that life which is diffused throughout the body must exist in a more immediate and intense action in its highest organs. An infallible church cannot be subject to a fallible teaching authority. The apostles were infallible witnesses, teachers, and judges, in respect to the faith and everything connected with it, as the original founders of the church under the Lord Jesus Christ, by whom they were immediately commissioned. The church was made infallible by participation with them, as they were made infallible by participation with Christ, who was Himself infallible as the Son of God. The authority of officially declaring the testimony of the church, of teaching authoritatively its doctrine, of judging in all controversies, and of punishing all delinquents, was left by the apostles to their successors the bishops; and the special authority of St. Peter, as the Vicar of Christ, was transmitted by him to his successors in the See of Rome. In their prophetical office, as the immediate organs of the revelation of the Holy Spirit, they left no successors, for when the faith and law of Christ were once fully revealed, the necessity of this office ceased. But their official infallibility was, of necessity, perpetuated in that episcopal order which inherited the hierarchical dignity and authority of the Apostolic College. The church is infallible in teaching and judging, as well as in keeping and professing the deposit of faith, and accepting what is taught by lawful authority. Every Catholic knows this to be a fundamental doctrine of the faith. But it is the Ecclesia Docens, the church or assembly of prelates, which is meant in this proposition. There is no infallibility in fathers, doctors, theologians, priests, or the faithful generally, which is separate from or independent of the authority of the episcopate. Even bishops who separate from the unity of their order by revolting against its supreme chief, lose all their authority. No matter how many bishops, priests, and laymen separate from this unity, their whole number is of no more account than if there were but one, since they are totally cut off from the church. Tertullian, Apollinaris, Cranmer, Luther, the whole mass of Oriental schismatics and other seceders, count for nothing. Those who revolt from the unity of the church lose the grace of faith, and have no longer any share in the church's infallibility. The consent of fathers, doctors, theologians, and of the faithful is infallible, because it represents Catholic tradition, which is itself a reflection or image of the authoritative teaching of the apostles and their successors. There is no contradiction or dissension possible in truth, but only in error. In how many ways soever the truth infallibly manifests itself, these various manifestations must always agree with each other. In order that the official teaching and judgments of the episcopate may always agree with Scripture, tradition, with each other, with the teaching of fathers, theologians, doctors, and the consent of the faithful, they must be infallible. All alike being infallible, they must agree. No individual, or number of individuals, therefore, can be qualified to cite either Scripture or tradition against the authority of the church, any more than to cite the authority of one apostle against that of another apostle. To do this, is merely to oppose private judgment, individual opinion, to public, official, and authoritative judgment, which is destructive of the very principle of authority and organization. The supreme teacher and judge must decide in all doubtful and disputed cases, without appeal, what is the doctrine and law, what is the sense of Scripture, the witness of tradition, the doctrine of the fathers, the common belief of the faithful.

From this final and decisive authority, and the correlative obligation of obedience, we derive another and most cogent proof, that wherever sovereignty in the order of ideas or doctrinal supremacy resides in the church, it must be there that the active infallibility of the church is principally seated. A supreme and final judgment or decree must be an infallible judgment. It is irretractible, irreformable, irreversible. The church is committed to it, and bound by it forever, and that by the law of God. It must be, therefore, the absolute truth, and whatever tribunal is qualified to pronounce it to be so, and to exact unlimited assent and obedience from all the faithful, must be infallible.

_________________
Yours in JMJ,
Mike


Wed Oct 05, 2011 7:48 am
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New post Re: Infallibility
(infallibility cont.)

We must be careful, however, not to limit the authority to teach, and to require outward obedience or even inward assent, or the obligation of submission to authority, to the sphere of infallible declarations and judgments. In the natural order itself, we are frequently bound in conscience to assent to things which are only probable, and to act on the supposition that they are true. Probability is the only and the sufficient guide of life in most things. Self-evident and demonstrable truths, and indubitable facts, are comparatively few in number. Without a basis of certitude, there would be no such thing as real versimilitude or probability. But with that basis we can construct a great edifice of beliefs, opinions, and practical rules, which have more or less of the firmness and stability of their foundation. The probability of these beliefs is to a great extent extrinsic—that is, derived from authority which in reason and conscience we are bound to respect. It is reasonable, and it is a duty, to receive the instruction of parents, teachers, masters, with docility; to respect the authority of learned and wise men, of tribunals, and of the common sense of society. In the supernatural order it is the same. The authority of the Holy Scripture is not restricted to that portion of its teaching which the mind perceives with an absolute certitude. There is a moral obligation on every student of the Scripture to give its probable sense and meaning that inward assent which corresponds to the degree of probability which his mind and conscience apprehend, and which may approach indefinitely near to certainty. It is the same with tradition, and with other sources of Catholic doctrine, such as the teaching of standard authors in dogmatic and moral theology, the official instructions of confessors, preachers, and pastors of the church, including those of councils and of the Sovereign Pontiff. Under this head are to be classed the decrees of the Roman Congregations, excepting those cases in which the Pope gives them a higher sanction than the one ordinarily given. There is, therefore, a wide sphere in which an authority is exercised within the order of ideas which is legitimate, and to which deference and obedience are due, but which is not guaranteed to have a complete and perpetual immunity from all error. We cannot say, therefore, that there cannot be any exercise of teaching authority in the church which is fallible, but only that the church cannot be left without any authority except that which is fallible. To a certain extent, Scripture and tradition may be ambiguous, doubtful, capable of being interpreted differently; but we cannot be left altogether in doubt or uncertainty about their meaning. Catholic schools may have their differences about dogmatic or moral theology, but they cannot be altogether divided and dissentient. The common belief of the faithful may shade off insensibly, so that it is difficult or impossible to draw a precise line between what is in itself pertaining to faith and that which is only opinion, but it cannot be in all things indistinct and vague. The confessor, the pastor, the bishop, the theologian, the father of the church, may teach something which is erroneous, but this liability to error cannot be universal. The tribunals of the church, even, may be obliged to decide upon partial and incomplete evidence and knowledge of the cause, and afterwards to annul their decisions, as in the case of the heliocentric theory. But these tribunals cannot be always and altogether without a higher and more certain rule to guide them. There must be a supreme and sovereign authority in the church which is infallible, and which can guide, direct, restrain, and correct all inferior and fallible exercise of authority. This sovereign authority is only exercised in the declaration and definition of doctrine in an irreversible and irreformable manner, and with an obligation annexed of that assent which excludes even a hypothetical doubt, or a right of ever withdrawing or modifying assent. It is this authority which we say must be infallible. And, moreover, it is impossible to conceive of the real existence of an authority of this kind which is not infallible. The belief of the infallibility of the church was therefore contained, from the first, demonstrably, in the belief of the supreme authority of the church. Moreover, it has always been distinctly believed and taught, as well as acted on, in all ages, and has been explicitly declared by the Council of the Vatican, and, so far as the Pope is concerned, defined in express terms.

This infallible and perpetual magistracy of the church is exercised in its ordinary way by the official teaching of the Catholic episcopate, whose supreme head is the Pope, and of the priests commissioned by them to teach. It began before the New Testament was written, and continued for nearly three hundred years before any oecumenical council was held. It is a great mistake to fancy that either the Scripture, or the decrees of councils, created the faith. It existed before them, and was apprehended with a vividness and distinctness perhaps surpassing anything which has been witnessed in later periods.

The solemn and special exercise of this magistracy is through the judgments and definitions of the Holy See, either with or without the concurrence of oecumenical councils. These solemn acts have had for their first object to express in definite terms what was always taught and believed as of the Catholic faith, and to condemn all opposite errors. Their second object has been to declare and define revealed truths contained in Scripture and tradition, but not proposed by the church as of Catholic faith before their solemn definition. Their third object has been to define truths not revealed, but so connected with or related to revealed truths, that they are necessary to the protection of the faith and law of the church. Many of the judgments belonging to the last two classes, also, are negative in their form, that is, condemnations of heretical, erroneous, or otherwise censurable tenets and opinions. The necessity for making these definitions has been so constant and frequent during the history of the church, that the principal doctrines of the faith, and a vast body of doctrine pertaining to or connected with it, are distinctly and explicitly taught in the collection of the acts of the Holy See and the cecumenical councils. It would be, however, a most grievous error to suppose that everything contained in Scripture and tradition, much less the whole body of truth which is capable of infallible definition, has been exhausted, or could be expressed in a certain definite number of propositions, to which no addition could ever be made. The fountain is inexhaustible. And, no matter how long time may last, the church can still proceed to make new and more explicit elucidations and definitions of that complete and Catholic body of truth which she has held and taught either explicitly or implicitly from the beginning. The notion that the church is a merely mechanical medium, for transmitting a definite and precise number of propositions of faith, is wholly false. It is the notion of a certain number of Anglicans, but wholly foreign to the true and Catholic idea. It is not only heterodox, but rationally untenable and ridiculous. Equally so is the common Protestant notion of a division among revealed truths into two classes, the fundamental and non-fundamental, in the sense in which those terms are used by Protestant theologians. Undoubtedly, there are mysteries and doctrines which are fundamental in the sense that they are at the basis of Christianity, and more necessary to be universally known and explicitly believed than any others. And, consequently, there are other truths which belong to the superstructure, to the minor and less principal parts of the system, or to its finish and ornamentation. But, in the sense to which we have reference, they are all equal. That is, there is the same obligation of believing any one revealed truth as any other, because the authority of God is equally sovereign and majestic in each single instance. We are bound to believe, implicitly, everything contained in the written and unwritten word of God. Whatever the church proposes as a revealed truth we are bound to believe explicitly as a part of the Catholic faith, as soon as we know it. Whatever else we know certainly to be contained in the word of God, we are bound to believe by divine faith. In regard to all that portion of revealed truth which is not thus clearly made known to us, we are bound to submit our minds unreservedly to the decisions and judgments which the church may hereafter make, and in the meantime to adhere to that which seems to be the truth. A Catholic must not only believe what the church now proposes to his belief, but be ready to believe whatever she may hereafter propose. And he must, therefore, be ready to give up any or all of his probable opinions so soon as they are condemned and proscribed by a competent authority. Moreover, he must believe what the church teaches, not simply or chiefly because he has convinced himself by his own investigations that her doctrines are really contained in the word of God, but because the infallible authority of the church proposes them as revealed doctrines. The latest decisions of the church have, therefore, the same authority as the earliest. The Council of the Vatican is equally sacred with the Council of Trent, and the Council of Trent with the First Council of Nicaea.

It is not necessary to prove to any tolerably instructed Catholic that this is the only doctrine which has been recognized as orthodox, or taught with the sanction of the hierarchy, within the Catholic communion. It is found in all our catechisms and books of instruction, and preached by all pastors. It is an amazing fact that some ostensible converts to the church in England, who have lately renounced their sworn allegiance to her authority, have declared that they never understood this doctrine. This only shows the depth of the ignorance of Catholic doctrine which prevails among many of the most intelligent and educated Protestants, especially those of the Anglican sect. Priests educated in the faith from their childhood, cannot easily apprehend such ignorance in persons who apparently hold Catholic doctrines and are attracted by Catholic ceremonies. They may, therefore, in some cases presuppose in their catechumens an understanding of the fundamental Catholic principle which they have not, and pass them in with a superficial instruction which leaves them as much Protestants as they were before. It is to be hoped that greater precaution will be used hereafter in this important matter. It is also true that a number of nominal Catholics, and, sad to say, some priests, a few of whom had stood in high repute, have recently manifested to the world how utterly they had in their secret hearts thrown off the allegiance due to the authority of the church. But these examples prove nothing. It is as clear as the sun that the doctrine we have laid down is the doctrine of the Catholic Church. It is the doctrine of Bossuet as well as that of Bellarmine, of Waterworth as well as of Wiseman. No other doctrine has ever been tolerated in the church, and if any have held or taught any other, at any time, who have not been personally condemned and excommunicated, they were still only pretended but not real members of the Catholic communion. A most signal manifestation of the universal faith of the church in this doctrine was made in the year 1854. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which St. Thomas and many other Dominican writers had opposed without censure, and which the Holy See had strictly forbidden all theologians to call a dogma of Catholic faith before the definition, was then proclaimed as a dogma of faith by Pius IX with the applause of the whole body of bishops, clergy, and faithful. Another one has been made within the last year by a number of bishops, priests, and other Catholics, who have given up their opinions respecting the infallibility of the Pope, and have received that doctrine as a doctrine of faith, simply upon the authority of the Council of the Vatican.

This remark brings us to a part, and a very important part, of our subject, which we promised at the beginning of this article to treat of at its close, and thus give a complete view of the doctrine of infallibility.

The definition of the Council of the Vatican, by virtue of the foregoing principles, furnishes every one of the faithful with an infallible motive for believing the infallibility of the Pope as a dogma of faith, and imposes the obligation of faith on his conscience. The teaching of the universal episcopate, in accordance with that definition, furnishes another equally infallible motive. And so does the universal belief of the faithful, who receive and submit to that infallible definition of the council. There is, moreover, such an abundance of proof from the Scripture, and the most conspicuous monuments of tradition, of the doctrine in question, that any person of ordinary education is capable of understanding enough of the evidence in the case to make a reasonable judgment, and might have done so, even before the case was decided. The fact that a small number of theologians held a different opinion was really of no weight at any time, considering the vastly preponderating weight of the judgment of all the saints, the great majority of theologians, and almost the entire body of the bishops. Whatever seeming probability the opinion of this small minority might have had in the minds of some having been totally destroyed by the judgment of the council, the reasons from Scripture and tradition gain now their full force and are seen in their true light. But the purpose we have had in view, and which we stated at the outset, is not the exhibition of these specific proofs, but the exposition of the relation of the new definition to the supremacy itself and the general doctrine of infallibility; as well as an answer to the question, how the infallibility of the Pope could have remained so long without an express definition.

In the first place, as to the supremacy. The Pope is, by divine right, supreme ruler, supreme teacher, and supreme judge over the universal church, and over all its priests and members, individually and collectively. As supreme ruler, he must be infallible; not indeed in all his particular acts, but in his principles and rules of government. Otherwise, he might subvert the constitution of the church, destroy morality, oppress and depose the orthodox prelates, promote heretics to the highest places, and do in the Catholic Church what the schismatical Eastern patriarchs have done, and what Cranmer did in England. By the very supposition, there would be no authority in the church to control him, and all the prelates and faithful would be bound to obey him. For, if there is any authority in the church superior to the Papal authority, the supremacy is in that authority, and not in the Pope. As supreme teacher, he can instruct all Christian bishops, as well as laity, in regard to the doctrine which they must believe, and bind their consciences to submit to his teaching. It follows from our entire foregoing argument that infallibility is necessary to the possession and exercise of such a power. As supreme judge questions of faith and morals, his decision must be final and irreversible; for there is no judge above him except our Lord Jesus Christ himself. But the final judgments which the whole Catholic Church b bound to accept must be infallible Sovereignty, or the possession of the plenitude of power, when it extends over the realm of mind and conscience, exacts infallibility. And this has been most lucidly and conclusively proved, during the recent controversies, by Archbishop Dechamps, Dom Gueranger, and various other able writers.

The infallibility of the Pope is implicitly contained in and logically concluded from the infallibility of the church in general, and of the teaching hierarchy in particular, in substantially the same way as it is in the supremacy. The church is essentially constituted by its fundamental principle, which is that of organs unity under one visible head, the successor of St. Peter. The vital force of this organic unity is faith, and, as the body is infallible in faith, and also governed by the head, the head must be infallible in a higher and more immediate sense; otherwise, the body of the church would be liable either to become corrupt in faith by remaining united to a corrupted head, or to cease to be a body by separating from its head. If we take the church as represented by another similitude, it is founded, as a building, on the Rock of Peter; that is, the Roman Church and the succession of Roman pontiffs. The foundation must be stable and immovable in faith, if the structure resting upon it has this immovable stability. So, also, the episcopal hierarchy, whether dispersed or congregated in a general council, must remain in communion of faith and doctrine with the Roman Church and Pontiff. The Pope must sanction their decrees, otherwise they are null and void. Those bishops who separate from the faith of the Roman Pontiff, no matter how numerous they may be, fall out of the communion of the church and forfeit their authority to teach. Evidently, therefore, if the teaching hierarchy is infallible, the rule and authority which directs and governs it must be infallible. If a pilot is placed on the flag-ship of a fleet which has to pass through a dangerous strait, and orders are given to every ship to follow in his wake, it is evident that the success of the passage depends on the unerring skill of the pilot. A fallible head to an infallible hierarchy, a fallible guide to an infallible church, a fallible supreme teacher, a fallible Vicar of Christ! What a contradiction in terms! Who can believe that our Lord Jesus Christ ever constituted his church upon such inconsistent principles? The supremacy of the Pope and the infallibility of the church plainly cannot coexist with each other in fact, or be united into a coherent whole in logic, without the infallibility of the Pope as the term of union. Yet these two doctrines have always been the constitutive principles of the Catholic Church.

It is, however, still requisite to answer the question, how any doctrine different from that defined by the Council of the Vatican could have existed and been tolerated so long among Catholics, and how the church could have postponed her definition to this late period. When we say it is requisite, we mean, merely, requisite in order to complete the explanation we promised to make. We have no right to ask reasons of the church, any more than of Almighty God, as a preliminary to our submission. We are to take with unquestioning docility whatever instruction the church gives us. Yet, we are permitted to make investigation of the truths of our religion, in order to understand them better, to confirm our belief, and to be ready to answer objections. Therefore, we reply to the question stated above, first, in general terms, that the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff has always been held, taught, and acted on by the supreme authority itself, and practically acknowledged by all good Catholics; and that its explicit definition was delayed until the necessity and expediency of such a definition was made clearly manifest, and the fitting occasion furnished by the providence of God.

The argument will be made more clear if we substitute the term irreformable in the place of infallible. All irreformable decrees are confessedly infallible, and the question of law and fact is therefore precisely this: whether the Roman Pontiffs have ever suffered their dogmatic decrees to be judicially revised by the bishops, or to remain suspended as to their complete obligatory force, until the express or tacit assent of the bishops had been manifested; and whether the church has ever recognized any such right in the bishops. So far as the Popes are concerned, it is enough to refer to the unquestionable fact that they have expressly prohibited appeals from the judgment of the Holy See to an oecumenical council, from the time of Celestine I. in the fifth century. Martin V and Pius II in the fifteenth century, Julius II and Paul V in the sixteenth century, renewed this prohibition. Clement XI, in the eighteenth century, condemned the Jansenists, who had appealed from the Bull Unigenitus to a general council, and pronounced sentence of excommunication upon all who promoted the appeal, unless they abandoned it and subscribed to the Unigenitus. This sentence was a general one, including all appeals from the Holy See to an oecumenical council. It was accepted by the whole church, a small party of Jansenists only remaining contumacious, and has been incorporated into the canon law. Moreover, the Holy See has always required the bishops to receive and promulgate without any judicial examination, and without delay, all its dogmatic judgments; and they have submitted to this demand obediently, even those who, like Bossuet, have held Gallican opinions. The most illustrious and irrefragable proof of the doctrine of the universal episcopate on this point which could be given, was really given at the Council of the Vatican. The monition at the end of the constitution on faith, which plainly declares the obligation of entire submission to the doctrinal decrees of the Holy See, was approved by the unanimous vote of all the fathers, including those belonging to what was called the minority. The Popes have always claimed and exercised the office of supreme judges in matters of faith, the episcopate and the whole church consenting and submitting, and all dissidents being compelled to keep silence or incur excommunication.

The definition of the Council of the Vatican has not, therefore, conferred any new rights on the Sovereign Pontiff or enlarged their exercise. It has only made an explicit statement that the rights always possessed and exercised by him are declared in the divine revelation to belong to him jure divino, with the guarantee of infallibility in their exercise, and proposed this statement to all the faithful with the obligation of receiving ii as a part of the Catholic faith.

It is not very difficult to give satisfactory reasons why this was not done before. The church does no: make definitions without a positive reason. Ordinarily, she waits until the truth is denied or disputed. Before the Council of Constance, or rather the period which immediately preceded that council, the plenary authority of the Pope had not been called in question except by open schismatics and heretics. We have the authority of Gerson, the principal author of Gallicanism, for the assertion that anyone who had advanced his doctrine of the subjection of the Pope to the council before that time, would have been universally condemned as a heretic. The Council of Constance was a very irregular, abnormal, and imperfect council, until the election of Martin V. near its close. It was rather a congress or states-general of Christendom than a council. The residence of the popes at Avignon and the subsequent division of Catholic Christendom into three obediences, had put the pontifical authority in abeyance and diminished the moral force of the Holy See. The right and duty of putting an end to this state of things, and bringing the whole church under the jurisdiction of one certain and lawful head, had devolved by default upon the bishops, aided by the influence and authority of the princes, and the counsel of the principal theologians and priests of the time. Harrassed and distracted by the difficulties and dangers which beset the church, a number of leading men whose spirit and intention were good, and who were devoted to the preservation of Catholic unity, had fallen into the grievous mistake of seeking a remedy for existing and threatening disorders in a limitation of the sovereign authority of the Vicar of Christ. Martin V obviously did the only thing prudent or even possible for the moment, in leaving the irregular and uncanonical decrees which they had passed to die of their own intrinsic weakness. His successor, Eugenius IV, had too many open and contumacious rebels and schismatics to deal with, to permit him to alienate those who had fallen into minor errors, unawares, by a formal condemnation. At the Council of Florence, the reconciliation of the Creeks and other Orientals to the Holy See was the object of paramount importance. At the Fifth Council of Lateran and at the Council of Trent, the fathers were absorbed by questions of far greater immediate necessity than that of Gallicanism. Yet the Council of Lateran came very near defining the Papal infallibility, and the result of the Council of Trent was to strengthen the pontifical authority immense as may be seen by reading the history of its final confirmation and promulgation, and examining the bull of confirmation itself, which effectually sweeps away every vestige of the irregular legislation of Constance. Between the Council of Trent and the Council of the Vatican, no other oecumenical council intervened. The Gallican controversy, as all know, chiefly raged during the reign of Louis XIV. The Pope refrained from any formal condemnation of the Gallican tenets, although urged even by that monarch himself to terminate the controversy by a final judgment; and, although these opinions were held and advocated by a certain number of Catholic prelates and theologians from that time until the Council of the Vatican, they were never branded by any note of censure by the Holy See. It may seem surprising that such a patient and cautious method of dealing with errors which have at length been condemned as heretical should have been pursued; but anyone who knows the whole history of the matter must admire the supernatural wisdom of this course of conduct. One motive, doubtless, for it, was respect for Bossuet. But another and more powerful reason was that the Holy See desired to gain a victory by the means of discussion and argument, before reverting to the exercise of authority.

And again, it is obvious at first sight that a far greater moral weight has been given to the final definition, by the fact that the Sovereign Pontiffs have left the solemn and decisive deliberation and judgment of a matter which relates to their own highest and most sublime prerogative, to the bishops of the church assembled in a general council. It may appear strange to some that the church could tolerate an error even for a time. But there is a great difference between those errors which subvert the foundation and rule of faith, and those which only shake them a little. The errors of the Jansenists, Febronians, and other rebels against the authority of the Holy See, were of the first class, and were never tolerated. But the Gallicans of the school of Bossuet recognized and practised the duty of obedience to the Holy See. Their error lay rather in an illogical, indistinct, and imperfect conception of the supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff, than in a denial of any of its attributes. They admitted the right of the Pope to issue dogmatic judgments, and the obligation of bishops and the faithful to receive them with interior assent and obedience. They acknowledged that these judgments became judgments of the Catholic Church, and were made irreformable as soon as the assent of a majority of the bishops was even tacitly given. As this assent has always been given, not tacitly alone, but by the most formal and express adhesion, there has never been any practical divergence in doctrine between orthodox Gallicans and the more consistent Ultramontanes. St Augustine himself had said that it is sometimes the wisest course to tolerate for a time the errors of those who hold the faith firmly, and err only by an imperfect knowledge and a confused conception of the truth. The church has not hesitated or faltered in regard to her own principles, or failed to act on them with full and distinct consciousness. But it is not always necessary for her to propose them fully and completely as articles of divine and Catholic faith to her children. It is for the church, guided, illuminated, governed, and assisted by the Holy Spirit, to judge of the time and manner in which she will unfold and display in all their brilliant majesty the treasures of her doctrine. She has waited until the nineteenth century to encircle the brow of the Queen of Heaven with the coronet of her definition of the Immaculate Conception, and to place in the tiara of the Vicar of Christ a new jewel by defining his infallibility. From both these splendid acts, in which her divine authority, her irresistible power, her infallible wisdom, and her miraculous unity are manifested with the most radiant lustre, incalculable blessings will flow in abundance upon her faithful children. Christ is honored in his Mother and in his Vicar. The serpent's head is crushed anew. Faith triumphs in her new conquests. The kingdom of God is strengthened and consolidated, and the kingdom of Satan is shaken to its foundations. Like the cathedral of Cologne, the superb edifice of theology approaches to its completion, the new marble rises side by side with that which is dimmed by the dust of ages, and new pinnacles are placed upon ancient foundations. This temple is one whose builder and maker is not man but God, whose designs are formed in eternity, but realized gradually and successively in time. From the foundation to the topstone, the massive solidity, the symmetry and unity of plan, the harmony of proportions, the perfection of beauty, which become more clearly evident with every century, disclose the idea in the infinite mind of the Supreme Architect. The Catholic Church has been designed and constructed by the same being Who designed and constructed the universe. As the solar system is unerring and unfailing in its movements, prescribed to it by the immutable law of its Creator, so is the church unerring and unfailing by the law of its divine Founder. And as the sun can never cease to be the unfailing source of light and heat, and the immovable centre of revolution, while the solar system endures, so the See of Peter must remain the centre and the source of truth, doctrine, law, unity, and perpetual movement to the Catholic Church, so long as time endures. It is this unerring stability of the Catholic Church in the law prescribed by its founder, Jesus Christ, which is properly termed infallibility; and, since this stability is communicated to all the distant and dependent churches under her obedience by the Roman Church, it is in the Roman Church that infallibility has its immovable seat and centre.

It is plain from the foregoing argument how false and flimsy is the pretence of Dr. Dollinger, M. Loyson, and the other rebels against the Council of the Vatican, that they have been excommunicated for adhering to the old Catholic faith which they have always held. All heretics have said the same thing, except those who have openly averred that they reject the authority of the Catholic Church. This is what the Arians said, and Arius knew how to play the injured, persecuted saint and prophet of God, even better than M. Loyson. The creed of Nice is a new creed, said the Arians and SemiArians. So said the rebels against the Councils of Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon. The little Jansenist sect in Holland calls itself the Old Catholic Church, and its members take the name of Old Catholics. The allegation is palpably and ridiculously false. The Gallican opinions were never a part of the Catholic doctrine. The highest claim that could ever be made for them by their advocates was, that they were probable opinions not condemned by the supreme authority. The best theologians have condemned them as erroneous and proximate to heresy. The Holy See has never shown them the slightest favor, but, on the contrary, has used all means, except that of express condemnation, to drive them out of seminaries, to destroy their credit, and to inculcate the true and sound doctrine. They were tolerated errors. While they were tolerated, it was possible for good Catholics, and even learned men, to hold them in good faith; since good and learned men, and even prelates, are fallible interpreters of both Scripture and tradition, and may err in reasoning and judgment. But their temporary toleration gave them no rights, not even those which belong to received opinions of Catholic schools of theology. There were good reasons for a purely passive toleration for a time. But none for the indefinite continuance of such toleration. The silence of an oecumenical council, viewing all the events which had occurred during the past two centuries, would have given the advocates of Gallicanism a plausible pretext to claim for it a positive toleration, a recognition of its real and solid probability. Moreover, it was reviving under a new and more dangerous form; numbers of good and loyal Catholics were beginning to go astray after a so-called Catholic liberalism, and a clique of secret traitors was plotting a revolt against the Holy See, disguised under the ambiguities and reservations of Gallicanism. Error, though it may lie dormant and not show its dangerous character for a time, sooner or later works out the conclusions contained in its premises. Gallicanism was an illogical doctrine, containing implicitly the denial of the papal supremacy. It was necessary, therefore, to condemn it, and to define the truth. Those who gave up their opinions in obedience to the decree of the Vatican acted like Catholics, and like reasonable and consistent men. As Catholics, they were bound to obey a divine authority. As reasonable men, they were bound to abandon an opinion which they had embraced on merely probable grounds, as soon as the certain truth was made known to them.

Moreover, the malcontents were taught from their childhood, and some of them have themselves taught, as authors and professors, the infallibility of oecumenical councils as a doctrine of the Catholic faith. They have renounced, abjured, and trampled on that faith, by rebelling against the Council of the Vatican, and bidding defiance to the authority of their bishops and of the Pope. They are justly excommunicated. The anathema of the church has smitten them, and they are doomed to wither and die, and go into oblivion. As for the Catholic Church and her docile children, they have made a great act of faith which has had a most salutary effect already, in strengthening the habit of divine faith, and in illuminating the intellect with the knowledge of the truth. Its salutary effects in the future will be still greater. There was never a time when the continuous and immediate exercise of the supreme teaching authority of the Vicar of Christ was so necessary and so easy as the present critical, momentous period Never a time when it was so necessary for all the faithful to place an absolute and boundless confidence in the chair of Peter. God has made known to all men, as a truth of his divine revelation, the infallibility of that chair, and of his august Vicar who sits in it. This truth is equally certain with the greatest mysteries of the faith, the Trinity and the Incarnation. This chair of Peter can neither be deceived nor deceive us, for its doctrine rests on the veracity of the Holy Spirit, the author of truth, and in believing and obeying it we believe and obey Almighty God.

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Mike


Wed Oct 05, 2011 7:51 am
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New post Re: Infallibility
Mike, you're a tyro. This is a wonderful article!

And this line would justify it alone, if it had no other merits. :) "With sceptics we wish to have nothing to do, for they are not entitled to be treated as rational beings."

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Wed Oct 05, 2011 11:07 am
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Quote:
As supreme ruler, he must be infallible; not indeed in all his particular acts, but in his principles and rules of government. Otherwise, he might subvert the constitution of the church, destroy morality, oppress and depose the orthodox prelates, promote heretics to the highest places, and do in the Catholic Church what the schismatical Eastern patriarchs have done, and what Cranmer did in England.


Wouldn't know what that was like, would we Mike? :roll:

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Wed Oct 05, 2011 12:32 pm
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New post Re: Infallibility
Hi John,

It is amazing the amount of buried treasure there is for the treasure hunter. :D I used to think I had a good amount of pre-Vatican II books, but as I keep reading the digitized books online I never seem to run out of "new" things to read. It is my pleasure to keep gathering these resources for everyone on the board. I think that each one of these articles, quotes from theologians, etc., such as Cardinal Franzelin's writing you posted recently and countless others you have put online, and Cristian's posting of writings from Billot and others, along with the numerous AER and other articles, are all like small pieces of a puzzle, and when they are combined, the picture becomes gradually clearer and clearer until eventually there are enough connected pieces for the viewer to clearly grasp the full picture.

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Mike


Wed Oct 05, 2011 12:59 pm
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