Tag: infallibility

Anti-Lefebvrism – II

Anti-Lefebvrism – II posted in Eleison Comments on April 14, 2018

Is there a reason why NM (see last week’s “Comments”), in order to deal with the problem of the Conciliar Popes, resorts to the dramatic solution of declaring that they have not been Popes at all? There would seem to be. The Catholic Church is both human (a society of human beings) and divine (specially animated by the Holy Ghost), and it is important not to confuse the two. Human beings as such are all fallible. God alone is infallible. The mistake of Catholics resorting to the dramatic solution of NM is that they are attributing to the human Popes too much of the infallibility that can come from God alone. Let us take an illustration from any modern home.

When I put an electric plug into a socket in the wall, the electric current does not come from the plug, it comes from the power station through the wall and socket into the plug and whatever appliance needs the electric current. The power station is God. The wall and socket are the Church. The current is the Church’s infallibility, coming from God. The plug is the four conditions which the Pope alone can insert into the socket. Those conditions are of course that he 1) speaks as Pope 2) in order to fix once and for all 3) a point of faith or morals 4) with the intention of binding all Catholics to accept it. Through the Pope’s engaging the four conditions, he and he alone has guaranteed access as a human being to the Church’s divine infallibility. The four conditions are the Pope’s to engage. The infallibility is God’s to engage.

Also of course, this particular socket, known as the Church’s Extraordinary Magisterium (EM), is not the only access of human beings to the Church’s infallibility. They accede to it much more by the Church’s Ordinary Magisterium (OM), which is Catholic Tradition, or, what all the Church’s teachers, Popes and Bishops in particular, have taught all over the world ever since Jesus Christ as God deposited that Deposit of the Faith with His Church, confirmed infallibly in the Apostles at Pentecost and handed down infallibly by them until the last of them died. From then on that doctrine was in the hands of fallible human beings, to whom God left their free-will to teach error if they chose to do so. But if ever human error made doubtful what belonged to the infallible doctrine and what did not, God gave to His Church also the Extraordinary Magisterium, precisely to fix once and for all what does and what does not belong to the Ordinary Magisterium. Thus OM is to EM as dog to tail, and not as tail to dog!

The problem of Catholics without number ever since the solemn definition in 1870 of the Church’s infallibility is that since the access of the EM to the Church’s infallibility is automatically guaranteed in a way in which the access of the OM is not, then the EM seems superior, and Catholics tend to exaggerate the EM and to transfer to the Pope personally that infallibility which in reality belongs automatically only to the Church. This means that if the Pope makes serious errors like those of the Conciliar Popes, then the only possible explanation is that they are not Popes. Or, if they are Popes, then one must follow their errors. The logic is good, but the premise is false. Popes are not as infallible as all that. They can make serious errors, as Vatican II and its Conciliar Popes have shown, as never before in all Church history! But the Church remains infallible, and therefore I know that Catholic Tradition will last to the end of the world despite the very worst that any poor Popes may try to do between now and then.

But how do I know that to the Pope as Pope belongs only the privileged access (four conditions) to the electric current (infallibility), and not the current itself which belongs to the wall (the Church)? Because the very definition of infallibility in 1870 says so! I need only read:—when the Pope engages the four conditions (mentioned above), then he “is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals.”

So Catholic Popes are free to make terrible mistakes without the Church being any less infallible.

Kyrie eleison.

Anti-”Lefebvrist” Argument – I

Anti-”Lefebvrist” Argument – I posted in Eleison Comments on April 7, 2018

To attack the French Dominican priests of Avrillé for their “Lefebvrism,” i.e. for their refusal to accept that the Conciliar Popes since Paul VI have not been Popes at all, a French layman – Mr. N.M. – has just written an article accusing the Dominicans of rejecting three Catholic dogmas: that the Pope has primacy of jurisdiction over the Universal Church; that the Church’s Universal Ordinary Magisterium is infallible; that it is the Church’s living Magisterium which determines what Catholics must believe. Normally such questions of doctrine may be best left to the experts in doctrine, but ours are not normal times. Today Catholics can have to rely on their own Catholic good sense to decide such questions for themselves.

Let us look at all three questions in a simple and practical way. If I want to accept that the Popes have been true Popes since Paul VI, why should I have to deny firstly that the Pope is head of the Church, secondly that the Church’s normal teaching is infallible and thirdly that the living Pope tells me what I should believe? Let us look at N.M.’s arguments, one by one.

As to the first point, NM quotes the thoroughly anti-liberal Council of Vatican I (1870–1871) to the effect that the Pope is the direct and immediate head of every diocese, every priest and every Catholic. If then like all Lefebvrists, I refuse to obey him, I am implicitly denying that he is my head as a Catholic, so I am denying that the Pope is what Vatican I defined him to be. Answer: I am not at all denying that the Conciliar Popes have the authority to command me as a Catholic, I am only saying that their Catholic authority does not include the authority to make me turn myself into a Protestant, as I will do if I follow their commands in line with Vatican II.

Secondly, NM argues that Vatican I also stated that the everyday teaching of Pope and bishops is infallible. Now if ever we had serious teaching of Pope and Bishops together, it was at Vatican II. If then I refuse that teaching, I am implicitly denying that the Church’s Universal Ordinary Magisterium is infallible. Answer, no, I am not. I fully recognise that when a doctrine has been taught in the Church nearly everywhere, at all times and by all Popes and Bishops, it is infallible, but if it has been taught only

in modern times by the 20th century Popes and Bishops of Vatican II, then it is contrary to what was taught by Popes and Bishops at all other times of the Church, and I do not consider myself bound to accept it. As I accept the heavyweight UOM of all time, so I reject the lightweight UOM of today, contradicting it.

Thirdly, NM argues that the true Pope has the living authority to tell me as a Catholic what I must today believe. If then I refuse to believe what the Conciliar Popes have told me to believe, I am rejecting their living authority as arbiters of the Faith. Answer: no, I am not. I am using my eyes to read, and my God-given brain to judge, that what the Conciliar Popes tell me contradicts what all previous Popes back to St Peter tell me, and I prefer to follow the heavy weight of 261 Popes telling me what to believe against the light weight of six Conciliar Popes. “But then you are rejecting the living authority of the living Pope as arbiter of the Faith!” Only because I am following, obeying and submitting to 261 Popes as arbiters of that Faith which my eyes and my brain tell me that the Conciliar Popes are not following. “But then you are backing your own eyes and brain against the Catholic Pope!” God gave me eyes and a brain which function, and when I come before Him to be judged, I shall answer for the use I made of them.

It is clear that NM’s own answer to the problem of Popes protestantising, modernising and Conciliar, is to deny that they ever were Popes. It should be equally clear that to that problem, which is very real, I am not obliged to adopt NM’s drastic solution. Nor, if I refuse to adopt it, am I obliged to deny three Church dogmas. Peace be to NM.

Kyrie eleison.

Church’s Infallibility

<u>Church’s</u> Infallibility posted in Eleison Comments on September 17, 2016

From earth to Heaven go up problems. From heaven to earth come down solutions. Many a Catholic problem needs only to be taken on high to become rather less problematic. A classic example might be the problem of the Conciliar Popes, a problem with which we have been confronted since 2013 as never before, at least so brutally. There is in any case a mystery involved, but if we do not climb high enough, we fall easily prey to one of the two classic temptations: either he is the Pope so I must obey, or I cannot obey so he cannot be Pope. But if I climb above the humanity of the Pope to the divinity of the Church, then I realise that so-called Papal infallibility is actually Church infallibility, which leaves much more room for this or that Pope, or even a series of Popes, to be rather less than satisfactory. Let us go straight to the 1870 definition of infallibility, itself infallible. Here is the text, with some words highlighted, and figures inserted:—

We teach and define that it is a dogma Divinely revealed that the Roman pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra , that is when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, 1 by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he 2 defines 3 a doctrine regarding faith or morals 4 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 in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals, and that therefore such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves and not from the consent of the Church irreformable. —?Vatican Council, Sess. IV, Const. de Ecclesiâ Christi, Chapter iv.

In this text we see clearly the famous four conditions for the Pope to be speaking infallibly, but we see also immediately following the two words here highlighted which seem to be not often noticed, but which make very clear where the Pope’s infallibility comes from: it comes not from himself but from the Church. Let us draw a familiar comparison from modern life, from a housewife plugging her electric iron into a socket in the wall. For the iron to be heated, she must plug it into the socket, but the electricity which will then heat her iron comes obviously not from herself but from the local power station.

For a Papal definition to be infallible, the Pope must plug the four conditions into the Church, so to speak, and he is the one and only person on earth that can do that, which is why it is called “Papal infallibility,” but the infallible protection from error which he then obtains comes not from himself but from the Holy Ghost through the Church, somewhat as the electricity comes not from the housewife but from the power station through the socket. And so just as the housewife may have all kinds of personal qualities or defects, but just so long as she puts the plug into the socket, they make no difference to her iron being heated or not, similarly the Pope may be a Saint or much less than a saint, but if he is the duly appointed or elected Pope, then from the moment that he engages the four conditions, his definition will be necessarily free from error.

What this means is that whenever the Pope does not engage those four conditions, strictly speaking he can talk nonsense just like the rest of us, without the Church ceasing to be infallible. And in fact her Ordinary Infallibility is much more important than this Extraordinary Infallibility of Papal definitions, as previous issues of these “Comments” sought to illustrate with another familiar comparison, that between a mountain and its snowcap (see ECs 343 and 344, Feb 8 and 15 of 2014). The snowcap may provide greater visibility, but to be visible where it is seen it totally depends on the mountain’s bulk beneath it. So once we take the problem on high, it is not so important for the Church if the Conciliar Popes are out of their minds. We may suffer here below from fallible Popes, but Mother Church remains serenely infallible.

Kyrie eleison.

Popes Fallible

Popes Fallible posted in Eleison Comments on September 13, 2014

Neither liberals nor sedevacantists appreciate being told that they are like heads and tails of the same coin, but it is true. For instance, neither of them can conceive of a third alternative. See for instance in his Letter to Three Bishops of April 14, 2012 , how Bishop Fellay could see no alternative to his liberalism except sedevacantism. Conversely, for many a sedevacantist if one accepts that any of the Conciliar Popes has really been Pope, then one can only be a liberal, and if one criticises sedevacantism, then one is promoting liberalism. But not at all!

Why not? Because both of them are making the same error of exaggerating the Pope’s infallibility. Why? Might it be because both of them are modern men who believe more in persons than in institutions? And why should that be a feature of modern men? Because from more or less Protestantism onwards, fewer and fewer institutions have truly sought the common good, while more and more seek some private interest such as money (my claim on you), which of course diminishes our respect for them. For instance, good men saved for a while the rotten institution of modern banking from having immediately all its evil effects, but the rotten banksters are at last showing what the institutions of fractional reserve banking and central banks were, in themselves, from the beginning. The Devil is in modern structures, thanks to the enemies of God and man.

So it is understandable if modern Catholics have tended to put too much faith in the Pope and too little in the Church, and here is the answer to that reader who asked me why I do not write about infallibility in the same way that the classic Catholic theology manuals do. Those manuals are marvellous in their way, but they were all written before Vatican II, and they tended to attach to the Pope an infallibility which belongs to the Church. For instance, the summit of infallibility is liable to be presented in the manuals as a solemn definition by the Pope, or by Pope with Council, but in any case by the Pope. The liberal-sedevacantist dilemma has been the consequence and, as it were, a punishment of this tendency to overrate the person and underrate the institution, because the Church is no merely human institution.

For, firstly, the Solemn Magisterium’s snow-cap on the Ordinary Magisterium’s mountain is its summit only in a very limited way – it is completely supported by the rock summit beneath the snow. And secondly, by the Church’s most authoritative text on infallibility, the Definition of the truly Catholic Council of Vatican I (1870), we know that the Pope’s infallibility comes from the Church, and not the other way round. When the Pope engages all four conditions necessary for ex cathedra teaching, then, says the Definition, he possesses “that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine.” But of course! Where else can infallibility come from, except from God? The best of human beings, and some Popes have been very good human beings, may be inerrant, i.e. make no mistakes, but as long as they have original sin they cannot be infallible as God alone can be. If they are infallible, the infallibility must come through, but from outside, their humanity, from God, who chooses to bestow it through the Catholic Church, and that infallibility need only be a momentary gift, for the duration of the Definition.

Therefore outside of a Pope’s ex cathedra moments, nothing stops him from talking nonsense such as the new religion of Vatican II. Therefore neither liberals nor sedevacantists need or should heed that nonsense, because, as Archbishop Lefebvre said, they have 2000 years’ worth of Ordinarily infallible Church teaching by which to judge that it is nonsense.

Kyrie eleison.

Benedict’s Thinking – IV

Benedict’s Thinking – IV posted in Eleison Comments on May 24, 2014

To Cardinal Newman is attributed a wise comment on the 1870 definition of the Pope’s infallibility: “It left him as it found him.” Indeed that definition will have changed nothing in the Pope’s power to teach infallibly, because it belongs to the unchanging nature of God’s true Church that God will protect it from error, at least when its supreme teaching authority is engaged. All such engagement is now called the Church’s “Extraordinary Magisterium,” but only the name can have been new in 1870, just like the name of the “Ordinary Universal Magisterium.” If Vatican I declared the latter also to be infallible, it must also have been so from the beginning of the Church. To discern the realities behind the two names, let us go back to that beginning.

By the time Our Lord ascended to Heaven, he had with his divine infallibility entrusted to his Apostles a body of doctrine which they were to hand down intact to his Church to the end of the world (Mt. XXVIII, 19–20), doctrine which all souls were to believe on pain of damnation (Mk. XVI, 15–16). This Deposit of the Faith, or public Revelation, God was bound to make recognisable and accessible to souls of good will, because obviously the true God could never condemn eternally a soul for refusing to believe in an untruth. By the death of the last Apostle this Deposit was not only infallible but also complete.

Then from the Apostles onwards would God protect all churchmen from ever teaching error? By no means. Our Lord warned us to beware of “false prophets” (Mt. VII, 15), and St Paul likewise warned against “ravening wolves” (Acts, XX, 29–30). But how could God permit such a danger to his sheep from erring pastors? Because he wants for his Heaven neither robot pastors nor robot sheep, but pastors and sheep that will both have used the mind and free-will he gave them to teach or follow the Truth. And if a mass of pastors betray, he can always raise a St Athanasius or an Archbishop Lefebvre, for instance, to ensure that his infallible Truth remains always accessible to souls.

Nevertheless that Deposit will be unceasingly exposed to ravening wolves, adding error to it or subtracting truth from it. So how will God still protect it? By guaranteeing that whenever a Pope engages all four conditions of his full teaching authority to define what does and does not belong to it, he will be divinely protected from error – what we call today the “Extraordinary Magisterium.” (Note how this Extraordinary Magisterium presupposes the infallible Ordinary Magisterium, and can add to it no truth or infallibility, but only a greater certainty for us human beings.) But if the Pope engages any less than all four conditions, then his teaching will be infallible if it corresponds to the Deposit handed down from Our Lord – today called the “Universal Ordinary Magisterium,” but fallible if it is not within that Deposit handed down, or Tradition. Outside of Tradition, his teaching may be true or false.

Thus there is no vicious circle (see EC 357 of last week) because Our Lord authorised Tradition and Tradition authorises the Magisterium. Indeed it is the function of the Pope to declare with authority what belongs to Tradition, and he will be divinely protected from error if he engages his full authority to do so, but he can make declarations outside of Tradition, in which case he will have no such protection. Now the novelties of Vatican II such as religious liberty and ecumenism are way outside of Church Tradition. So they come under neither the Pope’s Ordinary nor his Extraordinary Magisterium, and all the nonsense of all the Conciliar Popes does not oblige any Catholic to become either a liberal or a sedevacantist.

Kyrie eleison.

Church’s Infallibility – III

Church’s Infallibility – III posted in Eleison Comments on May 17, 2014

The crazy words and deeds of Pope Francis are presently driving many believing Catholics towards sedevacantism, which is dangerous. The belief that the Conciliar Popes have not been and are not Popes may begin as an opinion, but all too often one observes that the opinion turns into a dogma and then into a mental steel trap. I think the minds of many sedevacantists shut down because the unprecedented crisis of Vatican II has caused their Catholic minds and hearts an agony which found in sedevacantism a simple solution, and they have no wish to re-open the agony by re-opening the question. So they positively crusade for others to share their simple solution, and in so doing many of them – not all – end up displaying an arrogance and a bitterness which are no signs or fruits of a true Catholic.

Now these “Comments” have abstained from proclaiming with certainty that the Conciliar Popes have been true Popes, but at the same time they have argued that the usual sedevacantist arguments are neither conclusive nor binding upon Catholics, as some sedevacantists would have us believe. Let us return to one of their most important arguments, which is from Papal infallibility: Popes are infallible. But liberals are fallible, and Conciliar Popes are liberal. Therefore they are not Popes.

To this one may object that a Pope is certainly infallible only when he engages the four conditions of the Church’s Extraordinary Magisterium by teaching 1 as Pope, 2 on Faith or morals, 3 definitively, 4 so as to bind all Catholics. Whereupon sedevacantists and liberals alike reply that it is Church teaching that the Ordinary Universal Magisterium is also infallible, so – and here is the weak point in their argument – whenever the Pope teaches solemnly even outside of his Extraordinary Magisterium, he must also be infallible. Now their liberal Conciliar teaching is solemn. Therefore we must become either liberals or sedevacantists, depending of course on who is wielding the same argument.

But the hallmark of teaching which belongs to the Church’s Ordinary Universal Magisterium is not the solemnity with which the Pope teaches outside of the Extraordinary Magisterium, but whether what he is teaching corresponds, or not, to what Our Lord, his Apostles and virtually all their successors, the bishops of the Universal Church, have taught in all times and in all places, in other words whether it corresponds to Tradition. Now Conciliar teaching (e.g. religious liberty and ecumenism) is in rupture with Tradition. Therefore Catholics today are not in fact bound to become liberals or sedevacantists.

However, both liberals and sedevacantists cling to their misunderstanding of Papal infallibility for reasons that are not without interest, but that is another story. In any case they do not give up easily, so they come back with another objection which deserves to be answered. Both of them will say that to argue that Tradition is the hallmark of the Ordinary Magisterium is to set up a vicious circle. For if the Church’s teaching authority, or Magisterium, exists to tell what is Church doctrine, as it does, then how can the Traditional doctrine at the same time tell what is the Magisterium? Either the teacher authorises what is taught, or what is taught authorises the teacher, but they cannot both at the same time authorise each other. So to argue that Tradition which is taught authorises the Ordinary Magisterium which is teaching, is wrong, and so the Pope is infallible not only in his Extraordinary teaching, and so we must become either liberals or sedevacantists, they conclude.

Why there is no vicious circle must wait until next week. It is as interesting as why both sedevacantists and liberals fall into the same error on infallibility.

Kyrie eleison.