As many of you who have engaged with me in this forum before well know, I do have a very difficult time accepting the infallibility of the Pope. I do firmly believe in apostolic succession, in the authority of the Church, the Holy Eucharist, etc…But I do not believe in the infallibility of the Pope, despite reading much about it and knowing much about it. I have, in my belief, very good reasons for believing this and have pointed them out in the past (in particular the conflict that exists in Mathew 16 and Mathew 18). So my question is not about the infallibility of the Pope, but is instead about whether I can accept the Holy Eucharist in mass on Sunday despite my beliefs.
I can already anticipate the many “No you cannot” arguments, but would like for people to give me some kind of Church ruling on the matter, or at least an intelligent theological arguments. A simple “no” or “yes” doesn’t really help me out!
Thank you so very much, as always, for this forum’s kindness and guidance. God bless.
If you are Catholic and you have grave doubts about this teaching, you must of course be absolutely aware of what infallibility really is and what the Church teaches about it. It is possible that even if you think you truly understand, that in fact you do not, and you should seek the guidance of an expert.
If you personally have doubts but are willing to accept that the Church may, indeed must, be right, then I see no problem with your receiving (receive is usually better understood than take. It’s just a ‘word point’ and I’m not saying you are wrong to use the word ‘take’, but only suggesting that ‘receive’ is a better word to use in regard to the subjection of communion.).
If you have gone beyond doubt to actual refusal to accept the teaching as truth, then it’s a little more problematic. Because if you refuse to accept this teaching (fully understanding it, and fully knowing the Church’s position), then you are not fully ‘in union’ with all the Church teaches.
And what I would suggest to you is that you speak with your priest about this. Be absolutely upfront and make it very clear as to what you understand and what you profess as truth.
Then listen to your priest.
He will be the one who is best qualified to advise you. We who are not priests can only say what the teaching of the Church is; only the priest can determine whether or not you personally in this particular situation should or should not receive. He is the expert.
Remember that the Pope is just another man. He is not any more good or bad than the rest of us. He is just as capable of sinning as we are.
The only thing that the doctrine of Papal Infallibility means is that the Pope would be prevented by the Holy Spirit from declaring as infallible doctrine something that is contrary to God’s will and yet would forever thereafter be taught as unchallengable truth. He could not, for example, decide tomorrow to teach infallibly and for all time that St Joseph was born immaculately or that Christ was only human in nature and not also divine.
Basically, no matter how evil a Pope might be as a man, it means that God would not let him teach something that would permanently harm us, even if he acts in a temporarily evil fashion. Even Rodrigo Borgia, a particularly dodgy Pope, did not lead the Church into error, despite his corruption.
It does NOT mean that the Pope is right in everything that he says or that he is not to be challenged if he is in error.
Frankly, a selfish evil Pope would want, selfishly and for his own ends, to not go so completely into evil that he would automatically damn himself. A mad Pope would not be able to summon up the mental capacity to be able to teach error in a way that his intentions would be understood to be infallible teachings. The system of papal infallibility is almost self-enforcing. The rest relies on the influence of the Holy Spirit.
From the point of view of doctrine, our eternal salvation is not at risk from mad or bad Popes.
Now as to your question of receiving Communion, if you harbour an honest private doubt but you are not deliberately leading others into doubt, then you may continue to receive. It sounds to me like you’re struggling with the concept rather than you’re outright rejecting it, which simply means you haven’t heard the argument for Papal Infallibility in such terms as make sense to you yet. Just trust the Church on this matter and don’t let it worry you. An honest confusion or incomprehension is not a reason to remove yourself from God’s embrace.
We talk about mysteries in the Church. They’re mysteries because they relate to truths that are deeper than we can fathom. What then matters is our faith and our trust. It’s not unquestioning faith. It’s simple trust that many other deeply spiritual and loving men have put their heads together and worked something out correctly. Trust in them that they had nothing other than God’s interests in their hearts and let the worry go from yours.
Thank you very much, all of you, for the advice and comments. I do understand the position of the Church very well. I have read scholars, the Catechism, and have heard arguments on this forum as well on the issue. In fact, I have debated it quite extensively on this forum.
I am well aware of the teachings from the Church, I understand it’s position, and I do not believe it. I would like to believe it in the sense that it would make my life a lot easier, but I do not believe it to be true.
I would talk to my local priest about it, but the truth is, priests can and do sometimes say things that are not in conformity with the Church…for an example, see the forum on the numerous people who have been told by their priests that using contraception in marriage is ok.
To answer a few of your questions more specifically, I do understand that the Pope is not a walking-talking infallible divine entity, and I assure you that I don’t subscribe to the notion that the Pope is anything but a very, very holy man, blessed by God, and the successor to St. Peter.
With that said, I do not believe infallibility, even within the Church’s parameters of it, and of course putting aside the misinformation so many come on this forum and other forums with about infallibility (including myself in the past!), I cannot accept the teaching as true. I don’t want to go into it too deeply because I have already done that on this forum rather recently in another post I started, but to lay it out very clearly and succintly: I accept that Mathew 16 gives authority to Peter and implies infallibility (if not directly promising it). I also believe that using the power entrusted to him, Peter started an organized community of Christ that had and still has a very real hierarchy. Additionally, I believe that the system created by Peter is very much, although not identical, to the system currently in place in the Catholic Church.
I also believe that in Mathew 18, the other 11 apostles were granted infallibility as well, especially at the end of Mathew 18…and that the others apostles were granted “binding and loosing” powers. It seems clear that Jesus promised infallibility through the Holy Spirit to the apostles in Mathew 18 so long as at least 2 or 3 were gathered in his name.
So how does all his relate to Papal infallibility? Well, it’s actually very simple. I believe the apostles were given infallibility but their successors were not. Based on Church teachings, the Pope has infallibility because, through apostolic succession, that power is transmitted from successor to successor, but because I believe the other apostles were also given infallibility in Mathew 18, their churches also possess these powers today under the Church’s doctrine of apostolic succession, meaning all of the 12 original seats of the apostles are infallible, which cannot be true because they all openly disagree with eachother on certain issues Rome says are infallible, such as Papal infallibility.
So, the only way Papal infallibility can be true is if one of two things happened: the other 11 apostles were not granted infallibility, which is, in my view, completely contradictory to Mathew 18, or all 11 of their apostolic lines have been severed, which does not appear to be historically accurate.
Additionally, I think one could even reasonably argue that Peter and the other apostles were only given infallible powers on the issues Jesus referenced directly, but that argument is not really relevant to the purpose here.
Someone made the argument above that it is impossible to believe in apostolic succession and Church authority but not infallibility. I disagree completely. Authority can be, and has been, transmitted by laying on of hands (in most situations) since the founding of the Church, but infallibility does not necessarily go hand-in-hand with authority. The President of the United States has the authority to pass laws but isn’t promised infallibility. A mother and faither have authority over their children, but they can make fallible decisions! This is how I see the Church, as a holy entity that is capable of making mistakes on those issues not addressed directly by Jesus Himself.
Needless to say, this disheartens me very deeply, because I believe in God very deeply, want to be a member of a Godly community, but feel as though I cannot be because of this one belief and the results that come from this belief.
Well, let’s look at the actual decree from Vatican I:
“So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this definition of ours: let him be anathama” (Tanner translation, decrees of the ecumenical councils.)
So to not believe it falls under a conciliar anathema. Avery Dulles notes that “[Infallible statements are] very rare and are not issued, in practice, except where there is already an overwhelming consensus in the Church regarding their truth. Anyone who flatly rejected such pronouncements, sealed as they are by an anathema, would thereby cease to be a Catholic.” (The Craft of Theology, 111).
On the other hand, Hans Küng seemingly does not believe it, and has only been stripped of his authority to teach, not excommunicated.
Definitive direction has obviously not been given by the Church on this subject, at least in a consistent manner.
Of course, what is the point of an anathema or conciliar decisions at all if one may reject them and remain in good faith as a Catholic?
That could very well be a good point…If infallibility is real, you may be right. Of course, that entire discourse is based on the idea that infallibility is real…But I suppose that is another issue. So I guess what you are saying is that I should be excommunicated?
I believe you have confused ‘infallibility’ with ‘impeccability’.
Impeccability means incapable of sin or error. The Pope is NOT impeccable.
Infallibility is something different. It relates totally to faith and morals teachings of the Church. It is a charism that is exercised.
In fact it is not only the Pope who is infallible when speaking on matters of faith and morals. The bishops in communion with the Pope speaking on faith and morals can also exercise infallibility. Also, the Ordinary Magesterium of the Church-- that is, faith and morals teachings which are found in Christian teaching such as the nature of the Trinity–are infallible.
I recommend that you Google “Catechism of the Catholic Church” and 'infallibility" (don’t just take MY word for it) so that you can rectify your erroneous understanding of infallibility.
We cannot judge that, can we? We aren’t priests and we don’t have any power to determine this. That’s why I emphasize that you should talk to your priest.
You say that ‘sometimes priests are wrong?’ Maybe so. Why not talk to a few priests and perhaps even a bishop? You know, you could go over to the EWTN web site and specifically ask one of the priests there. That would be pretty trustworthy, don’t you think?
There is, but you don’t accept it. :DThat’s why you need perhaps to hear it not from those you consider peers (or less) on a message board, but from one you would consider to have authority. I mean, we can point you to the catechism, the translations from Vatican I, the relevant passages, etc., but it seems from what you have said that you doubt that there has been an explanation (from us or any ‘written’ evidence you have seen) in terms that you would accept as ‘official’ regarding a teaching you simply don’t accept as it has been given.
I am not looking for an official pronouncement on infallibility…I have received those, and don’t accept the teaching. What I want to know is what the Church officially teaches today about those who disagree with this belief, and whether, according to the Church, we are allowed to be practicing Catholics. So far, only one source has been given, a cite to Vatican I (if I remember correctly)…and that’s it. I accept that source as valid! I am not disputing that at all…I just want to know what the Church teaches today on this issue.