Does this refute Papal Infallibility?


The main thing I am doing is claiming that your error, which is common, is one of the many reasons Papal Infallibility is not a wonderful idea that ensures Catholics that many things are absolutely true.

So, I am doing both. I am claiming that you are mistaken if you believe that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was an exercise of Papal Infallibility.

Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was an ordinary exercise of the Pope’s roll as a teacher of the faith NOT an extraordinary infallible papal statement.

The fact that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is not an exercise of Papal Infallibility is one of the most remarkable demonstrations of the fact that it is very difficult to know when the Pope is ATTEMPTING (and succeeding) to exercise his charism of infallibility. So difficult in fact that one can only come to a consensus on what was and what was not infallibly taught by the Pope in historical hindsight.
Charity, TOm


I see.

And no, I am not in agreement with you and so dispute your assertion that OS was not an exercise of the Pope’s infallible Magisterium. It clearly is (“manifestly evident”), and I have demonstrated it above, as is required by the one making the claim.

If you therefore oppose that, then you will have to provide your disputation. Just saying I am wrong without supporting it with evidence is not acceptable. But no, I convinced I am not mistaken.

You might claim I’m making a “common error” and many times, Catholics do err in identifying this or that document as infallible. Ordinatio sacerdotalis, however, is not one of them.


I would be interested in the Vatican I definitions that you believe indicate sufficiently that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was an exercise of Papal Infallibility.

I have not attempted on my own to PARSE Vatican I definitions of the exercise of Papal Infallibility so as to be able to determine what is and what is not an exercise of Papal Infallibility. My view is that such is generally impossible. We cannot create a guide in this area and we must wait on years to pass before we can know.

Perhaps your view is that the Holy Spirit confirmed this truth for you and thus you know Ordinatio Sacerdotalis teaches truth. This is a very different thing and I would not dismiss it at all, I would merely say that it is not something you can share with me or others as it is very personal.

Let me restate that Papal Infallibility was defined in such a way that the few points in the Opening Post that had ANYTHING to deal with Papal Infallibility do not disprove Papal Infallibility as long as one looks at it from a committed Catholic point of view. As such committed Catholics should not be largely troubled by Vatican I’s declaration. I do not agree with the path Dollinger took. I merely suggest that the “problems” combined with the absence of a clear beacon of truth because of such difficulties (as determining of OS is an exercise of Papal Infallibility) make the doctrine a problem for Catholic apologists, not a lure for non-Catholics.

Charity, TOm


I am just putting forward the position of Cardinal Ratzinger when he was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The link below is also approved by Pope John Paul II.

This Dubium clarifies that it is irreformably true that woman cannot be ordained to the priesthood, but that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is not an exercise of Papal Infallibility. Instead OS is an exercise of the ORDINARY Magisterium and is infallibly true because of the tradition of the Church.

Would you agree that something so seemingly clearly part of Papal Infallibility as OS being not really an exercise of Papal Infallibility undermines the USEFULNESS of the Pope’s charism of infallibility? How can we know when the Pope INTENDS to communicate something using his extraordinary charism of infallibility AND when he is merely trying to emphasized teaching that is true because it is part of the deposit of the faith?

When I look at the “female priest” question, it is fairly clear to me what the teaching of the church has been throughout history. There are very few points in which to mount a historical based counter claim IMO. That being said, since I believe that OS was declared to not be an exercise of Papal Infallibility, since Dubiums from the CDF are not infallible, and since there has been no Conciliar statement concerning this; it IMO has not be sealed infallibily. The Catholicism I learned from Catholic Answers is very clear that there is zero chance of a change here, but there are views of Catholicism that do not align with Catholic Answers and these views are enjoying a great deal of support from all levels of Catholicism today. I at present cannot be certain what all this means.

Charity, TOm


So let’s post it AGAIN. And this time, I’ll use Vatican I’s exact phrases, rather than my own paraphrases.

Vatican I: "in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority… "
OS: “…in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren…”

Vatican I: “…he defines a doctrine…”
OS: "…I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women”

Vatican I: “…concerning faith or morals…”
OS: “Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself,…”

Vatican I: “…to be held by the whole Church,…”
“…and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

And further, I have not denied, and have always affirmed that the teaching restriction of the priesthood to men IS infallible by virtue of the ordinary magisterium. That has always been the case. What I am asserting and demonstrating is that the dogma is now further bolstered by an infallible Papal definition. Strictly speaking, it’s not doctrines that are infallible; it’s people (such as the Pope, Bishops in Council, and the entirety of the Church). When John Paull II promulgated OS, he was protected by the charism of Papal infallibility at that moment.


But the teaching has to be ex cathedra which OS was not according to many theologians. The Catholic Theological Society on June 6, 1997 said: “There are serious doubts regarding the nature of the authority of the teaching [that the Church’s lack of authority to ordain women to the priesthood is a truth that has been infallibly taught and requires the definitive assent of the faithful], and its grounds in Tradition. There is serious, widespread disagreement on this question, not only among theologians, but also within the larger community of the Church . " Father Sullivan says: “The question whether a doctrine has been infallibly taught is not a matter of doctrine, but a matter of fact, which has to be ‘manifestly established’ (Canon 749 §3). What must be ‘manifestly established’ when the claim is made that a doctrine has been taught infallibly by the ordinary universal magisterium, is that not only the Pope, but the whole body of Catholic bishops as well, are proposing the same doctrine as one which the faithful are obliged to hold in a definitive way. I do not see how it could be said that a papal declaration, of itself, without further evidence, would suffice to establish this fact.”



Did you read the document from the CDF?

Based on what Cardinal Ratzinger said and Pope John Paul II confirmed, I think this is place where we have PERHAPS got a departure from the Vatican I formula.

Perhaps we should read that the “ministry of confirming the brethren” is collegial NOT supreme. Thus OS is ordinary magisterium not extraordinary magisterium.

I know this is not the position espoused by EWTN (I read that a long time ago), but it is all I can do to make sense of the two and I think the CDF approved by the Pope has more authority than EWTN.

Again, if EWTN is wrong about this, how can Papal Infallibility be a principle that provides surety?

I am not presently arguing that ordaining female priests wouldn’t be the END of the Catholic Church. I do not see how the teaching of Ecclesiastical Infallibility can survive such a CHANGE. That being said, my understanding here comes from what I have learned from Catholic Answers. The parish priest of my youth would be unlikely (IMO) to claim that woman cannot be priests someday. He is a wonderful man, but very liberal. I see his version of Catholicism RISING and the version espoused by Catholic Answers waning.

All I am arguing is that OS was not an exercise of Papal authority. @Canvas was correct IMO. There are two genuine exercises of Papal Infallibility that I would accept and defend were I Catholic.

It seems that the Dubium I linked to was already posted.

Do you disagree that it CLEARLY stated that the Pope was not exercising Papal Infallibiility when he wrote OS?

How can you argue with the CDF, the future pope, and the approval of the current pope (JPII) at that time?

Charity, TOm


It IS ex cathedra. That is a textbook example of the Vatican I definition. And furthers my gripe that it is theologians who muddy the waters for the faithful.

Again those that protest too much. words words words, when all one has to read is the Vatican I definition and how OS clearly fits it. That’s “manifestly evident”. One does not need theologians to dispute it, otherwise, as has been pointed out here, infallibility is useless.

I have broken down OS’s definition into its constituent parts according to the Vatican I framework. Further, contrary to attempts to do so, the CDF responsum supports my claim, not opposes it.

He does not see it because he won’t see it. But as I have demonstrated, it’s right there, in our faces.

And just so you know, I don’t go around claiming infallibility for all stuff out there. Humanae Vitae, for all its value, does not have that same claim. Neither does Ecclesia de Eucharistia. Neither does Spe Salvi. Or Dives in Misericordia. Or Evangelium Vitae. None of these, for all their truth and value, meet the Vatican I criteria for infallibility. The teachings they provide are infallible of the ordinary magisterium, but unlike in OS, these documents do not make any definition or declaration as does OS, so they themselves, while they still require assent, were not written infallibly, although the teachings contained are. OS is a different story because it DOES meet the Vatican I conditions, and I have already demonstrated that twice in this thread.


Of course, I disagree.

I disagree that the CDF said it was not an exercise of Papal infallibility because it said no such thing. Here is the exact text of the CDF:

This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium 25, 2). Thus, in the present circumstances, the Roman Pontiff, exercising his proper office of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32), has handed on this same teaching by a formal declaration, explicitly stating what is to be held always, everywhere, and by all, as belonging to the deposit of the faith.

That is it. It affirms—as do I—that the teaching had been infallibly handed on by the ordinary magisterium, but nowhere denies that the Pope has also exercised his infallible extraordinary magisterium.

Further, there is no reason for me to believe, at all, that a teaching cannot be infallibly handed down by both the Ordinary magisterium and the extraordinary Papal magisterium. It is one thing to affirm that the teaching is of the infallible ordinary magisterium. To read, however, a denial, based on that, of the infallible Papal magisterium in OS is a non sequitur. It does not follow.

So I would not dispute the CDF because it does not disagree at all with my position that OS is an exercise of the infallible extraordinary Papal magisterium, wrapping the already infallible teaching of the ordinary magisterium with the further authority of the papal magisterium.

And nice try with the “confirming the brethren” part. That ministry is specifically Petrine, and “brethren” is not limited to the college of bishops. Since it’s addressed to the whole Church, there is no questioning that this IS an exercise of the supreme Petrine authority.


I mentioned the Catholic Theological Society and Father Sullivan.


And their opinions mean zilch.


And it ultimately doesn’t matter, since both the sainted Pope and the clarification from the Congregation agree that the teaching was already irreformable. It’s like the Trinity or even the Great Commandments — no Pope has to declare them ex cathedra because they are already part of the deposit of the Faith.

(Though I agree that a straight reading of the document indicates that JPII met the criteria for teaching infallibly by virtue of his office, even if he didn’t need to. I mean, he confirmed by virtue of his authority and duty as Pope that the Church hasn’t the power to do a thing. I really don’t see how you get around that. Though the Church has at least managed to thoroughly reinterpret Unam Sanctam, the other document that has been cited as likely though not “officially” infallible, so who knows?)


Why would you equate these? The “supreme apostolic authority” is not the same as “the ministry of confirming.” “All christians” is not the same as “the brethren,” a phrase that refers to other bishops.

I still say the CDF issuing a statement that it was not an act of papal infallibility is what tells us that it is not “manifest” that it was infallible.

Besides, John Paul II even changed canon law with ad tuendam fidem to make the point that there was a lesser level of teaching that was binding on all the faithful.


Just as the opinions of many people on this forum. Why should we believe your personal interpretation over that of the prestigious Catholic Theological Society and over that of Father Sullivan?


No. Brethren is not limited to the bishops. It also covers the entire faithful. Vatican II Lumen gentium 25. That is exactly what it means.

And I have demonstrated that the CDF said nothing of what you claim.


Here it is even more clear:

Can you agree now?
I am not trying to fool you. I think the view I am espousing has been suported by Catholic thinkers and apologists from Fesser to Akin to Sullivan (I am a huge fan of the former Father Sullivan).
Charity, TOm


Call me stubborn, but still, no. That document is mostly correct, except for where it states it’s merely an exercise of the ordinary non-infallible Papal magisterium. There are no grounds for such an opinion. My opinion is more strongly supported by the OS itself, Vatican I, and Vatican II. And yes, I realize that this is Cardinal Ratzinger himself I’m disagreeing with, and I don’t take that fact lightly. But I must insist. OS meets all the requirements of Vatican I, and there is no way to demonstrate otherwise. I love Pope Benedict XVI, and I hope we get another one like him for our next Pope. But on this particular letter, he writes an opinion, not a teaching, and so binds no one. I have not resorted to argumentum ad auctoritatem, when making my arguments only to Magisterial documents to support my point.

All those opposed to my position have done nothing but cite other authorities and opinions, but have not provided a single demonstration, whereas I have resorted to the principles outlined by Vatican I and the document on its own merits, and I have done so more than once.

And just so that we put to rest the notion that “confirming the brethren” is somehow limited to only the college of bishops (which it isn’t) in a strawman effort to distance OS from the supreme Petrine office:

…And this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith,(166) by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals. (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 25)

Anyone can try to parse or spin it, but an honest reading, even within its full context clearly unites confirming the brethren with the office of supreme shepherd and teacher in a single breath. Brethren encompasses the entire body of the faithful, not merely the bishops.

So no. Opinions notwithstanding, I have sufficiently proven that OS meets all the Vatican I criteria for infallibility, without denying that the teaching itself is already infallibly handed down previously by the ordinary Magisterium. My point is that the two exercises of teaching authority are not mutually exclusive.


And further, since people are fond of argumentum ad auctoritatem, despite it being the weaker methodology, I’ll stoop and play that game too. But the proofs and arguments I’ve presented stand on their own merits.

So tit for tat. You have your authorities, I have mine, but in addition, I have my arguments already presented here.


Your stubborn! {grin}.
A handful of folks on this thread and I have said that the first linked Dubium claimed that OS was not an exercise of Papal Infallibility. You seem to have disagreed with this reading of the Dubium and insisted that Cardinal Ratzinger WAS NOT rejecting the Papal infallibility status for OS. Now having been shown the Commento Dubium, you say you are “disagreeing with Cardinal Ratzhinger himself.” I agree that you are in tough position, but unless you believe the Dubium (date of publish 1995 Oct 28) and the Commento Dubium (date of publish ALSO 1995 Oct 28) represent a CHANGE of mind for Cardinal Ratzinger (over the course of a single day) then you misunderstood the Dubium when you argued it didn’t mean what we claim it meant.
Does that make sense?
Charity, TOm


Step 2 (with the 2 choices):
Now, if you decide you must acknowledge that you misunderstood the Dubium, you need to recognize that Pope JPII approved of the Dubium and one can hope that he didn’t misunderstand it (was not tricked by Cardinal Ratzinger). Thus, you are either asserting that JPII was tricked into embracing the Dubium or Pope JPII on the 28th of Oct, 1995 did not believe that O.S. (published about 17 months earlier) was an exercise of Papal Infallibility.
From here you have two choices. Pope JPII thought he was writing infallibly on May 22, 1994 but changed his mind 17 months later. Or Pope JPII never intended for O.S. to be an exercise of Papal Infallibility despite including the 4 points from Vatican I you claim he included.
Truth be told, I think the above illustrates why Papal Infallibility is so problematic. Either Pope JPII spoke in a way on 22May94 that he knew intelligent folks would believe was an exercise of Papal Infallibility, but he knew he was not exercising the Chrism of Infallibility OR Pope JPII thought he was exercising the Chrism of Infallibility on 22May94, but came to believe on 28Oct95 that he was not (or decided he should at least claim he was not).
As a non-Catholic who sees more problematic things in the Pontificate of Pope Francis than I ever saw in the Pontificate of Pope John Paul II, I can believe that Pope JPII intended for O.S. to be an exercise of Papal Infallibility, but 17 months later he was convinced he needed to walk back his position by folks including Cardinal Ratzinger. But, I do not think this is a position it would be easy for a Catholic to hold. I think the Catholic position must be that Vatican I does not provide a reliable way of KNOWING when a Pope speaks infallibly. Instead a faithful Catholic must allow “Securus judicat orbis terrarium” (the “Secure Judgement of the World.” A phrase from St. Augustine and used powerfully by Cardinal Newman) to over time determine what was infallibly declared and what was only ordinarily declared.
What choices do you see and choose?
Charity, TOm

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