Ecclesial infallibility in the Early Church

The blog posts I’m going to quote from here contain a number of statements and conclusions that I would take exception to. But their author looks at the doctrine of ecclesial infallibility in a frank way that I haven’t encountered elsewhere. Below I cite the material I’d like to put forward as the starting point for a discussion on whether the Early Church believed in ecclesial infallibility.

From this response to Dave Armstrong’s case for ecclesial infallibility:

His major Scriptural argument for infallibility is Acts 15:28. It is also the passage Theodore Abu Qurra used when he first invented conciliar infallibility in the 9th century.

But the passage does not teach the a priori infallibility of ecumenical councils. All it says is that after the Apostles had agreed on the issue, they believed that the Holy Spirit had spoken. …

Armstrong rejects Protestant explanations (that this was isolated and unusual and restricted to the apostolic age) of Acts 15:28 as if they were the only arguments against this passage teaching infallibility. But of course it is as simple as this: the passage does not mention infallibility, the a priori immunity from error of ecumenical councils’ dogmatic definitions.

Infallibility works only if God guaranteed it, if Christ taught it and if the Apostles passed it on. This is what Vatican I claims. If and since Vatican I is wrong on this and infallibility is a medieval theological opinion that made it to a conciliar teaching, then for the sake of truth it is better to question conciliar infallibility than to abandon faith or reason.

As far as Tradition goes, Armstrong sometimes appeals to the development of doctrine, but sometimes he seems to hint that the Church believed in infallibility from the very start. Specifically, he quotes Pope Leo, Thomas Aquinas and Francis de Sales. The only one of these with a doctrine like that of Vatican I is Francis de Sales, which simply confirms the fact that the doctrine is no older than the Middle Ages.

From this response to common arguments for papal infallibility:

  1. But Jesus promised the Church that the gates of Hades would not prevail, that whatever Peter would bind would be bound in heaven, that the Holy Spirit would lead the Church to the fullness of the truth, that he would be with his Church till the end. So he can’t allow the Pope to err.
  • But the Church still recognizes the Pope can err in all kinds of matters (even faith-related, just not ex cathedra statements, which are very few), so the question is how we want to understand truth and the nature of Jesus’ promises. None of the early fathers interpreted any of those passages to mean that the Bishop of Rome can make solemn dogmatic statements which cannot err. …
  1. But there are quotes from the Fathers saying that no error can come from Rome and that the Roman See has never erred.
  • Again, that as such would prove too much for the dogma, for the dogma restricts papal infallibility to solemn declarations, of which there is no official (not to mention) infallible list. Most theologians think these sorts of declarations started long after the Fathers, in the Middle Ages or as late as the 19th century. The way Rome didn’t err was by keeping the Christological faith of the universal Church, not by defining new infallible dogmas on its own.
  1. But there you have it: the Roman See always kept the true Faith. The Pope was never heretical.
  • This is true only from the perspective of the ones that agree. According to the Nestorians and Monophysites, the Pope was heretical. Later the Eastern Orthodox and the Protestants thought the same. After Vatican II Traditionalists and Sedevacantists think he is.
  1. But Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail. God couldn’t let the Church go astray.
  • The verse doesn’t talk about Peter’s successors, and again the early Christians wouldn’t have understood it that way. And we’re not in the position to say what God couldn’t do: he allowed the great schisms, heinous sins committed in the name of the Church, the Galileo affair, the Arian crisis and the Vatican II confusion. I wouldn’t like him to have allowed all that. So it’s totally possible that God would allow the Church to make dogmatic mistakes, as long as the core of the truth (the Gospel and the Apostolic faith) are preserved, as they are.
  1. That’s too big of a leap, in none of the cases mentioned above did the Pope make an infallible declaration that was in error.
  • This is precisely the problem: in the face of mistakes the scope of infallibility is narrowed down. But then the argument becomes futile that infallibility is needed to preserve the Church in truth, if it only concerns a couple modern definitions (such as the Marian dogmas). How did the Church manage to stay in the truth for all those centuries without infallible definitions? …
  1. But the consensus of the Church believes these traditional dogmas, the Pope consulted the bishops and found universal agreement, it is the faith of the Church.
  • The sensus fidelium isn’t enough, it has been declared to have been revealed, and general revelation is taught to have ended at the death of the last Apostle, so you have to find it in the 1st century or in the next generations as a strong tradition. …
  1. The dogmas were implicitly revealed, and you have to understand the development of doctrine.
  • The development of doctrine is a modern idea. Not that it is false, but the point is that the Apostles and Fathers always denied that something could be added to the faith. Growing insight is very different from solemn declarations: we could believe the Marian dogmas as theological opinions that deepen our devotion, but we cannot require anyone to believe them as divinely revealed under the pain of anathema.

Continued in next post.

From this response to the Catholic Answers case for papal infallibility:

The Catholic Answers Tract on Papal Infallibility

Keating’s article here] begins by saying what papal infallibility is not. Among other things, it is not only the Pope that is infallible but also the bishops in union with him (the ordinary and universal magisterium), when they solemnly teach a doctrine as true. This teaching, first taught officially at Vatican II (LG 25), Keating claims we have “from Jesus himself” in Lk 10:16 and Mt 18:18.

Jesus didn’t say anything about the infallibility of the ordinary and universal magisterium in solemn doctrinal teachings. He said that people would be hearing his voice when the 70 disciples preached the gospel of the Kingdom (Lk 10:16) and that the Apostles could forgive sin and excommunicate (Mt 18:18).

The infallibility of the ordinary and universal magisterium is a product of the Counter-Reformation, as far as we know, and it has never been dogmatically defined. The same goes for the infallibility of ecumenical councils, which was first suggested by Theodore Abu Qurra in the 9th century.

Early Church and development

Keating goes on to say that the doctrine of papal infallibility is not a doctrine that suddenly appeared in the Church. But the historical study of Brian Tierney suggests just that: it appeared rather suddenly in the Middle Ages. I am not aware of Catholic Answers materials dealing with Tierney.

Keating basically admits that the doctrine was not taught explicitly in the Bible or in the early Church, rather, it is “implicit” in the early Church and in the three Petrine texts (Mt 16, Lk 22, Jn 21). He admits that Christians “developed” an understanding of papal infallibility, and the “clear beginnings” of this development are seen in the early Church.

Here Keating cites Cyprian and Augustine, and these are the texts James White shows here] do nothing to show these fathers believed in papal infallibility. One might defend Keating’s tract by saying he only talks of the beginnings of a development. But Keating does not even try to justify his “development” approach…

Maximalism or minimalism?

… Keating points out there are many teachings which haven’t been defined and that infallibility only applies to “solemn, official teachings on faith and morals, not to disciplinary decisions or even to unofficial comments on faith and morals”. He does not specify what he means by “solemn” and where simply “official teachings on faith and morals” would belong (these, of course, are the most common!).

This ambuguity is quite standard. The positive presentation only excludes discipline and unofficial teachings from infallibility. But when cases of erroneous official doctrine are presented, the defender retreats to the word “solemn” and restricts infallibility to only a few cases. Usually it is not asked how the distinction between doctrine and discipline has traditionally been understood and whether it was Vatican I’s intention to restrict papal infallibility to only a few cases.

The same applies to the examples from the Bible and Church history. The Gal. 2 case as well as the cases of Liberius, Vigilius and Honorius are dismissed because they do not meet the requirements for an infallible definition set out by Pastor Aeternus. It is not asked… whether such distinctions were recognized by Jesus and the Apostles or the early Church.

Continued in next post.

More from the same response cited above to the Catholic Answers case for papal infallibility:

Speculation with unproven assumptions

Keating continues with a theological speculation about infallibility where he states the Tridentine understanding of infallibility: “[The Church] must prove itself to be a perfectly steady guide in matters pertaining to salvation.” But this can be maintained with a general indefectibility and without solemn papal additions to the deposit of the faith (such as the Marian dogmas).

A related argument goes as follows: if the Church ever apostatized by teaching heresy, then it would cease to exist; “because it would cease to be Jesus’ Church”. This is naive. As long as there are people baptized and believing in Christ and gathering in his name and as long as the Eucharist is celebrated, the Church endures.

One would need to define “heresy”, “Church”, “apostatize”, and see how these terms have been understood throughout the centuries. We would see that Keating’s logic stands on fallible ground – his assumptions are unnecessary and unapostolic.

One more time Keating commits the same mistake: “Thus the Church cannot teach heresy, meaning that anything it solemnly defines for the faithful to believe is true”. The Church is “God’s spokesman” – 1 Tim 3:15 and Lk 10:16 cited as purportedly evidencing the same mindset. Of course the Church is God’s spokesman when it proclaims Christ and his gospel faithfully. But this needn’t have anything to do with new dogmatic definitions about Mary in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Again Keating’s above sentence is initially very wide-ranging (the Church cannot teach heresy) and fits well with the idea that the Church is God’s spokesman. But the second sentence restricts this to “anything it solemnly defines”, again leaving the interpretation vague enough to help run from counter-arguments. Keating knows that there are problematic magisterial documents, that Bishops and even local councils can teach heresy, that large parts of the people of God have believed heresy, etc.

No explanation is given why “Church” should be equated with “solemn” (the meaning of which remains unexplained) definitions (also unexplained) of the magisterium (the development of which is also ignored).

Evert’s article

Jason Evert’s article here] adds little to Keating’s. He often confuses papal infallibility (which he is trying to defend) with the infallibility of the Church. Again 1 Tim 3:15 is cited as well as Cyprian, and, lo and behold, Robert Sungenis! But no patristic evidence is given for this intepretation of Mt 16.

The Irenaeus passage is quoted, again (as almost always) ignoring the fact that Irenaeus has presented the faith/tradition he is talking about in 1,10,1, and it doesn’t include papal infallibility. The same goes for the Sixtus quote: Rome was authoritative because it bore witness to the truth, truth was not made truth by Roman decisions. None of these quotes absolutely preclude the possibility of future error.

Evert also argues from the parallel between inspiration and infallibility. Incidentally, Scott Hahn argued similarly just recently on Catholic Answers Live. “If God could take fallible men and use them as authors of infallible Scripture, why couldn’t he make fallible Popes infallible, too?” Well, of course he could, but this is pure speculation in the absence of evidence that he did.

Dear brother Trebor,

I will respond point-by-point by this weekend. For now, let me say that after reading it, the responses to Catholic Answers demonstrates that
(1) the respondents do not even know what the Church’s teaching on infallibility is.
Just a few of their errors, on which I will elaborate later in the week:
(a) Infallibility means that a teaching is true “a priori.” That is not what the Church teaches about infallibility. The term “a priori” does not even apply to infallibility because the object of infallibility is not new doctrine, but the Truth of Sacred Tradition. The term “a priori” presumes that what was once not true is made true, but Infallibility is simply utilized to reaffirm or restate an already existing Truth.

(b) Infallibility means there is no possibility of error in the future.
This is not actually the definition of infallibility, but rather of indefectibility, If the respondents want to believe the Holy Spirit is going to fail in his job of protecting the Church forever, that’s their problem. Are Orthodox not in communion with Rome giving heed to this Protestant innovation?

(2) the respondents are begging the question.
The respondents ASSUME papal infalliblity and other teachings of the Catholic Church are wrong without delving into the teachings themselves. Thus, they make such statements as “the Fathers denied that something could be added to the Faith” without demonstrating that the Catholic Church has ever added anything to the Faith in the first place.

As stated, I will elaborate more later in the week in the process of giving a point-by-point rejoinder, if someone has not already done so.

Blessings,
Marduk

Marduk, I don’t think you are understanding correctly what the writer means by a priori. A priori meant in an epistemological sense, not a temporal sense. You write:

The term “a priori” does not even apply to infallibility because the object of infallibility is not new doctrine, but the Truth of Sacred Tradition. The term “a priori” presumes that what was once not true is made true. . .

Firstly, priority in a temporal sense would mean that the truth preexists those who come to know it. What you are denying here is posteriority, not priority. But this is not the sense in which the the writer uses the term a priori. Knowing something a priori simply means to know something without (or before) experience and empirical evidence. What he means when he denies the a priori infallibility of councils is that councils are not known to be infallible a priori: they are only known to be infallible after critical examination, that is a posteriori.

I’m looking forward to this comprehensive response. I always find your posts about the papacy worth reading and pondering: out of all the Catholics on CAF, you’re the only one able to give a plausible case in its defense.

For now, let me say that after reading it, the responses to Catholic Answers demonstrates that
(1) the respondents do not even know what the Church’s teaching on infallibility is.

Perhaps.

Just a few of their errors, on which I will elaborate later in the week:
(a) Infallibility means that a teaching is true “a priori.” That is not what the Church teaches about infallibility. The term “a priori” does not even apply to infallibility because the object of infallibility is not new doctrine, but the Truth of Sacred Tradition. The term “a priori” presumes that what was once not true is made true, but Infallibility is simply utilized to reaffirm or restate an already existing Truth.

What I took Emil Anton, the author of all the posts quoted above, to be saying was this: infallibility means that conciliar or papal proclamations are correct in and of themselves, as divinely-protected statements, which can be identified as such by looking at whether they meet a certain set of characteristics.

(b) Infallibility means there is no possibility of error in the future.
This is not actually the definition of infallibility, but rather of indefectibility, If the respondents want to believe the Holy Spirit is going to fail in his job of protecting the Church forever, that’s their problem. Are Orthodox not in communion with Rome giving heed to this Protestant innovation?

Anton actually suggests that the doctrine of indefectibility is a superior alternative to infallibility. From post #3:

"Keating continues with a theological speculation about infallibility where he states the Tridentine understanding of infallibility: ‘[The Church] must prove itself to be a perfectly steady guide in matters pertaining to salvation.’ But this can be maintained with a general indefectibility and without solemn papal additions to the deposit of the faith (such as the Marian dogmas).

"A related argument goes as follows: if the Church ever apostatized by teaching heresy, then it would cease to exist; ‘because it would cease to be Jesus’ Church’. This is naive. As long as there are people baptized and believing in Christ and gathering in his name and as long as the Eucharist is celebrated, the Church endures.

"One would need to define ‘heresy’, ‘Church’, ‘apostatize’, and see how these terms have been understood throughout the centuries. We would see that Keating’s logic stands on fallible ground – his assumptions are unnecessary and unapostolic.

“One more time Keating commits the same mistake: ‘Thus the Church cannot teach heresy, meaning that anything it solemnly defines for the faithful to believe is true’. The Church is ‘God’s spokesman’ – 1 Tim 3:15 and Lk 10:16 cited as purportedly evidencing the same mindset. Of course the Church is God’s spokesman when it proclaims Christ and his gospel faithfully. But this needn’t have anything to do with new dogmatic definitions about Mary in the 19th and 20th centuries.”

(2) the respondents are begging the question.
The respondents ASSUME papal infalliblity and other teachings of the Catholic Church are wrong without delving into the teachings themselves. Thus, they make such statements as “the Fathers denied that something could be added to the Faith” without demonstrating that the Catholic Church has ever added anything to the Faith in the first place.

How so? A couple times, for example, Anton states that Theodore Abu Qurra was the first scholar to come up with the now-dogmatic Catholic teaching of conciliar infallibility–a notion originating in the ninth century.

As stated, I will elaborate more later in the week in the process of giving a point-by-point rejoinder, if someone has not already done so.

Again, I hope you’ll make an extensive reply–you’re very well-qualified to do so. :slight_smile:

Well, yes, it is an objective fact to Christians that God’s Truth is eternal and that it was true even before our knowledge of it. Do Orthodox really deny this theological fact?

What you are denying here is posteriority, not priority.

I’m not exactly sure what you mean by this.

But this is not the sense in which the the writer uses the term a priori. Knowing something a priori simply means to know something without (or before) experience and empirical evidence.

As the Official Relatio of Vatican 1 noted (a document which you should read to understand the teaching of Vatican 1, and overcome a lot of the misinterpretations), Infallibility is not inspiration or revelation, and its realization in the Church comes about only by natural, practical means. Before an infallible statement is issued, before an infallible statement CAN be issued, much study and prayer on Sacred Tradition needs to be done. So directly contrary to the author’s misunderstanding, infallibility has nothing to do with a priori presumptions, but rather has everything to do with the experience and empirical evidence of the living Sacred Tradition of the Church.

What he means when he denies the a priori infallibility of councils is that councils are not known to be infallible a priori.

Agreed. The author’s argument exposes his ignorance of the Church’s teaching on infallibility.

they are only known to be infallible after critical examination, that is a posteriori.

Disagreed. The Fathers of Ecumenical Councils all expressed in a united voice that the Holy Spirit was speaking with them, that the Council was guided by the Holy Spirit. Show us even one shred of evidence from the documents of the Seven Councils that they imagined they would need to wait for the consensus of the “rest of the Church” before they could authoritatively assert what they did in their decrees. Show us even a modicum of doubt in the mind of the Fathers of these Seven Councils that what they were teaching to the Church was not the actual teaching of God. The awareness of their collective infallibility as a Council was not an a posteriori.

Blessings,
Marduk

Dear brother Trebor,

Thanks for the explanation, but I think your last clause contradicts his presumption of a priori awareness. If we know that certain conditions must be met, it cannot be a priori, and Anton’s argument simply demonstrates a lack of knowledge of the Church’s teaching on the matter. I think what he meant was that conciliar or papal proclamations are correct in and of themselves without reference to and regardless of Sacred Tradition (the “experience and empirical evidence” of which Cavaradossi spoke). But said proclamations are always made in the context of, and in fact dependent on, Sacred Tradition. Again, Anton’s argument demonstrates a lacik of knowledge of the Church’s teaching on infallibility.

Anton actually suggests that the doctrine of indefectibility is a superior alternative to infallibility. From post #3:

“Keating continues with a theological speculation about infallibility where he states the Tridentine understanding of infallibility: ‘[The Church] must prove itself to be a perfectly steady guide in matters pertaining to salvation.’ But this can be maintained with a general indefectibility and without solemn papal additions to the deposit of the faith (such as the Marian dogmas).”

If this is true, then Anton is simply denying that the Holy Spirit works through the bishops in particular instances (which is what infallibility is). Do you agree with such an idea?

"A related argument goes as follows: if the Church ever apostatized by teaching heresy, then it would cease to exist; ‘because it would cease to be Jesus’ Church’. This is naive. As long as there are people baptized and believing in Christ and gathering in his name and as long as the Eucharist is celebrated, the Church endures.

Where there is no bishop, there is no Eucharist. The argument above is basement-level Petrine, far below Low Petrine assumptions (perhaps it would not even be classed as Petrine).:smiley: This argument seems to deny the specific teaching office of the bishop, and that bishops are an integral part of the constitution of the Church. If all the bishops taught error, as the God-ordained teachers of the Faith, the Church indeed would fall. Of course, the correct counter to the argument is that since bishops are integral to the Church, there will never be a time when ALL bishops have apostasized, so there will always be teachers of the Faith to spread the Truth and the Sacraments.

"One would need to define ‘heresy’, ‘Church’, ‘apostatize’, and see how these terms have been understood throughout the centuries. We would see that Keating’s logic stands on fallible ground – his assumptions are unnecessary and unapostolic.

Not sure what you mean.

“One more time Keating commits the same mistake: ‘Thus the Church cannot teach heresy, meaning that anything it solemnly defines for the faithful to believe is true’. The Church is ‘God’s spokesman’ – 1 Tim 3:15 and Lk 10:16 cited as purportedly evidencing the same mindset. Of course the Church is God’s spokesman when it proclaims Christ and his gospel faithfully. But this needn’t have anything to do with new dogmatic definitions about Mary in the 19th and 20th centuries.”

Saying something “needn’t” is not tantamount to proving that something “doesn’t.”

How so? A couple times, for example, Anton states that Theodore Abu Qurra was the first scholar to come up with the now-dogmatic Catholic teaching of conciliar infallibility–a notion originating in the ninth century.

Not sure if you properly responded to my statement; not sure what Qurra’s statement has to do with it? In any case, what proof does he have that Qurra was the first? Didn’t the Councils assert that they spoke with the authority and guidance of the Holy Spirit? If that’s not a claim to infallibility, I don’t know what is.:shrug:

Again, I hope you’ll make an extensive reply–you’re very well-qualified to do so. :slight_smile:

More, later.:slight_smile:

Blessings,
Marduk

To clear up the confusion, I asked in the comments section of this post about what Anton meant by “the a priori infallibility of ecumenical councils”. He answered as follows:

“- I mean the belief (that already precedes the council) that under such and such conditions such and such teachings of such and such a council will not be liable to error. As opposed to an a posteriori acceptance of an already issued conciliar teaching as authoritative.”

If this is true, then Anton is simply denying that the Holy Spirit works through the bishops in particular instances (which is what infallibility is). Do you agree with such an idea?

There seems to be some discord among Eastern Orthodox about whether or how ecumenical councils are infallible. I’ll definitely have to bring up this question in the fall with my catechists. I won’t be able to comment until I get an “official” answer.

Where there is no bishop, there is no Eucharist. The argument above is basement-level Petrine, far below Low Petrine assumptions (perhaps it would not even be classed as Petrine).:smiley: This argument seems to deny the specific teaching office of the bishop, and that bishops are an integral part of the constitution of the Church. If all the bishops taught error, as the God-ordained teachers of the Faith, the Church indeed would fall. Of course, the correct counter to the argument is that since bishops are integral to the Church, there will never be a time when ALL bishops have apostasized, so there will always be teachers of the Faith to spread the Truth and the Sacraments.

I can’t speak for Anton, but will affirm that bishops are indeed essential. :slight_smile: The point he’s really driving at, it seems to me, is that the Church isn’t going to self-destruct if the pope or bishops teach heresy once in a blue moon “in their official public capacity”. After all, the damage done to the flock worldwide is far greater if hierarches can spread grave error from day to day “in their unofficial public capacity”–see the Arian crisis.

Not sure what you mean.

Relevant would be questions such as whether (1) a distinction between official public, unofficial public, and unofficial private teaching was made in the Early Church, or (2) the Church teaching correct doctrine in a binding manner was one way, or the most important way, in which the faithful could see Christ protecting his body from being overcome by the forces of evil.

Saying something “needn’t” is not tantamount to proving that something “doesn’t.”

Right. But what benefit is it to the Church for the prerogative of doctrinal infallibility to be invested in the office held by each successor to St. Peter in Rome if the pope clearly exercises this charism on only two occasions, less than a century apart, in the course of two millennia? Such a doctrine appears very much like an innovation unknown to the apostles and their successors.

Not sure if you properly responded to my statement; not sure what Qurra’s statement has to do with it?

You had originally charged Anton with “begging the question” because he would “ASSUME papal infalliblity and other teachings of the Catholic Church are wrong without delving into the teachings themselves. Thus, [he] make[s] such statements as ‘the Fathers denied that something could be added to the Faith’ without demonstrating that the Catholic Church has ever added anything to the Faith in the first place.”

I cited Anton’s statements that conciliar infallibility was invented by Theodore Abu Qurra in the ninth century as one piece of evidence by which the blogger was substantiating his claim that the Catholic Church brought in a novelty to supplement the apostolic deposit. Another piece of evidence Anton used to establish this charge is found in the following paragraph, cited in post #2:

“Keating goes on to say that the doctrine of papal infallibility is not a doctrine that suddenly appeared in the Church. But the historical study of Brian Tierney suggests just that: it appeared rather suddenly in the Middle Ages. I am not aware of Catholic Answers materials dealing with Tierney.”

Have you heard of this scholar, or read his work “Origins of Papal Infallibility, 1150-1350: A Study on the Concepts of Infallibility, Sovereignty and Tradition in the Middle Ages”?

In any case, what proof does he have that Qurra was the first?

Also in the comments section of this post I asked for a source to back up the claim. Anton replied thus:

“- I learned this from Francis Sullivan’s book ‘Magisterium’”

Didn’t the Councils assert that they spoke with the authority and guidance of the Holy Spirit? If that’s not a claim to infallibility, I don’t know what is.:shrug:

Wouldn’t bishops make statements to that effect (believing that they were) defending the true faith on such solemn occasions?

Did outside observers attribute infallibility to the dogmatic definitions of the seven ecumenical councils as they were in progress and/or after they had completed their work?

More, later.:slight_smile:

:thumbsup:

And these conditions include -

  1. adherence to Sacred Tradition,
  2. the agreement of the head bishop and the other bishops.

What more is there?

Answer these two questions:
a) What Ecumenical Council has ever claimed that consensus of “the rest of the Church” was necessary for the infallibility and the authoritative status of the decrees of the such Councils.

b) if such evidence is not found within the Ecumenical Councils themselves, where do the Orthodox get this idea? Is this a “development of doctrine” on their part?

There seems to be some discord among Eastern Orthodox about whether or how ecumenical councils are infallible. I’ll definitely have to bring up this question in the fall with my catechists. I won’t be able to comment until I get an “official” answer.

Yes. The Ravenna colloquy had the Orthodox participants affirm that the Ecumenical Council is a “unique event” specially guided by the Holy Spirit. But you will find many lay Orthodox commentators deny that assertion.

I can’t speak for Anton, but will affirm that bishops are indeed essential. :slight_smile: The point he’s really driving at, it seems to me, is that the Church isn’t going to self-destruct if the pope or bishops teach heresy once in a blue moon “in their official public capacity”. After all, the damage done to the flock worldwide is far greater if hierarches can spread grave error from day to day “in their unofficial public capacity”–see the Arian crisis.

Yes, that would be a huge difference between the Catholic and non-Catholic perspective. To Catholics, not only is the episcopate of the very esse of the Church’s constitution, but also the teaching office of the episcopate. If the teaching office fails, the Church fails. The Catholic solution is that the teaching office will never fail. That the teaching office will never fail is part and parcel of the Catholic Faith. It is very easy, however, for non-Catholics - which apparently includes (some) Orthodox - to engage in these fearmongering extravagances. That these controversialists can even imagine that the teaching office will fail as a permise for their arguments simply demonstrates how different their religion is from the Catholic Faith.

Relevant would be questions such as whether (1) a distinction between official public, unofficial public, and unofficial private teaching was made in the Early Church,

The differentiation is evident even in the New Testament. We know what Jesus’ and the Apostles’ teaching was. But there were those who taught something that was not the Church’s teaching. Such things were unofficial, public teachings because they did not reflect the actual teachings of Christ - such as the judaizing tenets. The official public teaching came either from St. Peter personally (Acts 10-11), or from the Apostles united (Acts 15).

or (2) the Church teaching correct doctrine in a binding manner was one way, or the most important way, in which the faithful could see Christ protecting his body from being overcome by the forces of evil.

A source of debate between Protestants and Catholics, obviously, but not so much between Orthodox and Catholics, IMO.

CONTINUED

CONTINUED

Right. But what benefit is it to the Church for the prerogative of doctrinal infallibility to be invested in the office held by each successor to St. Peter in Rome if the pope clearly exercises this charism on only two occasions, less than a century apart, in the course of two millennia? Such a doctrine appears very much like an innovation unknown to the apostles and their successors.

I am not aware of any able Catholic apologist who will claim that the infallibility of the CHURCH as exercised by her head bishop was only ever used twice in the history of the Church. If no ex cathedra statements were ever made prior to V1, then the Fathers of that Council would have had nothing on which to draw the conditions for infallibility that were asserted. It seems common sense to me that there had to be available data in the eyes of the V1 Fathers.:shrug:

You had originally charged Anton with “begging the question” because he would "ASSUME papal infalliblity and other teachings of the Catholic Church are wrong without delving into the teachings themselves.

I cited Anton’s statements that conciliar infallibility was invented by Theodore Abu Qurra in the ninth century as one piece of evidence by which the blogger was substantiating his claim that the Catholic Church brought in a novelty to supplement the apostolic deposit. Another piece of evidence Anton used to establish this charge is found in the following paragraph, cited in post #2:

“Keating goes on to say that the doctrine of papal infallibility is not a doctrine that suddenly appeared in the Church. But the historical study of Brian Tierney suggests just that: it appeared rather suddenly in the Middle Ages. I am not aware of Catholic Answers materials dealing with Tierney.”

I thought “papal infallibility” only appeared at V1 according to him? Now, he admits it existed in the Middle Ages? Anton has a lot to learn about consistency.

Have you heard of this scholar, or read his work “Origins of Papal Infallibility, 1150-1350: A Study on the Concepts of Infallibility, Sovereignty and Tradition in the Middle Ages”?

I’ll check it out sometime. But if it tries to equate the concept of “papal infallibility” with the rise of the papal secular power, I’m afraid it will fall on deaf ears. Dependence on the teaching authority of Rome has clear evidence from the early Fathers. The concept of “papal infallibility” simply provides a very logical reason for that dependence (no one is claiming here that “only the Pope is infallible” because that is not what the Church’s definition of “papal infallibility” is).

Also in the comments section of this post I asked for a source to back up the claim. Anton replied thus:

“- I learned this from Francis Sullivan’s book ‘Magisterium’”

Isn’t he an EO? As you probably admit, EO are not really united (officially) on this issue, so I’d take that source with a grain of salt.

Wouldn’t bishops make statements to that effect (believing that they were) defending the true faith on such solemn occasions?

Yes. But the other side of the coin is whether these bishops in these Councils made any statements even close to the claims of some modern EO - i.e., did any of these bishops claim that they needed the consensus of “the rest of the Church?”

[quoite]Did outside observers attribute infallibility to the dogmatic definitions of the seven ecumenical councils as they were in progress and/or after they had completed their work?
Here, I sense you are misunderstanding what infallibility is. Infallibility has nothing to do with your or my perception of the dogmatic decrees. Infallibily refers to the OBJECTIVE reality of those decrees as God’s Truth. That you or I or some segment of the lay Church concedes to or affirms the Truth of those decrees does not make them infallible. Those decrees are infallibile because they are from God (PERIOD!), regardless of anyone’s awareness that they are God’s Truth. That you or I agree to those Truths demonstates nothing more than that we have been moved by the Holy Spirit. The agreement of the lay Church adds absolutely nothing to the infallibility of God’s Truth.

:thumbsup:

Will have to wait. Sorry.:o

Blessings,
Marduk

Some general comments about infallibility…

Of course the early Christians accepted, by definition, the infallibility of the apostles. Not only were the apostles infallible, they were also inspired, that is, they were the source of doctrine.

Now, the early Christians also probably thought the end would come in their lifetimes. But, the end did not come, the apostles had all died, and Christians were still around. I bet they wondered, what do we do now? I suppose many left. But, as we know, many did not, and we are their heirs.

So, yes, what do we, the heirs, do now, 10 years, even 1900 years later? We have to believe that somehow, infallibility continued in some manner. Therefore, we see, by its very nature, the concept of infallibility has to be somewhat retroactive. We are forced to assume a form of infallibility inhering somewhere even after the apostles. But how does it inhere? In individual Christians? Obviously not. In individual bishops? We wish, but again bishops have disagreed. What then? The only answer is in the Church itself. Because scripture does say the household of God, the church, is the pillar and bulwark of the truth.

Okay, what then is the Church? It can only be a visible gathering of the bishops. And there is a precedence for this–the council of Jerusalem. Back in Jerusalem they got together, argued about it, and came to a conclusion affecting the entire church. So that is what was decided to be the pattern for the post-apostolic church too. Ecclesial infallibility. A necessary idea unless you want to chuck the whole thing.

Some people think we can access the teachings of Jesus and the apostles without going through the Church. I don’t see how. For example, what did the apostles believe about the deity of Christ? What did they believe the Eucharist meant? Did they worship on Sunday? Did they believe Jesus died on a cross? That is the whole purpose of ecclesial infallibility, to settle these questions.

Infallibility may be an ex post facto notion, but essential for the continuance of Christianity.

What were the data? Why do we have no such list of examples of ex cathedra statements that was used by the proponents of papal infallibility as evidence for the doctrine? Furthermore and most importantly, how can the use of empirical evidence to develop doctrine be justified?

Where did Anton write that papal infallibility only started at VI? Please quote him on this. Even if he did write that, I’m not sure that it masters, since he is using the quoted passage evidence that the doctrine is of late origin. The job of the skeptic is not to provide a consistent position, only to present evidence which casts doubt upon the established belief which is being called into question.

For each example one can give, a similar counter-example may also be given. This is why quotes alone avail nobody.

That is an ad hominem fallacy. His personal convictions have nothing to do with the strength of his argument, nor is it logically sound to attempt to discredit his argument in this way.

That is a strawman. The Orthodox would say that the widespread recognition of a council over time is what causes us to know that it taught the true faith. The truth itself needs no validation, but that which causes us to come to know the truth is not certain, hence the need for the Church literally to manifest the truth with the Holy Spirit.

But your argument here is self-defeating. You are right to say that the truth has a degree of objectivity to it (this is a consequent of accepting the premise of an all-knowing God). What is true is true regardless of who or how many have come to believe in it. But that also means that the truth is not just true regardless of whether some segment of the laity believe in it, but it is true regardless of whether anybody, be it the bishops, the presbyters, the Archbishop of Rome, the deacons, or the laity believe in it. What then you are claiming is that papal infallibility is simply another attempt to explain the mystery of how the Church makes the truth manifest to those baptized into Christ. But what then justifies the claim that papal infallibility is a preferable alternative to indefectibility or general ecclesial infallibility over time? In order to provide a thorough refutation, you absolutely must address this point.

And because your belief is that 2) can never occur without 1) being true, for you, knowing that a council teaches the true faith is only contingent upon recognizing whether 2) is true, because if 2) is true, then 1) must be true, according to Catholic belief. That 2) automatically implies 1) is the Orthodox objection.

You are conflating two separate questions. 1) What is truth? 2) How is the truth made known (or stated another way, how can we justify believing that something is true)? We can all agree as monotheists (not even as Christians, but as monotheists) that the answer to 1) is that things are true by virtue of their relation to God. The real question with which we are concerned is 2). The Councils were obviously not concerned with answering 2), but only ascertaining the answer to 1) through the use of reasoned argument and divine revelation (most especially the Scriptures but also the Traditions). The problem which faces us is that no council ultimately concluded with the line, “it was disagreeable to the Holy Spirit that we should this heresy.” Instead, they all invoked the Holy Spirit, with the absolute conviction that they taught the truth, no matter if the council taught heresy or orthodoxy. How then can we ascertain which councils actually made the truth manifest? Therein lies the disagreement.

No, the Orthodox commentators deny the Roman Catholic teaching on how it can be justified that a gathering of bishops can be considered a “unique event” specially guided by the Holy Spirit. There is a world of difference between your caricature and that actual disagreement.

In other words, you support clericalism. Your description of the Church could function with or without the laity.

No, you are just making caricatures again. The promise that the Church will fail does not mean that those in her are guaranteed to know who is teaching the true faith.

Right, I guess Paul was just writing private opinions to all of those Churches of God with no intent of teaching them.

If you need a list to build your faith, well, that’s on you (“you” in general, not you persoally:D). The evidence of Rome’s orthodoxy, and the constant appeal to Rome to confirm matters of doctrine in the first millenium up to the 7th Council is enough for me.

Furthermore and most importantly, how can the use of empirical evidence to develop doctrine be justified?

:confused: The empirical evidence is Sacred Tradition. So it is a mystery to you that Sacred Tradition is used in the development of doctrine? Now I can see why EO generally deny that principle - they (or at least some portion of them) have taken Sacred Tradition out of the equation when considering what “development of doctrine” means (more misinterpretation from non-Catholics), but Catholics understand that Sacred Tradition is part and parcel of the development of doctrine.

Where did Anton write that papal infallibility only started at VI? Please quote him on this. Even if he did write that, I’m not sure that it masters, since he is using the quoted passage evidence that the doctrine is of late origin. The job of the skeptic is not to provide a consistent position, only to present evidence which casts doubt upon the established belief which is being called into question.

I understand that. I’m just saying that consistency is not a mainstay of a skeptic. Skeptics will generally use any evidence, even contradictory evidence, for no other reason than to support their doubt. Not a very convincing method of argumentation, IMO.

For each example one can give, a similar counter-example may also be given. This is why quotes alone avail nobody.

Yeah, there are a lot of examples of those who were in error opposing decrees of Rome on a theological matter. Like the example with the Arians who opposed the Council of Sardica, EO apologetics (I’ve noticed) tend to lean on Fathers who were in error as evidence for their position. Not at all convincing, IMO.

That is an ad hominem fallacy. His personal convictions have nothing to do with the strength of his argument, nor is it logically sound to attempt to discredit his argument in this way.

Really? It’s an ad hominem to say he is EO?:shrug: EO are not united on this matter - that is not an ad hominem, that is a fact that you cannot easily brush aside.

That is a strawman. The Orthodox would say that the widespread recognition of a council over time is what causes us to know that it taught the true faith. The truth itself needs no validation, but that which causes us to come to know the truth is not certain, hence the need for the Church literally to manifest the truth with the Holy Spirit.

How is it a straw man? I know your belief (I used to hold it as well). But none of the Fathers of these councils had any notion of the/your modern belief that “we will just wait until the Church in general guided by the Holy Spirit makes this truth evident to us.” These Fathers knew they had the Truth, and that they were teaching it with the authority of God. Perhaps you are confusing the concept of infallibility with the concept of certainty? They are not the same.

But your argument here is self-defeating…But that also means that the truth is not just true regardless of whether some segment of the laity believe in it, but it is true regardless of whether anybody, be it the bishops, the presbyters, the Archbishop of Rome, the deacons, or the laity believe in it. What then you are claiming is that papal infallibility is simply another attempt to explain the mystery of how the Church makes the truth manifest to those baptized into Christ.

Yes, that’s the difference between your Faith as an Orthodox and my Faith as a Catholic - Catholics believe in Christ’s words “whoever listens to you listens to me,” This was said to the Apostles, an ascription of authority that was handed down in the Apostolic Succession to the bishops. We believe in a divinely guided teaching office that God gave us to settle the tough questions. In the Catholic paradigm, the entire Church, laity included, are responsible for carrying on the Faith through the centuries. But when controversies come, the matter that is among the laity is judged by the God-ordained teachers of the Church, the bishops. It is an EO development of doctrine (developed only after the events of Florence IMO) that, after the bishops have judged a matter among the laity, that judgment is given back to the laity to be judged once more. It is the EO position that is self-defeating since it is circular with no final authority to settle any matter.

But what then justifies the claim that papal infallibility is a preferable alternative to indefectibility or general ecclesial infallibility over time? In order to provide a thorough refutation, you absolutely must address this point.

Your “preferable” statement merely reflects another misinterpretation of the Catholic teaching. As the Offical Relatio of Vatican 1 affirms, the Ecumenical Council is the NORMATIVE means of settling matters of doctrine. “Papal infallibility” is only exercised EXTRAordinarily, and, even then, is initiated by the solicitude of the world’s bishops. Contrary to the belief of Low Petrine detractors, and Absolutist Petrine exaggerators, the Pope cannot just wake up one morning and decide unilaterally to make a new dogma out of the blue. In short, Vatican 1 never claimed that “papal infallibility” is a “preferable alternative.” So your argument is a straw man.

CONTINUED

CONTINUED

Yes, I understand that perfectly. Catholics believe that an Ecumenical Council is a vehicle of infallibility (the normative one), as well as the decree of the coryphaeus of the apostolic college. For us, Acts 15 and Acts 10-11 is biblical evidence for those beliefs. Where is the biblical evidence for your belief that “the laity must be involved in the judgment of doctrinal matters”?

You are conflating two separate questions. 1) What is truth? 2) How is the truth made known (or stated another way, how can we justify believing that something is true)?

We are just focusing on the second question.

We can all agree as monotheists (not even as Christians, but as monotheists) that the answer to 1) is that things are true by virtue of their relation to God. The real question with which we are concerned is 2). The Councils were obviously not concerned with answering 2), but only ascertaining the answer to 1) through the use of reasoned argument and divine revelation (most especially the Scriptures but also the Traditions). The problem which faces us is that no council ultimately concluded with the line, “it was disagreeable to the Holy Spirit that we should this heresy.” Instead, they all invoked the Holy Spirit, with the absolute conviction that they taught the truth, no matter if the council taught heresy or orthodoxy. How then can we ascertain which councils actually made the truth manifest? Therein lies the disagreement.

Yes, for Catholics it is the apostolic college united (in the Bible it was the Apostles with St. Peter; today, it is the college of bishops with the bishop of Rome) that is the locus of orthodoxy. That is from Jesus own words according to John 17 - it is by their unity that the Truth about Jesus will be made known. This is where I think the Orthodox paradigm fails. In Jesus words, the Truth about him will be made known to the world that does not know him by the unity of the Church as a whole. The purpose of the unity of the laity with the hierarchy (“the Church as a whole”) is as a witness to those who are not believers, But within the Church herself (a solid distinction), it is the apostolic college (in biblical times, it was the Apostles; in our time, it is the bishops) who declares the Truth and judges true from false doctrine as the God-ordained teachers of the Church. IMO, the Orthodox paradigm confuses the two, and erroneously permits the laity a share in the judgment of doctrine.

No, the Orthodox commentators deny the Roman Catholic teaching on how it can be justified that a gathering of bishops can be considered a “unique event” specially guided by the Holy Spirit. There is a world of difference between your caricature and that actual disagreement.

What is a caricature? The very words of the document put out by the colloquy?:shrug: Your statement is — strange. And how do you know it is a “Roman Catholic” teaching and not a teaching of the Fathers? From what I’ve gathered reading the documents of the Seven Councils, they never appeal to some amorphous “the Church, laity included” when they cited the evidence for their teachings. Rather, they referred to the Councils and hierarchs that went before them. Again, where is the evidence from the Seven Councils of your modern belief that the Councils were not infallible (i.e., truly guided by the Holy Spirit). You have yet to produce that evidence.

In other words, you support clericalism. Your description of the Church could function with or without the laity.

This statement makes it seem like you see no difference between the hierarchy and the laity. Is that a common belief in Eastern Orthodoxy?

No, you are just making caricatures again. The promise that the Church will fail does not mean that those in her are guaranteed to know who is teaching the true faith.

That’s not a patristic, much less biblical statement. It is the apostolic college united that is the locus of orthodoxy. Jesus said “whoever listens to you listens to me.” It sure seems like Jesus expected his hearers to know WHO he was talking about. And didn’t the Apostles establish a system (Apostolic Succession) that would allow future generations a guarantee of knowing as well? Now, here you come saying that there is no guarantee of knowing WHO is teaching the true faith? Irenaeus was sure that one could look to the See of Rome as a sure sign of orthodoxy - that sense of guarantee was certainly still around in the 3rd century. It was certainly still around in the 4th century when the (future) 2nd Ecum Council submitted its decrees to Rome for confirmation. It was certainly still around in the 5th century when the 3rd Ecumenical Council submitted its decrees to Rome for approval. Catholics would seem to be more primordial in our belief than Eastern Orthodox today.

Right, I guess Paul was just writing private opinions to all of those Churches of God with no intent of teaching them.

That’s what you believe as an EO? Did you learn that in your catechesis as an EO?:shrug:

Blessings,
Marduk

The lack of a list of infallible statements really weakens the meaning of papal infallibility.

The Traditions and Scriptures are properly considered sources of revelation. They cannot be used as empirical data, as there is no justification for saying that we can formulate statements about God using revelation as empirical data, because God is beyond experience. That is not the same, however, as saying that reason cannot be used to describe the phenomena found in the Traditions and Scriptures. The former and latter are completely different categories of justification and the latter is not as questionable of a method as the former is when matters concerning God are involved.

If the only defense you have against the skeptic is to attack his consistency, then you will be even less convincing.

Or perhaps the Carthaginians who opposed Roman intervention in Africa in the fifth century, or perhaps the Quatrodecimans who opposed Rome’s attempt to change their celebration of Easter, an attempt which out seems upar the entire Church but for the bishop of Rome Victor who only dropped the issue when rebuked by his fellow bishops.

It most certainly is. Ad hominem argumentation need not be insulting to be unsound. One could just as easily say that Catholic historians should be taken with a grain of salt, since they will be biased, but this form of ad hominem argumentation is low, unsound, and entirely unconvincing. One must attempt to discredit the arguments made, not the person making them.

Evidently, you don’t know my belief at all. As I point out elsewhere, you are confounding the conviction of the fathers that they were teaching the truth (the Arians were also under the same conviction) with our knowing that they taught the truth under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Actually, the Orthodox do not believe in that. Even with Florence, there was an immediate resistance which centered steins Mark of Ephesus and bishops who either disagreed with the council (mind you, only two dozen were in attendance) or later repudiated their approval. To paraphrase St. Paul there must be heresies among you that the approved may be made manifest. The difference is that you do not seem to believe that the laity can be part of the approved who are made manifest, while we do without compromising the importance of am bishop as a teacher.

Not at all. Bu papal infallibility, I mean your definition, where a solemn decree usa made by a council of bishops with the pope as its head. You believe that such a decree cannot fall into error, while we do not. That is the difference. And now that we have established that you are interpreting VI as an explanation for how the truth is made manifest, you must provide justification for why that explanation is preferable if your refutation is to be thorough.

So it seems my last response has some interesting typographical errors from my phone’s auto-correct function. Hopefully it should be apparent what word was supposed to be used. Anyway, to continue my response.

You say you understand the difference between what is true and coming to know what is true, but your response is not indicative of that.

Now for acts 15, you must support that exegesis with patristic exegeses, lest you wind up resorting to the same sort of proof-texting used by Protestants. St. John Chrysostom interprets Acts 15 as showing James to have the headship at the council (see his homily 33 on Acts), which shoots a major hole in your scriptural support, to say the least. Of course, if you wish to admit that you do not hold to the same faith of St. John Chrysostom, I won’t stop you.

Of course. Did I ever indicate otherwise?

I see nothing in John 17 where it says that a council held by the college of bishops with the bishop of Rome as its head will be infallible. This seems like grasping for straws.

There were many defenders of Orthodoxy who were not bishops and even some who disobeyed their own bishops. Maximus the Confessor, John of Damascus and Athanasius (a mere deacon at the beginning of the Arian controversy) come to mind. The laity do indeed have some role to play in doctrinal matters as it was often laymen, deacons and presbyters who served as advisors for their bishops (as Athanasius did for Alexander). The bishop is the head of the diocese, but like all heads, he still works in unity with rather than in tyranny over the body, and indeed, the people once had a large role in the selection of their own bishops. The bishops act as judges, yes, but they are not incapable of making errors. This is why it was important for the correct faith to be found and struggled for over time. The Church is not simply a set of diving rods from the I Ching, which can divine the truth if certain criteria are met.

No, your caricature is the comment that most lay Orthodox commentators would disagree with the statement. The disagreement is not with the statement’s definition of an ecumenical council, it over the question of how it becomes known that a council was guided by the Holy Spirit.

I am honestly not surprised you would write that, as you seem to refuse to try to understand the nuance of the Orthodox position, preferring to knock down your strawman of the orthodox faith instead.

Your favorite strawman again, I see.

Which father wrote about the infallibility of councils? The fact that we can trace such a belief to the ninth century hints that it was an innovation. The references to past councils simply means that the fathers had by that time agreed upon that council’s faithfulness to the apostolic tradition. Yet the fathers did not treat the decrees of previous councils as being completely irreformable.

Let us not forget that Chalcedon rejected both ‘from two natures’ and ‘one incarnate nature of the Word’, instead preferring that ‘in two natures’ should be used (this should not be unknown to you, since you hold to miaphysite Christology and were once in the Coptic Orthodox Church). This was, in fact, one of the major objections that Severus of Antioch had to the Council of Chalcedon (see his treatises against John the Grammarian). Only one hundred years later were the phrases ‘from two natures’ and ‘one incarnate nature of the Word’ declared to be orthodox by the Second Council of Constantinople as a corrective against this particular deficiency of Chalcedon (that is not to say that the affirmation ‘made known in two natures’ is deficient or heterodox, but that the rejection of ‘from two natures’ and ‘one incarnate nature of the Word’ were deficiencies).

Same strawman.

Surely you should know that those councils were sent to Rome for approval because the Roman bishop, an important metropolitan, was not in attendance for most of them. Was not the same done for the Egyptians with the council of Chalcedon, when they had no patriarch after the deposition of Dioscoros? Surely that does not prove that the agreement of the pope of Alexandria was necessary.

That is the logical consequent of your belief that things are only authoritative if they are approved by the apostolic college with the bishop of Rome at its head.

We still have to establish that these two particular conditions were widely and explicitly regarded in the patristic era as the criteria necessary for a gathering of bishops to be considered an ecumenical council. If the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem refused to confirm a council’s findings, would approval by the patriarch of Rome suffice?

Answer these two questions:
a) What Ecumenical Council has ever claimed that consensus of “the rest of the Church” was necessary for the infallibility and the authoritative status of the decrees of the such Councils.

b) if such evidence is not found within the Ecumenical Councils themselves, where do the Orthodox get this idea? Is this a “development of doctrine” on their part?

To the best of my knowledge, no such evidence exists; Cavaradossi has argued above, though, that you’re misunderstanding that position.

In any case, at least one blogging Eastern Orthodox intellectual has critiqued the view propounded by Aleksey Khomiakov according to which acceptance by the people of God makes a gathering of bishops into an ecumenical council. An interesting discussion on this question sprung up in the comments section of this blog post over at the Called to Communion site.

Yes. The Ravenna colloquy had the Orthodox participants affirm that the Ecumenical Council is a “unique event” specially guided by the Holy Spirit. But you will find many lay Orthodox commentators deny that assertion.

Do you have any particular commentators in mind?

Yes, that would be a huge difference between the Catholic and non-Catholic perspective. To Catholics, not only is the episcopate of the very esse of the Church’s constitution, but also the teaching office of the episcopate. If the teaching office fails, the Church fails. The Catholic solution is that the teaching office will never fail. That the teaching office will never fail is part and parcel of the Catholic Faith. It is very easy, however, for non-Catholics - which apparently includes (some) Orthodox - to engage in these fearmongering extravagances. That these controversialists can even imagine that the teaching office will fail as a permise for their arguments simply demonstrates how different their religion is from the Catholic Faith.

Well, can you give patristic citations to the effect that “the teaching office of the episcopate” cannot falter under any circumstances?

The differentiation is evident even in the New Testament. We know what Jesus’ and the Apostles’ teaching was. But there were those who taught something that was not the Church’s teaching. Such things were unofficial, public teachings because they did not reflect the actual teachings of Christ - such as the judaizing tenets. The official public teaching came either from St. Peter personally (Acts 10-11), or from the Apostles united (Acts 15).

By “unofficial public teaching”, I referred to such possibilities as bishops teaching error in their homilies.

A source of debate between Protestants and Catholics, obviously, but not so much between Orthodox and Catholics, IMO.

Right, though they disagree to an extent on what it means for the Church to teach something “in a binding manner”.

Well, no Catholic apologist I’ve read can give a definitive list of those occasions on which papal infallibility has been exercised since the death of St. John the Apostle. If I’m not mistaken, the book “Catholicism for Dummies” states that the proclamations of the immaculate conception and the assumption are the only two such instances.

If no ex cathedra statements were ever made prior to V1, then the Fathers of that Council would have had nothing on which to draw the conditions for infallibility that were asserted. It seems common sense to me that there had to be available data in the eyes of the V1 Fathers.:shrug:

That does seem logical. But the question arises: what is that data?

I thought “papal infallibility” only appeared at V1 according to him? Now, he admits it existed in the Middle Ages? Anton has a lot to learn about consistency.

Where did Anton claim that the Fathers of Vatican I actually invented papal infallibility?

I’ll check it out sometime. But if it tries to equate the concept of “papal infallibility” with the rise of the papal secular power, I’m afraid it will fall on deaf ears.

But the growth of papal temporal power and the solidification of papal theological claims (universal jurisdiction and doctrinal infallibility) may have become inextricably bound up together because of the political situation in Western Europe during the late first millennium.

Dependence on the teaching authority of Rome has clear evidence from the early Fathers.

The bishops of Rome enjoyed a reputation for maintaining orthodoxy despite the heresies that periodically rocked the Early Church. But was this see actually considered in East and West to be incapable of erring on matters of faith?

The concept of “papal infallibility” simply provides a very logical reason for that dependence (no one is claiming here that “only the Pope is infallible” because that is not what the Church’s definition of “papal infallibility” is).

It doesn’t seem right to invent and dogmatize an explanation for Rome’s consistent record of orthodoxy if that understanding wasn’t very widespread in the Early Church.

Isn’t he an EO? As you probably admit, EO are not really united (officially) on this issue, so I’d take that source with a grain of salt.

Actually, Fr. Francis A. Sullivan is a Catholic scholar.

Yes. But the other side of the coin is whether these bishops in these Councils made any statements even close to the claims of some modern EO - i.e., did any of these bishops claim that they needed the consensus of “the rest of the Church?”

Well, other Eastern Orthodox might have a better alternative explanation–something we should definitely consider.

Here, I sense you are misunderstanding what infallibility is. Infallibility has nothing to do with your or my perception of the dogmatic decrees. Infallibily refers to the OBJECTIVE reality of those decrees as God’s Truth. That you or I or some segment of the lay Church concedes to or affirms the Truth of those decrees does not make them infallible. Those decrees are infallibile because they are from God (PERIOD!), regardless of anyone’s awareness that they are God’s Truth. That you or I agree to those Truths demonstates nothing more than that we have been moved by the Holy Spirit. The agreement of the lay Church adds absolutely nothing to the infallibility of God’s Truth.

I understand. :slight_smile: As they say, “The truth is the truth even if no one believes it and a lie is a lie even if everyone believes it.”

My concern is this: if only the bishops participating in the ecumenical councils–and no outside observers, such as hierarches, clergy, laymen, and historians–portrayed their doctrinal definitions as being divinely protected from error, it would seem that we lack enough evidence to view conciliar infallibility as a patristic doctrine binding on apostolic Christians.

Will have to wait. Sorry.:o

All right. :slight_smile:

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