Is it true that we only have fragments of the letters of Pope Honorius? Historian Henry R. Percival calls them “Epistles”. Is this accurate? Catholics often quote Pope’s old “Epistles” as if they are infallible, as well as sermons/speeches they gave before Councils.

How can we be sure that Honorius did not satisfy the requirements for infallibility? Encyclicals are written to certain people at times, and yet are intended for anyone.

Pope St. Leo the Great, Letter 16, Oct. 21, 447, #6: “Wherefore, as it is quite clear that these two seasons of which we have been speaking are the rightful ones for baptizing the chosen in Church, we admonish you, beloved, not to add other days to this observance. Because, although there are other festivals also to which much reverence is due in God’s honour, yet we must rationally guard this principal and greatest sacrament as a deep mystery and not part of the ordinary routine: not, however, prohibiting the license to succor those who are in danger by administering baptism to them at any time. For while we put off the vows of those who are not pressed by ill health and live in peaceful security to those two closely connected and cognate festivals, we do not at any time refuse this which is the **only safeguard **of true salvation to anyone in peril of death, in the crisis of a siege, in the distress of persecution, in the terror of shipwreck.”

The Church subsequently teaches baptism of desire

The only way we know for sure if a Pope exercises his charism of infallibility is if the Church tells us so. So, while we refer to Papal writings as authoritative, nobody ought to call them infallible unless the Church does. And that is VERY rare.

Encyclicals are written to certain people at times, and yet are intended for anyone.

Encyclicals can be either broad or narrow in scope. Humanae Vitae is an encyclical (in which Pope Paul-6 reaffirms the Church teaching on sexuality and artificial birth control). Many people consider Humanae Vitae to be infallibly proclaimed, but nobody ought to say so until the Church says so (and I think that will happen someday).

But, of course, it is fully and completely binding upon all Catholics, regardless of whether it is infallible. Infallibility is pretty much irrelevant to laypeople - we are expected to accept ALL Church teaching.

Being forced to accept a Pope’s private opinions as “authoritative” doesn’t sit well with me, but that is not the subject for this thread.

If Honorius privately held a false doctrine, so what? :slight_smile:

The facts are that Honorius did not teach anything in this matter in a formal manner that suggests he was attempting to bind all Christians to that teaching. In fact, the opposite is true for he among his writings on the matter, we find:

(a) “We must not wrest what they say into Church dogmas”;
(b) “We must not define either one or two operations”;
© “We leave the matter to grammarians”;
(d) “We must not, defining, pronounce one or two operations.”

Somehow, despite these clear statements that Honorius had no intention of making a binding decision, some controversialists insist that Honorius was attempting to make a formal, binding pronouncement and, because the matter in questions proved to be heretical, that Honorius’ private opinions disprove papal infallibility. This is incorrect.

Infallibility is not disproven by Honorius’ private opinions nor his failure to act decisively to stop a heresy that was raging during his pontificate.

Well perhaps Honorius went ahead and changed his mind. The question is whether the letters which Councils called “heresy” were from the papacy. How could they not be? They weren’t sermons during a mass or anything like that…

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.