Infallibility

The vast majority of the infallible dogmas of the Catholic Church have been received through the exercise of the ordinary universal magisterium. That is why it is called “ordinary”, because it is the ordinary way in which the faithful receive infallible teaching from the bishops of the Church.

[quote=Matt16_18]The vast majority of the infallible dogmas of the Catholic Church have been received through the exercise of the ordinary universal magisterium. That is why it is called “ordinary”, because it is the ordinary way in which the faithful receive infallible teaching from the bishops of the Church.
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Amen! I also contend that whether a doctrine is infallible or not is only an academic concern of dogmatic theologians, or a concern to those whose motives are to dissent with Mother Church.

As for the rest of us ordinary Catholics, we simply submit to the teaching of the Catholic Church whether it is infallible or not.

Heb 13:17 “Obey your prelates, and be subject to them. For they watch as being to render an account of your souls; that they may do this with joy, and not with grief. For this is not expedient for you.”

Nothing in Heb 13:17 about a submission only when it is infallible. We are simply to obey and be subject to the lawful pastor appointed over us by God. If everyone simply held fast to this Divine guidance, we would have a lot less sin in the world.

[quote=YinYangMom]I’m thinking about the position of suicide victims. For centuries these people would be considered damned straight to hell by the official teaching of the Church

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Incorrect. This always depended upon the subjective elements of a mortal sin. I think people focus on the objective element (grave sin) and forget that the Church also teaches that the subjective elements must also be present, which are: “full advertence” and “perfect consent of will” in the words used by St. Pius X.

Thus, even in St. Thomas Aquinas day, the Catholic Church held that the imputability of a sinful act depended upon the voluntariness of that act. In other words, insofar as voluntariness was lacking or diminished, guilt was also diminished. Thus, a person who committed suicide did not necessarily descend to hell simply because suicide is a grave sin. It would depend upon the other subjective elements–full advertence and perfect consent.

Thus, no change in Catholic moral theology really occurred, but hopefully your undestanding of it did. The catechesis may have been either good or bad, depending upon particular circumstances.

[quote=Catholic2003]In this article, Fr. Pilsner claims to know more about the theological conditions for papal infallibility than Pope Benedict XVI. Thus, I would take anything this article says with several grains of salt.
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How do you mean? If it is taught everywhere, always, and by all, it is infallible by virtue of the ordinary universal magisterium. Are you saying that Pope Benedict XVI disagrees with this dogmatic methodology? For example, can you point to the infallible councilar statement or papal ex cathedra statement that placed inerrancy of sacred scripture among the infallible dogma of the Catholic Church? Cardinal Ratzinger lists it among infallible immutable Catholic dogma, no?

You may disagree that *Humanae Vitae *has been taught everywhere, always, and by all by the Catholic magisterium. However, after studying the topic as a former dissenter of HV, I’ve come to believe that such a conclusion is not tenable.

Then when the non-Catholics press me about all these infallible teachings and how several popes behaved badly during their time therefore the line of trust was broken with those bad apples - what I should counter with is that during those times the Church herself declared the doctrines and dogmas, not those specific popes

I would simply state that even the most sinful pope was granted the charism of infallibility, such that he never taught heresy as though it were Catholic doctrine to be held by all the faithful. This is not to say that these sinful popes cannot have been damned to hell by God. Popes can go to hell just like any other mortal. (Believe it or not, many Protestants I know think we assert popes cannot be damned to hell.)

Even St. Peter behaved badly, yet taught the gospel without error. They are instruments of God by virtue of their office. God protects his faithful from any heretical doctrines which these mere men may in fact hold to be true.

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[quote=Catholic2003]In this article, Fr. Pilsner claims to know more about the theological conditions for papal infallibility than Pope Benedict XVI. Thus, I would take anything this article says with several grains of salt.
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After reading through your post again, I think I misunderstood your implication. http://forums.catholic.com/images/icons/icon11.gif

I agree that Fr. Pilsner’s opinion differs from the current pope, but I think he makes a good point and if we didn’t have the Respondsum ad dubium from the Holy See telling us exactly what the pope intended, then Sacerdotalis Ordinatio all by itself seems to be an infallible ex cathedra pronouncement of the solem magisterium. Yet, the Respondsum ad dubium tells us the pope’s intent (which is the only thing that matters), which states the pope defended what was already infallible by virtue of the ordinary universal magisterium. Thus, the pope did not exercise the authority of the solem magisterium (nor did he need to).

In my view, this too was an exercise of his charism of papal infallibility, since even when defending doctrines of faith and morals which are already infallible, he exercises this charism of papal infallibility according to *Lumen Gentium. *Thus, Sacerdotalis Ordinatio seems to be an infallible exercise of the ordinary magisterium. (whew!) [and I think we discussed this already at length on some other thread].

[quote=YinYangMom]Hmmm…
So when the non and fallen away Catholics tell me the Church can change teaching but chooses not to because it would mean everything would be negotiable, my response should be:

The Church can never teach anything contrary to what has been taught previously, but it can teach an expanded view of a previous teaching.

Without having to get into infallibility about specific teachings, right?
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Now you are asking questions for which faithful Catholics can disagree about the answers.

Infallible teachings must be true, and thus can never change. However, they can be expanded upon, or understood in more detail.

The Church does not claim that non-infallible teachings must be true, or cannot change. However, the Church has also never admitted that one of her non-infallible teachings was wrong. Thus, you have faithful Catholics taking both sides of this issue.

Certainly, the Church’s teaching on contraception is not arbitrary, and cannot arbitrarily be changed. It would only change if the Church came to believe that it was wrong in the first place.

[quote=itsjustdave1988]Amen! I also contend that whether a doctrine is infallible or not is only an academic concern of dogmatic theologians, or a concern to those whose motives are to dissent with Mother Church.

As for the rest of us ordinary Catholics, we simply submit to the teaching of the Catholic Church whether it is infallible or not.
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I used to think this, but now I’m wondering.

For non-infallible teachings, we simply need to submit.

For infallible teachings, submission is not enough; we must truly believe the teachings. Otherwise, we are heretics, and are thereby excommunicated.

Thus it would seem to matter whether a specific teaching is infallible or not.

[quote=itsjustdave1988]After reading through your post again, I think I misunderstood your implication. http://forums.catholic.com/images/icons/icon11.gif
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No problem. I should have been clearer; it’s just that we already discussed this in great detail in other threads.

Just for the record, I was referring to Fr. Pilsner’s conclusion that Ordinatio Sacerdotalis was an exercise of the extraordinary papal magisterium (i.e., it was ex cathedra), and his acknowledgement that this conclusion is in direct contradiction with then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s CDF statement on the matter:

With all due respect to Cardinal Ratzinger, if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…guess what?

My take is that if Fr. Pilsner’s article comes to the wrong conclusion (which we know it does because of the CDF statement), then the the logic that led him to that conclusion must be flawed as well.

[quote=Thomas More]Infallibility means “protection from error” and applies to (1) the ordinary magisterium, (2) the extraordinary magisterium, and (3) the Pope.

The ordinary magisterium is the basic teaching of the Church. It is something we can absolutely trust, and includes things like “Contraception is wrong because the Church has always held that it is wrong, it contradicts the natural law, and the Church has interpreted her own tradition to be constant and therefore infallible on this issue.” The same would apply to the priesthood as reserved to baptized adult males. It would also apply to “Jesus loves us”, which is clear and true but I don’t think was ever officially defined.

The extraordinary magisterium is what the Bishops, in union with the Pope, teach through special means: the Councils. Jesus is True God and True Man, the Eucharist is the Real Presence of Jesus, there are seven sacraments no more no less, etc., the Book of Tobit is inspired scripture, etc.

The special “ex cathedra” infallibility that protects the Pope when he speaks as defining and infallible matter in his official capacity is the third type. It has only been used twice in the history of the Church: to define the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and the dogma of the Assumption of Mary.

So to answer the Humanae Vitae question: HV isn’t infallible because Paul VI or John Paul II or any other pope made an infallible declaration out of it. Rather, they reiterated that HV summarizes and explains what has always been the ordinary infallible teaching of the Church.
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I would add to and perhaps amend what Thomas More says on infallibility slightly.

As far as I know, saying “ex cathedra” or “de fide” doesn’t inherently raise reliability. The words just help us to identify reliability when we see it. In other words, the words “ex cathedra” or “de fide” are not the “abracadabras” of infallibility.

Can the Pope, in union with the bishops, or the Pope, in union with the bishops and the Church Universal, say, “The following statement is an infallible, unchangeable definition of the Faith!..”? I don’t see why not.

Can the Pope seemingly teach something with solemnity, as though infallible, and then reverse himself? This may have happened once or twice. Jerome and Athanasius say that it happened at least once.

Can the Pope precede a teaching with the “magic words” “ex cathedra” or “de fide,” or a statement like, “The following statement is an infallible, unchangeable definition of the Faith?” and then reverse himself?

I think that this is undefined.

The CCC issue does complicate things.

Some things in the Catechism are not at all infallible and could change, for example it’s statement that “the genesis of homosexuality remains largely unexplained.”

Well, ok, unless you’re a researcher who believes you know, or maybe only for a few more years, or maybe never. It’s a sort of scientific statement to begin the paragraph and put things in perspective.

But when the CCC states something definitely and then cites a Council, or an ex cathedra statement from a Pope, or the consistent and clear authority of Scripture, or an explanation that the teaching is infallible by the ordinary magisterium . . . well then you can hang your hat on it.

The evil nature of contraception is precisely one of those instances. It actually goes back further: it’s not infallible because Pius declared it so. It’s not even merely infallible as the Church has taught it (although certainly She has). Contraception contradicts the natural law, so it’s something that can be known to be wrong even w/o the aid of Divine Revelation.

The teaching could only change if fundamental human nature changed, or if the Church’s understanding of fundamental human nature changed (e.g. we weren’t really created in the image of God, or married persons don’t really participate in the great work of God when they give rise to new life, etc). This isn’t going to happen!

The biggest confusion in this thread is throwing around words like “ex cathedra” and discussing of the Pope as if that were the only way to understand infallibility. It is the LEAST important way to understand it, although it is still important and has been used twice :-).

Catholics should accept all dogmas, of course. They should also accept all doctrine, as it cannot change. And they should also follow all the laws, even though some of those could change in the future.

Doesn’t to me either.

Trying to establish what “infallibility” entails is about like trying to hold onto a handful of sand. The harder to try to grasp it, the more it slips away.

It’s possible that there are theologians who actually understand it, but it seems like such a convoluted system that in practice it really doesn’t even matter if it’s true because any given specific instance can be argued this way or that by supposedly “orthodox.” Therefore, I reject “infallibility” as it’s currently used, because it has no practical value as far as I can tell, except to give many people big heads and possibly lead to idolatry.

I suggest we look at “infallibility” in the sense that the pope is the boss, period, with no rights to appeal. Also, “infallibility” in the sense that on matters of “faith and morals” which are by their nature subjective the pope, Church, Magesterium or whatever it is can set the standards, and we either agree with them or not but we can’t say they are wrong because we agreed that the Church holds the standards. In other words, it’s kind of like infallibility by agreement. This person says what’s right or wrong because today he carries the baton.

To save time, I’ll just say that this post is undoubtedly full of errors, heresies and mistruths – that way other posters don’t have to waste bandwidth reminding me of it. :rolleyes:

Alan

[quote=Catholic2003]I used to think this, but now I’m wondering.

For non-infallible teachings, we simply need to submit.

For infallible teachings, submission is not enough; we must truly believe the teachings. Otherwise, we are heretics, and are thereby excommunicated.

Thus it would seem to matter whether a specific teaching is infallible or not.
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To me, both “assent of faith” and “religious submission (religiosum obsequium) of intellect and will,” mean “belief.” The former is to be believed in accord with the virtues of faith and charity, while the latter is to be believed in accord with the virtue of charity, but not necessarily due to the virtue of faith. Yet, both are to be believed.

Religious assent, while not precisely “assent of faith,” is still an extension of it. And so, one needs to resolve difficulties that may be present with either “religious assent” or the “assent of faith” and not be content with witholding internal assent to either.

The importance, in the final analysis, is a lot like one who asks if this particular sin is mortal or merely venial. Does a faithful Christian really need to know, or should they simply avoid the sin no matter what? It is God’s will that you believe His Holy Church in all that she teaches, because as He stated, “He who hears you, hears me. He who rejects you, rejects me.”

Do ordinary Catholics understand the difference between religious assent and the assent of faith? Does it even matter to them? I don’t think so. Before we had a Vatican I definition, Catholics simply were called to believe the teachings of the magisterium. It is still that way today. I believe the child-like trust in Mother Church is how we are called to respond. The gift of understanding is not given to all equally. Thus, whether one can precisely discern de fide truth (infallible teaching) from sententai certa (certain teaching) is irrelevant. Whether one has personal difficulty believing de fide dogmas or sententia certa is something one has to personally work out in fear and trembling in their faith journey. If our lawful pastors are expecting us to believe both, then we are to believe both.

For “assent of faith,” canon law makes it obligatory that these teachings be “firmly accepted and held” (canon 750, par 2) and proscribes against all who “reject” such truths (ibid.).

For doctrines that are not de fide, our “submission of intellect and will” is obligatory. Which means Christ faithful are to "***ensure that they avoid whatever does not accord with that doctrine.*" (canon 752).

The difference in the “assent of faith” and that of “religious submission” is better explained in the Holy See’s Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian signed by Cardinal Ratzinger and promulgated by John Paul II.

Nevertheless, any ordinary Catholic need not get all twisted into a knot about which doctrines are infallible de fide dogmas and which are not, so long as he believes all that the Catholic Church professes to be true and is ever-seeking to resolve any personal difficulties with her teachings, avoiding whatever does not accord with it.

In other words, simply follow the traditional Catholic view…

St. Pius X: “***there can be no holiness in dissension from the Pope.***” (Pope St. Pius X, allocution of 18 November, 1912, AAS vol. 4 (1912), 693-695. Selection from p. 695)"

Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman:I say with Cardinal Bellarmine whether the Pope be infallible or not in any pronouncement, anyhow he is to be obeyed. No good can come from disobedience…when he speaks formally and authoritatively he speaks as our Lord would have him speak…therefore the Pope’s word stands, and a blessing goes with obedience to it, and no blessing with disobedience*” *(John Henry Newman “'The Oratory, Novr. 10, 1867”, The Genius of Newman (1914), by Wilfrid Ward, Vol II, Ch. 26)

St. Catherine of Sienna: "*For divine obedience never prevents us from obedience to the Holy Father: nay, the more perfect the one, the more perfect is the other. And we ought always to be subject to his commands and obedient unto death. However indiscreet obedience to him might seem, and however it should deprive us of mental peace and consolation, we ought to obey; and I consider that to do the opposite is a great imperfection, and deceit of the devil. *(Letter to Brother Antonio of Nizza)

[quote=cardenio]Still a little confused.

but RyanL said

Only the Pope is guaranteed (by Sacred Scriptures) to have the ability to be absolutely certain not to teach error.

This doesn’t make sense.
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The Church as a whole is guarenteed not to teach error. This guarentee or power is the Magisterium – the Church’s authority to teach. It is exercised by the Bishops. The Pope is, of course, a bishop.

What the Bishops all teach routinely is the Ordinary Magisterium. The Pope is the supervisor of the Bishops.

If there are points in dispute, an Ecuminical Council may be convened, where the Bishops, under the aurhority and supervision of the Pope, formally debate the issue, and arrive at a decision. This is the Extraordinary Magisterium.

Alternatively, the Pope may act as a judge or referee, examine the different views and arguments, and announce a decision Ex Cathedra (“as the Church.”) As has been pointed out, this has only happened twice.

In other cases, “Humane Vitae” for example, the Pope summerizes what the Church has already taught.

The problem I have is that the church as a whole may be guaranteed error, but the “church as a whole” has never spoken to me as far as I know.

It is always one or more individual human beings, in which case I have no idea whether their views represent the “church as a whole.”

Do I listen to my priest? Do I listen to our bishop? Do I listen to what the pope allegedly says? Do I ignore all these people and do my own research because the others may be heretical so I might as well not believe anything they say until I can back it up for myself? It seems like it’s really it’s all up to me anyway to find out for myself what the truth is; whether it is centered in Rome is but a detail at that point.

Alan

[quote=AlanFromWichita]The problem I have is that the church as a whole may be guaranteed error, but the “church as a whole” has never spoken to me as far as I know.
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Sure it has – read the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

[quote=AlanFromWichita]It is always one or more individual human beings, in which case I have no idea whether their views represent the “church as a whole.”
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There’s a simple test – is that person saying something the bishops as a group agree on?

[quote=AlanFromWichita]Do I listen to my priest? Do I listen to our bishop? Do I listen to what the pope allegedly says? Do I ignore all these people and do my own research because the others may be heretical so I might as well not believe anything they say until I can back it up for myself? It seems like it’s really it’s all up to me anyway to find out for myself what the truth is; whether it is centered in Rome is but a detail at that point.

Alan
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Yes, you listen to your priest and bishop – they are ordained to teach and guide you. If one of them says something heretical, they will be corrected.

Note that not everything a priest or bishop says is part of the Magisterium – only that which follows established Church teaching is infallible. Your bishop may say, “It looks like rain,” and that is a mere opinion – no better than yours or mine.

[quote=itsjustdave1988]The importance, in the final analysis, is a lot like one who asks if this particular sin is mortal or merely venial. Does a faithful Christian really need to know, or should they simply avoid the sin no matter what?
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I think this is a good analogy. It is certainly possible to avoid the problem of distinguishing between infallible and non-infallible teachings by believing all of them with the virtue of faith.

However, this is certainly not required by the Church, nor do I believe that it is necessarily God’s will that we do so. Canon law defines the Church’s will, and canon 752 starts off with, “While the assent of faith is not required, …”

But thanks to your response, I can see how everyday Catholics can get by without having to know exactly which teachings are infallible and which are not.

[quote=vern humphrey]Note that not everything a priest or bishop says is part of the Magisterium – only that which follows established Church teaching is infallible. Your bishop may say, “It looks like rain,” and that is a mere opinion – no better than yours or mine.
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Priests don’t participate in the Magisterium, which is the living teaching authority of the Church. Bishops do, when they teach on a matter of faith and morals in the name of Jesus Christ. Individual bishops are not infallible, however.

Canon law defines the individual episcopal magisterium, and the religious submission required to it by their flock:

Can. 753 Whether they teach individually, or in Episcopal Conferences, or gathered together in particular councils, Bishops in communion with the head and the members of the College, while not infallible in their teaching, are the authentic instructors and teachers of the faith for Christ’s faithful entrusted to their care. The faithful are bound to adhere, with a religious submission of mind, to this authentic magisterium of their Bishops.

[quote=Catholic2003]I think this is a good analogy. It is certainly possible to avoid the problem of distinguishing between infallible and non-infallible teachings by believing all of them with the virtue of faith.

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That can also be problematic. My mother was taught by her church leaders that her non-Catholic friends would all end up in hell. That led her into error, as she believed something “the church” taught her that wasn’t infallible.

If they aren’t infallible, then that means they may not be right. If we believe them just because they are somebody’s opinion, then we are gullible and able to be led into error.

Can you imagine the kniption fits some people must be having for even having women as lectors or altar servers? If they grew up believing everything the Church taught was infallible, then as far as they’re concerned the Church has disappeared.

Alan

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