Perceived inconsistencies with papal bulls, a stumbling block?

One stumbling block for many folks considering Catholicism is the perceived inconsistencies with papal decrees and infallibility. Quo Primum comes to mind. This was a papal bull written by Pope Pius V around the time of Trent. Now many would consider this bull infallible, correct? Pope Leo XIII wrote a bull call Apostolicae Curae in which he voided Anglican orders and Catholics cling tightly to this as obviously infallible.

Quo Primum declares that the Latin Tridentine form of the Mass is THE ONLY version of the Catholic Mass in the West that may be used except for previous forms that were around in some traditions of the West 200 years before, etc. Here is an excerpt of what Pius V says:
"Let all everywhere adopt and observe what has been handed down by the Holy Roman Church, the Mother and Teacher of the other Churches, and let Masses not be sung or read according to any other formula than that of this Missal published by Us. This ordinance applies henceforth, now, and forever, throughout all the provinces of the Christian world", exceptions were allowed from the start…By this present Constitution, which will be valid henceforth, now, and forever, We order and enjoin that nothing must be added to Our recently published Missal, nothing omitted from it, nor anything whatsoever be changed within it…No one whosoever is permitted to alter this notice of Our permission, statute, ordinance, command, precept, grant, indult, declaration, will, decree, and prohibition. Should anyone dare to contravene it, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul."

The Novus Ordo Mass of Vatican II clearly violates what Pius V says here, does it not? How can one council contradict or supercede a previously infallible statement by a pope?

I think this is why there is the tension between Traditionalist Catholics and modern Catholics who are fine with the present status quo. It’s not clear.

Lumen Gentium also talks about FULL submission to the pope even when he is NOT speaking infallibly which seems to contradict the common apologetic that popes are only infallible when speaking on faith and morals officially from the Chair of Peter.

Some rulings on slavery also seem to contradict or be inconsistent along with the open-mindedness of the papacy and magisterium nowdays to science/evolution etc. whereas guys like Gallileo were jailed previously.

What do you all think about the accusation of inconsistencies and how can the statement of Pius be reconciled with Vatican II.

I’m not pontificating here but rather hoping to learn from people’s posts on this subject. It is frequently on my mind.

God bless all! :slight_smile:

Papal infallibility only applies in certain conditions…among which:
*]Speaking ‘ex cathedra’
*]Matters of faith and morals
A Papal Bull about the Roman Missal is neither of these, and thus what the Pope said in one of them is not necessarily infallible. We can’t ignore them, obviously, but they can be superseded by later documents.

Remember, the Church is protected by the Holy Spirit from teaching moral error. It is not, however, infallible in all things. We defer to her spiritual authority as her children, in a sense, but the Church learns as she goes too.

I hope this helps answer your question. God bless you.

The precise details of the celebration of the Eucharist are not a matter of faith or morals. They vary by culture and era, and always have.

The mere fact that there are exceptions to the rule means that it is a matter of practice or discipline within a limited domain (the Western Church) and not a teaching that must be held “always, everywhere, and by all.”

Thus, while Quo Primum legitimately established the rule for Pius V’s time, it should not be seen as irreformable. A future pope (or Council approved by the pope) has just as much power to make declarations on the subject as Pius did.

We can see this from the fact that Pius V’s Mass was amended by various later popes, who obviously didn’t consider themselves to be violating Quo Primum. The introduction of the Mass of Paul VI (now the Ordinary Form) is certainly a larger change, but any change at all would violate Quo Primum if it literally meant that the Order of Mass could never again vary in any respect.


As a protestant, I don’t think the Eucharist is the best example for the point you’re trying to make. If the precise details of the Eucharist didn’t matter, then it would be less likely that the protestant and Orthodox churches would be in imperfect communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

I did say the precise details of the celebration of the Eucharist, by which I meant the Mass. If you are talking about details like transubstantiation, that’s a different thing, and is indeed a matter of dogma. The various prayers and readings that surround the consecration itself, or the language in which the whole thing is performed, are the sorts of nonessential matters I was addressing.


Thanks for the clarification :slight_smile:

If papal bulls are NOT infallible, then why does every single Catholic poster I’ve ever spoken with on here concur and find totally binding the deliberation of Apostolicae Curae that Anglican orders are null and void and empty? Why is it considered set in stone fact but with Pius V’s bull it’s open to change and not really a big woop?

My point is, it seems people can’t agree on what is infallible, to be believed with total dogmatic certitude, and what constitutes infallible, immovable doctrine? This is the big selling point for Catholicism I think—total unity of doctrine and morality. But if we cannot decide what is and is not infallible then how is this unity in fact a reality? I’ve heard Catholics claim Humanae Vitae is totally infallible, others patently reject the notion.

I think the unity is not as cohesive as advertised and that is why I started this thread, to explore the idea…

Thanks so far for the replies, everyone. Keep 'em coming…:thumbsup:

"Should anyone dare to contravene it, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul."

Things like this make it impossible for me to know what the Church actually thinks anything means. Things mean what they say, except when they don’t.


Agreed. Essentially when posters say, “well that bull wasn’t infallible” then why would a pope say such anathemizing, scary admonishments? “Incur the wrath of almighty God!?” That sounds pretty adamant about NOT changing Pius’s Mass! :stuck_out_tongue:

And I think stuff like this only gives credence to the Orthodox and their arguments about the changing inconsistencies of the papacy.


Agreed as usual, Gurney. What I eventually found after tackling this problem in my own journey from Catholicism to the road I am on now is that, when boiled down to its essentials, the criteria that are used by Catholics to deal with the infallibility problem are essentially circular and do not help to establish any clear guideline with regard to when a statement is actually to be viewed as infallible:

  • Papal statements are only infallible when spoken ex cathedra (from the chair of Peter);
  • Papal statements are only infallible when dealing with the subject of faith and morals

These two seemingly simple criteria raise so many questions. A few could be:

  • How do we know when a pronouncement is being made “ex cathedra”? Doesn’t the Pope occupy the chair of Peter by virtue of his holding the Petrine office? Would that make all of his statements “ex cathedra”, or only some of them, or…?

  • Who determines what is a “matter of faith and morals” and what isn’t? It doesn’t seem like the Pope talks about much else. Other than the story from a year or so ago about what’s on his iPod, I can’t remember the last time I heard of anything involving the Pope that didn’t touch on faith and morals in some way. He’s the freaking Pope! Faith and morals is kind of his job.

  • What about when one declaration conflicts with another? (Hence this thread)

It’s a confusing situation for the non-infallible! :blush::shrug:

Quo Primum wouldn’t be considered infallible, said document applied only in Pius V’s reign, or in the reign of any pope who chose to follow it. However, Pius V’s statement is not irreformable Catholic dogma.

It is a bit confusing without some knowledge of Canon Laws, but any pope who wishes to change the rubrics of the Mass can do so, although they need to provided that the essential elements regarding the confection of the Eucharist remain intact. Further, Paul VI was very careful to maintain the confection of the Eucharist. In fact, he had to correct the Eucharistic formula against more then the one liberal whom had tried to change it.

The fact that it is not irreformable dogma will answer this.

I will acknowledge that there have been some abuses in the NO in some rare cases, although, the Church has taught that the NO Mass confects the Eucharist - and in the paraphrased words of St. Augustine “roma locuta est, causa finita est,”.

I had thought, Lumen Gentium specifies the “authentic teaching authority of the Pope.” That is, the pope must be using an authentic means of teaching in order for it to be authoritative. This is getting into the “office” verses the “person” and at the moment… I would have to refresh my memory on this subject to articulate it correctly. Although, Pius XII did have to stipulate in Humani Generis, that we must give “assent” to any encyclicals, whether that encyclical contains infallible information is beside the point. The point remains that an encyclical, in itself, is not infallible. To assert that every papal prerogative that a current Pope has is infallible, would certainly not make any logical sense.

Hopefully someone can explain this better then I. :frowning:

Galileo was never “jailed”, he was granted indulgences and put on what we might call a formal “house arrest”. Outside of that, the fact is; is that none of these where irreformable Catholic teachings.

I feel, that the problem is a problematic misunderstanding of Vatican II, the fact that VII was written in essay format has lead to ambiguities and abuse. I feel that anyone trying to interpret a Vatican II statement must do so in line with our dogmatic tradition.

God be with you. :crossrc:

Because they have not been abrogated thus far - to my knowledge. I am sure this is confusing and without getting into a huge affair within Canon Laws, it is hard for me to articulate well enough. I will make it a point to work at it though. :thumbsup:

Hmmm…let them be anathema, until we come up with something else! :smiley:

I think the pope’s i-pod is mostly pretty boring from my perspective. Mostly old Golden Girls episodes or classical music most likely. :stuck_out_tongue:

Elaborate on your views that the infallibility arguments are circular. I’d like to hear your thoughts on it, Jeremy.

That’s what I was thinking? How can you anathemize people and yet get a free pass from the anathema because the new Mass is in English? :confused:

Elaborate on your views that the infallibility arguments are circular.

How could it be otherwise?

Taking my cues from the Catholic Encyclopedia at New Advent, let’s look at what is meant by ex-cathedra:

…its present meaning was formally determined by the Vatican Council, Sess. IV, Const. de Ecclesiâ Christi, c. iv: "We teach and define that it is a dogma Divinely revealed that the Roman pontiff when he speaks ex cathedra, that is when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, by the Divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals, and that therefore such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves and not from the consent of the Church irreformable.

So from this we see that “it is a dogma Divinely revealed” when the Pope “by virtue of his extreme Apostolic authority…defines a doctrine regarding faith and morals”.

That clears things right up, doesn’t it? :rolleyes:

You have even seen in this thread how one papal bull is argued to have been infallible by virtue of the fact that no later pronouncements have yet contradicted it. Where is this principle in the supposedly clear, two-condition definition that Catholics like to rely on?

In practice, we have a situation wherein the Pope speaks infallibly when it is argued that this is what he is doing/has done, because nobody can effectively define when the conditions have been met. If that isn’t circular (it is infallible because the Pope said it when speaking infallibly), I don’t know what is.

I often wonder why these types of threads don’t get much play and fizz out? I would think the apparent contradictions between Pius V’s anathema-attached determination to make sure the Tridentine remains THE Mass for all time and the complete overhaul of Vatican II would be a real topic for discussion and concern for Catholics. It certainly concerns me bigtime. I can’t fathom how a papal bull like apostolicae curae is upheld with vigor by most Catholics in here and yet on the other hand Pius V’s passionate bull is cast aside as no big whoop and subject to change?

Apostolicae Curae is an excusionary bull. It says a whole population of priests in a communion are not priests at all (Anglicans). For some that may be empowering and it feels good to say to an Anglican, “hey, sorry chump, your priests have empty bread and wine; they aren’t and never were priests! The pope said so! Case closed!” and yet when you point out Pius V’s bull they say, “well bulls aren’t infallible and can be reversed, I yield to Peter here. I’m not bugged by it at all.” So theoretically the pope then could make a bull tomorrow saying that Anglican priests are validly consecrated? :confused: This seems bizarre and confusing.

And I continue to feel like nobody, including popes, can explain what constitutes an infallible statement. If a papal bull doesn’t, then…? :confused:what about Lumen Gentium and Humanae Vitae? Those are passionately embraced by Catholics who are orthodox and practicing nine times out of ten? :confused:

…Rome has spoken. The matter is closed.

Whats the problem?:nunchuk:

The problem is clear, Irish. One papal bull by a pope lays condemnation and hell upon anyone who would change the Mass of the Catholic Church to any other form except the Tridentine Latin Mass. Vatican II did just that, countermanded a papal bull.

So, in one aspect you seem right—Rome DID speak centuries ago through the Pope and laid down anathemas on anyone who would change the Mass. Then Rome spoke again and contradicted it. So that is the problem.

You don’t see an inherent issue with this? Can papal bulls be counteracted?

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