Quia quorundam and Papal Infallibility

Hello, I am one considering joining the Church. I apologize if I have put this in the wrong place, if so please move it to its proper one.

On an “Eastern Orthodox” forum, I found a citation of a bull of Pope John XXII, which seems to deny Papal Infallibility. The bull itself is named Quia quorundam, and is found here: franciscan-archive.org/bullarium/qquor-l.html

There are at least two English translations, one by a Catholic source: franciscan-archive.org/bullarium/qquor-e.html, and another apparently from a secular source: mq.edu.au/about_us/faculties_and_departments/faculty_of_arts/mhpir/staff/staff-politics_and_international_relations/john_kilcullen/john_xxii_quia_quorundam/. These seem to disagree in the translation of some of the crucial areas.

While I do know some Latin, I am most unfamiliar with the sort of Medieval and technical grammar being used, and moreover it’s not entirely clear to me that the doctrine taught can be seen as orthodox even if the Catholic translation is more accurate than the secular.

The assistance of one learned in Medieval Latin and of an apologist more generally would be appreciated. Thank you.

Is there a specific part you want to look at? I skimmed through it and this bull appears to be one which differentiates the “Keys” from the guarantee of infallibility…that the one is not necessarily the cause of the other.

In other words, it appears that this bull is saying that, while infallibility is with Christ’s Church, it was not the “Keys” which guaranteed this. Those who argue that the “Keys” are what makes the Pope infallible have erred in their understanding. That’s what I took from this.

The point of this document was that a certain sect of Franciscans asserted that their rule was the equivalent of the Gospel that all must follow, that the approval of their rule by past Popes meant that the Popes judged their rule to be the equivalent of the Gospel in an irreformable way, and therefore Pope John XXII erred by defining an allegedly contrary truth. In doing so they appealed to a theory of the key of knowledge, which John XXII considered a misapplication of the symbolism of the keys in Scripture.

What is ironic in appealing to this Constitution as proof against papal infallibility, is that John XXII was asserting and defending his very authority to define a doctrine as greater than the approval of a religious rule, which he says does not define that rule as therefore itself of faith. These Franciscans were impugning the truth of his definitions in three different documents, like this one:

franciscan-archive.org/bullarium/qinn-e.html

If he did not consider his own actual doctrinal definitions concerning what is of faith and what is heresy to be irreformable, then this whole dispute is nonsensical.

As someone has already asked above, could you point out some specific sections between the two translations that you feel have crucial and important differences? If anything, I would be inclined to side with the more recent translation, as those tend to be better unless done by amateurs.

All that being said, there appears to be a historical debate regarding the text. We probably won’t reach a clear answer here. Here is a publicly available dissertation proposal from a PhD student, which provides a rundown on the historiography of the bull in question: theology.slu.edu/archive/prog_essays/kruse.pdf

@Misato et al.:

Most blatantly, the secular translation has:

“However, it is evidently clear from the following that the premiss [sic] of the above argument–namely, that those things which through the key of knowledge the supreme pontiffs have once defined in faith and morals it is not lawful for a successor to call again into doubt, or affirm the contrary, though it is otherwise (they say) with things ordained by supreme pontiffs through the key of power–is entirely contrary to truth.”

whereas the Franciscan has:

“On account of which moreover, since it was previously mentioned in the aforesaid consideration, namely, that “It is not licit for their successors to call again into doubt those things, which were defined once for all by the key of knowledge in faith or morals by the Supreme Pontiffs, although it is otherwise,” so they say, “ in regards to those things, which have been ordained by the Supreme Pontiffs by [means of] the key of power,” it is evidently clear from the following things [that] this is directly contrary to the truth.”

The first rendering explicity denies that the Pope can define infallibility (at least, through the key of knowledge) while the second leaves it… more ambiguous, depending on the antecedant of “this”, though, looking at it again, not by much. Really, they both seem to deny infallibility. At least, through the keys. But, since John is protesting against what his predecessors did, I’d think that he did not believe that they defined it infallibly, by any means.

Those both say the same exact thing to me, as I noted above: …while infallibility is with Christ’s Church, it was not the “Keys” which guaranteed this. Those who argue that the “Keys” are what makes the Pope infallible have erred in their understanding.

The first rendering explicity denies that the Pope can define infallibility (at least, through the key of knowledge) while the second leaves it… more ambiguous, depending on the antecedant of “this”, though, looking at it again, not by much. Really, they both seem to deny infallibility. At least, through the keys.

No, neither of them deny infallibility. Both, however, DO point out the logical fallacy made by those who, as Genesis315 points out, tried to make a claim based on a faulty premise.

But, since John is protesting against what his predecessors did, I’d think that he did not believe that they defined it infallibly, by any means.

Correct. His predecessors did not dogmatically define anything that John is writing about, and therefore there was no issue of infallibility to be called into question, which is exactly what the Bull is stating. See Genesis315’s post for the details.

ahs’s understanding of the Bull is the same as mine.

TsuchiyaPersona, using the secular translation you provided I notice that the clarification of what is meant by the problematic quote you mentioned follows immediately after that paragraph! Did you miss it?

The part you quoted: [3] However, it is evidently clear from the following that the premiss of the above argument–namely, that those things which through the key of knowledge the supreme pontiffs have once defined in faith and morals it is not lawful for a successor to call again into doubt, or affirm the contrary, though it is otherwise (they say) with things ordained by supreme pontiffs through the key of power–is entirely contrary to truth.

The very next paragraph: First, indeed, according to those who hold that the spiritual key is by no means knowledge, but the power to bind and loose, it is clear that the before mentioned assertors, in stating that it is knowledge, have erred. The definition the learned give of the key supports them *: “The key is a special power of binding and loosing, by which the ecclesiastical judge should admit the worthy, and exclude the unworthy from the Kingdom”.

Again, because the keys of which we speak are given in the conferring of the priestly order; but it is certain that knowledge is generally not conferred on one ordained to the priesthood: therefore, according to them, it seems that knowledge is not a key, but only the power to bind and loose should be called a key.

Besides, according to those [a] who say that the one spiritual key is knowledge, and according to those ** who assert that authority to distinguish “between leprosy and leprosy” [Deut. 17] is one key and another [key] is the power to bind and loose, they are known evidently to have erred.***

Both translations seem fine to me. Although I do prefer the first half of the secular, and the latter half of the Franciscan. The “this” you are referring to is in the nominative and is only implied by the subjunctive verb “sit (to be).” “This” refers back to the idea that the aforementioned powers which are ordained through the key of power through the supreme pontiffs.

So yes, in a sense, I would say it does refute papal infallibility, but only a certain form of it. The next question you must ask yourself is whether or not the papal infallibility that John is refuting is the same form of papal infallibility promulgated at Vatican I. Brandon Cal and ahs, believe them to be two different forms it seems, and not without good reason when looking at what follows, which the above translation alludes to as the “following.” You should probably compare directly the texts from Vatican I to this papal bull.

All that being said, it is still interesting from a historical perspective that John does not seem to offer another take on infallibility. He merely rejects this one particularly articulated form of it. I haven’t read the following books/articles, but I would suggest reading what they have to say about this papal bull in order to aid you in your answer:

The Origins of Papal Infallibility, 1150-1350 by Brian Tierney in 1972

“John XXII and Papal Infallibility: Brian Tierney’s Thesis Reconsidered” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 19 (1982): 759-80 and John XXII and Papal Teaching Authority (Lewiston/Queenston, Ontario: Edwin Mellen Press, 1986) both by James Heft

Tierney responded with "Response to James Heft” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 19 (1982): 787-93)

And then Heft replied with “Rejoinder to Professor Tierney” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 20 (1983): 111-17).

Heft’s book came last. Tierney argues that John argued against infallibility and later had a change of heart. Heft argues that James endorsed papal infallibility and remained consistent throughout his reign. I don’t think the debate is settled, at least from what I can read from historiographies in the mid-1990’s. In any case, I know Brian Tierney is a highly respected medievalist and James Heft is a theologian whose field is historical theology.

No, it refutes the *misrepresentation *of what infallibility is and the *misrepresentation *of what signifies it. In other words, the Bull refutes the logical fallacy used.

The next question you must ask yourself is whether or not the papal infallibility that John is refuting is the same form of papal infallibility promulgated at Vatican I. Brandon Cal and ahs, believe them to be two different forms it seems, and not without good reason when looking at what follows, which the above translation alludes to as the “following.” You should probably compare directly the texts from Vatican I to this papal bull.

No, we are not seeing two forms of infallibility. We are seeing, as the Bull points out, actual infallibility employed in the Bull, yet not mentioned, vs. a misrepresentation/logical fallacy under the guise of “infallibility”, which the Bull refutes.

All that being said, it is still interesting from a historical perspective that John does not seem to offer another take on infallibility.

Why did he need to?

He merely rejects this one particularly articulated form of it.

No he doesn’t. He refutes a logical fallacy, just as he explicitly says and clearly explains.

Refuting a misrepresentation and refuting a certain form or version of papal infallibility are exactly the same thing. I do not see a reason why as to how you can possibly say the two are different. The Franciscans’ understanding of infallibility, whether it was ill thought or not, is a version of infallibility. That is, their version of infallibility. We are saying the same thing here.

As for why he “needed” to assert an alternative form, I never said that. I merely pointed out that from the historical perspective it is interesting that he did not articulate an orthodox understanding of papal infallibility. The act of not doing so could suggest that any idea of papal infallibility was completely foreign to Pope John XXII. Please take note that I am not coming to any conclusions here, which is precisely why I listed some scholarly readings on the issue. I am merely reiterating my point, which I have stated from my very first post in this thread: That is, we probably won’t reach a firm conclusion in this thread on this specific document/bull alone. Again, I am only pointing out a possible conclusion from a historian’s perspective on this document alone. Any firm conclusions for either side of the Tierney/Heft debate requires looking at much more evidence from the reign of Pope John XXII.

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