The Authority of the Pope


#1

Hello all… I was wondering if you could clear up some confusion for me. I am interested in getting some answers here about the catholic faith to gain an understanding of my catholic brothers and sisters. Here is my question…

I have been told that the Pope has a very high position in the catholic church. He can make laws that those of the catholic faith are to follow and he has God’s backing in this. Am I right? Please correct me if I am wrong.

I have also heard that when the Pope makes such laws and statements he is considered to be infallible at that time. Is this also true?

And lastly I have been told that none of the Popes have ever contradicted themselves or the catholic church’s teachings and traditions. This is the one that especially perplexes me…

Little as is known of St. Linus, churchgoers can be reminded of him every time they see a woman in church wearing a hat or kerchief, for it is said that it was this second pope who decreed that women should enter church only with heads covered.

So how come women don’t wear coverings on their heads now? Was there a change in doctrine for this? If so wouldn’t that mean that a Pope had to contradict this second Pope? The one who succeeded Peter?

I am confused… thank you for your help!!!


#2

Not being dismissive, here, Singin’ but have you looked at this? Some of your answers will be in there.

catholic.com/library/church_papacy.asp

Good luck!


#3

Good question :), hopefully we can answer it clearly for you.

Wearing headcoverings in Church is not part of doctrine but a change in practice. Kinda like changing the type of music in church.

It is not like the Pope really makes up anything willy nilly, their main purpose is to guard to faith and maintain the understanding. A good book to read on this is a book called Pope Fiction which addresses many interesting things that have happened in history with the Papacy and explains many mis-conceptions about the Pope.

Changing practices relevant to the social changes of society can help people be faithful, so they will change some practices from time to time.

God Bless
Scylla


#4

Hi Singin:

I hope Mercygate’s link was helpful.

Yes, the Pope is in a high position: he is the servant of the servants of God. You remember that Jesus told His followers that those who wished to be leaders must serve others, just as He did.

The Pope does not “make” laws. The President of the U.S., or the Queen of England, to give examples, are heads of nations. But neither of them “make” the laws of the country.

To go even further, while the President and the Queen have legislatures, or houses, as well as judges and lawyers etc., who interpret and evolve the laws of the respective country, the Pope has instead the Holy Scriptures (which give us the laws we follow, as Christians) and Sacred Tradition, which gives us much ORAL as well as WRITTEN testimony from those who were there at the very beginnings of Christianity as it has been practiced since the time of Christ.

The laws regarding Christian dogma (the faith and teachings of what we BELIEVE) do not change. There has been no more “revelation” since the death of the last apostle, as far as “teachings” go.

The Holy Spirit guides us to better understand dogma, but never to change it. For example, the Spirit guided us to the dogma of the Trinity (which is NEVER EXPLICITLY STATED in the Bible–you will find no place which says, flat out, that the Father, Son, and Spirit are three divine persons in one God. Most Christians, nonCatholic Christians too, accept that teaching. . .but that teaching is part of Sacred Tradition and the Magesterium–the “teaching part” of the Church. It is NOT some idea that was thought up by a POPE and then IMPOSED upon Christians.

Now. . .there are other things, called “Disciplines”. Disciplines are laws usually regarding Christian BEHAVIOR or how Christians DO things, but are NOT unchangeable. For example, as you point out, woman once wore hats to church and men removed theirs. Going even further back, women wore veils, and men wore robes instead of pants. . .you get the idea). Certain customs can change. But Popes, when they work WITH THE CHURCH (again, these statements do not come out of the Pope’s mind while he is kicking back watching wrestling. . .“Gee, I think it would be neato if women wore hats to church and only unmarried men became priests–yep, I’ll go pronounce this infallible law tomorrow after I torture a few heretics”) in matters to help GUIDE the people, are not speaking for themselves alone and are not autocratically just trying to stomp on a bad behavior or encourage a good one solely.

So, to correct you, the Pope does not “make laws” which people “have to agree to” because He’s got “God behind him”. The Pope guides the people to follow the laws which GOD has given, in which as always people have total free will to obey or disobey (and take the consequences). The Pope does not make up new laws, he enforces the OLD ones.

Again to correct, when the Pope is speaking ABOUT the laws which God has given to Him, which for whatever reason people are questioning, misunderstanding, or whatever, IF and ONLY IF he is either speaking in a very solemn way (ex cathedra) about a specific dogma which people NEED to have made totally clear (we are all, hopefully, pretty sure about the Trinity, for example, but a few of us are shaky on the Immaculate Conception, the Incarnation, and the Real Presence, so all of these three, within “modern”–ie, the last 500 years–times have been spoken of, infallibly, by the Pope in order to make sure that all the flock “get the teaching” from the top down. . .or else, IF he is speaking again, say, about those things which we SHOULD know well (the Trinity, again, or the 10 commandments), which are well known to be Catholic dogma, but which some people are misinterpreting. Thus, dogma found in the Catechism, teachings regarding the inability of women to be Catholic priests, and the inadmissability of birth control are all INFALLIBLE TEACHINGS because they have been part of Catholic dogma since the beginning, even if they have not been pronounced infallible, every year, like clockwork.

Gotta go to choir–catch you later, and God bless!


#5

[quote=Singinbeauty]I have been told that the Pope has a very high position in the catholic church. He can make laws that those of the catholic faith are to follow and he has God’s backing in this. Am I right?

[/quote]

Yes

[quote=Singinbeauty]I have also heard that when the Pope makes such laws and statements he is considered to be infallible at that time. Is this also true?

[/quote]

No, The Pope is not infalible in making Church laws. He is infallible only when teaching the Church on matters of Faith and Morals.(Doctrines and Dogmas)

[quote=Singinbeauty]And lastly I have been told that none of the Popes have ever contradicted themselves or the catholic church’s teachings and traditions. This is the one that especially perplexes me…

[/quote]

It is correct that no popes have ever contradicted themselves or the Catholic church’s teachings from Sacred Scripture or Apostolic Tradition on matters of Faith and Morals.

[quote=Singinbeauty]So how come women don’t wear coverings on their heads now? Was there a change in doctrine for this? If so wouldn’t that mean that a Pope had to contradict this second Pope? The one who succeeded Peter?

[/quote]

Because that is not a matter of Faith or Morals. This is a matter of Discipline or Church rules and laws.


#6

[quote=Br. Rich SFO]No, The Pope is not infallible in making Church laws. He is infallible only when teaching the Church on matters of Faith and Morals.(Doctrines and Dogmas)
[/quote]

Not only just teaching, he must be teaching ex cathedra. This rarely happens.


#7

Hi Singingbeauty;

Just to add to what has been previously stated, there is a distinction to note between a “doctrine” and “discipline.”

A discipline would include something like “don’t eat meat on Friday” or “Latin rite priests must take a vow of celibacy.” They are rules imposed by the Church to guide conduct but they are not doctrines that one must believe to be catholic- like the doctrine of the Trinity or the Resurrection.

The Church can change, eliminate, or excuse a discipline, just as it made the “no meat on Friday” rule no longer binding on all members, and just as it releases some priests from their obligation to swear to celibacy - as in the recent conversion of some Anglcan priests to the Catholic Church (they were allowed to enter the Catholic priesthood even though they were married).

Wearing a covering over your head is a discipline - a sign of reverence and respect for God - and it can be changed with no contradiction in the Church’s teachings on doctrines or morals to reflect the realities of modern dress.


#8

Hi singin! :yup:

You are confused - finally we see eye to eye! :wink: Just kidding…
Just for the record, who told you women don’t wear head coverings?
You should get yourself a copy of “Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic” by David Currie. An easy, well-written book full of love, which covers more than you ever thought to ask. Before you start using words like “doctrine” you need to know precisely what they mean. Very important! Never use a word you can’t define!
Here are some definitions from his book to help you:
[list]
*]Deposit - that body of truth originally given to the Apostles
*]**Dogma **- that body of truth that has been affirmed by the councils of the Church and the Holy See of Rome. Once declared it can be developed further, but never contradicted.
*]Doctrine - the development of truth on the basis of deposit and dogma. It can develop and even contradict itself, because it has not been officially declared true or false. this is the realm in which theologians deal…and they may totally contradict…cant both be right, but the Church is witholding her judgement on that particular issue.
*]Discipline - a rule that governs the everyday life of the faithful (ex:fasting on Fridays). They are mandatory when in force, but may be changed over time.
*]**Devotion - **an activity by which an individual Christian may enhance his walk with God(ex: Rosary) They obviously can develop with time and are never mandatory.
[/list]If I had to guess, hat wearing would fall into the category of Discipline or Devotion and have changed with time. Some women still cover their heads or wear a veil…

Phil


#9

Hi singin!

You are confused - finally we see eye to eye! Just kidding…

You know… I know you said you were just kidding but I think that was just a way to say that without sounding ‘uncharitable’ as catholics call it. I just call it rude. This really made me not want to read your post. But thanx for trying.


#10

Ok, so I ran across a site today and it had something to say that struck me as interesting and I wanted to run it by you guys…

The claim for papal infallibility does not stand up to the test of history. Pope Zosimus (417-418 A.D.) reversed the pronouncement of a previous pope. He also retracted a doctrinal pronouncement that he himself had previously made. Pope Honorious was condemned as a heretic by the Sixth Ecumenical Council (680-681 A.D.). (This means that Honorious made doctrinal statements which are contrary to the Roman Catholic faith.) He was also condemned as a heretic by Pope Leo II, as well as by every other pope until the eleventh century. So here we have “infallible” popes condemning another “infallible” pope as a heretic. In 1870, the First Vatican Council abolished “infallible” papal decrees and the decrees of two “infallible” councils.

The doctrine of the Assumption of Mary was officially declared to be a dogma of the Roman Catholic faith on November 1, 1950. This means that every Roman Catholic is required to believe this doctrine without questioning it. However, as we will see, the teaching of the Assumption of Mary originated with heretical writings which were officially condemned by the early Church.

In 495 A.D., Pope Gelasius issued a decree which rejected this teaching as heresy and its proponents as heretics. In the sixth century, Pope Hormisdas also condemned as heretics those authors who taught the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary. Here we have “infallible” popes declaring a doctrine to be a heresy. Then on November 1, 1950, we have Pope Pius XII (another “infallible” pope) declaring the same doctrine to be official Roman Catholic doctrine, which all Catholics are required to believe. 3

So before November 1, 1950, any Catholic who believed in the Assumption of Mary was a heretic (because of “infallible” declarations of popes). But after November 1, 1950, any Catholic who failed to believe in the Assumption of Mary was a heretic (because of the “infallible” declaration of Pope Pius XII).

In 1864, Pope Pius IX “infallibly” declared that the idea that people have a right to freedom of conscience and freedom of worship is “insanity,” “evil,” “depraved,” and “reprobate”. He also declared that non-Catholics who live in Catholic countries should not be allowed to publicly practice their religion. In 1888, Pope Leo XIII “infallibly” declared that freedom of thought and freedom of worship are wrong. These encyclicals are available on-line. 4 [Note 4 gives addresses for them.]

The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) produced a document entitled “Declaration on Religious Liberty” which states that all people have a right to freedom of religion. 5

Now I certainly agree with the idea of freedom of religion. However, it totally contradicts the “infallible” declarations of Popes Pius IX and Leo XIII. It also contradicts the anathemas of the Council of Trent, the killing of “heretics,” the Inquisition, the burning of people who translated the Bible into the language of the common people, and the persecution of Protestants.

Freedom of religion also contradicts modern Canon Law (1988). Canon 1366 says that parents are to be punished with “a just penalty” if they allow their children to “be baptized or educated in a non-Catholic religion”. The reference to baptism shows that this refers to Christian religions which are not Roman Catholic. 6 (During the Inquisition, “a just penalty” included things like torture and being burned at the stake. The Inquisition was based on Canon Law.) (See the article "Hunting “˜Heretics”.)

Continued Below… :slight_smile:


#11

And last but not least… (for now…)

Here the Catholic Church is on the horns of a dilemma. If it says that people have a right to freedom of religion, then it admits that it is not infallible. If it says that it is infallible, then it admits that it really does not believe that people have a right to freedom of religion.

The Catholic Church can claim infallibility, or it can claim that it has seen the error of its ways and it now supports freedom of religion. But it can"t have it both ways.

Two Roman Catholic organizations have found contradictions between “infallible” doctrinal declarations of the Second Vatican Council and “infallible” doctrinal pronouncements of Pope Pius IX. 7 [Note 7 gives addresses of on-line articles dealing with these contradictions.]

The conservative group (True Catholic) concludes that, therefore, the Second Vatican Council must not be legitimate. The liberal group (Women Priests) concludes that, therefore, Pope Pius IX taught “errors”. Either way, there are contradictions between official doctrinal declarations of an “infallible” pope and an “infallible” church council.

True Catholic also claims that Pope John Paul II has taught 101 things which are contrary to “infallible” Catholic doctrines which were declared by “infallible” popes and church councils. They conclude that John Paul is therefore a heretic, which, according to Canon Law, means that he is not a valid pope. So they call him an anti-pope. 8[Note 8 gives the address of an on-line article.]

If John Paul II is not a valid pope, then the papal chair has been vacant. In order to rectify this situation, True Catholic has elected a pope. On May 20, 1998, Pope Pius XIII was elected. 9 [Note 9 gives the address of an on-line article.]

So we now have two men who claim to be Pope: John Paul II and Pius XIII. It seems that having two popes at the same time is not confined to the Middle Ages.

I just want to get your opinions on these claims. I am not holding it as truth but they do strike me as odd. As most of you know I am here to learn. Your educated input would be most welcome! Thank you! :slight_smile:

~This article in which I have quoted from was written by a former nun if that makes any difference to you… shrug


#12

[quote=Singinbeauty]This really made me not want to read your post.
[/quote]

Why not? Should we read the nonsense of a former nun?


#13

[quote=Singinbeauty]And last but not least… (for now…)

I just want to get your opinions on these claims. I am not holding it as truth but they do strike me as odd. As most of you know I am here to learn. Your educated input would be most welcome! Thank you! :slight_smile:

~This article in which I have quoted from was written by a former nun if that makes any difference to you… shrug
[/quote]

Pope St. Zosimus

Pope Honorius I

Pope Gelasius did not condemn the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary itself. What he did condemn as apocryphal was a fully-developed written narrative called “The Falling Asleep Of Mary” (Transitus Mariae). Mention of his condemnation can be found in the article on Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.


#14

[quote=barsapp]Why not? Should we read the nonsense of a former nun?
[/quote]

I am not quite sure what you are getting at… My statement to the other poster about me not wanting to read their post was due to the fact that I felt he/she was attacking me personally… I have not tried to attack anyone with that post by the former nun I just wanted your opinion… Why you are so angry I cannot guess…


#15

[quote=Singinbeauty]And last but not least… (for now…)

I just want to get your opinions on these claims. I am not holding it as truth but they do strike me as odd. As most of you know I am here to learn. Your educated input would be most welcome! Thank you! :slight_smile:

~This article in which I have quoted from was written by a former nun if that makes any difference to you… shrug
[/quote]

Singin’, if that “former nun” is who I think she is, she is a notorious anti-Catholic who presents the most outrageous falsehoods about the faith as if they were Catholic teaching. Her biography also shows (if I remember correctly) that she did not take her vows because the community discerned that she was not suited to Religious life. (No kidding!)

It’s kind of interesting to watch you approach the Catholic Church from the backside so to speak. Do you have a copy of The Catechism of the Catholic Church? I have recently discovered Catholicism for Dummies. It’s written on a level that is more broadly accessible than the Catechism but it gives the straight dope.

Glad you’re still asking questions.:thumbsup:


#16

[quote=mercygate]Singin’, if that “former nun” is who I think she is, she is a notorious anti-Catholic who presents the most outrageous falsehoods about the faith as if they were Catholic teaching. Her biography also shows (if I remember correctly) that she did not take her vows because the community discerned that she was not suited to Religious life. (No kidding!)
[/quote]

I don’t remember her name… I will see if I can find the page again…

It’s kind of interesting to watch you approach the Catholic Church from the backside so to speak. Do you have a copy of The Catechism of the Catholic Church? I have recently discovered Catholicism for Dummies. It’s written on a level that is more broadly accessible than the Catechism but it gives the straight dope.

Glad you’re still asking questions.:thumbsup:

I will take your post as a compliment! :slight_smile: I am here to learn. That’s it. I may not know everything but it doesn’t mean that I am not trying. I will have to check this out. But as with anything written down (books or articles) my dyslexia gets in the way of comprehension so I can’t promise I will understand everything. This is why I post the articles because I want your opinion of them… What I get from it may be WAY off from the intent of the author.


#17

[quote=Singinbeauty]I don’t remember her name… I will see if I can find the page again…

I will take your post as a compliment! :slight_smile: I am here to learn. That’s it. I may not know everything but it doesn’t mean that I am not trying. I will have to check this out. But as with anything written down (books or articles) my dyslexia gets in the way of comprehension so I can’t promise I will understand everything. This is why I post the articles because I want your opinion of them… What I get from it may be WAY off from the intent of the author.
[/quote]

Yeah. It was a compliment!

I wouldn’t recognize signs of dyslexia. I certainly don’t see any conceptual disconnects in what you write – your “disconnects” are just the usual ones that people have when they’re only looking at one part of the elephant . . . We shouldn’t expect anything else. Catholicism is a huge, unified, thing with ramifications all over the place . . . You don’t “get it” in a day.

Catechism is available on line. It has a search engine as well as T of C & Index linked to the text. scborromeo.org/ccc.htm

“Dummies” is available from the usual places.


#18

[quote=mercygate]Yeah. It was a compliment!

I wouldn’t recognize signs of dyslexia. I certainly don’t see any conceptual disconnects in what you write – your “disconnects” are just the usual ones that people have when they’re only looking at one part of the elephant . . . We shouldn’t expect anything else. Catholicism is a huge, unified, thing with ramifications all over the place . . . You don’t “get it” in a day.

Catechism is available on line. It has a search engine as well as T of C & Index linked to the text. scborromeo.org/ccc.htm

“Dummies” is available from the usual places.
[/quote]

Thank you for your kind words… it’s good to see that there are those who recognize the fact that I am here to learn and not just jump to the conclusions that I am ‘anti-catholic’. :smiley: It’s also good to see that my dyslexia is not showing through. That darn thing can make me seem REALLY stupid at times. Because when I read something I may come to an ENTIRELY different view from the one the author was trying to convey. :slight_smile: Let’s just say that it makes things more ‘fun’ for me in debates! Ok, not really! Thank you for the links… I will definitely be checking those out as time goes on… :thumbsup:


#19

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.