Cardinal Newman on Papal Infallibility

“It in no way depends upon the caprice of the Pope, or upon his good pleasure, to make such and such a doctrine, the object of a dogmatic definition. He is tied up and limited to the divine revelation, and to the truths which that revelation contains. He is tied up and limited by the Creeds, already in existence, and by the preceding definitions of the Church. He is tied up and limited by the divine law, and by the constitution of the Church. Lastly, he is tied up and limited by that doctrine, divinely revealed, which affirms that alongside religious society there is civil society, that alongside the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy there is the power of temporal Magistrates, invested in their own domain with a full sovereignty, and to whom we owe in conscience obedience and respect in all things morally permitted, and belonging to the domain of civil society.”

Pastoral of the Swiss Bishops on Papal Infallibility cited by John Henry Cardinal Newman

 

One of the shrewdest minds ever placed at the service of the Church was that of the recently beatified John Henry Cardinal Newman.  I have benefited immensely over the years from reading his writings.  Here are his thoughts on the subject of papal infallibility, a subject misunderstood by the World at large and by too many Catholics:

NOW I am to speak of the Vatican definition, by which the doctrine of the Pope’s infallibility has become de fide, that is, a truth necessary to be believed, as being included in the original divine revelation, for those terms, revelation, depositum, dogma, and de fide, are correlatives; and I begin with a remark which suggests the drift of all I have to say about it. It is this:—that so difficult a virtue is faith, even with the special grace of God, in proportion as the reason is exercised, so difficult is it to assent inwardly to propositions, verified to us neither by reason nor experience, but depending for their reception on the word of the Church as God’s oracle, that she has ever shown the utmost care to contract, as far as possible, the range of truths and the sense of propositions, of which she demands this absolute reception. “The Church,” says Pallavicini, “as far as may be, has ever abstained from imposing upon the minds of men that commandment, the most arduous of the Christian Law—viz., to believe obscure matters without doubting.” To co-operate in this charitable duty has been one special work of her theologians, and rules are laid down by herself, by tradition, and by custom, to assist them in the task. She only speaks when it is necessary to speak; but hardly has she spoken out magisterially some great general principle, when she sets her theologians to work to explain her meaning in the concrete, by strict interpretation of its wording, by the illustration of its circumstances, and by the recognition of exceptions, in order to make it as tolerable as possible, and the least of a temptation, to self-willed, independent, or wrongly educated minds. A few years ago it was the fashion among us to call writers, who conformed to this rule of the Church, by the name of “Minimizers;” that day of tyrannous ipse-dixits, I trust, is over: Bishop Fessler, a man of high authority, for he was Secretary General of the Vatican Council, and of higher authority still in his work, for it has the approbation of the Sovereign Pontiff, clearly proves to us that a moderation of doctrine, dictated by charity, is not inconsistent with soundness in the faith. Such a sanction, I suppose, will be considered sufficient for the character of the remarks which I am about to make upon definitions in general, and upon the Vatican in particular.

The Vatican definition, which comes to us in the shape of the Pope’s Encyclical Bull called the Pastor Æternus, declares that “the Pope has that same infallibility which the Church has”: to determine therefore what is meant by the infallibility of the Pope we must turn first to consider the infallibility of the Church. And again, to determine the character of the Church’s infallibility, we must consider what is the characteristic of Christianity, considered as a revelation of God’s will.

Our Divine Master might have communicated to us heavenly truths without telling us that they came from Him, as it is commonly thought He has done in the case of heathen nations; but He willed the Gospel to be a revelation acknowledged and authenticated, to be public, fixed, and permanent; and accordingly, as Catholics hold, He framed a Society of men to be its home, its instrument, and its guarantee. The rulers of that Association are the legal trustees, so to say, of the sacred truths which He spoke to the Apostles by word of mouth. As He was leaving them, He gave them their great commission, and bade them “teach” their converts all over the earth, “to observe all things whatever He had commanded them;” and then He added, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”

Here, first, He told them to “teach” His revealed Truth; next, “to the consummation of all things;” thirdly, for their encouragement, He said that He would be with them “all days,” all along, on every emergency or occasion, until that consummation. They had a duty put upon them of teaching their Master’s words, a duty which they could not fulfil in the perfection which fidelity required, without His help; therefore came His promise to be with them in their performance of it. Nor did that promise of supernatural help end with the Apostles personally, for He adds, “to the consummation of the world,” implying that the Apostles would have successors, and engaging that He would be with those successors as He had been with them.

The same safeguard of the Revelation—viz. an authoritative, permanent tradition of teaching, is insisted on by an informant of equal authority with St. Matthew, but altogether independent of him, I mean St. Paul. He calls the Church “the pillar and ground of the Truth;” and he bids his convert Timothy, when he had become a ruler in that Church, to “take heed unto his doctrine,” to “keep the deposit” of the faith, and to “commit” the things which he had heard from himself “to faithful men who should be fit to teach others.”

This is how Catholics understand the Scripture record, nor does it appear how it can otherwise be understood; but, when we have got as far as this, and look back, we find that we have by implication made profession of a further doctrine. For, if the Church, initiated in the Apostles and continued in their successors, has been set up for the direct object of protecting, preserving, and declaring the Revelation, and that, by means of the Guardianship and Providence of its Divine Author, we are led on to perceive that, in asserting this, we are in other words asserting, that, so far as the message entrusted to it is concerned, the Church is infallible; for what is meant by infallibility in teaching but that the teacher in his teaching is secured from error? and how can fallible man be thus secured except by a supernatural infallible guidance? And what can have been the object of the words, “I am with you all along to the end,” but to give thereby an answer by anticipation to the spontaneous, silent alarm of the feeble company of fishermen and labourers, to whom they were addressed, on their finding themselves laden with superhuman duties and responsibilities?

Such then being, in its simple outline, the infallibility of the Church, such too will be the Pope’s infallibility, as the Vatican Fathers have defined it. And if we find that by means of this outline we are able to fill out in all important respects the idea of a Council’s infallibility, we shall thereby be ascertaining in detail what has been defined in 1870 about the infallibility of the Pope. With an attempt to do this I shall conclude.

1. The Church has the office of teaching, and the matter of that teaching is the body of doctrine, which the Apostles left behind them as her perpetual possession. If a question arises as to what the Apostolic doctrine is on a particular point, she has infallibility promised to her to enable her to answer correctly. And, as by the teaching of the Church is understood, not the teaching of this or that Bishop, but their united voice, and a Council is the form the Church must take, in order that all men may recognize that in fact she is teaching on any point in dispute, so in like manner the Pope must come before us in some special form or posture, if he is to be understood to be exercising his teaching office, and that form is called ex cathedrâ. This term is most appropriate, as being on one occasion used by our Lord Himself. When the Jewish doctors taught, they placed themselves in Moses’ seat, and spoke ex cathedrâ; and then, as He tells us, they were to be obeyed by their people, and that, whatever were their private lives or characters. “The Scribes and Pharisees,” He says, “are seated on the chair of Moses: all things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do; but according to their works do you not, for they say and do not.”

2. The forms, by which a General Council is identified as representing the Church herself, are too clear to need drawing out; but what is to be that moral cathedrâ, or teaching chair, in which the Pope sits, when he is to be recognized as in the exercise of his infallible teaching? the new definition answers this question. He speaks ex cathedrâ, or infallibly, when he speaks, first, as the Universal Teacher; secondly, in the name and with the authority of the Apostles; thirdly, on a point of faith or morals; fourthly, with the purpose of binding every member of the Church to accept and believe his decision.

3. These conditions of course contract the range of his infallibility most materially. Hence Billuart speaking of the Pope says, “Neither in conversation, nor in discussion, nor in interpreting Scripture or the Fathers, nor in consulting, nor in giving his reasons for the point which he has defined, nor in answering letters, nor in private deliberations, supposing he is setting forth his own opinion, is the Pope infallible,” t. ii. p. 110. And for this simple reason, because on these various occasions of speaking his mind, he is not in the chair of the universal doctor.

4. Nor is this all; the greater part of Billuart’s negatives refer to the Pope’s utterances when he is out of the Cathedra Petri, but even, when he is in it, his words do not necessarily proceed from his infallibility. He has no wider prerogative than a Council, and of a Council Perrone says, “Councils are not infallible in the reasons by which they are led, or on which they rely, in making their definition, nor in matters which relate to persons, nor to physical matters which have no necessary connexion with dogma.” Præl. Theol. t. 2, p. 492. Thus, if a Council has condemned a work of Origen or Theodoret, it did not in so condemning go beyond the work itself; it did not touch the persons of either. Since this holds of a Council, it also holds in the case of the Pope; therefore, supposing a Pope has quoted the so called works of the Areopagite as if really genuine, there is no call on us to believe him; nor again, if he condemned Galileo’s Copernicanism, unless the earth’s immobility has a “necessary connexion with some dogmatic truth,” which the present bearing of the Holy See towards that philosophy virtually denies.

5. Nor is a Council infallible, even in the prefaces and introductions to its definitions. There are theologians of name, as Tournely and Amort, who contend that even those most instructive capitula passed in the Tridentine Council, from which the Canons with anathemas are drawn up, are not portions of the Church’s infallible teaching; and the parallel introductions prefixed to the Vatican anathemas have an authority not greater nor less than that of those capitula.

6. Such passages, however, as these are too closely connected with the definitions themselves, not to be what is sometimes called, by a catachresis, “proximum fidei;” still, on the other hand, it is true also that, in those circumstances and surroundings of formal definitions, which I have been speaking of, whether on the part of a Council or a Pope, there may be not only no exercise of an infallible voice, but actual error. Thus, in the Third Council, a passage of an heretical author was quoted in defence of the doctrine defined, under the belief he was Pope Julius, and narratives, not trustworthy, are introduced into the Seventh.

This remark and several before it will become intelligible if we consider that neither Pope nor Council are on a level with the Apostles. To the Apostles the whole revelation was given, by the Church it is transmitted; no simply new truth has been given to us since St. John’s death; the one office of the Church is to guard “that noble deposit” of truth, as St. Paul speaks to Timothy, which the Apostles bequeathed to her, in its fulness and integrity. Hence the infallibility of the Apostles was of a far more positive and wide character than that needed by and granted to the Church. We call it, in the case of the Apostles, inspiration; in the case of the Church, assistentia.

Of course there is a sense of the word “inspiration” in which it is common to all members of the Church, and therefore especially to its Bishops, and still more directly to those rulers, when solemnly called together in Council, after much prayer throughout Christendom, and in a frame of mind especially serious and earnest by  reason of the work they have in hand. The Paraclete certainly is ever with them, and more effectively in a Council, as being “in Spiritu Sancto congregata;” but I speak of the special and promised aid necessary for their fidelity to Apostolic teaching; and, in order to secure this fidelity, no inward gift of infallibility is needed, such as the Apostles had, no direct suggestion of divine truth, but simply an external guardianship, keeping them off from error (as a man’s good Angel, without at all enabling him to walk, might, on a night journey, keep him from pitfalls in his way), a guardianship, saving them, as far as their ultimate decisions are concerned, from the effects of their inherent infirmities, from any chance of extravagance, of confusion of thought, of collision with former decisions or with Scripture, which in seasons of excitement might reasonably be feared.

“Never,” says Perrone, “have Catholics taught that the gift of infallibility is given by God to the Church after the manner of inspiration.”—t. 2, p. 253. Again: “[Human] media of arriving at the truth are excluded neither by a Council’s nor by a Pope’s infallibility, for God has promised it, not by way of an infused” or habitual “gift, but by the way of assistentia.”—ibid p. 541.

But since the process of defining truth is human, it is open to the chance of error; what Providence has guaranteed is only this, that there should be no error in the final step, in the resulting definition or dogma.

7. Accordingly, all that a Council, and all that the Pope, is infallible in, is the direct answer to the special question which he happens to be considering; his prerogative does not extend beyond a power, when in his Cathedra, of giving that very answer truly. “Nothing,” says Perrone, “but the objects of dogmatic definitions of Councils are immutable, for in these are Councils infallible, not in their reasons,”& c.—ibid.

8. This rule is so strictly to be observed that, though dogmatic statements are found from time to time in a Pope’s Apostolic Letters, &c., yet they are not accounted to be exercises of his infallibility if they are said only obiter—by the way, and without direct intention to define. A striking instance of this sine qua non condition is afforded by Nicholas I., who, in a letter to the Bulgarians, spoke as if baptism were valid, when administered simply in our Lord’s Name, without distinct mention of the Three Persons; but he is not teaching and speaking ex cathedrâ, because no question on this matter was in any sense the occasion of his writing. The question asked of him was concerning the minister of baptism—viz., whether a Jew or Pagan could validly baptize; in answering in the affirmative, he added obiter, as a private doctor, says Bellarmine, “that the baptism was valid, whether administered in the name of the three Persons or in the name of Christ only.” (De Rom. Pont., iv. 12.)

9. Another limitation is given in Pope Pius’s own conditions, set down in the Pastor Æternus, for the exercise of infallibility: viz., the proposition defined will be without any claim to be considered binding on the belief of Catholics, unless it is referable to the Apostolic depositum, through the channel either of Scripture or Tradition; and, though the Pope is the judge whether it is so referable or not, yet the necessity of his professing to abide by this reference is in itself a certain limitation of his dogmatic action. A Protestant will object indeed that, after his distinctly asserting that the Immaculate Conception and the Papal Infallibility are in Scripture and Tradition, this safeguard against erroneous definitions is not worth much, nor do I say that it is one of the most effective: but anyhow, in consequence of it, no Pope any more than a counsel, could, for instance, introduce Ignatius’s Epistles into the Canon of Scripture;—and, as to his dogmatic condemnation of particular books, which, of course, are foreign to the depositum, I would say, that, as to their false doctrine there can be no difficulty in condemning that, by means of that Apostolic deposit; nor surely in his condemning the very wording, in which they convey it, when the subject is carefully considered. For the Pope’s condemning the language, for instance, of Jansenius is a parallel act to the Church’s sanctioning the word “Consubstantial,” and if a Council and the Pope were not infallible so far in their judgment of language, neither Pope nor Council could draw up a dogmatic definition at all, for the right exercise of words is involved in the right exercise of thought.

10. And in like manner, as regards the precepts concerning moral duties, it is not in every such precept that the Pope is infallible. As a definition of faith must be drawn from the Apostolic depositum of doctrine, in order that it may be considered an exercise of infallibility, whether in the Pope or a Council, so too a precept of morals, if it is to be accepted as from an infallible voice, must be drawn from the Moral law, that primary revelation to us from God.

That is, in the first place, it must relate to things in themselves good or evil. If the Pope prescribed lying or revenge, his command would simply go for nothing, as if he had not issued it, because he has no power over the Moral Law. If he forbade his flock to eat any but vegetable food, or to dress in a particular fashion (questions of decency and modesty not coming into the question), he would also be going beyond the province of faith, because such a rule does not relate to a matter in itself good or bad. But if he gave a precept all over the world for the adoption of lotteries instead of tithes or offerings, certainly it would be very hard to prove that he was contradicting the Moral Law, or ruling a practice to be in itself good which was in itself evil; and there are few persons but would allow that it is at least doubtful whether lotteries are abstractedly evil, and in a doubtful matter the Pope is to be believed and obeyed.

However, there are other conditions besides this, necessary for the exercise of Papal infallibility, in moral subjects:—for instance, his definition must relate to things necessary for salvation. No one would so speak of lotteries, nor of a particular dress, nor of a particular kind of food;—such precepts, then, did he make them, would be simply external to the range of his prerogative.

And again, his infallibility in consequence is not called into exercise, unless he speaks to the whole world; for, if his precepts, in order to be dogmatic, must enjoin what is necessary to salvation, they must be necessary for all men. Accordingly orders which issue from him for the observance of particular countries, or political or religious classes, have no claim to be the utterances of his infallibility. If he enjoins upon the hierarchy of Ireland to withstand mixed education, this is no exercise of his infallibility.

It may be added that the field of morals contains so little that is unknown and unexplored, in contrast with revelation and doctrinal fact, which form the domain of faith, that it is difficult to say what portions of moral teaching in the course of 1800 years actually have proceeded from the Pope, or from the Church, or where to look for such. Nearly all that either oracle has done in this respect, has been to condemn such propositions as in a moral point of view are false, or dangerous or rash; and these condemnations, besides being such as in fact will be found to command the assent of most men, as soon as heard, do not necessarily go so far as to present any positive statements for universal acceptance.

11. With the mention of condemned propositions I am brought to another and large consideration, which is one of the best illustrations that I can give of that principle of minimizing so necessary, as I think, for a wise and cautious theology: at the same time I cannot insist upon it in the connexion into which I am going to introduce it, without submitting myself to the correction of divines more learned than I can pretend to be myself.

The infallibility, whether of the Church or of the Pope, acts principally or solely in two channels, in direct statements of truth, and in the condemnation of error. The former takes the shape of doctrinal definitions, the latter stigmatizes propositions as heretical, next to heresy, erroneous, and the like. In each case the Church, as guided by her Divine Master, has made provision for weighing as lightly as possible on the faith and conscience of her children.

As to the condemnation of propositions all she tells us is, that the thesis condemned when taken as a whole, or, again, when viewed in its context, is heretical, or blasphemous, or impious, or whatever like epithet she affixes to it. We have only to trust her so far as to allow ourselves to be warned against the thesis, or the work containing it. Theologians employ themselves in determining what precisely it is that is condemned in that thesis or treatise; and doubtless in most cases they do so with success; but that determination is not de fide; all that is of faith is that there is in that thesis itself, which is noted, heresy or error, or other like peccant matter, as the case may be, such, that the censure is a peremptory command to theologians, preachers, students, and all other whom it concerns, to keep clear of it. But so light is this obligation, that instances frequently occur, when it is successfully maintained by some new writer, that the Pope’s act does not imply what it has seemed to imply, and questions which seemed to be closed, are after a course of years re-opened. In discussions such as these, there is a real exercise of private judgment and an allowable one; the act of faith, which cannot be superseded or trifled with, being, I repeat, the unreserved acceptance that the thesis in question is heretical, or the like, as the Pope or the Church has spoken of it.

In these cases which in a true sense may be called the Pope’s negative enunciations, the opportunity of a legitimate minimizing lies in the intensely concrete character of the matters condemned; in his affirmative enunciations a like opportunity is afforded by their being more or less abstract. Indeed, excepting such as relate to persons, that is, to the Trinity in Unity, the Blessed Virgin, the Saints, and the like, all the dogmas of Pope or of Council are but general, and so far, in consequence, admit of exceptions in their actual application,—these exceptions being determined either by other authoritative utterances, or by the scrutinizing vigilance, acuteness, and subtlety of the Schola Theologorum.

One of the most remarkable instances of what I am insisting on is found in a dogma, which no Catholic can ever think of disputing, viz., that “Out of the Church, and out of the faith, is no salvation.” Not to go to Scripture, it is the doctrine of St. Ignatius, St. Irenæus, St. Cyprian in the first three centuries, as of St. Augustine and his contemporaries in the fourth and fifth. It can never be other than an elementary truth of Christianity; and the present Pope has proclaimed it as all Popes, doctors, and bishops before him. But that truth has two aspects, according as the force of the negative falls upon the “Church” or upon the “salvation.” The main sense is, that there is no other communion or so called Church, but the Catholic, in which are stored the promises, the sacraments, and other means of salvation; the other and derived sense is, that no one can be saved who is not in that one and only Church. But it does not follow, because there is no Church but one, which has the Evangelical gifts and privileges to bestow, that therefore no one can be saved without the intervention of that one Church. Anglicans quite understand this distinction; for, on the one hand, their Article says, “They are to be had accursed (anathematizandi) that presume to say, that every man shall be saved by (in) the law or sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that law and the light of nature;” while on the other hand they speak of and hold the doctrine of the “uncovenanted mercies of God.” The latter doctrine in its Catholic form is the doctrine of invincible ignorance—or, that it is possible to belong to the soul of the Church without belonging to the body; and, at the end of 1800 years, it has been formally and authoritatively put forward by the present Pope (the first Pope, I suppose, who has done so), on the very same occasion on which he has repeated the fundamental principle of exclusive salvation itself. It is to the purpose here to quote his words; they occur in the course of his Encyclical, addressed to the Bishops of Italy, under date of August 10, 1863.

We and you know, that those who lie under invincible ignorance as regards our most Holy Religion, and who, diligently observing the natural law and its precepts, which are engraven by God on the hearts of all, and prepared to obey God, lead a good and upright life, are able, by the operation of the power of divine light and grace, to obtain eternal life.”

Who would at first sight gather from the wording of so forcible a universal, that an exception to its operation, such as this, so distinct, and, for what we know, so very wide, was consistent with holding it?

Another instance of a similar kind is suggested by the general acceptance in the Latin Church, since the time of St. Augustine, of the doctrine of absolute predestination, as instanced in the teaching of other great saints besides him, such as St. Fulgentius, St. Prosper, St. Gregory, St. Thomas, and St. Buonaventure. Yet in the last centuries a great explanation and modification of this doctrine has been effected by the efforts of the Jesuit School, which have issued in the reception of a distinction between predestination to grace and predestination to glory; and a consequent admission of the principle that, though our own works do not avail for bringing us under the action of grace here, that does not hinder their availing, when we are in a state of grace, for our attainment of eternal glory hereafter. Two saints of late centuries, St. Francis de Sales and St. Alfonso, seemed to have professed this less rigid opinion, which is now the more common doctrine of the day.

Another instance is supplied by the Papal decisions concerning Usury. Pope Clement V., in the Council of Vienne, declares, “If any one shall have fallen into the error of pertinaciously presuming to affirm that usury is no sin, we determine that he is to be punished as a heretic.” However, in the year 1831 the Sacred Pœnitentiaria answered an inquiry on the subject, to the effect that the Holy See suspended its decision on the point, and that a confessor who allowed of usury was not to be disturbed, “non esse inquietandum.” Here again a double aspect seems to have been realized of the idea intended by the word usury.

To show how natural this process of partial and gradually developed teaching is, we may refer to the apparent contradiction of Bellarmine, who says “the Pope, whether he can err or not, is to be obeyed by all the faithful” (Rom. Pont. iv. 2), yet, as I have quoted him above, p. 52-53, sets down (ii. 29) cases in which he is not to be obeyed. An illustration may be given in political history from the discussions which took place years ago as to the force of the Sovereign’s Coronation Oath to uphold the Established Church. The words were large and general, and seemed to preclude any act on his part to the prejudice of the Establishment; but lawyers succeeded at length in making a distinction between the legislative and executive action of the Crown, which is now generally accepted.

These instances out of many similar are sufficient to show what caution is to be observed, on the part of private and unauthorized persons, in imposing upon the consciences of others any interpretation of dogmatic enunciations which is beyond the legitimate sense of the words, inconsistent with the principle that all general rules have exceptions, and unrecognized by the Theological Schola.

12. From these various considerations it follows, that Papal and Synodal definitions, obligatory on our faith, are of rare occurrence; and this is confessed by all sober theologians. Father O’Reilly, for instance, of Dublin, one of the first theologians of the day, says:—

“The Papal Infallibility is comparatively seldom brought into action. I am very far from denying that the Vicar of Christ is largely assisted by God in the fulfilment of his sublime office, that he receives great light and strength to do well the great work entrusted to him and imposed on him, that he is continually guided from above in the government of the Catholic Church. But this is not the meaning of Infallibility … What is the use of dragging in the Infallibility in connexion with Papal acts with which it has nothing to do,—papal acts, which are very good and very holy, and entitled to all respect and obedience, acts in which the Pontiff is commonly not mistaken, but in which he could be mistaken and still remain infallible in the only sense in which he has been declared to be so?” (The Irish Monthly, Vol. ii. No. 10, 1874.)

This great authority goes on to disclaim any desire to minimize, but there is, I hope, no real difference between us here. He, I am sure, would sanction me in my repugnance to impose upon the faith of others more than what the Church distinctly claims of them: and I should follow him in thinking it a more scriptural, Christian, dutiful, happy frame of mind, to be easy, than to be difficult, of belief. I have already spoken of that uncatholic spirit, which starts with a grudging faith in the word of the Church, and determines to hold nothing but what it is, as if by demonstration, compelled to believe. To be a true Catholic a man must have a generous loyalty towards ecclesiastical authority, and accept what is taught him with what is called the pietas fidei, and only such a tone of mind has a claim, and it certainly has a claim, to be met and to be handled with a wise and gentle minimism. Still the fact remains, that there has been of late years a fierce and intolerant temper abroad, which scorns and virtually tramples on the little ones of Christ.

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I end with an extract from the Pastoral of the Swiss Bishops, a Pastoral which has received the Pope’s approbation.

“It in no way depends upon the caprice of the Pope, or upon his good pleasure, to make such and such a doctrine, the object of a dogmatic definition. He is tied up and limited to the divine revelation, and to the truths which that revelation contains. He is tied up and limited by the Creeds, already in existence, and by the preceding definitions of the Church. He is tied up and limited by the divine law, and by the constitution of the Church. Lastly, he is tied up and limited by that doctrine, divinely revealed, which affirms that alongside religious society there is civil society, that alongside the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy there is the power of temporal Magistrates, invested in their own domain with a full sovereignty, and to whom we owe in conscience obedience and respect in all things morally permitted, and belonging to the domain of civil society.”

 

96 Responses to Cardinal Newman on Papal Infallibility

  • The whole of Bl John Henry Newman’s Letter to the Duke of Norfolk (of which the above is an extract) repays careful study. Chapters 6 on the Encyclical of 1864 and Chapter 7 on the notorious Syllabus of Errors (which he shows to be destitute of any dogmatic authority whatsoever) reminds one that Newman was also the author of Tract 90, in which he demonstrated, to the horror of Protestant Oxford, that the Thirty-Nine Articles could be harmonized with the teaching of Trent.

    The reference in paragraph 11 above to the great mystery of predestination should serve to remind us that on many matters, such as grace and free will, the Church has contented herself with condemning certain errors, Calvinist, Jansenist, or Pelagian, whilst leaving theologians free to hold various conflicting opinions and the faithful to adopt a reverent agnosticism towards any and all of them.

  • Major problems with the papacy to begin with. There is no office of pope in the NT nor a supreme leader of the entire church for at least 500 years. Also, popes were not always considered infallible.

  • “There is no office of pope in the NT nor a supreme leader of the entire church for at least 500 years.”

    Wrong on both counts. Saint Peter is present in the New Testament and he was the first Pope. The successor Popes have a very well developed history from the time of Saint Clement circa 98 AD. From the earliest days the Church looked to the Pope for definitive rulings on all disputed questions.

  • Peter was not a “pope” i.e. supreme leader of the church. He never refers to himself in this way nor do the other apostles. There is no one in the early centuries who has the supreme power over the entire church. No on is referred to as some kind of supreme leader of the entire church for centuries. Not even I Clement makes such a claim nor does Clement himself claim to be the supreme leader of the entire. Read i Clement and you will find that he never refers to himself as such.

  • “Peter was not a “pope” i.e. supreme leader of the church. He never refers to himself in this way nor do the other apostles.”

    God refers to him in this way:

    ” 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

    19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

    In the Gospel of John Christ tells Peter to feed his sheep. Peter is regarded as the head of the Apostles both in the Gospels and Acts and in the writings of the Church fathers.

    Pope Saint Clement was called upon to sort out problems in the Church in Corinth. Why in the world would they do that unless the authority of Rome was already recognized?

    “we feel that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the points respecting which you consulted us; and especially to that shameful and detestable sedition, utterly abhorrent to the elect of God, which a few rash and self-confident persons have kindled to such a pitch of frenzy,”

    Saint Irenaeus, writing in 178 recognizes the authority of Rome:

    “Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say, ] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre- eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.

    3. The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome despatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles, proclaiming the one God, omnipotent, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Creator of man, who brought on the deluge, and called Abraham, who led the people from the land of Egypt, spake with Moses, set forth the law, sent the prophets, and who has prepared fire for the devil and his angels. From this document, whosoever chooses to do so, may learn that He, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, was preached by the Churches, and may also understand the apostolical tradition of the Church, since this Epistle is of older date than these men who are now propagating falsehood, and who conjure into existence another god beyond the Creator and the Maker of all existing things. To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telephorus, who was gloriously martyred; then Hyginus; after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Sorer having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.”

  • Those passages in the gospels do not support the idea that Jesus was making Peter the supreme leader of the church. Rather they do show he was one of the leaders and he did play an important part. However, he was not the supreme ultimate leader of the entire church. Even in Acts 15 we do not see him acting as the supreme leader that we would expect a modern pope to have. It was James, and not Peter who made the final decision in Acts 15:19. We also know by studying the NT that no apostle ever attests to Peter being the supreme leader of the entire church.

    In regards to Clement, he does not make any claim to being the supreme leader of the entire. One church helping out another church does not make a papacy. The first time a bishop appealed to Peter for authority was not until around 250 by Stephen.

    Roman Catholic historian von Dollinger on papal succession:

    “Of all the Fathers who interpret these passages (Matthew 16:18; John 21:17), not a single one applies them to the Roman bishops as Peter’s successors. How many Fathers have busied themselves with these three texts, yet not one of them who commentaries we possess–Origen, Chrysostom, Hilary, Augustine, Cyril, Theodoret, and those whose interpretations are collected in catenas–has dropped the faintest hint that the primacy of Rome is the consequence of the commission and promise to Peter!

    Not one of them has explained the rock or foundation on which Christ would build His Church as the office given to Peter to be transmitted to his successors, but they understood by it either Christ Himself, or Peter’s confession of faith in Christ; often both together (Cited in Hunt D. A Women Rides the Beast. Harvest House Publishers, Eugene (OR) p. 146).”

    “ALTHOUGH CATHOLIC TRADITION, BEGINNING IN the late second and early third centuries, regards St. Peter as the first bishop of Rome and, therefore, as the first pope, there is no evidence that Peter was involved in the initial establishment of the Christian community in Rome (indeed, what evidence there is would seem to point in the opposite direction) or that he served as Rome’s first bishop…He often shared his position of prominence with James and John…However, there is no evidence that before his death Peter actually served the church of Rome as its first bishop, even though the “fact” is regularly taken for granted by a wide spectrum of Catholics and others (McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. Harper, San Francisco, 2005 updated ed., pp. 25,29).

  • Those passages in the gospels do not support the idea that Jesus was making Peter the supreme leader of the church. Rather they do show he was one of the leaders and he did play an important part. However, he was not the supreme ultimate leader of the entire church. Even in Acts 15 we do not see him acting as the supreme leader that we would expect a modern pope to have.

    And why would we expect him to?

    In regards to Clement, he does not make any claim to being the supreme leader of the entire. One church helping out another church does not make a papacy.

    The church in Corinth could have sought counsel from Antioch or Alexandria. But they didn’t.

    You’ve cited Hunt citing Dollinger. Just out of curiousity, have you checked Dollinger for yourself?

    At the risk of sounding persnickity, I’m not sure I’d trust the author of a book subtitled The Roman Catholic Church and the Last Days to have presented & sourced the evidence for his argument completely and fairly. At least not without doing some verification first.

    And certainly not after glancing at Amazon’s most helpful review of the book.

  • “Roman Catholic historian von Dollinger on papal succession:”

    Von Dollinger broke with the Church over Vatican I. He was writing these words in the heat of controversy and not as a scholar. So you won’t embarrass yourself again by citing von Dollinger and claiming that he was a Catholic historian, go to the link below and read about him:

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05094a.htm

    As for Mr. Hunt, you might as well be citing The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to a Jewish audience. Mr. Hunt’s book is a Catholic bashing grab bag where he mines sources he clearly does not understand for anti-Catholic factoids. His basic thesis is that the Catholic Church is the whore of Babylon, a staple of more deranged Protestants for the past five centuries. Jimmy Akin at the link below does a very good job of refuting this charge and the sloppiness and the ignorance that are the hallmarks of Mr. Hunt’s tome:

    http://jimmyakin.com/hunt-ing-the-whore-of-babylon

    In regard to Richard P. McBrien, that insult to believing and thinking Catholics everywhere, he has built his career at Notre Dame in attacking traditional Catholicism. He served as a paid consultant for Dan Brown’s Catholic bashing Da Vinci Code and his scholarship is as worthless as Dan Brown’s. McBrien ignores the testimony of Church Father after Church Father in the first centuries after Christ that Peter was the first bishop of Rome because McBrien hates the Papacy. McBrien is Dave Hunt with a scholarly veneer and a Roman collar.

    http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=6710

  • I’m working on my rant covering the post-modern cesspool they call, “scholarship.”

  • Donald,
    You claim that “Von Dollinger broke with the Church over Vatican I. He was writing these words in the heat of controversy and not as a scholar” is irrelevant to what he wrote. Either its true or not that ““Of all the Fathers who interpret these passages (Matthew 16:18; John 21:17), not a single one applies them to the Roman bishops as Peter’s successors”.

    All you need to do is to show is a church father interpreting Matthew 16:18; John 21:17 as being applied to the “Roman bishops as Peter’s successors”. If you can do that then it would appear he was lying. If not, then we have no reason to doubt him.

    Same principle applies to McBrien. Is it true or not that “there is no evidence that before his death Peter actually served the church of Rome as its first bishop”? What is the evidence that he did?

  • “He was writing these words in the heat of controversy and not as a scholar” is irrelevant to what he wrote. Either its true or not”

    It’s not true:

    http://www.philvaz.com/apologetics/num41.htm

  • “Same principle applies to McBrien. Is it true or not that “there is no evidence that before his death Peter actually served the church of Rome as its first bishop”? What is the evidence that he did?”

    The testimony of the Church Fathers as I indicated. I have already quoted Saint Ireanaeus writing in 178 AD. I could cite many others.

  • In the first three centuries, when Christian communities were widely scattered, mostly poor and sometimes persecuted, the opportunities for the exercise of papal power, be it what it may, would be necessarily limited. That Anicetus should show a measure of deference to Polycarp, a man “who had spoken with John and with others who had seen the Lord,” over the Pascal controversy is less important than that Polycarp consulted him. That Irenaeus, the pupil of Polycarp, should urge Pope Victor to conciliate the churches of Asia over the same question is an argument in favour of the bishop of Rome’s authority, rather than detracting from it.

    That the Fathers should have no developed teaching on an authority still nascent is not at all surprising.

  • There is no papal power in the first century after the apostles being exercised. No one man had supreme power over the entire church at the time. What did Linus do that showed him to be the supreme leader of the entire church? Do other churches in this period acknowledge him as the supreme leader of the church?

  • “There is no papal power in the first century after the apostles being exercised.”

    Of course there is. I’ve already quoted Saint Clement to you. Why would the Church in Corinth otherwise call upon the Church in Rome to resolve their problem?

  • I Clement does not prove the papacy. Clement never refers to himself as the supreme leader of the church. If you read the letter carefully you will find he uses phrases such as “we” and “us”. To prove a papacy you need to show at least the following:
    1) One individual claims to be the supreme leader of the entire church
    2) Other churches acknowledging this claim
    3) Some kind of letter that demands it to be obeyed by the entire church.

    We don’t see this kind of thing in the first few centuries.

  • Not at all. Saint Peter never refers to himself as the chief of the apostles and that is clearly what he was as admitted even by almost all Protestants. The reality of the authority of Saint Clement is clearly present at a time when men and women were still alive who would have seen Saint Peter in Rome. Saint Ireanaeus, who you do your best to ignore, clearly sets forth in 178 the role of the papacy:

    “2. Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.

    3. The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome dispatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles, proclaiming the one God, omnipotent, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Creator of man, who brought on the deluge, and called Abraham, who led the people from the land of Egypt, spoke with Moses, set forth the law, sent the prophets, and who has prepared fire for the devil and his angels. From this document, whosoever chooses to do so, may learn that He, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, was preached by the Churches, and may also understand the tradition of the Church, since this Epistle is of older date than these men who are now propagating falsehood, and who conjure into existence another god beyond the Creator and the Maker of all existing things. To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telephorus, who was gloriously martyred; then Hyginus; after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Soter having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.”

  • There is no way for Paul or Peter to have founded the church at Rome. Rome was 1500 miles away and they were recorded in Acts to have been close to Jerusalem.

    Where in the NT does Peter refer to himself as the “chief of the apostles”? Where do the other apostles say this?

    Talking about one person succeeding another person does not make a papacy. That kind of thing went on in many churches in the early centuries. It still goes on today. To have a papacy you must have at least the 3 requirements that I mentioned. Those principles we do not see in the early centuries.

  • “There is no way for Paul or Peter to have founded the church at Rome. Rome was 1500 miles away and they were recorded in Acts to have been close to Jerusalem.”

    And they both came to Rome and established the apostolic succession.

    “Where in the NT does Peter refer to himself as the “chief of the apostles”? Where do the other apostles say this?”
    Do you deny that the Peter was the chief of the apostles? His name is given first in all lists of the apostles, Christ gives him the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, builds his Church upon him, tells him to feed His sheep, and tells him to strengthen his brethren. In Acts he is clearly the leader. Church Fathers unhesitatingly proclaim Peter as chief of the apostles.

    “[T]he blessed Peter, the chosen, the preeminent, the first among the disciples, for whom alone with himself the Savior paid the tribute [Matt. 17:27], quickly grasped and understood their meaning. And what does he say? “Behold, we have left all and have followed you””

    Saint Clement of Alexandria 200 AD.

  • You know what else you won’t find any evidence for, either in the Bible or in the Fathers of the Early Church?

    Sola Scriptura

  • What Ireanaeus is claiming that Peter and Paul “founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles”. There is no historical support for this claim.

    Peter was one of the leaders of the ancient church but not the supreme leader. No human being was because they knew the supreme leader of the church was the Lord Christ.

    When Paul wanted to confirm his message that he received directly Christ he did not go to Peter alone but to the pillars of the church who were James, Cephas and John (Gal 2:9). This shows that Paul did not think of one man being the supreme leader of the entire church.

    Peter was given the keys of the kingdom. How did he use these keys?

  • Ernst,
    What is Sola Scriptura? How would you define it?

  • I would characterize Sola Scriptura freely as the idea that the Bible is the only authority a Christian need recognize as the source of what he believes.

    When Paul wanted to confirm his message that he received directly Christ he did not go to Peter alone but to the pillars of the church who were James, Cephas and John (Gal 2:9). This shows that Paul did not think of one man being the supreme leader of the entire church.

    Peter was given the keys of the kingdom. How did he use these keys?

    To found Christ’s Church, of course. What happened to James and John, the churches they founded, and their apostolic successors What happened to Cephas’s?

    (Sorry for the late reply –kids and their homework. Also apologies in advance for the delayed reply to your response, if any –kids and their supper.)

  • Quickly though, since we’re playing “Let’s Define the Terms!” We might want to get back to this for a sec:

    There is no office of pope in the NT nor a supreme leader of the entire church for at least 500 years. Also, popes were not always considered infallible.

    How are you using “office” institutionally or vocationally? What is it that you think the Catholic Curch teaches about Papal Infallibility?

    I’m going to guess you think that Catholics think the Pope can never be wrong about anything, right?

  • Ernst,
    No problems with replies. Its amazing people can have discussion across the planet on this kind of format.

    Sola Scriptura rests on the fact that the Scriptures alone are the inspired-inerrant Word of God and what follows from this is the Scripture alone has the ultimate-final authority for what is to be believed and practiced. There is no higher authority for the Christian.

    Peter used the keys-authority on his preaching on Pentecost by preaching the gospel of Christ. Other apostles also preached this gospel that saves.

    There is no office of a pope like there is an office of a bishop or elder in the NT.
    Papal infalliblity means “Infallibility belongs in a special way to the pope as head of the bishops (Matt. 16:17–19; John 21:15–17). As Vatican II remarked, it is a charism the pope “enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith (Luke 22:32), he proclaims by a definitive act some doctrine of faith or morals.”
    http://www.catholic.com/tracts/papal-infallibility

    There are many problems with this. Matt. 16:17–19; John 21:15–17 says nothing about being the head of bishops.

  • “But who do you say that I AM?” Simon Peter answered and said,”Thou are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Then Jesus answered and said, “Blessed art thou Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to thee, but my Father in heaven. And I say to thee, thou art Peter and upon this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever thou shalt loose of earth shalt be loosed in heaven.” Matt 16: 16-20
    The Holy Spirit is God. God is infallible. The Holy Spirit calls men to the priesthood to act “in Persona Christi.” The Holy Spirit calls priests to the office of Bishops to act “in Persona Christi”. The Holy Spirit calls bishops to the office of Vicar of Christ on earth, Pope, Head of the Catholic Church to act “in Persona Christi”. The Pope, the Bishops and the priests are the Magisterial Body of Christ Who is the Truth. Truth is infallible or it is a lie.

  • Sola Scriptura rests on the fact that the Scriptures alone are the inspired-inerrant Word of God and what follows from this is the Scripture alone has the ultimate-final authority for what is to be believed and practiced. There is no higher authority for the Christian.

    And you know this because the Bible told you so?

    There is no office of a pope like there is an office of a bishop or elder in the NT

    And yet the opinion of the Bishop of Rome was something worth having when there was a disagreement within the church.

  • Mary,
    Are the popes, the Bishops and the priests infallible?

  • Ernst,
    Yes. The Scripture does claim to be the inspired Word of God (2 Tim 3:16).

    Actually the papacy has caused divisions in the church. Just look at church history.

  • I was referring more to the second half of your explaination of Sola Scriptura, the part about how “[it] alone has the ultimate-final authority for what is to be believed and practiced.”

    I see in 2 Tim 3:16 that Scripture is “useful for teaching, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work. But, to use your own words, there seems to be a problem here for the idea that scripture is “alone … the ultimate-final authority.”

    We see in 1 Tim 3:15, for example, that the church itself is “the pillar and foundation of truth[,]” not Scripture.

    We also see Paul in 2 Thes say “stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.” (2:15)

    What we don’t see is anything in the Bible saying the Bible itelf is ultimately and finally authoriative.

    Kind of like with your argument about the office of Supreme Pontiff, don’t you think?

  • In his History of Latin Christianity, Henry Hart Milman notes what he considers the remarkably ability of the early pontiffs to “anticipate the mind of the Church.” The Church fixes the date of Easter, the Church decides that heretics need not be rebaptized, the Church decides that the Incarnate combined two Natures in one Person; but each time Rome is in the lead and often appears isolated at first.

    To take one striking example, Pope Stephen (254-257) appeals to the tradition of his predecessors in upholding the validity of heretical baptism. He appears as a lone voice: the Apostolic Canons, the Synods of Iconium and Synnada, Clement of Alexandria, Firmilian, St. Basil, Tertullian, St. Cyprian, St. Cyril, St. Athanasius, Optatus and St. Ambrose, all teach that the baptism of heretics “does not heal, does not cleanse, but defiles.” Nevertheless, the Roman view prevails and, 150 years later St Augustine and the North African bishops embrace it and the Novatians and Donatists are declared heretics for denying it.

    Now, Milman can only speak of the foresight and astuteness of the early popes, which is really no explanation at all. The simple answer is that to be orthodox and to be in communion with Rome was one and the same; the “Catholic party,” a phrase he frequently uses without defining it, is the party that includes the bishop of Rome. Any attempt to define the Church by her teaching or Christians by their tenets can only end in a vicious circle; the faithful were those in visible communion with the see of Rome and heretics were those separated from her communion.

  • “Are the popes, the Bishops and the priests infallible?”
    The Popes, the Bishops and the priests are infallible when they speak the TRUTH. The TRUTH is the Word of God, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is infallible. Infallibility rests when the Bishop of Rome , the Vicar of Christ on earth for “thou art Peter” speaks in concert with the Magisterium, a necessary step because of heresy. When the sola scriptura is translated or interpreted badly or when there is isogesis, a reading into the Holy Scripture some fact that is not in Holy Scripture, only somebody’s opinion, only the infallibility of the Pope speaking with the Magisterium through the Holy Spirit can ascertain the validity of the fact. We have as proof the “IMPRIMATUR”(go ahead and print) and the”NIHIL OBSTAT” ( no objection found), the working of the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church.
    Every person who is brought into existence must submit his imperfect knowledge to some Divine Authority, because man is imperfect. Every person needs the Spiritual and Corporal works of mercy, to be counseled, to be admonished, to be nourished in the Faith. Without infallibility both shall fall into the pit.

    “Actually the papacy has caused divisions in the church. Just look at church history.”
    Error and the pride that goes with error has caused divisions in the Church, in the families and in the world. Divine Authority speaking through the Magisterium is God’s gift of WISDOM to heal and guide. Infallibility, the inability to fall into the pit, is an absolute necessity.

  • Ernst,
    You wrote-“What we don’t see is anything in the Bible saying the Bible itelf is ultimately and finally authoritative.”
    Since we agree that the Bible is inspired-inerrant and is the only thing in the world that is, then it follows it alone is “ultimately and finally authoritative”.

  • Mary,
    When you speak the truth are you infallible?

    No man or institution is infallible because men are fallen and can err. The only one who has ever lived that was infallible was the Lord Christ. He alone of all humanity was infallible.

    History shows your church has erred not just once but many times. One does not need to be infallible to teach and know the truth.

  • Since we agree that the Bible is inspired-inerrant and is the only thing in the world that is, then it follows it alone is “ultimately and finally authoritative”.

    No it doesn’t follow. Partly because the Church and Tradition are older than the Bible.

  • Mgr Ronald Knox made a rather obvious point, when he said, “For three centuries the true issue between the two parties was obscured, owing to the preposterous action of the Protestants in admiring Biblical inspiration. The Bible, it appeared, was common ground between the combatants, the Bible, therefore, was the arena of the struggle; from it the controversialist, like David at the brook, must pick up texts to sling at hus adversary. In fact, of course, the Protestant had no conceivable right to base any arguments on the inspiration of the Bible, for the inspiration of the Bible was a doctrine which had been believed, before the Reformation, on the mere authority of the Church; it rested on exactly the same basis as the doctrine of Transubstantiation. Protestantism repudiated Transubstantiation, and in doing so repudiated the authority of the Church; and then, without a shred of logic, calmly went on believing in the inspiration of the Bible, as if nothing had happenedl Did they suppose that Biblical inspiration was a self-evident fact, like the axioms of EuclidP Or did they derive it from some words of our Lord? If so, what words? What authority have we, apart from that of the Church, to say that the Epistles of Paul are inspired, and the Epistle of Bamabas is not? It is, perhaps, the most amazing and the most tragic spectacle in the history of thought, the picture of blood flowing, fires blazing, and kingdoms changing hands for a century and a half, all in defence of a vicious circle.”

  • [T]he inspiration of the Bible was a doctrine which had been believed, before the Reformation, on the mere authority of the Church[.] … What authority have we, apart from that of the Church, to say that the Epistles of Paul are inspired, and the Epistle of Bamabas is not?

    I like that quote (the rest of too, of course).

  • Ernst,
    Is the church and its traditions inspired-inerrant?

  • You’d better hope so, Jay, or how else are you going to trust your Bible?

  • Jay
    Newman explains the notion of tradition very well, “If again it be objected that, upon the notion of an unwritten transmission of doctrine, there is nothing to show that the faith of today was the faith of yesterday, nothing to connect this age and the Apostolic, the theologians of Rome maintain, on the contrary, that over and above the corroborative though indirect testimony of ecclesiastical writers, no error could have arisen in the Church without its being protested against and put down on its first appearance; that from all parts of the Church a cry would have been raised against the novelty, and a declaration put forth, as we know in fact was the practice of the early Church, denouncing it. And thus they would account for the indeterminateness on the one hand, yet on the other the accuracy and availableness of their existing Tradition or unwritten Creed. It is latent, but it lives. It is silent, like the rapids of a river, before the rocks intercept it. It is the Church’s unconscious habit of opinion and sentiment; which she reflects upon, masters, and expresses, according to the emergency. We see then the mistake of asking for a complete collection of the Roman Traditions; as well might we ask for a full catalogue of a man’s tastes and thoughts on a given subject. Tradition in its fulness is necessarily unwritten; it is the mode in which a society has felt or acted during a certain period, and it cannot be circumscribed any more than a man’s countenance and manner can be conveyed to strangers in any set of propositions.”
    I should contend that it simply another name for the promised guidance of the Holy Spirit in the Church.

  • Ernst,
    How can your church be inspired-inerrant given all the problems it has? The fact is that Jesus never made the church inspired-inerrant nor protected it from error. Just read the 1st 3 chapters of Revelation to see the Lord Jesus rebuking churches for error.

    I trust the Bible because of the power of God.

  • Michael,
    If “Tradition in its fulness is necessarily unwritten;” then there is no way for any RC to know what it was and is. Anyone can make up something and claim its a “Tradition” since some Traditions were not written down. Anyone can also claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit and justify anything. This is what happens to a church that goes beyond Scripture.

  • How can your church be inspired-inerrant given all the problems it has?

    How can the Bible be inspired then, since it was people like the people in the Seven Churches of Asia whom Jesus rebuked who actually wrote down the gospels and the NT letters, and many other letters besides (to say nothing of other “gospels’), before yet other people like those people in the Seven Churches of Asia decided what counted as scripture and what didn’t count?

    It seems to me that you’re conflating church, a community of believers, so to speak, with Church, the body of beliefs about God, man and man’s redemption through the Covenant of the Gospel (again colloquially speaking); beliefs lived out in practice.

    I trust the Bible because of the power of God.

    I trust the Bible and the Tradition which precedes it (at least the New Testament part of the canon) for the same reason.

  • Anyone can make up something and claim its a “Tradition” since some Traditions were not written down

    Out of curiousity, how does one go about making something up, and then claim “we’ve been doing that (believing this) forever,” and not find oneself called out on account of the fact that nobody remembers doing (hearing of) it before?

  • Ernst,
    The inspiration of the Bible does not depend on men but God.
    What RC “Tradition” is inspired-inerrant? Is the “Tradition” that Mary was assumed into heaven inspired-inerrant?

    One can easily make stuff up. Take the doctrine indulgences. Its not in Scripture but something that your church came up with. There are many doctrines and practices in your church like this.

  • “The inspiration of the Bible does not depend on men but God.”

    That is incorrect. The New Testament was not in existence when Christ walked the Earth. He gave authority to the Church through the apostles and the New Testament has authority only from the Church. The New Testament is a Catholic production from start to finish. Catholics inspired by the Holy Spirit wrote it, Catholics determined what would be included in the New Testament canon, and Catholics rejected numerous competing Gospels and Epistles. Solo Scriptura is the hilarious doctrine by which some Protestants deify a book that derives its existence solely from the authority granted to the Catholic Church.

  • The church does not make the Bible inspired or inerrant. The church does have authority but not ultimate authority especially when it teaches doctrines not in Scripture.
    Catholic does not equal Roman Catholic. Roman Catholicism has unique characteristics that set it apart. Many of these features are not found in the Scripture such as the papacy, papal infallibility, office of priest, celibacy as requirement to lead, the Marian dogmas and indulgences to name a few things that separate it from what the apostles taught.

  • “The church does not make the Bible inspired or inerrant.”

    Absolutely untrue since the only authority granted by Christ was to the Church and not to a book yet to be written by members of that Church.

    The attempt to claim that the Catholic Church today is not the Catholic Church set forth in the Scriptures is ahistoric nonsense. It was argued by the so called Reformers in the Sixteenth Century but it is an argument without a shred of validity. This of course is why most Protestants reject the concept of Apostolic Succession and why the early Church Fathers championed it. The Catholic Church as an institution did not remain static over 20 centuries, but its developments are clearly part and parcel of the history of one Church.

  • As I recall, God, through his Son, gave to us, through his Apostles, a Church (though art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it) and a Commission (go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost), not a Book.

    I hope that’s not too cheeky.

  • Donald,
    Your arguing against the facts of history in regards to the RCC. The things I mentioned are not in Scripture and were not taught by the apostles. We reject apostolic succession for the mere fact the Scriptures don’t teach it. After John died, there were no more apostles. No one has the qualifications of an apostle which was one who walked with Christ and saw Him after the resurrection. Acts 1:21-22

    No wonder you got problems. You think Armstrong is someone who is an authority.

  • JErnst,
    esus founded the church and is building it. This does not mean the church is inspired or inerrant. If your church was inspired-inerrant it would not have the evil past it has.

  • The inspiration of the Bible does not depend on men but God.

    That’s also true for the rest of the Tradition.

    Again Jay, the sole, final inspired-inerrant authority of the Bible alone, is not in the Bible, any more than the Assumption of Mary is. Now, I’ll grant that it’s easier to infer that from the Bible than to infer Mary’s Assumption, but just because it’s easier doesn’t mean the one is true and the other isn’t.

    On the other hand, you know what is in the Bible? The Real Presence. Protestants (myself included) have a hard time accepting that on the Bible’s authority, don’t they?

  • The things I mentioned are not in Scripture and were not taught by the apostles. We reject apostolic succession for the mere fact the Scriptures don’t teach it. After John died, there were no more apostles. No one has the qualifications of an apostle which was one who walked with Christ and saw Him after the resurrection. Acts 1:21-22
    No wonder you got problems. You think Armstrong is someone who is an authority.

    If that’s the case, (and it’s not, you’re forgetting Paul never walked with Christ) then the Church must necessarily have died with John, and the Bible is no more inspired or inerrant than the church.

  • Ernst,
    What Traditions of your church are inspired? Please give me a list so I know exactly what these Traditions are.

    There are many problems with the Real Presence.

    Its a fact that John was the last apostle. Paul is special case since Jesus picked him directly and without any other apostles. The church is not the apostles but the apostles were used by Christ to lay the foundation for the church. What we have today are not apostles but the teachings of the apostles which are found only in the Scripture.

  • Ernst,
    The first mention of the death of Mary is not mentioned until 377. This is not an eyewitness account by any stretch.

  • “We reject apostolic succession for the mere fact the Scriptures don’t teach it.”
    The Scriptures Jay were written by men who taught it as even a cursory knowledge of history would indicate. The apostolic succession is well established in the writings of the early Church from the earliest times. Individual branches of the Catholic Church traced their bishops back to the apostles and thus established their legitimacy.

    “Through Our Lord Jesus Christ our Apostles knew that there would be strife over the office of episcopacy. Accordingly, since they had obtained a perfect foreknowledge of this, they appointed those men already mentioned. And they afterwards gave instructions that when those men would fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. Therefore, we are of the opinion that those appointed by the Apostles, or afterwards by other acclaimed men, with the consent of the whole church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry.”

    Saint Clement, letter to the Corinthians, 96 AD

  • Donald,
    Clement was not a pope i.e. supreme leader of the entire church. If anything, early church history shows the various bishops being against one man being the supreme leader-bishop. It took a number of centuries before we see some of the bishops of Rome claiming primacy. Stephen in about 250 is the first to claim to be a successor of Peter.

    Consider this: “Before the beginning of the second millennium and the pontificate of Gregory VII in particular (1073-85), popes functioned largely in the role of mediator. They did not claim for themselves the title of “Vicar of Christ”. They did not appoint bishops. They did not govern the universal Church through the Roman Curia. They did not impose of enforce clerical celibacy. They did not write encyclicals or authorize catechisms for the whole Church. They did not retain for themselves alone the power of canonization. They did not even convene ecumenical councils as a rule–and certainly not the major doctrinal councils of Nicea (325), Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431), and Chalcedon (451) (McBrien, Richard P. Lives of the Popes: The Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI. Harper, San Francisco, 2005 updated ed., p.19).”

  • You are obviously unfamiliar with the early Church Fathers Jay, because you quote bad contemporary sources like McBrien, rather than sources from the early Church. For the third time in this thread I quote Saint Iranaeus writing in 178:

    “2. Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.

    3. The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome dispatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles, proclaiming the one God, omnipotent, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Creator of man, who brought on the deluge, and called Abraham, who led the people from the land of Egypt, spoke with Moses, set forth the law, sent the prophets, and who has prepared fire for the devil and his angels. From this document, whosoever chooses to do so, may learn that He, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, was preached by the Churches, and may also understand the tradition of the Church, since this Epistle is of older date than these men who are now propagating falsehood, and who conjure into existence another god beyond the Creator and the Maker of all existing things. To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telephorus, who was gloriously martyred; then Hyginus; after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Soter having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.”

    You will of course once again ignore Saint Iranaeus because you are not interested in historical truth but doing your best, against the evidence, to preserve the twisted view of Church history that Protestants have been hobbled with since the “Reformers” of the 16th century decided to do away with all Christian history that differed from them, and pretend that there was a Great Apostacy until Martin Luther came on the scene. As Cardinal Newman said “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” and that is why advocates of Protestantism have to twist themselves into pretzels when looking at the early Church because if they were intellectually honest they would confess that it is the Catholic Church that they see.

  • If anything, early church history shows the various bishops being against one man being the supreme leader-bishop.

    Huh? Where do you get this? And as for what McBrien says (and I’m not sure why you chose to cite him instead of other equally objective and reputable scholars of early church history like, say, Dan Brown or Richard Dawkins, but whatever), you might also recall that membership in the early church was a crime punishable by death. And so yes, the ability of pre-Constantinian popes to exercise authority was severely curtailed. I mean, duh. But so what? Why is a pope who finds it too onerous to convene councils (what with the death sentences and all) any more a hallmark of authentic Christianity than having members regularly getting fed to lions for public spectacle?

  • Donald,
    When did the Peter and Paul found the church in Rome? What year did this supposedly happen?

    BTW- here are the credentials for Richard P. McBrien: “is Crowley-O’Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. Educated at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, he has also served as president of the Catholic Theological Society of America. A leading authority on Catholicism, he is the bestselling author of Catholicism, Lives of the Popes, and Lives of the Saints, as well as the general editor of The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism.”

    This guy is a top notch scholar and well regard in the RCC. He certainly carries more weight than Dave Armstrong don’t you think?

  • Roman Catholicism has unique characteristics that set it apart. Many of these features are not found in the Scripture such as the papacy, papal infallibility, office of priest, celibacy as requirement to lead, the Marian dogmas and indulgences to name a few things that separate it from what the apostles taught.

    The greek word for priest is presbyteros. See, Acts 15:2-6, 21:18,1 Tm 5:17, 1 Pt 5:1

    indulgences are implied in the power to forgive sin found in Mt 18:18 and Jn 20:23

    Paul laid out the advantages of celibacy in 1 Cor 7, which is the basis for the custom,but I’ll grant you that’s not the same thing as a requirement.

    The Papacy and Papal infallibility have already been addressed. But if you care to look again, it’s Matt. 16:17-19. You might want to look at Is 22:21-22 as well.

    The Marian dogmas are harder to discern, and I’m not remotely in the position to make the case for them, since that’s my personal Jacob’s ladder. But that’s my problem, not the church’s.

  • And if you’re going to resort to credentialism, I’m going to start banging the table with Bart Ehreman.

  • Jay

    Once admit that the unity of the Church through time is the unity of a living organism, then growth, change, adaptability can be admitted, without compromising its identity and the continuity of the the church in communion with the bishop of Rome can be demonstrated as an historical fact, without entering into questions of doctrine or discipline at all, just as the continuity of the city of Rome itself can be demonstrated, from Romulus’s hut on the Palatine to the modern city, Italian from Latin, its civil code from the Digest and so on.

  • Ernst Schreiber

    The development of the Marian doctrines can be traced back to the earliest times.

    Thus, St. Justin Martyr (A.D. 120-165) – “We know that He, before all creatures, proceeded from the Father by His power and will, … and by means of the Virgin became man, that by what way the disobedience arising from the serpent had its beginning, by that way also it might have an undoing. For Eve, being a Virgin and undefiled, conceiving the word that was from the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death; but the Virgin Mary, taking faith and joy, when the Angel told her the good tidings, that the Spirit of the Lord should come upon her and the power of the Highest overshadow her, and therefore the Holy One that was born of her was Son of God, answered, ‘Be it to me according to thy word.'” —Tryph. 100

    And St. Irenæus (120-200) – “As Eve by the speech of an Angel was seduced, so as to flee God, transgressing His word, so also Mary received the good tidings by means of the Angel’s speech, so as to bear God within her, being obedient to His word. And, though the one had disobeyed God, yet the other was drawn to obey God; that of the virgin Eve the Virgin Mary might become the advocate. And, as by a virgin the human race had been bound to death, by a virgin it is saved, the balance being preserved, a virgin’s disobedience by a Virgin’s obedience.”— Adv. Hær. v. 19

    And Tertullian (160-240) – “God recovered His image and likeness, which the devil had seized, by a rival operation. For into Eve, as yet a virgin, had crept the word which was the framer of death. Equally into a virgin was to be introduced the Word of God which was the builder-up of life; that, what by that sex had gone into perdition by the same sex might be brought back to salvation. Eve had believed the serpent; Mary believed Gabriel; the fault which the one committed by believing, the other by believing has blotted out.”— De Carn. Christ. 17.

    The similarity between the teaching of these three early writers, representing the traditions of the churches of Palestine, Africa and Rome and Asia Minor and Gaul, suggest a common source. What can this be other than the original apostolic teaching. Later ages simply drew out its implications.

  • This guy is a top notch scholar and well regard in the RCC.

    How does he compare with Bl. Cardinal Newman? If pontifical credentials mattered, we wouldn’t have to deal with Kung (or Luther, for that matter)? But even if we grant your McBrien quote as factually accurate, the more relevant question is ‘so what’? What exactly is your point? Why is the inability of the early popes to act in the manner of, say, Gregory the Great (during a time of a) Jewish persecution followed by b) Roman persecution followed by c) Constantine’s heavy-handedness followed by d) the dissolution of the Western Roman empire, etc….) — indicate a holier church, as opposed to a seething mish-mash of factionalism that weak leadership often begets, whether that be of the “Paul vs. Apollos” variety, or else gnostic vs Marcionite vs. Montanist vs. Arian vs. Monophysite…?

  • This guy is a top notch scholar and well regard in the RCC.

    How does he compare with Bl. Cardinal Newman? If pontifical credentials mattered, we wouldn’t have to deal with Kung (or Luther, for that matter)? But even if we grant your McBrien quote as factually accurate, the more relevant question is ‘so what’? What exactly is your point? Why is the inability of the early popes to act in the manner of, say, Gregory the Great (during a time of a) Jewish persecution followed by b) Roman persecution followed by c) Constantine’s heavy-handedness followed by d) the dissolution of the Western Roman empire, etc….) — indicate a holier church, as opposed to a seething mish-mash of factionalism that weak leadership often begets, whether that be of the “Paul vs. Apollos” variety, or else gnostic vs Marcionite vs. Montanist vs. Arian vs. Monophysite…?

  • Ha,
    What McBrien is showing us is that the history of the papacy as its described by most RC’s is not in sync with the facts of history. In other words, the papacy does not go back to the NT.

  • Michael,
    Do you believe that “And, though the one had disobeyed God, yet the other was drawn to obey God; that of the virgin Eve the Virgin Mary might become the advocate. And, as by a virgin the human race had been bound to death, by a virgin it is saved, the balance being preserved, a virgin’s disobedience by a Virgin’s obedience.”?

    Is the human race saved by Mary?

  • In other words, the papacy does not go back to the NT

    I assume by that you mean New Testament times, since we’re talking about “the facts of history” as either McBrien understands them or you understand McBrien.

    By the same logic, no protestant church goes back to New Testament times. But don’t let that bother you.

    Is the human race saved by Mary?

    Since that was directed at Michael, I’ll limit myself to suggesting you look into the idea of Recapitulation.

    A new Adam requires a new Eve, after all.

  • Protestant churches are more in line with the NT church than the RCC is.

    Scripture never refers to Mary as the new Eve.

  • McBrien is a “top-notch scholar”?!?

    No, no he is not. He is a wholly-derivative summarizer of other people’s works. Like Joe Biden, he’s been around for a long time, accruing seniority, but not really doing anything of significance.

    Oh, and he argued that Jesus Christ was capable of sinning in his “masterwork,” “Catholicism.”

    But if he’s the guy you want to cozy up to so you can beat up the Catholic Church, knock yourself out.

    http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=5286&CFID=17911142&CFTOKEN=62677456

  • No, no he is not. He is a wholly-derivative summarizer of other people’s works. Like Joe Biden, he’s been around for a long time, accruing seniority, but not really doing anything of significance.

    Yeah, but when he appears on the tube, he always has cool neckties.

  • What McBrien is showing us is that the history of the papacy as its described by most RC’s is not in sync with the facts of history.

    How so? Rather than simply changing the subject (and seriously, is “new Eve” really the best you can do?), it would be better if you would actually tell us how that McBrien quote contradicts Church history, as you seem to believe. For example, how does the fact that the Pope was unable to convene a council during the early years of the Church — a time of intense persecution and chaos — undermine RC claims? Does St. Iranaeus or some other Father of the Church cite lists of nonexistent councils allegedly convened by the early popes as evidence of papal authority? Come to think of it, I don’t recall any major councils or any other Papal activity when French troops took Pope Pius VI prisoner in 1798 and kept him confined until he died a year and a half later. Does that, too, upturn RC claims regarding the papacy?

    Given that you’re already off on another tangent (I guess when it comes to the Jack Chick’s of the world, it almost always eventually comes down to Mary or some other mommy issues at some point) I suspect you’re just a troll who gets off on riling the papists, but if you’re not, can you at least make an effort to say something relevant to the points you’re trying to make? Simply pasting a non sequitur by McBrien or anyone else, and hoping that no one will point out that it doesn’t say what you apparently think it says, is hardly the way to make your case (though it goes a long way towards explaining what you believe). Maybe if you actually bothered to fill in the holes in your logic, you wouldn’t be taking the position you are, so it’s quite possible I’m asking for too much, but I still think you should make an effort.

  • Good point, about how natty he is. Except during conclaves. Then he goes up to the attic to find his collar.

    Thanks also for the tip about “The Latin Mass.” I’ve subscribed, and am eagerly awaiting the first issue.

  • Jay? Still there?

    Any thoughts about the scholarship of a guy who thinks it’s okey-doke to say Jesus could have sinned?

    Let us know.

  • In fairness, was the guy who introduced “new Eve,” in response to the misreading of what Irenaeus had to say about Mary’s role in salvation history, (e.g. “Is the human race saved by Mary?”).

  • If anyone is interested in reading some real scholarship in regard to the Papacy and the first two ecumenical councils:

    http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt29.html

  • Dale,
    It seems to me that if Jesus could not have sinned then the temptation with Satan was a sham.

    How could McBrien be a “wholly-derivative summarizer of other people’s works” when he is the “Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. Educated at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, he has also served as president of the Catholic Theological Society of America. A leading authority on Catholicism, he is the bestselling author of Catholicism, Lives of the Popes, and Lives of the Saints, as well as the general editor of The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism”?

    You don’t get to this position at a major RC institution by being a “wholly-derivative summarizer of other people’s works” .

  • HA,
    RC’s that I know believe that the papacy has been since the NT times. McBrien shows that it was not. He is not the RC scholar that says this either.

    If you are going to have a pope then you have to demonstrate such an individual existed in the first 5 centuries of the church at Rome. The evidence is not there.

    I didn’t bring the new Eve idea. Someone else did.

  • In fairness, [I] was the guy who introduced “new Eve,” in response to the misreading of what Irenaeus had to say about Mary’s role in salvation history, (e.g. “Is the human race saved by Mary?”).

    Fair enough. And if that’s where Jay wants to take the discussion next, fine. But he might at least finish the points he has already tried to make. I suppose the concept of the Trinity is next on his hit list, given that that never receives mention in the NT either. Regardless, given that he cannot or will not address the very simple questions put to him, and he displays considerable difficulty in wrapping his head around the fact that academic credentials are no guarantee against slipshod scholarship or heresy, I would guess that Jay is either unwilling to argue in good faith, and therefore dishonest, or else unable to follow through with his own cut-and-paste debate tactics, and therefore incompetent. For his sake, I rather hope it is the latter, but in either case, I am not sure that anything is served by continuing the discussion.

  • When you speak the truth are you infallible?

    “No man or institution is infallible because men are fallen and can err. The only one who has ever lived that was infallible was the Lord Christ. He alone of all humanity was infallible.

    History shows your church has erred not just once but many times. One does not need to be infallible to teach and know the truth.”
    Only the perfect TRUTH, who is Jesus Christ, the Lord, is infallible, because Jesus Christ is God. Other men are fallible. The Pope, speaking as the Vicar of Christ, in concert with the Magisterium, speaking ex-cathedra is infallible, by the Holy Spirit who is God, who cans’t deceive nor be deceived.
    If a person does not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, that person has already lost the TRUTH. Infallibility becomes a word without meaning.

  • Ha,
    Why don’t you refute me with some counter facts such as there was a papacy in the first 5 centuries that shows one man as claiming to be the head of the entire church and other churches supporting this claim? Or, show me where Mary is referred to as the “new Eve” in Scripture?

  • Mary,
    Where did Jesus or His apostles teach that “If a person does not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, that person has already lost the TRUTH”?

  • St. Paul’s battle with Peter over the circumcising of the gentiles to make their bodies as were the Israelites is proof positive that Peter was revered as the head of the Catholic Church. This decree was handed down by Peter and rejected by Paul. Paul did not appeal to any other apostle. Finally, after many years, Peter accepted Paul’s uncircumcised gentiles as members of the Body of Christ. Paul never claimed to be the head of the church, but submitted himself to Peter, even while dissenting from the practice.

  • “Where did Jesus or His apostles teach that “If a person does not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, that person has already lost the TRUTH”? “Do this in memory of me”

  • RC’s that I know believe that the papacy has been since the NT times. McBrien shows that it was not…

     

    How does he show that? You keep making that assertion, but what portion of your 6:44 rehash of McBrien is evidence that papacy did not exist?

     

    Yes, as I and others have noted, it is true that the straited popes of the first few centuries, between dodging lions, centurions and maybe the occasional Pharisee or temple enforcer, found it difficult to convene councils or write encyclicals or do much of anything beyond merely surviving (sometimes, as in the case of the first pope, with very limited success). Big deal. Which of McBrien’s sentences disprove anything Iraneus or the early Church Fathers wrote? I do see you are expanding your argument by authority to include not just McBrien, but also “RC’s that [you] know”, but given your inability to comprehend the McBrien quotes that you yourself cited, I think we’re entitled to a few suspicions about whether you are making similarly tendentious assertions regarding what other RC’s have told you, but that’s just a guess.

     

    Again, no serious Catholic claims that the popes of the early church had a role identical to the role they would possess in later centuries. And neither did Pius VI, some 1800 years later, slowly dying in his lavish prison. So what? The Bible took a few centuries to be standardized into its canonical form, and while that might be a cause for worry among the sola scriptura crowd, would anyone other than one of those Jesus-never-existed loons go so far as to claim that also means the NT does not exist?

  • Ha,
    Claiming that “popes of the first few centuries, between dodging lions, centurions and maybe the occasional Pharisee or temple enforcer, found it difficult to convene councils or write encyclicals or do much of anything beyond merely surviving (sometimes, as in the case of the first pope, with very limited success)” actually makes my case even stronger. There was no time to develop a top heavy institution like the papacy. That took centuries.

    If you doubt me on McBrien then get his book and see if he does say these things.

    Here is what another RC scholar says on this:
    “We must conclude that the New Testament provides no basis for the notion that before the apostles died, they ordained one man for each of the churches they founded…”Was there a Bishop of Rome in the First Century?”…the available evidence indicates that the church in Rome was led by a college of presbyters, rather than by a single bishop, for at least several decades of the second century (Sullivan F.A. From Apostles to Bishops: the development of the episcopacy in the early church. Newman Press, Mahwah (NJ), 2001, p. 80,221-222).”

  • Why don’t you refute me with some counter facts such as there was a papacy in the first 5 centuries that shows one man as claiming to be the head of the entire church and other churches supporting this claim? Or, show me where Mary is referred to as the “new Eve” in Scripture?

     

    OK, the argument by authority obviously has not worked out well for you, so I guess we’re going to move on to straw man tactics now? I do not reduce the papacy to “one man as claiming to be the head of the entire church and other churches supporting this claim” as you so tendentiously put it. That’s not a pope, that’s some Protestant bogeyman.

     

    As for counter-arguments, Donald has already kindly taken the trouble to post numerous citations that are relevant into showing what Catholics actually do believe regarding the founding of the Papacy. It makes no sense to repost all that, especially since you’re still bent on McBrien, regardless of the fact that even you find it difficult to point out which of his arguments support your claim.

     

    As for “new Eve”, why should the fact that the term does not appear in the New Testament bother you so? Does the Trinity appear in the NT? Moreover, provide some context as to what new Eve actually means and why it should disturb me. If the term refers to someone who submitted to the will of God (“let it be done to me according to your word”) as opposed to someone who was tricked into disobeying it, then ‘new Eve’ sounds like a pretty swell description to me, but I’m guessing you have something far more nefarious in mind, so you’ll have to elaborate. Hopefully, it’s not some other straw man. In any case, in the interest of simple fairness, I’m not answering anything else from you until you answer my questions, and while you’re at it, Dale’s and Ernst’s, given that you find McBrien such a rock of authority.

  • We must conclude that the New Testament provides no basis for the notion that before the apostles died, they ordained one man for each of the churches they founded…

    More non sequiturs. As I’ve already indicated, this is completely irrelevant to whether the papacy exists. I’ve already stipulated that the pope did not have the means or the logistics to exercise the same power that he had in later centuries. That does not disprove anything that Iraneus or any other Church Father wrote of Peter and his successors. Even if it turns out that Sullivan F.A. is true, and I’m not saying it is, the only thing it would prove is that it took ‘several decades into the second century’ for the successor of Peter, as Iraneus defines it, to be additionally proclaimed a bishop of Rome, as opposed to simply being the head of the community there – which should come as a big shock to pretty much no one. It no doubt took at least some time for the notion of bishops and diocese and so forth to take hold. So what? It took several centuries after that for the pope to be declared the ruler of Bologna, Romagna and Benevento – a status he has since lost. Is that also supposed to be a shocker?

     

    What the NT says about Peter, the Rock, is plenty clear enough, and the writings of Church Fathers like Iraneus, presumably informed by a desire to end the factionalism and lack of unity that they saw around them (something the NT clearly implies is a contravention of Christ’s wishes, but then, Protestants tend to forget about that one) and that they might well have attributed to a lack of leadership, shows that they took the matter seriously enough to make a big deal of it. If you have anything that refutes what they wrote, produce it. If, on the other hand, you or anyone can’t deal with that, and have to grasp at straws about when popes started writing catechisms or whatnot (give me a break), don’t pretend to be arguing in good faith.

     
    Now, I went ahead and answered you given that we apparently cross-posted. I’m done, until you provide everyone else the same courtesy.

  • Ah, Jay, it is pointless to continue with you after this post:

    “It seems to me that if Jesus could not have sinned then the temptation with Satan was a sham.”

    For a guy who thumps the New Testament a lot, you seem to be woefully unacquainted with it.

    “Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.”

    So, no. Temptation does not always mean concupiscence–it also means “testing.” As, well, the New Testament says. Which, again, you seem to have a furtive relationship with.

    “How could McBrien be a “wholly-derivative summarizer of other people’s works” when he is the “Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. Educated at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, he has also served as president of the Catholic Theological Society of America. A leading authority on Catholicism, he is the bestselling author of Catholicism, Lives of the Popes, and Lives of the Saints, as well as the general editor of The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism”?
    You don’t get to this position at a major RC institution by being a “wholly-derivative summarizer of other people’s works” .

    Because I’ve actually read McBrien and have some of his stuff? Familiarity and ownership are good starts, as opposed to your…well, derivative proof-texting. You really need to free yourself from the shackles of credential worship. Call no man “Doctor,” as Jesus said.

    And really, such a babe in the woods you are, thinking tenure has a direct correlation to scholarly ability. All tenure and chairs mean is that you have managed not to tick off the wrong people. Having reviewed tenure and academic hiring decisions with some frequency, I can tell you such decisions have much more to do showmanship and politics than quality.

    Keep in mind that Notre Dame also houses Tariq Ramadan, the notorious apologist for the Muslim Brotherhood, and a man of rather dubious academic achievement, as has been noted by his biographer, Caroline Fourest.

  • I concur with Dale. Jay has been placed on moderation as he seems immune to evidence and arguments and further dialogue appears pointless.

  • Jay

    Two of the earliest Fathers, Ignatius and Polycarp, both men who “conversed with John and with others who had seen the Lord,” insist over and over on the the rôle of the bishop as the centre of unity in the local church. So does Irenaeus (130-202), who, as a boy, knew Polycarp in his native Smyrna and went on to become third bishop of Lyon (one can see a complete list of the bishops of that see in the cathedral there)

    Irenaeus says, “The true knowledge is the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient organization of the Church throughout the whole world, and the manifestation of the body of Christ according to the succession of bishops, by which succession the bishops have handed down the Church which is found everywhere.”

    If this was innovation, why do we hear not a word of protest from the defenders of the sufficiency and pre-eminence of scripture? The historical record is clear for the continuity of this church, this institution to which Irenaeus points, from his day to ours and it has no rival, for the sects against which he wrote have all disappeared without trace. Now, if this church’s witness is not to be trusted, why accept its witness to the canon of scripture?

  • Last word[?] to Chesterton:

    [L]ooking back on older religious crises, I seem to see a certain coincidence, or rather, a set of things too coincident to be called a coincidence After all, when I come to think of it, all the other revolts against the Church, before the Revolution and especially since the Reformation, had told the same strange story. Every great heretic had always exhibit three remarkable characteristics in combination. First, he picked out some mystical idea from the Church’s bundle or balance of mystical ideas. Second, he used that one mystical idea against all the other mystical ideas. Third (and most singular), he seems generally to have had no notion that his own favourite mystical idea was a mystical idea, at least in the sense of a mysterious or dubious or dogmatic idea. With a queer uncanny innocence, he seems always to have taken this one thing for granted. He assumed it to be unassailable, even when he was using it to assail all sorts of similar things. The most popular and obvious example is the Bible. To an impartial pagan or sceptical observer, it must always seem the strangest story in the world; that men rushing in to wreck a temple, overturning the altar and driving out the priest, found there certain sacred volumes inscribed “Psalms” or “Gospels”; and (instead of throwing them on the fire with the rest) began to use them as infallible oracles rebuking all the other arrangements. If the sacred high altar was all wrong, why were the secondary sacred documents necessarily all right? If the priest had faked his Sacraments, why could he not have faked his Scriptures? Yet it was long before it even occurred to those who brandished this one piece of Church furniture to break up all the other Church furniture that anybody could be so profane as to examine this one fragment of furniture itself. People were quite surprised, and in some parts of the world are still surprised, that anybody should dare to do so.

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