Catholic Infallibility Issues
By Pat Miron
Fidelity to the Truth: The Bible, the Pope, and Christ Church.
These are among the more constant and contentious issues confronting The Roman Catholic Church. The infallibility of the Holy Bible, our Supreme Pontiff and the Church’s Magisterium and Official Doctrine and Dogma’s of our faith as issued by them. Many souls are lost because they refuse to accept God at His word on these topics (Yes I did mean to say God.) To be very clear, not only are we saying that they are not in error, and are de facto infallible, but also that there exist not the slightest possibility of error. The Holy Bible, Our Supreme Pontiff and the Roman Catholic teaching authority, we term the Magesterium, not only must always speak the truth, they are literally incapable of not speaking the truth in official, qualified pronouncements on matters of Faith and Morals.
Jesus Himself tells us: “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Jn: 8:32 Truth is: “Conformity of fact or reality.” In the end, there is but a single truth for every reality.
Proceeding with two assumptions, the first of which is that we believe in a Supreme Creator, whom we call God, and secondly that we accept the basic premise of Jesus Christ as Savior. These truths are accepted by all who claim to be Christian. The fact that you are reading this booklet, gives ample evidence that these are reasonable assumptions.
The foundation for the issue of infallibility lay in the very essence and words of God Himself, who we are told in a doctrine of our faith from the chair of Peter, cannot lie. God is both all good and all just. A lie would violate both of these attributes. Our human nature often rebels at having to accept truths, which we ourselves are unable to explain, justify or fully comprehend. Therefore an element of faith is often required. Pope John Paul II found it necessary to explain, as had previous Pontiffs, the issues of absolute truth and infallibility. In every age, both from within the Church, and from enemies outside her embrace are those who put forth, for their own purpose and with damnable intent, candy coated heresies.
On September 14, 1998, Pope John Paul II, issued his encyclical letter, binding on all of God’s children, Fides Et Ratio (Faith and Reason). Here are a few of the truths shared in this binding on ALL document.
“God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth.”
“The relationship between man’s freedom and God’s law is most deeply lived out in the “heart” of the person, in his moral conscience. As the Second Vatican Council observed: “In the depths of his conscience man detects a law which he does not impose on himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and to avoid evil, the voice of conscience can when necessary speak to his heart more specifically: ‘do this, shun that.’ For man has in his heart a law written by God. To obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged.” (cf. Rom. 2: 14-16) Veritatis Splendor, The Splendor OF The Truth, Pope John Paul II, no. 54.
“Recent times have seen the rise to prominence of various doctrines which tend to devalue even the truths which had been judged certain. A legitimate plurality of positions has yielded to an undifferentiated pluralism, based upon the assumption that all positions are equally valid, which is one of today’s most widespread symptoms of the lack of confidence in truth. (The “fundamental Option.”) Denying truth its exclusive character and assuming that truth reveals itself equally in different doctrines, even if they contradict one another. On this understanding, everything is reduced to opinion; and there is a sense of being adrift.” FE- No.5
“Underlying all the Church’s thinking is the awareness that she is the bearer of a message which has its origin in God himself.” “We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” cf. 2 Cor: 4:1-2.” The knowledge, which the Church offers to man, has its origin not in any speculation of her own, however sublime, but in the word of God which she has received in faith cf. 1 Th: 2:13. “In his goodness and wisdom, God chose to reveal himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of his will” cf. Eph: 1:9, by which, through Christ, the Word made flesh, man has access to the Father in the Holy Spirit and comes to share in the divine nature” This initiative is utterly gratuitous, moving from God to men and women in order to bring them to salvation. As the source of love, God desires to make himself known; and the knowledge which the human being has of God perfects all that the human mind can know of the meaning of life.” FE – No.7 – Chapter 1
[Blessed] Pope John Paul II points out: “One of the great evidences of the truth of our Roman Catholic faith, are the countless numbers, many in extreme pain, who have given their very lives in belief of and support of her truth. “The martyrs know that they have found the truth about life in the encounter with Jesus Christ, and nothing and no-one could ever take this certainty from them. Neither suffering nor violent death could ever lead them to abandon the truth , which they have discovered in the encounter with Christ. The martyrs provide evidence of a love that has no need of lengthy arguments in order to convince. The martyrs stir in us a profound trust because they give voice to what we already know.” FE -No.32 – Chapter 3 The very same gifts available to the Saints and martyrs, are offered to you and me. Like them, we are expected to accept and use them for our own good and the good of His Church.
“In Jesus Christ, the whole of God’s truth has been made manifest. ‘Full of grace and truth,’ he came as the ‘light of the world,’ he is the Truth. ‘Whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.’ CCC 2466 Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.’ ” Jn: 14: 6
“Man tends by nature toward the truth. He is obliged to honor and bear witness to it: ‘It is in accordance with their dignity that all men, because they are persons . . . are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth’ ” CCC 2467
Infallibility of the Holy Bible, God’s inspired, written word.
For a professed Christian to deny the infallibility of the Holy Bible would be paramount to denying the possibility of salvation. Absurd, ridiculous, and unheard of in Christian circles. Rather than the denial of these historically provable truths, the dispute is in not what the bible says, rather, what does it mean, and whom does it bind. It is these issues that factor heavily into God’s one church, becoming over thirty thousand, none – agreeing, different theology and different philosophy branches. Yet in the end there is only one truth, so how can there be different versions of it?
“Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit.” CCC 81
Our understanding of the infallibility of the Holy Bible is aided by the teaching of Pope John Paul II, as we continue to quote and reference his 1998-binding Encyclical, Fides Et Ratio.
“Sacred Scripture indicates with remarkably clear cues how deeply related are the knowledge conferred by faith and the knowledge conferred by reason; and it is in the Wisdom literature (The following books are the consistory of Wisdom books of the Holy Bible: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes(Sirach), Song Of Songs, and Wisdom) that this relationship is addressed most explicitly. What is striking about these biblical texts, if [when] they are read without prejudice, is that they embody not only the faith of Israel, but also the treasury of cultures and civilizations which have long vanished.” FE- No.16 – Chapter 2
The bible is provable in three ways. (1) From historical written, persevered documents of the period. (2) From exegesis (study that explains text) (3) from divine Revelation as can only be interpreted by the Church Christ founded. “The bible not only contains the word of God, it is the word of God.” This the proclamation of The Vatican Council, Sess. III, c ii . One must also allow heavy weight of authority to Catholic Tradition, which bears much weight of historical evidence and lends full support to divine Revelation.
“Whatever its source, truth is of the Holy Spirit” FE -No.49 –Chapter 4
The bride of Christ, His Holy Catholic Church retains the sole right to interpret God’s holy written word, for several very important reasons. The bible is de facto, either Gods own words, or God’s inspired words. As previously shown, God desired to establish, and in fact did establish, only one Church. It therefore follows with clear and simple logic that He would desire that one and same body explain, define and declare, under the inspirations of His Holy Spirit, what He meant, and whom it binds. Those who do not accept this proclamation do so, because to do anything else, would sustain acknowledgement of the fact that they have no God given authority to separate from the only Church that the Christ founded. If their authority to defy God’s desire for a single Church and all of it’s subsequent rules, doctrines and dogmas is not from God, then from whom, and from where, and should you be a part of it? This statement cannot, and does not apply to those who have not yet been given the knowledge, truth and opportunity to become members of Gods foundational Church
The Council of Trent identified the books, which must be considered “as sacred and canonical.” They are the seventy-two books found in Catholic editions, forty-five in the Old Testament and twenty-seven in the New. Protestant copies usually lack seven books Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiastics (Sirach), Baruch, and I, II Machabees and parts of books Esther 10:4-16:24, and Daniel 3:24-90; 13:1-14:42, Catholic Encyclopedia
“God is the author of Sacred Scripture because he inspired its human authors; he acts in them and by means of them. He thus gives assurance that their writings teach without error his saving truth. cf. DV 11- CCC 136
“In order to discover the sacred authors’ intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking and narrating then current. “For the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression. “ CCC 110
Gods own holy words sustain the truth of the Bible
“For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle, (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” 1Tim: 2:7
“For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.” 2 Cor: 13: 8
“For I have given them the words which you gave me, and they have received them and know
in truth that I came from thee.” Jn: 17: 8
“To them we did not yield submission even for a moment, that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.” Gal: 2: 5
It is with clear, inspired understanding of the infallibility of the Roman Catholic bible, edited, clarified and certified, that we quote it freely, frequently and confidently. After all, it is Gods very own words.
The Infallibility of The Catholic Pope
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” Lk: 22: 31-32 The relationship of Jesus the Christ and Saint Peter, our first Pontiff was a personal one. Yet it was not based solely on a personal preference; we do well to recall that numerous times, Christ reminded us that He was sent to “do the will of The Father.” This personal relationship is evidenced many times. Peter was chosen for every special event of Christ ministry on earth. From the Transfiguration to His Agony in the garden, Peter was not simply included, but he was the primary witness and student. When the issue of paying the temple tax arose, when Jesus asked, “And who do you say that I am?” the washing of the feet, the denial of Jesus, and the subsequent affirmation of love and fidelity of Peter for Jesus and His Church give evidence of this special, personal relationship.
We also need to be aware of the leadership role assigned to Saint Peter by Jesus, and the acceptance of that role by Peter and the Apostles. “Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. “He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Mt: 16: 15 –16 “Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you.” Mt: 26:35
This is after the event of Christ rising form the dead. “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” Jn.: 21: 15-17
Infallibility does not imply, nor does it demand perfect holiness, or a spotless, sinless character in the Pontiff, or the Magisterium articulating the truth expressed. Almighty God proclaims and substantiates their truth. Peter, like all mankind (except Mary, the Mother of Jesus) was a sinner, but a sincerely repentant one. It is understood that our God is a Mighty God, indeed an All-mighty God, who has in the past, used men of questionable worth; Saints Peter, Paul, Moses, and even ordinary folks like you and me, to accomplish His goals, His will, will always be done. All infallible pronouncements are inspired, and directed by the Holy Spirit, God Himself, and it is this certainty, this reality, this truth that confirms the authority they proclaim. Certainly, coming from holy, pious God fearing men is preferred, but it is not a requirement. cf. CCC 1550
“In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, and high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth. This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis: It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person his minister truly represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is truly made like to the high priest and possesses the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself (virtute ac persona ipsius Christi). “ CCC 1548
The Church is a society; as such it must have laws that guide, and govern.
No civil society is capable of governance without laws. The binding, guiding laws of the Roman Catholic Church are found in: God’s Commandments, The Code of Canon law for Ecclesiastical (church) governance, The General Instruction of The Roman Missal – GRIM, for Liturgical governance, and the Catechism of The Catholic Church, for understanding doctrine and dogma. God’s code for living is found in Holy Scripture, and in condensed version in the Lord’s Prayer, and the Sermon on the Mount. What we believe is summarized in our Creed.
“In virtue of his office the Supreme Pontiff is infallible in his teaching when, as chief Shepherd and Teacher of all Christ’s faithful, with the duty of strengthening his brethren in the faith, he proclaims by definitive act a doctrine to be held concerning faith or morals.” CIC 749 §1
“The office uniquely committed by the Lord to Peter, the first of the Apostles, and to be transmitted to his successors, abides in the Bishop of the Church of Rome. He is the head of the College of Bishops, the Vicar of Christ, and the Pastor of the universal Church here on earth. Consequently, by virtue of his office, he has supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church, and he can always freely exercise this power.” CIC 331
“There is neither appeal nor recourse against a judgment or a decree of the Roman Pontiff.” CIC 331-§3
The domino like authority on the doctrine of infallibility continues as we discuss the infallibility of “The Church.” Authority both directly and indirectly from God, through Jesus, inspired and directed by the Holy Spirit, to Saint Peter, and those who replace him in legal succession.
The people of God: Who are we?
“Christ’s faithful are those who, since they are incorporated into Christ through baptism,
are constituted the people of God. For this reason they participate in their own way in the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ. They are called, each according to his or her particular condition, to exercise the mission, which God entrusted to the Church to fulfill in the world.”
CIC 204 §1 “This Church, established and ordered in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him. CIC 204 §2 “Those baptized are in full communion with the Catholic Church here on earth who are joined with Christ in his visible body, through the bonds of profession of faith, the sacraments and ecclesiastical governance.” CIC 205 “Christ’s faithful are bound to preserve their communion with the Church at all times, even in their external actions. CIC. 209 §1 ”They are to carry out with great diligence their responsibilities towards both the universal Church and the particular Church to which by law they belong. CIC. 209 §2 “All Christ’s faithful, each according to his or her own condition, must make a wholehearted effort to lead a holy life, and to promote the growth of the Church and its continual sanctification.” CIC 210
The Magisterium’s discernment as diakonia (sharer) of the truth
“The Church, the “pillar and bulwark of the truth,” “has received this solemn command of Christ from the apostles to announce the saving truth.” “To the Church belongs the right always and everywhere to announce moral principles, including those pertaining to the social order, and to make judgments on any human affairs to the extent that they are required by the fundamental rights of the human person or the salvation of souls.” CCC 2032
The speaking voice of the Roman Catholic Church is manifested always (“In communion”) with the Supreme Pontiff, through the “Magisterium” (teaching authority), which consists of all bishops who are faithful to, and obedient to, the Pope. The Magisterium operates in two manners: Magisterium Extraordinary, in a solemn way with formal pronouncements, and Magisterium Ordinary, through the normal channels of instruction of the faithful. The Magisterium Extraordinary always speaks infallibly, and when the Magisterium Ordinary speaks universally, that is, collectively intended for all the faithful, it too speaks infallibility. cf. Catholic dictionary
The Magisterium then, is the speaking voice of the Catholic Church. It consists of four declarative bodies. The Pope, who can and regularly does, speak independently on his own, the College of bishops, who at times of greater need or clarification, gather in Ecumenical Council, and the constant presence of the various Synod of Bishops (groups of bishops from general geographical locals, with common language and traditions), and the Roman Curia, inner circle of Cardinals selected for Church governance as well as instruction of the faith. Each body reports to the Supreme Pontiff, is subject to him, and derives all of their authority from him. Indeed, they have no authority apart from communion with him, who is representative of Christ on earth.
”The head of the College of Bishops is the Supreme Pontiff, and its members are the Bishops by virtue of their sacramental consecration and hierarchical communion with the head of the College and its members. This College of Bishops, in which the apostolic body abides in an unbroken manner, is, in union with its head and never without this head, also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church.” CIC 336
The College of Bishops and Church Councils
Only the Pope may call Church Council into being, and decide it’s topical content. He must approve all of its doctrine, dogma, and directives, as well as determine how they are to be issued, and whom they bind. Our church history has seen both local and general councils. General councils have greater authority. Vatican II was a general Council as was the Council of Trent. Cf. Canons 338, 341.
The Synod of Bishops
Bishops from different parts of the world meet regionally at regular intervals to assist the Roman Pontiff in defense of the faith, to promote a close relationship with the Bishop of Rome, and in support of ecclesiastical discipline. They also consider questions concerning the mission of the Church in the world. As a rule they discuss topics and matters proposed to them, which the Roman Pontiff must ratify, before they are propagated. Recent years have seen deliberate disobedience of this well – known mandate by various Synods, including America’s. Bishops only have the authority invested in them, emanating from God, through the Supreme Pontiff. Our Universal Church cannot exist without rules of governance. Civil society does not permit, and cannot permit, individual members to write their own laws, nor can any member, outside of the Supreme Pontiff, choose to, on their own authority, write or ignore written law. Ecclesial governance is not a democracy, might be better defined as a “benevolent dictatorship”.
The role of the Roman Curia within the Catholic Church
Cardinals under the age of seventy-two are the Church body, inspired by God to elect The Pope. Cardinals are also selected by the Pope to head various branches of church government. In doing so they speak with the ”Popes voice, and with the Popes authority.” They too get authority from, and must be faithful to, and obedient to, the Pope to have binding authority. cf Can.360 “The term Apostolic See or Holy See mean not only the Roman Pontiff, but also, unless the contrary is clear from the nature of things or from the context, the Secretariat of State, the Council for the public affairs of the Church, and the other Institutes of the Roman Curia.” Can. 361
“The Church’s Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes, in a definitive way, truths having a necessary connection with these.” CCC 88
“The mission of the Magesterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magesterium task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magesterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals.” CCC 890
“Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful ‘are to adhere to it with religious assent’ which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.” CCC 892
“Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that He has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because He is truth itself. By faith ‘man freely commits his entire self to God.’ For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God’s will. ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ Living faith “work[s] through charity.’ ” CCC 1814 “Faith is man’s first step, a free step towards God. “ Theology: Science of Salvation, Father Rene’ Latourelle, Pg. 145
As we conclude this chapter, we are encouraged to pray for strength and enlightenment. Ours is not a simple faith to accept or understand; TRUTH always remains truth, and faith is a challenge from God that allows us to humbly submit our will to His. The Holy Spirit remains in our mist to aid and guide us. We term the collection of truths about our beliefs, “our Catholic faith,” for good reason. Faith, a somewhat blind condition exist so that we must rely on the source of all truth, the Holy Spirit, for understanding, and the willingness to accept that which are not permitted to understand. Come Holy Spirit come!
Catholics are not prohibited “free thought,” rather all Christians, especially informed, practicing Roman Catholics are under grave moral obligation to have an informed conscience, (CCC 1783, 1784, 1785) which inevitably leads us to humble obedience to our Pope and the Catholic Magisterium who are Divinely inspired to teach us what is beneficial, even necessary to our salvation. It is after all, not human, but Divine instruction that we are following. Amen! Pride is the devils key to our soul.
Discussion Questions: Chapter Four
Why must one seek the truth? How does God guide us in this search? How many truths might there be for a single issue?
What does Pope John Paul II suggest is clear and persuasive evidence for the position the Catholic Church puts forth “for Catholic infallibility issues?”
How do we know that the bible is true? Does this mean everything in the bible is to be taken literally?
What is the authority of papal pronouncements? Are all papal pronouncements infallible? Are all papal pronouncements binding? Whom do they bind? Does a papal announcement need be ”infallible” in order to bind?
5. What is the name of the “teaching authority” of the Catholic Church. Who are members of this body? What is their authority?
6. How does a pope generally exercise the duties of his office.