Choose a topic from Vol 2:


Proof of God's existence
God's nature
Supreme control over all things and the problem of suffering and evil


Destiny of man
Immortality of man's soul
Pre-existence denied
The human free will
Determinism absurd


Necessity of religion
Salvation of the soul
Voice of science
Religious racketeers
Divine revelation
Revealed mysteries
Existence of miracles

The Religion of the Bible

Gospels historical
Missing Books of the Bible
The Bible inspired
Biblical account of creation
New Testament problems
Supposed contradictions in Sacred Scripture

The Christian Faith

Source of Christian teaching
Jewish rejection of Christ
Christianity a new religion
Rational foundation for belief
Causes of unbelief

A Definite Christian Faith

Divisions amongst Christians
Schisms unjustified
Facing the problem
The wrong approach
Is one religion as good as another?
Obligation of inquiry
Charity and tolerance

The Protestant Reformation

Meaning of "Protestant"
Causes of the Reformation
Catholic reaction
Reformers mistaken
The idealization of Protestantism
The Catholic estimate

The Truth of Catholicism

Meaning of the word "Church"
Origin of the Church
The Catholic claim
The Roman hierarchy
The Pope
The Petrine text
St. Peter's supremacy
St. Peter in Rome
Temporal power
Unity of the Church
Holiness of the Church
Catholicity of the Church
Apostolicity of the Church
Indefectibility of the Church
Obligation to be a Catholic

The Church and the Bible

Catholic attitude towards the Bible
Is Bible reading forbidden to Catholics?
Protestant Bibles
The Catholic Douay Version
Principle of private interpretation
Need of Tradition
The teaching authority of the Catholic Church

The Dogmas of the Church

Revolt against dogma
Value of a Creed
The divine gift of Faith
Faith and reason
The "Dark Ages"
The claims of science
The Holy Trinity
Creation and evolution
Grace and salvation
The Sacraments
Holy Eucharist
The Sacrifice of the Mass
Holy Communion
The Catholic Priesthood
Marriage and divorce
Extreme Unction
The resurrection of the body
The end of the world

The Church and Her Moral Teachings

The Inquisition
Other superstitions
Attendance at Mass
Sex education
Attitude to "Free Love"

The Church in Her Worship

Magnificent edifices
Lavish ritual
Women in Church
Catholics and "Mother's Day"
Liturgical Days
Burial rites
Candles and votive lamps
The rosary
Lourdes water
The Scapular

The Church and Social Welfare

Social influence of the Church
The education question
The Church and world distress
Catholic attitude towards Capitalism
The remedy for social ills
Communism condemned
The Fascist State
Morality of war
May individuals become soldiers?
The Church and peace
Capital punishment
Catholic Action

Comparative Study of Non-Catholic Denominations

Defections from the Catholic Church
Coptic Church
Greek Orthodox Church
Anglican Episcopal Church
The "Free" or "Nonconformist" Churches
Church of Christ
Seventh Day Adventists
Plymouth Brethren
Catholic Apostolic Church or Irvingites
Salvation Army
Christian Science
British Israelism
Liberal Catholics
Witnesses of Jehovah
Buchmanism or the "Oxford Group Movement"
From Protestantism to Catholicism

To and From Rome

Conversion of Cardinal Newman
Why Gladstone refrained
The peculiar case of Lord Halifax
Gibbon the historian
Secession of Father Chiniquy
Father Tyrrell, the modernist
Bishop Garrett's departure
Judgment on lapsed Catholics
Protestant apathy towards conversion of Catholics
Principles for converts to Catholicism
God's will that all should become Catholics


361. What assurance did Christ give that His Church would be preserved from error?

When He said, "I will build my Church," He also said that "the gates of hell would never prevail against it." Matt. XVI., 18. But the forces of evil and of error would have prevailed against the Church had she not been rendered infallible. Again, He commanded men to hear the Church under pain of damnation. He sent the Church to teach in His name, and said, "He who hears you hears me." Lk. X., 16. And again, "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; he who believes not, shall be condemned." Mk. XVI., 16. He could not order us to believe the Church, with our very salvation at stake, yet not guarantee His Church against the possibility of leading us into disastrous errors quite opposed to His teachings. Moreover, when He commissioned the Church to go and to teach all nations, He promised to be with her all days till the end of the world (Matt. XXVIII., 20), and He sent the Holy Spirit to keep her as the "pillar and ground of truth." All this forbids the possibility of a departure from the revealed truth; or, in other words, constitutes a pledge of perpetual infallibility.

362. In Romans XI., 22, St. Paul wrote to the Church of Rome, telling her to "abide in goodness, otherwise thou also shall he cut off." That practically says, "You are not infallible. So beware."

St. Paul wrote those words to the ordinary members of the Church at Rome, with no reference to the infallibility of the Apostles and Bishops of the Church. To any and every Christian at Rome he said, "Soul, thou art not impeccable--so beware of pride. Take heed to thyself." Infallibility and impeccability are two very different things. Infallibility means that the Bishops as successors of the Apostles and official teachers of the Church are unable collectively to define erroneous doctrines as dogmas of the faith. Impeccability means that one could not commit sin and fall from grace. Christ was impeccable. But Christians are not impeccable, whether they be members of the laity or of the hierarchy of Bishops. Even the Pope is not impeccable. All can sin; and St. Paul is here particularly warning all against the sin of pride and of boasting against the Jews. He tells them that, as God rejected the Jews, so He will reject Christians also if they are not faithful.

363. In the lifetime of St. John the Lord found it necessary to rebuke the seven Churches in Asia for error. Rev. cc. I-III.

If you study the chapters more closely you will find that there is no hint that the teaching-authority of the Church was guilty of error in doctrine. Infallibility means that the Church cannot officially teach erroneous doctrine. But her officials can err in their conduct, and grow lax and careless in their administration. Infallibility, of course, whilst belonging to the whole Church collectively, belongs specifically in its particular exercise to the "Church-teaching," consisting of the Bishops. Security belongs to the whole Church, including the "Church-taught." But there is no guarantee that all members of the Church will ever retain the humility and docility of true Christians. Individuals can abandon the truth, and fall into error, and into sin. Then it is the duty of the Bishops to correct the wayward subjects. Now you will notice that each of the seven letters are addressed to the "angels" of the Churches. That is, they are addressed to the Bishops in charge of them. And in not one case does the charge concern erroneous doctrine. Thus St. John writes to the angel of the Church at Ephesus, "I know thou canst not bear them that are evil . . . and thou hatest the Nicolaites, which I also hate." To the angel of the Church of Pergamus, "Thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith." To the angel of the Church of Thyatira, "I know thy works, and thy faith, and thy charity." To the angel at Philadelphia, "Thou hast kept my word, and hast not denied my faith." Nowhere is the orthodoxy of the Bishops denied. Any blame concerns conduct, and carelessness towards others who would introduce wrong doctrine or laxity. As a matter of fact, the letters admit that the Bishops are the custodians of sound doctrine, and should attend to the banishing of error and heresy.

364. Truth only makes me ask you to consider these things.

Since you reject not only the infallibility of the Catholic Church, but also, I presume, your own infallibility as well, what guarantee have you that your own ideas are necessarily the truth? I have not the same problem; for, although I do not claim infallibility, I am subject to a Church which is infallible, and which gives me certainty of the truth. But you cannot claim certainty yourself, nor have you any certain guide. If ever a man had reason to pause, and seriously examine his own position, it is yourself.

365. Should not every individual have the right at a reasonable age to reject what does not appeal to him?

Certainly not. On that same principle one would have the right to reject what even Christ taught, if it did not happen to suit one's own ideas. How could any Christian consider himself free to challenge the knowledge or the veracity of Christ, or His right to exact obedience to His magisterial authority? The infallibility of Christ is just as much an obstacle to your principle as the infallibility of the Catholic Church. If, however, one never has the right to reject the teaching of Christ and of His Church, a Catholic may and should verify for himself the credentials of the Catholic Church to teach mankind in the name of, and with the authority of God. I would that every Catholic did so.

366. The Roman Church seems like a schoolmaster who fears to admit that he is wrong lest he lose prestige.

The Catholic Church is conscious of an infallibility guaranteed by God--an infallibility of which no schoolmaster can be conscious. Christ taught as one having authority, saying, "My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me." Jn. VII., 16. And the Catholic Church speaks in the same way. Where your schoolmaster knows that he is wrong and fears to admit it, the Catholic Church knows that she is not wrong. There is a world of difference between the two positions. Nor does the Church fear that she will lose her prestige. She dreads only lest any of her subjects should lose their souls.

367. Has not the Church of Rome sometimes digressed from spiritual matters to matters which did not concern her, as in the Galileo case?

You have not chosen a good example. The Galileo affair, though directly a matter of science, did indirectly concern the Church and spiritual interests, owing both to the circumstances of the time, and Galileo's own indulgence in theological speculations. The political arena would have provided better examples. But even there the Church as a Church did not digress from spiritual matters. No accepted temporal powers of the Popes in past ages have ever affected the official teachings of the Church in matters of faith and morals.

368. Did not an infallible Pope pronounce Galileo's theory of the revolution of the earth round the sun to be a damnable heresy?

No. Your question implies more than can rightly be said. The Committee of Cardinals and theologians appointed by the Pope to inquire into the theories of Galileo gave the verdict that they were false and contrary to Holy Scripture, and that Galileo himself was "gravely suspect of heresy." After the decision was given the Pope sanctioned it. And the decision, of course, was wrong. But the conditions required for infallibility were not present in this case.

369. Was the infallible Church right then--or now?

There are no grounds for that question, for the decree against the teaching of Galileo was never issued as an infallible decree. All who understand the conditions required for an infallible decision by the Catholic Church have long since given up the Galileo case as having any bearing on the question at all. Procter, a Protestant astronomer, says this: "It is absolutely certain that the decision in regard to Galileo's teaching, shown now to have been unsound, does not in the slightest degree affect the Catholic doctrine of infallibility whether of the Pope or of the Church." The Protestant historian Karl von Gebler writes, "The two Congregations of the Index, and the Inquisition, and the two Popes who sanctioned their decrees were in error. But no one has ever held that such decisions were infallible even when approved by the Pope, unless specially set forth according to all the conditions of an infallible utterance." Nor was the condemnation of Galileo unintelligible. Although his theory was right, no scientist today will admit that he advanced a single valid proof of the fact. So far as the evidence available was concerned, the old view was just as likely as the new one. Many scientists of the time were opposed to his teachings. And as a matter of fact, ten years before Galileo's condemnation, Kepler, a Protestant scientist, had been condemned for saying the same thing as Galileo by the Protestant theological faculty of Tubingen. The application of the theory to Sacred Scripture was also calculated to have a most disturbing religious effect upon people not prepared for the new knowledge, and from that point of view, efforts to prevent the popular diffusion of the theory were not imprudent. Apart from this judgment in the light of the times, however, the Galileo case has absolutely no bearing on the question of infallibility.

370. Besides being condemned, was not Galileo brutally tortured by the Inquisition?

No. Refusal to obey the authorities who forbade him to propagate his doctrines brought on Galileo a sentence of imprisonment, a sentence which was commuted into detention on parole in the Palace of the Grand Duke of Tuscany near Rome. From there he was allowed before long to retire to Siena, where he became the honored guest of the Archbishop. We Catholics do not deny any of the facts in the Galileo case merely because we would prefer that they were not true. But, admitting all the facts of history, we are quite able to show that none of them really militates against the truth of the Catholic Church. If a man says that Galileo was condemned and imprisoned without making any exaggerated statements about his punishment or any allusion to infallibility, we are quite prepared to admit his accuracy.

371. Does infallibility change to conform to times and circumstances?

No. Once an infallible decision has been given, it stands for all time. The Catholic Church is committed to that decision, and all Catholics are obliged to accept it as true.

372. How could a wrong infallible decision be converted into a right one?

A wrong infallible decision could not occur. It would be absolutely impossible for one Pope to define a given doctrine and for a subsequent Pope to define a contradictory doctrine.

373. You hold that not only the Catholic Church as a Church is infallible but that the Pope himself is personally so?

The Pope in his capacity as head of the Church is infallible.

374. Is the Pope blasphemous enough to call himself infallible?

He has faith enough to know that the Holy Ghost, the infallible Spirit of Truth, will preserve him from error when defining truths of faith or morals for the guidance of the whole Church.

375. Then he is bold enough to challenge the very Holy Spirit of God.

That is not true. He has humility enough to admit that his infallibility when he does exercise his supreme office as teacher of all the faithful is due, not to himself, but to that very Holy Spirit. You yourself are as sure of your own judgment as if you were infallible. Do you claim that the Holy Spirit is surely guiding you to the truth? If so, you are claiming just what the Pope claims, though the Pope claims it under much more limited conditions, and with much greater interests at stake.

376. I admit that if one could swallow "holus bolus" the doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope, an infallible man elected by fallible men, the rest would be easy.

We are not asked to swallow anything, as if it did not matter whether it were reasonable or not. We are asked to believe the doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope in matters of faith and morals. And then, indeed, as you say, the rest follows. For if the Pope is infallible, then there is no doubt that men are obliged to join the Catholic Church to which alone the infallible Pope belongs. But that your difficulty against infallibility is based upon a wrong notion of the Catholic doctrine is evident from your words, "an infallible man elected by fallible men." Your idea is that fallible men cannot give what they themselves do not possess. But no Catholic suggests that they do. If a business manager said, ''I shall create the position of overseer, and grant the occupant special privileges, yet I will allow the men to elect their own choice," the man elected would derive his authority from the manager, not from those who elected him. Thus Christ instituted the office of head of the Church, and granted the prerogative of infallibility to the occupant of the position when acting in his official capacity in certain matters. The Pope may owe his election to his fellow men; but he owes his infallibility to the Holy Spirit in virtue of the promise of Christ.

377. On what grounds do you hold that the Pope is infallible?

Because he is the lawful successor of St. Peter, and, therefore, inherits that privilege of St. Peter according to the will of Christ who declared that the Church would last till the end of the world with the constitutional powers He gave it.

378. Where do the Gospels say that even St. Peter was to be infallible?

The doctrine of St. Peter's infallibility is implicitly included in the Petrine texts, given earlier under No. 316. Also, since the whole Catholic Church is infallible, the Pope, as head of the Church, and the last court of appeal, must himself be infallible.

379. No one could accept the decision of any human being as infallible.

The infallibility of the Pope does not mean that we must accept as infallible the decision of a human being. You are leaving out the most important factor of all. If a criminal, after being sentenced to jail, cried out, "Why should I be sentenced by a mere fellow man?", the judge could reply, "For the purposes of this judgment I am not a mere fellow man. I am a man endowed with authority and jurisdiction by the State. In omitting reference to my official capacity, you are leaving out the most important factor of all." So with the Pope. We do not accept the decision of a human being as infallible; we accept the decision of a human being who has received authority from God to teach in His name, and whom God has promised to preserve from error when he teaches in his official capacity doctrines concerning faith or morals. Your question is due to an imperfect knowledge of what infallibility means, and the conditions governing its exercise.

380. The issue narrows down to this, that the Pope is enabled by his infallibility to interpret exactly the Word of God.

The doctrine is better stated negatively. Infallibility means that God will not permit the Pope to define ex Cathedra, or officially, a doctrine not in accordance with the genuine teaching of Christ. Therefore, if the Pope does define a doctrine, that doctrine cannot be against the true intention of Holy Scripture.

381. What does "Ex Cathedra" mean?

It means that the Pope must speak, where it is a question of exercising his infallibility, not as a private theologian, but in virtue of his office as supreme head of the whole Church on earth giving a decision for all the members of the Church on a matter of faith or morals.

382. Does not the prerogative of infallibility suggest that impurity of morals should never have existed amongst the Popes?

The prerogative of infallibility, rightly understood, has no bearing on this matter at all. The exalted office of supreme head of the Church, quite apart from infallibility, certainly suggests that impurity of morals ought not to have existed amongst the Popes. Hence, the distress of good Catholics when they learn that a few of the Popes led unworthy lives. But not for a moment does infallibility suggest that a Pope could not sin did he choose to do so. Catholics do not maintain that the Pope is necessarily impeccable, or simply unable to sin. We must not confuse impeccability and infallibility. They are two totally different things.

383. Surely a leader who failed in morals would forfeit his right to be the teacher of others!

That depends entirely upon the will of the one who appoints him to be the teacher. A bad man can give quite good advice to others. But your judgment is ruled out by our Lord Himself. Christ blamed the Pharisees for not living up to the moral principles appointed by God. He accused them of pride, vanity, injustice, and intolerance--worse sins than the less malicious frailties of the flesh. Yet He denied that they had forfeited the right to be teachers of others in the name of God. In Matt. XXIII., 2-3, He said to the people, "The Scribes and Pharisees have sitten on the chair of Moses. All things, therefore, they shall say to you, observe and do; but according to their works do ye not; for they say and do not." The few bad Popes said, and did not. And the Catholic Church absolutely forbids all Catholics to imitate in any way the wrong personal conduct of any bad Pope. But no bad Pope has ever defined a wrong doctrine, or pretended that his own wrong conduct was in accordance with Catholic moral principles.

384. If the Pope is infallible, why doesn't he give some straight-out rulings on modern problems?

What do you intend by modern problems? If they are outside the sphere of faith and moral principles, you have gone beyond the scope of infallibility. And you cannot expect infallibility to operate in a way that the Catholic doctrine does not demand that it should operate. Meantime, the Pope has given many straight-out rulings on modern problems within his competence--as on social justice, marriage, education, birth control, and other aspects of morality.

385. Is Pope Leo XIII.'s Encyclical on "Labor" an ex Cathedra utterance, and binding on Catholics under pain of sin should they doubt its teachings?

The Encyclical you mention is not an ex Cathedra utterance. But still Catholics are obliged in conscience to accept its teachings. For the authority of the Church is not limited to infallible definitions only. And quite apart from infallibility, Pope Leo XIII. certainly intended to give an authoritative statement of the moral principles of justice and charity in relation to the workers. Therefore, though we have not to make an act of divine faith in the truth of the Encyclical, we are obliged to accept it in a spirit of reverent obedience. Substantially, at least, we are obliged to take it for granted that the Pope's teaching in that Encyclical is not only not opposed to the doctrines of Christ, but is quite in harmony with them. If doubts come to us in this or that point of his teaching, we must make sure, firstly, that we have indeed understood its proper sense. If we are sure that we have not misunderstood his doctrine, then before allowing ourselves to doubt it, we should make a profound study of the whole subject so that we become competent to form a sound decision. If that study does not confirm our conviction that the Pope is right, then we can submit our difficulties to lawful ecclesiastical authorities, and ask a solution of them. To doubt, or rashly to deny the doctrine of the Encyclical on some given point, without taking these precautions, could become sin in any Catholic who is well instructed enough to know the significance of his conduct.



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