Choose a topic from Vol 3:


Reason proves God's existence
Primitive monotheism
Mystery of God's inner nature
Personality of God
Providence of God and the problem of evil


Immortal destiny of man
Can earth give true happiness?
Do human souls evolve?
Is transmigration possible?
Animal souls
Freedom of will
Free will and faith


Religion and God
The duty of prayer
The mysteries of religion
Can we believe in miracles?

The Religion of the Bible

Historical character of the Gospels
Canonical Books of the Bible
Original Manuscripts
Copyists' errors
Truth of the Bible
New Testament "contradictions"

The Christian Religion

Christianity alone true
Not the product of religious experience
Compared with Buddhism, Confucianism, Mahometanism, Bahaism, etc.,
Rejected by modern Jews
The demand for miracles
The necessity of faith
Difficulties not doubts
Proofs available
Dispositions of unbelievers

A Definite Christian Faith

One religion not as good as another
Changing one's religion
Catholic convictions and zeal
Religious controversy
The curse of bigotry
Towards a solution

The Problem of Reunion

Efforts at the reunion of the Churches
The Church of England as a "Bridge-Church"
Anglicans and the Greek Orthodox Church
The "Old Catholics" of Holland
Reunion Conferences
Catholic Unity
The Papacy as reunion center
Protestant hostility to Catholicism
The demands of charity

The Truth of Catholicism

Necessity of the Church
The true Church
Catholic claim absolute
A clerical hierarchy
Papal Supremacy
Temporal Power
Unity of the Church
Holiness of the Church
Catholicity of the Church
Catholic attitude to converts
Indefectible Apostolicity
Necessity of becoming a Catholic

The Church and the Bible

Catholic belief in the Bible
Bible-reading and private interpretation
Value of Tradition and the "Fathers"
Guidance of the Church necessary

The Dogmas of the Catholic Church

Dogmatic certainty
Credal statements
Faith and reason
The voice of science
Fate of rationalists
The dogma of the Trinity
Creation and evolution
The existence of angels
Evil spirits or devils
Man's eternal destiny
The fact of sin
Nature and work of Christ
Mary, the mother of God
Grace and salvation
The sacraments
Holy Eucharist
The Sacrifice of the Mass
Holy Communion
Marriage and divorce
Extreme Unction
Man's death and judgment
Resurrection of the body
End of the World

Moral Teachings of the Catholic Church

Catholic intolerance
The Spanish Inquisition
Prohibition of Books
Liberty of worship
Forbidden Socieities
Church attendance
The New Psychology
Deterministic philosophy
Marriage Legislation
Birth Prevention
Monastic Life
Convent Life
Legal defense of murderers
Laywers and divorce proceedings
Judges in Divorce
Professional secrecy

The Church in Her Worship

Why build churches?
Glamor of ritual
The "Lord's Prayer"
Pagan derivations
Liturgical symbolism
Use of Latin
Intercession of Mary and the Saints

The Church and Social Welfare

The Church and Education
The Social Problem
Social Duty of the Church
Catholicism and Capitalism


373. When one looks at the Catholic Church as she is in herself, one is amazed at the apparent self-righteous and supreme egotism of her teachings.

The Catholic Church certainly claims to be infallible; but she cannot be accused of self-righteousness when she declares that the rightness of her doctrines is due, not to herself, but to the fact that they have been revealed by Almighty God. Nor can she be accused of egotism when she explains that she is not free to compromise God's rights by admitting that human thoughts contradicting His teachings are equally correct. You yourself may not agree that the Catholic Church has such certainty that her teachings are revealed by God; but, granted that the Catholic Church believes it, she cannot be accused of adopting a self-righteous and egotistical attitude.

374. I cannot agree that your Church has a monopoly of the eternal truths.

We do not make that claim. People can know many eternal truths quite independently of the Catholic Church. It is not necessary to be a Catholic, for example, to know that there is a God, or that there is a moral law obliging us to do what is right and avoid what is wrong. What we do maintain is that the Catholic Church has a monopoly of divine authority and certainty in teaching the eternal truths in their fullness as revealed by God. As you do not admit that any other body in this world possesses such a divine teaching authority, you will not resent the denial of the Catholic Church that any other possesses it. The only thing that you could resent would be the fact that the Catholic Church claims it. All I can suggest is that you study the grounds on which she bases that claim.

375. If the Pope is infallible, you make him God.

Since we deny vehemently that he is God, you cannot say that we make him God. But, of course, you mean that our doctrine seems impossible to you save on the hypothesis that the Pope is accepted as God. But that is not necessary. A violin giving out beautiful music is not a musician. You may say that the violin doesn't think the music, but that the Pope thinks the dogmas. Yet insofar as the Pope thinks, he is not infallible, and we have not got to believe his thought but his official declaration of the traditional teaching of Christ. Popes have committed their thoughts to writing, yet their books have much less authority in the Church than the works of a simple monk like St. Thomas Aquinas. It is not the Pope's thoughts, but the Pope's office which counts. To him in his official capacity as successor of St. Peter, our Lord's words apply, "I have prayed for thee, Peter, that thy faith fail not; and do thou confirm thy brethren." God can certainly preserve the Pope from making a wrong definition of doctrine, and He has promised to do so.

376. You have to admit that infallibility is superhuman, and that if the Pope has the duty of a superman, he is a superman.

I will not admit anything of the kind. He is not a superman. The personal powers of the Pope do not enter into the matter. Christ has prayed for him. Christ preserves him from mistakes when, in his official capacity, he defines a doctrine for the universal Church. That is enough. Before a definition, the Pope has no greater personal certainty than any other theologian. After a definition, the Pope is as bound to believe it as any other Catholic. And he believes it as a thing above him, of which he has been the humble instrument.

377. Upon what precisely is the Catholic claim based?

Upon the will of Christ who established the Catholic Church and declared that she would be infallible as the guardian of the Faith.

378. The Christian religion does not need to be guarded. It is from God, and that is sufficient guard.

The New Testament itself does not sanction that idea. St. Paul wrote to Timothy: "I charge thee before God and Jesus Christ, who shall judge the living and the dead . . . preach the word. Be instant in season, out of season; reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine, for there shall be a time when they will not endure sound doctrine; but according to their desires they will heap up to themselves teachers, and will turn away their hearing from the truth." 2 Tim. IV., 1-4. And again he wrote to Titus that a bishop must embrace "that faithful word which is according to doctrine, that he may be able to exhort in sound doctrine, and to convince the gainsayers. For there are many disobedient who must be reproved, who subvert whole houses, teaching things they ought not. Wherefore rebuke them sharply that they may be sound in faith." Tit. I., 9-13. St. Paul knew that God had entrusted His religion to the guardianship of the Catholic Church which he calls the "pillar and ground of truth." I Tim. III., 15.

379. I presume that, before a definition is given, the matter is thoroughly discussed in order to eliminate the danger of a faulty verdict, and the definition based on a majority decision?

You seem to suppose, quite wrongly, that the infallibility of the Church depends ultimately upon human prudence. It does not. It depends ultimately upon the assistance of the Holy Ghost. It is to be noted that we say "assistance," and not "inspiration." The Holy Spirit does not necessarily inspire the Pope in such matters. Before a pronouncement is made, the matter is thoroughly discussed, theologians studying the whole question deeply in the light of Scripture, Apostolic tradition, the writings of the Fathers, and doctrinal analogies. If they decide that the proposed definition is in conformity with the revelation given by Christ, they so inform the Pope. He personally then weighs the question, pondering over it and praying for light. So far no definition has been made. Now what if, after all care has been taken, the proposed doctrine is false? Then, in virtue of the gift of infallibility, the Pope would be prevented from defining the doctrine by the Holy Spirit. How? By some special illumination of mind, or by some external miraculous sign, if necessary; or, if despite these things, the Pope were to determine to define the error, he would drop dead before he would be allowed to use his supreme authority to impose an heretical definition upon the whole Church. Whatever means might be used by God to prevent the Pope from defining error, he would certainly not be permitted to issue an erroneous definition.

380. What if, in previous discussions, the minority of Cardinals and theologians were right, and the majority wrong?

In discussions prior to a Papal definition, if the minority were right, the majority would be wrong; and if a majority were right, the minority would be wrong. But there could be no infallible knowledge as to which group was right and which wrong, unless the Pope decided to define the issue. Should he do so, we would know infallibly that the group which had previously maintained the defined doctrine was right-whether it was the majority or the minority. We must keep in mind that discussions prior to an infallible definition do not contribute to the infallibility of that decision. Infallibility is due to the influence of the Holy Spirit.

381. If at any time the whole hierarchy of the Catholic Church were to become vicious, would not that suggest a withdrawal of Christ's protection - and, therefore, a loss of infallibility?

Infallibility consists in certainty as regards the defined teachings of the Church, not in the impeccability of her officials. At the same time, if the whole hierarchy were to fall into moral corruption, one could possibly challenge the doctrine of Christ's protection of the Church on the score that one of her essential notes is holiness even in the lives of her members in general. But no stage of the history of the Catholic Church could justify the grotesque charge that the whole of the Catholic hierarchy was utterly corrupt.

382. As the Church relies for her doctrines on St. Jerome's Version of the Bible, must we believe that St. Jerome was infallible?

St. Jerome was definitely not infallible. The original writers of Sacred Scripture were infallible, not subsequent translators or transcribers. St. Jerome's translation derives its real value from the fact that the Catholic Church has approved it; but even that approval is disciplinary rather than doctrinal. The Church does not say that no error ever occurred in St. Jerome's Version. But your difficulty arises from your erroneous notion as to the source of the infallibility of the Church. It is not derived from any human sources. If it were, that would be the end of infallibility, for merely human sources are necessarily fallible. If the Pope is asked to define infallibly the sense of some teaching of Scripture, theologians and Scripture scholars are appointed to study the matter in question. They study both text and context in the Vulgate of St. Jerome, compare it with other Versions and Manuscripts, search out the unanimous teaching of the Fathers if such unanimity is to be had, watch carefully the analogy of Catholic dogma, and present their conclusions to the Pope. The Pope may decide not to define the question, and the conclusion of scholars will then remain a probable or perhaps a certain conclusion of theologians without its becoming an infallible decision binding as a matter of strict faith. But if the Pope does give a decision ex cathedra as head of the whole Church, the Holy Spirit will safeguard him from defining any error. The definition then derives its value, not from the previous researches of theologians, nor from any personal thought bestowed upon the subject by the Pope himself, but from the protection and assistance of the Holy Ghost. From all this you can see that natural efforts at the translation of Scripture, whether by St. Jerome or anybody else, are not the foundation for the infallibility of the Catholic Church.

383. Is it not strange that scientists, and not the infallible Church, have revealed those momentous Divine Laws of nature which have resulted in man's progress?

It is not in the least strange that purely natural forces should be discovered and made known to man as a result of human study rather than by the infallible Church. For the Catholic Church does not exist for the purpose of making known the natural secrets of the universe. She exists to safeguard and teach the supernatural revelation of man's eternal and supernatural destiny made known by God through the Prophets and His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. You may think that the teaching of science should have been included in the scope of the mission of the Church. But our own speculations must give way before facts. And the fact is that Christ commissioned His Church to teach all nations all things whatsoever He had taught in the name of His Father.

384. Is not the material progress of mankind important?

It is worthy of his attention. But so far as natural development is concerned, God has left that to man himself. He does not make civilization, but wills that man should. However, He has not willed to reveal in advance the natural knowledge which can and should be the fruit of man's own initiative and the progressive exercise of his natural powers. The Church encourages men in their efforts at material and cultural progress; but her specific duty is to see that they do not neglect their spiritual welfare, nor the claims of God upon them. She must keep reiterating from age to age what God has said of Himself and of man's supreme destiny beyond the confines of this life. She must warn men of what they are in constant danger of forgetting-that they must serve God and save their souls, rather than allow themselves to be hypnotized by the transitory things of this life.

385. Scientific inventions, such as radio transmission, have a great influence for good and evil.

Of themselves they have no moral influence either for good or for evil. Such influence is due to the moral goodness or to the wickedness of the men who make use of them; and it is the duty of the Church to induce men to be morally good. To equip the Church for this work the religion of Christ was entrusted to her keeping.

386. Did not the Pope became infallible only in 1870?

No. All through the ages the Popes have been infallible. In 1870, the fact that he is infallible was defined as an article of faith, whilst a more precise decision was given concerning the matters concerning which his infallibility could be exercized and under what conditions.

387. When was the first claim made for papal infallibility?

Implicitly the infallibility of the Pope was admitted from the very beginning, for it was a necessary accompaniment of the Primacy over the whole Church against which Christ promised that the forces of error and evil would never prevail. All the declarations of the Fathers from the earliest times insisting that the Roman Church was the standard, especially in matters of faith, to which all Christians must conform, contain the principles and formulas summed up in the term infallibility. I do not give you a long list of quotations from Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus, Cyprian, Jerome, Augustine, and the other Fathers; nor of various early documents issued by the Popes themselves. All I do say is that, as men got clearer and clearer notions of the teaching authority of the whole Church and of the Primacy of the Bishop of Rome, so they secured clearer notions of the infallibility of the Pope. In 433 A. D., we find Pope Sixtus III. declaring that all know that to assent to his decision is to assent to St. Peter who lives in his successors, and whose faith fails not. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 A. D., on receiving the dogmatic letters of Pope Leo the Great, said, "Peter has spoken by Leo." In the year 1270, 600 years before the definition of the doctrine by the Vatican Council, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote as follows: "Renewed statements of doctrine are necessary to avoid new errors. Therefore, he has authority to issue definitions of faith who has authority to determine what is of faith, and to be held by all who profess the faith. But this belongs to the authority of the Supreme Pontiff, to whom matters more difficult and of more serious moment are referred. Therefore, our Lord said to Peter, whom He constituted Supreme Pontiff: "I have prayed for thee, Peter, that thy faith fail not." In 1870, the Vatican Council officially defined this infallibility of the Pope, thus making explicit what had been contained implicitly in Christian revelation from the beginning.

388. Why was the infallibility of the Pope defined only in 1870? Did the Popes before then know that they were infallible?

Before the definition of infallibility in 1870, the Popes did not know that they were infallible with the same full certainty of faith as that possessed by later Popes. But they were infallible in fact. The gift of papal infallibility was essential to the Church, not the definition of the gift. You wonder why it was defined only in 1870. But definitions are not given unnecessarily. If no discussion arises on a given point, and no one disputes it, there is no need of a definition. But in the seventeenth century the question of the Pope's doctrinal authority came more and more to the front, until in 1870, the Vatican Council was asked to settle the question once and for all. The time had come for the Church to know herself fully on this point, so she looked herself in the face, and defined this particular aspect of her teaching authority. If you ask why such a definition only after nearly 2,000 years,I ask why is a man fully developed only after some thirty years? The vitality of the Church supposes growth ever retaining stability of type. And remember that the Catholic Church is very young yet. A thousand years are as a day to her; and she will last till the end of the world.

389. Did the Church in 1870 take new stock of herself?

The Church must ever be taking new stock of herself, even to the extent of discovering new things about herself concerning which she was not so clear before. But notice that this acquiring of new knowledge concerning herself does not imply a denial of anything already known.

390. In other words, was the definition of infallibility revisional in its effects?

That question cannot be called an alternative rendering of your previous question. For the Church can take new stock of herself without repudiating former estimates. Treating this, therefore, as a separate question, I reply definitely that the definition of infallibility was not revisional in its effects. The Church defined in 1870 that the Pope is infallible when he solemnly decides matters of faith or moral teaching, speaking in virtue of his supreme office and intending to declare an article of faith binding upon all the faithful throughout the world. That definition did away with no previous definition to the contrary. If some individual Catholics thought, prior to 1870, that the Pope was not infallible under these conditions, then they, of course, had to revise their opinions after 1870. But their opinions prior to 1870 did not reflect the official teaching of the Church.

391. Before 1870 would it be difficult to distinguish ex cathedra pronouncements from others less distinguished?

No. That is evident from the fact that from the earliest ages the Church has defined the truth against heretics, all Catholics acknowledging the definitions given by the various Councils once the Pope had authorized them ex Cathedra in his official capacity as head of the Church.

392. Does infallibility belong to the Pope only?

Infallibility belongs to the teaching Church, and, therefore, to all Catholic bishops throughout the world, taken as a collective episcopate. The Catholic bishops, of whom the Pope is one, of course, have infallibility in their collective unity. But, as the Pope is the supreme bishop in the Church, this unity is procured by and derived from him. A council of bishops not confirmed by the Pope would lack infallibility. The Pope without a general Council of bishops enjoys infallibility; a Council of bishops without the Pope does not. In other words, the body of bishops, when in union with the Pope, has a confirmed infallibility. But the Pope alone has the infallibility which confirms. This is the logical application of our Lord's words to St. Peter, "I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not, and do thou confirm thy brethren."

393. Is it not true that before the Vatican Council, the doctrine of papal infallibility was strongly maintained by one party in the Church, tolerated by another, and utterly rejected by a third?

It is true that a division of opinion existed; and that is precisely why it was deemed advisable to settle the problem. Over 400 bishops had presented a petition in the Vatican Council that the matter should be settled once and for all. The vote at the Council was overwhelmingly in favor of defining the question. And accordingly the definition was given on July 18th, 1870, giving us, not a new doctrine, but a new statement in definite terms of the teaching contained in the original revelation of Christ.

394. Did not many prelates and theologians of the Roman Church express opposition to the decree?

It is quite normal that there should have been a division of opinion on the subject prior to the definition. It is precisely when men are divided on the question as to whether some major doctrine is part of divine revelation or not that a definition is necessary. At the Vatican Council, therefore, those who were for the definition, and those who were against it, were given freedom to express their views.

395. Historians tell us that the most unseemly brawling took place at the Council,

The Council was not characterized by unseemly brawling. The greatest possible freedom of discussion was granted, and on a question of such magnitude and importance, it would be surprising if opinions were not strong, and voiced with earnestness and even tenacity.

396. Newman, apparently, was altogether against the decree.

He declared that he personally believed the Pope to be infallible, but that he did not think it opportune to define the doctrine at that particular time. He was quite at liberty to be of that opinion. When the definition was given, he accepted it without hesitation.

397. Most of the Irish bishops were against it.

They enjoyed the same freedom as Newman and all the others prior to the definition. The opinions held by those opposed to the definition did not constitute an infallible indication that the definition was wrong.

398. In the Council at first the opposition represented one-fourth of the total attendance, and a great many withdrew by way of protest.

Against 430 bishops, about 100 bishops, chiefly from France, Austria, and Germany, said that they disapproved of the definition being given. When they saw that the overwhelming majority was against them, 44 of these 100 bishops at once accepted the inevitable. Fifty-six said that they personally disapproved of the definition being given then, but that they would faithfully and with true devotion to the Church accept the definition if indeed it were pronounced. Meantime, they withdrew from Rome quietly and privately, leaving a written declaration that they did not do so by way of protest against the decree, but simply because they did not wish to appear lacking in reverence towards the Pope by expressing in his presence their belief that the contemplated action was inopportune. Two bishops from amongst the inopportunists who remained did express their disapproval personally of the proposed definition; but the moment it was given, accepted at once, acknowledging the teaching authority of the Church, just as the 56 had guaranteed to do who had withdrawn.

399. Although in the end all the bishops gave their adhesion, still there was a strong body of influential men in Europe who refused consent despite the yielding of the recalcitrant bishops.

The term "recalcitrant bishops" is not justified. A man is recalcitrant when he refuses to do what he is obliged to do. Prior to the definition, any bishop was quite free to express his reluctance to have the matter defined. After the definition, he was not free to refuse his assent. If he refused then, he would indeed be recalcitrant. But no bishop refused. It is true that some influential men - not a strong body of them - did refuse consent. These could truly be called recalcitrant Catholics; and they found themselves outside the Church as heretics.

400. Amongst these was the famous Professor Dollinger, who protested against the definition as "a Christian, an historian, a theologian, and a citizen."

His capacity as a citizen, of course, had no bearing on the subject, so we can eliminate that. As a Christian, historian, and theologian he was quite free to express his adverse opinion before the definition. But afterwards, his duty as a Christian, historian, and theologian, was to accept the verdict of the teaching authority of the Catholic Church. He had not the humility to do so, and his pride in his own proficiency led him into the obstinacy of heresy.

401. For this he was excommunicated.

That is true. I would expect to be excommunicated if I rejected it also. You see, once a doctrine has been defined by the Church as a dogma, no Catholic can deny it without being guilty of heresy. A man who denies a dogma of the Catholic Church renounces his belief in that Church, and cannot still belong to it. The Catholic Church was sent by Christ to teach all nations. If, in the course of her duty, she teaches us solemnly and with her supreme authority that this doctrine is undoubtedly part of the teaching given by Christ, then any man who rejects her teaching denies her essential authority, and a truth revealed by Christ. Dollinger had no excuse for refusing to follow the example of others by accepting the definition. Nor does his denial prove the doctrine wrong. The definition of the dogma absolutely proves that Dr. Dollinger was wrong.

402. In September, 1871, Dr. Dollinger's followers held a Congress, and formed the "Old Catholic" Church for those who could not conscientiously accept the definition of papal infallibility.

Those who refused to accept the dogma were no longer Catholics. Though they called themselves the "Old Catholics," they were in reality the "New Protestants." It is to be remarked that Dr. Dollinger himself protested strongly against the new organization his admirers desired to establish. He declared that he would have nothing to do with the formation of a new schism. At the very Congress of September, 1871, he protested against the motion that an independent Church opposed to Rome should be formed. The attitude of these "Old Catholics" was a constant source of irritation to him. When he heard, in 1878, that they had abolished the celibacy of their clergy, he despaired altogether of their future. On Oct. 12th, 1887, he wrote, "I have no wish to be a member of a schismatic Church. I am alone." But the defection of Dr. Dollinger and of his adherents has not affected the Catholic Church. The "Old Catholics," few at any time, are disintegrating. The Catholic Church is more solid than ever, and her 400 million of adherents have no doubts whatever on the subject. We all believe in the infallibility of the Pope as firmly as we believe in the Incarnation of the Eternal Son of God. The doctrine is a dogma of our faith.

403. If the Popes were always infallible, how does Pope Liberius measure up to the doctrine?

In every necessary way. In their efforts to refute the Catholic doctrine, enemies of the Church have ransacked history in the hope of finding a Pope who has taught heretical ideas. They thought they had found such a Pope in Liberius, urging that he subscribed to the Arian heresy condemned by the Council of Nicea in 325 A. D. But let us take the facts. Liberius became Pope in the year 352. From the outset he fought against the continued efforts of the Arians to corrupt the faith. The Emperior Constantius, himself an Arian, seized Pope Liberius by force and exiled him to Berea, in Thrace. It is said that, to escape this exile, and induced by fraud and threats, Pope Liberius signed a formula drawn up by the Arians. But historical research has shown that it is doubtful whether he signed the document at all. If he did sign, he was not a sufficiently free agent for a lawful exercise of his duty. And in any case, the document he is supposed to have signed was not directly heretical, but ambiguous, admitting of an orthodox as well as a heterodox interpretation according to the viewpoint taken by the reader. St. Athanasius and St. Hilary, who thought he did sign, insist that no charge of heresy could be made against Liberius, on the score that the document was not necessarily heretical. Moreover, the absolute orthodoxy of Liberius is so well known from other sources that it is impossible to say that he ever entertained heretical Arian views, and so erred in matters of faith. On his return from exile he defended the Nicene decisions against Arianism, and remained a most uncompromising defender of the orthodox doctrine until his death in 366 A. D. To all this you can add one point. Even if Liberius signed the document, and even if that document were heretical, and even if Liberius personally held and believed heretical doctrine, no argument even then could be drawn from the case against the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility. For the Catholic Church has never defined that the Popes are always infallible in all that they personally believe. The Catholic Church declares that the Pope is infallible when he gives an official definition of doctrine concerning faith or morals, it being required that he acts freely, that he declares himself to be acting in his capacity as head of the whole Church, and that he intends his definition to be binding upon all the faithful throughout the world. Not one of these last requirements was verified in the case of Liberius, and whatever view one takes of the case historically, it is invalid as a test of infallibility.

404. How does Pope Honorius measure up to infallibility?

Nothing that Pope Honorius ever said or did in his life conflicts in any way with the Catholic doctrine of infallibility. He has been accused of having taught the Monothelite heresy in two letters to Sergius, Patriarch of Constantinople. Sergius favored the Monothelite heresy, or the doctrine that there was only one will in Christ, not two wills, the one Divine, and the other human. He wrote a very deceptive letter to Pope Honorius begging him not to condemn the doctrine, since such a condemnation would greatly disturb the peace of the Church. Honorius wrote to Sergius, praising him for his good intentions, and sanctioning his explanations, though interpreting them in a perfectly orthodox way which Sergius did not accept for a moment. But Sergius had got all he wanted, staving off papal condemnation. If there is one thing clear, it is that Honorius neither taught heresy in either of his letters to Sergius (nor anywhere else), and that he gave no dogmatic definition on the subject. This case, also, therefore, is beside the point where infallibility is concerned.

405. Honorius was condemned as a heretic by subsequent Councils, a condemnation ratified by Pope Leo II.

After the death of Honorius in 638 A. D. the Monothelites continued their heretical teachings, and in 680, the Sixth General Council was convoked to deal with them. The assembled bishops condemned the heresy together with Sergius and his supporters, including the name of Pope Honorius with them. They sent their decisions to Pope Agathon saying, "We leave it to you to decide what is to be done in your capacity as Bishop of the First See in the Universal Church." But Pope Agathon died before he could ratify the decrees, and was succeeded by Pope Leo II. Pope Leo approved and ratified the decisions. Later, writing to the bishops in Spain, he said that he had no intention of condemning Honorius for any heretical teaching, but because he was negligent in dealing with the Monothelites, fostering their heresy by his very inactivity. Even when he saw that the bishops of the Council had condemned Honorius for supporting the teachings of Sergius, Pope Leo II corrected their decree by saying that he unbecomingly permitted them to flourish. Far from being condemned as a heretic, then, Pope Honorius was condemned for not using his supreme and infallible authority to settle the dispute.

406. Why was the anathema repeated till 1590, and then dropped?

The statement that the Sixth General Council had condemned the Monothelite heresy together with Sergius, Cyrus, Honorius, Pyrrhus, and others who supported it, used to appear in the ancient Roman Breviaries. No one paid much attention to it until the sixteenth century, when a new impetus was given to historical research. The discovery of the special qualifications Pope Leo II. had made when approving the decisions of the Sixth General Council made it clear that the name of Honorius was unjustly bracketed with that of Sergius, and those of the others; and his name was rightly deleted in future editions of the Breviary.

407. Is papal infallibility still possible?

It is a fact. But here once moreI must point out that, even if Pope Honorius had been guilty of heresy in his writings (as he was not) papal infallibility would not be affected. For he was not pronouncing an official definition in virtue of his supreme office in the Church and with the intention of obliging the whole Church to accept his teaching under pain of heresy. But where these historical cases are concerned, surely you do not think that the bishops of the world assembled at the Vatican Council would be so foolish as to define the doctrine without deeply considering the facts of history? You can be quite sure that they knew all the facts about Pope Honorius, even as they knew that those facts were available to the world. Do you think that they would have defined infallibility, knowing that hostile critics had only to quote Honorius to prove them utterly wrong?

408. Pope John XXII. declared that the doctrine of the poverty of Christ was heretical. But his predecessor, Nicholas III had declared that the doctrine of the poverty of Christ was the true doctrine, and that to deny it was heresy. Therefore, if one Pope was infallible, the other was not.

Another "therefore" suggests itself: and that is that you have not correctly grasped the facts. Surely you should suspect that Pope John XXII. was quite aware of the decision given by Nicholas III and would never have dreamed of defining the exact opposite! As a matter of fact, Pope John XXII. was not even dealing with the same subject as Pope Nicholas III. The question submitted to Pope John XXII. was this: Was the poverty of Christ so absolute that He retained no personal possessions whatever? The Pope replied: No; for it would be quite against Scripture and heretical to maintain such poverty in Christ. But now, what was the question submitted to Pope Nicholas III.? It was this: Is it in keeping with the ideals of poverty taught by Christ that members of Religious Orders should vow absolute poverty and possess nothing? This Pope said: Yes; and to deny that would be heretical. Pope John XXII., therefore, said that it would be heretical to assert the absolute personal poverty of Christ. Pope Nicholas III. said that it would be heretical to assert that members of Religious Orders may not vow absolute poverty, despite the fact that Christ Himself did not personally practice such absolute poverty. There is no trace of contradiction between those two definitions.



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